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5 Famous WWE Stars Whose First Gimmick Failed

Paul Benson
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Stone Cold Steve Austin - Wasn't always the top drawing card in WWE history
Stone Cold Steve Austin - Wasn't always the top drawing card in WWE history

Whilst in 2018, most WWE acts perform under their real names or close approximations of them, such as John Cena (John Felix Anthony Cena) or Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) the 20th century WWE, particularly the 1980s and 1990s were filled with gimmick performers up and down their cards.

During the mid-1990s in particular, it seemed as if nearly every wrestler had a day job.

WWE superstars during this time period included a Tax Inspector (IRS), Repo Man (the imaginatively monikered Repo Man), a Garbage Man (Duke "The Dumpster" Droese) and a Prison Guard (Big Boss Man, who incidentally had worked as a Prison Guard in real life).

Then, there were even more outrageous gimmicks that were not of this world such as the Voodoo Practitioner, Papa Shango and Mantaur, half man, half bull, based upon the Greek legend monster, The Minotaur. For every successful gimmick such as the undead Zombie, The Undertaker, there was an embarrassment like The Red Rooster.

The Red Rooster character was given to Terry Taylor, who was an excellent worker and had been a serious performer throughout his career in the decade prior to joining WWE for a large array of promotions such as Mid Atlantic, World Class and many others, winning Championships in all.

Terry Taylor - Embarrassing Red Rooster gimmick destroyed his career
Terry Taylor - Embarrassing Red Rooster gimmick destroyed his career

However, curiously for some strange reason, Taylor was portrayed as a novice in WWE who had to be led through his matches by manager, Bobby Heenan. Eventually, he would style his hair upwards like a rooster and begin clucking around the ring. It was a senseless burial of a performer who could have been a major player in the company under a different persona.

Red Rooster buried Taylor's career but for many other performers, unsuccessful gimmicks can be nothing more than seasoning until they hit upon a successful formula.


In the following slideshow, SK looks at five performers who overcame their first WWE gimmicks to enjoy success in the promotion.

#5 Stone Cold Steve Austin (The Ringmaster)

Steve Austin as The Ringmaster circa 1996
Steve Austin as The Ringmaster circa 1996

Stone Cold Steve Austin was famously fired by WCW boss, Eric Bischoff in 1995 during his recovery from a torn triceps injury. Although Bischoff, as per the terms of the contract was entitled to let Austin go, the heartlessness of the move cut the future Stone Cold deep.

After a brief run in ECW, wherein Austin knocked Bischoff and Hulk Hogan in memorable promo's he resurfaced in WWE under the nondescript gimmick of The Ringmaster. 

Managed by 1980s relic, Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase and saddled with Dibiase's 80s gimmick Million Dollar belt, Austin struggled to gain traction with the audience.

Austin detested the persona, recognising it as the mid-card act it was and was keen to reinvent his character as an ice cold ruthless killer, inspired by a documentary he had watched regarding serial killer, Richard Kuklinski who had famously frozen his victims in an industrial freezer to disguise their time of death before disposing of them.

Steve Austin - Was rather more successful as Stone Cold
Steve Austin - Was rather more successful as Stone Cold

Austin was fascinated by the mentality of someone who could become so cold and heartless and wanted to play a character with those traits. When he told the WWE office of his ideas and wish to change his gimmick, he was faxed potential new character names such as Chilly McFreeze, Fang McFrost and Baron Von Ruthless.

The company didn't get it but thankfully Austin's then-wife Jeannie did and it was she who stumbled upon the moniker "Stone Cold" when she told him to finish drinking his cup of tea before it got stone cold.

The rest, as they say, is history. With his new character, Austin became the most successful drawing card in the history of wrestling.

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