Be Kind and Please Rewind: Recycled Gimmicks and Angles in Pro Wrestling


Brian Damage

I don’t think it is much of a secret, that the wrestling world copies much of its own ideas and recycles them a few years later. Heck, they just might recycle them quicker than that….especially if you are Vincent Kennedy McMahon and you own the WWE. It is WWE’s recycling of gimmicks that are featured in this piece.

Make no qualms about it, McMahon and the WWE have taken many of their ideas through the years and recycled them on a later date. In other cases, they will look at what other promotions do and just “steal” the idea and it is those gimmicks that are featured in this piece

Who would really know anyway? According to the logic of the WWE for many, many years…professional wrestling or Sports Entertainment simply didn’t exist anywhere else. The WWE had a policy for years of not mentioning rival promotions and territories…unless it became convenient and advantageous for them to do so. Growing up on the east coast, the WWF/E was the main company I had to watch. I didn’t realize there were other territories across the country and around the world until I started buying “Apter Mags” like Pro Wrestling Illustrated etc.

At the time, I found myself shocked that the then WWF was not the only option out there…but also copied several ideas from other places. I am not here to denigrate the WWF/E for doing it, because as I said before…most promoters did the exact same thing. I want to look at some ideas that the company borrowed or for some, just plain ripped off.

Some times, a storyline, angle or gimmick has been recycled so many times…you may lose track of its origins. In any case, let us take a look at some gimmicks and angles that have been done and redone….


For example, Hulk Hogan’s famous body slam of Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III in 1987 was regarded by some as the first time Andre was picked up and slammed in his career. Not true…Andre was bodyslammed several times in various territories and Japan.

As far as the WWF/E goes…it happened back in 1980 at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York…seven years prior to Wrestlemania III.


Back in 2000, the Acolyte Protection Agency was opened for business. The team consisted of Farooq (Ron Simmons) and Bradshaw (John Layfield) and their gimmick was a tag team for hire. If you met their price, the APA would attack, assault, interfere in a match. The gimmick became pretty popular and lasted for over four years in the WWE.


Before the APA took wrestlers cash for hire idea…another promotion had the very same idea. Back in 1991, in WCW, Dick Murdoch and Dick Slater formed the Hardliner Collection Agency. They were later just called the Hardliners for short. Their gimmick…as was the APA’s after them…was a tag team for hire. They however, didn’t last as long due to injuries.


In 1999, the WWF had an “empty arena match” during the halftime of Super Bowl Sunday between the Rock and Mankind. It was a cool and unique way to have a match….but it certainly wasn’t the first.


Rewind to 1981, there was an empty arena match at the old Mid South Coliseum between Terry Funk and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler in the Memphis territory.


During the height of the ‘Attitude Era’ in 1998, the WWE saw the demonic Undertaker crucify Stone Cold Steve Austin on his symbol. The angle was intended to shock fans and create a buzz and in some cases it did. Just not as big of a controversy two years earlier.


Extreme Championship Wrestling did the exact same angle in 1996. It caused such a stir…Raven had to break character and apologize for doing it. Kurt Angle also walked out of the ECW arena in disgust. While it was certainly not uncommon for the WWE and WCW to steal ideas from ECW and bring them to a much larger audience. This one sticks out the most for me.


I recently covered this next angle which involved Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig smashing Hulk Hogan’s WWF title to bits and piece with a timekeepers hammer. This angle occurred in 1989…and as I wrote…I thought it was the first time it had ever been done. I was completely wrong.


The angle was done by the same company just 7 years prior in 1982. Superstar Billy Graham stole the belt while Bob Backlund was in the ring competing. Graham them ripped apart the belt with his bare hands. He also shattered the gold plates on the belt by whipping it against the concrete floor at ringside.


When Andre the Giant was “suspended” by WWF President Jack Tunney for no showing an event, Andre returned to the company under a mask called “The Giant Machine” hailing from Japan. The look of the mask, the name and the location were all copied from a Japanese wrestler named Junji Hirata.


Hirata had a masked gimmick in Japan years prior to the Giant Machine gimmick in the WWF where he was named The Super Strong Machine. I guess Vince McMahon felt that Japan was far enough for wrestling fans not to know the gimmick was already being used.


The WWF had a futuristic tag team called Tekno Team 2000 that consisted of Troy and Travis. (Erik Watts and Chad Fortune) They were a tag team that were going to lead the 1995 WWF into the 21st Century. The Tekno Team 2000 wasn’t the first attempt at such a gimmick.


In 1986, under the NWA banner…a tag team called the New Breed was formed. They claimed to be from the future and were going to lead the NWA tag team division into the future. The New Breed consisted of Chris Champion and Sean Royal.


One of the more shocking angles for the WWF came in 1987, when the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase announced that he was going to buy the WWF title from Hulk Hogan. After Hogan refused and told him no, Dibiase hired Andre the Giant to take the title off of Hogan. The aftermath, saw Andre defeat Hogan for the belt and then surrender the WWF title to Dibiase after it was bought by Dibiase. A tournament was created after Jack Tunney stripped Dibiase of the belt.


As shocking as that angle was, it was not the first time an angle like that was done. The same angle took place in Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1983, when Larry Zbyszko bought the National heavyweight title from ‘Killer’ Tim Brooks for $25,000. The title was held up and a tournament was ordered to crown a new champion.


Everybody recalls Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka’s infamous leap off the top of the steel cage on a hapless Don Muraco back in 1983. It inspired many in attendance in Madison Square Garden to become pro wrestlers themselves…including Mick Foley and Mark LoManaco (Bubba Ray Dudley)


That wasn’t the first time Snuka had done such a move at MSG for the WWF. A year earlier, Jimmy Snuka was a heel and wrestled Bob Backlund for the WWF title. Snuka did the flying leap off off the cage at that event also. The only difference was Snuka missed against Backlund…but hit it against Muraco. Oh what a difference a year makes.


The Hell in the Cell concept was imagined and first debuted in October of 1997. The cage is totally enclosed and proved to be so popular, that it has received its own event annually.


There are some discrepancies as to who came up with the original concept of Hell in the Cell. Was it Jim Cornette, Vince Russo, Shawn Michaels or somebody else? Regardless about who was the person who thought of it, the WWE readily admits it borrowed heavily from the “Last Battle in Atlanta” match that had Tommy Rich versus Buzz Sawyer. It originated from Georgia Championship Wrestling back in 1983.


Brother Love was a character in the WWF that debuted in 1988. It was a take on the televangelists that were so prominent back in that era. Love had his own talk show and would manage the likes of the Undertaker and the “Sisters of Love.”

ernest angel

Earlier that year, Continental Wrestling based in Memphis, Tennessee had their own character named Brother Ernest Angel. He too had his own talk show called “Quiet Time” and he carried “the good book” which he used as a weapon. He also managed a team called the Choir Boys. A tag team dressed up looking like Alter boys.

There were countless other examples of the WWE copying territorial gimmicks, angles etc and bringing them to a much bigger audience. Some of which we will cover in another piece. As the great artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”


9 thoughts on “Be Kind and Please Rewind: Recycled Gimmicks and Angles in Pro Wrestling

  1. One gimmick that the WWF/E hasn’t done is the “toss the Championship Belt” in the river, something that was done in Memphis and Mid Atlantic. Unless something like that happened with the Rock, I’m not sure.


  2. East Coast boy myself. Oh those nights at MSG. Loved all those twists even if they were recycled.
    Wasn’t it Sgt Slaughter that destroyed Backlunds belt ??


  3. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 6 | Ring the Damn Bell

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