If you watched the World Wrestling Federation during the mid-90s, you will remember a roster filled with crappy gimmicks. Garbage men, repo men, clowns, dentists, plumbers, hockey and baseball players all for some reason decided to work as professional wrestlers while remaining dressed for their other occupations. Vince McMahon seems to go through a phase where all of his wrestlers need to have gimmicks. That is, the wrestler must be portraying a certain character or have predominant traits that lean more towards entertainment than sport.
While there are a bevy of embarrassing gimmicks in the world of wrestling, some gimmicks stick with fans and become incredibly successful and enduring. The Undertaker is considered by many to be the most successful gimmick in wrestling history. He is essentially an undead zombie with superpowers that is simultaneously being taken seriously as a wrestler. The Undertaker has been a main-eventer for 25 years, which is quite the feat for a gimmick wrestler.
Wrestling guru Jim Cornette believes that gimmicks in wrestling can be recycled every seven years. By that logic, there are plenty of gimmicks from wrestling’s past that WWE is not capitalizing on. Sure, being just a competent athlete and fighter who wants to enter the WWE to win the title is fine, but wrestling needs more undead zombies. And so, the following is a list of 11 gimmicks from wrestling’s past that WWE should be making money with in 2016.
11. Battle Rapper (as performed by John Cena, PN News, K-Kwik)
John Cena got his start in WWE by attacking his opponents verbally with rap disses during his entrance. This was over 13 years ago. Strap this gimmick on someone from NXT and watch them sail to the top. The internet these days is filled with viral videos of battle rappers spitting bars at one another with no accompanying beats while surrounded by a crowd of enthusiastic fans. Check out King of the Dot Entertainment to see the modern battle rappers spit their fire. Sure, Cena is still a big star. The new guy with the gimmick can feud with Cena. Just don’t make the character too silly or cartoonish, and a tough-guy battle rapper in 2016 beating Cena is sure to catch the eyes of new and old fans.
10. The Midnight Rider (as performed by Dusty Rhodes)
The Midnight Rider was an angle done by Dusty Rhodes in the 80’s. Rhodes, a giant superstar, was suspended from the promotion. However during that period, a “new” superstar who physically looks like Dusty, and sounds like him, enters the promotion with a mask and claims to be The Midnight Rider. The roster and promotion officials become highly suspicious of The Midnight Rider’s identity and pro wrestling tomfoolery ensues. WWE should be rehashing this. A babyface Dean Ambrose could get suspended in 2016, and being the lunatic that he is, comes back under a mask and claims to be The Twilight Ranger (WWE’s creative can come up with a better name). Certainly, this is at least an entertaining angle that can last for a few pay-per-views in 2016.
9. Evil Sibling (as Performed by Kane)
The Undertaker is the most successful gimmick in all of wrestling. He was on top of the WWF in 1997 when his manager Paul Bearer revealed that The Undertaker had a bigger, badder, more evil younger brother who was ready to exact revenge on The Undertaker in the ring for burning him alive when he was a child. Sure, this is hokey, but The Undertaker’s brother Kane, was instantly over when he debuted and remains on the active roster to this day. In 2016, the most evil being is Bray Wyatt. When Bray eventually turns babyface, a more sinister, bigger, badder sibling of Bray can try to exact revenge on him in the ring for eating all of his Halloween candy when they were kids (again, WWE creative can come up with a better reason). An angle like this is tricky, and has to be done right, but if done right is an effective way to introduce a new character who immediately has a purpose.
8. Elvis Impersonator (As performed by The Honky Tonk Man)
The Honky Tonk Man is the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all-time and is often overlooked as one of the best heels of the 1980’s. Not only was he a pudgy, cowardly character who fans wanted to see beat, he was an Elvis Presley impersonator who claimed that he was NOT an Elvis impersonator. In fact, he often said that he was better than Elvis, and badmouthed The King at every chance. Plus, while he often demolished his guitar over the head of his opponents, it was even evident that he could not play the guitar to save his life, adding even more disdain for the character. In 2016 someone should be impersonating Elvis. If not, a wrestler could be gimmicked up like Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, and so on, claiming that they’ve never even heard of the musician in question while doing all of their signature dance moves.
7. Guy Who Carries an Animal to the Ring (as performed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Koko B. Ware, The British Bulldogs and Ricky Steamboat)
It’s 2016 and nobody in WWE is named Something “the Insert Animal Here”. Something and nobody is carrying an animal around with them. Sure, Randy Orton is “the Viper,” but he is not named Randy “the Viper” Orton and the man probably doesn’t even own a snake. If you were a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you owned wrestling figures that came with animal accessories. Why not make Curtis Axel into Curtis “the Hamster” Axel and have him carry a hamster to the ring? The man kind of looks like a hamster, and he can even do ‘The Hamster dance’ as one of his taunts! As childish as it may seem, one could argue that there is still room for someone to be carrying around an animal in the WWE Universe.
