Wrestling is a business that offends a lot. Not just with stupid angles or bad matches but in the presentation. Many blame WWE and how Vince McMahon introduced “cartoon characters” to the business. They also rail on WWE for going too much for clichés and stereotypes. However, that’s really not fair as all WWE is doing is building on what has gone on before. Wrestling has always gone to various stereotypes from “evil Russians” to other characters that pushed things a lot. A major team in the 1960s were the Von Brauners, two guys with Nazi trappings whose manager, Saul Weingeroff, was Jewish. Try getting that act to fly today. WCW had Johnny B. Badd, who acted as “Tutti Frutti” as possible in boas and makeup. They literally had Harlem Heat debut in chains with a white manager and the crowd nearly rioted. Jim Cornette deliberately wanted the Gangstas to be “black street guys” to rile up the Southern base of Smokey Mountain. So WWE really didn’t start doing any of these rather insulting acts in wrestling.
But they shouldn’t get any slack for what they have given fans. Which is a slew of characters that rank as among the most offensive imaginable. WWE has constantly gone to characters who are insulting in so many ways. Racist, homophobic and sometimes just downright disgusting, the company has done them all. It’s appalling how it happens, the company choosing to go to the lowest common denominator with their stuff and comes off truly terrible to watch. There have been so many choices over the years but here are the biggest.
15. Sgt Slaughter, Iraqi Sympathizer
To cut Vince McMahon some slack, it wasn’t supposed to go this far. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, few truly imagined the U.S. would go to war over it. So Vince was just striking at the news with the idea of Sgt. Slaughter returning to WWE with a new bit. The former rah-rah USA man was now supporting Iraq, a towel over his head and boasting of the greatness of Saddam in various promos. It got heat and just grew as things got tenser and by the time it became clear war was coming, the act was being pushed more. Adding “General Adnan,” Slaughter was set up to beat the Ultimate Warrior for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble which took place the same weekend the Gulf War started. The idea was for Slaughter and Hulk Hogan to sell out the L.A. Coliseum for WrestleMania. However, the fans hated Slaughter as champ, the show tanking and moved to a smaller arena. By the time it came around, the War had ended and Hogan easily won. After months of more feuding, Slaughter went on a “forgiveness tour” that just angered fans more. The whole thing was a bad example of what happens when wrestling tries to emulate real world events and the fans didn’t respond nearly as well as WWE had hoped.
For a while, WWE had an online show called “Are You Serious?” In it, Josh Matthews and Road Dogg would watch some incredibly stupid stuff in wrestling history and make fun of it. One segment had them watching a video from 1988 as Slick, the manager who talked like a 1970s street pimp, brought Gene Okerlund to an alley. “Better check your watch,” Matthews said. “Because this segment is going to set racial relations back 30 years.” After boasting of finding a new talent from “deepest, darkest Africa,” Slick brought out…the One Man Gang in a giant blue suit with yellow tribal coat and hat. Mimicking the reaction from 1988, Matthews and Road Dogg burst out laughing as Akeem did some ridiculous “dance” moves and was talked of as having found his “inner soul brother.” OMG, an actually great “big guy” worker was turned into a very bad joke with his “Jive” promos and bad dancing and quite a bad sight for fans to watch.
13. Gene Snitsky
This is juts bizarre. Snitsky had some promise as a big and tall guy, an imposing build and could have been a nice heel. In his first match, he and Kane went at it when Lita was on the ring apron, supposedly pregnant with Kane’s child. Snitsky knocked her off, causing a “miscarriage.” He then proceeded to say “it’s not my fault” as his catchphrase and mock them both for their “loss.” This included a famous bit of bringing a baby doll into the ring to talk then, then booting it into the crowd. This eventually changed to his fetish for women’s feet that would be used in bits like licking Mae Young’s toes, as disgusting a sight as you can imagine. The fact the man just came off as so weird looking with wide eyes and deep breathing voice made it even worse and why so many fans loathed having to put up with his antics.
Already showcased in Japan, the group was moved to WWE who, in their usually open fashion, turned them into a joke. They were actually introduced as “Club Kamikaze” but thankfully someone realized having them named after suicide soldiers wasn’t a smart move. Their most famous bit was feuding with Val Venis who seduced manager Yamaguchi’s wife. Yamaguchi responded by brandishing a samurai sword on a stick of salami with “I choppee-chopeee your pee-pee!” Taka Michinoku turned on Venis with the story that Venis had slept with his sister. This led to the sight of Kaientai having Venis backstage, pants down and ready to cut when the video cut off.
