With The Undertaker seemingly retired, it occurred to me that wrestling is missing talents with strong gimmicks. I’ve made this list to highlight my current favourites. It is not a list of the best or most popular, but a list of gimmicks I find enjoyable.
You will not agree with my placings because it’s subjective (and I’ll admit to not putting in much thought outside the top 3). I’d like to share this with you so you can better understand what I like. I’ve watched the industry for almost twenty years .. and I’d be lying if I said my likes and dislikes hadn’t changed with the times. In fact, they change almost weekly; I couldn’t make the same list in a months time.
On this occasion, I’ve highlighted gimmicks from WWE, NXT, Impact, ROH, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Before you rush to the comments section to rage about the exclusions of Finn Balor’s Demon or Bray Wyatt .. they are not doing much for me. Their gimmicks need more to be near the level of The Undertaker. With that said .. let’s begin with the most cringing. Why not?
#15: Laurel Van Ness (The Broken Bride)
I’ve had mixed feelings about this so far. After being left at the altar by Braxton Sutter, (a man she so desperately needed to marry it blinded her to his reluctance) .. Laurel returned on Impact looking like a hot mess. She was an overly confident woman before the incident, so to be left at the altar destroyed everything she was.
Unlike how Matt Hardy became “Broken” last year (by crashing through several tables in a match with Jeff), Laurel suffered from mental trauma. After a few weeks, it became a running joke .. and I was left thinking “this is funny .. but it needs to end soon”. A few weeks later, and she’s still popping up looking like she did the week after the failed marriage. Again, I found it funny how she was still drinking from the same bottle weeks later..
She’s found someone as crazy as herself in Kongo Kong. It’s like a match made in heaven. The gimmick is still in its early stages and will see more development down the road. It’s getting to the point where I don’t want her to recover .. because the character she had before sucked. I find it far more amusing to read people’s comments on how terrible it is.
A strong reaction is something she never got as a lackey to Maria Kanellis. She may end up being one of the most recognizable valets outside the WWE in the next couple of years. All she needs is to turn the intensity up .. and keep the wedding dress. Keep the makeup. And most importantly .. don’t talk much. It’s the beginning of what could be a well-hated character, and I’m not one to doom & gloom because it’s different.
#14: Cheeseburger (Super Underdog)
The man known as Cheeseburger is an acquired taste. It’s crazy how good he is in the ring despite his size and lack of muscle definition. And what sets him apart is that while he occasionally makes his way to the ring with a cheeseburger plush toy, the promotion does not sell him as a joke. In any other promotion he’d be reduced to comedy or jobber matches .. but in ROH he’s an athlete with superhero-like vitality.
It makes sense when he’s been trained and endorsed by stars like Lance Storm and Jushin “Thunder” Liger (who gave him his palm strike finisher). He also works as an assistant trainer in the ROH dojo. Billed at 5’8″ and 136 Ibs, Cheeseburger may be the most successful underdog in wrestling today.
#13: Breezango (This Is How A Lot Of Gay Porn Starts)
Been a big fan of Tyler Breeze since his NXT days so it’s nice to see him doing something. The Fashion Police have potential to make the gimmick memorable with many interesting backstage segments. The lucky thing for Breezango is we have the brand split and they are on Smackdown; which I believe has the weakest tag team division.
With WWE management cooling off on American Alpha to favour The Uso experiment, they’ve turned to Prince Pretty and Fandango to be so entertaining they turn face. Doing so will make more challengers to The Uso’s tag team titles. I feel like WWE has left it too late .. they should’ve built them up earlier in the year.
#12: Authors Of Pain (Writing Chapters Of Pain)
Sorry guys, but I’m still as high on AOP than I was last year. This is an old-school tag team with a manager who is essential to their continued success. Paul Ellering writes the story, and he’s far more involved with AOP than he was with The Road Warriors. I enjoy listening to him talk .. he’s so calculating and mysterious. He never gives the game plan away, and rarely panics under stress. His strength as a mouthpiece adds to the gimmick of two foreign monsters writing their chapters in history.
