Sometimes in professional wrestling, you’re really left questioning the sanity of the powers that be. Part of the allure of wrestling is the characters, or in wrestling terms, gimmicks. Without a gimmick, a wrestler can’t really go anywhere, no matter what their talent level is. Fans want to get behind a certain character and they have to invest themselves in a character to want him to succeed.
In wrestling history we’ve seen many epic gimmicks, such as the Undertaker as the dead man, Stone Cold Steve Austin as the beer-drinking rebel, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man Randy Savage, etc… We also have the other end of the spectrum; the gimmicks that once made you cringe and now make you laugh reflecting back on how stupid they were. However, if the goal of these gimmicks about to be presented was to make these performers big stars, well then these were just utter failures. Here are the 10 worst gimmicks in wrestling history.
10) Akeem The African Dream
My, oh my. Where do we begin?
Well let’s see; originally George Gray was known as the One Man Gang, a relatively successful heel. He played the monster role of the big bad bully very well. He had Slick as his manager and defeated many jobbers but could never break through as a top heel. Eventually he had reached his ceiling and the WWE decided to repackage him. They did it in just about the worst way possible.
In September 1988, Slick revealed that One Man Gang was actually African, obviously, and planned to embrace his roots. What resulted was a debut vignette where Slick was with his client, who would now be known as Akeem the African Dream, in a ghetto with a group of dancers dressed as tribal Africans. What was worse was the caucasian Akeem speaking in a stereotypical black accent and dancing with African rituals taking place in the background.
Eventually Akeem formed a tag team with the Big Bossman, naming themselves the Twin Towers, but there was no salvaging this gimmick. Offensive, brutal and practically a career killer. Gray eventually went to WCW and resumed his One Man Gang gimmick.
9) Isaac Yankem
You can’t say Glenn Jacobs didn’t pay his dues. You now know him as Kane, which is a gimmick that would make a best gimmicks list, but his former one of Dr. Isaac Yankem belongs in the toilet.
Isaac Yankem was the sadistic dentist of Jerry the King Lawler, whose main purpose was to take out Bret Hart on behalf of his patient. Lawler introduced this monstrous dentist after losing a Kiss My Foot match to Hart, claiming he needed Yankem to fix his mouth. Okay.
After a short feud, this dentist gimmick quietly faded away. It wasn’t until two years later, in 1997 when Jacobs would debut as Kane and save his career.
Well, to understand this one, you first have to watch the critically acclaimed, no wait, that’s not right, the panned movie that was No Holds Barred starring Hulk Hogan. Playing a very similar character in the movie to his own, protagonist pro wrestler Rip Thomas engages in a deadly fight with a character by the name of Zeus. Zeus was portrayed by Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr. who has had a fairly successful film career.
Since the move was so enthralling, the WWE thought it’d be a great idea to bring the Zeus gimmick to the real cartoon world of professional wrestling. Thus, from parts unknown, came Zeus into the WWE, whose main beef was Hogan getting top billing over him in the film. Having lost to Hogan in the movie, Zeus wanted to avenge himself and beat Hogan in “real life”.
Zeus, being new to wrestling, was very limited in what he could do, basically no-selling opponents’ moves and destroying everything in his path. He had a couple of tag team matches along with Randy Savage and took on Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. His run ended following a steel cage tag match at the No Holds Barred pay-per-view in late 1989. Keep those characters in movies, Vince.
Multiple choice question; which of Kevin Nash‘s old gimmicks do you hate most? The wisecracking mobster Vinnie Vegas? The orange haired “Steel”? Or the coup de gras, his gimmick of Oz, based on the 1990 children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?
Nothing like a seven-foot tall giant fe-fi-fo-fum-ing all the way to the ring, decked out in a bright green robe and silver hair, accompanied by his trusted manager Merlin the Wizard.
What’s even worse was this character was pushed strongly for the majority of 1991. You’ve got to believe Nash was pretty demoralized by this point in his wrestling career. He left WCW in 1993 and began the successful portion of his career as Diesel.
