WWE Extreme Makeover, Part 2: Top 10 Chameleons of Wrestling
In the first part of Extreme Makeover WWE Edition, I presented the top 10 greatest gimmick changes in WWE history. As mentioned by many in the comment section, some big names were missing and it was for a good reason; it was because Part 2 of the trilogy I call WWE Extreme Makeover was next.
So, here it is. In a few seconds, you will discover 10 "WWE chameleons" or, in other words, wrestlers who changed their gimmick more than two or three times during their run(s) with the company.
As you will see, some of these transformations were great while some others were plain awful or simply "just okay."
I have ranked those "chameleons of wrestling" according the the importance of the makeovers and, obviously, the order is pretty subjective.
However, you should find all the names I omitted in Part 1 of the series and, if some transformations are missing on the list, stay tuned for the third part.
That being said, let's roll and enjoy the ride.
10. From Barry Windham to Blackjack Windham
Barry Windham mostly ran with a cowboy gimmick, with some variations, but he also portrayed a weird army man for few months. Overall, his gimmick changes were not exactly for the best in his case.
He started with the WWE in 1984 in the tag team division as the partner of Mike Rotundo. The duo, dubbed as the U.S. Express, had its share of success with two Tag Team Championship reigns. Windham portrayed a generic patriotic babyface and his first stint ended after his last match in August 1985.
He made a short-lived return in the middle of 1989 as the Widowmaker, a heel cowboy, with about the same attire he had in the previous years he spent with the NWA. This second run was stopped in November the same year.
Windham signed again with the WWE a few months before the 1996 Survivor Series, with a brand new gimmick, The Stalker.
Initially, he was meant to be a heel deranged former special forces soldier who would go on stalking Sable and ultimately kill her; but the angle was dropped before it even started so The Stalker, still with his camouflage outfit, debuted as a face.
The Stalker made only one pay-per-view appearance at Survivor Series, but the gimmick completely failed and was written off screen.
Finally, in early 1997, Windham was repackaged as Blackjack Windham to form The New Blackjacks, along with Bradshaw. The team never reached success and they disbanded one year later. Windham was on the sideline due to injuries and he eventually left the company for good.
9. From Demolition to the Disciples of Apocalypse
Crush's case is almost pathetic. He began with the WWE as a member of Demolition, one of the greatest tag teams ever, and he ended as a member of the infamous Disciples of Apocalypse.
In April 1990, Crush became the third member of Demolition to replace Ax, who was dealing with health issues that prevented him to be active in the ring. Crush then enjoyed a time as a Tag Team Champion with Demolition applying the "Freebirds" Rule, allowing any of the three team's members to take part in matches.
However, Crush was more like a fifth wheel on a car than really helpful and the team lost the Tag Team Title with him in the match, and it marked the beginning of Demolition's demise. After WrestleMania VII, the team was officially disbanded, and Crush left the company to come back nearly two years later.
1992 marked the debut of Crush, the babyface Hawaiian Surfer, with a new gimmick and colored outfits. Following that boring face run, Crush turned heel and became a Japanese sympathizer managed by Mr. Fuji, but it didn't help him to improve his status because his gimmick was to actually have no gimmick. He ran with that gimmick until 1996 when he was arrested in Hawaii and spent some time in jail.
His real-life issues were used to create a Crush, the Convict, and he eventually joined the Nation of Domination in early 1997. But once again, Crush's lack of personality relegated him as an unimportant member of the Nation, and he was kicked out in September the same year.
Finally, Crush came back some days, worse than ever, as the leader of the Disciples of Apocalypse, a lifeless stable composed of bikers wearing leather. Only few weeks later, Crush left the company after his gang lost a match against another lame stable, the Truth Commission.
8. From a Man on a Mission to Big Daddy V
From Mabel to Big Daddy V, Nelson Frazier, the man behind the characters, was also known as Viscera.
On the July 19, 1994 episode of Raw, the Men on a Mission trio debuted with their weird rappers gimmick. With their original yellow and purple attire, they caught the fans' attention and even won the Tag Team Championship once.
In 1995, Men on a Mission turned heel and Mabel started his solo run with Mo in his corner to eventually win the King of the Ring Tournament. In January 1996, Mabel and Mo were released.
