Pro Wrestling

10 Good Wrestlers Wasted In Terrible Gimmicks Source:

In wrestling, your gimmick can define your career. Find the right one, and you can potentially be set for life, and make lots of money in the process. But if you get stuck with something terrible, it’s possible that your life with be spent desperately trying to escape the stench of that disastrous role. Even some of the best wrestlers on the planet have seen their careers stagnated, and occasionally ruined, thanks to a horrible gimmick. This was the case for everyone on this list, who were all talented wrestlers that never managed to rise above the horrible gimmicks that they got stuck in.

10. Val Venis

Val Venis, the wrestling porn star, is one of those things from the Attitude Era that probably seemed kind of cool and edgy when it happened, but is more than a little embarassing in retrospect, and as a side effect, the character was so memorable that it was impossible for the wrestler who played Venis to ever shed that gimmick and become a more legitimate contender. Oh, Sean Morley tried everything he could think of, attempting to ditch the “porn star” life on several occasions, cutting his hair, modifying his name, even joining the Right to Censor (although he maintained the Val Venis name, which would seem to be contrary to the RTC’s code of conduct). However, he always seemed to end up going back to his roots in adult entertainment, and while that might be an interesting allegory for the porn industry itself, it was death to his chances of ever being more than an opening match guy. The sad part is, Venis was actually one of WWE’s most solid workers, and was kept around for years, despite being little more than a jobber, simply because he was seen as a guy who could have a good match with anyone, and was used almost exclusively to guide new young talent through their first WWE matches. Source:

9. Eugene

The mentally challenged character of Eugene did have some brief success after his debut, when crowds got caught up in his happy-go-lucky attitude and hidden wrestling talents and turned him into a surprise hit. However, it was short-lived, and after a brief main event program with Triple H saw Eugene get utterly destroyed, he was dropped back to the bottom of the card and quickly became irrelevant, throwing away a lot of potential character development (including what could have been an incredible heel turn, which Eugene revealing he had faked his disability for sympathy) and a character that had actually gotten WWE some good press for their potrayal of Eugene (admittedly, that was after initial fears that they would go in a completely different direction). A large part of Eugene’s disappearance from relevance almost certainly had to do with the fact that he didn’t particularly look like a wrestler, with a body type not inclined to muscles and a look that, while unique, didn’t match the “serious” main event style WWE attempted to cultivate. In reality, however, Nick Dinsmore was an incredibly talented wrestler who had spent years in WWE’s developmental system honing his craft, where he was a multiple time champion. In fact, after the Eugene gimmick ran its course in WWE, Dinsmore moved into a training role in WWE, and had several stints in the role, including as part of the development of the early classes of NXT, using his extensive knowledge of wrestling to train the next generation of wrestlers. Source:

8. Rico

Before entering pro wrestling at the relatively advanced age of 37, Rico Constantino had already had an incredibly full life by anyone’s standard. Rico graduated from a naval academy and almost enrolled at West Point, and while at the academy, appeared in a role in an actual Hollywood movie. He then moved to Las Vegas and became a paramedic, before ultimately enrolling in the police academy and spending time on the Vegas police force. To top it off, he appeared on the show American Gladiators and became a champion, finishing in second place in the season’s Grand Championship. Rico also dabbled in powerlifting and youth ministry, before finally becoming a pro wrestler. Even at his age, Rico learned incredibly quickly and earned himself a WWE contract after only 12 professional matches. While in developmental, he was considered one of WWE’s best prospects, so it should come as no shock to you that despite having a ridiculous number of past experiences that could have easily played into a successful wrestling character, he debuted on Smackdown in 2002 as the hairstylist for allegedly (but not actually) gay tag team Billy and Chuck, and then once the team broke up, as an over-the-top effeminate character. Unsurprisingly, Rico’s WWE career was short, and he was released less than three years after his debut. Source:

