Gimmicks are always going to be present in wrestling. While a number are tried, tested and true, a number of them leave a lot to be desired. One of the campiest eras in wrestling was the 1980s. During an era where leg warmers, teased hair, and acid washed jeans were all the rage, a number of wrestling gimmicks make fans today shake their head in disbelief. But during that era a number of fans enjoyed the family environment promotions were trying to create. However, for every Junk Yard Dog or Tito Santana, there were guys that represented a stereotype or cliché that really is insulting when we think about it. In fact, one of the gimmicks on the list was downright awful in its racism!
When we sit back and look at them, the gimmicks were intended to be fun, cute and harmless, but some of them were filled with stereotypes, lacked creativity, and stood out for all the wrong reasons. One of them took an incredibly talented wrestler had him pretend to be a farm animal, while another took a tough-as-nails wrestler and saddled him with an Elvis Presley-like gimmick. Even though opposites have a tendency to attract that wasn't the case with these ten choices of gimmicks. We remember them, but it doesn't mean they were actually very memorable. All of following gimmicks are unquestionably dated. Here are the 10 Worst Wrestling Gimmicks of the 1980s:
10 Corporal Kirchner
He's a real American hero, but he's not G.I. Joe! The problem with the gimmick wasn't that it isn't convincing having a military hero defend his country and earn the popularity of the fans. The problem was it was far from an original gimmick, but instead was based off another popular military gimmick character without offering anything new or different to the role. He came to the ring waiving old glory, just like Sgt. Slaughter. He talked about how proud he was of his country, just like Sgt. Slaughter. But did he really offer anything fresh to the character?
9 'The Natural' Butch Reed
8 Adrian Adonis
7 The Bushwhackers
Just because characters are popular doesn't necessarily mean they have good gimmicks. As fun loving and jovial as Cousin Butch and Cousin Luke were, The Bushwhackers gimmick didn't reflect what these two were capable of before this incarnation. Prior to coming to the WWF, they were known as The New Zealand Kiwis and The Sheepherders. The Sheepherders by comparison were a much more aggressive group that inflicted brutal punishment on their opponents.
6 Rhythm and Blues
During the push of the Honky Tonk Man in the mid-late 1980s, he was later used as part of a tag team, alongside Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Valentine had always been known as a tough, no nonsense, tough-as-nails wrestler that would beat you down methodically. Someone in their infinite wisdom thought it would be a great idea to have Valentine change his entire look to accommodate the Honky Tonk Man's Elvis-like persona. Valentine's blonde hair was dyed jet black so that he would resemble the Honky Tonk Man.
5 Red Rooster
One wrestler who carried with him great in-ring ability and style was Terry Taylor, a strong technical wrestler that competed in both the WCW and WWE during his career. While he is now part of the NXT product behind the scenes, there was a time when his character didn't lend itself to being taken very seriously. And though that was probably the point, in retrospect the character didn't reflect him as a wrestler in the least. When he first appeared as part of the WWF (at the time) Taylor was aligned with Bobby The Brain Heenan and labeled The Red Rooster.
4 Outback Jack
During the late 1980s, the WWF had a character who was inspired by the success of the Crocodile Dundee films. The character was none other than the good ole Aussie, Outback Jack. He was featured in a number of different vignettes promoting his arrival to the company. But as quickly as he had arrived, he was gone. His was advertised seemingly forever, and when he did arrive he defeated what were considered by some as jobbers or enhancement talent, wrestlers which are there to make the featured guy look good. But Outback Jack began to follow suit and started losing almost as soon as he arrived.
This character was memorable, but more due to his presence than his ability in the ring. Zeus was portrayed by actor Tom "Tiny" Lister Jr, who used the same name as his character the film No Holds Barred opposite Hulk Hogan. The character was brought onto WWF television and showcased him as a human wrecking machine. He would growl a lot and pound his chest, and often stumble through the names of the other talent on the roster.
2 Hillbilly Jim's Extended Family
Don't go messing with a country boy! That's what fans were told in the 1980s when they saw Hillbilly Jim. While Jim himself was lovable and really reflected the PG audience at the time, it was the WWF's attempt to bring in additional members of his family to heighten Jim's significance that fell flat. Cousin Luke, Cousin Junior and Uncle Elmer were characters that just didn't offer anything other than a family to Hillbilly Jim. Neither character had a memorable match or feud that resonated with fans. If there was one thing that did stand out about the family members, it was the sheer size of Uncle Elmer. He was billed as being in excess of 500 lbs, which made him physically imposing.
1 Akeem the African Dream
We are all fine with enjoying and embracing other cultures and their lifestyles, but the same can't be said about Akeem. Many may remember that the wrestler portraying Akeem was previously known as the One Man Gang. It was his manager that said he was, in fact, of African heritage. In what appeared to be a bad joke, a vignette was filmed showing a ghetto in the United States as "the deepest darkest parts of Africa," and featured a version of a traditional tribal dance and chanting around a fire. It was there where Slick stated that the One Man Gang would now be known as Akeem the African Dream.
It was incredibly stereotypical, as the white Akeem spoke with an accent that conformed with Black stereotypes and danced while rituals took place in the background. The gimmick was insulting, but reflective of the over the top era of the WWF at the time. It didn't help Gang in any way, but rather created controversy because the character was essentially a white man clearly being something he wasn't. Between 1988 and 1990, Akeem would continue his run in the WWF as one half of the tag team The Twin Towers.
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