Wrestling is full of crazy characters. It’s part of the act. For every serious wrestler in boots and trunks, there are a dozen evil clowns, plumbers, hockey players and, yes, even one guy in a turkey costume. Most of those gimmicks are short-lived, never making it past the role of opening match comedy act, something for the fans to laugh or marvel at before the “real” wrestlers take over in the main event. But sometimes, wrestling fans will get attached to the weirdest things, and the result is that some comedy gimmicks end up leading to oddly successful wrestling careers.
15. The Mountie
Ah yes, the evil scourge of Canadian law enforcement, who was actually prohibited from wrestling under his gimmick in Canada due to the fact that the RCMP didn’t particularly like being mocked (and despite the outfit, they are not an organization you want to mess with). Actually, the Mountie (also known as Jacques Rougeau) was fairly successful over his career, winning the Intercontinental title from the legendary Bret Hart, and was a three-time WWF Tag Team champion with his partner Pierre Ouellet (due to the continuing legal issues, the team was actually known as The Quebecers and had theme music that literally stated “We’re Not The Mounties”). But perhaps, the most shocking fact about Rougeau, and possibly his biggest claim to fame, is that he is one of a very small number of people who has pinned Hulk Hogan cleanly, doing so when both were in WCW at an non-televised live event in Rougeau’s home town of Montreal.
Allegedly the nephew of the Raw GM at the time, Eric Bischoff, the man known as Eugene Dinsmore was portrayed as a mentally challenged adult who had somehow learned to become a great wrestler by watching it for his entire life. Upon hearing rumors of the gimmick, fans were immediately apprehensive that WWE would treat the subject matter with anything resembling good taste. Shockingly, though, Eugene was portrayed as so innocent and sympathetic, while also being allowed to show off his legitimate wrestling ability in the ring, that fans got behind him in a big way, making him one of the most popular acts in the company for a while. In fact, The Rock himself made a special appearance just to help Eugene deal with some bullies. Eugene even managed to become WWE Tag Team champions with William Regal, who was initially unwillingly forced to “babysit” Eugene but, like everyone else, eventually became very attached to him.
During the brand split, retired wrestler Fit Finlay, who had been working backstage as a road agent, was lured back into a full-time in-ring career, despite being well into his 40s. Finlay resumed his Belfast Brawler persona, an Irishman who loved to fight. On the surface, that’s not too crazy, but, this being WWE, Finlay’s character soon became host to all the biggest Irish stereotypes. He was decked out in shamrocks, he carried a shillelagh, and, oh yes, he acquired a tiny leprechaun sidekick. Somehow, the crowd grew attached to both Finlay and the little guy (originally named Little Bastard, before settling on the more family-friendly Hornswoggle), to the point that he even earned a World Title shot at a Pay-Per-View. Hornswoggle also somehow became a big star in WWE, and at one point it was believed that he was the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon, and heir to the company!
12. The Funkasaurus Brodus Clay
As a part of the fourth season of NXT (in its original concept as a competition-style show), Brodus Clay was introduced to the world as a large man with a mo-hawk and plenty of bad attitude. After coming in second in the competition, Clay stuck around for a while as Alberto Del Rio’s bodyguard, but was taken off TV to film a small role in a WWE movie. When he returned several months later, he was as a flashy, disco-dancing maniac named, for some reason, The Funkasaurus. It was as comical as comedy gimmicks can possibly get, but the fans absolutely loved it. Accompanied by his two backup dancers (the thematically appropriate “Funkadactyls”), Clay went on a winning streak of incredible proportions, and the crowd was into everything he did. His merchandise sold like hotcakes, and he became a big part of WWE’s line of action figures. Of course, Clay likely owes part of his success to the next entry on this list…
11. The New Day
Sure, they’re one of the most popular acts in WWE these days, but that is a case of a group of wrestlers working hard to overcome a dead-end gimmick. It’s easy to forget now, but the original gimmick of The New Day, and the origin for all their speeches about “the power of positivity” and their incessantly annoying cheerfulness, was as a representation of Southern black evangelist preachers. In the lead-up to their debut, all three men were shown proselytizing to the audience while a choir clapped and chanted behind them. In fact, those scenes are still a part of The New Day’s entrance video. For some reason, WWE thought this gimmick would get the trio over as faces, but it was so lame (and also slightly uncomfortable to watch, due to the clearly stereotypical gimmick) that the crowds quickly turned on it, and The New Day was nearly finished right after their debut. However, by ramping up the annoying qualities of the gimmick and replacing the genuine attempts at preaching positivity with fairly blatant hypocrisy, The New Day turned things around as a team of bad guys motivated by self-interest, and are now multiple-time Tag Team Champions (and pretty good dancers).
10. Too Cool and Rikishi
Two cruiserweights with nothing to do were given a gimmick of clueless dancing party guys, and somehow managed to attract a three-hundred pound Samoan, whose finishes involved rubbing his enormous rear end in opponents’ faces, to their team with nothing more than the power of sunglasses. It sounds insane, but at the height of the Attitude Era, Too Cool and Rikishi were one of the most popular acts in the company, even managing to win the Tag and Intercontinental titles, respectively. In fact, they became more popular for their post-match dancing antics than anything they ever did in the ring, to the point that they managed to bring the entire Royal Rumble match to a stop while they performed to the adulation of the live audience. The entire concept was so popular that Rikishi went on to an incredibly successful singles career, winning multiple titles and eventually getting inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame just before WrestleMania 31.
9. King Booker
Booker T is one of only a few wrestlers who came over to WWE during their purchase of WCW and had a long and successful career. A bright spot in WCW, Booker was the WCW World Champion when the company was purchased. However, a few years later he was floundering, no longer the main event threat that he had once been. Fortunately, winning the King of the Ring tournament gave Booker T an opportunity to change up his entire act, and he embraced the “King” gimmick wholeheartedly. He began speaking in “proper English,” brought in his wife to act as Queen, dubbed his cronies as Knights, and entered matches to the cries of “All Hail King Booker.” It was ridiculous and hilarious, and the fans ate it up and asked for more. Almost immediately, he defeated Rey Mysterio and became World Heavyweight Champion, which nobody would have predicted, and proceeded to have a lengthy reign.
8. The Brood
They were vampires. We’re not even remotely joking. They looked, acted, and dressed like vampires out of the pages of an Anne Rice novel. Or maybe extras from a Blade movie, take your pick. And yet, contained within that small group of three were over fifty different WWE title reigns, including 13 World Championships. And since the leader, Gangrel, had none, that means the other two guys must have been something pretty special. You probably already know this, but the other members of The Brood, Edge and Christian would go on to have a pretty memorable future in WWE, both on their own, and as one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history. Not bad for a couple of guys who wore puffy shirts and pretended to drink blood when they started out, right?
If fans today think Stardust is a little odd, well, he has nothing on his older brother. When he was originally introduced, Goldust’s gimmick was that of an obsessed Hollywood movie star, who also pretended to be attracted to other wrestlers to play mind games with them. The gimmick was controversial, and underwent many modifications over the years, but Goldust endured, winning several Intercontinental titles. Eventually, Goldust settled into a gimmick that was partially his real self and partially a slightly unbalanced kook who happened to enjoy wearing a gold bodysuit and painting his face, and, when coupled with another fan favorite in Booker T, he earned a sympathetic bond with the fans that has led to Goldust being one of the most well-respected wrestlers in WWE. It also doesn’t hurt that Goldust has seemingly become an even better wrestler the older he gets, defying all logic.
6. Mick Foley
Mick Foley has no business being a three-time WWE Champion. He’s ugly, he’s crazy, and he’s known for being part of some of the most violent matches in wrestling history. However, he’s also an extremely intelligent man, a New York Times bestselling author, and possibly the most beloved wrestler in the world. And it takes someone that complex to pull off three of the weirdest gimmicks in pro wrestling, and better yet, to be able to play all three men at the same time. As Cactus Jack, Foley was capable of absolutely brutal hardcore wrestling matches. As Mankind, he somehow managed to make fans feel sympathy for a deranged and unstable freak. And as Dude Love, well, he just made people feel good. Mick Foley played three different gimmicks, all outlandish and crazy, and he did so expertly, which is exactly why he’s now a three-time WWE Champion and Hall of Famer.
