10 Most Questionable WWE Gimmicks of 2021

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Hi folks. Today, I bring you the first of a “Best/Worst of 2021” series of articles, to round out what has been an interesting year. There could have been over ten, but these are the examples I wanted to talk about. However, I will include an honorable mention.

Remember earlier this year, when Elias paired up with Jaxson Ryker? Yes, that was an odd pairing. For whatever reason, WWE cut Ryker from his contract, and it left Elias on his lonesome again. In a confusing and unexplained series of vignettes, we saw Elias “burying” his own gimmick. He vowed to return a new man, likely without his guitar and music.

Then nothing happened, except Elias disappeared in to thin air. He effectively buried himself so hard, he hasn’t been seen since. This isn’t a questionable gimmick, but a strange and disappointing transition which never occurred. If Elias emerges without his guitar, I bet many in the WWE Universe will scratch their heads and ask why he ever needed to be changed.

#1. RK-Bro

From one odd story to another, Randy Orton has been through the craziest year of his career. After an otherworldly feud with “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt & Alexa Bliss, he was left in limbo. WWE released Wyatt, and Orton’s character had to move on by forgetting everything that happened to him. Now, consider how ruthless he was… Orton set Bray Wyatt on fire, and later teased doing the same to Alexa Bliss. He was willing to go to any length to be rid of this roadblock on the path to regaining the WWE Championship.


Enter Matt Riddle, a character so annoying it’s a minor miracle his existence was ever acknowledged. A normal Orton would have dropped Riddle with the RKO and left it at that. Yet, he has (pretty much) embraced Riddle as his full-time tag partner. It’s obvious how conflicted Randy is, because his character has never purposely chosen to endure anything, or anyone, as ridiculous as Riddle is. Why would Orton be interested in forming a tag team? He went through hell against Wyatt so he could challenge for the WWE title again. Instead, he goes through something different, but similar, just so he can claim tag team gold?


What’s difficult to comprehend is… why would he care? Are the tag titles worthy enough to put up with Riddle? At the least, it’s obvious that Randy is using Riddle, and doing so as a heel wearing a baby face disguise. His character pretends to be a face to make this partnership work. He has encouraged more of a killer instinct in Riddle by giving him examples of what a heel would do. It’s an odd dynamic we have not seen before (some may compare it to the Rock N’ Sock Connection), which works in some ways and not in others.

Why would Orton put up with Riddle for the tag titles? And is Riddle oblivious to his insults? Is he really as dense as he sounds? Does he not know how annoying he is to his partner? Or is this Riddle playing his own set of mind games? Perhaps this is some kind of elaborate plan, and it’s actually Riddle who is using Orton while getting away with all kinds of shenanigans. I doubt WWE’s creative team has thought too far ahead, but it would be interesting to see Riddle turn heel. An Orton turn is predictable, and few would expect a Riddle turn. He’s definitely annoying enough to pull it off! And Orton is popular enough to be the face.

If you had told me at the end of 2020 that RK-Bro would be one of WWE’s most entertaining acts of 2021? I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s very questionable, but somehow… Orton & Riddle have made it work. Bravo to both of them for achieving with a gimmick which could have tanked extraordinarily well.


WWE gimmicks


#2. Zelina Vega

I appreciate tournaments like King of the Ring and Queen’s Crown. However, the royalty thing is so played out, I wish Randy Orton would set it on fire. I’m English and could not be anymore tired of this overused gimmick. It’s so easy to screw up, evidenced by previous kings who didn’t last. There’s a level of commitment which needs to be established early on, otherwise nobody can buy in.

Zelina Vega is a Queen who uses an American accent to talk normally, English to address her people condescendingly, and Spanish when they aren’t being respectful. Am I the only one noticing how odd this is? I believe it’s more about what you say than how you say it. Yes, tone is important, but mixing it up so haphazardly leaves people struggling to absorb what you’re selling. It becomes more of a distraction and detracts from what you’re saying.

Had Zelina Vega committed to the English accent the second the crown touched her head? I’d be all for it, because it would be like a transformation. You can’t add a sense of royalty by slipping in an English accent here and there. As King Woods proved, it’s more about the contents of the message than the tone of it. I’m not blaming Vega for this though, because they may have asked her to do it this way. She was out of a job not so long ago, so I’m happy she returned and achieved something. Yet, it doesn’t stop me questioning how this gimmick is portrayed, and all I can do is hope they iron out the wrinkles on her majesty’s behalf.

#3. Carmella

Where do I start? Since Carmella returned to TV as “untouchable”, it has been a mixed bag of fortune. She used to be a serious contender for the SmackDown Women’s championship, but since adopting a more revealing presentation, this has not translated to success. Corey Graves (who we know are in a relationship, but they won’t confirm it on TV) often repeats the line that she is the “Most Beautiful Woman in WWE”. This is to generate heat by insinuating she is delusional, because she’s not that beautiful.