7. Rob Conway

In WWE developmental, Rob Conway formed a serious, wrestling-oriented tag team with fellow member of this list Nick “Eugene” Dinsmore, who called themselves “The Lords of the Ring”, and specialized in beating their opponents with superior technical skills. Conway’s abilities and chiselled physique seemed to guarantee that he’d get a solid chance when he was called up, but instead, WWE brought him onto the main roster to prop up the evil French team of La Resistance, which was getting a big push, but failing miserably due to the wrestlers involved, Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier, being horribly inexperienced in the ring (Dupree was only 19 when he debuted, and became the youngest Champion in WWE history at the time when the team won the World Tag Team titles shortly afterwards). Conway was brought in as an American turncoat (an alleged “French sympathizer”) in order to carry the wrestling part, which was basically ignored when Dupree left the team and they began billing themselves as evil French Canadians from Quebec instead. After La Resistance broke up for good, Conway was given another terrible gimmick of “The Con Man”, whose idea of “conning” seemed to consist of cheating during matches, which didn’t really matter because Conway had basically been left for dead on WWE’s syndicated weekend shows by that point. Source:

6. Lord Tensai

We’re not going to stand here and say that Albert was the greatest wrestler on the planet, but during his first run in WWE, he showed flashes of being a very good power wrestler, even though he was handcuffed by a series of horrible gimmicks, including T&A, X-Factor, the short-lived team with Scotty 2 Hotty, and of course, A-Train. However, after leaving WWE and going to Japan to ply his trade, Matt Bloom evolved into one of the better big men in the sport, establishing himself as a big star in New Japan Pro Wrestling and making many connections within the industry. Eventually, WWE came calling again, and this time, they took a man who had worked incredibly hard to improve as a wrestler…and shoved him into the most ridiculous gimmick of his career (which is an accomplishment, given the list of his previous gimmick we mentioned earlier). Thus was born Lord Tensai, who dressed in ancient samurai garb, was covered in Japanese tattoos, had an obsequious Japanese servant, and who apparently only spoke Japanese, despite quite clearly being Albert. There were actually legitimate plans to make Tensai a main event threat, as he would cleanly defeat John Cena and CM Punk in consecutive weeks shortly after debuting, but the gimmick weighed him down too much, and those plans were quickly abandoned, with Tensai becoming a glorified jobber before retiring shortly afterwards. These days, the man formerly known as Tensai is the head coach of NXT, imparting his extensive wrestling knowledge to new WWE wrestlers, knowledge which clearly went to waste while he was employed as a WWE Superstar. Source:

5. Stardust

Over ten years in WWE, Cody Rhodes made everything that WWE threw at him work somehow. He played a dashing playboy, a masked freak, a guy with a terrible moustache, and to top it off, a face-painted enigma from a galaxy far, far away. And the whole time Rhodes was stuck working with material that would have given the biggest legends of wrestling pause, he was using that old-fashioned charisma that seemed to be genetic to get over with the crowds, no matter how ridiculous things got. And while Stardust could be seen as both a tribute to his father’s old nickname and his older brother’s celebrated career as Goldust, to WWE it was clear that Stardust was nothing more than a joke character that was never going to be anything important. Even when Rhodes somehow managed to attract the attention of legitimate TV star Stephen Amell, known for his work on the superhero show Arrow, to the point of getting Amell to make several appearances on WWE TV and even wrestle at SummerSlam, Stardust’s reward was to be pushed aside and ignored. Finally, Cody announced that he was tired of being ignored by a Creative team that didn’t seem to have any clue how to use a talented, massively charismatic wrestler with ties to one of the profession’s most legendary figures, who had spent a decade proving that he was a wrestler who should be a cornerstone of any promotion on the planet, and walked away from the company. Source:

4. “Boring” Lance Storm

WWE has always had this weird problem with technical wrestlers, because they rarely seem to be able to find them a character outside of “really good wrestler”. But given what happened to Lance Storm, maybe they should just stick with that. Contrary to popular belief, Lance Storm has charisma, which he expressed not only through excellent wrestling, but a character who was so serious and uptight while also telling you how much better he was than everyone, that fans couldn’t help but hate him. That’s a sign of someone who knows exactly how to be a heel, but WWE, in their infinite wisdom, saw Storm’s straight-laced character as “boring”, and decided to make that his gimmick, having Steve Austin chant “Boring” and pretend to fall asleep during Storm’s matches. Shockingly, telling fans that a wrestler was boring didn’t exactly make Storm a big star, so WWE tried to “liven up” his character by having him dance and hang out with Goldust. It turns out, that was the death knell for Storm in WWE, because serious Lance might not be the most exciting character in the world, but he still wrestled great matches and got heat from the crowd, while dancing Lance was just a goofy comedy character nobody cared about. Since his retirement, Storm runs a successful wrestling academy in Canada that has trained several current WWE wrestlers and indie stars, and regularly uses his insight into wrestling to comment intelligently on the shortfalls of the current product. Source:

3. Damien Sandow

We’re not here to complain about Damien Sandow, the Intellectual Savior of the Masses, because that gimmick worked and should have probably set him up for life. And even Damien Mizdow was pretty good, although even we’re not sure where the character could have gone after the inevitable break-up with The Miz. No, what we’re here to discuss is the period between those two gimmicks, after Sandow lost his Money in the Bank briefcase shot by failing to defeat John Cena. Sandow put on a great match in defeat, and many thought this could be the start of a decent push for the underappreciated Superstar. Instead, the losses began mounting, and for even more humiliation, Sandow was basically stripped of his gimmick and given one where he began doing imitations, running the gamut from other wrestlers to athletes to historical figures and comic book characters (to be fair, he did a good Magneto). The “imitation” gimmick has been used multiple times in WWE, and the end result is always death. Sandow became a walking joke, and only a last-minute save where he stuck on as Miz’s stunt double managed to extend his career. Then, after that run ended, WWE put him right back in the imitation game, this time as a passable (but certainly not proficient) take on “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Sandow spent most of the next year off TV, and was eventually released, which begs the question, why couldn’t he have just stuck around in his original gimmick, which actually could have been successful, had WWE not dropped the ball? Source:

2. The Spirit Squad

You can tell a gimmick is going to kill some careers when one prospective wrestler basically refuses to be a part of it, even if it meant he might never get another chance on the main roster. That would be the tale of Elijah Burke, a WWE developmental talent who was presented with an opportunity to join the Spirit Squad, a team of male cheerleaders that was both incredibly annoying and horrible to watch (Burke would later debut in ECW under a different gimmick, and put together a decent career both there and later on, in TNA). The gimmick basically ensured that none of the wrestlers involved would ever be associated with anything besides it, which proved true when Ken Doane, who had been thought to be a can’t-miss prospect, left the group and tried to make it as a singles wrestler, only to be a massive failure who couldn’t escape the Spirit Squad stench. In fact, of the five men who were part of the Squad, only one managed to escape its gravitational pull of suck, eventually re-emerging as Dolph Ziggler (who wasn’t even considered the best wrestler in the group, which should tell you something about how good they could have been if not for the gimmick). For the other four, however, it was nothing but disappointment and failure, with most of them finding their way out of the business shortly afterwards. Source:

1. The Red Rooster

The WWE career of Terry Taylor is one that has become legendary for all the wrong reasons. In fact, it even spawned an urban legend (which is completely untrue) that Taylor was initially considered for one of two gimmicks when he made his way to WWE: The Red Rooster, or Mr Perfect, just to highlight how tragic a failure Taylor’s WWE career ended up becoming. To this day, nobody is quite sure how naming someone “The Red Rooster” and having them cluck like a chicken was supposed to turn them into a star, and it certainly failed to do that for Taylor, who had been considered one of the better wrestlers in North America before adopting this terrible gimmick and becoming a punch line for generations afterwards. The ridiculous thing is, Taylor was and still is one of the most respected minds in the business, and has had long stints doing backstage work in every major North American promotion, in roles related to training talent and even booking the direction of the company, and never seemed to be unemployed for long. Currently, Taylor is using his prodigious wrestling knowledge in his role as a trainer for NXT, where, presumably, his first lesson is to tell students never to agree to a gimmick that forces you to pretend to be a barnyard animal. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.