WWE Extreme Makeover, Part 1: Top 10 Greatest Gimmick Changes
In the world of pro wrestling, the change of gimmick is a common thing. A repackaging can either be a good or bad thing for a wrestler.
Some gimmick changes can be drastic and come with completely new outfits. Some other transformations can be less spectacular and mostly bring a brand-new attitude.
In the following slideshow, I have handpicked the 10 greatest gimmick changes in WWE history. Those alterations happened after a wrestler left WWE for some time or in the middle of a run with the company.
To feature on that list, the changes must be more than just a face turning heel or vice versa. It must also be something notable, that is not only an evolution of a character.
Please keep in mind that this is the first part of a trilogy in the Extreme Makeover WWE Edition series. So, don't be surprised if some names don't feature in the following.
So, with no more introduction, let's roll.
10. From Rocky Maivia to The Rock
To break the ice, we have the move from Rocky Maivia to The Rock persona in 10th position.
Dwayne Johnson was introduced to the WWE fans as Rocky Maivia, the first-ever third-generation wrestler in the company.
He received a strong early push. He was the sole survivor in a traditional elimination match at the 1996 Survivor Series and, in February 1997, he won the Intercontinental Championship after only three months on the roster.
However, he was a plain and generic babyface and the crowds quickly became tired of his uni-dimensional character and they started to chant "Rocky Sucks! Rocky Sucks!"
He then got rid off his weird blue ring attire and turned heel. With that change of attitude, he joined the Nation Of Domination and he started his "training camp" on the microphone.
He kept the name Rocky Maivia, but his impressive microphone skills opened him the door to a bright future and he eventually took control of The Nation.
The Rock was then born and one of the greatest performers ever on the microphone emerged.
Since then, no matter if he was heel or face, he was that over-confident arrogant mic ace who cut countless unforgettable promos.
9. From Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly to Hardcore Holly
In ninth position, we have the classic good guy who became an hardcore legend with no previous notification.
Jan. 11, 1994, is a date probably no one remembers. It was the day Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly debuted on our TV screens. "Spark Plugg" was a former NASCAR driver who decided to give a try to wrestling.
He liked it so much that he decided to stay with the WWF until 1999, winning the Tag Team Titles once in the process.
It's hard to believe they kept on TV such a boring character for nearly five long years before realizing Holly needed some revamping.
The repackaging, that slowly started to operate during his association with the J.O.B. Squad, finally happened for good in February 1999.
Since he won his first of seven Hardcore Championships at the St. Valentine Day Massacre pay-per-view, he is known as Hardcore Holly.
After he became Hardcore Holly, he managed to win the Tag Team Championship on two more occasions, once with Crash Holly and once with Cody Rhodes.
Although he never became a top draw, Holly was a respected veteran when he left the company in 2009.
8. From Shawn Michaels to The Heartbreak Kid
At No. 8, we have the dynamic face who became the loudmouth known as The Heartbreak Kid.
From 1988 to 1992, Shawn Michaels formed a spectacular high-flying duo with Marty Jannetty. Their team was dubbed The Rockers and they were very over with the fans. They had some success together but they never officially won the Tag Team Championship.
During his run in the tag team division, Michaels was a typical babyface wearing colorful outfits, but he rarely picked the microphone.
Then, in 1992, a major change happened in his career when he turned on his partner. It was more than just a heel turn; it was also the time he became known as The Heartbreak Kid, with a brand new cocky attitude.
Since then, no more little flying good guy, and the fans witnessed the birth of an icon who would host an interview segment called The Heartbreak Hotel for some time.
With his new persona, Michaels could ride on success until his legendary career ended at Wrestlemania 26.
7. From Hunter Hearst Helmsley to Triple H
The seventh position belongs to a noble guy with the perfect etiquette who became the total opposite with his newfound vulgarity.
When he debuted with the WWF in 1995, he was called Hunter Hearst Helmsley and he was introduced by vignettes in which he explained how to behave with acceptable etiquette.
With his snobby blue-blood gimmick and with his condescending attitude, he became a quick rising heel.
He received a decent early push and he was set to win the 1996 King Of The Ring Tournament, but he was "punished" by the creative team after the Madison Square Garden Incident when the Kliq broke kayfabe.
If Hunter managed to win the Intercontinental Title in October 1996, his career was stalling, with highs and lows, until October 1997 when he and Shawn Michaels founded Degeneration-X.
From this moment, Michaels referred him as Triple H and the mischievous aristocrat became history.
As Triple H, he eventually started to wear trunks, jeans and leather jackets or more casual clothes instead of his signature pants and robes. He was then way more edgier and actually vulgar with the famous "Suck It!" catchphrase and the crotch chop move.
