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Mr. Perfect, Mankind: The 25 Best WWE Gimmicks of All Time

Andy SoucekFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2012

Mr. Perfect, Mankind: The 25 Best WWE Gimmicks of All Time

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    For every great gimmick the WWE has given fans over the years, there's probably been 10 that were terrible.

    Who could forget T.L. Hopper, Bastion Booger, The Goon, Beaver Cleavage, Meat, The Dicks and so many, many more?

    Most of the biggest names in wrestling history didn't reach the top with a ridiculous gimmick. They usually had to rise above it, and hope to be recast someday.

    This list takes a look at the best gimmicks ever seen in the WWE, and here are the criteria it's based off of:

    -The acts listed here didn't need to be created in the company, but they needed to be popular, creative or show a great deal of potential there.

    -Some gimmicks, such as Raven and Tazz, were popular in other companies, but they didn't transfer over well to the WWE, so they're not found here.

    -While some choices will be debatable, I’m trying to look past characters that are essentially exaggerated personas of themselves like Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Ric Flair and The Rock.

    The gimmicks on this list theoretically could have gone to someone else, but these guys were given the part and ran with it.

    Sometimes a wrestling gimmick just hits at the right place at the right time, and more importantly with the right person playing the role.

    With that said, here are the top 25 gimmicks in WWE history.

#25: The Godfather

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    Whoever would have guessed that Papa Shango would have a second career as a pimp?

    Much like Brodus Clay, The Goldfather’s act was all about the entrance.

    Unlike Clay, The Godfather was able to remain popular for some time.

    Yes, the gimmick was pretty offensive. Having a pimp play a good guy on a television show is just kind of a strange concept.

    For its time though, it worked.

    Once the porno-sounding music hit, the men in the crowd went nuts. Charles Wright played the character perfectly, with the right amount of fun on the mic and intensity in the ring.

    He was by no means a great worker, but he didn’t need to be. He had his signature spots (most notably The Ho Train), and was great for mid-card filler on any show.

    Pimpin' may not be easy, but The Godfather sure looked like he was having fun.

#24: 'The Model' Rick Martel

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    Just in case you weren't sure that Rick Martel was a model, he spelled it out for you with the pin on his jacket.

    Sure, a great deal of Martel's gimmick was lifted from Gorgeous George, but Rick Martel was the right guy to cast as an arrogant model.

    There was no way the act would have been main-event worthy, but Martel made the absolute most of it.

    He was a solid mid-carder that drew some good heat with his showboating and "Arrogance" brand perfume.

    He's also remembered in the WWF because of the great feud he had with Jake "The Snake" Roberts which then somehow ended in an all-time terrible WrestleMania blindfold match.

    Later in his run, Martel became less relevant in the company and wasn't used as often. But for a model, you could say he did pretty well for himself.

#23: The Hurricane

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    Stand back! There’s a Hurricane coming through.

    Hurricane Helms was a soldier in the war against the WWF during the Invasion. Initially, he was happy-go-lucky Gregory Helms, but that came off as too bland.

    He soon transformed into The Hurricane, a living, breathing superhero.

    Amazingly, Helms was one of the first Alliance members to get over in his new company (he somehow fared much better than Shawn Stasiak, Billy Kidman, Hugh Morris and Chuck Palumbo ever did).

    When Hurricane was wrestling, you could look into the crowds, and see a lot of bright green Hurricane T-shirts, as well as children wearing replicas of his mask.

    It was a fan friendly mid-card act that sold merchandise, which is about as much as you can ask for from such a cartoonish gimmick.

    In the end, the character seemed to overstay its welcome, especially when he teamed up with Rosey as the Super Hero In Training (boy, did WWE sure think that acronym was hilarious).

    Still, Helms made the character a fan favorite when it could have easily been a giant embarrassment.

    Job well done, Hurricane.

#22: Val Venis

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    “Hello laaaaaadies.”

    Having a gimmick of a porn star seems like it could have a short shelf life.

    Somehow, Sean Morley made it into a living for quite a few years. Since it was the Attitude era, they could get away with this pretty risque gimmick.

    It's hard to imagine that the act would have gone over as well in the Rock n’ Wrestling era or today’s current product.

    Draped in a towel on his way to the ring, and with his double-entendre introductions, Venis got the crowd going whenever that sexy saxophone music would start to blare throughout the arenas.

    For awhile, Venis was a successful mid-carder that seemed destined for bigger things.

    It never quite worked out for him, but it's still a testament to his talent that he was able to stick around so long with a pretty ridiculous gimmick.

#21: Matt Hardy Version 1.0

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    For years, Matt Hardy was living in his brother’s shadow.

    But when he landed the right gimmick, he became the more entertaining TV character and came into his own.

    Enter Matt Hardy Version 1.0.

    Hardy began promoting his life philosophies to the audience known as “Mattitude.” He even picked up some followers/lackeys in the form of Shannon Moore and Crash Holly who were called MF'ers (Mattitude Followers).

    Among the highlights of the gimmick was the great ring entrance. The music fit him nicely, but the computer-screen graphic and "Matt Facts" put it over the top.

    Unfortunately, this was probably the best singles run that Matt had in his WWE run.

    His reality based feud with Edge made it look like he was destined to become a main-eventer, but it was the Rated R-Superstar who got the glory instead.

    The rest of Matt's career was a pretty big mess before he was finally released.

    Hopefully he's cleaned up, and there's still enough time left for a Version 2.0 someday.

#20: Doink

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    Before judging this entry, hear me out for a second.

    Matt Borne as Doink was awesome. Everyone else as Doink sucked.

    The character didn’t work as a face, and it didn’t work when the Brooklyn Brawler portrayed him.

    Much like other great gimmicks, it's the man who plays the role that really gets the act over. Borne was born to play the role of Doink.

    The makeup, the music, the promos, they all worked together to create a surprisingly interesting gimmick.

    Sure, an evil clown sounds incredibly stupid. It sounds like something that Vince McMahon would think of that's doomed to fail within weeks.

    But somehow, Doink was fun.

    Had Bourne been able to overcome his demons earlier, and had the writing stayed strong, it would have been fascinating to see what that WWF could have done with the character.

#19: The Honky Tonk Man

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    While Honky Tonk Man was a pretty lousy wrestler, he would always get some great heat.

    His gimmick was basically an Elvis impersonator. He’d sing, dance and hit people with guitars (though I’m not sure Elvis ever did that last part).

    He was a staple of the WWE's mid-card for years, and was involved in some of the company's most classic moments.

    At the inaugural SummerSlam, The Honky Tonk Man’s 64-week run with the Intercontinental title came to a crashing halt when he issued an open challenge.

    The Ultimate Warrior was the one who accepted, and laid him out in 30 seconds.

    After this run, the Honky Tonk Man had a few more brief appearances with the company, but his initial run during the 1980s will be the one best remembered.

#18: Waylon Mercy

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    Unlike other heels of his era, Waylon Mercy wasn't a loud, shouting heel.

    He was much more subtle.

    Mercy was based off of Robert DeNiro's character in Cape Fear, which is probably one of the few times that WWE has kept up on pop culture.

    What made the gimmick so good was Dan Spivey's portrayal. He was a big man who seemed to barely be hiding the craziness that was inside of him.

    The way he talked in a normal, polite tone was unconvincing. You knew here was something seriously wrong.

    Mercy wrestled in the era of WWE characters like Adam Bomb, The Narcissist and Giant Gonzalez. He was a completely different breed of heel that didn't seem to catch on like it should have.

    The gimmick was years ahead of its time, and hopefully it's time for WWE to revisit this idea. Bray Wyatt (the former Husky Harris) is doing a similar act in NXT  which is looking very promising.

