Tensai and the 10 Biggest Gimmick Flops in WWE History
For every Hulk Hogan, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena that the WWE has produced over the years, it has inevitably created an equal amount of garbage.
It's inevitable when you think about it, because only so many wrestlers can be over with the fans at a single point in time, so some are bound to fall flat. It hasn't always been the fault of the wrestlers themselves, though, as many have been saddled with gimmicks that were doomed from the start.
From the early 1990s through 1995 especially, the WWE mastered the art of terrible gimmicks. WCW certainly made a run during its dying days, but the WWE was all about wrestlers with some type of occupation that the fans were never going to care about.
I can't blame the WWE writers for giving jobbers those types of gimmicks, though, because they were doing anything possible to make them relevant. The bad gimmicks that I have always taken issue with are the ones given to talented wrestlers, put in high-profile feuds or hyped ad nauseam despite how terrible they are.
With that said, here are the 10 biggest gimmick flops in WWE history on the basis that the wrestlers who had to suffer through them either were or could have been relevant if given something better.
When Tensai debuted the night after WrestleMania this year, many fans had high hopes for what he might become. The gimmick itself seemed like it should work on paper, but the problem was that everybody already knew that Tensai was indeed Matt Bloom, who had played the characters Albert and A-Train in WWE previously.
That led to "Albert" chants throughout his matches, but the the writers proceeded to let him defeat John Cena in a no disqualification match and WWE Champion CM Punk in a handicap match. The chants persisted, however, and it ultimately led to the WWE brass giving up on Tensai to the point where he consistently loses on television to guys like Tyson Kidd.
Although the WWE failed to see the pitfalls associated with the Tensai gimmick, steps could have been taken to avoid them. When the Albert chants became apparent, Tensai should have been allowed to cut a promo explaining his transition to the Japanese way of life and denouncing both his American heritage and the Albert gimmick.
Then he could have won the United States Championship, defaced it and become the foreign monster heel that gets over roughly 100 percent of the time. Rather than doing that, his wins over Cena and Punk were squandered and he has become little more than jobber to the stars.
The Tensai character wasn't bad at all in theory and there were obviously plans to throw Tensai into the main-event picture, but the creative team simply failed to put the necessary work into making it a success.
Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon
With most of the gimmicks on this list I can at least respect the WWE for trying something different, but the notion of two random guys assuming the roles of Diesel and Razor Ramon was absolutely ridiculous. Apparently Vince McMahon thought it would work, though, as he attempted to keep the gimmicks alive in 1996 when Kevin Nash and Scott Hall bolted for WCW.
If that weren't bad enough, Fake Diesel and Razor coincided with a random Jim Ross heel turn. By 1996 Ross had gained a lot of traction as a respected wrestling commentator, so his heel turn didn't get over with the fans at all, and it was dropped quickly. The same was true of Fake Diesel and Razor as they lasted only a few months.
This entire idea was pure arrogance on McMahon's part as he thought that the gimmick made the man rather than the other way around. The fans all knew that the real Diesel and Razor had gone to WCW, though, so they had absolutely no interest in the impostors that McMahon was trying to sell.
If there was one good thing that came from this gimmick, it was the fact that Glenn Jacobs, who played Fake Diesel, went on to become Kane, which is one of the most successful gimmicks in WWE history. Rick Bognar, better known as Fake Razor, wasn't so lucky, however, as he was released when his contract ran out.
The WWE has never been shy about capitalizing on some of its outside ventures, but that hasn't always been a good way of going about things. The perfect example of that is Zeus' run with the company. In 1989, Hulk Hogan starred in the movie No Holds Barred and in it he defeated an unstoppable monster known as Zeus. Rather than allowing Zeus to exist only on the silver screen, though, the WWE made him part of a storyline.
Zeus came to WWE in an effort to end Hulkamania due to the fact that Hogan had beaten him in the movie. Zeus went on to forge alliances with Hogan foes such as "Macho Man" Randy Savage and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, but he was never able to get the better of Hogan over a series of tag-team matches.
The notion of Zeus was fine, but the issue is that the WWE tried to take an actor and make him a wrestler, but it didn't work. Zeus had great size and a menacing look, but his moveset was limited to punches and choke holds. Hogan was no technical marvel in the ring himself, but he knew how to work the crowd, while Zeus didn't.
Luckily Zeus' stay in the WWE was short as he only had a handful of matches, but he won't soon be forgotten. The WWE had so much talent back then that I can't help but think that a much more deserving competitor had a main-event spot against Hogan robbed in favor of a guy who had absolutely no business being in the ring.
Isaac Yankem, DDS
If Glenn Jacobs hadn't found so much success with the Kane gimmick, I would probably call him the unluckiest man in wrestling history. He is clearly extremely talented and always has been, but terrible gimmicks always seemed to find him. Fake Diesel was awful, but you could argue that his run as Isaac Yankem, DDS in 1995 was even worse.
The notion of an evil dentist becoming a wrestler is laughable, but the WWE expected us to buy it. The story was that Yankem was Jerry "The King" Lawler's personal dentist and that he had brought him to the WWE in order to take out Bret "Hitman" Hart. Lawler and Hart had been going at it for quite some time, but Lawler could never get the better of Hart, so he enlisted some help.
Yankem was almost immediately thrown into a high-profile feud with Hart despite having no track record and an absolutely awful gimmick. Yankem had a few matches with Hart, including one at SummerSlam, which Hart won by disqualification. As soon as that feud ended, it should come as no surprise that Yankem faded into oblivion.
An evil dentist gimmick would have signaled career suicide for most guys, but Jacobs persevered by braving through Fake Diesel and then finally getting his big break as Kane. When you consider how bad Jacobs' early gimmicks were, you might say that no wrestler has overcome greater odds than he has.
Bringing in a monster of a man to feud with The Undertaker may seem like a good plan on the surface, but Giant Gonzalez is undoubtedly one of the biggest flops in WWE history. After wrestling as El Gigante in WCW, Gonzalez was introduced to the WWE audience in 1993 when he interfered in the Royal Rumble despite not being an official participant and eliminated The Deadman.
This led to a match between them at WrestleMania IX. There were a lot of issues with Gonzalez, though. He was legitimately 7'6", but the WWE billed him as eight feet tall, which was ridiculous since everyone could plainly see that he wasn't a foot taller than Taker. Also, he was a string bean for a man of his height, so he was put into a jumpsuit with airbrushed muscles on it.
To top everything off, he was perhaps the worst in-ring worker the WWE has ever seen as he moved with all the fluidity of a robot and knew roughly two moves. Despite all of that, the WWE thought that he was worthy enough to face The Undertaker, who was a former WWE Champion and had just completed a big-time face turn, at WrestleMania.
The match was an absolute disaster with Taker coming out on top due to Gonzalez subduing him with ether. It is the only time in The Undertaker's career that he didn't win a match by either pinfall or submission at WrestleMania, but at least he won the match.
Had the WWE squandered his streak early on against a sieve like Giant Gonzalez, it would have lost a lot of money over the years.
When you've been a wrestling fan for as long as I have, you get used to being disappointed. There have been several big disappointments in WWE over the years, but perhaps none of them can top the Gobbledy Gooker. I was only a year old in 1990, so luckily I didn't have to witness it live, but the Gooker made his debut at Survivor Series that year.
For months leading up to Survivor Series, a large egg would be shown at WWE events. There was a lot of speculation about what might be in it, but nobody really had a clue. Fans hoped that all of the anticipation would be worth it when the big reveal happened at Survivor Series, but what they got instead was a guy in a turkey costume.
That guy was actually brother of the late Eddie Guerrero, Hector Guerrero, but that wasn't revealed until years later. The Gobbledy Gooker proceeded to enter the ring and dance around with "Mean" Gene Okerlund for several uncomfortable minutes. The kids probably thought it was entertaining, but the arena was mostly in shocked silence.
The Gobbledy Gooker made his return at WrestleMania X-Seven as a part of the gimmick battle royal, but he hasn't been seen since. There is no doubt that The Gobbledy Gooker was terrible, but now that so many years have passed, many wrestling fans look back at the disaster fondly.
There is nothing worse than when a wrestler goes from a perfectly good gimmick to an awful one for no apparent reason, and that is what happened with George Gray.
