5. FAILED: ARACHNAMAN
4. SUCCEEDED: STING
Steve Borden would rise to prominence in WCW in the late 1980s and be the top guy in the early 1990s as a face painted fan favorite with a bleach blonde crew cut. This look came to be known as “Surfer Sting”. This began to change in 1996 when he grew his hair out and stopped dying it blonde. Then, early on in the nWo angle, Sting felt betrayed by WCW and the audience when they assumed the nWo’s “fake Sting” was actually him. The result was a darker, brooding character, who hung around in the rafters with a baseball bat and trenchcoat. This was “Crow Sting”.
The aesthetics and mood of the character were taken directly from The Crow, a 1994 movie based on a successful comic book series. The movie is infamous for its star, Brandon Lee, dying from an accident during filming. This gave The Crow even more notoriety and a cult following than it would have had, and Steve Borden capitalized on this with his hugely successful “crow” Sting character. Later in his career, with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wrestling, Sting would incorporate elements from the Joker from the Batman comics into his character, to mixed reviews.
3. FAILED: THE RENEGADE
The Renegade wasn’t just a ripoff of The Ultimate Warrior. He was worse. Because WCW wanted the audience to believe, for a time, that he actually was the Ultimate Warrior. After Hogan came into WCW, they went through a bad phase of bringing over any old WWE guys they could get. But one guy they couldn’t get (at least not then) was The Ultimate Warrior. Their solution was the have Hogan promise the audience and his opponent, Vader, the “Ultimate Surprise” at Uncensored 1995. WCW showed vignettes of the silhouette of a musclebound man with long hair and tassels, leading the audience to believe The Ultimate Warrior was coming. But it wasn’t Warrior, it was Rick Wilson as The Renegade.
As bad a wrestler the Warrior was, The Renegade was even worse. Fans groaned at the lame ripoff, but he managed to keep a job there until 1998. Sadly, a few months after his release, Wilson killed himself. I mean no disrespect to Wilson’s memory, but he was not a good wrestler and this gimmick sucked. It’s too bad WCW couldn’t think of something better for him.
2. SUCCEEDED: “THE NATURE BOY” RIC FLAIR
Perhaps the greatest wrestler of all time, Ric Flair, stole his gimmick. But that’s wrestling; the same basic character can be interpreted and presented in different ways. The original “Nature Boy” was Buddy Rogers, who began wrestling way back in 1939. Rogers was a hugely important figure in the history of professional wrestling as his feud with Lou Thesz was at the heart of the WWE’s split from the NWA in 1963. As a result, Rogers became the first ever WWE Champion and is one of only three men to have held both the NWA World Championship and the WWE title (along with AJ Styles and Flair himself). Flair began wrestling in the 1970s as a much more muscular man than he would become.
A horrible plane crash forced Flair to slim down and wrestle a more technical style. This also caused Flair to focus more on his character, so he lifted the “Nature Boy” gimmick from Rogers, and even took the figure-four leglock from him. The result was Flair Stylin’ and Profilin’ all through the 1980s as the NWA’s top guy. Rogers even once put over Flair in a match in 1978.
1. FAILED: “THE NATURE BOY” BUDDY LANDEL
Flair wasn’t the only one Rogers inspired. Butch Reed used a similar gimmick as “The Natural” in the WWE in the 1980s. And when Dustin Rhodes was first starting out, WCW game him the “Natural” moniker (though not so much the gimmick). Buddy Landel, however, took this too far. While Flair was inspired by Rogers, Rogers’ heyday ended 20 years before Flair’s, and the two didn’t look particularly similar. Landel, however, looked exactly like Flair. He wore similar attire and coiffed his hair the same. And, they were contemporaries. And, they were in the same company! And most baffling of all, NWA booker Dusty Rhodes and his compatriots were actually considering putting the NWA title on Landel in 1985, when he was still quite green.
But Landel, unfortunately, was a bit of partier and a bit of screw-up. He couldn’t be trusted. So they kept delaying his push and a main event feud with Flair until they had to cut him loose in 1986. Landel would return to company (now WCW) in 1990, but at this point he was nothing more than a cheap Flair knock-off.