WWE Extreme Makeover, Part 3: The 10 Most Awful Gimmick Changes
Welcome to the last part of my WWE Extreme Makeover trilogy.
In part one, I presented the 10 greatest gimmick changes in WWE history and the second installment was dedicated to the chameleons of wrestling.
As you could see, most of the gimmick changes were meant to give a new breath to a wrestler's career and, usually, it worked well or it drastically opened the road to the superstardom.
However, some transformations were not exactly a good move. On some occasions, it led to simply boring changes and even to the demise of some wrestlers; and, the following slideshow will feature ten of them.
So, with no more introduction, I invite you to take a look at the Top 10 most awful gimmick changes in WWE history.
10. From Bob Backlund to Mr. Backlund
Once upon a time, back in the late '70s and early '80s, Bob Backlund was one of the greatest WWE World Champions of all time.
He was a classic, technically sound babyface wrestler, with a very traditional wrestling attire. He was a shy guy over with the fans more because of his great in-ring work than for his charisma. He was respected by everyone, but he didn't have that superstar aura to carry the WWF in the Golden Age like Hulk Hogan. After seven years with the company and 2,135 days as the WWF Champion, he became outdated and left in August 1984.
Backlund came back in 1992, with the same old gimmick but the fans didn't care about him and the new generation of fans didn't even know who he was. For nearly two years, he ran with that old school gimmick then he snapped after he lost against Bret Hart in a match billed as a "Old vs. New Generation" encounter in July 1994. From that moment, the good old Bob Backlund became Mr. Backlund.
Mr. Backlund was a psychotic persona, wearing a two-piece suit and a bow tie. During that time, he became a joke of a transitional WWF Champion between Bret Hart and Diesel when he held the Title for three days. With that maniacal gimmick, he acted like a possessed man and applied his signature Crossface Chickenwing on anyone at any given moment; then, when he released the hold, he looked at his hands wondering what just happened.
This new gimmick didn't work very well and was abandoned after several months. His last match was at WrestleMania 11 and he lost with some controversy against Bret Hart. After he retired from the ring, he was put in a short-lived lame storyline in which he tried to become a candidate for the position of President of the United States. Backlund vanished with no fanfare. A few years later, he made a few appearances as manager for The Sultan in 1996-97 and for Kurt Angle in 2000.
9. From Y2J to Chris Jericho
I know I might get some heat with that pick, but I have to be honest and I will stick to my point: the Chris Jericho of the First Coming Era was way greater and entertaining than the one after his Second Coming.
Y2J, with his classic debuting vignettes in 1999 and with the start of his first legendary run, was the first WWE Undisputed Champion. The Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla was an ace on the mic and, after the famous Countdown to the Millennium stopped, he made his astonishing debut interrupting The Rock.
In that time, he had a huge variety of flamboyant costumes to go with his cocky but cool attitude. In less than three years, he became the fourth WWE Grand Slam Champion after he won his first WWE Championship on December 9, 2001.
Jericho ran with that rock star gimmick until he left in 2005. He came back as a face in 2007, following a huge promotional campaign announcing the coming of the WWE's savior. The transformation was not extreme, but he slowly became a boring babyface after the unfinished storyline in which he was meant to save the fans from Randy Orton. His last notable feud as a face was against JBL and he suddenly turned heel in June 2008.
At first, that heel turn worked very well with the intense feud he had with Shawn Michaels. But after the HBK chapter was over, Jericho completely transformed himself and abandoned everything from his old Y2J persona. After he became the opposite of the rock star he portrayed for years, he gradually became stale and started his repetitive promos. He was then arrogant, but in a boring way, until he left the WWE in September 2010.
8. From Deuce to Sim Snuka
In 2007 and 2008, Jimmy Snuka's son formed a duo dubbed as Deuce 'N Domino. The Deuce and his partner formed one of the last legit pairs in the dying tag team division. Together, they have put the hands on the gold once, for a decent reign of 133 days..Both Deuce and Domino portrayed two 1950's greaser characters, with greased hair and with the typical outfits composed of the white rolled-up sleeves T-shirts, black pants and leather jackets.