He initially wrestled as a monster heel known as One Man Gang, who often dominated his competition with his signature gourdbuster. In 1988, about a year into his WWE tenure, One Man Gang suddenly became Akeem.
The gimmick change happened when One Man Gang's manager, Slick, announced that Gang was actually African and wanted to embrace his roots. With that, he would be called "The African Dream" Akeem. Rather than continuing on with his no-nonsense style, Akeem was much more jovial despite still being a heel.
He would dance down to the ring with Slick to the theme song "Jive Soul Bro" and he had essentially lost his intimidation factor. The only good thing to come of the gimmick change was that Akeem began tagging with Big Boss Man as The Twin Towers. They never captured the titles, but they did feud with some of the bigger stars of the time, including Hulk Hogan.
With that said, it would have made a lot more sense for a street thug to team with a crooked cop than a faux-African, so I'm not sure where Vince McMahon's head was when it came to that decision. One Man Gang could have been one of the company's top heels in the late 1980s, but he was little more than a punchline instead.
When a wrestler has an impressive background and long track record of success, it is best to capitalize on that, but the WWE did exactly the opposite when it came to Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat in 1991. Steamboat retired from wrestling in 1988 and left the WWE, but he soon resurfaced with the NWA and WCW and went on to have a great deal of success.
Steamboat made his return to WWE in 1991, but the company acted as if he was a brand new wrestler. The fact of the matter was that Steamboat competed in one of the great WrestleMania matches of all time against "Macho Man" Randy Savage at WrestleMania III and he was a former Intercontinental Champion, but in 1991 he was suddenly just some guy who breathed fire named The Dragon.
Rather than using his past popularity to its advantage, the WWE tried to start Steamboat with a clean slate, and it failed. Everyone knew that it was Steamboat, but the WWE did everything it could to avoid mentioning his past. The Dragon could have been a big-time upper mid-card or main-event contender during that time frame, but he left the company in less than a year.
The gimmick would have been fine if he was known as Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, but the way WWE went about it was idiotic. It almost seems like it was a slight aimed toward WCW, but all it did in the end was ruin a great opportunity for the WWE.
Charles Wright portrayed one of the Attitude Era's most popular characters in The Godfather, but long before that he was known as Papa Shango, a practitioner of voodoo. He made his debut in that role in 1992 and for whatever reason it seemed as though the WWE had big plans for him as he interfered in the WrestleMania VIII main event between Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice.
Ultimate Warrior made the save on Hogan's behalf, and that led to an absolutely awful feud between Shango and Warrior. Shango constantly placed "spells" on the Ultimate Warrior and they led to ridiculous segments with Warrior vomiting as well as black ooze dripping from his head. The angle ultimately went nowhere, though, and Papa Shango soon became a forgotten man.
Not only was the gimmick totally unbelievable and over the top, but the fact that he was involved with one of the biggest stars in wrestling at the time makes it even worse. Papa Shango had no business being anything more than a jobber at that time, but the WWE seemed to think that he was capable of being a top heel.
Like a few of the wrestlers on this list, Papa Shango went on to great success under a different gimmick, but even The Godfather can't erase the awfulness that fans had to endure from 1992 through 1993.
"American Dream" Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes is undoubtedly a legend in the wrestling business, but his WWE run was embarrassing to say the least. Rhodes was a three-time NWA Heavyweight Champion prior to joining the WWE in 1989 and had countless fantastic feuds and matches, but rather than building off the legacy he had created for himself, the WWE threw him in some polka dots and made him dance around.
Rhodes admittedly feuded with a couple of the WWE's top heels in "Macho Man" Randy Savage and "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, but he never seemed as relevant as he should have, and his gimmick had everything to with it. Rhodes did his best to sell the "Common Man" gimmick and he he got everything he possibly could out of it, but it was definitely a failure on WWE's part.
Vince McMahon has always been loyal to the stars that he has created himself, so I can't help but think that the "Common Man" character was thought up as a slight against Rhodes. With Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior ruling the roost during Rhodes' WWE tenure a world title run was unlikely, but he should have at least been made to look like a serious threat.
It may not seem fair to call Rhodes a flop, but his failure to reach the top of the WWE wasn't his fault. there were so many great things that the WWE could have done with him at the time, but that ill-advised gimmick clearly limited Rhodes.