Akeem The African Dream & 9 other old-school gadget changes that sucked
When bad gimmick changes in WWE are mentioned, it’s all too easy to just look at the last 20 years. WWE has a habit of saddling up the workers with new characters that are downright gruesome and mind blowing the way they were created. As a result, far too many up-and-coming workers or established stars have been ruined by being forced to take on a persona they weren’t suited for and fell apart badly. But this is nothing new for WWE but rather a pattern dating back decades.
Indeed, some of the “old school” gadget changes from before the Attitude era can outshine some modern transformations in their misery. Workers received silly characters, laughable outfits, and more to spoil them. In at least one case, it took a terrific gimmick and ruined it with new management. These are ten of the dumbest character changes from old WWE and prove that this problem is older than some wrestling fans might assume.
ten Abe Knuckleball Schwartz
Steve Lombardi was a good backstage presence in WWE while also being known as Brooklyn Brawler, one of the best hookers of his time. In 1992, he was remade as an MVP (not to be confused with the current star), dressed as a baseball player with ball-like makeup.
In 1994, as MLB went on strike, he became Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz, a supposedly hitting ballplayer but then “the only active ballplayer left”. Neither did anything for Lombardi’s winning streak and a sign of the issues linking a gimmick to an ongoing event.
This is a classic example of WWE having the “it ain’t broke, but let’s fix it anyway” attitude. The original Doink was a genius idea as Matt Borne played him as a pure evil clown. He would come out to brilliant music that turned sinister, popping balloons and mocking his opponents.
Just as the act clicked, Borne was fired and the character turned into a silly comic relief, complete with a little Dink sidekick and pranks. Fans quickly learned to hate him because keeping Doink the evil clown was so much better than the comedy guy.
8 Adrian Adonis
In his prime, Adrian Adonis was one of the baddest and toughest wrestlers around, bragging about his New York background and dressed in motorcycle leather. In the mid-1980s, Adonis put on a lot of weight and also took on the “Adorable” gimmick. He dyed his hair blonde and walked out dressed in pink tights with boas, scarves and makeup.
He had a feud with Roddy Piper, but otherwise Adonis had negative feelings with the whole thing and took his career to the bottom. Adonis would tragically die in a car accident in 1988, so it was the sad high point of an otherwise good career.
After injuries and other issues caused him to leave WWE in early 1992, Jim Neidhart toured the Indies before returning in 1994 to start again. In 1996, another comeback came…even though no one knew about it. As if to punish Neidhart, the anvil was placed under a mask and simply called “Who”.
It was nothing more than an excuse for commentators to do “Who’s First” routines, which, of course, were lost on live audiences. It was a strange idea that did Neidhart a disservice. Luckily, he made a good comeback the following year as himself with the Hart Foundation as it bothered the masked Neidhart.
6 Bastion Booger
It’s amazing when a change from a bad thing is actually a step backwards. Friar Ferguson was a crazy character as an “evil monk” who dressed like Friar Tuck. Mike Shaw was a big guy who was fine with dresses, but not much behind him.
So WWE did something worse by having him dress in what looked like gray rubber band tape highlighting his beefy body. As Bastion Booger, he was encouraged to be as gross as possible, sloppy, sweaty eating food and a finisher dropping his baggy rear end on a guy. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out as fans chased Booger.
5 Saba Simba
One of many wrestling guys claiming to be “the strongest man alive,” Tony Atlas had held the tag team titles with Rocky Johnson and still looked good for him. Atlas fell on hard times and was actually homeless before WWE hired him in 1990.
This is probably why he was desperate enough to agree to be presented as a member of an African tribe, with shield, spear and ceremonial mask. It was a shame because Atlas could have become a badass overcoming his past, but harassing him with this horrible gadget ruined his chances of returning to WWE.
4 The man from the depot
Barry Darsow was no stranger to some bad gimmicks in his career, but this might just be the worst of the bunch. Darsow had just had huge success as Demolition Smash with multiple tag team titles. When they parted ways, Darsow was remade as an evil repossession agent.
It was crazy enough not to have him dressed as the Hamburgler in a goofy black mask and gray outfit, acting like he was ready to steal anything. Darsow was fun to play the role wildly to make it more entertaining than it should have been, but that doesn’t take away from the character’s stupidity and one of the dumbest “professional stuff” of the time.
3 The Matador
Tito Santana was an excellent worker for WWE, holding the IC and tag titles and still a popular mid-carder. He was fine on his own pushing his Mexican roots (it doesn’t matter that he was born in Texas) and could have carried on as himself. That wasn’t enough for WWE in the early 1990s as vignettes aired of Tito heading to Mexico and somehow becoming a matador.
It was meant to illustrate his toughness, but instead he looked silly in pants and waved a cape. He had a few hits in the midcard but faltered and was out of WWE in a few years as the matador was really waving a white flag on Tito’s career.
2 Terry Taylor
Few guys have been screwed up by fate like Terry Taylor. According to legend, it was literally the flip side of a coin to decide whether he or Curt Hennig would have the Mr. Perfect gimmick and Taylor might have been good at it. He started out in WWE as “Scary” Terry, which was tough but still had potential.
But then he was given the name Red Rooster, complete with a red streak in his hair and singing promos. Intended to be a heel, he turned face but fans didn’t accept either because no one was going to cheer for someone with such a ridiculous name. Taylor would return to WWE under his real name, but it certainly ruffled him for years.
The One Man Gang looked fantastic in the UWF and World Class. A huge, beefy biker with a mohawk, he stood out from the pack and could have been a decent monster heel in WWE. But in 1988, they gave it one of the most bizarre remakes of all time. Slick took out the One Man Gang, now an “African prince” guy in a blue suit with a yellow coat and hat.
His “dancing” and attempt to be black hip-hop was hysterical. Akeem was never taken seriously again and it’s no wonder OMG went back to his old look as soon as he left the WWWE to put that behind him.
These WWE wrestlers have undergone dramatic character changes with mixed results, with some performing well and others failing.
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