Pro wrestling has two main settings: awesome and awful. When it’s awesome you want to punch anyone who suggests it’s some fake sport for kids. When it’s awful, you want to reevaluate your entire life. One place where wrestling can go perfect or apocalyptic is with gimmicks, the characters that wrestlers play on television. While a truly skilled performer can take an idiotic gimmick and spin it into gold (The Undertaker, for example), the typical results are, um, underwhelming. Witness 16 wrestling gimmicks that are probably better forgotten, but we decided to remind you anyway…
1. Beaver Cleavage: The Attitude Era is remembered for great television like The Rock and Steve Austin. Less remembered is when the WWE tried way too hard to be edgy, like Beaver Cleavage, a take on the ’50s TV show Leave It To Beaver, but with incest jokes about how he wanted to bang his mom. Good luck finding these on YouTube, by the way.
2. Oz: Oz was played by Kevin Nash, who later found great success as Diesel in the WWF and under his own name in the WCW. Before that, however, they had him play around with some different characters, including a wrestler who was… the Wizard of Oz. Great and powerful this gimmick was not.
3. Repo Man: The Undertaker was huge right out of the gate. Vince McMahon seemed to think this meant that the people wanted gimmicks related to professions. So we got Smash from Demolition turned into a repo man who dressed like the Hamburglar. Yikes.
4. “The African Dream” Akeem: This one straddles awesome and awful. Awesome: Akeem is a dig at Dusty Rhodes, the blackest-acting white man in history. Awful: It’s a white guy pretending to be African—a white guy who already had a pretty awesome gimmick in the One Man Gang.
5. Glacier: Sometimes when wrestling nakedly apes a pop culture phenomenon it works great, like when Sting became The Crow. Other times, it’s just stupid. Glacier, based on Mortal Kombat’s Sub Zero, was the latter. And stupid was expensive in this case. His ring gear cost $35,000 and his entrance equipment cost a cool half mil.
6. Eugene: Eugene is a double-edged sword. On one hand, a developmentally disabled wrestling character can only be in poor taste. On the other hand, audiences went absolutely apeshit for this guy every time he won a match. So there’s that.
7. Xanta Claus: He was an evil Santa Claus from the South Pole who went around stealing presents from children on Christmas. Our exposure to Xanta Claus was mercifully brief, and he moved onto ECW as Balls Mahoney.
8. Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS: It’s impossible to write one of these lists without Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS. Glenn Jacobs, who later went onto infamy as fake Diesel and actual fame as Kane, played Jerry Lawler’s dentist, whom the King hired to take out Bret Hart. Because who better than a demented dentist for that job?
9. Bastion Booger: Bastion Booger’s gimmick was that he was a gross slob, which was apparently the charming Vince McMahon’s way of making fun of his weight. Booger has the dubious distinction of being one of the few people to lose a match to Koko B. Ware on television.
10. Black Reign: Even great wrestlers can have awful gimmicks. Case in point: Black Reign, the character Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes used during his time in TNA. It’s basically an awful take on the Goldust character gone insane, and even Rhodes looks back on this period of his career with considerable embarrassment.
11. Mantaur: Mantaur came down to the ring with a bull headpiece on, removed it and continued acting like a cow. He’d even go so far as to moo at his opponents. His billed hometown was “The Island of Crete,” because Vince McMahon read a Greek mythology book that week.
12. Arachnaman: The best bad gimmicks will get you sued, like when WCW decided to make a character who was clearly a Spiderman imitation. The gimmick didn’t last long, because Marvel clearly knew what WCW was up to. The man under the mask, Brad Armstrong, later found modest success under his own name.
13. Max Moon: This “cyborg from outer space” was first portrayed by Cuban wrestler Konnan and then, after some contract disputes, by Croatian wrestler Paul Diamond. Costing $13,000 in 1991, the costume featured a pyrotechnic gun that shot sparkles into the crowd. It also looked like a Mega Man ripoff and was pretty quickly abandoned.
14. “The Real Man’s Man” Steven Regal: Steven Regal, known as William Regal today, is one of the most legitimately dangerous men in prowrestling with his background in carnival wrestling. So when the WWE introduced him, they decided to make him a construction worker. It didn’t last long, but that had more to do with Regal’s personal problems at the time than any attack of good taste on the part of McMahon.
15. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese: Duke was a garbage man during the golden age of “by day, he has a real job, but by night, he chases the WWE title” characters. His most memorable moment—and that’s stretching the meaning of “memorable”—was feuding with Triple H (then Hunter Hearst Helmsley) in a “slobs vs. snobs” program.
16. The Yeti: Before they struck wrestling gold with the nWo, WCW struggled to find its footing, mostly by being even worse than the WWE at creating terrible characters. So we got The Yeti, who came out of a block of ice and wore a mummy costume. Yes, you read that right.