Pro wrestling gimmicks are often inexorably tied to the person performing them. For example, can you imagine anyone but Steve Austin performing the Stone Cold character?
On the other hand, some special gimmicks are either so unique or easy to recast that they wind up having multiple wrestlers use them. The gimmick becomes something that is 'passed on' to the next generation.
Often this happens with masked wrestlers--because of the ease with which they may be replaced. After all, it could be anyone behind the mask, right? But sometimes it does not involve a mask at all.
For the purposes of our list, we're not going to count similar wrestlers--Hulk Hogan may have stolen his look from Superstar Billy Graham but was a different character. We're only going to consider those wrestlers who use the same name and/or character in the ring.
Here are seven wrestling gimmicks held by multiple performers.
Gimmick #1: The Nature Boy
First off, there's not a shadow of a doubt that the most successful performer to call himself the Nature Boy was Ric Flair. However, he was hardly the first Nature Boy.
That honour goes to Buddy Rogers, a major star of the 1940s wrestling scene. Rogers actually had a match against Ric Flair at one point, and Rogers would admit that Flair made better use of the gimmick than he ever did.
Buddy Landel was a contemporary of Flair's who started using the Nature Boy gimmick around the same era. However, unlike Flair, he did not utilize Roger's figure four leg lock but a spinning elbow drop as his finisher.
Landel and Flair had a few bouts against each other, which usually ended with Flair being victorious. It remains to be seen if anyone else will adopt the Nature Boy gimmick now that Ric Flair is officially retired.
Gimmick #2: El Santo
El Santo was such a popular Lucha Libre star that his fame catapulted him outside of the ring. He made over thirty movies in which he was the star, never removing his mask. The movies seemed to indicate that El Santo had many superpowers, including the ability to punch vampires and ghosts. Even though he could fly, he chose to tool around in his stylish convertible. He was always the hero and never cheated in any of his matches.
El Santo's son and grandson have both wrestled under the gimmick. Usually, his son was called "Son of El Santo" but was eventually shortened to just El Santo, while the grandson is known as El Santo Jr. This gimmick has become a true legacy item, something to be passed down from father to son in a way that has transcended wrestling--much like El Santo himself.
Gimmick #3: Doink the Clown
In 1992, WWE officials were pondering ideas for new characters, since many of their classic era stars had either retired or taken work down south in the new WCW promotion.
Legend has it that Road Warrior Hawk pitched the idea of an evil clown gimmick, reasoning that a lot of people were afraid of clowns. WWE put this gimmick into use with Matt Borne playing the role of evil clown Doink.
Doink's look was loosely based off of Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons television series. Eventually, WWE decided to turn Doink babyface. Borne would be fired from the company for personal issues and then Ray Apollo, the man who many think of as the 'main' Doink, took over the gimmick for most of its WWE run.
Steve Lombardi would also briefly don the Doink gimmick for several special appearances that were in no way shape or form an attempt to bring the character back permanently. There were also mini Doinks who accompanied Apollo's Doink to the ring.
Gimmick #3: Mr Wrestling
The original Mr Wrestling George Woodin--also known by the ring name Tim Woods--began his career in the 1950s but truly rose to prominence in the 60s and 1970s. He has long been regarded as one of the best 'tough men' to ever lace up a pair of boots.
Woodin was known to be willing to put his body on the line to maintain Kayfabe, the agreed upon fantasy between fans and performers that the sport is 'real.' This led to Mr Wrestling accepting a shoot fight offer from champion street fighter Arnold Spurling. When Woodin dominated Spurling with amateur wrestling holds, the angry and humiliated street fighter bit off a piece of Mr Wrestling's finger!
Woodin also wrestled mere days after a plane crash to prove that Mr Wrestling wasn't on the same plane as several heel wrestlers, like Ric Flair. At the time he was credited with saving kayfabe, and therefore the wrestling industry.
The second Mr Wrestling, Mr Wrestling II, is probably more well known and famous than his progenitor. Mr Wrestling II was a major star in the southern promotions during the regional era. He wrestled briefly for the WWE but was advanced in age and quickly retired. Interestingly, John Walker, the man who played Mr Wrestling II, would also sometimes play Mr Wrestling I when Woodin was unavailable for booking. Now that's more bang for your buck!
Gimmick #5: Tiger Mask
Tiger Mask is unique in the world of pro wrestling in that he was created as a character with no specific wrestler in mind to play him.
He was the creation of Ikki Kajiwara, a Manga writer who envisioned an evil heel wrestler named Tiger Mask who turns into a hero because of guilt. A young orphan idolizes the evil Tiger Mask and wants to grow up to be a villain just like him. Tiger Mask decides to do good in order to be a better role model.
While Tiger Mask was a wrestler, he was just a fictional character--until New Japan Pro Wrestling licensed the character and he became a real-life wrestler. Originally Satoru Satayama played the role, but a total of seven men have donned the Tiger-striped Mask in order to fight for truth, justice, and pro wrestling.
Gimmick #6: Suicide AKA Manik
Suicide, much like Tiger Mask, did not make his initial debut in a wrestling ring. But while Tiger Mask is the fruit of the manga tree, Suicide comes from the world of video games. Midway, the makers of Mortal Kombat were licensed to create a TNA video game. Suicide was the original character they created and is the initial gimmick a player uses before they can fine tune their appearance.
Looking to cash in on the game--which was terrible in everyone's opinion--TNA brought in a real-life Suicide. Initially, he was portrayed by Frank Kazarian, who had recently returned to TNA/Impact after having asked for his release. When Kazarian was injured, Christopher Daniels replaced him as Suicide.
Due to a backlash toward the Suicide character by parents who thought he was a bad example for children, TNA changed the character's name to Manik and now TJ Perkins was the man behind the hood. It all ended when Perkins left TNA to join WWE, and now Manik is most likely gone for good.
Gimmick #7: Rey Mysterio
Booyaka booyaka! Everyone knows the name, Rey Mysterio. He's been a fixture of professional wrestling since the 1990s, one of the rare performers to appear on WCW, ECW, and the WWE.
But something a lot of fans don't know is that Rey Mysterio is the SECOND incarnation of that character. Miguel Ángel López Díaz, the current Rey Mysterio's uncle, was the first man to don the eagle themed mask and tights.
Miguel's version of the character was no slouch, either, racking up over a dozen championship throughout the Mexican promotions. He also had the rare honour of wrestling at a Starrcade, where he teamed with Konnan to participate in the international tag team tournament.
Miguel made his nephew earn the right to be Rey Mysterio by wrestling under other gimmicks until he had proven himself. Now, he often calls himself Rey Mysterio Sr. because he feels his nephew has truly made the gimmick even better.
There you have it; Seven wrestling characters who were played by different men. Questions or comments? Please leave them below and as always thanks for reading!