Pro wrestling takes influence from whatever is necessary to engage the audience and stand out in an already crazy and colorful world. One of the only other professions in the world allowed the creativity, originality, and nonstop showmanship wrestlers need to thrive is that of the professional musician. Like wrestlers, musicians need to be unique, creative, and controversial in order to constantly stand out in an always changing and fast moving medium. Because of this, more than a few wrestlers have decided to simply copy musicians for the better part of their careers.
We already covered wrestlers who stole from pop culture, and when we did, we exempt music because it often serves as more of an influence to wrestlers than a case of outright theft. However, there have indeed been a few cases of outright theft, and some of those influences stretched so far it stopped being a loving impersonation and starting being a desperate cash-in on the musicians fame. There’s a few where that’s all they ever were, and the lack of success they received in the wrestling world until now proves it. Read on and discover 15 wrestling gimmicks that blatantly ripped off famous musicians.
15. Kid Kash Impersonated Kid Rock
David Cash went through quite a few names in ECW before he finally hit the pay dirt by ripping off a rock star he kind of looked like. He started as his real name, then started impersonating a wrestler he kind of looked like as David Tyler Morton Jericho. That only lasted a few weeks before he joined the Full Blooded Italians as Davey Paizano. That, too, was extremely short lived. In mid 1999, he started dressing exactly like Kid Rock on the cover of Devil Without a Cause and calling himself Kid Kash, which was the gimmick that finally made him catch on with the fans. There wasn’t much to it outside of looking like Kid Rock and entering to his music, but Kash managed to take the character to championship success in ECW, TNA and WWE. To be fair, the musical similarities were toned down in WWE, but that’s kind of a moot point at this time, as Kash is someone who we should never expect to see back in WWE.
14. Van Hammer Was Inspired By Van Halen
There have been more than a few vague rock star gimmicks that weren’t based on any one band in particular, and if it weren’t for his name, Van Hammer could well fall into that category. However, thanks to the sobriquet, his long blonde hair, and the fact he liked to carry around a V-neck guitar without a shirt on, the comparisons to Eddie Van Halen were extremely obvious. Hammer only lasted a few years with the rocker gimmick, but he did manage a pretty lengthy feud with Cactus Jack in the early 90s. Later on he switched gears to a darker persona as a member of Raven’s Flock, and then started a sillier gimmick as Major Stash in the Misfits in Action. Hammer’s profile gradually dropped as time went by and his career essentially ended with WCW.
13. 3 Count Were Inspired By N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys
Plenty of wrestlers crafted original gimmicks using basic genres and trends in music, but we generally kept them off the list if there wasn’t a specific rip off involved. Wrestlers like Disco Inferno and the West Texas Rednecks were heavily inspired by disco and country music, but they were so unique in their own right they were hardly an imitation. 3 Count are similar in that they were pretty creative and didn’t rip off anyone in particular, but the basic nature of the boy band craze meant they were all essentially the same, so they were at least ripping off an archetype on a deeper level than any other. 3 Count consisted of Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, and Evan Karagias, and they actually released a few catchy tunes during their brief run.
12. Leif Cassidy Combined Leif Garrett and David Cassidy
Al Snow had plenty of reasons to hate being saddled as a part of The New Rockers with Marty Jannetty in the mid 90s. It was a poor rehash of an outdated gimmick where he was treated like a jobber, and on top of that, his name was a thrown together mishmash of 70s teen idols, making him a complete joke from the start. David Cassidy rose to fame with The Partridge Family, and Leif Garrett was a teenage pop star who was a huge name around the same era as Cassidy. Neither were “rockers” in any sense of the term, subtly burying Al with his very name. Although he played it to the best of his ability, Al hated the gimmick and should hardly be blamed for the rip off.
