I was originally planning on doing something completely different this week but then I got re-inspired at the last minute and shifted gears, mostly because I’ve been having trouble sleeping and been up late watching way too much wrestling. There’s one thing that you notice when you’ve been a fan of the programming for as long as I have, and that’s the stark difference that exists between characters and gimmicks. See, characters are just what that word should imply, a fleshed out, hopefully multidimensional, role that a wrestler is playing. The performer gets to develop who they are and with luck inject a good bit of themselves in the part, hopefully coming up with their own motivations and different ways to approach the angle to create some memorable moments and draw fans in. A gimmick, on the other hand, is something completely different, and those often times creative misfires are what we’re going to be focusing on this time around.
With a gimmick, a guy is pretty much saddled with whatever the hell they came up with, whether that be a promoter, booker, or whoever else said this is all we have so take it or leave it. Now, some performers are certainly more than capable of pulling off a bad situation like that, somehow turning lemons into lemonade and fully embracing what otherwise should have been a terrible concept. But on the flip side, you’re more than likely just going to find some really horrible trash, like wrestling garbage men, hog farmers complete with buckets of slop, and an otherwise underrated wrestler with a red mullet-hawk strutting around like a damn rooster. So, I thought we’d just have some fun this week and take a look at three of the best gimmicks ever and then brace ourselves for three of the worst, and believe me there’s a hell of a lot of bad out there so it was hard to narrow those down. Get ready, because I think you’re going to enjoy this one, that or curse my name because I’ve drudged up some really painful memories depending on how you look at it.
#3-The good ones were pretty easy for me to come up with, mostly because they all just worked so well and have the staying power to really stick with you. I’m going to start with Mick Foley, and while some could argue that all the different personas he’s played were characters, it’s the many faces of Foley gimmick that allowed him to switch between all of them that I’m talking about. In the mid to late 90s, Foley’s career was super-hot, made all the more legendary by his 1998 Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker. He played himself, Mankind, Dude Love, and the crazed Cactus Jack all within a few months of one another, at one point switching randomly between the four from one show to the next. He made everyone one of them work, save perhaps for Dude Love, and convinced us all that he was totally nuts and unhinged, which always made it fun when he’d come out. He kept us on the edge of our seats with his willingness to seemingly destroy himself at a moment’s notice, which always made Mick, or whoever else he was at the time, a treat to watch.
#2-Okay, hear me out on this one. Jim Hellwig was a horrible wrestler. He couldn’t work, he wouldn’t sell, and he had an ego as a big as an elephant’s ass. But that’s exactly why the Ultimate Warrior worked so damn well, because can you even imagine a jerk like this getting over as much as he did with anything else? To the wild entrance, the bright neon look, and the rambling nonsensical promos, the Warrior is without a doubt one of the biggest stars to ever come from pro-wrestling despite all of the man’s real-life character flaws. Other than his absolutely brilliant match with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania VII I can’t think of a single good match he was ever in, with even his Wrestlemania VI bout with Hogan built totally on the two men’s star power rather than any in ring ability. The gimmick of the Ultimate Warrior was far stronger than the man that it was given to, even to the point where he started to believe that was who he was himself. But that’s exactly why the role was so strong and so great. Because regardless of all the underhanded crap the man behind the paint did, we can still remember and enjoy it today.
#1-Let’s face it, there’s no one else that could possibly occupy this spot other than the dead man, because without a shadow of a doubt, the Undertaker is the best gimmick in wrestling history. Mark Calloway took something that should have lasted a year or two at most and transformed it into one of the most iconic and endearing personas, or dare I say characters, ever. Debuting the role at the 1990 Survivor Series, Calloway was given the part of an undead western undertaker, and damn did he ever run with it. Over the years he’s gone through so many phases it’s hard to keep track of them all, shifting from a satanic cult leader, to the American Badass, back to the Undertaker again, and everywhere in between. But as great as the gimmick is, he’s also had a bevy of classic matches to back it up, with his clashes with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXV and XXVI arguably two of the best in the history of the event, if not the business as a whole. There’s no denying what he’s done and meant to pro-wrestling, and if you think otherwise then you’re just plain wrong.
#3-Holy hell where do I start with these, because let’s be honest, the absolute shit shows far out way the stellar performances. I was VERY tempted to put Shockmaster at number three but seeing as it was friggin hilarious and I loved the whole cluster I just couldn’t do it. In the end I, decided to start with one of the worst ideas ever conceived, and that’s the trainwreck that was Oz. See, in 1991 Turner had just acquired the rights to show the Wizard of Oz on cable, so naturally the brass at the head of the network demanded their wrestling program, WCW, have a wrestler to tie in and help promote the movie. Kevin Nash was burdened with the task and debuted the role at the first Superbrawl, complete with a wizard manager (Kevin Sullivan), stand ins for Dorothy and the rest of the gang, and a monkey on a leash. It was no surprise that the crowd absolutely hated it, and I mean totally and completely loathed the whole thing. I’ve never heard a crowd sling such honest and vitriolic insults at a wrestler for just walking down the aisle before, and you almost have to feel bad for Nash and everyone else involved for how much it sucked, almost. Thankfully, the disaster was put out of its misery before it could go much further, and much to everyone’s gratitude has been left dead and buried ever since. It also probably didn’t help with what happened to that poor monkey, because it strangled the shit out of itself on that damn leash, so there’s that.
#2-Oh, Jim Herd, you ignorant oblivious bastard. Herd had some of the all-time worst ideas when he took over WCW in 1989, the chief of which was trying to repackage Ric Flair as the Romanesque gladiator, Spartacus, because he thought the Nature Boy image was old, boring, and tired out. Only slightly less shitty was his concept of the Ding Dongs, a masked tag team dressed in tangerine colored bodysuits and bedecked with bells they would continuously ring throughout a match. You know it’s bad when the announce team, whose job it is to solely get your stuff over, can’t even take it seriously, mocking and making fun of the travesty on live T.V. Which they did, often and rightly so I might add. Mercifully, Ding and Dong, yeah, friggin Ding and Dong, were gone after only three or four appearances, and we’re all still glad to thankfully be rid of them.
#1-Hector Guerrero, in a turkey costume, square dancing with Mean Gene. That’s all I can say about the Gobbledegooker that won’t get my name cursed for life. It’s everything I hate about wrestling because it totally turns the programming into an utter farce, and Vince McMahon is a total fool for ever thinking it would work. I’m done now.
Well, there you have it, folks, some of the best, and worst, gimmicks the pro-wrestling world has to offer. The good ones are pretty darn good, while the bad can make a casual fan run like hell and never watch again. Keep in mind these are just my opinions for the top and worst spots, except for the Gooker, because he’s pretty much accepted by fans as the worst damn idea across the board. I feel I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t at least give one honorable mention, as we just lost him not too long and he was always kind of a favorite of mine. Kamala, without question, owned the shit out of that Ugandan savage role, and I always enjoyed the stuff he did whenever he was brought in. He was a genuine monster heel in a time that will never be repeated, more than earning his spot in wrestling history.
Let me know what you think about my little list, gang, and if I’ve missed the mark about any who you think should be included don’t be shy about telling me. And don’t worry because next week I’ll try to get back on track, but this was a fun one to write and I hoped you enjoyed the read as much as I did bringing it to you. As always, take care everyone. Later.