WWE superstars become popular based on their characters and their gimmicks. Many WWE stars have a number of gimmicks and characters during their time in WWE, even more so now given that many stars on the main roster were once part of the NXT brand and were introduced to the WWE Universe as very different characters.
Vince McMahon still has as much control over WWE as he ever did and if he decides that he doesn't like the character of any star then he will change it. Of course, most of the time the superstars themselves have ideas for characters that they want to be, so WWE will trial these and see if they can make them work.
More often than not, it takes a few tries before wrestlers come up with gimmicks and characters that stick. The Boss, The Hugger, and The Queen were not created overnight; they are the product of many promo and character sessions at WWE's Performance and all three girls went through a number of other failed gimmicks before they landed on some that they felt they could use on the main roster. It is much harder than you think to create a character that the WWE Universe can easily get behind.
The following list looks at 15 gimmicks that WWE once gave to members of the WWE roster before it was decided that these were not right for them or that the characters just didn't work for them so they were quickly and quietly canceled.
15 The Female Shield
The Shield was one of the most dominant stables in WWE history. The team of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose took over the main roster from their debut at Survivor Series 2012 up until their split in June 2014. The Divas Division at the time was pitiful, NXT was aware of this and given the success of the male version of The Shield, it was decided that there would be a female equivalent.
Paige, Summer Rae, and developmental talent Anya were put together and prepared to dish out some justice to the Women's Division on both NXT and the main roster, even going as far as releasing the above promo back in 2013. Sadly, Anya was released and Summer and Paige moved on to their own characters and The Shield 2.0 idea was just added to the pile of other WWE ideas that never fully materialized on WWE TV.
14 Liv Morgan The Obsessed Fan
Liv Morgan could well be one of the most underrated NXT Women in the company at the moment. She is often likened to Carmella because their gimmicks are very similar, but easily has her own version of offense if her character is somewhat copied.
When Liv Morgan first made her WWE debut she ran in during Tyler Breeze's entrance at an NXT Takeover event and was seen as an obsessed fan of Prince Pretty, since the WWE Universe had never seen Liv before. It seems that WWE completely changed their decision to have Liv portray this sort of role, because now she started stepping into the ring with a completely different character and could play a much bigger role in the NXT Women's Divison. Now that record breaking champion Asuka has rescinded her Women's Championship it seems there is a huge spot in the division to be filled.
13 Edge The Deaf/Mute Wrestler
Edge is now remembered in WWE as an 11-time World Champion and one of the best wrestlers of the last generation. It is hard to see Edge becoming a future WWE Hall of Famer if he had been stuck with some of the gimmicks that WWE had planned to give him when he first started out in the company.
Edge recently revealed that Vince Russo didn't think that he could talk very well at the beginning of his career and so he had the idea to make him a deaf mute wrestler instead. Edge stated that if he had accepted this gimmick it would have left him dead in the water and the fact that he didn't accept it meant that Russo thought that he hated his idea. Edge obviously managed to turn all these ideas around and become successful anyway, but imagine what could have been if he hadn't.
Emma was once seen as the first ever Australian Diva in NXT and worked as a clumsy face before she was brought up to the main roster as the character and then dropped back down to NXT when she began to develop a character as a heel alongside Dana Brooke and then took the character back to the main roster as well.
Emma then suffered a back injury and was forced on the shelf on the main roster for more than a year. Video packages then began to air that were advertising Emma's return as EmmaLina, a new look Diva that was a throwback to the 90s women like Sable and Sunny who cared more about looks than wrestling. Emma wasn't able to portray the character very well in promos and WWE then decided to scrap the whole idea and turn Emma back into the heel character that she once was on the Monday Night show.
11 Dean Ambrose And AJ Lee
Dean Ambrose was not always scheduled to be part of The Shield. WWE executives knew that Ambrose could play a lunatic quite effectively and tried to be as creative as possible when it came to his debut on WWE TV back in 2012.
The original idea was that AJ Lee would be sent to an asylum by Vince McMahon, rather than becoming the General Manager of Monday Night Raw, and while she was in the asylum she was going to meet Dean Ambrose. The duo would become a couple and AJ would then return to WWE TV with Ambrose in tow as one of the craziest WWE couples in history. This is a character that would have definitely gotten Ambrose over as a face, but sadly WWE decided to put Ambrose in The Shield and put AJ in charge of Raw, so the WWE Universe will never know what could have been.
10 Southern Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss made the decision back in 2016 to adopt the relevant Harley Quinn colors following the release of the popular Suicide Squad movie, something that has seen the former SmackDown Live Women's Champion catapult herself to stardom over the past few years.
It sadly wasn't always this way for Alexa, who seems to have happily created a cocky heel character of her own in recent months ever since she made the switch over to Monday Night Raw. Alexa was once a fairy style character on NXT. As well as this gimmick, WWE shared a video of Alexa alongside Scott Dawson who is now known as one-half of The Revival, where she was talking in a Southern accent and the couple were then considered to be an updated version of Jamie Noble and Nidia who were popular in WWE back in 2003. The video above was obviously something the duo came up with as part of their promos sessions when they were both part of NXT.
9 Lana's Dancing Gimmick
Lana has been seen on WWE TV for a number of years now and it is only recently that WWE has made the decision to put her into the SmackDown Women's Division. Given that she has a pretty substantial background in dance, it was easy for WWE to give her a gimmick where she was a dancer.
SmackDown later began to run video packages of Lana dancing around a chair ahead of her impending debut on the Tuesday night show. Lana did later make her debut on SmackDown but she was a completely different character to the person that had been seen in the packages. It seems that WWE decided that Lana's gimmick as a dancer wouldn't have made a lot of sense in the PG era. Instead, it seems that Lana has happily slotted into the roster without her dance background and has instead been seen as a cocky underdog.