11. Johnny B. Badd Impersonated Little Richard
The strangest thing about some of these musical gimmicks is where they get their source material. Hardcore rock or metal is one thing, but wrestling tends to copy the more flamboyant musicians even more than that, which is how there was once a wrestling Little Richard. As powerful and bombastic as some of his songs are, Little Richard doesn’t exactly invoke fear into his opponents, but that didn’t stop Marc Mero from doing a full on impersonation of him while wrestling for WCW. Johnny B. Badd was named after a pun on a Chuck Berry song, but he wop bomp a loo bomped and Tutti Frutti’ed enough his first few years the true basis was unmistakable. The gimmick was strange, but Mero was extremely talented and managed to be successful anyway as a result.
10. The Honky Tonk Man Impersonated Elvis Presley
The Honky Tonk Man managed to become one of the most famous wrestlers of his day, and his gimmick has endured for decades, which is pretty amazing considering the only issue of whether or not it’s a rip off is a matter of who he’s pretending to be. Is Honky ripping off Elvis himself, or the potentially thousands of Elvis impersonators who had the idea before he did? Either way, the connection was clear, made even more blatant when his manager Jimmy Hart started calling himself “The Colonel.” Honky was obviously an extremely successful imitation, and still holds the record for the longest Intercontinental Championship reign in WWE history. Given that, perhaps it’s not too surprising he’s not the only Elvis impersonator the wrestling world has seen…
9. The Flying Elvises and Disgraceland Also Impersonated Elvis Presley
Total Nonstop Action has come a long way over its 14-year existence. When the company aired their first of many weekly Pay-Per-Views in 2002, the very first match saw future TNA legends A.J. Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Low Ki face off against a team of Flying Elvises. The name said it all, as it consisted of Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki, and Jimmy Yang wrestling as a trio of Elvis impersonators. The team broke up with only Estrada continuing the Elvis gimmick, at one point even adding a valet named Priscilla. It didn’t take long before TNA decided they needed more of the King, and Luther Biggs was introduced as yet another impersonator, named Disgraceland. Despite appearing in the first ever TNA match, any references to Elvis were completely gone by the end of their inaugural year.
8. Mike Saxon Impersonated Michael Jackson
One of the most surprising things about this list has to be the fact most of these gimmicks were actually extremely successful. Either no one noticed the superstars were ripping off music, or they didn’t particularly care. In this case, no one noticed or cared about the superstar to begin with, let alone the fact his gimmick was an incredibly blatant rip off of the most famous musician in history. Mike Saxon was a WWE jobber in the mid 80s, and he was such a blatant imitation, Vince McMahon needed to make it clear on commentary even he wasn’t pretending this was the real Michael Jackson. Not that anyone exactly would’ve mistaken him as such, considering he had none of the showmanship that made MJ a star, and if he did, he probably would’ve been more than enhancement talent.
7. “Diamond” Dallas Page Stole His Theme Song From Nirvana
WCW was regularly accused of ripping off modern pop songs and barely changing them to create “new” entrance music for their big name talent. Maybe it would make more sense to blame WCW execs for this move, but at least one wrestler admitted it was his idea to rip off a huge hit, so DDP definitely earned himself a spot on this list. “Diamond” Dallas Page was the original People’s Champion, an every day working man fighting for the underrepresented and frustrated youth. Page picked the song he felt represented this culture best, and along with Jimmy Hart they created a pretty solid rip off of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. The similarities were 100% intentional, and according to Page, Dave Grohl once even complained and suggested WCW owed Nirvana’s estate money.
6. Raven Stole Lyrics From Black Sabbath (and others)
Raven is often praised for being one of the greatest speakers in professional wrestling history, and although we aren’t trying to argue with that, we’re about to let you in on a little secret most diehard Raven fans probably already know. Quite a few of Raven’s initial promos in ECW began with him outright stealing song lyrics from popular alternative rock bands, including the Goo Goo Dolls. He also stole passages from Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman. Raven didn’t always keep it current, and would quote his favorite classic rockers as well, including Black Sabbath and Neil Young. Raven was essentially just quoting some of his favorite songs, but in a sense, it really wasn’t far from intellectual plagiarism since he rarely referred to his source material.
