Hall of Shame Summer Exhibit: Shameful Gimmicks of Famous Wrestlers

Hello and welcome once again to the Wrestling Shame Hall of Shame. I'm "John Dos Passos," and I'm currently the head-archivist, curator, and chief public-liaison to the Hall, and I'm also the executor of Rick's estate.

Before we begin, I'd like to update everyone on the status of our new building. We are looking to break ground sometime in 2019 -- we will be located off Exit 119 in-between the recently burned-down Perkins and Gary's Discount Pornography Warehouse -- but we are still waiting for final approval from the city.

Also, yes -- we did have to let Buff Bagwell go as our security guard. We have a very strict attendance policy. Of course, none of us remember hiring him in the first place. He just showed up. Actually, we never paid him either: pretty sure that makes us qualified to run a wrestling promotion, am I right folks?


So for our Summer Exhibition this year, we want to take a look back at odd gimmicks. Professional wrestling is full of them to be sure, but specifically we wanted to examine those gimmicks that famous wrestlers were once saddled with. But before we begin, we need to establish some ground rules. The gimmicks you see here are not slight tweaks to characters, such as Macho Man's weird Lothario-time in late-period WCW or the Rock's face and heel turns. These are complete repackingings of wrestlers with different names OR wrestlers who had odd gimmicks prior to becoming famous. Also, we are defining "famous" wrestlers as wrestlers that we feel are fairly well-known within the wrestling community.

Finally, we aren't including wrestlers who just, in essence, wore a mask under a new name: so no American Dragon, no Spider, no Red River Jack, no Mr. America, etc.

Goldust (Dustin Rhodes): Seven

I think we can all agree that Dustin Rhodes has had an interesting career (and also an interesting history of being fired --- which might be the basis for our next exhibit). The person perhaps best known as Goldust in the WWE also shuttled back-and-forth between that company and WCW throughout the 1990s. So when he returned to WCW in 1999 after becoming disillusioned with the WWE,....

*sees a dozen hands raise.*

Okay, I anticipated these questions, so here goes:

Yes, this was during the time his dad had been fired from WCW.

Yes, he was given a weird Sting / Undertaker / Goldust persona.

Yes, he dismissed it during his introduction.

No, I have no clue as to whether it was a worked-shoot or a shoot or a work or.....Look, it's just weird.

Kevin Nash: Oz

Next, we are going to examine Kevin Nash's most infamous pre-Kevin Nash gimmick. No, not Diesel. No, not Vinnie Vegas. And no, not one of the members of the Master Blasters. Yes, Oz. We've written about Oz before, but yes --- it was a wizard from Oz who isn't THAT Wizard of Oz but another wizard from Oz.

I didn't write about this in the first piece on Oz, but what why was there so much neon in pro wrestling in the early 1990s? When you think of Macho Man, Sting, or most wrestlers from this time period, what do you think of? Neon. How much neon does one promotion need?

Anyway, wrestling is the worst sometimes.

Dolph Ziggler: Nicky

Dolph Ziggler was once a member of the Spirit Squad named Nicky. I also don't give a shit. Moving on.

*tour group member raises hand*


*tour group member sheepishly puts down hand*

Bob Holly: Sparky Plug

In short, one of the toughest men in wrestling history initially appeared with the WWE as a race car driver. One named Sparky Plug. Not sure why Vince McMahon didn't have actual logos on Plug's attire. Talk about missed revenue streams!

Of course, we here at the Hall of Shame would never "sell-out" for corporate sponsorship.

*sips Gatorade* Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....Gatorade! There's no Shame for refreshment!

Raven: Scotty Flamingo 

Raven is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, but his first jobs in major territories were -- uh, interesting. After working in the Northwest and elsewhere, Raven found work in WCW as a ....well, an arrogant surfer who never worked a day in his life (The less said about his Johnny Polo in WWF, the better).

Two quick notes: first, more damn neon; second, I miss wrestlers giving promos AFTER matches. It makes sense right? "I kicked this guy's ass and I'll do it again later!"

Having someone proclaim that he's better than the audience and is rich is a classic trope of the wrestling heel, but this doesn't work for a lot of reasons. It all seems inauthentic -- Raven would later say as such -- but I also don't think it works because before he talks, Raven seems to channel Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCullough's face. I half-expect Raven to start singing "These are the Daves I know" in his promo.

In short, Raven is the best.

D-Von Dudley: Reverend D-Von

If you were to name the top starts of ECW, the Dudley Boys would be at the top of that list. But in 2002, the WWE rebranded D-Von as the Reverend D-Von --- a heel preacher who would condemn fans and then have his Deacon Batista --- HEY, A BONUS GIMMICK --- collect money for D-Von's church.

You might be saying "John, isn't this a slight tweak to D-Von Dudley?" To that I would say, "No, clearly it's not. Don't be stupid. It's a totally new gimmick. It's not a minor tweak: it's a character with a new backstory and approach."

A lot of fans hate this gimmick, but to be honest, I really like it. D-Von sells it really well and he was always so good at drawing heat. Related, what does it say about an ultra-conservative company like the WWE that whenever someone adopts a religious persona --- Brother Love, D-Von Dudley, CM Punk and The Straight Edge Society --- they are almost always heels?

