The 1990s were known for a number of things when it came to wrestling. Promotions pushed the envelope with risqué programming and PG 13 material. There was a lot of good that came from the Attitude Era of WWE, the nWo faction in WCW, and ECW’s rise to prominence. But for all that was good during the decade, there were a number of fairly forgettable things as well. During the earlier part of the decade the WWE wasn’t as popular as it had been in the 80s, and with change often come risks. The risks WCW and WWE took were often a mixed bag but the gimmicks were just as bad then.
Much like Forrest Gump said, it was “like a box of chocolates.” This box of wrestling chocolates often left fans wondering if the filling had gone bad and moldy. So what do you do when you are unsure as to what resonates with your audience or not? Throw lots of ideas out there and see which ones stick! For as many successful moves that were done toward the end of the era, there were a number of flops early on. We are talking everything from a character that was a plumber to another one that was dressed as a mummy. It felt as though bad wrestling factions were tied to over-the-top gimmicks or characters that were as painful to watch as they are to remember! They should be given credit for trying, but sometimes it’s the delivery that makes the idea look worse than it may have been. Here are the 10 worst wrestling gimmicks of the 1990s:
10. G.I. Bro
This former five-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion is known for many things. He’s a former World Tag Team Champion, United States Champion and WWE Hall of Famer. Unfortunately for Booker T, he is also known for having one of the worst gimmicks of the 1990s. Early in Booker T’s career he was given this gimmick in Ivan Putski’s Western Wrestling Alliance Live, a character that was a similar to Sgt. Slaughter, under the name G.I. Bro. What was worse, just before the turn of the century, T reprised his G.I. Bro character as part of the Misfits in Action stable.
While we get the idea of suggesting he was a black version of G.I. Joe, is it really fair to have his character’s name be racially based? It seemed like an odd fit for Booker, especially since he had earned a career for himself without the need for the military gimmick character throughout his WCW career. It didn’t offer much, especially since he already offered so much without having to play a character that was essentially a knock off as a successful military character from the 1980s and early 1990s. For a number of wrestling fans, G.I. Bro wasn’t a character that resonated with them.
9. Loch Ness
You’ve heard the tales of the sea creature that lives in Scotland, correct? As legend had it, WCW thought it would make sense to have 6 foot, 11 inch, 685 lb Martin Ruane present the creature…in human form. While he went by the name Giant Haystacks early in his career, it was during his time in World Championship Wrestling where he went under the name Loch Ness, billed as being from the Scottish Highlands. Much like Ed Leslie he was part of the Dungeon of Doom, introduced as part of the faction in 1996. The idea of the gimmick was what made it so awful.
He dressed in tattered jeans and top, and had a rather unkempt look. Was it supposed to represent that he just came up from Loch Ness himself? It was never fully disclosed, but what was apparent was that he was meant to help end Hulk Hogan. The problem was Loch Ness lacked mobility at 700 lbs, and could barely move around. Sadly, Ruane passed away a couple of years after he first appeared on WCW, but the memory of the Loch Ness character will continue to live on.
8. Bastion Booger
As a character who dressed in such a way that Adrian Adonis would be proud, the late Michael Shaw performed as none other than Bastion Booger, after the WWE dropped his Friar Ferguson character. The character resembled Adonis in that he appeared in an unflattering singlet with a gluttonous look about him. Booger appeared unkempt and seemed to have a hunchback. While the character didn’t have very much success, he was part of an angle where he fell in love with Luna Vachon. He lost his short-lived feud with Bam Bam Bigelow over the affections of Luna, and nothing much was done with the character after that.
It’s pretty easy to understand why the character was so awful. It mocked the obese, and Shaw was encouraged to be as unappealing to the eye as possible. Even his name suggested that he was unpleasant. Michael Shaw is known for portraying a number of different characters, but this one is most frequently mentioned because of how his unflattering look stood out. The Booger did return once again on the 15th Anniversary of Monday Night Raw. It was arguably one of the most grotesque characters in wrestling history.
7. Repo Man
Have you ever had your car repossessed? (knock on wood) I haven’t, but I doubt that if it ever happened, the person repossessing my car would be dressed like this guy. The Repo Man was played by Barry Darsow, who was known previously in the WWE as Smash, one half (or even one-third) of the team Demolition. That character stood out because of the frightening nature of his persona. The problem with the Repo Man was he appeared to be dressed more like the Hamburglar, and would often sneak around and just take things.
He would use a bullrope and tie up his opponents, so was he part cowboy as well? It was confusing to understand what the character was about when he looked the way that he did. He dressed in a long trench coat with giant tire marks running all over it. So was he supposed to represent roadkill as well? While he was intended to be someone that repossessed items because people didn’t maintain their payments, he would just often take them regardless. The character was a heel, but he was so damn goofy and sneaky it was hard to take him seriously.
6. Thurman ‘Sparky’ Plugg
Hardcore Holly was one of the tougher characters the WWE developed during the attitude era. But prior to being hardcore, he was presented as a two sport athlete. During a time where a number of athletes were earning notoriety competing in both baseball and football, Holly was highlighted for his racing career. We aren’t exactly sure why racing would have been a sport that fans would have gravitated to, and indeed they didn’t. From his cliché checkered flag running down the side of his tights, Thurman “Sparky” Plugg did nothing for the career of Bob Holly.
Despite vignettes promoting his impending arrival by showing him on a speed track, nothing was memorable about the character that made you want to watch him. The problem was Holly’s pearly white smile and overly enthusiastic babyface characteristics made fans less responsive to him. Thankfully, the Spark Plugg was only a temporary persona until a better idea for a character would develop. Sparky Plug gladly raced off into the sunset never to be seen again.
5. Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese
We can appreciate a hard days work for hard-earned pay, so in the early 1990s, the WWE thought it would be meaningful if they created a character that was doing just a regular job. The belief that people would gravitate to the character didn’t really work out. Duke The Dumpster Droese did exactly what he said he would do…take out the trash. However, is watching a 6-foot garbage man walk to the ring with attire that suggests he smells something you’d pay to watch? Vince McMahon believed that people would, so he brought Droese into the company!
With his trash can in hand, Droese would walk to the ring and finish off his opponents with his...trash compactor. The funny thing about this gimmick was it wasn’t the first time Droese was referred to as a garbage man, as he wrestled under that name and with that gimmick prior to coming to the WWE. Droese remained with the company until 1996, then didn’t appear again until 2001 where he competed in a gimmick Battle Royal reprising the character. It would be easy to say that the character could have been recycled, but we’ll just leave it at the side of the road waiting to be put through a trash compactor.
4. Nailz/The Prisoner/The Convict
If the name Kevin Wacholz doesn’t ring a bell, it’s understandable. What may, however, ring a bell was the gimmick Wacholz had in the early part of the decade. He debuted in the WWE as Nailz, an ex-convict who in a series of promos declared he was bent on exacting revenge against the Big Bossman. He came to the ring dressed in a one-piece orange prison jumpsuit. His primary feud was with the Bossman, but he did tease a feud with The Undertaker.
After leaving WWE, Wacholz was known as The Prisoner in WCW and attacked Sting. After he left WCW he joined Jim Crockett’s WWN promotion, where he went by The Convict. Are you noticing a trend here? What made the gimmick so awful? There was very little room for the character to grow with this gimmick. There was no reason for the gimmick other than to have a feud with the Big Bossman, who had a prison guard gimmick. As quickly as Nailz appeared with the WWE, he was gone. He could have done hard time, but his being released from his contract was more an indication that the character was simply on parole, with no need to punish fans anymore.
3. Abe ‘Knuckeball’ Schwartz
The man behind the make up was a long-time WWE enhancement talent Steve Lombardi. Lombardi went by a number of names, with The Brooklyn Brawler being the most notable. However, in the early 90s Lombardi was a character tied to professional baseball, and went by the name Abe Knuckleball Schwartz. His face was painted like a baseball and he wore a baseball jersey with the number 00 on his back. At the time Major League Baseball was in the midst of a players strike so the character made sense. Was it really necessary, and did it mean he was going to get a push out of it? It wasn’t likely.
He also came to the ring led by the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” only a slowed down and creepier version of it. It didn’t do anything for Lombardi, it just added to the decade’s long run of sports-inspired gimmicks that were usually awful. Much to no one’s surprise, Abe Knuckleball Schwartz didn’t last very long, but the memory of his time in the WWE will. His time in the company with this gimmick went by faster than an actual knuckleball itself, thankfully.
2. The Goon
During the 1990s it seemed as though the WWE had a fascination with tying their characters to other sports. If it wasn’t “Knuckleball” Schwartz, it was “Sparky” Plugg. There was a time, however, where one character was named according to how he played his particular sport. The Goon was a character that appeared to be inspired by the Paul Newman film Slapshot, but did nothing to make fans believe he had any actual hockey skill. He was dressed just like a hockey player, with his boots even resembling skates without blades.
When he got into the ring he would often face talent that had a shirt or jacket on and would “jersey” them. To jersey an opponent means to take their jacket or shirt and pull it over their head and punch them without the opponent being able to defend themselves. But the character was quite forgettable. The way it was scripted, viewers may have thought he took a hockey puck to the head. The Goon was gladly “slapshotted” into the gimmick abyss, never to be seen again.
1. The Man With No Name/The Zodiac
Ed Leslie was a fairly popular wrestler during the 1980s. During wrestling’s boom in the 80s, he was known as Brutus The Barber Beefcake. However, Leslie has also gone by a number of names throughout his wrestling career, changing them frequently after he left the WWE. While he was in WCW, Leslie went under the name The Booty Man and also The Disciple. We knew who he was, but he continued to reappear with a new names and different characters.
There was one time, however, when he was aligned with Kevin Sullivan, and during this time he became someone who had lost his memory and was called The Man With No Name, one third of the Three Faces of Fear. After that, he was a character that would repeatedly shout “yes” and “no” and wore black and white face paint. Long before Daniel Bryan used the words yes and no as a catchphrase, Leslie did the same thing, but with little to no effect. It could be easy to say that Leslie regularly reinvented himself, but the truth is that none of his characters did anything memorable in any of the roles.