10 WWE Wrestlers Who Survived A HORRIBLE Gimmick

3/6/2024 7:39 AM

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10 WWE Wrestlers Who Survived A HORRIBLE Gimmick

10 WWE Wrestlers Who Survived A HORRIBLE Gimmick

March 6, 2024 7:39 AM
10 WWE Wrestlers Who Survived A HORRIBLE Gimmick

Some of the greatest of all time started off with awful gimmicks.

10: Batista

Upon arriving on the main roster, Batista was given the rather bizarre and one-dimensional gimmick of ‘Deacon Batista’.

This gimmick would see Batista become the heel enforcer for Reverend D-Von, and it was hardly a surprise that this gimmick failed to get Batista over. Batista himself also loathed the gimmick, and he would label the character as “horrible” during an interview with Uproxx:

"Only in WWE. When I first came up, I did this character called Deacon Batista, so it was the same last name, but I was working with this guy named D-Von Dudley and he was doing this televangelist preacher type deal where he was collecting money and I held this big, goofy box and I was a security guard of his money box. So ridiculous. It was horrible."

Thankfully, WWE realised rather quickly that Batista had potential, and this potential wasn’t going to be realised with the Deacon Batista persona. Just a few short months after his main roster debut, WWE would pivot with the creative direction for Batista. They would pair him with Triple H and Ric Flair to form Evolution, and over time, Batista would become a household name of the Ruthless Aggression Era.

9: Bray Wyatt

Initially, it looked like Bray Wyatt was going to be booked in the lower mid card in WWE.

Wyatt when he first started on the main roster was playing a character known as Husky Harris, and it’s hard to define what this gimmick was supposed to represent, as the audience were never directly told.

Naturally, due to the lack of development of this character, the fans had no connection towards it, and Wyatt knew he needed to come up with something different.

This was when Wyatt came up with the Bray Wyatt persona, and to say that this saved his career would be an understatement. The Wyatt persona was unique, gritty, and somehow, despite the character being outlandish in nature, Wyatt managed to deliver the character with a sense of realism thanks to masterful promo work.

This character would become universally beloved by the WWE fans. Both as a babyface and a heel, Wyatt would have a genuine and organic connection with the crowd. Wyatt would become a multi-time World Champion and would have celebrated feuds with iconic names such as Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker, John Cena and Randy Orton.

8: Dolph Ziggler

Dolph Ziggler’s WWE career didn’t get off to the best of starts. Ziggler would have two distinct characters, and both were comedic acts that had a short shelf life.

One of the characters Ziggler portrayed was Kerwin White’s caddy, and following this, Ziggler would infamously portray ‘Nicky’, who was a member of the male-cheerleading group known as The Spirit Squad.

These gimmicks were going to be hard to overcome, yet it was apparent that Ziggler had the makings to become a top star in the company, and it was when Ziggler re-debuted on the main roster as Dolph Ziggler that his luck began to change.

Ziggler got over thanks to his charisma, and his incredible in-ring work. Ziggler started to have tremendous matches on TV, and the fans gradually gravitated towards him.

Ziggler went from a Superstars main stay to World Champion in the space of a few years, and it’s a testament to Ziggler that he managed to survive such lacklustre personas early on during his WWE tenure.

7: Chad Gable

In 2019, WWE, specifically Vince McMahon had a gimmick idea for Chad Gable that would apparently take him to the next level.

Gable would become ‘Shorty G’, and this gimmick was focused on Gable’s height, and nothing else. To represent the gimmick change, Gable would debut hideous new ring attire which made him look ridiculous.

Fans heavily criticised the gimmick, and for good reason, but according to Gable during an appearance on After the Bell, he saw the gimmick change as an opportunity:

“I always ask for opportunities. I’ve been in Vince’s office, I talk to the writers, I’m constantly asking for opportunities. When I finished King of the Ring, it was explained to me that this was the direction we were going. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to go in, ask for an opportunity, and when given it, complain about it. That’s not my philosophy on life. I got my opportunity. Is it the perfect situation? No.”
“In amateur wrestling, me being short was not a thing because I was on a team with 55-60 kilo guys who are not even 5′. I was on the taller end. It was fine, I got the opportunity I asked for, but it started going off the rails when I was doing segments with guys that I’m taller than. I’m gonna try and give it every ounce of energy I have because I’m committed to this.”

The gimmick lasted around a year, and luckily it failed to impact Gable’s credibility, as the fans loved him, and they were fully aware of Vince McMahon’s questionable motives with the character.

6: Kane

Kane is considered by many to be one of the most pivotal characters in WWE history, yet Kane had a tough and complex history with gimmicks before he became the Devil’s Favourite Demon.

Kane would first portray the dreaded Isaac Yankem, DDS. This was basically an evil dentist, and it came at a time where virtually every wrestler had a profession, so that’s likely why WWE believed that this gimmick would work. This gimmick was horrendously executed, and Kane’s second gimmick would be even worse.

In 1996, WWE booked Kane to portray the fake version of Diesel, and naturally, this completely fell flat.

It was in 1997, when Kane debuted as The Undertaker’s half brother, and the best thing about the Kane character. was that his entire body would be covered, meaning fans wouldn’t be able to initially work out that Kane was the one who portrayed the abysmal gimmicks that were Yankem and Fake Diesel.

5: John Cena

Arriving on WWE TV in 2002, John Cena made the perfect first impression. Cena would slap Kurt Angle across the face and utter the words “RUTHLESS AGGRESSION”. Whilst this was indeed the perfect debut, Cena didn’t have a fleshed-out character, as he was in essence a generic rookie, and that wasn’t going to cut it for a Ruthless Aggression Era audience.