And they keep it simple. There’s no flash. There’s no pandering. They destroy who you like and move on to the next like a well-oiled machine. That’s why we hate them .. they don’t give us what we want. And I love that .. it’s how every heel should be. And no, they are not the greatest wrestlers in the world .. but neither were The Road Warriors. It was all about image, brutality, and chemistry, something AOP continues to build on.
#11: Marty Scurll (The Villain)
I ain’t seen much of Scurll since he switched persona to The Villain, but from what I’ve seen I like it. What he’s done is gone back to an age when villains were merciless. He seems to get enjoyment from torturing his opponents fingers. He shushes the audience, and they do so as they know what’s coming. He breaks his opponents finger .. the crowd hears it, pauses, and proceeds with one of the loudest pops of the night.
It’s an old school gimmick tweaked to today’s standards. Psychology and storytelling is something he does really well. Scurll is another British talent who could easily make it in WWE if given the chance. He joined The Bullet Club lately, so he’s looking to make a name for himself. Watch out for The Villain .. he’s going to have fun at your expense.
#10: Drew Gulak (I’m Not Lying! No High Flying!)
I feel like I’m the only wrestling fan in the world who likes Gulak’s gimmick. Today, we’ve seen him in a news report holding his sign next to WWE Champion Randy Orton as they rib Bully Ray and the indies for replying to Orton’s “dive” comments.
I can see why WWE has gone this way .. he had nothing going for him. It was tough to care .. he had no message, no goals, he was losing plenty of matches on 205 Live. It was a shame as he’s technically sound and deserving of more. He’s looking to prove the best wrestlers in the cruiserweight division are strong, smart, and do not need to launch their bodies through the air. It reminds me of Doug Williams when he was X-Division Champion in TNA .. he used his technical wrestling ability to ground high-flyers into submission.
His delivery needs work, which will improve with experience. It looks worse in front of the 205 Live audience as they are notoriously quiet most of the time. Will he succeed in ridding the show of high-flying? I’m looking forward to seeing if he can make it a reality.
#9: LAX (Return Of The Latinos)
I’m all for equality in the world. And not just the world of wrestling, but the world itself. I’m a white Englishman, so there’s no bias here. For years I’ve seen Latino wrestlers struggle to become household names. I was happy to see legends like Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio make it after so many years of hard work.
I remember tuning in to TNA Impact years ago and seeing the Latin American Xchange battling the likes of AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels for the tag titles. It was great to see Latino wrestlers making names for themselves, and often enough you’d hear them paying tributes to Eddie Guerrero.
With Jeff Jarrett back in Impact Wrestling, they immediately assembled a new incarnation of LAX. With Konnan & Homicide leading the new crew (Diamante, Ortiz & Santana), it wasted no time becoming the dominant heel faction which holds the tag team titles. I’m liking the backstage segments and Konnan’s recent outburst against Americans. It’s got the potential to garner serious heat with American fans.
I didn’t get chance to see much of Konnan back in the WCW days, so it’s cool to see him doing what he does .. talk Latino and have fun getting the heat. He’s like the godfather of LAX, and he better be respected. Ortiz & Santana have potential as a tag team. Diamante needs more time before she can be a challenger for Rosemary.
#8: Jack Gallagher (Debonaire Gentleman)
Well well sir, isn’t it a pleasant evening? Neville is right in the fact that Jack is a cartoon stereotype of how a British person acts .. but does he not do it so well? I mean .. if I am to be frank with you, who else could play a debonaire character with such authenticity? It almost makes me want to put the kettle on for a good ol’ cuppa tea n’ biscuits. That dastardly fellow has me doing the gimmick now .. wait a minute, while I change out of this clichéd speech costume. *cough*
I love the character and the man behind it has my full support. Jacky Boy’s future is bright, but I feel like he’s not getting to show his full potential being stuck behind Neville and Aries. Not only that, he put up a good fight against Tyler Bate for the UK Championship but never looked like winning. That was the chance to show he’s a serious contender for a title.