    Instead, we're getting Fandango (a potential future worst gimmick in the making).

    But had WWE got behind Waylon fully, and had Dan Spivey not had to retire early, this could have been big.

    "You know what I mean?"

#17: The Big Bossman

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    Ray Traylor used to be an actual prison guard, which made his portrayal of The Big Bossman all the more convincing.

    Being an evil cop is a simple, but effective gimmick. It's something that easily resonates with adults and children alike.

    He made life for his opponents a living hell. He would often handcuff them to the ring ropes after defeating them and beat them with a night stick.

    He also had high-profile matches with Hulk Hogan, and a successful tag team with Akeem as The Twin Towers.

    Without the Bossman gimmick, Traylor just wasn’t as interesting. His WCW personas (Guardian Angel, Big Bubba) just never felt right.

    Luckily, he came back to the WWF during the Attitude era. This time in a SWAT outfit, and was able to tweak his character enough to have another successful run.

#16: Demolition

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    Here comes the Ax and here comes the Smasher!

    Demolition probably looked a little goofy with their ring attire, which looked more like an S & M outfit than something you’d want to fight in.

    The face paint helped make them look a bit more menacing, though. And once Ax and Smash (and later Crush) got in the ring, it was all business.

    During the late 80s, Demolition was the most dominant tag team in the WWF.

    But sadly, once the Road Warriors joined the company (renamed The Legion of Doom), Demolition was pushed off to the side and never captured the tag titles again.

    With Ax leaving the company, the group slowly came to an end.

    Smash took on a second career as a Repo Man, and Crush well, he became Hawaiian.

    Some may say that Demolition was just a Road Warriors knockoff, but holding the WWF tag titles for a record 478 days still makes you pretty darn successful.

#15: Razor Ramon

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    Say hello to da' bad guy.

    Scott Hall doesn’t look Cuban, he doesn’t sound Cuban, but somehow he was able to make this act work.

    Ramon was all Scott Hall’s idea. Before debuting, he asked Vince McMahon if he’d ever seen Scarface. Vince hadn’t, so Hall gave him an impression and the boss was sold.

    After that, a series of vignettes introduced us to the act. Ramon was a shady character who loved cool clothes, cool cars and hot women.

    He was coming to the World Wrestling Federation for the gold. The character was a hit from the start, as he was quickly thrown into main-event tag matches with Ric Flair.

    Most of the rest of his run was spent as an upper-midcarder with main-event potential.

    As good as the Razor Ramon character was, it was still nothing compared to Scott Hall just being himself in WCW.

    Survey says that Razor Ramon is one of the best gimmicks ever seen in WWE.

#14: Yokozuna

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    Yokozuna was one big, bad dude.

    There was nothing overly original about his gimmick, but there's no denying that it was successful.

    Basically, he was a sumo champion who came to the WWF for some new competition.

    By the end of his career, he was a multiple-time WWF champion, and feuded with the likes of Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan.

    Sure, Rodney Anoa'i wasn't even Japanese, but that didn't hurt the effectiveness of the act.

    Upon his debut, he was thrown into the spotlight, and he quickly ascended up the card.

    Once he reached the top, he had a lengthy run of dominance, as no man could even lift him (until Lex Luger did).

    Unfortunately, due to Yokozuna's weight problems, he was out of wrestling years before he should have been.

    An even more unfortunate effect of the weight was that Yokozuna passed away at the age of 34. Still, he'll be remembered for years as one of the most unstoppable men in the company's history.

#13: 'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan

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    Is there any wrestler who can get the crowd cheering by doing so little?

    For a while, Jim Duggan was actually a pretty good wrestler in Mid-South Wrestling.

    When he was brought into the WWF, though, he started to transition into more of a cartoon character than a brawler.

    He was no longer needed to do those big brawls to get over. All he had to do was wave the American flag, carry a 2 x 4, or lift his thumb in the air and yell “Hooooooooooooooo!”.

