What were they thinking? From an evil dentist to a Gene Simmons doppelganger to a chicken-plucking Amish heavyweight, we present the worst gimmicks in the history of modern-day wrestling
THE SADDEST words ever spoken by a professional wrestler “It sounded like a good idea at the time.”
Throughout the history of the sport, grapplers have been trying to make names for themselves by creating outrageous alter-egos, which they hope will be big hits with the fans. More often than not, however, these personas leave most people scratching their heads wondering what these poor guys were thinking.
As evidenced by Kevin Nash’s Oz and Steve Austin’s Ringmaster missteps, even the most dynamic wrestling personalities are susceptible. The road to the top is littered with discarded gimmicks from–Tug Boat and Brother Love to the Gobbledegooker and Rockabilly–that never taught on with fans.
The following list chronicles some of the worst gimmicks ever inflicted on a wrestling audience. They have been selected based on a combination of factors ranging from the magnitude of the push these lame acts received to the all-around ridiculousness of the idea behind their existence. They are the worst of the worst. Read on–at your own risk.
Not since Geraldo Rivera raided the empty vault of Al Capone had television audiences seen a bigger bust than the overhyped arrival of Ray Lloyd as Glacier. For weeks leading up to his debut, he was pushed down the throats of wrestling fans through videos. His elaborate ring entrance came complete with theme music, indoor snow, and laser lights. Colored contacts even gave Glacier an icy stare. The WCW ice age thawed rather quickly, however, when fans immediately gave this pathetic Sub-Zero knockoff the cold shoulder. Two Mortal Kombat-ish heels, Wrath and Morris, were even introduced as Glacier’s evil rivals and quickly eclipsed the ice man in popularity. Glacier’s final storyline was also his finest–he sold off his ridiculous armor and snow machine.
The strangest character professional wrestling has ever seen, Goldust is a cross between the Missing Link, “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, and a can of gold spray paint. This disturbing persona is rumored to have been dreamed up by none other than Vince McMahon as a way to humiliate Dustin Runnels. Wearing a flamboyant robe and flowing wig to accentuate his fabulousness, Goldust would seductively lick his opponents and slither around the ring. The tinted heel was a tragic figure desperately seeking the love and acceptance of his father, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, which made Goldust prone to crying fits in the ring. Eventually Runnels was allowed to shed the gold paint, but he quickly returned to the gimmick after realizing that Goldust was a bigger star than Runnels could ever hope to be. If the humiliation rumor is true, it’s a tossup over whether McMahon or Runnels is having the last laugh.
Doink the Clown
Clowns disturb most people in their natural environs in the circus, much less the squared circle. That didn’t stop the WWF from introducing Matthew Wade Osborne as Doink, an evil clown (as if there were any other kind) and one of wrestling’s wackiest characters. Employing classic clown gags, diabolical mind games, and a finishing move known as the Whoopee Cushion, Doink was a silly joke taken way too far. It didn’t take long for the doors of Doink’s twisted fun house to close. Soon after partnering with Dink, a soft-hearted miniature version of himself, Doink lost his clowny edge and his gig.
One of the most bizarre characters ever unleashed on wrestling audiences, Art Barr’s the Juicer was an homage to the undead movie maniac Beetlejuice (and not a raging steroid freak as the name may indicate). Dazzling opponents with an arsenal of silly string, dusty hair, and death breath (a green mist sprayed from his mouth), Barr was actually a talented wrestler and a lot of fun to watch. Why anyone thought the world needed a grappling version of Beetlejuice, however, remains a mystery.
From the ominous yellow DEAD END sign on his belly to the stitched passing lane strips running down his legs, Roadblock was clearly not just another fat guy in black tights. He was a fat guy in black tights disguised as a road! Just in case this gimmick proved too subtle for his legion of fans, Roadblock often carried a road-construction barrier over his shoulders to drive the point home. The only thing missing was an orange pylon worn like dunce cap for choosing such a goofy gimmick. Based on Robert D’Aquista’s performance in the ring, however, Roadkill might have been a more appropriate ring identity.
You can’t expect to break into the WWF fraternity without a little hazing, but Terry Taylor’s embarrassing stint as the Red Rooster was just plain mean. Leaving behind his reputation as a talented-but-dull wrestler in the old NWA, Taylor turned turkey by dying a patch of his hair red and chicken-dancing around the ring. The bird-brain even bellowed “cock-a-doodle-doo” from time to time. Though the Red Rooster gimmick laid an egg, it unfortunately didn’t keep Koko B. Ware from keeping alive the misguided dream of a bird-themed grappler.
Sporting a mohawk, tattooed skull, and nasty disposition, George Gray’s One Man Gang was aptly named. When this scary-looking biker from the mean streets of Chicago resurfaced in the WWF, however, he became Akeem the African Dream–a tubby white guy trying to get in touch with his African roots. Trading his motorcycle-gang jacket for a dashiki and trying hard to sound like Shaft, Akeem and his pimp-like manager, Slick, bumbled their way through a series of black stereotypes en route to obscurity. At least they got to humiliate themselves on the way out.