6) The Yeti
If the actual Yeti is anywhere near as horrible as this gimmick was, let’s hope it’s a myth.
The WCW’s version was comprised of a gigantic figure decked out in what appeared to be soiled bandages from top to bottom. Part of perhaps the worst stable in wrestling history, the Dungeon of Doom.
Debuting in a block of ice on an October edition of Niro in 1995, the ice thawed and out came the Yeti, who interfered on behalf of the Giant in his match with Hulk Hogan. They performed what was the creepiest double bearhug you will ever see.
The character’s attire soon was changed to resemble a masked ninja, dubbing him the Super Giant Ninja, another bullseye, before the character was dropped altogether. Antagonists like this helped kill what had been an eternal babyface run by Hogan.
5) KISS Demon
When WCW was beginning to head toward its demise, in 1999, Eric Bischoff reached an agreement with the legendary rock band KISS to create a wrestler based on the rock band. With that, the KISS Demon was born.
The idea was to create a stable with each member representing a part of the band, with the Demon being based on Gene Simmons.
However, Eric Bischoff would soon lose his position as the Executive Vice President of WCW and the character was soon buried. Just a hunch, but it was probably for the best.
4) Bastion Booger
No one will guess what the goal of creating this character was, but by the looks of it, it sure wasn’t meant to entertain us, at least we hope not.
Bastion Booger was basically a gross slob, a gimmick given to Mike Shaw. Booger was a gluttonous, slovenly pig, who wrestled in a singlet aimed to make him resemble a hunchback.
Booger wouldn’t be taken seriously for long, if he ever was, as he soon found himself as a jobber. Talk about a guy not being given a fair chance.
Watch this clip and listen to Vince McMahon on commentary. His first words are, “what is this?” you tell us Vince. What is this?
This Mantaur character was meant to resemble that of a minotaur, a mythological creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. Mantaur would do everything he could to resemble a bull, including mauling, headbutting and yes, even mooing at his opponents.
He even got one of the greatest managers of all time, with Jim Cornette in his corner. Mantaur would participate in the 1995 Royal Rumble and in the 1995 King of the Ring, where he lost to Bob Holly in a qualifying match. He would be released from WWE soon after. Ideas like this were why WWE was in such a bad business state in the mid-90s.
Surely, you’ve all heard of this one. The odds were against this character succeeding from the moment the idea was put on paper.
Fred Ottman was Tugboat for a brief period in WWE and then one half of the Natural Disasters as Typhoon alongside Earthquake. With seemingly no path to becoming a top singles star, he made the jump to WCW in 1993.
He was set to debut alongside Sting, Dustin Rhodes and Davey Boy Smith to take on the heel team of Sid Vicious, Harlem Heat and Big Van Vader. Sting said their mystery partner would shock the world, because he is the Shockmaster!
Ottman was draped in a black vest, a pair of jeans and a stormtrooper helmet covered in glitter. Here’s what Ottman had to say about the debut.
“They put me in a Storm Trooper mask which they painted and covered in glitter, I couldn’t see a thing. I got to the wall and put my hands up like a double axe handle and bust through. The top broke perfectly, but the bottom didn’t give. The momentum took me through the wall and to the floor.”
Yes, that happened. Set to burst through a wall, Ottman tripped and his helmet fell off. Words can’t do it justice; watch the footage.
The character could never be taken seriously by fans, and was eventually portrayed to be a klutz, and the character was dropped. As bad as it was, at least it was memorable.
1) Gobbledy Gooker
At least for the Shockmaster, maybe you could argue the gimmick would have had a chance if the debut didn’t go as horribly wrong as it did.
The Gobbledy Gooker couldn’t have looked like a good idea, to anyone, ever. For months, there was a mysterious egg on WWE programming, which was hyped to hatch at the 1990 Survivor Series.
What came out was Héctor Guerrero from a world-class wrestling family, dressed as a turkey. He then proceeded to dance with Mean Gene Okerlund, leaving many fans questioning why they watched wrestling. The gimmick was quickly dropped due to the negative response from fans. How did this idea miss?!