    Duggan was another man in a long line of ultra-patriotic wrestlers.

    Back before companies were televised weekly, it was harder to know who the good guys and bad guys were without having seen the talent previously.

    So at local shows, an easy way to get the crowd going was to match up an evil foreigner and a true American hero.

    That type of character worked for decades, and made Duggan a fan favorite.

    Sure, the character was about as one-dimensional as you could get, but fans still loved it. It made him a lot of money, and was enough to get him in the WWE Hall of Fame.

    Only in America.

#12: Muhammad Hassan

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    It could have been an all-time great gimmick, but WWE showed no restraint and went too far.

    Mark Copani, the man who played Hassan, isn't even from the Middle East. He's Italian. Somehow, he still played the character on TV perfectly.

    Hassan drew some unbelievable heat from the crowds every time his music started to play. And every time he opened his mouth, the fan reaction would only get louder. 

    What made the character interesting, is that he had a legitimate gripe.

    A lot of Arab-Americans were being persecuted after 9/11, and Hassan was sick of it.

    He went about defending his beliefs in the wrong way, but because of his beliefs, he became more compelling than your average one-dimensional WWE heel.

    There was speculation that Hassan was on his way to defeating Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship, when WWE tastelessly had a group of "terrorists" carry Daivari out of the arena only one day after the London bombings. (WWE had filmed the show before that happened, but there's still no excuse for taking the act that far.)

    Copani and Daivari were sent down to developmental to change their acts.

    Copani refused to portray anyone else, and he was later released, never to appear in a national wrestling company again.

    Hassan could have potentially been a main-eventer for years, but WWE proved once again that they're far behind the times when it comes to being politically correct.

#11: Sean O’Haire

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    Some great gimmicks just didn’t get much of a chance.

    This entry on the list makes it here purely for its potential.

    In 2003, Sean O'Haire was reintroduced in the WWE audience in perhaps the coolest vignettes the company has still ever done.

    O'Haire was a devil's advocate character who tried to convince people to cheat on their wives and not pay taxes. He was charming and deceiving, which made his act all the more convincing.

    It was something completely new for the company, and the possibilities were endless.

    Somehow, WWE dropped the ball on it almost immediately. They teamed him up with Roddy Piper in a completely unnecessary pairing.

    Piper did the talking for the two, and they went on to feud with Mr. America.

    It was a dud.

    Roddy Piper was released and O'Haire was left directionless. He was gone from the company not long after.

    Had WWE not dropped the ball on O'Haire, he could have made them a lot of money, "but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know."

#10: Goldust

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    He was the son of Dusty Rhodes, one of the biggest draws in the history of professional wrestling.

    But Dustin Rhodes struggled to carve his own path.

    Somehow, he found his calling when he slapped on a gold wig, applied face-paint, put on a body suit and called himself Goldust.

    You could say that Goldust was dark, mysterious and a tad perverted.

    The character was also ahead of his time.

    Along with Marlena, he would stalk and occasionally try to seduce his opponents. Not surprisingly, the other wrestlers didn't seem too interested.

    Unfortunately, the character was played for laughs later in his career. Goldust was good in the role, but there was so much more potential for the character.

    One thing is for sure, fans will never, ever forget the name of... Gooooldust.

#9: The Iron Sheik

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    The Iron Sheik just wasn’t much of a fan of the United States of America, you could say.

    Unlike some others on this list, The Iron Sheik was actually from where he said he was: Iran.

    During a time between a lot of tension between the United States and Iran, The Iron Sheik turned up the heat even more.

    His anti-American promos drew an incredible amount of heat, and helped sell a lot of tickets.

    Sheik was also an important part of a few key moments in WWF history.

    The first big moment was when he ended Bob Backlund's five-year reign with the WWF Title.

