There are several factors that come into play that separate successful wrestlers from failed prospects. Talent is one that immediately comes to mind, their in-ring skills can make or break a wrestler. You also have appearance and the ability to cut a promo in front of a live audience. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing that can make or break a wrestler: their gimmick. It’s the character that makes them stand out from their peers and makes fans invested in them remaining relevant.
Being a world-class athlete without a character simply won’t cut it in the wrestling business, they must have a story that draws fans in. Where would Steve Austin have been today if he hadn’t adapted his Stone Cold persona? Can you imagine a world where someone else portrays The Undertaker? Some wrestlers develop a character during their journey and create a unique identity through experience. Others are given a specific role to play before appearing on screen, but fans’ reception is always unpredictable. There are plenty of instances when a wrestling company invested plenty in someone, only to be rejected by audiences.
For better or worse, things don’t always go as planned in the industry and changes are always being made. Gimmicks are sometimes passed down from one wrestler to another, and while some go on to achieve tremendous success, others fail to make any impact. In today’s list, we look at 20 wrestling gimmicks that were intended for someone else!
20. Glacier: Originally Rob Van Dam
Glacier is one of the most overhyped wrestlers of all time. When thinking of WCW’s decline in the late 90s, he’s one of the names that comes to mind. WCW invested plenty of money and time to promote Glacier who was basically portraying Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat, but fans didn’t buy into it.
The character was played by Raymond Lloyd but it was originally offered to Rob Van Dam who was in ECW at the time. RVD was regarded as one of the best young talents in the industry, and he probably could’ve done more with the gimmick but certainly not enough to become Mr. Monday Night Raw, as he would become years later.
Thankfully, RVD wasn’t too interested in taking on the gimmick and rejected it in favor of remaining with ECW. Things worked out for him as he became one of the most popular wrestlers of his generation and remains a loved figure today.
19. Triple H: Originally Owen Hart
Before Owen Hart passed away at WWE’s Over The Edge pay-per-view, he had been portraying a new personality under the name of The Blue Blazer. It was rumored that Hart wasn’t having the best of times in the company and might have potentially left, especially since many of his family members and associates had already switched to WCW.
In 1997, Owen’s brother Bret Hart was involved in the highly controversial Montreal Screwjob, and departed to WCW. It’s been said that prior to Owen’s death, he was supposed to take on a new gimmick known as “The Game.” It would be passed over to Triple H once Owen passed away, and since then, Triple H has dominated the main event scene for over a decade. Would Owen have received the same type of push? Unlikely, but it would still have been intriguing to see him as The Game.
18. The Gobbledy Gooker: Originally The Undertaker
It seems like luck was on The Undertaker’s side as he managed to escape some terrible gimmicks that would’ve been nearly impossible to recover from. Before he took on The Deadman persona, WWE creative had major plans for him which would see him debut at Survivor Series 1990. He would don an oversized turkey costume and be known as The Gobbledy Gooker. At some point, it seems like they came back to their senses and went back to the drawing board to come up with The Undertaker.
But it was poor Hector Guerrero who was stuck with the gimmick, and his career was doomed since then. Despite belonging to one of wrestling’s greatest families, that failed experiment was always associated with Hector. Would The Undertaker have been a better turkey? Not even he could have gotten the character over with the fans who immediately rejected the newly debuted Gobbledy Gooker.
17. The Heartbreak Kid: Originally Shane Douglas
Rumors have it that Vince McMahon pictured Shane Douglas as The Heartbreak Kid, and the gimmick was set to be his until he required some time off. It seems like the character was a match made in heaven for Shawn Michaels, who happened to be the next choice. He probably would have still crafted a great career with a different nickname, but we simply can’t imagine him being anyone else. His antics got him over with the fans, and helped in making him one of wrestling’s most important figures.
As for Douglas, his WWE never took off despite working for the company at different times but he did achieve success as “The Franchise” in ECW. He was one of the many names who helped in pushing the company to a new level, although he was never able to recapture that magic in WWE. Even as “The Heartbreak Kid”, his career trajectory wouldn’t have significantly changed.
16. Big Van Vader: Originally Ultimate Warrior, Sid Vicious
When NJPW were planning to create the Big Van Vader character, they had several names in mind. The first one being The Ultimate Warrior who wasn’t known at the time, but Vince McMahon recruited him to the WWE before he took on the persona. Warrior would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, so he probably didn’t lose much sleep about it. The second choice was Sid Vicious, but for unknown reasons, NJPW decided to take it to a different direction with their third pick.
It finally landed with Leon White, aka the Big Van Vader we’ve come to know, and he crafted an impressive career with it. This goes to show that luck plays a huge factor in wrestling as some gimmicks (and storylines) get passed on before being picked up by someone. Vader was one of the lucky names and he didn’t take that opportunity for granted.
15. Spirit Squad: Originally Elijah Burke
When Elijah Burke was a part of OVW in 2005, he was approached by Vince McMahon to join a new stable named The Spirit Squad. The chairman assured him that he would make plenty of money since he had major plans for the stable since it was his creation.
