COMMENTARY | Sometimes in pro wrestling, a promoter or a writing crew create the perfect character-one who goes on to become both a critical and financial success. Other times, established character ideas are merely co-opted by another promotion and changed just enough to avoid a lawsuit.
Here are five character rip-offs that actually turned out to be decent performers:
Either unable or unwilling to acquire the infamous Road Warriors (Animal and Hawk), Vince McMahon and his creative crew would simply make their own version. They would grab two veteran wrestlers, Bill Eadie (The Masked Superstar) and Barry Darsow (Krusher Khruschev), paint their faces, and dress them in leather. Although a complete and total rip of Animal and Hawk, Ax and Smash were not a bad team and would go on to become three-time WWF tag team champions. Later, the Road Warriors would be brought into the organization to feud with their clones and eventually push them from the WWF.
The Million Dollar Man
Ted Dibiase was already an established twelve-year veteran, competing in the NWA and the Mid-South territory before being brought into the WWF as an arrogant rich man, heavily "inspired" by Ric Flair. Made more cartoonishly evil by the WWF creative team, Dibiase's character eventually began to take on an identity of its own and would become one of the organization's biggest heels.
Looking to capitalize on the popularity of the Fabulous Ones, Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers were teamed together as The Fantastics in the Mid-South area in the mid-80s. The popular tag team would move on to compete in Texas' World Class Championship Wrestling, the UWF, and in various NWA territories. Although they were at the top of the wrestling food chain for a relatively short period of time, they proved to be solid workers and made for outstanding feuds with the likes of the Midnight Express, the Sheepherders (Bushwackers), and The Rock 'N Roll RPMs
An obvious rip of The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson), The Rockers, first known as the Midnight Rockers, earned their chops in the AWA and various smaller territories in the mid-80s before being brought aboard, full-time, by Vince McMahon and the WWF. Despite their less-than-original gimmick, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) would prove to be a solid and popular team before their violent split in 1991. Obviously, from there, Michaels would eventually move on to become one of sports entertainment's most successful performers.
"Nature Boy" Buddy Landel
Even a blind man could see what Buddy Landel was going for when he began to sport long, dyed-blonde hair and started to wear long, glamorous robes to the ring. The rip-off Ric Flair, going so far as to use Flair's figure-four leg lock as a finisher, was an accomplished and solid performer throughout the South and in various NWA-affiliated territories. A 1985 showdown with Flair would break an attendance record, establish by Elvis Presley, at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Landel would also have a brief run in the WWF that was cut short by injury. Despite being the dollar store version of the actual Nature Boy, Landel managed to have a successful career, spanning about twenty-two years.
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 Vern 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.
- Ric Flair
- pro wrestling
- Vince McMahon