From that moment, Triple H started his unstoppable rise to the superstardom to become The Game and The King Of Kings who accomplished everything with the company.
That change of gimmick allowed him to switch from face to heel at will and to write an important chapter of the WWE history book.
6. From Brutus Beefcake to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake
The wrestler in sixth position did not change his flamboyant outfit, but he added a great twist to his gimmick when he became the WWF's official barber.
When he debuted with the WWF in 1984, he was already wearing his unique colorful signature ring attire, but it had nothing to do with his future barber gimmick.
Until 1987, he spent most of his run in the tag team division with some success as a villain. He and his partner, Greg Valentine, formed a team called the Dream Team and they had a solid reign with the Tag Team Titles that lasted 226 days.
The transformation happened at WrestleMania III when Beefcake was replaced by Dino Bravo on the team. In fact, he was kicked out of the Dream Team and it launched his face run with the gimmick that made him famous.
The same night, Beefcake emerged from backstage and shaved Adrian Adonis' head who lost his match against Roddy Piper. Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake made his first victim at the biggest wrestling extravaganza and he would keep this vintage gimmick until now.
The crowds quickly fell in love with The Barber's persona and were delighted when he was applying his sleeper hold to cut opponents' hair. Either when he mimicked scissors with his fingers or when he held his signature gardening shears, the fans truly enjoyed the colorful barber.
He never achieved success with that gimmick despite he was one of the biggest draws at the time. The WWF probably didn't feel he needed a title to increase his already huge popularity.
He reached the main-event level when teamed up with Hulk Hogan on many occasions to battle in various high-profile matches.
With Hogan, he battled Zeus and Randy Savage in the 1989 storyline of the movie No Holds Barred.
Beefcake and Hogan were also reunited in 1993 for a match at WrestleMania IX against Money Inc.
Then, following that match, Beefcake was nowhere to be seen and he eventually joined WCW.
5. From the 1-2-3 Kid to X-Pac
In position No. 5, we have the 1-2-3 Kid who became X-Pac with a totally different attitude.
From 1993 to 1996, Sean Waltman was known as the 1-2-3 Kid, a small-sized flying wrestler. He achieved some success, with two short reigns as Tag Team Champion, once with Marty Jannetty and once with Bob Holly.
If he was very over with the fans with his spectacular style and his underdog gimmick, he only had limited success.
His biggest win in that period was against Razor Ramon in one of the biggest upsets in Raw history. He also battled Bret Hart over the WWF Title in a valiant losing effort.
He eventually turned heel and joined the Million Dollar Corporation, but he soon left for WCW after that turnover.
Waltman made his WWF return in 1998, with a brand-new attitude and style to fit in a new version of Degeneration X. He was then known as X-Pac and he played a discreet but important role in the Attitude Era.
He was a part of the DX Army during the Monday Night Wars and he participated to the famous Invasion of WCW Nitro in April 1998. During that period, he won the European Championship on two occasions.
X-Pac also formed an odd but successful tag team with Kane in 1999 and they won the Tag Team Titles twice.
The duo disbanded after X-Pac betrayed Kane in a storyline involving both joining DX after a temporary demise of the stable. X-Pac continued his run with the group that lasted until the end of 2000.
After the DX adventure, the X-Pac character remained and he managed to win the Light-Heavyweight Championship twice and the Cruiserweight Title once in 2001 before leaving in 2002, after some not very memorable angles.
All in all, Sean Waltman transformation was extreme. He went from a small-sized underdog with flashy outfits to an arrogant member of one of the most influential stables in pro wrestling history.
4. From Kwang to Savio Vega
The wrestler who started as a mysterious ninja, later to move on to a fiery Puerto Rican, deserves the fourth position on the list.
In January 1994, after several promos about his coming, a ninja known as Kwang made his debut. He was a heel martial arts expert managed by Harvey Wippleman, and his signature move was the use of the Asian green mist.
However, despite the hype surrounding his debut, Kwang could only defeat jobbers and he was used as enhancement talent for the top-card wrestlers.
The Kwang gimmick was dropped in May 1995, and Savio Vega made his first appearance at the inaugural In Your House pay-per-view to save Razor Ramon from Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie who attacked him.
Vega was then presented by Ramon as a personal friend, hailing from Puerto Rico. From that moment, he started to wear outfits with the Puerto Rican flag colors and design.
He had an early share of success when he defeated IRS, Yokozuna and The Roadie at the 1996 King Of The Ring Tournament. He lost in the finals against Mabel, but his push as Savio Vega seemed to be one of a future top superstar.
