COMMENTARY | Often times in the world of professional wrestling, a good gimmick will take a generally non-descript wrestler to new heights. However, there are plenty of instances where a good performer is saddled with a horrendous gimmick.
Often, those wrestlers get dragged down by the weight of a bad idea. But, occasionally, some special performers succeed in rising high despite the extra burden.
Here are five wrestlers who overcame bad gimmicks to become major stars:
What kind of funeral home would hire someone like the WWE's Undertaker? Maybe he could be a grave digger or, perhaps, a creepy character who lives in the attic of a funeral home, but never a real undertaker. Still, despite the faker than fake gimmick and the over the top presence of manager Paul Bearer, The Undertaker flourished and soon became one of the industry's most beloved characters. Credit the man behind the fantasy play, Mark Calaway, for providing the ring work and charisma needed to overcome a pretty cheesy gimmick.
Dusty Rhodes (WWE/WWF Version)
Vince McMahon paid a sizable chunk of change to bring Dusty Rhodes to the then-WWF, only to passive aggressively try and ruin Rhodes' good name with some awful, awful career changes. "The American Dream," one of the most beloved faces in the entire wrestling world was made to be a half-idiot blue collar working stiff who worked on toilets in his spare time and took to the ring in a horrendous polka dot outfit. Yet, through it all, the WWF fans made Rhodes a popular figure. Even when burdened with a portly, middle-aged valet named Saphire, the fans kept loving the charismatic star right up until he retired from active duty.
No gimmick is a type of gimmick, right? Yeah, Sting had the painted face, New Wave haircut, and colorful tights, but there appeared to be no reason behind any of it. Where did he really come from? Why did he paint his face? None of it was ever answered and not even the least bit of character development was ever attempted. Even when he became the stone-faced, Crow-like Sting, there was only a minimal effort made to develop a reason for going all emo. Still, in spite of the unwillingness to make him into an actual human character, Sting became a major star and one of the WCW/NWA's biggest faces.
After dressing his dad in polka dots and sticking him with a bottom of the barrel valet, Vince McMahon next hired Dusty Rhodes' son, Dustin Runnels (Dustin Rhodes) and change the big kid's gimmick from tough, tall cowboy butt kicker to the beyond-fem Goldust. Dressed in gold and black with a long blonde wig and face paint, Dusty's boy played the part of a truly bizarre film buff with a cringe-worthy obsession for a "close up" with Razor Ramon. Despite the weird vibe and over the top character, Goldust connected with fans, forced a face turn, and is still earning money on the WWE main stage.
The Million Dollar Man
I mean, really, what kind of multi-millionaire mogul wears sequins-covered dollar signs all over his jacket and shorts? You'd have to go to a Monopoly game to find a more cartoonish rich bad guy. But the veteran Ted Dibiase actually made the gimmick work and had fans forgetting the childish character development. The Million Dollar Man became so big that it even afforded Dibiase a couple of extra years of work as a manager/advisor after he could no longer wrestle.
Paul Magno is a freelance writer who grew up on a steady diet of classic professional wrestling. Coming from AWA stronghold, Chicago, he was educated by the likes of Verne Gagne, Dick the Bruiser, The Crusher, and Bobo Brazil as a child, but later drank the pro wrestling Kool-Aid from every old school territory he could-- from the NWA, to the WWF, to World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas, and all areas in between. Paul has done work for Fox Sports, The Boxing Tribune, and Bleacher Report.
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