Professional Wrestling has always been a character driven business. During the Hulkamania Boom of the 1980's when wrestling was its most mainstream the spotlight was shone on many an oddity that if you actually came across these characters in real life you would either shit your pants due to fear or an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Over the past 25 years or so I've been watching "Sports Entertainment" there have been literally hundreds of characters in the wrestling world that have been downright asinine; everything from wrestling garbage men to men from outer space.
There is a wonderful website called Wrestlecrap that spotlights many of these atrocities, but I want to focus on the characters that despite being laugh-out-loud ridiculous on paper somehow got "over" (being either cheered or booed, in wrestling one is just as good as the other). This is mostly a testament to the talents of the men playing these characters, so I would like to look at this last as a tribute to these performers and not as making fun of them. You will not see Friar Ferguson the wrestling monk or T.L. Hopper the wrestling plumber on this list because those guys were flashes in the pain, only a distant memory in even the most diehard of wrestling fan's minds. This list is chock full of guys who were given a big pile of chicken shit and were able to cook up a nice bowl of chicken salad.15. The Undertaker
"Oh no he di'n't!" Oh yes I did. Since Mark Callaway came to the then World Wrestling Federation 18 years ago he has been one the most popular stars on the roster. Sure he's never been "THE" guy, but the Undertaker has been one of top 5 guys in the promotion for almost two decades. He's won almost every title that's actually meant something and his popularity hasn't died one bit. Hell, I'm not even mentioning his Wrestlemania winning streak! So why in the world would Taker make this list?
He's a fucking wrestling zombie, that's why.
Straight out of Night of the Living Dead he came; if you hit him he wouldn't feel it and came right at you as if nothing happened. From the slow walk and movement to the mortician of a second manager (we'll get to his first manager later) and the magical urn that gave him his powers everything about the Undertaker gimmick literally screams "failure", but due to his filt-tilt boogie approach to the charcter (so much so that even in today's wrestling world he never does anything out of character in public) the Undertaker became a phenomenon. For a short time Callaway ditched the gimmick and the Undertaker became a generic motorcycle punk, but for fans this "short time" (a couple of years of a long, illustrious career) seemed like an eternity and before long "The Dead Man" was back in full force. He might not as impervious to pain as he once was, and he may look a little silly as a "tanned zombie", but he's arguably not only the most "over" character on this list but one of the most over characters of all time.14. Famous Wrestler Under A Mask
In professional wrestling very few characters are "one of a kind". In fact, many characters have been reused by different wrestlers over the years. The "Famous Wrestler Under a Mask" is no exception.
Here's the scenario: "Wrestler X" is very popular in his territory: perhaps the most popular babyface (good guy) his territory (promotion) has. X loses a much publicized "loser leaves town" match or is "suspended" or "fired" in the story lines. After a short period of time a "new" masked wrestler shows up in the territory who looks, wrestles and talks exactly like Wrestler X and the heels in territory seem to be only ones that realized the new masked wrestler is Wrestler X in disguise. They then spend months trying to prove themselves right, but much to their dismay they fail to do so until Wrestler X is reinstated.
My research indicates that Dusty Rhodes might have been the first wrestler to do this as The Midnight Rider in the old Florida territory (if anyone can prove me incorrect please do so). Others who have done this are the late, great Junkyard Dog as Stagger Lee (could not find photo) in Bill Watts' Mid South, Andre the Giant as Giant Machine in WWF and most recently Hulk Hogan himself as Mr. America in WWE. While some wrestling aficionados like to take a proverbial shit on this character I absolutely love it. First off, it's so over-the-top ridiculous that it actually draws the fans into the storyline. Not only did Bobby Heenan and his wrestlers know that Giant Machine was in fact Andre the Giant and not from Japan, not only did Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper know that Mr. America was in fact Hulk Hogan (he even used Real American as his theme music) but the fans obviously knew as well. Also, since the masked wrestler was almost always one of, if not THE most popular guy on the roster the fans enjoyed when the heel's attempts to reveal the masked wrestler's identity were foiled. The one drawback to this character is that he has a short shelf life; there's only so far you can take this storyline before the wrestler in question has to be revealed.13. Wrestling's Pimps: Slick and The Godfather
The year is 1987 and the legendary wrestler/manager Classy Freddie Blassie is starting to wind his illustrious career down. WWF hired Ken Johnson to manage the men that Blassie once managed and portray the character that he had played in the midwest indies: that of the Doctor of Style, Slick. A star was born.
Back in the 1980's wrestling (and WWF in particular) was mainly geared towards small children so they didn't come out and say that Slick was a pimp. With the way he dressed, his jive talk and his mannerisms (all of which appeared as though he were heading to a casting call for a remake of Superfly), not to mention the sly innuendos in his interviews (usually with the legendary Mean Gene Okerlund) it is quite obvious that's what they were going for. Now on paper this sounds like a bad idea, especially when you consider that Slick managed men while pimps usually "manage" women, but Johnson played this character to the hilt. Everything about Slick was absolute gold, and he was given tons of stereotypically racist straw by the WWF creative trust. And we definitely cannot be neglect in mentioning his theme music (and that of the men he managed) Jive Soul Bro, which is the best theme music in wrestling history.