6. The Full Blooded Italians, who aren’t all Italian (as performed in ECW)
During the early-mid 2000’s on Smackdown!, WWE featured the Full Blooded Italians, a stable comprised of Nunzio, Chuck Palumbo and Johnny “The Bull” Stamboli — who, as discussed prior, should have brought an actual bull with him to the ring with him for every match. WWE missed the point of the faction, as these men were all real Italians. The original Full Blooded Italians in 90’s era ECW were a comedic faction lead by Little Guido (Nunzio), who is Italian, but also featured Tommy Rich and Tracy Smothers, who were rednecks from the south, and J.T. Smith, who is black. This was the whole funny part of the gimmick that WWE missed and could be capitalizing on today. Plus, in today’s super politically correct world and with the Rachel Dolezal story being relevant, why not have R-Truth identify as Italian? What is stopping Sheamus from being the Italian he wants to be? Zack Ryder is a real Italian and he could be leading a stable of “Italians” to feud with a faction such as The New Day in 2016.
5. Michael Wallstreet, but more specifically the use of a supercomputer (as portrayed by Mike Rotunda)
Mike Rotunda had his most notable run during the super campy, early-mid 1990’s gimmick era WWF as Irwin R. Schyster “I.R.S.”, a wrestling taxman who teamed with “the Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase who wrestled Hulk Hogan and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake at WrestleMania IX (so many great gimmicks in that sentence). Some fans don’t know that Rotunda also wrestled in WCW as Michael Wallstreet, a rich, intelligent businessman and founder of the York Foundation. Most importantly, Wallstreet engineered a supercomputer that would run very complex algorithms for each wrestler in WCW, and identify each wrestler’s weakness and the keys to victory. Unfortunately, Wallstreet never became WCW Champion, but it was the early 90’s and technology was not then what it is now. We live in a world of three-dimensional printing, self-driving cars, and vacations to the moon. I’m sure there exists some wrestler in 2016 who could develop an app for their iPhone so comprehensive that it could analyse every possible scenario against every specific wrestler and lead that wrestler to victory every time.
4. Legend Killer (as performed by Randy Orton)
Being “The Legend Killer” was a big part of what got Randy Orton over. Having wins over legends like Mick Foley, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, put him on the next level. This was over 13 years ago. In 2016, older WWE stars such as Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and even The Rock, will come back to TV for a few weeks at a time and put someone over. Yet, nobody is a legend killer. Bray Wyatt beat Jericho in their feud and lost many feuds thereafter. WWE could establish a new star by making them a legend killer, even having them feud with Orton for this monicker. WWE should pick someone they want to make a star, and give that person a streak of wins over established WWE stars who are long past their prime.
3. Ballerino (as performed by Ricki Starr)
Ricki Starr wrestled during the 1950s under a ballet dancer gimmick. The man wore ballet slippers and pranced around the ring. Starr did this with such grace that it was quite an entertaining gimmick, combining comedy spots with flashy wrestling moves for the era. This gimmick is over 60 years old and would still work today. In 2016, Fandango is a ballroom dancer, but it is clear that the man cannot dance well and probably does not even take the art form that seriously. WWE needs to pick a wrestler, put him in ballet lessons for a year, and have him do plies and pirouettes over his downed opponents. Give him wins, make him serious, start him as a heel and eventually have him win over the fans. This gimmick has not been done in the big time for over half a century and could certainly get over today.
2. A Man’s Man (as performed by William Regal, Silas Young)
In 2016 men are taking selfies, manscaping, and wearing man-buns. If “real” men are anywhere they should be in professional wrestling. During the Attitude Era, William Regal had the gimmick of being a man’s man. He chopped wood, shaved in the woods, wore plaid, squeezed orange juice with his bare hands, and did all sorts of other manly things. Someone in WWE should be so macho today. Rusev, while foreign, seems to be a real man and could be making fun of Dolph Ziggler for shaving his chest. In fact, Silas Young in Ring of Honor is known as “The Last Real Man in Professional Wrestling” and does such a gimmick. Why not sign Silas Young and have him do the same gimmick that is already over in Ring of Honor? Furthermore, one could argue that Silas Young is the best gimmick wrestler not in WWE today. In a world where twenty-something year old wrestlers shape their eyebrows and post their food on Instagram, WWE should have a character who knows what being a “real” man is all about.
1. Evil Law Enforcement Officer (as performed by the Big Boss Man)
Some people certainly hate cops these days. For the last few years, plenty of media coverage has been given to police scandals and resulting riots as was the case in Ferguson, among other places. Yet, WWE does not have a wrestler who is also, or was also, a law enforcement officer. The Big Boss Man was one of the most recognizable gimmicks from the 80s-90s era WWE. The man dressed like a cop and was equipped with handcuffs and a baton. He wrestled Hogan in a cage, and even feuded with Nailz, an ex-con who claimed that Boss Man abused him during his prison sentence. A corrupt law official, as cartoony and gimmicky as wrestling can be, would be topical in 2016 and get lots of heat with today’s politically conscious audience.