Whether it was Mike Tenay’s allegiance to the Kiss Army or TNT programmers attempting to capture the coveted middle-aged headbanger demographic, leave it to WCW to stay on the cutting edge of sports entertainment. The introduction of the Demon, a character based on Gene Simmons’ persona in the glare-rock band Kiss, signaled the beginning of the end for a once-proud federation. Emerging from a sarcophagus (which is probably available for sale online at the band’s Web site) while the band played live, the Demon was a misguided attempt at cross-promoting two long-in-the-tooth franchises (KISS and WCW) desperately clinging to the spotlight. Thankfully, the Demon gimmick didn’t take off as the marketing team had hoped. If it had, who knows what torture fans could have been subjected to in WCW’s feeble attempt to look cool. It might have even hired former MTV headbanger Rick Rachman to flap his gums or given rapper Master P a camouflage-clad stable of jobbers to call his own. Oh, wait, WCW did that anyway.
Lex Luger’s debut as the mirror-gazing Narcissist signaled a new creative low in professional wrestling. While narcissism has been an entertaining character flaw in many of history’s greatest grapplers, they’ve all had a catchy nickname–“Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin. Rick “the Model” Martel, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton–to complement their self-absorbed strut. From golden-era pretty boy Gorgeous George to modern-era vanity poster boy Big Poppa Pump, not one of these handsome devils could have selected a name more lame than the Narcissist.
Isaac Yankem, DDS
Some fans may argue that Glenn Jacobs’ most embarrassing WWF gimmick was his ill-conceived appearance as the phony Diesel back when the NWO had Monday “Nitro” atop the cable ratings, but his previous tenure as evil dentist Isaac Yankem is one of the worst gimmicks in wrestling history. Not only was the character based on a lame pun (pay attention, Hugh Morrus), it continued to mire the WWF in its cartoonish early-’90s funk. It’s only fitting that the wrestler behind the dopey dentist found his greatest success by keeping his mouth shut–as Kane.
Irwin R. Scheister
Mike Rotundo risked an IRS audit in his portrayal of overzealous tax collector Irwin R. Scheister. Wearing glasses and a shirt-and-tie combo and carrying a briefcase, I.R.S. was the archenemy of the working man. Since most of the people watching the WWF at that time were too young to work and pay taxes, however, he came across as a slightly less menacing version a cranky math teacher. With a cast of characters featuring evil clowns, dirty dentists, and arrogant IRS agents, it seems Vince McMahon once took great satisfaction in pitting his worst nightmares against each other in the squared circle.
Michael DePoli was once known simply as Roadkill (with a won-loss record to back it up). But then fellow ECW wrestler Al Snow commented that the 300-pound behemoth from Pennsylvania looked Amish, and another weird gimmick was born. Reminiscent of Randy Quaid’s character in “Kingpin,” Amish Roadkill donned his adopted society’s traditional garb of black pants, suspenders, and hat, and sported a thick beard under his chin. Instantly, the angry chicken-plucker became a favorite with hardcore fans despite having easily one of the goofiest gimmicks in wrestling history.
The Yellow Dog
The most disturbing aspect of this ridiculous gimmick is not that it was used at all–it’s the fact that it was actually used twice. Barry Windham first brought the Dirty Yellow Dog to wrestling audiences in Florida, appearing in a yellow bodysuit and dog mask that hid his true identity. Brian Pillman later resurrected the pooch in WCW after he was “banned” from the league. Hopefully, the Yellow Dog has been put to sleep once and for all. At the very least, it should be neutered to ensure future generations of wrestlers don’t get infested with its fleas.
If Leapin’ Lanny Poffo was really so smart, he should have realized the stupidity of this high IQ gimmick. Building on his previous persona as the Poet (in which he’d read poetry insulting his opponent before getting beaten to a pulp) to turn heel, the Genius’ gimmick consisted of Poffo wearing a mortarboard and graduation gown. Eventually taking a flamboyantly effeminate turn as a manager, this son of the famed Angelo Poffo and brother of Randy Savage quickly faded from the scene. Poffo has been spotted recently as a late-night infomercial pitchman, causing great minds to ponder just how many rejection letters one must receive from other wrestlers before electing to sign the Genius to endorse a product It’s truly baffling.
Dizzy Ed Boulder may be best remembered for his 1980s heyday as Brutus Beefcake, but the grappler also known as Zodiac Man, Booty Man, the Barber, the Butcher, and Brother Bruti should be equally notorious as perhaps the most schizophrenic wrestler of all time. He set a new low with his WCW appearance as the Disciple, a furry-faced biker who silently lived in the shadow of Hollywood Hogan when he wasn’t taking lumps in the ring. Then again, if you don’t have anything good to say maybe it’s best to just say nothing and ride the coattails of the rich and famous.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group