If At First You Don’t Succeed: Early Wrestling Gimmicks That Didn’t Quite Make It

Brian Damage

There is the old saying…”If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but when it pertains to some professional wrestling gimmicks…”If at first you don’t succeed…KILL IT WITH FIRE!” Today’s piece is all about some of your favorite well known wrestling stars and the early gimmicks they once had. Sure, we know all about Steve Austin changing from The Ringmaster to Stone Cold and Kane was the fake Diesel and Isaac Yankem DDS. There are others that were a bit more obscure. Perhaps, they might want to forget these gems from long ago. In many cases, I wouldn’t blame them at all.

The Commando

Before he was the ‘Dead Man’…Mark Calaway sported a beret and camouflage and was known to wrestling fans as ‘The Commando.’ He had other more well known gimmicks like The Master of Pain and Mean Mark Callous before becoming The Undertaker.

Colt Hill

Hey Yo! When Scott Hall started out, he wasn’t ‘The Bad Guy,’ he was just ‘A guy’ with a very average name of Colt Hill. Looking at his tights, was Colt Hill the original Brahma Bull?


Early in his career, Oscar Gutierrez would be known as The Green Lizard before ultimately settling on El Colibri (English translation The Hummigbird) Thankfully, Oscar’s uncle Rey Mysterio Sr handed him his mask…allowing Rey to carry on the Rey Mysterio name.

Super Olympia

Speaking of masked gimmicks, after Marty Lunde began his career as enhancement talent, he was placed under a mask and known as ‘Super Olympia.’ Of course, Lunde’s career really didn’t start to take off until he was renamed Arn Anderson and was made a member of the fictitious Anderson family.

The Student

The Student was the very first gimmick of the wrestler to be known as George ‘The Animal’ Steele. The Student was managed by Playboy Gary Hart. The reason he wore a mask was to hide his real identity from people who knew him as a football coach and teacher.

The Kisser

We all know Wayne Farris as the shake, rattle and rolling gimmick of the Honky Tonk Man. Back in the late 1970’s, Farris had another music type of gimmick. At the peak of popularity for the rock band KISS….Farris played the character of ‘The Kisser.’ His make up was done by his cousin Jerry Lawler and it was a major flop in the Memphis territory. It only lasted about a week before being scrapped.

Raymond Right

Here was a wrestler named “Raymond Right’ who looked like a male cheerleader that belonged with WWE’s Spirit Squad. Raymond Right’s real name is Raymond Rowe, who you may know better as Erik of WWE’s Viking Raiders tag team.

The Iron Horseman

We most remember him as Perry Saturn, but early in his career, Perry Satullo worked as a hardnosed cowboy complete with chaps, fingerless gloves, a hat and bullwhip called the Iron Horseman.

Mongo Vyle

This was Mark LoMonaco’s first gimmick which was named ‘Mongo Vyle.’ He was supposed to be a biker hailing from Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. After the Vyle character faltered, he was also known as The Terminator Tommy Savoldi, before becoming Bubba Ray Dudley and forming one of the most successful tag teams of all time with D-Von Dudley aka The Dudley Boyz.

Space Lone Wolf

Before donning the face paint and green mist as the legendary Great Muta, Keiji Mutoh had a futuristic gimmick in Japan. He was known as Space Lone Wolf…a wrestler from outer space. Thankfully, the gimmick got sucked up in a black hole and Keiji Mutoh went on to much bigger and greater things.

The Kiwis

The Kiwis would trade in their bleached blonde hair for bloody crimson masks as the ultra violent Sheepherders and later saliva and sardines as the goofy Bushwhackers.

The Brown Bombers

‘Beautiful’ Bobby Eaton’s first gimmick was under a mask teaming with another wrestler named Avril Hutto as ‘The Brown Bombers.’ They wrestled for promoter Nick Gulas in Tennessee.

The Cheetah Kid

Here is another masked wrestler called the Cheetah Kid. You may know him better as ‘Flyboy’ Rocco Rock as a member of the once successful tag team with Johnny Grunge called Public Enemy.


This was one of Seth Rollins’ earliest gimmicks. Instead of burning it down, he wore eyeliner and painted two X’s on his chest.

‘Total’ Lee Awesome

Bobby Roode wasn’t always glorious, no, instead he had bleached blonde hair and was Total Lee Awesome. Yep, that was his wrestling name.

Jungle Pac

Long before AEW’s Jungle Boy Jack, there was Jungle PAC. That is AEW’s the bastard PAC also known as Neville in WWE. He also had a jungle boy gimmick complete with a leopard print loin cloth and wrestling bare foot.

Kid Krush

Not exactly as successful as his ‘Human Suplex Machine’ Tazz gimmick. Not even as successful as his bare foot, face painted savage gimmick as the Tazmaniac. Kid Krush was just something that didn’t quite pan out for Peter Senerchia.

Billy Crusher

Bill Eadie wrestled under several well known gimmicks such as Bolo Mongol, The Masked Superstar, The Super Machine and Demolition Ax. He also had a lesser known gimmick without face paint or a mask…and that was of Billy Crusher.

Crusher Von Haig

No make up, a full head of hair and the iron claw as a finisher….Crusher Von Haig was big and bad. Maybe not the good type of bad…Crusher found greater success with a mohawk, face paint and spiked shoulder pads as Road Warrior Hawk.

The Prototype

Before he was the doctor of Thuganomics and before you could no longer see him…John Cena wrestled as ‘The Prototype.’ His gimmick was 50% man and 50% machine and would 100% destroy his opponents…or at least he claimed during promos.

Bad News Harris

I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news….Bad News Allen and Bad News Barrett weren’t the only wrestlers with that moniker. In the early 1980’s, there was Bad News Harris. A few years later, he would gain some weight, ditch the wrestling boots and wear make up to be known as Kamala the Ugandan Head hunter.

Hollywood Bob Holly

We all remember when the hard hitting ‘Hardcore Holly’ was once the race car driver known as Thurman ‘Spark’ Plugg…later changed to Sparky Plugg in the WWF. Before his career took off, he had the gimmick on the indies as a Hollywood A lister simply named ‘Hollywood’ Bob Holly. He wore sunglasses and fancy robes to the ring and acted as a cocky heel.

The Midnight Soldier

Brian Adams had several misfires before becoming Crush in the WWF. One of which was a masked gimmick named the Midnight Soldier in the Pacific Northwest territory.

Beautiful Bobby Remus

Before he became a drill sergeant and terrorized maggots in the squared circle as Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Remus was “beautiful.” Long hair and all, Beautiful Bobby Remus was a far cry from his military persona that he made famous.

Basket Case

Mark Jindrak has made a nice career for himself having wrestled in WCW, WWE and Mexico. One of Jindrak’s earliest gimmicks in WCW was that of an evil basketball player/wrestler named ‘Basket Case.’ The gimmick didn’t last very long.

Jim Woods

Bah Gawd! It’s Good Ol’ JW?!? In 1983, while employed by Mid South Wrestling…Jim Ross very briefly went by the name Jim Woods.


‘The Rainmaker’ Kazuchika Okada is arguably one of the greatest wrestlers in New Japan history. With that said, his brief time in the United States wrestling for TNA, was not exactly memorable. TNA put a mask on Okada and renamed him ‘Okato’ a play on Bruce Lee’s Kato gimmick from the Green Hornet series.

Baby Face Nelson

When Greg Valentine was starting out, he took on the moniker of Baby Face Nelson. It was a way to separate himself from his famous father and fellow wrestler Johnny Valentine. The name comes from a real life famous gangster George “Babyface” Nelson. A gangster so brutal and violent…Al Capone wanted nothing to do with him. Valentine eventually changed his name to Johnny Fargo.

Harley Davidson

In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s, before you didn’t go messin’ with a country boy in ‘Hillbilly Jim’…you didn’t dare mess with ‘Harley Davidson.’ James Morris had a biker gimmick, which he used in the Memphis, Tennessee territory.

‘Fabulous Kangaroo’ Al Snow

Early in Al Snow’s career, he portrayed an Australian in the tag team known as The New Fabulous Kangaroos with partner Denny Kass. The team wrestled on the indie circuit in places like Detroit and up in Canada.

Stevie McFly

This was Rami Sebei’s (Sami Zayn’s) very first wrestling gimmick in Montreal back in 2002. The Stevie McFly gimmick was inspired by the Back to the Future movies.

The Night Stalker

Years before he became Adam Bomb in the WWF and Wrath in WCW….Bryan Clark was known as ‘The Night Stalker’ in various territories including the AWA. He was managed by Ox Baker and wore face paint and carried a really big axe.


This was not their earliest gimmick, but still pretty rare. For a very brief time in 1998 in the WWF, Buchanan and Luc Poirier formed a tag team named Armageddon. The team was formed after the Truth Commission disbanded. They were sort of the Acolytes-esque…just not quite as intimidating.

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