There are thousands of young men and women out there on the wrestling circuit who are dying for their opportunity to break into the WWE and the chance to count themselves among the elite list of wrestlers in the top tier of the sport. However, of the few who do manage to capture the attention of the right people from the WWE’s talent relations department and pay their dues to find themselves on national television ... a horrifying truth suddenly becomes a reality that they cannot escape.
Getting signed is only part of the battle. Sometimes your career can spin violently out of control due to nothing that you have personally done or said - you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when the creative department had an ill-conceived gimmick to assign and before you know it, the rest of your active career is plagued with the bitter truth that your dream job just became a nightmare (from which you will never wake). The list of wrestlers whose careers were dissolved under the stench of a bad gimmick are numerous, but some have found a way to survive.
Whether it was a change in management, the foresight of someone to realize that talent was being wasted, or just pure, simple luck, here are 20 wrestlers who were able to overcome a character assignment that spelled career death to achieve success in the WWE.
20 The Red Rooster
There may be some debate about this entry. You see, Terry Taylor was recognized as one of the brightest up and comers of the class of 1980 when he broke into the sport. Seeing success in a number of territories including, most notably Bill Watts’ Mid-South territory, Taylor was actually being considered for the role of Mr. Perfect – an assignment that would be bestowed upon Curt Hennig.
19 Rocky Maivia
18 Dean Douglas
There is a philosophy which holds that the best wrestling character is one which takes the attributes of the wrestler themselves and “turns up the volume.” We want to give the WWE writers the benefit of the doubt to suggest that when they learned that Shane Douglas was a certified school teacher, that they wanted to incorporate his real life achievements into a ring villain that the fans could easily despise.
17 3 Count
Boy bands and professional wrestling is not a combination that should ever be considered in the same sentence. So when WCW unveiled the boy band trio of Evan Karagias, Shannon Moore and Shane Helms as 3 Count, it was a phase of the careers for all three that I’m sure they wish they could forget – except for Karagias, that was his greatest achievement.
Those who recall Ron Simmons’ entrance to the WWE and also recognize that Simmons could shorten their existence on earth recall his WWE entrance under the name Faarooq Asaad; delicately describing the character as a ‘black Spartacus.’ For fans who knew of Simmons’ record as an all-American football player and former WCW World Champion, this character was comedically horrible.
15 Kwang the Ninja
Fans who had access to the newsstand wrestling magazines of the 1980s were familiar with the gory environment that existed in Puerto Rico and the bloodbaths that seemed to punctuate the wrestling climate there. Alongside the battered images of Carlos Colon and Abdullah the Butcher was a franchise player known simply as TNT. Rugged and scarred, there was no mistaking his toughness, and that probably factored into the WWE’s decision to sign him to a contract in 1996.
14 1-2-3 Kid
Imagine Sean Waltman's excitement when he received a call from the WWE to find out that they were interested to sign him to a contract. Having paid dues from his training days in Minnesota to securing great reviews for his work across the United States and Japan as the Lightning Kid, he was going to have the opportunity to break the glass ceiling for wrestlers hovering around the 200-pound mark in the heavyweight-rich organization.
13 Blackjack Bradshaw
Wielding his bullrope like a maniac and with a jaw full of chewing tobacco, Justin Hawk Bradshaw stormed into the WWE like a Texas tornado reminiscent of Stan “The Lariat” Hansen. It looked to fans like a hellraiser had arrived to shake things up in the WWE, but our excitement soon turned to a groan when Bradshaw found himself “re-packaged.” Partnered with Barry Windham, his hair sheared and dyed black, the “New” Blackjacks were thrust upon the wrestling world.
12 Johnny Polo
Sometimes you find yourself building off of an already bad idea. On the independent scene, Scott Levy garnered attention for his youthful good looks and fit image as Scotty the Body. WCW re-branded that image as Scotty Flamingo, a flamboyant crybaby who would languish in undercard matches and gimmicky showdowns. Making the move to the WWE, the promotion had the opportunity to go a different direction, but instead decided to build on a character that couldn’t generate any steam elsewhere. Levy was branded Johnny Polo and his match record during his first WWE run is forgettable – most memorably assigned to be a ringside manager for the team of Jacques Rougeau & Pierre Ouellet.
11 The Real Man’s Man, William Regal
From doing more of the same thing and hoping for a different result with Scott Levy, the WWE has also gone to great lengths to create its own unique identity for a recognized wrestler that is being introduced to the fold. Lord Steven Regal had been cast as so many other technically sound English wrestlers have been over the course of wrestling history – as a snooty English nobleman who looked down upon the fans with great disdain.
