You could be the greatest wrestler in the world and oozing with charisma, but it won’t mean a thing in the WWE if you don’t have the right gimmick. We’ve seen wrestlers over the years that were loaded with skills and could work a microphone like no other, but were toiling away with a bad gimmick.
Thankfully, some of those legends were able to repackage themselves and became main event-tier wrestlers after the change. Let’s take a look throughout wrestling history and revisit some of the gimmicks that the biggest names in wrestling used to have before being repackaged.
Before we get into the list, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions: Scott Steiner becomes Big Poppa Pump, The Sultan becomes Rikishi, Hulk Hogan becomes Hollywood Hogan, Bradshaw becomes JBL, and Husky Harris becomes Bray Wyatt.
5. Triple H
When he first made it into pro wrestling, Paul Levesque went under the awful punny name of Terra Ryzing. Things didn’t get much better as the played the role of a Connecticut aristocrat during his time in WCW, which was tweaked slightly, and the ‘Greenwich Snob’ went by the very upper-crust name of Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
When teaming up with Shawn Michaels and joining D-Generation X, the name was just shortened to Triple H. Eventually, Triple H completely distanced himself from his old gimmick when announcers referred to him more as “The Game” and “The Cerebral Assasin” and it was a massive improvement.
Glenn Jacobs went through a lot of gimmicks early on in his wrestling career, and that includes playing an insane dentist named Isaac Yankem, DDS. Others included Angus King, the Christmas Creature, Doomsday, and the “Fake” Diesel. He was clearly talented, but none of his gimmicks were sticking. That was, however, until he was repackaged as the Devil’s favorite demon, Kane.
It turns out, fans were more enthralled with a man that was straight from the depths of hell rather than a dentist. Kane became one of the staples of the Attitude Era and was involved in the biggest storylines of the time as he proved to be a great main event heel for the likes of Stone Cold, Mankind, and The Rock.
Sting became one of the biggest stars of the WCW, looking like a character straight out of “American Gladiators” with a name to boot. The surfer gimmick for Sting was definitely a product of its time, and while it got it over with fans, it needed to be tweaked in the late 1990s. Thankfully, the film “The Crow” had become popular at the time, and Sting took on the same look.
Wrestler Scott Hall came up with the idea for Sting to change from the surfer gimmick to the brooding character in black and white face paint. The bold idea paid off big time and he became one of the faces of the WCW during its prime years.
2. The Rock
In terms of wrestlers that have gotten over in the mainstream just as much as they did in the wrestling ring, nobody holds a candle to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He wasn’t always The Rock, though, as he started out his WWE career as Rocky Maivia and dressed in a way that certainly helped him to stand out, but not to get over.
Dropping the last name and completely overhauling his gimmick, Johnson became simply known as The Rock and joined the Nation of Domination stable. Going on his own as the people’s champ and eventually joining the Corporation stable, Johnson was able to showcase his charisma and was massively over.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin
It’s hard to picture, especially for young people, a Steve Austin that had long blonde hair. However, that’s exactly how Austin came into pro wrestling as a member of The Dangerous Alliance and The Hollywood Blonds while in WCW. After a brief stint in ECW, Austin headed to the WWE in 1995 as The Ringmaster, but quickly changed gimmicks to Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Austin became a beer-swilling butt-kicking redneck character that appealed to the blue collar crowds. There was no bigger star during the Attitude Era than Stone Cold, and he showed that you can pull off a vest and bald head in the wrestling ring.