The group was eventually cut down to Taka and Funakai who took it to a new direction with their entrance. Taka would come out with the mic to voice words while a deep English voice boomed like a badly dubbed kung Fu movie as he boasted they were “EEEEEVILLLLL!” He then turned the mic to Funakai who mouthed a long set of words before the voice said “Indeed!” It actually got them rather over but remained jobbers and a reminder of how WWE has serious issues presenting other cultures in a good manner.
11. Cryme Tyme
A classic case of old-school borderline racist characters in today’s wrestling word. A good team in OVW, JTG and Shad had promise when called up to SmackDown. But WWE marred it by having them play up the biggest cliché of street life imaginable. They came out in short jeans and hip hope outfits and did vignettes of their “training” that was basically robbing people and acting out bits from a Grand Theft Auto game. It got to the point of WWE having to put a note on their website to talk of how the team was meant as a parody. However, that didn’t help as they kept up the act with promos talking like punks and mocking women and white people alike. Having them shown backstage stealing items didn’t help either. It’s a real shame as they were a promising team but saddled with stuff like chastising Shelton Benjamin on “not being black enough.” Their run with the company wasn’t as long as promised and it’s probably because the fans could never accept such a horribly offensive act as a serious bit.
10. Kerwin White
From his debut with WWE in 2002, Chavo Guerrero had been pushed thanks to his Mexican roots. He would team with uncle Eddie and hold the Cruiserweight title, great as either a heel or a face. But in 2005, he undertook a bizarre transformation to Kerwin White. Coming out with his hair dyed blonde and skin bleached, Chavo would dress like a rich white guy and act the same way. His promos would put down his culture and end with “if it’s not white, it’s not right.” It was pretty obvious how this rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way, especially the Latino fans who had admired Chavo. It was pretty cheap heat and did nothing as the character was too dumb for him to work with. It was ended a lot sooner than expected when Eddie died and Chavo went back to his old ways to honor his uncle. But even attempting this in the first place showed WWE had a serious deaf ear when it came to what Latino fans (or even fans in general) would respond to with this.
Nick Dinsmore had been a great star in Ohio Valley Wrestling, holding their title 10 times and truly over a skilled worker and mic guy. Leave it to WWE to ignore all that when he was called up to RAW in 2004 in the worst way possible. He was given the gimmick of Eugene, Eric Bischoff’s “slow” nephew and playing up being mentally challenged. He came out with a misspelled name tag, wandering and shaking and speaking like a two-year old. WWE actually seemed to get the character with a bit where William Regal trained him and discovered Eugene was a wrestling savant who could copy anyone. They even got him over as the Rock showed up to give Eugene the rub in a promo. Of course, that couldn’t last as he was made the loser in a feud with HHH and kept up as nutty comedy stuff. The entire thing was just so terrible on many levels and wasted a great talent like Dinsmore on a horribly insulting gimmick.
8. Papa Shango/The Godfather
Charles Wright was a good worker but man did he get some rather bad stuff. He started with WWE as Papa Shango, a full on voodoo priest. He came out in makeup with top hat, holding a smoking cauldron and staff and would “cast spells” on opponents. This included the infamous bit of him putting a curse that made the Ultimate Warrior puke on camera. It was voted the Worst Gimmick of 1992 by most fan magazines and loathed for its presentation. After a good push as “shoot fighter” Kama, Wright transformed into the Godfather. Playing up the classic idea of a street pimp, he came down in flashy clothes, chains, a derby hat and cigar, leading a pack of gorgeous women called “the Ho Train.” He would even offer his opponents a night with them to throw matches while acting up this total chauvinist. It actually got him over yet you can tell how it’s a gimmick a bit too much even for the Attitude Era. For a good worker, poor Wright sure got saddled with some very wrong gimmicks.
7. The Gang Warz
This one was just bad on multiple levels. The Nation of Domination was obviously based on the Black Panthers with Farooq leading a huge squad of guys in suits, white rappers PG-13 and others against Ahmed Johnson. Farooq did boasts on “black power” and more militant stuff that came off pretty rough for fans. Farooq cleaned house to fire everyone but D’Lo Brown and added Kama and the newly heel Rocky Maivia. Crush would then form the Disciples of the Apocalypse, a gang based on bikers. Meanwhile, Savio Vega also sought revenge on his firing by forming Los Boricuas, a team made up of Puerto Rico residents. They hung around smoking cigars and hitting on women and acting up the cliché of easily riled-up Latinos. For months, the three battled it out with constant talk of it being gang warfare and playing to the stereotypes of each brand. It was among the worse moves in a rough year for WWE, asking fans to buy into thugs as workers and catering to too many fears of white residents on “the war at home.”