To add another layer on to this, they have Carmella go through a pre-match ritual of having a mask fitted. Apparently, this is to protect her face, although to many, they may wonder why the “Most Beautiful Woman in WWE” covers up. If her ego is so out there, why is she covering up? Well, I have two theories:

#1. Her character is paranoid. Despite working as a wrestler for years, she is so afraid of damaging her face that she resorts to this. How can a serious bout of paranoia contribute to a heel persona? I do not know. Carmella has never explained the details behind the mask, other than it protects her face. Why does she need two people to assist her with the fitting? Again, we do not know.

#2. Vince McMahon hates her face. As crazy as that sounds, it’s not unheard of. In the past, he has disliked using certain superstars because of their facial features. Here’s what former WWE writer Alex Greenfield had to say about Christian:


“Right before I started, there was a big show, I think it might have been in Toronto. Christian was just so completely over, and everybody thought he was going to get a push at, I think it was the World Heavyweight Championship at that point. We were on the plane one time shortly after I started, and Vince was just like “God damn, I just don’t like his face. His face really bothers me.” I was like, “He’s ugly, Vince?” “No, it’s not that he’s ugly, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s ratty! You know what we should do? That Kennedy gimmick.”

And we’re all like, “What?” Some see-on of the Kennedy fortune I guess got arrested for rape in the 1990s at some point. When the woman who was accusing him was on the stand, all of the networks put a blue dot over her face. Vince was like, “God damn, you know what we should do? We should put a blue dot over his face whenever he comes out.” It was the flight to Sheffield, England, also the flight where the Spirit Squad idea was invented. This was a whole flight of bad ideas.”

Is this just because Vince McMahon hates her face? It’s not like she can wear the mask all the time, but the fact the “Most Beautiful Women in WWE” wears one at all is very questionable indeed.


WWE gimmicks

#4. Otis

People loved Otis. He was a lot of fun. He won Money in the Bank in 2020, and then he had it taken away from him by The Miz. WWE made a complete u-turn on the push of Otis, and he’d soon be paired up with Chad Gable in a team called the Alpha Academy.

The biggest question in my mind is… what the hell did Chad Gable do to Otis? Did he tie him up in a dark room and torture him until he became a walking robot? There was no explanation for the change of demeanor. One day, he’s caterpillar-ing all over the place. The next, he’s shaven and looking like a mini-Vader without a mask. Let’s be honest though, Otis needed this. He needed to show a more ruthless side to his game, so he wouldn’t always be seen as a joke.

Yet, what has it done for him? Has Alpha Academy achieved anything since then? No, not a damn thing. Otis is a mere shadow of his former self, and the transformation has done nothing for him or Gable. Which is unfortunate, because both guys are super talented. If you’re going to make Otis a monster, at least let him win every once in a while.

#5. Dakota Kai

I’m glad Dakota Kai didn’t get released after the NXT 2.0 revamp. So many have been let go or lost in the shuffle (where’s Timothy Thatcher?!) since WWE got rid of the black & gold. When Dakota Kai returned several weeks later, she sported a new look. She has bright pink hair now, but her character remained the same. That is, until a few weeks later.

For no reason at all, Dakota began twitching uncontrollably. She seems to have a screw loose, but is still aware of what she’s doing. Why and how did this happen? Nobody knows. Dakota Kai was cunning and smart, and now she’s twitchy, weird, and following Mandy Rose’s Toxic Attraction, mostly because they oppose her former friend Raquel. Perhaps we will never know what happened to her.

WWE gimmicks

#6. Damian Priest

Damian Priest was originally known as the “Archer of Infamy”, which made no sense, but at least his entrance was cool. Nobody ever explained why he was an archer, but this gimmick continued throughout his NXT and early main roster career. He won the NXT North American and WWE United States titles with this presentation.

However, out of nowhere, WWE dropped it. His entrance music changed, and he has done away with anything related to archery. In a random match with T-Bar, Priest lost the plot and channeled his inner demon. Priest destroyed T-Bar in brutal fashion and gave the impression he had turned heel. He even got himself disqualified in the Survivor Series Champion vs. Champion pre-show match against Shinsuke Nakamura. To me, this was confirmation that he had turned heel.

Instead, Priest continued to be booked as a face, defending the title against Sami Zayn, Apollo Crews and Robert Roode. Now, he “snaps” deep in to a match, and goes on a rampage. Why? Nobody knows. Commentary assumes he is channeling some kind of inner demon, but that’s the only clue we have been given. For no reason at all, Priest goes berserk, and this may or may not help him win the match. We’re meant to cheer for this, but I can understand the confusion it creates.