There’s a lot of competition, so Jack needs to find ways to make the character just a little less comical so we can see him as a viable contender. He needs to be working in NXT to develop the character beyond what we’ve seen thus far. His delivery is perfect, but the comedy seems lost on American audiences .. either they don’t understand, or they don’t care.
#7: Sanity (Psychotic Psychos)
I just want to give Eric Young a microphone and listen to him cut promos all night long. It’s like silky audible chocolate to my ears. His eyes pierce the screen like daggers. He breathes heavy as the intensity forces his veins to pop out of his neck. He smashes it every single time, and does anyone take notice? I do. Eric Young is one of the most underutilized stars in the past 15 years. He’s been a made a joke of way too many times, but luckily WWE took the character he started (nothing changed when he signed) in TNA and gave him the Sanity idea.
The entrance is everything for Sanity. The music .. is difficult to listen to. It’s designed to make you feel uneasy .. like you’re locked in an insane asylum with one song forever repeating on the radio. And every member of Sanity are committed to the role. Nikki Cross is so far into her character I don’t think we’ll ever see her again. The group may not have seen title success yet .. but there’s time. NXT shifts a lot, and it’s only a matter of time til the bookers give Young the nod to take it to the main event level. Nikki will keep reaching for the NXT Women’s title.
#6: Dalton Castle (Freddie Mercury Tribute Act + Boys)
Visually inspiring. As a guy who grew up with a father who remains one of the biggest Queen fans of all time, I can’t help but appreciate a tribute to one of the most talented musicians. The peacock feathers are always a pretty sight. I can only imagine what WWE would do with it .. they’d have him with 10 foot high peacock feathers with all kinds of intricate detail in his costume at Wrestlemania. He is a showman, but also has his “boys” watching his back. No .. it’s got no homosexual tendencies in the slightest. I destined great things for this kid a few years ago .. but he’s yet to make a breakthrough. What is ROH waiting for?
#5: Pete Dunne (The Bruiserweight)
When I first head “bruiserweight” I thought it was just some cheap play on the words bruiser and cruiserweight. Boy was I wrong .. Pete Dunne defines what a bruiserweight is through his actions.
He’s not 7 foot tall, or 275 Ibs, but it doesn’t stop him dealing out punishment in a style befitting of a pissed off English kid roaming the streets. That’s what it’s like though .. he was probably one of those 14, 15-year-old kids who picked fights with adults. He’s got a sadistic side to him. He’s a bully, and is fiercely competitive. He will sit in the middle of the match and bend his opponents fingers back to make the audience squirm in their seats. He does this with a smile on his face while plotting his next move.
He’s got a desperate side too, he will do anything to win a match. Yet .. when it happens it doesn’t make him look weak .. it makes him look nasty and calculating. This is the difference when comparing him to other heels in WWE .. even in defeat he looks strong. His intensity is on another level. It’s been reported that Jim Ross will call the match against Tyler Bate for the UK Championship at NXT Takeover: Chicago. He is the perfect choice to sell British Wrestling to the world. The Bruiserweight isn’t just a gimmick .. it’s a way of life.
#4: Rosemary (The Decaying Knockout)
The TNA Knockouts Champion sits on her throne with no serious competition (til Gail Kim returns). I liked Decay, but seen as it’s no more I have to hope Rosemary sticks around. I can easily say that in Impact Wrestling .. Holly Letkeman is easily the best actor. She is so far in to the Rosemary character I wonder if Holly exists. The weird part wouldn’t be seeing her in character .. it would be meeting her after the show when she’s not in character.
While she works for Impact as Knockouts Champion, she is destined for nothing but decay. As much as I’ve supported the Knockouts Division over the years .. she is too good for it. She’s too good for NXT as well .. she should be scaring kids on Raw or Smackdown. Nothing needs to change .. she’d fit right in and give either women’s division a healthy dose of decay. She’s not a bad worker either, but she’s not going to improve unless she challenges the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and others.