5. George Ringo, The Wrestling Beatle
Decades before wrestling boy bands, wrestling Michael Jackson’s, wrestling KISS demons, or even wrestling Elvis’s, there was the wrestling Beatle. George Ringo predates anything else on this list by over 20 years, proving that silly wrestling gimmicks have been ripping off pop culture long before Vince McMahon caused the two to become one in the same. Ringo’s real name was Bob Sabre, but he wasn’t the one who came up with the gimmick. Allegedly, legendary wrestler Dick The Bruiser had the idea for Sabre to cut his hair into a mop top and act as enhancement talent to big AWA stars. The gimmick didn’t really work, and is considered one of the earliest of the many horrible ideas the AWA would later become known for.
4. The KISS Demon Represented KISS
KISS is well known for marketing absolutely everything that exists. There are KISS condoms, and there are KISS caskets. Naturally, when Eric Bischoff approached the band about doing a mini-concert on WCW Nitro, they jumped at the idea, regardless of the fact it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. All that mattered to KISS was that they got paid—and that was still all that mattered to them when WCW asked if they could make a character based on their likeness. Of course they could, for the right price. Enter Dale Torborg, who portrayed the KISS Demon, although he wasn’t the first choice. Nothing really went as planned with the gimmick, and in fact the initial KISS appearance on Nitro was one of the lowest rated segments in the show’s history at that point. They powered through with the gimmick anyway for the better part of the year 2000.
3. Chris Jericho Stole From Spinal Tap
Chris Jericho’s band Fozzy has evolved far beyond its original parody status, and has been writing serious songs for years. At the beginning, though, they had a lot in common with the metal parody band Spinal Tap. They performed covers of 80s metal anthems they pretended were stolen from them while Jericho invented the overzealous rock star persona, Moongoose McQueen. Jericho admitted in one of his books he ripped off Spinal Tap in a far more direct way as a wrestler in WCW, though, directly lifting a scene from the film This Is Spinal Tap to make an elaborate entrance for WCW Fall Brawl 1998. Jericho and his entourage got lost while wandering around the backstage, repeatedly screaming “Rock and roll! Hello, Winston-Salem!” in a part homage, part rip off of Nigel Tufnel and company doing the exact same thing. In fact, Jericho himself did the exact same thing a few weeks earlier on Nitro.
2. Prince Iaukea Was Inspired By Prince
Prince Iaukea started in WCW with virtually no character aside from the fact he was young and full of energy. He was essentially WCW’s Rocky Maivia, and was about as much of a success…if you ignore everything that happened after the first six months of The Rock’s career. Iaukea disappeared for a while after an injury, and when he came back, he rechristened himself The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea. Although he took the name from The Artist era, Iaukea became more of an imitation of classic 80s Prince, dressing in flowery purple outfits and being accompanied to the ring by a woman named Paisley. Iaukea would achieve a few purple reigns of his own with the gimmick, winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship twice. In all honesty, although he wasn’t a great wrestler, Iaukea made a pretty decent imitation of Prince. He certainly did better than some others who tried…
1. Goldust Copied The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
While Prince Iaukea at least had a solid understanding of his source material, when Goldust decided to start ripping off Prince, he instead did things as only The Bizarre One could, and he got real weird with it. In late 1997, Goldust went through an onscreen break up with his wife and manager Marlena, and started painting himself strange colors and imitating all sorts of wrestlers and pop culture creations. During his Artist period, Prince wrote the word “Slave” on his face to make a statement on recording industry contracts; TAFKA Goldust wrote “FU” on his face for no particular reason. He soon teamed with Luna Vachon, and the Prince allusion all but disappeared in favor of BDSM and the color green, despite the fact Goldust kept using a nickname that was clearly artistically inspired. He would revert to plain old Goldust after less than a year of weirdness.