#7. Alexa Bliss

Talk about gimmicks not making sense, Alexa Bliss being possessed by a destructor (who has long since gone) is another. When Bliss turned on “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, it opened up a plethora of possibilities. And then Wyatt disappeared from TV, and WWE left Bliss to fill the void. It got old really quick, and fans wanted to know what was up with Wyatt. The gimmick felt hollow without him, and Bliss did everything she could, but it wasn’t enough to carry things.

Many wanted to see Wyatt return so he & Bliss could conclude what they had started together. To me, it felt like Bliss was subconsciously fighting against The Fiend’s hold over her by using its own power against it. We may have seen a freaky, supernatural struggle between two beings of unbelievable power. Instead, Bliss introduced Lilly, and it was all downhill from there, because Lilly was odd without reason. Unless you’re five-years-old, there’s nothing scary about it. Lilly was such a flop. I can’t bring myself to talk about it. When Charlotte Flair tore the dumb gimmick apart… all I could say is, man, I’m glad that’s over.

Without Bray Wyatt, there is no logical conclusion to Alexa Bliss’ transformation. When he was released, The Fiend’s hold over her should have gone as well. Here’s to hoping that she returns as her former self. Kudos to her, for fully committing to this role. She was enjoying something different, but Wyatt & Bliss was a double act, and there is no Hardy without Laurel.

WWE gimmicks

#8 & 9. Mace & T-Bar

We all know how terrible Retribution was. Since its dissolution, anyone who was involved has either struggled for TV time or is no longer under contract. Minus the masks, Mace & T-Bar were the only two who kept their Retribution looks, names, and characters. They remained an imposing team full of power and teased their future potential with promising matches. Then WWE brought back the brand shuffle, and like a few others, they split the team up for no good reason.

As singles wrestlers, the remnants of Retribution remain in Mace & T-Bar. Most fans know that Mace’s previous name was Dio Maddin, and T-Bar was Dominick Dijakovic in NXT. Why they’re still working like Retribution exists, isn’t just questionable, it’s flat out laziness. WWE can’t be bothered to repackage them, so Mace & T-Bar will continue to be something which reminds everyone of Retribution’s failure.

#10. Joe Gacy

This new NXT character is both interesting and questionable. It holds up a mirror to society and asks if we’re really doing all we can for equality. Gacy is a “woke” heel who uses his preachiness to get heat. There’s a lot of truth to what he says, but he makes you want to hate with the manner in which he does. Unlike Zelina Vega, Gacy knows what he’s doing with the gimmick, and the tone heavily contributes to the weight of his words.

However, the gimmick has been misunderstood by many, especially in the media. It was almost cancelled before it could begin, because of the receiving backlash. Some believe the only reason Gacy has this gimmick is so WWE can get away with using terms like “safe space” and “cancel culture” to mock individuals who use them. Also, there’s the political edge, which some critics spin as WWE emulating politicians who mockingly throw out these terms to insult social justice warriors.

I’ll be honest, a lot of this goes over my head. I’m not clued up on all the terms, and why fighting for equality in an uneven world is considered a bad thing. Yes, there is political correctness gone wrong. There are people who claim they fight for equality, but push their agenda to benefit themselves. Yet, there are so many who aren’t selfish, and all they want is for people to be treated fairly. Gender. Race. Religious beliefs. Anything that makes people unique. There shouldn’t be a reason to treat anybody as lesser to anyone else.

As a heel, Joe Gacy preaching about equality is bold. Then there’s his monster Harland, who he understands has faced a lifetime of being treated differently because of his size and the way he is. It’s funny that Gacy said that the Cruiserweight division should not discriminate by forcing a weight limit on its challengers for the title. It tells us there is such a thing as pushing for justice beyond what makes sense. There’s a lot of potential for the gimmick, but something tells me it won’t work on the main roster. WWE will be too afraid to upset someone, because it’s not 2001.

What I have noticed about Joe Gacy’s gimmick is that it brings up a mixed and sometimes angry reception. It provokes a lot of emotion, which I’m still on the fence over it being a good thing, or a bad thing. The jury is still out to lunch on that one.

WWE gimmicks

Conclusion

The point of this piece wasn’t to be critical of creative, but to show how experimental WWE is being. I don’t see that as something we should discourage. For too long, WWE didn’t go overboard with their gimmicks, but the past couple of years have seen a change in philosophy. All we can ask is that WWE gives it a go. At least they are trying.

The more you shoot arrows at the board, the more likely you land a decent score. There have been a few misses in 2021, but much of it is encouraging, and I hope this continues in 2022. With that said, I am planning on posting more articles in the next few weeks. Please let me know if there is anything specific you would like to see, and I’ll consider it in my plans. Thanks for reading! See you soon.

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