It was meant to be a bit uncomfortable but that doesn’t make it any better. When Ted DiBiase joined WWE in 1987, he immediately took off with his fantastic “Million Dollar Man” gimmick. DiBiase was perfect as this rich guy flaunting his wealth and running down others so having a manservant just made sense. Still, it was a bit much for that to be a beefy black man whose name was basically a massive shot at Dusty Rhodes. Virgil backed DiBiase up, shown doing his dirty work, literally cleaning up after him and helping him disrobe before matches. He also took the lumps while his boss ran away and put up with DiBiase bad-mouthing him constantly and seeing the black guy getting berated like this wasn’t a pretty sight. It did pay off with a classic moment of Virgil finally standing up for himself to nail DiBiase and a short feud. However, it still came off pretty bad to have the black guy treated as a house slave, despite how it added to DiBiase’s heat.
5. Bastion Booger
Mike Shaw just had a bad track record with gimmicks. In WCW, he had been Norman the Lunatic, summed up as a mental patient and then turned into a lumberjack. In WWE, he started off as Friar Ferguson, a “mad monk” character. This got WWE a bit too much heat so they changed it to something far worse. Bastion Booger was made out to be a horribly obese man constantly eating and promos pushing his farting and disgusting bathroom habits. That was bad enough but the outfit…Shaw’s massive beefy frame came out in what was basically a grey singlet that looked like an extended diaper. Coming out sweaty and hairy just made it worse and it was topped by his finisher being dropping his rear on a guy’s face. It was a horrible sight that made fans change the channel and put in bad feuds with Bam Bam Bigelow among others. His tenure was short but still high on the list of all-time worse WWE characters and just offensive a sight to fans to have to watch.
4. The Mexicools
A bad idea that came off even worse on screen. In 2005, Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis and Super Crazy, three incredibly talented workers, were put together as a stable. The trio announced they were sick and tired of the stereotypes of Mexicans and were ready to fight back…by living out every one of those clichés totally. They came to the ring riding lawn mowers and dressed in jean outfits and bandannas. Their promos were mocking “gringos” as how “soon you’re working for us!” They spoke in broken accents and wild antics, all of which just played into them as a bunch of low lifes who didn’t come off that strong. They feuded with the Full-Blooded Italians and kept up their wild stuff but just didn’t work out as the “poke fun at stereotypes” just ended up playing into them totally. WWE probably thought they had something clever but these guys just weren’t cool at all.
3. The Un-Americans
One has to wonder what goes through Vince McMahon’s mind. What sane person would decide in the summer of 2002, less than a year after 9/11, to run an angle touching on those feelings? Lance Storm, Christian and Test were joined together and began doing promos on how much America sucked and even indicating 9/11 was deserved. That got them cheap heel heat as they went around in shirts with the American flag turned upside down. A major bit was them threatening to light the U.S. flag on fire on RAW and stopped by Kane. They would hold the tag titles but the crowd was way too hostile to their message, far too much to take in what was still a hard time for the nation. The guys got real heat from the back and the angle was short-lived but even trying it was an insult by WWE to the fans.
2. Muhammad Hassan
The original idea for Hassan wasn’t bad. A worker who tried to push against the bigotry of Arab Americans, it had real potential to work. Naturally, WWE decided to forgo all that after a couple of weeks to turn him into a generic anti-American heel. He would do kneeling prayers as his ring entrance and insult the fans totally as scum. Instead of good heel heat, it just got him massive angry heat of “we can’t stand this guy.” It didn’t help that behind the scenes, Hassan was a massive jerk hated by the entire locker room. A famous story is him buying drinks for the SmackDown roster only for them to pour the glasses on the floor and glare at Hassan to get out. It culminated with Hassan attacking the Undertaker with a gang of masked thugs…which just happened to air the same night as terrorist bombings in London. Hassan was fired and while he brought much on himself, WWE basically ruined his career with their idiotic presentation of him.
1. Saba Simba
In the 1980s, Tony Atlas was a good worker for WWE, a strongman who backed it up with good mic skills. He was highly popular, he and Rocky Johnson reigning as tag team champions and plans were underway for Atlas to have a run as Intercontinental champ as well. However, Atlas ran into a drug problem leading to issues backstage and was fired. When he was hired back in 1990, Vince apparently still held a grudge and punished Atlas in a terrible manner. He was given the character of Saba Simba, coming out to African drum music in a grass skirt, spear and elaborate headpiece. In his first appearance, Vince talked of him as a new guy but Roddy Piper broke from the script to identify him as Atlas. Vince covered by claiming Atlas had “discovered his roots” on a trip to Africa. Pushing a beefy black guy as a tribal worker was as bad a sight as you can imagine, poor Atlas not deserving this treatment and insulting on so many levels.