Top 8 Wrestling Gimmick Ripoffs That Failed And 7 That Succeeded
It’s been said that there are no new original ideas. In a world where every second movie coming out of Hollywood seems to either be a remake, a reboot, or a sequel, this seems increasingly true. But professional wrestling has been recycling ideas since before it was cool. Honestly, talk with a wrestling historian, and you’ll find everything has been done a million times already. Venture to say what you think was the first ladder match or who were the first wrestlers to use entrance music and you’ll find out the first such incidents happened years, perhaps even decades, earlier than you thought, and of course, nobody really knows the first instance of anything. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that back in 1905 George Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch were hitting each other with steel chairs, coming out to fireworks, and a having “bottle of nerve tonic on a pole” matches.
So yes, wrestling has always existed by reusing standard tropes, characters, and storylines. But some are too obvious. Some are clearly ripoffs of either a figure in pop culture or another wrestling persona. This is not to say it’s necessarily bad. Wrestling characters are like blues songs: nobody’s really sure who invented the core themes, so it’s kind of okay to rip it off. And some rip offs are great. And some are garbage. This list will look at both of them. But a point of order: we will not look at parodies of characters. Thus Jay Lethal’s incredible “Black Machismo” character is not so much a ripoff as it as an homage to Randy Savage. Similarly, Ed Ferrara’s awful “Oklahoma” character was more a distasteful parody of Jim Ross than a rip off.
The bottom line is, ripoffs are bound to happen in wrestling. Here are eight examples of a ripoff working and seven times it failed.
15. FAILED: “THE ALL-AMERICAN” LEX LUGER
Hulk Hogan, the keystone figure in the WWE’s massive popularity in the 1980s, left the company in mid-1993. Business was way down and Vince McMahon was desperate to recapture his former glory. So he repackaged Lex Luger, who had only began wrestling in the WWE since that January, from The Narcissist to “The All-American”. The idea was to fill the incredibly muscle-bound, patriotic hole left by Hogan with Luger. And it started off well when Luger became the first man to bodyslam Yokozuna on the U.S.S. Intrepid. But Luger’s push was too forced. Fresh off a motorcycle accident and a stint in Vince’s failed World Bodybuilding Federation, Luger, who was never a great worker, was severely limited in his mobility.
What’s worse, Luger didn’t have Ric Flair to make him look good as he had in NWA/WCW. After Luger failed to win the WWE title after a big push going into SummerSlam in 1993, he really lost steam. When he co-won Royal Rumble ‘94 with Bret Hart, it became apparent the fans were much more into Bret, and it was Bret who eventually beat Yokozuna.
14. SUCCEEDED: DEMOLITION
The Road Warriors were a massively popular tag team of two big, muscled dudes in face paint in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and Jim Crockett’s National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territory. Vince McMahon deliberately set out to create his own Road Warriors and the result was Demolition. Just to describe them doesn’t sound like they’d be successful: two muscle heads named Ax and Smash wearing bizarre face paint and S&M gear.
But Demolition were very successful, getting over huge with audiences and were the longest reigning tag champions in WWE history until The New Day surpassed them late last year. They started off as hated heels, but they became so successful that audiences began to gravitate towards them. After their manager, the maniacal Mr. Fuji, betrayed them at the 1988 Survivor Series, Demolition had a successful babyface run. And with whom did Mr. Fuji replace Demolition?
13. FAILED: THE POWERS OF PAIN
In the WWE, the Road Warrior influence was heightened, but the two never really clicked to any great degree with the audience. Why did Demolition succeed where the Powers of Pain had failed? One reason may be that Demolition started off as heels, thus giving them one big differentiation to the Road Warriors. By the time The Powers of Pain had turned heel (and feuded with Demolition), Demolition were already over and there was no real role for the Powers of Pain.
12. SUCCEEDED: THE ROAD WARRIORS
Vince McMahon did eventually get The Road Warriors in the WWE in 1990. There, they were more commonly identified as “The Legion of Doom”, and promptly entered into a dream feud with Demolition. But, by this point, Ax was having health issues and was winding down his career and was replaced with the much less charismatic Crush. Despite winning the tag titles, The Road Warriors never reached their past heights in the WWE.
11. FAILED: GLACIER
Raymond Lloyd, who portrayed Glacier, did have martial arts training, but incorporating martial arts striking into pro wrestling has always been hit and miss. What’s more, Lloyd didn’t exactly have a surplus of charisma. And at a time in WCW when everything was overshadowed by the nWo, Glacier was forgotten quicker than his promotional period.