A few days before the 2008 Draft in June, the team disbanded when Deuce attacked Domino following several losses. Then, in the supplemental draft, Deuce was sent to Raw while his partner remained on Smackdown,
The Deuce gimmick was dropped and he became Sim Snuka, acknowledging he was a second generation wrestler and tried in vain to join Legacy. Snuka wore a more traditional wrestling attire, but he quickly became a nobody after he failed to become a member of the second generation stable led by Randy Orton.
In no time, he was with no personality and was eventually released in June 2009.
7. From The Brooklyn Brawler to Abe "Knuckleball" Schwartz
The Brooklyn Brawler, one of the most famous jobbers in pro wrestling history, had a unique street fighter look. He wore jeans and a torn New York Yankees T-shirt. He also came to the ring with his signature cigar and leather hat.
He ran with that gimmick for the biggest part of his tenure, but he once was repackaged as Abe "Knucklehead" Schwartz in the mid-90's.
Fortunately, this run was very short-lived. But it was enough to be remembered by the older fans because it's hard to forget that ridiculous baseball attire and that ball facepaint.
After that gimmick and a few other transformations, he came back to his Brooklyn Brawler persona that even became the Boston Brawler for a storyline in the early 2000s.
6. From John Cena the Rapper to John Cena the Superman
I'm not a John Cena hater nor a fan. But I can be honest because I respect the man and even the wrestler.
His look and his overall gimmick was better and way more entertaining when he was known as The doctor of Thuganomics or as The Chain Gang Commander than what he portrays now. Until he starred in the movie The Marine, Cena was that arrogant rapper booed mostly because he was a heel.
However, since he dropped the Thuganomics gimmick which came with various chains necklaces and other big jewels, he became the top face of WWE, with regular street clothes.
He became a Superman in the ring and earned the Fruity Pebble nickname because of his T-shirt color changing each every three or four months. If his clothes are more colorful than before, his new PG attitude became more uni-dimensional.
5. From Booker T to King Booker
Booker T made a name for himself with WCW and was a five-time World Heavyweight Champion before the company was bought by Vince McMahon. Booker T continued with about the same gimmick when he became a WWE employee. He was that cool guy from the ghetto, but he had regular trunks, with his signature gloves. His attitude was more flashy than his wrestling attire.
From 2001 to 2006, Booker T had to climb the ladder again to make his way to the top in WWE. He feuded with the biggest names such as John Cena, Kurt Angle and The Undertaker. He also won all the secondary Championships available until he became the 2006 King Of The Ring. From then, he started to wear flamboyant king outfits and to adopt an arrogant royal attitude.
He formed King Booker's Court and talked with a mock British accent. Despite his new odd look, really not fitting with the image he built for over 10 years, he received his ultimate push in the company and he won the World Heavyweight Championship again. During his 126-day reign, he claimed he was the King Of The World.
Following his World Heavyweight Championship reign, he suffered a knee injury and he came back for a last run in a storyline involving Jerry "The King" Lawler and Triple H, The King Of Kings. Eventually, the feud escalated in a final match that Triple H won, putting an end of the most ridiculous King Of The Ring ever. Booker T left the company in October 2007 after some controversy.
4. From Demolition Smash to Repo Man
Barry Darsow, the man who portrayed Smash, was half of one of the most dominant tag team ever, known as Demolition from 1987 to 1991. After his partner suffered health issues, the team eventually disbanded, leaving him in the singles division with the same Demolition gimmick.
Then, in late 1991, Smash was repackaged as Repo Man, a gimmick of a "repossessor" who repossessed items from people unable to make their payments. From then, he exchanged his leather and spike outfits for a grey costume with tire tracks on it and a mask.
As Repo Man, he was a heel persona who carried ringside a tow cable he used to drag his rivals after he defeated them or after a sneaky attack in non-wrestling segments. However, that gimmick was one of a jobber to the top card wrestlers and the man previously behind Demolition Smash was only the shadow of what he once was.
The boring Repo Man character was abandoned after about two years and Darsow left the WWE. He once re-appeared behind the Repo Man mask to participate to the WrestleMania 17 Gimmick Battle Royal, but he continued to portray Smash and even re-formed Demolition with Ax on occasions on the independent circuits.