Wayne Ferris: Honky Tonk Man

So this might be controversial, but can we all admit the Honky Tonk Man was a weird gimmick? I mean, yes, he was one of the best heels during the 1980s, but as someone who is a fan of 1970s Memphis wrestling, it's weird to see Wayne Ferris as a Elvis impersonator wrestler. But sometimes that's the bargain wrestlers had (and continue to have to) to make in order to be on one of the major wrestling promotions.

But it's an Elvis gimmick. He's Elvis. Elvis -- especially the Vegas-Elvis of this character --- isn't actually scary.

Also please note this: I'm not bashing Wayne Ferris at all. Respect to you sir. Actually, please don't tell him we wrote about him at all. But if you are Wayne Ferris, and you do read this, please bash only Rick in the shoot video.

 Fake Diesel / Isaac Yankem, Dentist: Kane

As a gimmick, Kane *almost* qualifies for inclusion on this list --- well, any version of Kane post 1999 or so. We've seen Fake Kane, maskless Kane, Good Kane, Not-So-Good-Kane, Corporate Kane, Mayoral Candidate Kane, HR Representative Kane, Legal Clerk Kane, Sous-Chef Kane, etc, etc, etc.

But Glenn Jacobs has done worse. Like Buff Bagwell and The Shockmaster, Jacobs is now a two-time inductee into the Hall of Shame. Earlier this year, we inducted him as Fake Diesel -- which if you don't know the story of, you really should -- and we are also inducting him for Isaac Yankem, Jerry Lawler's personal dentist who the King would use in his incredibly stupid feud with Bret Hart in 1995 (a feud that also featured William Shatner).

There's a lot of shame all around here -- Jacob's teeth, the dentist drill-heavy theme song, his scrubs -- but the fact that a wrestling company thought a dentist character would inspire fear in its audience is....

*looks at the teeth of the Hall of Shame tour group*

Moving on....

HHH: Jean-Paul Levesque 

One of the fascinating things about professional wrestling gimmicks is how sometimes wrestlers adapt those personas as needed: in some cases, wrestlers barely shift their central characters and move naturally between heel and face --- Ric Flair, CM Punk, Randy Savage, Nick Bockwinkel, etc. --- while others morph their personas with the changing times. I would put HHH into this later category: in the WWE, he's moved from "The Connecticut Blueblood" to DX to "The Game" to Evolution to The Authority, all while basically being, in essence, the same character.

But let's talk about his time in WCW. First as Terror-Rising -- which I can't seem to find consistent spelling of --- and then Jean-Paul Levesque. There's so much wonderfully shameful about this character, but the accent -- which may be the worst French accent in human history --- puts it over the top. Clearly, HHH went to the Tommy Wisseau School of Accents and Acting.

Incidentally, "Levesque" translates from French to mean "self-important dick who marries the boss's daughter and will always put-over himself and his pals and then present himself as a savior of a company to marks by promoting an alternate brand but then bury those wrestlers on the main roster."


Okay, there's no image for this one, but imagine taking one of the most famous wrestlers in the world and telling him to shave his head, drop his persona, and become adopt a Roman gladiator gimmick?

If you think that's a good idea, then you're very likely Jim Herd.

The backstory to this is that Herd, who was actively trying to make WCW more family-friendly or something, and tried to convince Flair to drop the "Nature Boy" gimmick and.....yeah, no, it doesn't make a lick of sense. Flair hated the idea, and would be in the WWF a few months after this.

But just try and imagine how this would have gone over with the fans.

Kerwin White / Chavo Guerrero Jr.

In academic circles, there is a lot of discussion about the problematic nature of race and performance. When considering a performance like Chavo Guerrero Jr's "Kerwin White," it might be helpful to ask if such a portrayal is meant as a post-postmodern critique of race itself. As a Latino American wrestler, is Guerrero Jr. actively satirizing the dominant culture's view of both"whiteness" and "Latino?"

*rubs chin contemplatively*

Orrrrrrrrrr this is a character borne from the mind of a wrestling company that has shown itself to be consistently racist and xenophobic and is willing to humiliate an accomplished performer based on whims of an egomaniac with a sixth grade-level of humor.

This is a perfect example of the problem of a lot of these portrayals: talented wrestlers are often forced to go along with these representations because, in the words of Guerrero Jr, you can either embrace this or look for work elsewhere. But literally "whiting" a person of color in order to advance a cheap joke is embarrassing on a number of levels.


Goobledy Gooker / Hector Guerrero

Speaking of embarrassing a member of the Guerrero family...

We end the exhibit on a lighter note as we revisit the infamous Goobledy Gooker. A lot of our visitors recall this entire sequence: the build-up, the egg, the reveal, the over-the-top selling of Gorilla Monsoon, Roddy Piper, Guerrero, Okerland, the fact that it was supposed to be a mascot for kids but was only relevant at Thanksgiving....

But Vince McMahon is a genius. Right.

There's a great interview with Hector Guerrero from Mental Floss about the character, which I recommend reading here. After Dusty Rhodes praised Guerrero to McMahon, he reached out to the uncle of Chavo Jr and had him to a tryout in costume. Guerrero still believes the concept could have worked, but feels it was sabotaged by the company: in particular, he details the vicious entrance of his character at Madison Square Garden.

So there we have it: our second annual summer exhibit here at the Hall of Shame. We hope you enjoyed it, and if there are any we missed, let us know at @wrestlingshame. On your way out, please don't forget to stop by the gift shop and buy your Roman Reigns t-shirt! Sooo shameful!

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