Three years later, at the 1999 Royal Rumble, Mabel then known as Viscera, was abducted by The Ministry of Darkness and adopted a Gothic look.
During that stint, he was the stable's enforcer and, when it disbanded, he spent some time in the bottom of the mid-card with the same gimmick until August 2000, when he left again.
Frazier returned to WWE in 2004 with the name Viscera, but with a brand new look. He became the World's Largest Love Machine, wearing a brown, ample jogging suit.
Finally, Viscera was repackaged in 2007 as Big Daddy V, some kind of mercenary hired by Matt Striker. The man and his phenomenal boobs jobbed to the top stars until his final release in August 2008.
7. From the Blue Blazer to the Blue Blazer
Ironically, Owen Hart's last match in WWE was under the same Blue Blazer mask he wore when he first debuted with the company 10 years earlier.
In August 1988, Owen debuted as the Blue Blazer, some kind of superhero. He stopped his first run less than one year later, shortly after WrestleMania V because he considered he was misused.
He came back in October 1991 to form The New Hart Foundation along with Jim Neidhart, but it was short-lived and Hart was put together with Koko B. Ware under the name of High Energy. Fortunately, after about one year, Owen changed his too-colored outfits and switched to The Rocket attire.
After the High Energy flop, Owen was back in 1993, and he was put in a family affair with his brother Bret. They teamed together as well as with their two other brothers at the 1993 Survivor Series. Owen eventually turned heel and entered in a feud against Bret for over one year, becoming the 1994 King of the Ring in the process.
Then, in 1995 he started to change his focus and moved on to the tag team division. He teamed up with Yokozuna to win two Tag Team Titles and with The British Bulldog before being a part of the 1997 Hart Foundation.
Since 1993, until 1997, he was wearing the black and pink signature outfit. With the Hart Foundation, he started to wear various street clothes to eventually come with many different attires.
The Blue Blazer returned in 1998 and, from that moment, Owen adopted the Nation of Domination costume for a time and he changed the pink by the yellow to team up some time with Jeff Jarrett. Ultimately, Owen Hart made his last appearance, behind the Blue Blazer mask, on May 23, 1999.
6. From Billy Gunn the Cowboy to Mr. Ass
Billy Gunn is a case of gimmick improvement followed by a downfall. He went from a classic cowboy as a half of The Smoking Gunns with his on screen brother to a gay gimmick in a duo called Billy and Chuck.
From 1993 to 1996, Billy Gunn portrayed a cowboy with the complete outfit that included a toy gun. With Bart Gunn, he won the Tag Team Titles on three occasions, but despite their success, they were going nowhere and the team was split. Bart ran with the same gimmick as a face in solo, but Billy turned heel when he turned on his partner.
In early 1997, Billy Gunn became Rockabilly, and The Honky Tonk Man became his mentor. But the rock'n'roller gimmick wasn't going anywhere and Gunn quickly adopted a brand new style, with a very cocky attitude.
Bad Ass Billy Gunn, also known as Mr. Ass, was born when he aligned himself with Road Dogg to form The New Age Outlaws. It was the beginning of Gunn's best moments with the WWE and his popularity reached its peak when the new duo joined Degeneration X.
The New Age Outlaws managed to put their hands on the Tag Team Gold five times and, in the meantime, Gunn became the 1999 King of the Ring, but it was never followed by a main event push.
Eventually, in late 2000, the New Age Outlaws and DX both disbanded and Mr. Ass went in solo for some time and dropped the gimmick after he lost a stipulation match in a feud against Right To Censor.
He became "The One" Billy Gunn, but it didn't last much and he was repackaged once again and sent back in the tag team division where he was the most successful.
In 2001-02, he formed the unorthodox duo of Billy and Chuck with Chuck Palumbo. They portrayed gay characters and they even pushed the audacity to an on-screen wedding together.
But, right before tying the knot, they revealed they were not actual homosexual lovers and that the whole storyline was just a stunt to gain attention. Billy and Chuck parted ways with no waves at the end of 2002.
After being on the sideline due to an injury, Mr. Ass came back in the middle of 2003 for a last run with the company and he was released in November 2004 despite being a top face.
5. From the Headshrinkers to Rikishi
Rikishi Fatu went from a Samoan wildman to a cool dancing big guy with some twists in the process.
