In professional wrestling, gimmicks make the world go round.
This has never been more true than in the case of WWE, a company that has given us some very memorable characters over the years, men and women who have carved out their own unique places in the minds and hearts of fans.
Of course, Vince McMahon has also given us some of the worst characters that the business has ever seen, one terrible idea after another, that never should have seen the light of day.
But even the worst ones sometimes have a way of working.
And, not only working, but getting over. Getting over in a big way.
It amazes me how often this happens. While compiling this list, I was struck by just how many talents have somehow managed to get the fans' attention and have a nice little career for themselves in the company.
In nearly every instance, the reason for this was due to the effort of the worker behind the character and the following from the fans who watched them.
Here are 10 great examples.
There is no way this guy should be over.
Smiling, dancing, dressed in bright red and shaking his posterior as if he were having some sort of fit. Oh, yeah, and he's called the Funkasaurus.
Since his dramatic gimmick change, Brodus Clay has quickly become a favorite among WWE fans. Despite the fact that he has yet to engage in any substantial feud to speak of, the anticipation fans have of seeing Clay is above and beyond what anyone expected.
Brodus just seems to inhabit his own little world when he's in the ring. Laugh at him, laugh with him, take him seriously or think of him as a joke—it doesn't matter; he is living his character. And he is doing everything he can to entertain everyone in the building.
Having said all of that, though, I have to admit that the past couple of times he has been on TV, the crowd has been unusually reserved. That's not to say that Brodus's gimmick has worn out its welcome, but it is worth noting that if WWE does not attempt to move him forward at some point, then he may indeed begin to lose some ground with the fans.
There is no denying that Brodus Clay has done a great job at becoming the Funkasaurus and creating a character that no one is likely to ever forget.
A 40-something, overweight guy wearing tie dye, sunglasses and talking like a throwback 1960's hippie.
Sure, that will work.
But, thanks to Mick Foley, Dude Love was a hit.
I remember when he popped up on the Titantron and the expression that Stone Cold gave as he watched Foley announce that Dude Love would be the tag team partner who would put Austin over the top.
I sat there. I watched. And all I could think was "Are you kidding me? Where are they going with this?"
But Mick Foley is a pro, and if there's anyone who knows how to create a character and then flesh him out to make him believable, it's him. Dude Love became a part of Mick, as much as Cactus Jack and Mankind.
Fans could have disregarded Foley's latest personality, chalked it up to a misfire on WWE's part. But they embraced it and put over Mick even more than he already was.
Dude Love. Only in WWE.
The atmosphere of WWE at any given time over the years resembles a circus.
Presenting its events with loud music, explosive pyro and over-the-top characters, WWE, with ringleader Vince McMahon at the helm, gives entertainment for fans of all ages, inside a crazy, surrealistic fantasy world.
And what better way to entertain a circus crowd than with a clown?
Doink is one of those gimmicks that fans collectively shake their heads at, mumbling the usual complaints about how out of touch WWE can be and how ridiculous it is at times.
But Doink, thanks to the man who originally portrayed him, Matt Borne, was over. Despite his silly appearance and his overtly ridiculous actions, Doink was a character to be reckoned with in the company.
Borne's depiction of Doink as a mentally disturbed, evil clown was very well done and put the character on the map. He took what he was given and made it work. Doink was a success, largely due to Borne's efforts.
The character has been portrayed by others since then, but no one has had the impact that Matt Borne had while wearing the greasepaint.
Doink was one of a kind, and love him or hate him, you will never forget him.
The Sheepherders were a violent tag team who brought a tough, vicious style to the ring and became known for using hardcore weapons in one bloody brawl after another.
Then Luke and Butch went to WWE, and the Sheepherders were no more.
In their place were the Bushwhackers, two lovable baby faces who strode down to the ring to silly music and often licked the heads of their younger fans.
No matter how ridiculous they may look now, there is no denying that these guys did very well with what they were asked to do.
They were over. Fans wanted to see them. Let's face it, the Bushwhackers were a gimmick that had no business being successful in the tough guy atmosphere of professional wrestling, but it was.
In the world of WWE, Luke and Butch were fan favorites of the highest order. They had the support from the younger fans, but it did not stop there. The Bushwhackers were over with everyone.
They were a good tag team who became a very memorable tag team because they did what was necessary to get over with their revamped characters. It worked. Plain and simple.