A decade or so later wrestler Charles Wright had gone through a slew of shitty gimmicks that went nowhere, such as voodoo priest Papa Shango and pseudo MMA fighter KAMA The Supreme Fighting Machine. It wasn't until the Attitude era was in full bloom and Wright became The Godfather that he finally hit paydirt. Unlike Slick, the WWF proudly stated the Godfather was a pimp and even had him come to the ring with a lineup of "hos". On top of all this he expounded on the benefits of smoking marijuana for recreational use. While nearly as good on the mic or as creative as Slick he had a harder edge to him and even captured the Intercontinental Title. Audiences during the late 1990's ate this up despite how stupid it may sound.
As an aside, Slick is now a reverend and Godfather now runs a strip club: go figure.12. The Spirit Squad
This decade has not been kind to true wrestling characters as a whole. Apparently the creative administration at WWE prefers to take the cheap and easy way out by presenting its audience with bland, cookie cutter guys who have about a million tattoos and a slight personality defect at the most. Every once in a while though they actually try to build characters only to feed those characters to the likes of a couple of over hyped 40-somethings who need an ego stroke. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present to you Exhibit A: The Spirit Squad.
I'm sure if you were running a wrestling company and one of your writers came up to you and said "hey Boss, I have a great idea: we should have a group of wrestling male cheerleaders" you would most likely laugh at said writer for a good ten minutes before him. Kenny, Mikey, Johnny, Nicky and Mitch were actually able to get over as hated heels with their annoying cheers and constant quintuple teaming antics. For the workrate "smarks" (fans on the Internet who think they know everything about wrestling and believe that they could "fix" business if only Vince would hire them) a couple of them were actually very athletic. Nevertheless they were almost always entertaining and fans would wait with a blood lust in the hopes of seeing them get their asses kicked.
They wouldn't have to wait long, as a couple of guys who apparently needed some quick wins by the names of Shawn Michaels and HHH reformed the insanely played out duo of Degeneration X and proceeded to absolutely destroy the promising youngsters. The D-X/Spirit Squad matches are only notable in that they were reminiscent of the old jobber squash tv matches of years gone by. Michaels on Hunter McMahon would go on to easily vanquish 5 wrestlers in a fashion that would have made a potential Andre vs Sky Low Low match seem competitive. Oh yeah, to top it all off a 95 year old Ric Flair would go through each member of the Spirit Squad like a hot knife through butter. After that the group was disbanded and eventually all five members would receive pink slips.11. "Gay" Wrestlers: Gorgeous George, Adorable Adrian Adonis, Billy and Chuck
For as long as professional wrestling has featured larger than life characters there has been the stereotypically flamboyantly "Gay" heel to play off of the homophobia inherent in the average red-blooded wrestling viewer or society as whole. As a matter of fact, the man credited with being the wrestler to play a character played one such as this. George Wagner infuriated audiences in the 1940's and 1950's as Gorgeous George: a man who had his hair permed like a woman would, wore flowing robes, threw bobby pins to the audiences and even had a male valet who would spray not only the ring with perfume from an atomizer, but the referee and George's opponent as well. It didn't stop at the pre-match ceremonies either, George would also prance around the ring as if he were late for a Judy Garland concert and throw a temper tantrum anytime his opponent would mess with his perfect coiffed perm. Gorgeous George was pure gold despite the fact that he would more often than not lose his matches, and was a major component for wrestling becoming as popular as it did during the infancy or television.
Fast forward thirty years to the glory days of Hulkamania in 1980's WWF. Adrian Adonis, an average wrestler who once played the part of a street-wise New Yorker and had been one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions with Dick Murdoch, had let himself go physically. While he was never mistaken for a Greek sculpture the rotund Adonis had ballooned to near 300 lbs when Vince McMahon and company gave him a bottle of blonde peroxide and chose this now grotesque man to revive the old Gorgeous George character. As the Adorable One Adonis was given the chance to let his acting abilities shine as well as talking ability as the host of an interview segment called The Flower Shop. He went full bore into the character, openly lusting after such wrestlers as Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff and wearing enourmous moo-moo's that were enough to convert any gay man into a full-fleged pussy hound if such a thing were possible. Sadly Adonis would perish in a car accident in 1988.
Finally we come to Billy and Chuck. Monty Sopp had been a WWF mainstay, for the most part playing Billy Gunn, who had started off as one half of a generic cowboy tag team and would later on become Rock-a-Billy, Bad Ass Billy Gunn (one half of the vastly overrated New Age Outlaws), and Mr. Ass. As if there weren't enough homoerotic undertones with a guy named Mr. Ass who came to the ring with a theme song that stated "I'm an ass man!", the WWF would throw all their Billy eggs into one pink basket. Shortly after the fall of WCW Billy would be paired up with former WCW wrestler Chuck Palumbo and were given a manager...actually a "stylist" named Rico. The characters, somewhat patterned after Saturday Night Live's Ambiguously Gay Duo, would soon be posing in a very suggestive manner and like George and Adrian before them instantly became over as heels. There was even a "commitment ceremony" planned, which actually got the duo and WWF some positive press, especially from the gay community.
The rainbow of love wouldn't last however, and I feel that was due to the homophobia of the two men behind the characters. They refused to seriously go through with the ceremony, and during the ceremony actually came out and said that were actually not gay. After all, only a handful of people realize wrestling is a fucking work and that wrestlers are playing parts! People might actually think they were gay. Any goodwill was destroyed that day, as were Billy and Chuck's careers for the most part. It's a shame too as that was the only time I found Billy Gunn entertaining.
Next: Our countdown continues with #'s 10-6. Here a couple of hints for you:
- Tilton, Swaggert and Hinn's favorite wrestling character
- Lots and Lots of Polka Dots
- A threat from the least threatening country of all