9 Spirit Squad Nicky
What 3 Count was to WCW, The Spirit Squad was to the WWE. After all, don’t you just lie awake at night with horrible visions about the havoc that would be unleashed upon the world by a troupe of villainous male cheerleaders? For some, the debut of the Spirit Squad felt like the WWE was faced with a surplus of talent from their developmental system that they were eager to introduce all at once, but lacked the imagination to assign them with distinct identities. Make a tag team a five man unit and send ‘em out there ... the people will love it. (We didn’t.)
Long before the James Cameron sci-fi hit by the same name, we were stricken with the debut of Avatar in WWE rings. Resembling the Japanese risk-taking Hayabusa, there was some obvious talent and cat-like instincts in this masked man, but this gimmick was a stinker from the beginning. Unfortunately, the talented journeyman’s next assignment as a partner for Marty Jannetty in the New Rockers wasn’t much better. Perhaps it was worst, as he was treated to humiliation by the name Leif Cassidy, but his long time fans couldn’t equate the talent they knew with the package they were being handed.
7 Aldo Montoya
We’re not really sure where one comes up with the idea to take a kid from Connecticut who was trained by Keith Hart and Lance Storm in Calgary, put a yellow mask resembling a jock strap over his head and call him the Portuguese Manowar. Worse yet, after you have contrived this bad idea even for a Saturday morning cartoon, to convinced others that it will make money and put it on television. As Aldo Montoya, Pete Polaco did not make a dent in the annals of wrestling history ... though, strangely, we can’t forget it.
6 The Sultan
We have been treated to an education about the rich heritage of the Samoan bloodline in professional wrestling involving the Anoai and Fatu families. Certainly, Salofa Fatu’s first matches in the WWE supported that legacy, as he paired with Sam Anoai as the Headshrinkers, propagating the popular wrestling prototype that Samoan wrestlers are barefooted cannibals that will savagely maul any opponents in their path. While overdone, the character was believable and worthy of a tag team title run.
5 Sparky Plugg
The commonly accepted theory about Sparky Plugg is that Vince McMahon was distracted with his legal woes at the time and the creative direction of the WWE’s product was left in the hands of his most trusted aids. We like to consider that upon his return to the WWE offices that Vince looked around the board table and asked someone to own up to the stupid name Thurman “Sparky” Plugg and upon identifying the culprit, fired him on the spot.
4 The Supreme Fighting Machine, Kama
Wrestling has been known to draw from pop culture references and a case could be made that when the WWE was looking for a new direction for Charles Wright after the Papa Shango character had run its course, the writers were inspired while playing video games. The gimmick for Kama, ‘The Supreme Fighting Machine’ reminded us of a similar character that we had seen from the arcade hit Street Fighter. We would have preferred Papa Shango.
The great and powerful Oz is a great children’s story, but doesn’t translate between the ropes. We can’t escape the thought that when the WCW creative team suited Kevin Nash up in a green leotard and cape with frosted white hair and a rubber mask to boot, that they knew it was a dead end disaster – but perhaps as Nash was still relatively new to the sport, if it went down in flames, it wouldn’t impact the stars who were collecting higher salaries in the company.
2 The Ringmaster
In 1996, Steve Austin was considered to be the hottest free agent in professional wrestling. Released from WCW and with a bitter taste in his mouth that Eric Bischoff felt that he didn’t have enough appeal to become a major star, he spent a short time in Extreme Championship Wrestling where he had the opportunity to unleash his frustrations in some direct and candid interviews that fired shots at his former employer. Snatched up by the WWE, the technically sound wrestler with strong microphone skills was paired with a manager, awarded the Million Dollar Belt and dubbed the Ringmaster. This didn’t inspire imagery of someone who is an expert at all matters inside the ring, but instead someone who should be wearing a top hat and tails. The sad thing is that in this case, this wasn’t even the WWE’s worst idea – that’s well documented.
1 Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.
Glenn Jacobs has already made an appearance on this list, but his earlier listing almost feels like an honorable mention in comparison to this list-leading gimmick blunder. On the independent scene, Jacobs was tagged with a few different characters while he paid his dues. In Memphis, he was Doomsday, in Smoky Mountain Wrestling he was known as Unabomb – both frightening and insidious monsters. Arriving in the WWE, towering at near seven feet tall on a 300 lb. frame, you would think the organization which was famed for its larger than life roster would know exactly what to do with a piece of untapped talent like this. Yes, something horrifying, something to curdle the blood of the fans ... “Let’s make him a dentist.” Isaac Yankem has to rate as one of the biggest near misses in wrestling history.
It’s hard to believe the lasting legacy that Glenn Jacobs has established for himself once they found the right fit for him with the gimmick Kane – a character which has evolved and adapted over an impressive twenty year run and continued to be one of the most recognized and respected figures in the history of the company.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheRichest?Get Your Free Access Now!