Play that sound byte in any WWE arena anywhere in the world, and it is instant recognition.
One silly little expression was all it took for Hacksaw Jim Duggan to become famous. Well, that and a two by four.
Throw in a "USA" chant, and you have a WWE Hall of Famer.
I've said it before, and I feel compelled to say it again. There is no way this joke of a gimmick should have been over with any crowd, even the WWE crowd, who have been known to embrace all sorts of colorful characters.
But, Duggan, through his ability to just let go of himself and become his character, made fans believe in him and what he said.
His approach was uncomplicated, it was down to earth and it got him over. At the end of the day, that's all that matters.
You either love him or you hate him. You mostly love him.
Santino Marella is the poster boy for the quintessential crazy WWE character. He's also extremely entertaining.
Santino's character works despite its ridiculous nature. Every time it seemed as though it had run its course, and WWE should let it go and move on, they instead persevered.
They stuck with Santino and kept finding ways to allow him to be funny in the right situations. And fans eventually began to respond.
Now, instead of turning on him or hating on him the moment he hits the ramp, the crowd is fully behind Santino Marella, even to the point of nearly blowing the roof off the place with every nearfall in the Elimination Chamber match.
Santino could have had his arm raised, crowned as the new World Champion, and no fan in attendance would have had a problem with it.
That is the definition of a successful character and a successful worker.
They're Road Warrior rip-offs. Just look at them. Don't lie.
Using the Hawk and Animal formula, WWE took two big guys, painted them up, put them in black and metal spikes and then tried to sell them as the toughest tag team in the company.
Thing is, they became just that.
Make no mistake about it, WWE fans knew what the deal was with Ax and Smash. They likely knew what the thought was behind the team in the first place.
But after a while, it didn't matter. Demolition proved they belonged, that they had what it took to become a well-oiled and dynamic tag team.
They were aggressive, they were tough and their ability to work together and sell the gimmick made Ax and Smash a credible tag team, despite the fact that it was not their gimmick to sell.
The fact is, fans appreciated what Demolition brought to the ring, and they wanted to see them. Nothing else matters.
A six-foot, 350-pound smiling Samoan who danced to techno music and whose signature move consisted of hiking his trunks up and shoving his butt in his opponents' face, much to the crowd's delight.
Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up.
Rikishi was over to the max. He was such a popular baby face, and fans loved seeing him, that he was a standout during his time in WWE.
The fact that for a big man, he could really work did not hurt matters at all.
Rikishi is one of those characters that fans could not predict but loved from the moment they saw him. He was so entertaining and had such a passion for what he did that it directly translated to his work in the ring.
Fans could have laughed at him, turning their heads in disgust when he gave someone the stinkface, but instead they popped like crazy.
Rikishi's infectious smile and heart for what he did made it impossible for fans not to respect him and return the love he gave them every time he stepped into the ring.
Shane Helms was a good cruiserweight, an athletic performer who made a fairly good name for himself in WCW. After entering WWE, however, he did a whole lot of nothing.
But when he pulled on that mask and cape for the first time, everything changed.
That's right, Shane Helms, a grown man, became the Hurricane, a comic book superhero come to life.
Ridiculous did not begin to describe it.
But—and you knew there was a but—Hurricane was over like no one else in WWE.
Fans loved his character, especially when he would rip on other workers. "What's up wit dat?" was his catchphrase, and though he was decked out like Green Lantern, he did it all with a straight face.
Completely in character and loving what he was doing, the Hurricane became a hit with fans and is one of those guys who will never be forgotten.
Stop me if I've said this already.
There is absolutely no way, no imaginable, comprehensible, way on God's green earth that this gimmick should have been successful.
Too Cool? Are you freaking kidding me?
Two white boys with goofy haircuts, dressed like rappers, dancing like a couple of idiots down the ramp. They should have been the biggest joke in the history of WWE, a gimmick that should have fallen flat on its face.
But, it worked. Too Cool was, well, too cool.
The gimmick worked in spite of itself. The jeers and laughs from fans soon changed to cheers and applause because, let's face it, these guys were working hard to be as silly and over-the-top as they possibly could.
Their statement was much like many others on this list. "Love us or hate us, we're going to do our thing, and that's it."
Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay did just that. They became one of WWE's most popular tag teams of all time because of it.
All hail the gimmicks that never should have worked.