A recent episode of Young Rock showcased the awful, ridiculous characters WWE often asks its wrestlers to portray on TV. The context for this showcase came in presenting a comedic take on The Rock’s in-ring debut for WWE, a non-televised match against infamous jobber The Brooklyn Brawler. As with many circumstances on Young Rock, the timeline seems to have been manipulated a bit, but the gist is still mostly representative of reality. He may be a superstar now, but The Rock was by no means an overnight success in the WWE ranks.
While The Rock – initially known as Rocky Maivia, a combination of his father and grandfather’s ring names – was given some garishly colored attire and a lame haircut, he’s at least lucky he didn’t get handed one of the outlandish gimmicks WWE was handing out in the mid-1990s. Mantaur, a hilarious half-bull character seen on Young Rock, was only the tip of the iceberg. There was a wrestling plumber, a wrestling race car driver, a wrestling clown, a wrestling Viking, a wrestling dentist, and more
For example, smiling and happy-go-lucky good guy Rocky Maivia was a huge dud, quickly earning chants of “Rocky Sucks!“ and “Die, Rocky, Die!” in arenas everywhere. It was only when an amped-up version of Dwayne Johnson’s real persona was unleashed as the cocky, sharp-tongued The Rock that he became a star. Yet, it’s worth mentioning that not all silly gimmicks turn out awful, as it depends on the performer. The Undertaker took the gimmick of a wrestling zombie, turned it into a 30-year-career, and entered the WWE Hall of Fame. Kane did similarly as Undertaker’s demonic brother. Floundering but talented mid-carder Shane Helms was able to become The Hurricane, a wrestling superhero character that was actually a hit with WWE’s audience.
Those aren’t even scratching the surface of WWE gimmicks that might have been awful in the wrong hands, but soared with the right performer playing the character. A few more examples include Dustin Rhodes morphing into the androgynous Goldust and spending about 20 years over with the crowd, Kama Mustafa successfully becoming a popular wrestling pimp called The Godfather, and Mick Foley – also portrayed on Young Rock – turning the deranged Mankind into the genesis of his rise to the top. While some, like The Rock himself and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, did initially get lost in the shuffle due to a bad gimmick, an over-the-top gimmick isn’t always the kiss of WWE death it might seem.