Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, Padraic Toolan & Benjamin Trecroci
As wrestling fans we are hard-wired to expect the unexpected, after all; ‘anything can happen in the WWE!’ Today the team cast their eyes over the wrestlers who caught them by surprise, connected with the audience and defied the odds as they list their Top Five wrestlers who should not have gotten over, but did.
5. Zack Ryder
It’s hard to believe that a seemingly throw away character from the reality show days of the ‘Jersey Shore’ would get over much….but the Long Island Iced Z did just that. His gimmick was supposed to be annoying and grating to the ears and eyes, but somehow…due to the credit of Ryder himself, got that character over huge. The WWE eventually overexposed and buried the gimmick, but make no mistake about, Zack Ryder was very over for a time.
4. The Honkytonk Man
Who would’ve thought that a pro wrestler with an Elvis impersonator gimmick would become one of the WWF’s biggest heels in the 1980’s? That’s exactly what happened. Honky wasn’t the greatest wrestler in the world, nor was his gimmick the greatest…but somehow, through Wayne Farris’ great charisma he made that character one of the most despised heels of all time.
The original concept of this gimmick was to make Rikishi the second coming of Yokozuna. After all, Rikishi in Japanese, is a term referring to a sumo wrestler. That portion of the gimmick didn’t last. It wasn’t until he started dancing and using his large butt as a weapon of mass destruction that Rikishi became a big star for WWE.
2. Val Venis
A wrestler with a porn star gimmick. How in the hell will this get over at all? It did and did right from the get go when they started airing his vignettes before his debut. The Attitude Era was a very crazy time and Venis is proof of that.
1. Daniel Bryan
Don’t get me wrong, Bryan Danielson was and is a tremendous wrestler. It was his size and lack of over the top charisma that should have held him back in a place like WWE. Hardcore wrestling fans, however, gravitated towards him and soon, casual fans as well. It became obvious that despite WWE’s attempts to hold Bryan back…he became one of the company’s biggest and brightest stars.
Fair play Johnny Curtis. Some wrestlers get saddled with dancing, comedy gimmicks and don’t exactly exude enthusiasm i.e. Brodus Clay. However, as Fandango, Curtis went all in and made the most of it. One of the guys mentioned here is still on the WWE roster, and is one funny dude, while the other is, erm…
4. The Brood
What is often said about The Brood is that the gimmick really should not have gotten over in the Attitude Era, but it did. That statement always comes with the impression that it would have gotten over in another era… which one?! Anyway, regardless of how careful WWE were to not actually use terms like “blood” or “vampire” let’s face it, The Brood were vampires. However, somehow they managed to be cool enough not to get booed out of the building by the Attitude Era audience, which on paper they really should have.
Picture the scene; it is the dawn of the Attitude Era, Shawn Michaels and Triple are making dick jokes and insider references every week, Steve Austin is drinking beer and attacking his boss, half of the mid-card are gang members, meanwhile Paul Bearer introduces a giant supernatural demon who can control fire. Which one of these is not like the other? It is interesting to note that the initial plans for Kane were to provide The Undertaker with a foe for Wrestlemania 14 and not much else. Over 20 years later the dude is still there.
2. Diamond Dallas Page
All credit to DDP, he really should not have gotten over the way he did in WCW but due to his hard work and dedication it paid off. He only started training as a wrestler in his mid to late 30s. He then adopted a, let’s face, fairly cliché character but all the while he was still honing his craft away from the cameras. Add a finisher that was as over as anything in the mid-90s and a killer angle with the nWo and you have a guy defying all the odds.
1. The Undertaker
Imagine describing The Undertaker to someone with no knowledge of wrestling. Firstly, he’s a funeral organiser. Secondly, he’s basically a zombie that has died and come to life multiple times. Thirdly, he’s also a wizard that can summon lightning on command. Taker genuinely confused me when I was younger because my parents knew the local undertaker, and he wasn’t a zombie or a wizard, let alone both. It’s a credit to Mark Calaway because not only did he get this ridiculous character over, he made it one of the best and coolest characters ever. Hats off to you sir.