5. Johnny B Badd
There’s really no other way to say this, but Johnny B Badd was a fairly obvious attempt by WCW to copy Little Richard. And unfortunately, that meant his gimmick was fairly over-the-top and almost certainly would be considered extremely offensive in the modern era. Also, he was initially presented as a heel, which should tell you everything you need to know about how his character was supposed to be perceived. The good news is, Badd wasn’t a terrible wrestler, and as he began to refine his gimmick to make it less of a caricature and more realistic, he began to find more acceptance with the fans due to his hard work. Eventually, he became so popular that he was having competitive matches to open WCW Pay Per Views, and won the WCW Television Championship multiple times. Badd actually parlayed his popularity into a massive contract with WWF, and was expected to become a huge star. Injuries derailed his career before he could realize that potential, but that can’t erase the success he did have initially.
4. The Honky Tonk Man
Believe it or not, the Honky Tonk Man was originally supposed to be a good guy. He was an Elvis impersonator, after all (although he claimed he’d never heard of the guy). And he was every bit as over-the-top as a man impersonating The King should be. He wore incredibly flashy suits, he sported a massive black pompadour, and he even sang his own entrance music (well, allegedly). But the Honky Tonk Man was cowardly, and he parlayed that into the longest Intercontinental title reign of all time, holding the belt for 454 days through all sorts of underhanded tactics, from walking out on matches to intentionally getting disqualified. The result was that he also managed to sell out arenas, as fans wanted to be there on the night where somebody finally managed to beat him. That’s why The Honky Tonk Man always claimed to be Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time, and he very well might be.
3. Doink The Clown
Yeah, it’s a clown. Nobody likes clowns. It’s a stupid gimmick, and in the end, people were chanting “Kill The Clown” at the Slammy Awards, which is actually seen as the point where certain realizations were made backstage that eventually led to the Attitude Era. But Doink is still undoubtedly one of the most memorable and long-lasting gimmicks of all time. Part of that is the fact that, since he’s a clown in full face paint, a wig, and a bodysuit, he can literally be played by anybody. In fact, the actual wrestler was originally portrayed by three different people during his initial run, and has been played by several others (including another member of this list, Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore) during cameo appearances in WWE over the years. Heck, at one point, Chris Jericho dressed up as Doink to fool William Regal, and nobody spotted it until he took off the wig. In addition, the original gimmick where Doink was an evil clown based on Pennywise from Stephen King’s It was actually hailed as a genius idea, since many people, whether they’ll admit it or not, are scared of clowns. We can’t blame them, clowns are horrifying.
2. The Undertaker
The Undertaker is a true legend in WWE, one of its biggest stars and best wrestlers, the man who won 21 straight WrestleMania matches before being beaten, and one of the greatest of all time. However, let’s not forget that the gimmick of The Undertaker is that of an undead zombie with magical powers who works in a funeral parlor and gains energy from a mystical urn. As wacky gimmicks go, that has to be near the top of a list. And as the years have passed, the mythology of the Undertaker has gotten even more complex, as he has died and been resurrected several times, led a dark Satanic cult full of wrestlers that he had converted into monsters, briefly turned into a redneck biker who still somehow retained the ability to ignore pain, and also introduced the world to his brother. And if you thought that The Undertaker was a crazy gimmick, well…
The younger brother of The Undertaker, Kane’s character has become so ridiculously convoluted that WWE even published a book to try and explain it. When he originally debuted, he wore a full bodysuit and mask and had no voice, due to allegedly being burned in the fire that killed his (and the Undertaker’s) parents. Also, he could cause anything to burst into flames with his mind. Over the following years he magically developed a voice and lost most of his bodysuit, revealing that he wasn’t actually burned at all (although he may have still believed that he was, WWE went back and forth on that, and many other, details of Kane’s persona). At times he’s been almost human, at times an unstoppable monster. Currently, he’s a suit-wearing Director of Operations, though still retains his ability to create magical fire. And that’s only scratching the surface of what has undoubtedly been the most insane, but also one of the longest-running crazy gimmicks in WWE history.