A gimmick has the ability to make or break a WWE superstar or diva’s career. We have seen some brilliant gimmicks from The Undertaker, Mr. Perfect and Mankind, whilst we have also witnessed our fair share of terrible gimmicks, such as Lord Tensai and Kerwin White.
But not every top superstar found instant success with a gimmick; sometimes they have had to go through various terrible gimmick changes to find the one that suits them best and goes over well with the fans, and as you can imagine the fans are not impressed easily.
The eight gimmick changes I’ve selected show the progression superstars have gone through to get to the stages they are at today, fighting through gimmicks which weren’t the best but still managed to find one that worked for them.
Start: The Prototype
The Prototype was signed to a developmental contract with the WWE when he joined up with OVW in 2001. With slicked back hair and shaved sides with ever-changing shorts colours, The Prototype was billed from Los Angeles, California. So as you can imagine he was brash, arrogant and full of himself every time he entered the arena and was basically a generic superstar who never really talked on the microphone and had generic music which the fans would forget in an instant.
The Prototype was quite successful in OVW, becoming World Champion and holding the Tag Team Championships as well; he even took part in a dark match on an episode of Monday Night Raw when he lost to Shelton Benjamin. The Prototype fought his way up the ranks, showing the ruthless aggression to come close to defeating Kurt Angle, picking up another good gimmick as a rapper in his early heel days, but little would fans know that The Prototype would go on to become the poster boy of the WWE; the 15-time World Champion; John Cena.
Result: John Cena
Click here to watch The Prototype in action against Shelton Benjamin.
Nicky was another superstar that started out at OVW, however he did make an appearance on Monday Night Raw when he was the enforcer for Chavo Guererro who was competing as Kerwin White – a golfer. After more dark matches he was sent back to OVW but it wasn’t long before he was brought back to the main roster as part of a five-man stable called the Spirit Squad, an all-male cheerleading squad.
The Spirit Squad were actually a very good heel faction as the fans absolutely despised them and their gimmick but they played their roles very well. Technically, Nicky was a World Tag Team Champion as they were all collectively recognised as champions as the group decided amongst themselves which two would be defending the gold. They disbanded in November of 2007 when they lost to DX and Ric Flair in a 5-on-3 handicap match and were sent back to OVW. To this day only Nicky is signed to the business; he went on to pick up a heel gimmick but as his improved, the fans wanted to see him more and more and he even went on to become World Heavyweight Champion when he pulled out with one of the greatest Money in the Bank cash-ins ever; currently he is competing as Intercontinental Champion, Dolph Ziggler.
Result: Dolph Ziggler
Click here to watch Dolph Ziggler as part of the Spirit Squad as they tried to recruit CM Punk
Start: Jean-Paul Lévesque
Helmsley started his career in WCW when he competed as a young up-and-comer going by the name Terra Ryzing before he was repackaged as a French speaking aristocrat who was told to speak in a French accent as he couldn’t speak French. With so much potential the World Wrestling Federation snapped him up and once more he was repackaged, the company wanted him to adopt the name Reginald DuPont Helmsley but instead they both agreed with Hunter Hearst Helmsley; teaching us the etiquette of wrestling before his debut.
Helmsley went on to work with some huge names in his glittering career, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Chyna and the New Age Outlaws. He saw even more success as one of the greatest heels the business has seen and played a key roles in both groups; Evolution and D-Generation X. After dropping the blueblood Connecticut gimmick he adopted the leather jacket and the bottles of water he just couldn’t seem to finish, he is the 13-time World Champion and the creator of The Authority everyone just loves to hate; Triple H.
Result: The Game; Triple H
Click here to watch the WWE debut of Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Start: ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin
After being given the name Steve Austin by Dutch Mantell – better known by fans as Zeb Colter; Steve made a name for himself in WCW where he competed under tha name Stunning Steve Austin. Although he played his role very well, whether it was as Stunning Steve or even when he shaved his head in the WWF and competed as The Ringmaster Steve Austin; when you compare it to the end result you can’t help but be pleased that his previous gimmicks didn’t work out.
It was Diesel and Jim Ross that convinced Vince McMahon that they needed to sign Austin, who at the time was competing with long blonde hair; little did fans know that he would go on to feud with Vince in what is considered one of the greatest rivalries of all time.
Stunning Steve has changed the course of the wrestling business forever, now considered one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time who played an integral role in the greatest era in the company’s history. From guzzling countless beer cans to creating some of the most memorable moments and quotes of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin has ensured Stunning Steve is a distanced memory.