5. Velveteen Dream
A Prince knockoff played by a guy who got eliminated from Tough Enough. In this day in wrestling, especially in NXT, it’s pretty amazing to think that Patrick Clark has turned Velveteen Dream into possibly the most popular wrestler on the roster. The character is so over-the-top ridiculous, yet he has the crowd eating out of his hands.
4. Scotty 2 Hotty
Very similar to Velveteen Dream. The character didn’t fit into the era at all, and was totally ridiculous, but The Worm might have been as over as the Stink Face at the time.
3. Razor Ramon
So they took a guy who is at least 12 feet taller than Al Pacino and made him into a Tony Montana knockoff. Scott Hall was great. The Razor Ramon character sucked. Somehow, he made it work. Not that Fake Diesel was any better, but you can especially see how awful the character was when played by someone else. I still have no idea how this character was inducted into the WW Hall of Fame, not that that’s a true benchmark for greatness.
2. Disco Inferno
How in the blue hell did this gimmick get over? Especially since Glenn Gilbertti seems to be an idiot. This must just have been catching lightning in a bottle, because I don’t think you could get this over again. I mean imagine bringing in a guy whose gimmick is he just dances, then having him like, I dunno, beat Chris Jericho at WrestleMania or something. No chance.
He fought Triple H at SummerSlam. He was saved by Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania. He is a former Tag Team Champion. HE BEAT KURT ANGLE FOR HIS GOLD MEDAL! His gimmick was the mentally retarded nephew of Eric Bischoff who learned wrestling by copying what he saw on TV. I don’t think you could even get away with having a character like that today, let alone get it over. It still boggles my mind how this character got past… well, anything. Creative, the fans, a concept in a dream, I dunno. How he made it to TV and how he had sustained popularity is beyond me. He’s an easy #1 for me.
5. Woken Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy is a legend no doubt. The Hardys are incredibly popular so you could argue that it doesn’t matter what they do it will get over. But what Matt Hardy did had no damn reason for it to get over they way it has. He radically changed his look with his crazy hair and gear. He talked with a strange accent and in odd sequence, “The Bucks of Youth” aka The Young Bucks. What he did in TNA put them back on the map and for a number of months Matt Hardy was the hottest name in all of wrestling. Matt walked the plank on this gimmick and came out smelling like roses.
I’ll never understand why anyone liked him, or hated him even as a heel he did absolutely nothing for me. Could care less what he did. To me he was always just Justin Hawk Bradshaw among his other personas and somebody I would turn the channel on every time. But for some reason he seems to be a lightning rod for a number of fans. Never a good wrestler outside of his clothesline from hell. When he became champion in 2004, I stopped watching wrestling altogether
3. Ultimate Warrior
This guy was not a good wrestler at all, only had a couple moves. But he had a great entrance with the heavy metal music and of course his face paint and muscles..but then the bell rang. He was on par with Hogan and Macho Man with being the most popular guy in the WWF for those couple years in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Was never a big Warrior fan and looking back at his matches it’s a wonder why anyone was.
2. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Beefcake was pretty decent tag-team wrestler with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine then suddenly he was on his own. Beefcake had cut the hair of Adrian Adonis in a storyline and it seemed to get over so why not let’s make him a Barber full-time! Not only would Beefer parlay this odd gimmick into a popular character but he would get his interview segment with The Barber Shop. I would argue that Beefcake was on par with Jake “The Snake”,etc as the most over guy on the roster behind Hogan, Macho Man, Ultimate Warrior. He was a barber wrestler. Think about that…
Let’s see, so we’re going to turn the son of Dusty Rhodes from a white-bread babyface into a Gold-Painted Androgynous character who will rub his privates on other wrestlers and dress in women’s panties sometimes. This was 1995, people weren’t that open to “alternative lifestyles” back then and now suddenly fans cheered for Goldust and in a big way.
20+ years later, while he’s toned down his act, Goldy is still around. Have to believe that only a Rhodes kid would’ve got this gimmick over.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.