Gimmicks are crucial in professional wrestling, not just for wrestlers, but also for tag teams, factions, and even certain types of non-wrestling on-screen personalities. It’s the easiest way to tell a character or group of characters apart, and can be as simple as “an Irish boy who likes to fight” (Sheamus) or as lofty as “irradiated survivor of the Three-Mile nuclear accident.” Island” (Adam Bomba).
That being said, not all tricks necessarily work. While some gimmicks are ill-conceived from the start, others are poorly executed, don’t sit well with the fighter representing them, or end up turning out to be a good thing. Let’s take a look at the last 13 years of bad tricks, not just from WWEbut also from Impact Wrestling and even from the beloved New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
13 2010: Raw’s anonymous general manager
Hilariously, the worst stunt of 2010 was one that technically didn’t even have a person attached to it. After a bleak year of celebrity guests running the show, WWE decided to have a mystery boss to Raw, represented by a laptop on a lectern, with Michael Cole reading the dictations and proclamations of the Anonymous Raw General Manager. This proved extremely unpopular and ultimately the identity of the mysterious GM was revealed to be Hornswoggle as a joke.
12 2011: Okato
As part of Impact Wrestling’s disastrous 2007 to 2011 working relationship with New Japan-Pro Wrestling, the Western promotion served as host to NJPW Young Lion Kazuchika Okada during his mandatory learning excursion. Wrestling as an alternate for the X-Division, Okada was eventually repackaged as Okato, Samoa Joe’s partner whose entire gimmick was a reference to Kato from The green Hornet. In addition to being culturally insensitive, the gimmick looks even worse in hindsight, given that Okada became a groundbreaking talent and one of New Japan’s biggest stars.
eleven 2012: Mr. Tensai
After careers in WWE as Albert and A-Train, future NXT head coach Matt Bloom ventured to NJPW, where he wrestled as Giant Bernard and enjoyed a 564-day IWGP Tag Team Championship reign with Karl Anderson. . In 2012, Bloom returned to WWE, where his experience in Japan led to him being featured as a Japanese foreign heel named Lord Tensai: Hakushi-style full face paint and Great Muta-style Poison Mist.
What’s worse is that WWE seemed to quickly lose faith in the gimmick, as Tensai quickly became a go-between before being cast in a comedy tag team with Brodus Clay.
10 2013: The Matadors
During their time in WWE, Primo and Epico went through a series of gimmick changes, the most absurd of which occurred in 2013. Despite being from the famous Colon family of wrestlers from Puerto Rico, the cousins were reorganized as the Spanish bullfighting team Los Matadores, with Mexican mini wrestler Mascarita Dorada becoming his pet bull, El Torito. While the highlight of the group was inarguably WeeLC’s match at Extreme Rules 2014, otherwise few fans were particularly enthusiastic about Los Matadores.
9 2014: The New Day
It may seem like sacrilege given the trio’s success, but at the time of their 2014 debut, few fans could have predicted that The New Day would last a year, let alone a decade. Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston were all afloat when WWE lumped them together as baby-faced gospel preachers preaching positivity. Fans hated the concept the moment it began, but a much-needed turnaround proved their partnership had legs, and The New Day went on to capture 12 tag titles in the years since.
8 2015: MexAmerica
In 2013, Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter were on opposite sides of a feud, as Colter was running Jack Swagger as a Tea Party-themed heel. Two years later, Del Río and Colter ended up allies, promoting a union between Mexico and the United States which they called “MexAmerica”. Bafflingly, this was meant to be a fake gimmick, not only contradicting Colter’s entire anti-immigrant persona, but also seeming to take on some pretty serious prejudices from WWE fans. What’s even worse is that the whole concept fizzled out before it could get anywhere.
7 2016: Bone Soldier
In the mid-to-late 2010s, there wasn’t a hotter promotion than New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and there wasn’t a hotter faction than the Bullet Club, NJPW’s badass faction. But even a promotion on a hot streak can take a misstep or two, and NJPW’s arguably biggest misstep during this period was the addition of Bone Soldier to BC.
A remake of the goofy Captain New Japan, Bone Soldier quickly became one of the worst additions to the Bullet Club thanks to poor in-ring performances and a prominence many fans would compare to Virgil in the nWo.
6 2017: Dolph Ziggler
Always one of WWE’s most underappreciated staples throughout the 2010s, to say the least, underappreciated by WWE itself, Dolph Ziggler dropped a heels gimmick in 2017 that no one seemed to appreciate. Fed up with fans only reacting to wrestlers’ entrances, Ziggler began coming out with various iconic entrance theme songs, including those by Shawn Michaels and Randy Savage, to fool fans. Before long, Ziggler’s own theme brought his music to an abrupt halt after a comical record scratch. This underwhelming gimmick was in the service of setting up a feud with newly debuted Bobby Roode, who was known for having a memorable entrance theme at the time.
5 2018: Agent Corbin
Over the course of his main roster career, Baron Corbin has enjoyed a number of tricks, including being a King of the Ring and a poor person covered in mustard stains. However, Corbin was never hated more than he passed on as Raw‘s Resident Agent, which involved a ridiculous name change to Constable Corbin and adopting a style of clothing that made him look like yours truly Applebee’s. From there, it wasn’t long before Corbin became the brand’s authority figure, making him so overexposed that characters began to blame RawThe decline of the audience in its own existence.
4 2019: Shorty G.
Over a year after he was a plague to Raw, Constable Corbin, then known as King Corbin, became the catalyst for the worst stunt of 2019. A dispute with Chad Gable saw Corbin mocking Gable’s height, which in turn resulted in Gable being billed under the demeaning Shorty Gable’s name. This was ultimately cut short in the even more demeaning Shorty G.
This new Shorty G gimmick didn’t do ex Chad Gable any favors, especially since his basketball uniform-looking outfit further infantilized the underrated talent.
3 2020: Retribution
While COVID wreaked havoc on professional wrestling and the world at large, in the late summer of 2020, WWE seemed to be embarking on its next big story when a mysterious encroaching faction known as Retribution was wreaking havoc on all sides. Raw and Slap. While it certainly piqued the curiosity of fans, the entire Retribution gimmick fell apart as soon as its core members were revealed. NXT standouts like Dominik Dijakovic and Shane Thorne were given goofy names like T-Bar and Slapjack, and WWE immediately lost faith in the group as they came under much mockery from fans.
2 2021: Nikki Ash
Back in the 2000s, WWE had a standout superhero gimmick in the form of the fan-favorite comic character The Hurricane, but it went back down the drain in 2021 by repackaging Nikki Cross into a similar character. Nikki ASH doubled down, short for “Almost a Superhero,” the goofy gimmick was an odd fit for a fighter fans were first introduced to as a spirited chaos demon. Even though the gimmick didn’t work (especially the ASH part), Cross got the most success from her in WWE during this run, winning Money in the Bank and successfully cashing Raw Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair.
1 2022: Figures
Because NXT is a WWE development, it is sometimes unfair to prematurely dismiss certain gimmicks and performers, because the goal of development is to evolve and improve. That being said, there hasn’t been an NXT gimmick that has arrived quite as dead as Scrypts. After about a month of serious cartoons promoting a mysterious figure who would seemingly destroy NXT, the masked scripts debuted in late November 2022 featuring the look of a CHIKARA wrestler without the production value repeatedly simulating writing gestures in the air. Once fans realized the man behind the mask was stunt comedy wrestler Reggie, it seemed like it was all over for Scrypts.