    Then, a few weeks later, he lost it to Hulk Hogan, giving him his first title reign. He was the perfect foil for Hogan, as he was the evil Iranian, and Hogan was the ultimate patriot.

    Sheik later went to team up with Nikolai Volkoff, and they formed the successful Foreign Legion tag team.

    This duo was hated everywhere they went, as they could barely contain their disgust of America.

    Since his retirement, the Iron Sheik has been better known for his crazy behavior, his Twitter war with Jose Canseco, and his bizarre appearances on Howard Stern.

    Still, in his days, he was a force to be reckoned with. And few in wrestling have ever played the gimmick of an evil foreigner better than he did.

#8: Mankind

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    Mankind in his original form makes this list.

    His fun and cuddly character later on was good, but it was more of Mick Foley being Mick Foley than anything.

    When Mankind joined the WWF, the company was starting to evolve. The overly cartoonish characters started to go away and darker, more disturbing characters started to take their place.

    Among them was Mankind, perhaps the most mentally deranged of them all.

    He would pull out his hair, reek of paranoia, and cut compelling promos the likes of which hadn’t been heard before.

    With a nontraditional look and character, the odds were against Mankind, but he was just too talented. His feuds with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were legendary.

    Dude Love and Cactus Jack could both be argued for a place on this list, but Mankind is the one that helped Foley leave his legacy inside of WWE.

    Oh yeah, and don’t forget to have a nice day!

#7: 'Ravishing' Rick Rude

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    All Rick Rude wanted was for fans to be quiet when he took off his robe.

    Was that too much to ask?

    Apparently so, as Rude was booed mercilessly when he showed off his chiseled body and swiveled his hips for the ladies.

    Rude is often one of the first names mentioned when the topic of greatest wrestlers never to hold a world title comes up. He had the talent, the promo ability and the looks but just never reached the top.

    Plenty of wrestlers over the years have talked about how attractive they are, but with Rude, you believed he meant what he said.

    He could steal your girlfriend in a second if he wanted to.

    Rude was so arrogant you couldn't wait to see him get beat up. He'd often have his opponents' faces airbrushed onto his tights, or in Jake Roberts' case, his wife's face.

    Though he'd often cross the line, he was always entertaining, and no one was better at being full of himself than the Ravishing One.

#6: The Legion of Doom

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    If you don’t get a rush whenever the Legion of Doom’s music is heard, you should probably check your pulse.

    For years, the Road Warriors dominated every organization they were in. It was only a matter of time before they joined the World Wrestling Federation.

    While the duo had worn face paint and shoulder pads with spikes for some time, they turned their gimmick up even more upon their debut.

    The promos became more animated, the colors became more vibrant, and they even added a puppet to their act.

    Actually, let's forget about that last part.

    No one had a more intimidating look than the Legion of Doom did when they had on their entrance gear.

    Once they hit the ring, they proved they were just as fierce as they looked.

    Very few tag teams in the history of professional wrestling have had a successful run as Hawk and Animal did, and very few gimmicks have ever been better than theirs.

#5: Kane

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    Glen Jacobs was no stranger to some bad gimmicks.

    He spent time as a dentist, a Christmas Creature and as the fake Diesel.

    It wasn’t until he became The Undertaker’s long lost brother (who was believed to be dead) that Jacobs finally caught fire (pun somewhat intended).

    The character was horribly burned as a child, raised in a basement, and was fueled by revenge.

    Upon his debut, Kane was absolutely dominant. He was one of the baddest men in all of wrestling, and a big player in the Monday Night Wars.

    Over the years, he's gone back and forth from comedy to monster multiple times, and somehow, it has worked.

    Lesser talents wouldn't have lasted as long in the role as Jacobs has, but it was also the Kane gimmick that made Jacobs famous.

    It was truly a match made in heaven....or hell.

#4: The Ultimate Warrior

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    He started out as a Dingo, and became Ultimate.