Burke was hesitant believing that the role didn’t fit him, and he politely declined the part. He informed McMahon that he preferred to wait for another opportunity, and eventually joined SmackDown! in 2006. If you weren’t following WWE at the time, The Spirit Squad were a group of male cheerleaders who would barely survive a year before splitting up.
As for Burke, his WWE career didn’t reach the heights that some had anticipated, and he would be released from the company in 2008. He has taken on a different gimmick since then, adopting the name “D’Angelo Dinero” in TNA.
14. Val Venis: Originally Edge
WWE creative had many ideas in mind for Edge, none of which came to fruition. It was suggested that he and Val Venis could form a team to become the modern-day Midnight Express, but both men turned it down in search of bringing something new to the table. Afterwards, creative came forward with the idea of Edge portraying a retired adult star, but he also passed on the suggestion. The gimmick would end up belonging to Val Venis who had a memorable run with it during the Attitude Era.
However, the WWE dropped it after a while and Venis was nothing more than a jobber to put over newcomers. As for Edge, he enjoyed a great career and became a main eventer during the mid-2000s. Although he never played an adult star, he did adopt the “Rated R Superstar” nickname and behaved in a way that justified it.
13. Mark Henry: Originally Brodus Clay
When Brodus Clay approached the WWE creative team to inquire about future plans, he was advised to come up with his own character. He took their advice and came up with a character who beats up on faces before introducing them to the “Hall of Pain”.
The monster gimmick would have certainly helped his career but it wasn’t meant to be, as his idea was taken and given to Mark Henry. While Brodus Clay was stuck being The Funkasaurus, Henry would receive the biggest push of his career and even captured the World Heavyweight Championship after defeating Randy Orton at Night of Champions.
12. The Undertaker: Originally Black Bart
Not only did The Undertaker manage to escape some terrible pitches, but he was also lucky enough to have his famous persona get passed down to him. According to Black Bart, Dusty Rhodes had given him The Undertaker gimmick and he almost portrayed what is now considered to be the most iconic character in wrestling history.
However, he was released from WWE before he was given the chance to debut as The Undertaker, and eventually, the gimmick found its way to its current owner. It seems unlikely that any other wrestler could have pulled off such complex character, and Black Bart would’ve likely flopped with the gimmick.
11. Ted DiBiase: Originally Ric Flair
In 1988, Ric Flair was in talks to join WWE and rumors have it that Vince McMahon wanted him to portray The Million Dollar Man. For unknown reasons, the talks fell through and Flair wouldn’t appear in WWE until 1991, while Ted DiBiase would adopt the gimmick and have one hell of a career with it.
Flair didn’t need the gimmick since he was already an established star but we all know how McMahon likes to create stars rather than introduce wrestlers who made a name elsewhere. Flair is one of the few who could have possibly pulled off the gimmick just as well as DiBiase did, but things worked out for both men at the end. It seems like McMahon had a couple of other names in mind before he eventually settled on DiBiase, who took the character and made it one of the hottest gimmicks in wrestling.
10. Sam Houston: Originally Bret Hart
As talented as Bret Hart is, he needed the right character to get over with the fans. Would he have been the legendary figure that he is today if he had accepted the suggested cowboy gimmick? When Hart joined the WWE, the creative team had several ideas for him, one of which was for him to adopt an entirely new persona by acting as a cowboy.
He rejected the suggestion knowing that it would fall flat as most fans wouldn’t have bought into it. As usual, Vince McMahon is never one to let gimmicks stay in the drafting stages, and made a cowboy out of Sam Houston. While Houston is mostly forgotten by the majority of fans, Hart has become one of the greatest wrestlers in history with a character that made him beloved throughout the years. In this case, we can all agree that he made the right call by not agreeing to his original plans.
9. The Ringmaster: Originally Adam Bomb
If you were a fan of the WWE in the 90s, you most likely remember Adam Bomb. Before he took on that gimmick, he was offered to be “The Ringmaster” but he preferred the character of Adam Bomb, as it suited him better.
He didn’t exactly have a memorable run and was out of the WWE within two years, as he joined WCW like so many wrestlers did at the time. But “The Ringmaster” would find its way to another wrestler who was desperate for an opportunity in Steve Austin and he made the best out of it. It was a mediocre gimmick that had a low ceiling, but Austin was able to outgrow it to become the Stone Cold we all love.
If Adam Bomb hadn’t rejected the character, the trajectory of Austin’s career might have been different since he would have taken a different character. As The Ringmaster, he knew he was capable of doing much more which pushed him to work harder to find his true persona.
8. Mr. Perfect: Originally Terry Taylor
While Curt Hennig would become one of the most memorable wrestlers from his generation, Terry Taylor has been associated with one of the worst gimmicks ever in The Red Rooster. When the WWE creative team came up with the Mr. Perfect character, they were searching for the suitable candidate to fit all the criteria in order to truly make it work.
