Lowlife Louie Ramos, B Dangerous and Brian Damage
This week’s top five is inspired by the recent success of Matt (Don’t call me Zack Ryder) Cardona and his venture into the world of death matches. We look at wrestlers who may or may not have had great success under a certain gimmick or character…but have had a long career with the ability to reinvent themselves and adapt to the ever changing world of professional wrestling.
5) Mick Foley
Once known as enhancement talent Jack Foley, no one would have guessed how far he would go. Transforming himself into the maniacal Cactus Jack, he would go on to worldwide acclaim in WCW, ECW and become the 1st ever king of the deathmatch. As the WWE came knocking, he was reinvented into another brutality violent competitor..Makind himself would switch into a fun loving sock toting hero, one that would capture 3 world titles
4) C.M Punk.
From his beginnings in Chicago, to stints in the indies as the second city saint, to the straight edge hero that led him from ring of honor into the WWE. Punk was always able to always stay fresh. Whether it was leading his own faction, to dropping the pipe bomb to even walking out and reinventing himself as a UFC fighter. We can only imagine what a AEW centric Punk will be like.
3) Glenn Jacobs.
Man did this man reinvent himself time and again until the role of a lifetime landed on his lap. From the Christmas creature, to the Unabomb in the indies, to a dentist, to reprising the character of a departed wrestler to finally landing as Kane, his gimmicks all were a bit more successful than the last. Lastly, Mr Jacobs reinvents himself into the mayor of Knox county, Tennessee.
2) Chris Jericho.
In a hall of fame careers that has spanned decades, Jericho has been one of the greatest chameleons of all time. From the white meat hero Lionheart, to the cocky clown of WCW fame, to the infamous Y2J and a unified world championship reign..to various stints on both sides of the fence,. To the list toting scarf wearing jackass, to now le champion and the painmaker..he truly has reinvention down pat.
1) Hulk Hogan
In the 70s Hulk was a mountain of muscle heel, with various managers serving as mouthpieces , into the 80s and after his popularity grew from his appearance in Rocky 3, he began to lead the movement of Hulkamania, and even though it didn’t take off in the AWA like it would in 84.,his reinvention from bad guy to hero was complete. Fast forward to 1996 and the hero we all had grown to love ( and some grew tired of) reinvented himself into the black and white heel Hollywood Hulk Hogan. This turn led to a boom period for wrestling as a whole and could have meant the end of the WWE( had WCW had a clue). Hogan would one more time revert to his famous yellow and red, winning 1 more nostalgia filled world title…his then run as an authority figure in TNA notwithstanding.
Reinvention is definitely the Fountain of Youth for professional wrestlers.
In the old days you’d see these great wrestlers who would finish their careers as a sad shell of their former selves or they’d become jobbers to the new generation and just wrestle until their bodies broke-down.
Eventually though, someone figured out that they could change their gimmick and “work smarter, not harder”, which would add years to their career.
Here are my Top 5 wrestlers who found that proverbial Fountain of Youth through reinvention:
5- The Undertaker
Of course he’s been Texas Red, “Punisher” Dice Morgan, “Mean” Mark Callous, among others. But since becoming The Undertaker, Mark Calloway has found ways on a regular basis to freshen his character up. I’m personally fond of the Ministry of Darkness ‘Taker, but most of his personas had a lot to offer.
After years of reinvention The Undertaker had become such a spectacle that he only needed to wrestle a couple of times per year, which certainly prolonged his career.
Sting wasn’t exactly at a place where he was career-bankrupt when he took on his “Crow” persona, but it gave him the chance to do things that his surfer persona would have never allowed for.
Years later he reinvented himself again as “Joker” Sting and Main Event Mafia Sting; both to tremendous success.
Unfortunately he always seems to go back to the “Crow” well, which I’m afraid is going a little dry.
3- Matt Hardy
While Matt never quite had the success of his brother Jeff in the WWE, outside of it, Matt has had a pretty interesting career. He has created some very interesting characters and reinvented himself a number of times to very respectable success. The greatest of all though, in my less than humble opinion, is “Broken” Matt Hardy and his vignettes in Impact Wrestling. So ingenious were they that the WWE, with all its money, could never capture their magic.
2- Chris Jericho
This man is the king of reinvention. From Lionheart to The Man of 1,004 Moves to Y2J to Save Us to The List To The Painmaker to El Champion to The Demo God… and so many more. Jericho gets it better than anyone.
1- Hulk Hogan
Hogan started his career with a few different names, but roughly the same gimmick. In 1984 though, that gimmick was fully realized and he rode that rocket until the early ’90s. By that time the whole perceived bronze boyscout thing had gotten old and fans were ready for something new.
After a jump to WCW, Hogan had a brief resurgence before the gamble of a lifetime with a heel-turn and the birth of Hollywood, which essentially gave him a full rebirth. And as an aside, here in the Midwest I saw far more Hollywood Hogan shirts than I ever did Hulkamania shirts.
As far as I’m concerned, Bray Wyatt, Duke Rotundo, The Fiend, Axel Mulligan, Husky Harris etc…Windham Rotunda has proven to be a very creative person who knows enough about himself to adapt and change his persona when needed. Even though he spent his entire career under the WWE umbrella, Rotunda has proven he can adapt and change with the times and make himself interesting.
He is arguably one of the greatest wrestlers to ever come from Japan. He has been saddled with many gimmicks over his career, but Mutoh has the where with all to tweak each persona to make it work for him and get over with fans worldwide.
For younger fans, it may be hard to believe that Terry Funk was once the NWA world champion and a very respected scientific wrestler. Over the years, Funk was able to reinvent himself into this wild, crazy hardcore icon. His career may be over now, but his longevity within the industry should be admired.
There was a time when Matt was considered “the other Hardy Boy” when compared to his more eccentric brother Jeff. Kudos to Matt to be able to constantly reinvent himself to make him stand out above his brother and make a nice career for himself.
To me, Chris Jericho is the ultimate master of reinventing himself to become completely different than the previous incarnation. Whether it was the Lionheart, Y2J, The Painmaker or the Demo God…Jericho knows how to keep himself fresh and relevant in the ever changing world of professional wrestling.
4 thoughts on “Top Five Reinvented Wrestlers”
1. Chris Jericho-Lionheart Jericho, Monday Night Jericho, Y2J, Ruthless Aggression Jericho, Serious Jericho, Yeah Yeah Yeah Jericho, the List Jericho, the Painmaker, Le Champion.
2. Matt Hardy-Matt Hardy v 1.0, Angry Matt Hardy (in his feud w/ Edge), Fat Matt, TNA Matt, Broken Matt, Woken Matt, Big Money Matt
3. Mick Foley-Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love
4. Undertaker-Dead Man, Ministry Undertaker, American Badass, Biker Taker, and Dead Man 2.0
5. Sting-Surfer Sting, DBS (Dumb Babyface Syndrome) Sting, Crow Sting, Joker Sting.
Honorable Mentions: Kane-Big Red Machine Kane, new altered mask Kane, maskless Kane, new-mask Kane, Corporate Kane, and new-mask Kane. Matt Cardona-Edge-head, woo-woo Zack Ryder, workhorse Ryder, and the most hated man in the death match wrestling scene.
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A few that wasnt mentioned:
Bob Holly- went from a racecar driver 2 Hardcore Holly 2 keep himself relevant and extend his career.
Rock- went from bland white meat babyface 2 da most Electrifying arrogant jock 2 take wrestling and Hollywood by storm.
Stone Cold- pretty boy blonde heel technical wrestler 2 a bald headed bad ass brawler
Vince McMahon- from babyface commentator 2 tyrannical dictator owner as Mr. McMahon
Raven-from rich boy arrogant manager 2 a brooding sadistic man who loves pain
Bradhaw- rugged cowboy 2 beer drinking poker player 2 rich business tycoon.
I could go on but I’ll leave it at that
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Undertaker would have to be the top for me. I mean he actually made the gimmick of a supernatural, undead Puritan work and survived by tweaking it over the years. In sometimes most unexpected ways.
The Funker, Stone Cold, Jericho, Foley and number five I’ll hold open for all those indie guys I watched late 80’s/ early 90’s who kept me interested in wrestling during a tough major promotion time…TrI State..IWCCW…GWF…UWF 2,..East Coast Championship…ECWA….NWS…etc