Top 20 Worst Masked Wrestling Gimmicks, Part II
February 2, 2009 | Lists
As this list (click here for Part One) makes clear, few wrestlers can make a masked gimmick work. As far as wrestlers who are not currently suffering from wrestling’s no-union pension plan, those who make masks work can be counted on one hand, make that finger, Rey Mysterio. Masked wrestlers have traditionally been pretty far down wrestling’s totem pole. More than half of the entrants on this list are jobbers — those poor slobs whose career highlights consist of feats such as being the second as opposed to the first person to be sent careening over the top rope in a Battle Royale.
These days, pro-wrestling has more championship belts than clean drug tests and the WWE has a near monopoly, so there is no reason to put some plug in a mask and send him out to eat canvas for half an hour at the hands of the latest hot commodity getting a push. The days when the public wouldn’t start a riot when presented with an undercard featuring Steve Lombardi and Johnny K-9 versus The Moondogs are over. Wrestling fans these days require stars who can speak and who they’d be able to pick out in a police line-up. The days of the masked wrestler are coming to an end. (Here we are exempting masks used in the commission of crimes by wrestlers past their salad days). Still we would like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute of sorts to the art of masked wrestling, as it is practiced at its very, very worst. Here then are the Top 10 Worst Masked Wrestling Gimmicks of all Time!
10) TIE — Mr. America/Who?: Like #12 only worse, Mr. America saw THE most recognizable wrestler in the world put on a mask for reasons known only to those able to collect on a McMahon trust fund in middle-adulthood. This particular Hulk Hogan gimmick competed with Arachnaman in terms of being a guarantee for a lawsuit from Marvel Comics, with a Captain America ripoff outfit that makes The Patriot look like the height of non-copyright-thieving creativity.
Then there’s Who? Who was Who? Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, one half of the great Hart Foundation. The other half of that team — Bret “The Hitman” Hart — went on to become a world champion and have a fantastic documentary made about him. Jim? He was made to go forward as Who, a gimmick apparently solely intended to give the announcers the opportunity to resurrect the comedic corpses of Abbot and Costello. “Who got suplexed? Why Who got suplexed! No, that’s what I’m asking you, who got suplexed? Who got suplexed!” and on and on says a joke that was funny before color television but makes us feel sorry for the guy who set the record for the anvil toss at the Calgary Stampede.
9) Doink/Dink The Clowns: The WWF/WWE reached its creative nadir in the early 1990s. Hulk Hogan had wrestled and bodyslammed every grotesquely fat man within the continental United States throughout the previous decade. That and the scandals involving steroid use and other nefarious goings-on at McMahon Central made it clear that the company needed a new direction. The federation was, however, on cruise control. It was before WCW* was much of a competitor and they could still rely on storylines and characters that might strike a chord with eight-year olds who arrived on the short bus. Doink The Clown started off as an arguably decent gimmick — a Joker of sorts combined with everyone’s underlying fear of clowns being psycho-scissor-stabbers — but was carried off so terribly that the only defence WWE officials could give in later years was that they were appealing to children. A clear sign of a crappy gimmick is anybody can pick it up. When this happened with the Undertaker, people were wondering what the hell happened, and when the WWF brought in a fake Razor Ramone and Diesel it was obviously a joke, but there were Doinks aplenty and they were completely interchangeable. When they brought in Dink, the carny code was complete, and the entire gimmick earned its place on this list.
*(For a non-masked example of just how crappy things can get without competion, we refer you to Crush, the Kona Hawaii surfer who had possibly the worst finishing move ever: The Heart Punch.)
8) The Sultan: Solofa Fatu comes from a line of Samoan wrestling royalty. His uncle Afa trained Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler (in his active days, Afa would not hesitate to bite the head off the odd fish on national television). Solofa started out like his uncles, playing a “headshrinker” and no doubt carrying on a stereotype Samoa’s public relations department could have done without. Between that gimmick and his current gimmick as Rikishi, the smotherer-by-arse sensation, Solofa played “The Sultan”, a mysterious Mideast-themed character managed by Bob Backlund and the Iron Sheik (for how these two came to partner, we refer you to the nearest wrestling geek). Like Yokozuna, another Samoan stuck into an ethnic role for which he didn’t have the language (Japanese in that case), the Sultan was a silent, fat-assed, imposing type. The mask was obviously intended only to disguise the fact that Fatu of the Headshrinkers had maxed out his frequent flyer miles by moving to the Mideast.
7) Avatar/Shinobi: Some wrestlers are destined to get the worst gimmicks imaginable until the day they refuse to go out there as Quarter-Mile Quinton The Marathon Runner with a Club Foot and decide a career driving truck would be a lot less humiliating. Al Snow is one such wrestler. Snow has been given so many crappy gimmicks that when he played a character who talked to a plastic head on a stick it was considered a real step forward. He gets double kudos here first for his role as Avatar, a gimmick that was so pointless, Snow seemed to have been keenly aware of it himself and would put on the mask while he was walking to the ring. When you’re moving on from an utterly senseless gimmick like that, improving is your only option and Snow did… slightly.. with Shinobi, a generic ninja gimmick that evidenced only a few more brain cells firing than the Avatar schtick. From there they moved him to the role of Leif Cassidy, one half of the “New Rockers” who will be sure to figure prominently on a future list of Dorkiest Wrestling Gimmicks of all Time.