The first name that came to their minds was Terry Taylor who was on the hunt for a character, but he rejected the idea and opted to wait for something more suitable. Little did he know that he would become The Red Rooster, while Curt Hennig was given the Mr. Perfect personal, which he pulled off as flawlessly as Vince McMahon and his creative team had imagined. Taylor would have probably done a decent job but not enough to deserve it over Hennig.
7. Glorious Bobby Roode: Originally NXT wrestler
Bobby Roode was going to make it in the WWE even without his glorious persona, but that character has made him so much more likeable. After enjoying a successful stint with TNA, Roode joined WWE where he wrestled for NXT before moving to the main roster on its SmackDown! brand.
Roode stumbled onto the “Glorious” theme by accident and requested the song, but it was originally intended to be for another NXT wrestler who hasn’t been revealed. WWE officials accepted his request and now Roode has one of the best theme songs, which has added so much to his character.
6. The Sultan: Originally Sabu
Sabu was in discussions to join WWE in the mid-’90s but disagreements over character changes ended the talks. Vince McMahon wanted to basically have Sabu maintain his image with a few changes, such as introducing The Iron Sheikh as his manager and having his tongue cut out. He would also have been renamed The Sultan to reflect those changes. Sabu preferred to keep his persona as it is, rejecting any additional touches from the WWE.
Once Sabu refused to switch to WWE, the gimmick was given to Rikishi instead who would portray the character for the next two years. He didn’t exactly have a great run as he left in 1998 to receive more wrestling training before being re-introduced as Rikishi. As things turned out, Sabu was right to pass on Vince’s suggestions, which would have probably ruined his career beyond repair.
5. Lana: Originally Eva Marie
When Lana debuted her new gimmick this past April, fans had plenty to say about “The Ravishing Russian” who had been mostly known as Rusev’s manager. She had gained many fans thanks to her work on the mic, but her wrestling abilities were always questioned.
When Lana moved on from Rusev to compete on her own, she adopted a slightly different look with a new entrance. It also didn’t take long for her to jump into the title picture as she was given an opportunity to challenge Naomi. As it turned out, her new gimmick and push were meant to be given to Eva Marie before everyone went south with her WWE run.
It’s hard to say whether she would’ve accomplished more than Lana in that very same role since there isn’t much that separates the two Superstars. While they are both attractive and charismatic, their in-ring talent leaves plenty to be desired.
4. R-Truth: Originally JTG
When JTG was in a transitional period between Cryme Tyme and his singles run, he had several suggestions to the creative team in regards to his character. They warmed up to the ideas but none of them were given to him with many being passed down to other wrestlers. One of JTG’s suggestions was to have a gimmick of someone who talks to imaginary characters, and although it did take place in WWE, it wasn’t JTG who was doing it.
The creative team had given the gimmick to R-Truth who ran away with it to have his most successful run with the company, including a feud with John Cena. You can’t criticize R-Truth since he was simply given the gimmick, and he played the part perfectly, but it was still JTG who missed out on potentially reaching new heights of success. JTG would later be released from the company, while WWE didn’t know what to do with R-Truth as he would join forces with Goldust to do goofy segments.
3. Max Moon: Originally Konnan
When Konnan was signed by WWE, he had met with Vince McMahon to trade ideas for his character at a time when the company was experimenting with new faces. Konnan suggested the Max Moon gimmick, which was inspired by a Japanese anime. Vince bought into it and even spent $13,000 to design the costume.
But Konnan would only go on to make two appearances as Max Moon on WWE television before he started missing TV tapes. At the time, he was also wrestling in Mexico where he had risen to fame at a quick rate, and suddenly WWE was no longer a priority for him.
Konnan was also tired of carrying the costume, claiming that he needed two cabs every single time to fit in everything. Shortly after, he was fired from the company and Vince agreed to hand the gimmick to Paul Diamond after having invested so much into the character.
2. The Berzerker: Originally The Undertaker
WWE Hall of Famer J.J. Dillon was a front executive for the WWE when he witnessed what could have been the biggest blunder in history when The Undertaker was supposed to take on a different gimmick. During an interview, he spoke about how different thing could’ve turned out to be.
Upon meeting Vince McMahon, the chairman was instantly impressed with The Undertaker’s physique and saw a bright future for him. His first idea was for Taker to portray a Viking, a character that would be portrayed by John Nord who would be known as The Berzerker.
It was the creative team that changed the original plans and came up with arguably the most legendary character in The Undertaker. As great as he is, it’s unlikely that Taker would’ve been able to carry that same success if he had been The Berzerker.
1. Batista: Originally Mark Jindrak
Evolution was the most dominant stable of the early 2000s with Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista joining forces to rule Monday Night Raw. Every single member held a title at one point from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Tag Team titles, but things had been planned differently.
It was Mark Jindrak who was supposed to be the fourth member of Evolution instead of Batista, playing the role of the strongest of the bunch with high potential for the future. During a segment on Thy Kingdom Come DVD, Triple H confirmed that Jindrak was supposed to play the character that would be portrayed by Batista, who went on to become a 6-time world champion and a main eventer for years to come. As for Jindrak, he admitted that he was too immature at the time and lost the opportunity on his own.
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