    There’s just something about The Ultimate Warrior that still resonates with fans around the world to this day.

    It wasn’t Jim Hellwig’s (well, now he legally changed his name to Warrior) wrestling ability, but it was the other things he did so well to create such a unique gimmick.

    With the arm tassels and the bright face paint, no one looked like warrior. The crazy, nonsensical promos and snarling meant no one sounded like Warrior.

    Even the way he ran to the ring, and the dominant squash matches all distinguished him from anyone else on the roster.

    Compared to a lot of other well-remembered superstars, The Ultimate Warrior wasn’t in the WWF for very long.

    Due to money issues, he left the company multiple times. But while he was there, he had great feuds with Hogan and Savage and picked up millions of fans along the way.

    While these days it appears that Warrior has gone a bit off the deep end (feel free to check out his YouTube channel for proof), there’s no denying that his gimmick is one of the all-time greats.

#3: Mr. Perfect

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    It’s better to be perfect than a rooster.

    A wrestling urban legend claimed that Terry Taylor was offered the choice of being The Red Rooster or Mr. Perfect for a gimmick. Taylor supposedly chose Rooster, Hennig was given Perfect, and the rest is history.

    Whether that's true or not (and most likely isn't), it makes for a good story. What makes it so interesting is trying to picture anyone else as Mr. Perfect.

    It just can't be done. Hennig was perfection.

    Mr. Perfect excelled at everything, as shown to us through a series of classic vignettes.

    It didn't matter if it was baseball, basketball or bowling, he was simply the best. Perfect could have been an all-star in any sport, but he came to the WWF to show off his skills.

    While he had a great run in the AWA, it was Hennig's cocky Mr. Perfect persona in the WWF that truly made him worthy of the Hall of Fame.

#2: The Million Dollar Man

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    The Million Dollar Man’s gimmick was simple, but a classic.

    Ted DiBiase was richer than you, and he would flaunt his wealth every chance he had.

    He’d get fans in the crowd to do menial tasks for money (like bounce a basketball 15 times, only to kick it away at 14), while he would stand there and arrogantly look down on them.

    Who hasn’t wanted to smack around a famous, rich playboy who isn’t afraid to show off his money?

    Along with his bodyguard Virgil, the two were a thorn in the side of every top babyface in the company.

    DiBiase proved that every man had his price, as he once even bought the WWF Title from Andre the Giant (the title was then vacated because of this) and declared himself champion.

    The Million Dollar Man gimmick was so good, that WWE keeps on using it.

    Tiger Ali Singh, JBL and now Alberto Del Rio have all used their variation on the act that DiBiase made so famous years ago.

    As long as there are obscenely rich men who act superior to the common man, there will be a spot for The Million Dollar Man inside of wrestling.

#1: The Undertaker

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    Not only is it the most terrifying gimmick ever, it's also the best.

    Who could possibly have imagined that the gimmick of an undertaker would last for over 20 years?

    But somehow, Mark Calaway made it work.

    It could have easily been a giant flop, it could have lasted only a few weeks never to be seen again.

    Instead, it's been an enduring character that's successfully transitioned from a cartoonish era in the WWF, right into the Attitude Era and back again.

    Imagine someone like Kevin Nash, The Berzerker or Barry Windham being cast in that role instead. Would it have had any chance of succeeding?

    There’s little doubt that no one else could have had as much success with the Undertaker gimmick than Calaway has had.

    Despite how goofy the character has been at times (the mystical urn, the Taker Cam, being buried alive multiple times) he's remained consistently popular over the years.

    There's a good reason it received the Wrestling Observer newsletter's best gimmick award five years in a row.

    Hopefully we haven't seen the last of the Dead Man, as there's a few bad gimmicks on the roster right now that could probably use a good old-fashioned tombstone piledriver or two.

     

     

    Agree? Disagree? Did I miss out on anyone? Sound off below on your favorite WWE gimmicks!

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