3. From Jesse to Slam Master J
When he was Jesse, teaming with Festus, he was a decent wrestler. He was not a top-card wrestler, but at least he and his partner formed an actual tag team in a time the division was a bit more healthy.
Jesse had some good in-ring abilities and even some mic skills. Being the son of the legendary Terry Gordy, he had wrestling in his blood, but he was never pushed or used properly. Pro Wrestling Illustrated even ranked him 147 in the 2008 PWI 500 so he had undeniable talent and potential.
However, after the team of Jesse & Festus was disbanded following the 2009 Draft, both men were repackaged. Festus became Luke Gallows, one of CM Punk's follower in the Straightedge Society in a change that was not too bad, especially if we compare with what happened with Jesse.
In the summer of 2009, Jesse came back after a short absence as Slam Master J, a wannabe rapper with some weird thug mannerisms. That gimmick was obviously a complete flop and he was released in April 2010.
2. From One Man Gang to Akeem The African Dream
The One Man Gang was a real badass when he debuted with the WWE in 1987. With his behemoth size, at 6'9'' and over 350 pounds, he squashed everyone in the mid and low card divisions, but he was only a jobber to the top superstars.
He had feuds with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage; he never won against the big names, but he was not an easy win. As One Man Gang, he attacked many rivals in non-wrestling segments to make his mark as a bully. His most notable sneak attack was against "Superstar" Billy Graham in a retirement storyline.
After over one year, One Man Gang was repackaged as Akeem, The African Dream. There were even some weird vignettes presented on TV in which he mimicked some African traditions. However, his dancing moves and his new accent looked more like a joke than anything else.
With that new gimmick, Akeem was put together with Big Boss Man to form The Twin Towers, a tag team that would have some success. They never won the Tag Team Title, but they had grueling high profile matches against The Mega Powers, Demolition and The Rockers.
In 1990, The Twin Towers disbanded and Akeem entered in a feud against his former partner who turned face in the process. Both men faced at WrestleMania six, with Akeem on the losing end in what was his last high profile match with the company. Without anything good for him following WrestleMania, he eventually left for WCW.
I still wonder why they transformed One Man Gang into Akeem because it marked his demise with the WWE. One Man Gang was an interesting and actually entertaining persona, but Akeem was simply lame. George Gray, the man behind both gimmicks, is still appearing in public as One Man Gang and many will remember his presence in the WrestleMania 17 Gimmick Battle Royal.
1. From Tony Atlas to Saba Simba
Before he joined the WWE, Tony Atlas was a well known body builder who won the Mr. USA Title on three occasions. He started his career in solo, back in 1980 and he defeated some of the greatest at the time, including Ken Patera and Hulk Hogan.
He left the company for a few years to come back in 1983 and became successful in the tag team division, most notably with Rocky Johnson as partner. Together, they held the Tag Team Championship for 154 days and they made history by being the first Afro-American duo to hold the Gold.
Atlas was a huge mountain of muscles and he put his sculpted body in evidence with his simple trunks. His only gimmick was to be a super powerhouse. However, after some drug issues, he was relegated to a secondary role in the tag team division, then teaming with various partners to eventually become a jobber in singles competition.
The Hall-Of-Famer left the WWE once again in 1987 and he came back three years later, as Saba Simba, an odd gimmick with an even weirder attire. He would've been a perfect tag team partner for Kamala. This awful run only lasted some months and Atlas would not wrestle in a WWE ring after that ridiculous failure.
I could not finish that trilogy without a picture of one of the weirdest stable ever, The Human Oddities. To remain in the theme of gimmick changes, some of the members of the group went through a huge transformation to join the freak show.
Golga, the man with the mask and who loved Cartman was previously known as Earthquake. The colorful guy with the beard once was Kurrgan The Interrogator. There was also Luna who then had less psychotic mannerism than previously. And the guy in the background was known as Giant Silva, but he only made a few appearances.
I have certainly forgotten some names, but I count on you to let me know in the comment section. I also invite you to tell me who doesn't belong on the list and if the order is good or not. And, if you have not done it yet, you can take a look at the previous parts of the trilogy*.
To conclude, I hope you enjoyed this last part of the series and that you liked the whole concept. I might have a special "forgotten" edition in store with all the comments already received and to come so keep them going.
* Part 1 and 2: