Article by Andre Barbarona
The world of professional wrestling is full of talented performers who portray larger-than-life characters. Several of these performers manage to capture the hearts and minds of the audience, achieving superstardom and in some cases even transcending the bounds of the squared circle and into mainstream recognition. We all know them, whether they are surfboard hair-meets-Fu Manchu-mustached Superman called Hulk Hogan, poetic berserker The Ultimate Warrior, or the man who can’t be seen (except in played out Internet memes) John Cena.
However, there are a few giants of the industry who built their successes after graduating from silly and often campy gimmicks. A lot of them are so campy, it’s hard to imagine how these superstars managed to rise above them. Here’s a short peek into a simpler time where gimmicks like these existed.
5 Wacky Gimmicks Famous Wrestlers Have Played
5. The Brood
Twilight marked a resurgence of vampires in the cultural mainstream. It featured a family of vampires who blended in with the modern world and even managed to protect it from other, more dangerous vampires.
The Brood, however, looks at them and thinks, “That’s adorable!” before throwing all semblance of discretion out of the window. They were vampires who looked cool in their sunglasses, comically exaggerated fangs, and leather trenchcoats, and they committed to their vampiric lifestyle by trying to sacrifice other wrestlers in spooky magic rituals.
It turns out that future legends Edge, Christian, and *gasp* the Hardy Boyz spent much of their early careers being commanded by the awesome Gangrel to cause havoc among the roster. Edge especially looked the part with his long blonde locks and large fangs, and any time the group looked at the hard cam, laughs and cheers were surely to follow.
4. Deacon Batista
Picture this: large, bald man with tattoos and a perpetual frown on his face who wants to kill you. If you thought of Drax the Destroyer because of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, think again. Meet Dave Batista’s first character in the WWE: Deacon Batista.
Deacon Batista was a minion- a bit player in the religiously sinister faction of the ex-Dudley Boy Reverend Devon. He was strong, big, and didn’t speak much, but Batista didn’t find his success until Triple H hired him as the enforcer for his power stable Evolution. That’s fair- can you imagine Drax having this adorable goatee?
3. The Connecticut Blue-Blood
Blonde, pompous, and obnoxiously arrogant – these are qualities that would give someone lots of enemies, doubly so if you have the irritating habits of waving your handkerchief and wagging your finger at people. This was the life of one Hunter Hearst Helmsley, an annoying and pretentious aristocrat that everyone wanted to punch and throw around.
Ultimate Warrior made Helmsley’s finishing move look pathetically weak in a WrestleMania match that lasted less than a minute. Is it no wonder, then, that wrestler Paul Levesque became better known as Triple H (wink), 14-time world champion and one of the industry’s best villainous masterminds?
2. Isaac Yankem, DDS
Glenn Jacobs is a man of many faces. He dressed up as a bizarre Christmas Creature, impersonated the Razon Ramon persona of his former colleague Scott Hall, a corporate stooge for Triple H, and others, but I don’t think that any of his gimmicks will ever match the sheer campiness of Isaac Yankem, DDS.
As Isaac Yankem, the man who would become known and feared as Kane wore a convoluted head contraption and drilled the teeth of his unfortunate customers. He was a typical dentist the way Pennywise is a typical clown. His teeth alone is a shining example of the dental hygiene we should practice…. right?
1. The Ringmaster – Steve Austin
In the summer of 1995, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase hired a new addition to his Million Dollar Corporation faction. He was a fairly popular wrestler in rival company WCW as Stunning Steve, but DiBiase brought him in the then-WWF as a talented but new wrestler who will bring DiBiase victory and profit. To add to this air of favoritism, DiBiase even presented him with his very own Million Dollar Championship belt. Aww.
Surprise, surprise! The fans didn’t take too kindly to the Ringmaster, and soon enough he was phased out. The wrestler who played him shaved his head bald, adopted an edgier attitude, and started guzzling beer to the delight of an entire industry. As Stone Cold, Steve Austin became the master of the ring and all our hearts much better than what his hokey gimmick could even dream of.
BONUS: The Undertaker – Mark Calaway
In an inversion of everything that I’ve described in this list so far, it wasn’t Mark Calaway’s relatively normal “Mean Mark Callous” character that endeared him to the fans, but the character of the Undertaker was responsible for endearing him to the fans and earning him a place as one of the old-time greats. Sure, Mean Mark wore all-black attire and had a fondness for snakes and Ozzy Osbourne, but that was relatively tame compared to just how weird the Undertaker ended up becoming.
Dark rituals, kidnapping, fake Phantom in the Opera-like masks, and being controlled by a magical urn are things that defined the Undertaker at different points in time. And yet, all that camp created a character and a performance like no other- and now, his status as a pillar of professional wrestling is unquestioned. We wouldn’t have it any other way, ‘Taker.
(Look at how his colleagues reacted to his retirement here!)
All these gimmicks show just how much things have changed in the careers of these legends. Though we love them more in their more iconic personas, it’s fun to remember how they got there. Wacky gimmicks are needed to balance out the seriousness of wrestling, and ultimately, we are all the better for having characters like them.