In professional wrestling, as with any creative medium, ideas occasionally get stolen. Every wrestling company has dozens of writers, and they often have the talent pitch them ideas, too, so you’d think there’s no dearth of originality. However, in the competitive landscape of the wrestling universe, sometimes people just take an idea that worked for someone else and run with it.
Wrestling promoters are known for some shady business practices, so straight up gimmick thievery might not be that surprising. Especially in the days of the Monday Night Wars, WWE and WCW were constantly stealing from each other with little subtlety, and both companies were outright copying ECW. From a legal standpoint, though, it’s still kind of shocking they managed to get away with all of this.
Some examples are just based on the earlier idea, with the person who came up with it first mostly just being jealous, but in other cases it was sheer copyright infringement. Read on to learn about 12 mainstream wrestling storylines and gimmicks that were (allegedly) stolen.
12 La Parka's Existential Crisis
While the Undertaker’s battle with himself is pure wrestle crap, the idea of a character doing battle with a doppelganger has been successfully pulled off at least once in professional wrestling. It took multiple promotions and a lot of people being free with the creative license, but by around 2003 there were two La Parka’s in the same place. The original La Parka debuted for Asistencia Asesoría y Administración in Mexico in the early 1990’s and made the jump to the United States with WCW in 1996. Antonio Peña, the owner of AAA, was unhappy about losing a major star, and thus started promoting a wrestler named La Parka, Jr. When the original La Parka returned to Mexico, he found out Peña somehow owned the copyright, and was forced out of the gimmick he created. He has since competed as L.A. ParK, and has even feuded with the new La Parka.
11 Edge Steals Lita, Just Like Raven Planned
Edge is one of the more successful heels of the 2000’s, and two of the most important factors in building his status as such were directly (though perhaps inadvertently) stolen from the same person: Raven. Raven has talked about the first theft in various shoot interviews, feeling the basic idea behind Edge’s character when he debuted was a direct lift of Raven in WCW. Edge would mysteriously hang out in the crowds, blending in with fans, which is exactly how Raven spent his first few months, too. Years later, Edge became a megastar by stealing Matt Hardy’s girlfriend, Lita. Edge pulled off the dastardly move in real life, which must be why he got to do it on-screen: Raven pitched virtually the exact same idea to Stephanie McMahon in 2003 (only exception being Raven wouldn’t actually destroy Matt Hardy’s life in the process), only for her to tell him she didn’t see it going anywhere. Obviously, Edge and Raven’s characters veered in dramatically different directions, but these identical plot points can’t be ignored.
10 Dozens of Tag Teams Copy The Road Warriors
The Road Warriors are generally considered the most dominant tag team in wrestling history. Definitely the powerhouse of the 80’s, the Road Warriors won titles in AWA, NWA and WWE, and their ass-kicking, take no prisoners style - evident as soon as you see the face paint and the shoulder pads - remains perhaps the most copied gimmick in tag team wrestling. Demolition are the most blatant example, but there was also the Powers of Pain, The Blade Runners and The Master Blasters, and even today teams like the Ascension are using the same basic gimmick. The Road Warriors have ripped their own gimmick off: in Japan, Hawk needed a new partner, so Kensuke Sasaki donned the face paint and became Power Warrior. Years later, after Hawk’s death, Animal enlisted Heidenreich to take his place and steal his gimmick.
9 Road Dogg's Brother Brings the Dogg Pound to WCW
Brad Armstrong is considered one of the most talented and underrated wrestlers of all time, considered amazing in the ring, but frankly not that great on the microphone. His brother, Road Dogg, is pretty much the exact opposite: not that great a wrestler, but he ended up quite successful thanks to his mic skills. In the late 90’s, Brad worked for WCW and Road Dogg worked for WWE. Since WWE and Road Dogg were far, far more successful, WCW asked Brad to straight out rip off his brother. It’s one of the most blatant rip-offs of the list, with even their music and catchphrases being virtually identical, but it gets a little bit of slack for the fact it barely even lasted a full month.
8 The Battles of the Nature Boys
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair is generally considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, having won more major world titles than any other competitor. That said, he’s not the first “Nature Boy,” and somehow he wasn’t the last, either. The original Nature Boy in wrestling was WWE Hall of Famer Buddy Rogers. Rogers is a former NWA Champion, and was the first ever WWE World Champion, so Flair chose an absolute legend to base his gimmick on. Flair eventually earned Buddy’s approval, as well, after the two engaged in a feud early in Ric’s career. They weren’t the only Nature Boys, either: Buddy Landel also took up the moniker in the late ‘80’s, but ultimately faded into obscurity in comparison to Flair.