Then, the slow downfall begun when he joined the Nation Of Domination in 1997 until the demise of the stable a few months later. He ended his WWE run after he formed one of the worst stables ever, the infamous Los Boricuas.
3. From Mike Rotunda to IRS
The top three begins with Mike Rotunda, who abandoned his patriotic babyface persona to become the infamous IRS.
From 1984 to 1986, Rotunda formed a very successful duo along with Barry Windham. Known as the U.S. Express, the duo portrayed popular patriot personas and they won the Tag Team Championship on two occasions.
After a short absence from WWF, Rotunda came back to team up with Dan Spivey in a new but less successful version of the U.S. Express. That last run ended in 1987.
During his early runs with the company, Rotunda was a popular face, but nothing more. With his mat wrestling style, he was not flamboyant and the fans of the time won't remember him much.
However, when he came back in 1991, he was completely transformed. Exit the mid-card discreet face wearing plain trunks and say hello to the infamous heel taxman known as Irwin R. Shyster or IRS.
Rotunda then started his most important run in pro wrestling, with his businessman ring attire and his steel briefcase often used as weapon.
IRS was an important draw in the tag team division, winning the gold three times with Ted DiBiase.
When the team disbanded due to DiBiase retiring from active wrestling, IRS continued his career in singles competition, mostly in the top of the mid-card, with some incursions on the higher level against, most notably, The Undertaker.
Until he jumped ship to WCW in 1995, Rotunda managed to become one of the most hated wrestlers with his unforgettable character.
2. From Dustin Rhodes to Goldust
In second position, we have the plain second-generation wrestler who transformed himself into the weird Goldust.
His first run with the WWF only lasted a few months and he went to the ring as Dustin Rhodes, the son of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.
His only major feud was against Ted DiBiase, whom he defeated one-on-one in December 1990. The rivalry culminated at the 1991 Royal Rumble in a tag team match. Dustin and his father lost to Ted DiBiase and Virgil.
Rhodes, a generic face wrestler who didn't draw much, left WWF after the Royal Rumble to join WCW without making any waves.
Then, in 1995, one of the greatest gimmick change in the business happened and he rejoined the company under the name of Goldust.
In a drastic makeover, one of the most controversial and bizarre wrestling personae was born. Initially, the character was obsessed with cinema and the color gold.
He then became referenced as "The Bizarre One," with effeminate mannerisms and mind games to disturb his opponents.
Under the weird Goldust's outfit and makeup, Rhodes became successful like never before. He had his stint in the main event picture when he feuded with The Undertaker, but he ultimately became a pillar of the mid-card division.
With his provocative behaviour, he was a part of the WWF's new edgier product that would eventually lead to the Attitude Era.
During that second run, he was accompanied to the ring by either the mysterious Marlena or the odd Luna Vachon and he managed to become a three-time Intercontinental Champion.
In 1999, the unique Goldust left the WWF to make three other comebacks, always with the same gimmick, but as enhancement talent only.
The best he could do in those runs was to become a nine-time Hardcore Champion and to win the Tag Team gold once with Booker T, all in 2002.
1. From Isaac Yankem, DDS to Kane
On the top of the list, we finally have an awful evil dentist who became the legendary monster called Kane.
Glen Jacobs debuted with the WWE in 1995 as a repellent dentist with bad teeth. He helped Jerry Lawler during his feud with Bret Hart.
But except against Hart, he didn't have any notable feuds. He only won one match against a jobber and he never won a single match and the gimmick was soon abandoned.
Then, in October 1996, he portrayed a fake Diesel for (fortunately) a very short time, until the 1997 Royal Rumble.
After a few months' hiatus, Kane made his shocking debut on Oct. 5, 1997, and made his presence felt at the first ever Hell In A Cell match. After tearing off the cell's door, he attacked The Undertaker, who was left unconscious after a Tombstone piledriver.
Jacobs started his amazing run as The Undertaker's brother. In the storyline, Kane was left dead after the family house was destroyed by flames but he found a way to escape and Paul Bearer raised him in secret.
After cutting various promos in the previous months he was introduced, Bearer finally revealed a masked giant wearing a red and black attire.
The Big Red Machine was born and he would become a devastating force in the WWF and the first to actually manhandle The Undertaker.
The rest is history and his character evolved in various storylines, including the famous moment when he was unmasked.
Following his spectacular repackaging, Glen Jacobs won the Tag Team Championship ten times and he became a two-time World Champion.
He also made history by becoming the third Grand Slam Champion and, at the 2001 Royal Rumble match, he established a record by eliminating 11 opponents.
When we talk about an extreme makeover, Kane is one of the best and successful examples ever.