After a strong presentation early on, Cena fell further and further down the card. His gimmick was so insanely bland, and WWE had evidently given up on him.

WWE were even considering releasing Cena, that was until Cena’s rapping caught the attention of Stephanie McMahon, who was influential in keeping Cena around, and debuting the iconic Doctor of Thuganomics character on TV.

Speaking on the Ruthless Aggression documentary, the WWE legend discussed the exact moment everything began to change:

"I was told that I would be getting my release in Christmas cuts, because it just wasn't working. We travel as a community, so we’re all on the same bus. So I heard a bunch of guys sitting at the back of the bus like Rikishi and Rey Mysterio kind of leading the charge and they were all freestyling. And I remember just being like, “Let’s go try this!” Just drove right in, and it was like it resonated with me. "In two seconds, I made a small rap about the tuna fish, the jetway, the plane we were about to go on, and the destination and then closed it with a comment about Stephanie. She said, 'Would you like to do this on television?' I said, 'Absolutely'"

4: The Rock

In late 1996, the WWE audience were fed up with stale characters, and this led to a shift of the fans vocally revolting and turning against babyfaces.

One of the babyfaces that fans notably turned on was Rocky Maivia, whose Blue Chipper character was being heckled with insanely negative chants each week.

This gimmick could have resulted in the end of Rocky Maivia’s chance at the big-time, yet a welcomed heel turn resulted in Maivia becoming The Rock, and this would be a booking decision that would change WWE history forever.

The Rock was now able to deliver a character that he was truly comfortable with, and the character and promo work was some of the best that WWE had ever seen.

The character change was so popular that WWE had no choice but to turn him into a heroic babyface, and between the years 1999-2003, it could certainly be argued that The Rock was the single biggest star on the entire show.

3: Stone Cold Steve Austin

The Ringmaster character, on the surface, isn't the worst gimmick imaginable, yet when it’s given to a wrestler that has so much more to offer it’s inevitably going to fail.

The Ringmaster gimmick was basically what the name suggests, the gimmick was based around Steve Austin’s ring abilities, and Austin knew that this gimmick wasn’t the gimmick he needed to truly transcend and get over with the audience.

During an episode of The Steve Austin Show, The Texas Rattlesnake discussed The Ringmaster persona, and this is what he had to say:

“From when I came in as ‘The Ringmaster’ and I knew it was a suck a** gimmick, right? But I had a wife, and two kids, and a log cabin on 10 acres. I’ve got to pay my bills or they’re going to take all my s**t from me, so I’ll go up there! I’d already been up to visit Vince twice. I knew they didn’t have anything planned for me and they were just bringing me in as a mechanic…”

In the same interview, Austin spoke openly about the fact he knew the gimmick was never going to work:

“I knew that wasn’t going to work after six months and so, whatever, I started to think about it, drinking beer, whiskey, watching television, and I came up with the ‘Stone Cold’ persona.”

The Stone Cold character would begin to take shape in 1996, and magic was born. The character was partly responsible for the major surge of interest in pro wrestling in the second half of the 1990s, and Austin became a household name with every demographic across the world. There is certainly financial evidence to point towards Austin being the biggest draw that WWE have ever had under contract, and it’s crazy to think that if Austin didn’t come up with the Stone Cold character, then the WWE landscape could have been completely different.

2: LA Knight

Upon reports circulating that WWE were calling LA Knight up from NXT, fans were ecstatic. LA was the perfect fit for the main roster, yet it was then reported that Vince McMahon wanted to turn LA into Max Dupri and present him as a manager.

The Dupri character would be a manager of a male-modelling agency, and fans instantly loathed it.

It was terribly executed, and it was evident that LA was uncomfortable in the role. Fans endlessly pushed WWE to change their minds, and it took a number of months, but eventually WWE listened, and LA Knight was back on WWE TV.

It was a miracle that LA was able to get over to the level he did in 2023, as the managerial gimmick was destined to be a colossal failure, and it was no doubt going to be LA that would have taken the majority of the blame.

1: Cody Rhodes

WWE making the bold call to re-package Cody Rhodes as Stardust will always remain a baffling move.

Rhodes was consistently over as simply Cody Rhodes, and Rhodes delivering a carbon copy of the Goldust persona wasn’t going to suddenly push Rhodes into the upper echelon of WWE.

The gimmick quickly fizzled out, and before fans knew it, Rhodes was regularly on WWE Superstars and WWE Main Event, and this eventually led to Rhodes cutting ties with WWE and seeking his release.

WWE clearly didn’t know what they had with Rhodes, as Rhodes would become a household name in various other promotions, and he even became an EVP of AEW.

In one of the more shocking returns of the past decade, Rhodes triumphantly returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38, and this time, the Stardust persona was buried and forgotten.

WWE thankfully committed to presenting Rhodes as The American Nightmare, and they reaped the rewards, as Rhodes ushered in a prosperous era for WWE that continues to grow.

Rhodes analysed the Stardust persona whilst speaking on Grit and Glory, and Rhodes had a great take on why it fell apart:

“It hits a unique wall in the form of Stardust. Because there were times that it was a mask that I did want and then there were times that it was a mask that I didn't want. While I was doing Stardust, my dad [Dusty Rhodes] passed away. That was 2015. Nothing I needed more at that time than to hide and cover up. I wasn't ready to be Cody Rhodes, I wasn't ready to be anything..”
“The last piece of it all though that I needed to find was, not to sound dramatic, was The American Nightmare itself. Being the son of The American Dream, it was just time to take the mantle in my own way. I am part of a royal family of wrestling, and I'm lucky to be a part of it. But now I'm carrying it with me, I'm not hiding it. I'm not disguising it…”