7 Matt Borne Is Fired, But Doink Isn't
Doink the Clown is one of the more controversial gimmicks in WWE history. Some feel it was the epitome of cartoonishness in wrestling, while others feel in the very least, the initial performer, Matt Borne, gave the role his all. Doink was one of the sillier looking people in WWE, but Borne was such a good technical wrestler who understood ring psychology perfectly it was easy to look past it and see into the performance he was attempting to convey. Unfortunately, Borne also had a whole bunch of drug problems, and was fired from WWE in late 1993. Several other wrestlers would start using the Doink gimmick, including Ray Apollo, Steve Keirn and Steve Lombardi. Borne adapted the gimmick for ECW, too, leaving the wrestling world with an absolute plethora of clowns.
6 JTG Says It's Time to Hit the Music; R-Truth Decides to Light the Lights
JTG wrestled as a member of the popular tag team Cryme Tyme from 2006-2010 before continuing with WWE as a solo wrestler for four years after that. While a solo wrestler, he received the usual company line about how creative couldn’t come up with any ideas for him, so he began pitching his own. In various interviews, he’s claimed one such idea was to begin talking to an imaginary friend, which would eventually turn into a life-sized Muppet he carried around, which would give him orders. Take away the Muppet and many people, including JTG, seem to think this is basically the same as R-Truth being influenced by “Little Jimmy.” It wouldn’t exactly be the only time Vince McMahon fired a superstar and took their idea…
5 Maxine Creates Aksana, Gets Fired
Maxine wrestled for NXT briefly from 2010 to 2012, but most fans are probably more familiar with her as Catrina, the mysterious manager of Mil Muertes on Lucha Underground. While working for WWE developmental territory FCW, Maxine was in a role as general manager, and wished to take this character to WWE. Her plan was to appear on SmackDown and essentially con Theodore Long into giving her his job. She had dark hair and typically wore catsuits. Shortly after pitching her idea to WWE, she was allegedly asked to dye her hair and stop wearing catsuits, while WWE asked Aksana to dye HER hair black and START wearing catsuits. Few others have commented on this, and Aksana didn’t exactly last long in WWE, either, but if it’s true it’s pretty blatant gimmick infringement. It would be a much bigger shame if the stolen idea ended up being hugely successful…
4 CM Punk Creates The Shield; Quits When Triple H Takes Credit
The Shield, the three man task force “rallying against injustice,” were arguably the most important stable in WWE this past decade - certainly the past five years. They debuted in late 2012 to protect CM Punk, and according to Punk, the group was his idea. Although he constantly had to fight with respect to who the members would be, ultimately he and Vince collaborated on the idea to create a new stable for Punk to lead. The angle eventually took a life of its own and moved away from that, at which point Punk claims Triple H started taking all of the credit and completely ignoring Punk’s contributions. Punk claims the situation is a big part of why he left the company. Triple H’s stance seems to be to completely ignore Punk’s claims, something the McMahon’s are used to doing whenever someone else deserves credit.
3 World War 3 Is A Bigger, Dumber Royal Rumble
WCW spent the majority of its existence desperately attempting to copy the successful elements of WWE. This isn’t entirely a knock on WCW, but also a point of pride for WWE—they were the most successful wrestling company ever, so clearly they knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, WCW would occasionally try to tweak successful WWE ideas to make them less blatant rip-offs, which is why there were four World War 3 battle royals. WWE has the Royal Rumble, a 30-entrant match where nearly every major WWE competitor competes for a chance at a top prize. WCW upped the ante, making it a 60-entrant match with three rings. Each year it would immediately be too much to handle, with a solid 2/3 of the match ending up completely meaningless, since no one knew what was going on. When WWE stole from WCW, they made it bigger and better. When WCW stole from WWE, well, at least they made it bigger.
2 WrestleMania is Starrcade
People rag on WCW for stealing everything from WWE. We know we did it in this list, and obviously it happened on a rampant pace for nearly 12 years. It started in the opposite direction, though, with Vince stealing an idea from WCW’s precursor, NWA. NWA held a yearly show called Starrcade, which debuted in 1983, two years before WrestleMania. The show was a compendium of every major wrestling storyline of the past year, looking to resolve all old conflicts and possibly start a few new ones. The event aired on closed-circuit television, and laid the groundwork for literally every single wrestling Pay-Per-View that followed. WrestleMania is the biggest spectacle in sports entertainment, but it might not even have existed if Vince never heard of the Original “Granddaddy of Them All.”
1 nWo Invades WCW After Watching UWF Invade New Japan
The nWo was the biggest and most important stable in professional wrestling history. They are the reason for the Monday Night Wars. They are the reason WCW is still talked about today, instead of being considered a small federation destroyed by Vince like countless others. Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash entered WCW as “outside invaders,” looking to take over the company from within. The idea had been done in Japan several times already, most notably when wrestlers from the UWF “invaded” New Japan. Eric Bischoff was allegedly in attendance at a New Japan show in 1996 when the “idea” for the nWo “came to him.” Like with any great idea performed by talented people, the nWo eventually became extremely popular and unique in their own right, but there’s no denying the basic idea came from Japan.