Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unnatural Gimmicks

"The Natural" Butch Reed
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter
(The photos in this post are courtesy WWE)

The world of professional wrestling has had some pretty out there gimmicks.  Sometimes they work (I'd say Goldust is a good example of that), others leave the fans asking "Why?"  Today, a just a small sample of guys who got saddled with some ridiculous gimmick, that probably ended up hurting their stock.

Not so natural...
"The Natural" Butch Reed actually inspired the title and the writing of this blog.  I remember watching just plain ol' Butch Reed on World Class Championship Wrestling, Central States, and Midsouth Wrestling.  He was a bad ass.  A tough guy who could get it done in the ring.  I'm pretty sure Slick was managing him in Central States prior to their jump to the WWF.

But then when he arrived there sometime in 1986 he had bleach blond hair and was going by "the Natural".  Of course this was "unnatural" for a number of reasons.  Some say it was a tribute to Sweet Daddy Siki.  While the gimmick didn't necessarily hurt Reed as a wrestler, I don't think it helped to get him over with the fans.

He basically hovered on the midcard, feuding with Tito Santana, former world champion "Superstar" Billy Graham, and the Magnificent Muraco.  Reed beat Koko B. Ware at Wrestlemania 3, but didn't have any other significant wins during his run (at least in my recollection) He lost to Randy Savage in round one of the WWF Title Tournament at Wrestlemania IV.

Of course this was all in a time when WWF pushed the babyfaces and the heels were just kind of there.  With only a couple of pay per views a year and no Raw or SmackDown! it was tough to have more than just the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ultimate Warrior at the top of the card.  In this era the WWF gave a damn about the tag team division.  Maybe Reed could have been paired up with a partner and dominated those ranks.

Ron Simmons became Farooq
Which leads me to his eventual tag team partner in WCW, Ron Simmons.  Farooq became his persona in the WWF when he arrived in the company in 1996.  Simmons had a run in WCW and ECW.  He even held the WCW world title briefly in 1992.

In the WWF he came in dressed like some sort of American Gladiator with a bad attitude.  I did not care for this at all.  Ron Simmons was a natural athlete, much like Reed.  He had plenty of name recognition back in his earlier days, but at this point in the game, Vince McMahon was into changing everyone's name when they arrived in his company.

APA to the rescue
The Farooq character evolved through the years, dropping the Black Power gimmick and becoming more of a bad ass, thug for hire type guy.  He and Bradshaw (JBL) teamed up as the Acolytes, then simply the APA.  While I didn't necessarily hate the original Farooq gimmick, I thought the costume was insanely bad.  And I do think the character was below Simmons.  They could have focused on his athletic background and made him one of the top stars in the company.  But that would have probably been boring. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Ron ever held a singles title in the WWE, just the tag titles with JBL.


The Stalker
The Stalker was another one of those gimmicks from the mid to late 90's that I didn't understand.  Barry Windham was a well established star by this point in his career.  He had already been a WWF tag team champion with Mike Rotunda.  He wrestled in the NWA/WCW and held several titles there.  Windham was a member of the 4 Horsemen.  He wrestled some great matches with Ric Flair.  The son of a WWF legend Blackjack Mulligan.

But when he returns to the WWF in 1996 (I think) he becomes some hunting fanatic with his face painted and lumbering around in camo.  It just didn't work for him.  He was basically a face version of the early 90's Skinner character.  While I'm on the subject, I didn't care much for "The Widowmaker" gimmick either.  I think mostly because they never really pushed him in that persona.  Like I said, I loved Barry's first run with Rotunda, and his time in WCW.

The New Blackjacks
Shortly after the Stalker gimmick flopped, he and JBL formed "the New Blackjacks" tag team.  Again, a fail as far as I'm concerned.  I'm not a fan of recreating the original.  Windham would eventually leave the WWF and return to WCW as just plain ol' Barry Windham.  Yes, he was plain, but sometimes I like plain vanilla ice cream over some crazy concoction that takes away my original desire to eat ice cream.  I think you guys get the point I'm trying to make.

Of course, these are just 3 of many, many "unnatural" gimmicks.  We could write a couple of books on the subject.  But I want to hear your thoughts.  Which gimmicks do you deem unnatural to the wrestler who was doing them?  Post here or on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.  And don't forget to like or subscribe to those pages too!

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