#3: Tetsuya Naito (Does Not Care In The Slightest)
He’s kinda like .. John Cena if he turned heel and abandoned his principles. Before his personality change he was a bland babyface being shoved down the throats of the NJPW faithful. He was boring .. people didn’t like him. The fans resisted despite the promotions best efforts. Instead of continuing down the same path .. they turned him heel and gave him a stable to lead in Los Ingobernables. He didn’t care for Japanese culture. He didn’t care to be polite or punctual. He’d lazily walk down to the ring in his own time to make everyone wait.
And how did fans respond? They loved it! He became an anti-hero. In a culture where pride and respect is everything, Naito made “not giving a damn” the cool thing to do. With his trademark eye opening gesture, he became instantly imitable. The gimmick elevated him to the IWGP title. We’re unlikely to ever see him in WWE, but it’s cool to know that somewhere in the world we have a great wrestler doing well by being the laziest and most stubborn character in the industry. It’s genius .. how has this not been done before?
#2: Elias Samson (Let Me Just .. Drift On By ..)
Did you see him come by here? Who? That drifter guy! You know? The guy Jericho put on the list? Have you seen him? No? Maybe if I hang around for a while. Wait .. he’s behind me isn’t he?
I reluctantly admit to having much intrigue for the driftiest (new word) drifter in the world. I know a guy just like Samson .. so while I find the gimmick amusing, it has a sad reality behind it. I love how Corey Graves and others rag on him like he’s the worst person they’ve ever met. And then there’s the songs .. which are terrible. In NXT all he did was stand with a guitar to get the crowd booing. They didn’t want to hear it, but he sang regardless of their disdain .. usually before being interrupted.
Every week I look forward to Samson drifting across our screens and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because he’s not signed to a brand (he was “fired from NXT after losing a match) which means he’s literally drifting between shows. He’s got to land somewhere, someone’s got to notice eventually. Til then, he’ll provide background noise hoping people recognize his talents.
#1: Bobby Roode (Too Glorious For NXT)
The Glorious Champion is too good for NXT. I liked it when he was the “IT Factor” in TNA, but he was missing out. WWE took his strengths and combined it with the gimmick. His entrance is perfect, and his mic work is crisp. As always, his ring work is top notch. It’s hard to imagine him being anything else. Potential for a Hall Of Fame career is there .. but it has to happen soon because the main roster needs him more than NXT.
I hate to compare, but Roode is very similar to a Ric Flair/Triple H heel World Champion. The suits. The money. The lifestyle. He carries himself like a superstar. The difference being that he hasn’t had the same exposure. Had he jumped to WWE a few years ago (after his TNA World title run), I have no doubt he’d be in the main event scene of Raw or Smackdown today. I can imagine him setting the bar on either show. His Wrestlemania debut would have an entrance so glorious I can’t begin to fathom how it would play out.
Sometimes a tagline makes the gimmick. It can be as simple as “Rowdy”, or “Phenomenal”. You can be “Ravishing”, or “Perfect”. You can be “Immortal”, a “Nature Boy”, or even a “Phenom”. At the end of the day, if you’re tagged with the word “Glorious”, you have to play the part and make a ton of money along the way. Roode has waited too long to waste the opportunity of working with the biggest names in wrestling.
Please remember this is a personal list which was made to show what I’m looking out for, instead of claiming one gimmick beats another. I’d go into gimmicks I considered but then I’d feel obligated to explain why I didn’t include them. So I’ll politely bring this to an end, and look out for comments about the potential of the gimmicks I highlighted.
Thanks for supporting EWN and the new article writers. I’ll be featuring comments in the articles section which I consider “little gems” (up-votes do not matter), not just for my articles but others too. I’ll leave a short reply to any comment I feature. Of course, I will read the article if it’s not mine so I get the right context when making a decision. Consider it a friendly up-vote for your contributions from yours truly. Thanks again, and cheers for reading.