Result: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Click here to watching Stunning Steve Austin take on Scott Steiner for the Television Championship in WCW.
Start: Deacon Batista
Another OVW graduate, Deacon Batista was brought to the main roster after the brand extension saw one half of the Dudley Boyz in D-Von move to SmackDown where he himself was repackaged; to Revered D-Von, pretty self-explanatory as to what kind of role he played. In his reverend gimmick, D-Von – who was billed as Mr. McMahon’s spiritual advisor - brought with him an imposing figure who was became his enforcer and teamed with D-Von multiple times.
He then decided to align himself with what is considered what is the greatest factions of all times in Evolution; winning two Royal Rumbles, headlining WrestleMania and most recently being involved in the highly successful Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy as Drax the Destroyer, Dave Batista has seen incredible success since he was repackaged as The Animal.
Result: The Animal; Dave Batista
Click here to watch Batista’s WWE debut alongside Reverend D-Von
Start: The Blue Chipper; Rocky Maivia
The Blue Chipper used a combination of his Grandfather and Father’s name and was considered a bright prospect when he signed for the company. His lineage was always mention on TV at any point and the fact he was the very first third-generation superstar in the business was always something that was hyped time and time again. Maivia was basically a normal face character, somebody likeable but not someone you would ever consider as a favourite wrestler or a marquee superstar, not under The Blue Chipper gimmick anyway. But towards the end of the Rocky Maivia character; the fans turned heavily against him.
Even though he was inexperienced he was pushed from the very beginning of his career, the sole survivor on his debut at Madison Square Garden at the prestigious Survivor Series pay-per-view before Maivia went on to bigger and better things most notable joining the Nation of Domination and refusing to acknowledge himself as Rocky Maivia; he then went his entire career referring to himself in third person. He went on to become one of the great talkers in the business, the most charismatic, one of the most successful and greatest superstars of all time.
Countless entertaining feuds and some of the most memorable moments and quotes in the history of the wrestling business, his theme music and appearances still sends shivers downs spines as he does electrify in everything he does; whether it’s headlining WrestleMania with John Cena or becoming the highest grossing actor in Hollywood; The Rock has certainly turned himself into perhaps the biggest attraction in WWE history.
Result: The Rock
Click here to watch Rocky Maivia in his early days
Start: Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS
Debuting in the WWE as Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler’s evil private dentist. There was clear emphasis on Yankem’s height and his monstrous figure in general that would leave Lawler’s opponents shaking in their boots which would put Lawler in an advantageous position in every single match; most notable Bret Hart who was a long-time nemesis of Lawler.
Isaac Yankem spent most of his days as the dentist as a jobber losing to countless stars from The Undertaker to Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts to The Ultimate Warrior; it’s safe to say Yankem had little if not any success as the evil dentist.
He then changed the gimmick to that of a monster, a red monster. Wearing a mask and being introduced as the brother of The Undertaker as the two engaged in a great feud and saw great success as The Brothers of Destruction. Kane will go down as a legend of the business, but Corporate Kane is not adding toe legacy one bit.
Click here to watch a promo involving Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler and Isaac Yankem
Start: Husky Harris
Husky Harris, the army tank with a Ferraro engine made a name for himself on NXT when it was more competition-based. He had Cody Rhodes as his mentor and was a favourite to win season two of NXT, but he finished in fourth place with Kaval walking out the winner; and then out of the WWE. During his NXT days Harris turned heel and eventually joined The Nexus as well as The New Nexus when CM Punk took over from Wade Barrett as the leader.
Punk had Harris put through an initiation where he received lashes on his back and was allowed to stay a part of the group. But The New Nexus days weren’t the most successful until he was hit by a Punt kick from Randy Orton and sent back down to FCW and then NXT.
There, he honed his skills on the microphone and inside the ring where he created his own family, becoming one of the most charismatic and most entertaining superstars in the WWE today. He’s created his own movement as a heel and the fans are still on his side, especially after an epic feud with John Cena earlier this year. A failed Husky Harris once promised Vince McMahon he would be back better than ever, and he was right when Bray Wyatt debuted on the main roster alongside Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.
Result: Bray Wyatt
Click here to watch a vignette introducing Husky Harris to the NXT fans
WWE fans – can you think of any other superstars who came back from failed gimmicks to become a success? Let us know in the comments section below.
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