Fatu initially joined the WWE in 1992 with his teammate Samu to form The Headshrinkers that had little success. They were first managed by Afa and their gimmick was pretty similar to the one originally portrayed by The Wild Samoans.
After two years as heels, The Headshrinkers became faces and, with Lou Albano as their new manager, they became Tag Team Champions in April 1996.
In 1995, after a failed attempt to revive The Headshrinkers with a new partner following the departure of Samu, Fatu started a singles run with his new "make a difference" gimmick. He was no longer the savage Samoan and even started to talk.
To go with his rebranded persona, Fatu shared with the fans his experiences in the hood and how to avoid the traps of the streets. The whole concept did not attract the fans, and Fatu vanished from the TV screens for several months.
He re-emerged in 1997, behind The Sultan's mask, with a stereotyped Middle-Eastern character who could not talk because he had no tongue.
As with his previous persona, Fatu was just an enhancement talent and his most notable match was in a losing effort against Rocky Maivia at WrestleMania 13. The Sultan disappeared in January 1998 and Fatu would not be seen around for nearly two years.
In November 1999, the Rikishi persona debuted. Fatu was then 100 pounds heavier and he bleached his hair. And what made him very over with the fans was the famous post-match dance along with his Too Cool partners.
He ran with this gimmick until his release in 2004. But before leaving for good, he managed to add two Tag Team Titles and one Intercontinental Championship reign to his resume.
4. From Faarooq the Gladiator to Ron Simmons
When we think about Ron Simmons throwing his famous "Damn!" out of nowhere on Raw, it's hard to believe he once was a space gladiator called Faarooq.
But fortunately, the weird blue gladiator's gimmick didn't last long. It was how Faarooq was introduced in the WWE on July 22, 1996.
In January 1997, Faarooq formed the Nation of Domination, a controversial heel stable. As the leader of the group, he was involved in many storylines, including one with a rising star known as The Rock, who became a member and, eventually, the leader.
After being booted from the Nation, Faarooq continued for sometime in solo, but he quickly found his way through success when he aligned himself with Bradshaw in December 1998 to form the Hell's Henchmen, later renamed The Acolytes and The Acolytes Protection Agency (APA).
With their new brutal "bodyguards who like poker" gimmick, the APA won the Tag Team Titles on three occasions and Faarooq's popularity in WWE reached its peak. Farooq changed his name to Ron Simmons, but ran with the same gimmick until he left the company in 2004.
Finally, from 2006 to 2010, Simmons made occasional appearances for few matches, but mostly to throw in his classic "Damn!" catchphrase.
In that time, he was seen with his signature black T-shirt featuring the word "Damn!"
3. From the Undertaker to the Undertaker
Mark Calaway's case is unique because The Undertaker's gimmick was in constant evolution without drastic changes until the time The Deadman became mortal with his human biker's persona.
When The Undertaker debuted in 1990, he portrayed a living dead man, impervious to pain, who never talked more than once or twice a year. With his signature black and grey attire, he went from mega heel to a top face in 1992.
Then, in 1994, he became The Phenom after his first and most spectacular "death" when he was attacked during his Royal Rumble match against Yokozuna. It took 10 men to keep The Deadman down and to stuff him in a casket.
For months, vignettes featuring witnesses of The Undertaker's "ghosts" were aired until The Phenom reappeared at the 1994 Summerslam. Basically, there were no major changes, except for his grey gloves and tie that became purple.
If the makeover was not extreme, The Undertaker gradually started to show he was not unstoppable, particularly when he faced Mankind.
At the 1996 Survivor Series, The Undertaker came back with a whole new attire after he was buried alive by Mankind and friends two months before.
For his second rebirth, The Phenom went down from the ceiling with brand-new black outfits he would keep, with some variations, until 1999. He went from the face Lord of Darkness to the heel leader of the Ministry with that look.
After he had to take an extended break from September 1999 to May 2000 due to an injury, he returned in action with a very drastic change.
He was then known as The American Badass, a biker who came to the ring on a motorcycle. It was the most "human" persona he ever portrayed with WWE and had nothing supernatural.
Calaway ran with the biker's persona for about three years until 2004, at WrestleMania XX. He was once again buried alive at the 2003 Survivor Series by Kane and Vince McMahon.
