10 Wrestling Characters That Shockingly Exploited Special Needs

Over the years, wrestling has seen a number of different characters that vary in size, strength and ability. Some wrestlers take on roles that, while initially appearing harmless, were in fact not reflective of the culture of people that watch wrestling. For instance, WWE as a corporate entity has grown over the years and taken an active role in supporting several hospitals, youth foundations and cancer research foundations. However, in doing so, they blur the line between fantasy and reality with their characters. One problem that stands out is that on a number of occasions, not just in WWE, but in other promotions, a character is portrayed to have qualities of a person who suffer various physical and mental exceptionalities.

While wrestlers such as Zach Gowen or Chris Melendez are heralded for being able to compete with a physical disability, there are a number of able-bodied performers that have portrayed characters that are "dim witted," or intended to look as though they were slow of mind, but not equally inspirational. In several of these cases, while they may have been considered a commercial success they weren't necessarily accurate or respectful of those that do have these exceptionalities. Was it appropriate to use this type of character? While some may have thought of them as funny, it was not the most sensitive way to portray them. They may have meant well, but it often didn't come off as the most thoughtful way to do it. Here are 10 Wrestling Characters That Shockingly Exploited Special Needs:

10 Festus

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9 The Missing Link


8 George "The Animal" Steele

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7 Goldust 

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6 Eric Young


5 Al Snow

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4 Perry Saturn

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3 Dave Sullivan

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2 Eugene


1 Norman The Lunatic

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The late Mike Shaw was a man of many characters, competing as Friar Ferguson or Bastian Booger among others. One character he was given was intended to suggest mental illness. Norman the Lunatic was a character that Shaw played after he first joined WCW in the late 1980s. He was managed by Teddy Long, who led him to the ring with a large key, the key representing the padded room that Norman would reside back in if he did not follow Long's instructions. He carried a teddy bear with him to the ring and represented a child-like innocence. Norman was used as a heel, but had face like qualities about him. It was shameless to manipulate a person for their size and strength, and exploit them because they suffer from a mental illness. The character had a short shelf life, and once he became a face was no longer a “lunatic.”

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10 Wrestling Characters That Shockingly Exploited Special Needs