6) Arachnaman: Like Glacier — a ripoff of a Mortal Kombat character and a near miss on this list — Arachnaman comes out of the proud wrestling tradition of stealing ideas when your creative well is drier than Jake the Snake’s minibar. This brainfart from the Mensa minds at WCW looked like a third-world knockoff of Spiderman, and even shot silly string “webs” from his wrist. The IP theft was so pathetically blatant that Marvel Comics threatened a lawsuit and Arachnaman went to that great Lousy Gimmick Battle Royale in the Sky.
5) The Yeti: “Let’s call him ‘The Yeti’!” “What’s a Yeti?” Had this exchange taken place among the WCW braintrust it would have saved the company one of its most embarrassing legacies. Frozen in a block of ice at the start of a Nitro episode, the Yeti breaks free from the block and reveals himself to be: a mentally-challenged six-year-old’s attempt at creating a mummy costume. In addition to the powers-that-be not having a clue what a yeti is, even the pronunciation of the word was lost on broadcasters as Tony Schiavonne shows, announcing the arrival of the “YE-TAE!”
4) The Ding Dongs: There are few entries on this list that match The Ding Dongs for sheer ability to annoy. We would have loved to have been in the room when the creative genius who thought this one up laid out his plan to the team: “Alright, see we’re gonna put you in these masks and tights I picked up at an Ed Wood set sale and the whole gimmick is going to center around bells. We’ll call you the Ding Dongs, say you’re from Belleville USA, put bells on your boots and make sure that there’s a bell on the ring apron. That way whoever is not in the ring can just ring that darn bell like crazy on the outside. The people are going to love it!”
3) Max Moon: Like greatness, some have crappiness thrust upon them, but not so in the case of Max Moon… or at least not at first. Mexican wrestling star Konaan was set to make his WWF debut and he already had a spaceman gimmick — Maximillian Moon (Max for short) — worked out. The WWE spent a huge chunk of change creating the eyesore Max Moon Suit, complete with wrist devices that set off fireworks and a rocketpack. But Konaan walked out on the WWE leaving behing his terrible gimmick and a suit too expensive to toss into the nearest dumpster. Paul Diamond, being unlucky enough to fit in the suit, took over the gimmick, before Max Moon was blasted into the wrasslin’ cosmos.
2) The Shockmaster: How did the WCW, with Ted Turner’s money backing it, manage to completely collapse you ask? Shocking tales such as this help illuminate the reasons. Fred Ottman — previously of the all-time-worst gimmick contending Tugboat — was set to debut as The Shockmaster. Had this gimmick not failed due to The Shockmaster’s hilarious debut, he would still have made the list somewhere.
But, as it happens, The Shockmaster had a debut that was characteristic of the lousy gimmicks and poor planning common during the WCW era. He was the mystery tag team partner of Davey Boy Smith, Sting (the wrestler), and Davey Boy Smith, going up against Sid Vicious, Harlem Heat, and Big Van Vader. Sting announced this mystery partner,and in busted The Shock Master, tripping on a piece of scenery and landing on his face. All of the wrestlers alternated between busting their guts laughing and holding it in, while Davey Boy Smith was heard to remark: “He fell flat on his arse! Fell flat on his f*cking arse!”
1) The Gobbledy Gooker:It’s 1990, the Survivor Series, you’re a wrestling fan and the big moment in your sexless life is about to happen: Mean Gene is about to reveal what is inside the giant egg that has been hyped on television for weeks. Surely it must be something terrific what with all the hype. Maybe a wrestler who had been thrown out of the federation for exposing himself on a plane/knifing someone in a bar is making his grand return? Maybe the egg contains another grand jury indictment for Vince McMahon? The moment comes, the egg cracks open, and out emerges Hector Guerrero in a heavily-feathered turkey-like outfit. For the first few moments, Mean Gene is barely audible over the chorus of boos coming from fans shocked by just how insanely crappy a surprise this is. Then some goofy music comes on and the Gooker takes Mean Gene to the ring for a dance session that lasts an achingly long time. Announcers Rowdy Roddy Piper and Gorilla Monsoon do their best to play up how much the fans are loving it, but the booing is audible even with the music going. The Gooker does some flips and leaves to the utter bewilderment to this day of anybody who remembers seeing that live.
The entire incident begs the question: What did they plan on doing with a man in a giant turkey outfit? That they hired Guerrero, a wrestler with a pedigree, to play the role suggests they meant the Gooker to wrestle. The wall-to-wall booing he received upon his debut meant the end for the Gooker, who stayed off of WWF/WWE television for years until it became fashionable to mock the very worst of the past, and he was brought in for a gimmick battle royale.
WE WILL LEAVE THE (DIS) HONORABLE MENTIONS UP TO OUR READERS. WHO DID WE MISS? LET US KNOW! CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE!