Holy Gimmicks! Batman!
February 3, 2004 - by Brad Dykens

What's a gimmick? This is a term used to describe a few things in wrestling. A wrestlers persona or character is often called his gimmick. A gimmick can also be used to describe a weapon or object used during a match. In the kayfabe era, a gimmick was also described a part of a wrestler's character, like Jim Cornette bringing a tennis racket to ringside, or Jimmy Hart bringing a megaphone. Anything from a cowboy had to a live animal, such as a snake or bird would be considered a portion of a wrestlers 'gimmick'. We're going to look at some of the best gimmicks, and in some cases, the most blatant gimmicks in wrestling's past.

Something that I thought was extremely clever was the gimmick used by the late Crash Holly. His entrance into the WWE was as Hardcore Holly's little cousin and they battled over who was the real "super-heavyweight". This was humorous because Crash was obviously a light heavyweight but it was strange because everybody knew he really believed in his own mind that he was a super-heavyweight. He would bring a scale to the ring with him as part of his gimmick, and he would be announced as "weighing in at allegedly well over 400 lbs" - I loved it!

The 'cowboy' gimmick has long been used in the wrestling business. Not so much latterly though, because of the changing times. The gimmick was used extensively in Texas, where technically, it was a way of life. But when a Texan made his way north to where the 'cowboy way' wasn't the norm, his/her gimmick would be amplified; "Cowboy" Bob Kelly, "Cowboy" Bill Watts, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, The Blackjacks, and into the 90s with the Smoking Gunns and most recently in TNA, "Cowboy" James Storm --- just to name a few!

The 'handicapped' gimmick was never used all that much. It had to be the right person playing the character because, first of all, they had to be a good actor, and second of all, they had to portray the character in a way that doesn't offend people. George "The Animal" Steel had a successful attempt at this concept, and won the hearts of fans everywhere during the RockNWrestling era in the WWF. A decade later, a similar, but admittedly less lovable character popped up in WCW, known as Dave Sullivan, who was so confused, that he used to call himself EVAD. This gimmick was perfected in the early 80s though with a character by the name of Mighty Igor. The man who wrestled as Might Igor was Dick Garza, and he was loved by all the fans he came in contact with. A separate dimension to his character was that he was as strong as an ox! He would perform incredible feats of strenth before his matches to endear himself even more to the crowd. Ivan putski also used this same gimmick before he buffed up and became the "Polish Power".

The 'homosexual' gimmick has been used sporadically over the years, and was covered in a great article but OWW's own Mark Rose in an earlier column. The originator of this persona was Gorgeous George Wagner from the 1950s and 60s. Gorgeous George was decades ahead of his time in the field of sports entertainment. Those who followed in his footsteps were wrestlers such as "Exotic" Adrian Street, "Adorable" Adrian Adonis, Goldust, Kweewee (later called Bruce in TNA), ROH's Christopher Street Connection, Rico in the WWE, and the latest intallments, NWA Wildside's Lazz, and former XPW wrestler The Hardcore Homo (aka Angel).

Managers were always saddled with some kind of gimmick, it was tough for managers to stand outside the ring for an entire match and try to remain visible, but not distract from the wrestlers inside the ring. I guess now that I think about it, in some cases, the managers were put in place to distract from the bad wrestlers in the ring! Jimmy Hart made a habit out of taking a megaphone to the ring with him so he could shout instructions to his men, and irritate the opponents, and on occassion use it as a weapon! Freddy Blassie & Mr. Fuji brought canes to the ring and became a vital aspect of their character. Jim Cornette had the most classic gimmick for a manager, he brought a tennis racket with him to ringside. Why? No clue, but as you can imagine, that tennis racket came into play more than once while Cornette was managing his guys. "Captain" Lou Albano had the most bizzar gimmick of all time, he attached rubber bands to his cheeks from what I believe were piercings. Paul E. Dangerously had an unconventional 'cell phone' as his gimmick of choice. Some forign heels would come to the ring waving the flag of their country; Russia, Japan, Iraq and most recently the french flag by La Resistance in the WWE..

In my last column, which I highly recommend if you were a fan of the 80s WWF product, I talked about "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's gimmick and how incredible it was. Here is an sample:

In a rare moment when all these factors click you have a truly perfect character, and that's what Vince McMahon had when he gave Ted DiBiase the "Million Dollar Man" gimmick. Everybody wants money, and they hate someone who has money, they hate them even more if they abuse it. Ted DiBiase, and his bodyguard Virgil, would come to the ring and offer a "fan" $100 to do some disgusting task like kiss his foot or lick his shoe or something like that. One of these "fans" was a very young man by the name of Rob Szatowski; Ten years later Rob Szatowski would be known world wide as a performer himself, he's currently wrestling in the WWF as Rob Van Dam.

This financial arrogance came to a head when Ted DiBiase decided he was going to buy his way to the WWF championship. He hashed a master plan to outsmart the WWF champion as well as WWF Present Jack Tunney and get the WWF title belt without working for it (instant heat). He first tried the easy route, and offered to flat out purchase the prize from Hulk Hogan, who flat out refused! So Mr. DeBiase enlisted the services of Hulk Hogan's biggest nemesis, Andre The Giant! The Giant vowed to take the WWF title from around the Hulkster's waist and deliver it to the Million Dollar Man.

In a match filled with controversy, which aired on Saturday Night's Main Event, Andre The Giant did indeed pin Hulk Hogan to win the WWF championship, but the Hulkster's shoulders were CLEARLY off the mat during the fall! Referee Dave Hebner declared Andre The Giant the NEW WWF champion until another referee hit the ring and claimed he was the REAL Dave Hebner and the other one was a fake! (In reality, this was Dave Hebner's twin brother EARL, who had remained a secret until this point) Andre the Giant did deliver the WWF belt to Ted DiBiase, but WWF Present Jack Tunney immediately stripped him and a 16-man tournament was held at Wrestlemania IV, where Ted DiBiase lost in the finals to Randy "Macho Man" Savage!

Gimmicks weren't always a good addition to a wrestlers persona. Anybody that saw Terry Taylor dress up as the Red Rooster knows that! The Red Rooster immediately did battle with a glorified jobber named The Brooklyn Brawler. That was ALSO a horrible gimmick, but in the case of Steve Lombardi, it was considered career enhancement. He had a job in the office anyway, and I gather he didn't care what they did with him in the ring. Max Moon was another ridiculous character used in the WWF. I don't even know how to discribe that one. Damien Demento was a strange gimmick used for only a short time but never had much behind it. Doink the Clown is often the most ridiculed gimmick by critisizers. I actually loved the Doink gimmick, especially when he was a heel in the WWF. The double Doink trick was a classic method of getting heat with the babyface wrestlers. Later on when Doink was a face himself, it got a little ridiculous with Bushwhacker Doinks, Men on a Mission Doinks, and midget Doinks. What I want people to remember is that Doink's character may have over-shadowed the wrestler, but the wrestler was always an master technician and knew how to work a match properly.

WCW had a dump truck load of gimmick on their program during the final year of its existance. They tried to capitolize on America's growing hatred of Boy Bands by throwing Evan Karagias, Shannon Moore & Shane Helms into a group called 3-Count. They would come out and sing and dance and the crowd would boo and yell and beg for them to get off the stage. Team Canada was assembled, even though half the members weren't even Canadian, they still got pushed week after week. Curt Hennig was the leader of a group called the "West Texas Rednecks", Curt Hennig wasn't even from Texas, let alone West Texas. He was from Minnesota! Eric Bischoff was clinging onto everything he could get his hands on and thought crossing over into the entertainment industry was the answer to his prayers. He signed a deal with Gene Simmons to colaborate on a wrestling character named the "KiSS Demon", that didn't last, and it wasn't ever good. "Screamin" Norman Smiley had one of the more entertaining gimmicks, he was a coward, but he always seemed to come out in the winners bracket of his matches. He's wear football gear, and catcher's gear, or hockey equiptment to the ring, and he was pushed in the HARDCORE division! The gimmick of all gimmicks in WCW was Lenny & Lodi's ambiguously gay duo schtick. It was so controversial that Ted Turner's Standards & Practices division put an end to it before it could go too far. WCW writers mocked Turner's suits by changing Lenny & Lodi's gimmick to "Standards & Practices", wearing suit & ties, and took notes on wrestlers who approached the point of crossing the line. This is also when Stacy Keibler first appeared as "Ms. Hancock" -- of course, like so many gimmicks before (and after), Standards & Practices was squashed, and Stacy Keibler became a slut.

It's hard to imagine wrestling without stupid gimmicks. Would it be the same thing as it is today. Wrestling without any gimmicks all together? It's virtually unimaginable. It was the evolution of the industry that gave us these memorable and not-so-memorable gimmicks. A lot of people say, "Oh well that was so stupid!" or "Why did they do that", but you know what, you remember it! And leaving a lasting impression on the average paying fan is what they are looking to do. Mix that with something that draws the crowd to the arena, like a main event, and you have a sports entertainment extravaganza!

I want to invite you to write in with your memories of wrestling gimmicks that you enjoyed or detested over the years.

by Brad Dykens

Chris Peacock:
I have seen alot of gimmicks pass in the time I have been watching wrestling, But I think the most memorible gimmick I have seen would have to be Papa Shango. This guy was kinda a Witchdoctor knock off. He was played by the man that would be know under another great gimmick later as the Godfather. But back to Papa Shango, I remember when he would point his little staff with the skull on top at people and they would just instantly get sick. They set up the match with the Ulitimate Warrior so well that when he pointed his staff at him he started throwing up green liquid all over the place it was so awsome. Never forget good gimmicks make good wrestling.

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