Since then, he is The Undertaker with less power than in the 1990s and he will probably retire with this last incarnation of The Phenom.
2. From Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw to JBL
It takes a good actor to pass from a hardcore Texan cowboy to a "bar-brawlers-for-hire" then to a rich businessman, and JBL is just that, a great actor.
When he debuted with WWE in 1996, he was a long-haired cowboy who branded his defeated opponents. He was managed by Uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel), but his initial gimmick was abandoned after 10 months.
In February 1997, he was repackaged, and he formed a tag team known as The New Blackjacks along with Barry Windham to become Blackjack Bradshaw. Both men were a copy of the original Blackjacks, with their black hair and mustaches.
However, the New Blackjacks were just a plain copy of the originals and they had zero success. When Blackjack Windham was put out of action due to injuries, Bradshaw continued in solo with the same attire, but still as enhancement talent.
Finally, after nearly three years roaming in the low-mid card at best, he upgraded his status when he was put together with Faarooq to form The Acolytes as a part of The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness.
In fact, both men's career were going nowhere before they started their successful association in December 1998. As members of the Ministry, they won the Tag Team Championship twice before the stable disbanded.
Then, in January 2000, the Acolytes Protection Agency (APA) was officially created. The APA offered their protection services to those who paid the most. They also cut many memorable promos in their famous APA Room, in which many poker games were played.
In 2001, they had their third and final WWE Tag Team Champions reign together. Bradshaw and Faarooq were split at the May 2002 draft, but they kept their gimmick, re-uniting on some occasions until 2004.
In March 2004, a new persona appeared on Smackdown! It was JBL, the arrogant heel who claimed to be better than everyone and who received his long-awaited main event push. The 17-time Hardcore Champion became World Heavyweight Champion in June the same year. His reign had an impressive length of 280 days.
But what goes up must go down and JBL eventually dropped on the card. He had some great feuds in the bottom of the Top Card until the end of his career and he completed the Grand Slam Championship by winning the US and Intercontinental Titles.
Ultimately, as the infamous guy in complete suit, with a tie and his signature cowboy hat, JBL became one of the greatest heels ever.
1. From Papa Shango to the Goodfather
From Papa Shango to Kama and from The Godfather to The Goodfather, we have our No. 1; Charles Wright is the epitome of spectacular and drastic gimmick changes.
Charles Wright debuted with the WWF in 1991 as Sir Charles, but he only made house shows. Then, in January 1992, the infamous Papa Shango appeared for the first time on our TV screens.
His run with his voodoo gimmick, with his smoking skull and his magic spells that could make opponents vomit, lasted until the end of 1993.
After over one year out of the WWF, Wright came back as Kama, The Supreme Fighting Machine, with a brand new look. He then started to wear some red, but a more usual wrestling outfit, with a kind of Mr. T haircut.
He was stuck in the mid-card division as a member of Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation and his most notable feud was against The Undertaker, on the losing end. Wright ran with this gimmick from January 1995 to January 1996.
He took another break to eventually come back in July 1996, as Kama Mustafa, a member of the Nation of Domination. He was then wearing the stable's black outfit but his gimmick didn't change much. He didn't have much success either, and he had a very limited role in the group.
Then, in August 1998, the best thing in his career happened when he was repackaged as the very popular pimp called The Godfather. He was very over with the fans with that gimmick that pleased mostly the male audiences with his famous "Ho Train."
He didn't have the magnitude of Stone Cold, DX or The Rock, but he was a pillar in the mid-card division during the Attitude Era and he had a big role in the whole picture.
His success (he became a one-time Intercontinental Champion in August 1999) and his popularity reached a peak during that time until his last gimmick turnover in July 2000.
Finally, the guy who claimed that "pimpin' ain't easy" became the opposite of The Godfather when he joined the Right To Censor stable under the name of The Goodfather.
He kept that gimmick until 2002 when The Pimp made sporadic appearances before being officially released at the end of the year.
In conclusion I wanted to show you a picture of The Undertaker when he came back at the 1996 Survivor Series as a bat from the ceiling.
I would also like to invite you to let me know who you feel I left out by keeping in mind that the last part of the WWE Extreme Makeover trilogy will be published soon.
It will feature the 10 most awful gimmick changes in the company's history.
I also invite you to take a look at the Part 1 already published* if not done yet.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!