8 Becky Lynch The Irish Dancer
Becky Lynch was the Inaugural SmackDown Women's Champion. She was also once one of the most popular stars in NXT and was one of the women called up to the main roster as part of the famous Women's Revolution back in 2015.
Before Becky became the well-liked star who wore steam punk goggles and won Championships, she made her debut in NXT back in 2014 and it seems that WWE decided that Becky should pay homage to the Emerald Isles that she is billed from. Becky came to the ring dressed all in green and began dancing an Irish jig. Let's be honest, Becky wasn't the best of dancers and this seemed like an uncomfortable gimmick for her to have to portray as well. Luckily when Becky turned heel she was able to drop the character and within a year, Becky began to find her feet as a character very close to her own persona on the main roster.
7 Carmella The Mime
Carmella has had a varying amount of success in WWE so far in her career. Following her stint alongside Enzo Amore and Big Cass, she was able to find some form of success as part of the NXT Women's Division after both Enzo and Cass were promoted to the main roster without her.
She was then promoted to the main roster herself as part of the WWE Draft back in 2016 before she was recently given the first real push of her career when she won the first ever female's Money in the Bank ladder match. Carmella sadly hasn't always had the trash talking Princess of Staten Island gimmick, it seems that she was once hoping to use the skills that she had retained in mime as a character in WWE. It seems that officials disagreed and this is why Carmella is now at the peak of her career on the main roster with a completely different character.
6 Axel Mulligan
Bray Wyatt is the former patriarch of The Wyatt Family and a former WWE Champion. Bray has been one of the most underutilized wrestlers on any WWE roster over the past few years after he seemingly struck gold with his Bray Wyatt gimmick.
Before he was Bray Wyatt, he was known as Axel Mulligan. Bray wore a mask as part of the gimmick that he first debuted in FCW, one that could sadly not be moved to the main roster. Instead, WWE gave Bray the role as Husky Harris when he first appeared in front of WWE cameras as part of The Nexus before he was later repackaged and made his second debut as the leader of The Wyatt Family back in 2013. Many of the WWE Universe have commented on how great the Husky Harris character was, but it seems that Bray has finally come into his own as his current character, in a way he never could as Axel or Husky.
5 Leo Kruger
Leo Kruger was a huge part of Adam Rose's career in NXT before he was repackaged and WWE decided that they much preferred the star to be The Exotic Express because he seemingly had much more of a personality when he was Rose than he ever did as Kruger.
It is thought that WWE executives believed that Kruger had come as far as he could under that gimmick and so made the decision to take him off WWE TV and repackage him as a much more fun character. This was all detailed in WWE 24 episode that focused on the NXT Roster and Rose's personal life. Despite many fans wanting Kruger to come back and be the new member of The Wyatt Family in place of Braun Strowman in the early days, Rose was never able to bring Kruger back and was released from the company back in 2015.
4 Paige The Nerdy Fan
Paige is now known as The Anti-Diva, the oddball of the WWE who prides herself on being an outcast and often refers to herself as a Glampire. Paige has always been recognizable for her pale complexion but it seems that she took a while to develop the character that came with it and is famed for becoming the first ever NXT Women's Champion.
One video shows promo classes that the women of NXT once used to have to take at the Performance Centre and it seems that Bayley and Paige had the idea that Paige could be a nerd fan, complete with green glasses, and she could then align herself with Bayley. As the promo ended it seems that Bayley wanted nothing to do with Paige since she wasn't a wrestler, and there was a reason why this side of Paige was never seen by the WWE Universe, it seems nerd Paige wasn't a popular one.
3 Mighty Mouse Neville
Neville is a former NXT Champion. He was once the longest reigning NXT Champion in the history of the brand, before it was decided that he would head off to the main roster and continue to make a name for himself. When Neville was ready to head up to the main roster there was a number of rumors that suggested that Neville could debut with a character that Vince McMahon liked the idea of called Mighty Mouse.
WWE has always been a fan of superheroes and this can be seen from both Stardust and even Hurricane Helms so it came as no surprise that McMahon would want another superhero style character on the show. Luckily, Neville was never given this character. Instead, he made his debut as The Man That Gravity Forgot and was seen as something close to a superhero, without being given a gimmick that would spoil him on the main roster.
2 Dean Ambrose The Anti Hardcore Wrestler
Dean Ambrose was part of a number of WWE plans before he made his WWE debut back in 2012, the original plan for Ambrose's character after the AJ Lee story line fell through was for Ambrose to go into a feud with Mick Foley as a star who didn't enjoy Hardcore Wrestling and even went as far as to throw shade at Foley on Social Media and the duo then confronted each other in a hotel lobby at WrestleMania 28.
It seems that the plan for this feud was sadly scrapped when it was revealed that Foley would never be cleared to return to the ring, so Ambrose up against Foley was never going to become a physical affair. Ambrose obviously debuted later that year at Survivor Series as part of The Shield, who later became their own footnotes in WWE history which is a much better plan than WWE had for them.
1 Alicia Fox The Wedding Planner
Alicia Fox made her WWE debut back in 2008 in a backstage segment with Vickie Guererro and Edge as their wedding planner. This was the way that Alicia was introduced to the WWE Universe before she was later seen to be having an affair with Edge before becoming embroiled in their own state of affairs.
Alicia then moved on to manage DJ Gabriel before going into the Women's Division and is now a former Divas Champion in her own right. It seems that her backstage antics as a wedding planner were just to set up her push into the division as a wrestler even though there are reports that suggest that this was going to be a much lengthier thing for Alicia, but WWE decided to cancel the gimmick and allow her to move on to manage someone else when her storyline with Edge and Vickie Guerrero was finally over.