Mount Rushmores of Wrestling is a series that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top 4 of any given category. In today’s edition, we’re talking the greatest failed gimmicks of the WWE.
Jason: Though the second shortest-lived wrestling gimmick on this list, by all accounts, Waylon Mercy (as a character) was working when he made his debut on WWF Raw in the early ’90s by squashing a 19 year old Jeff Hardy. Mercy stood in stark contrast of the rest of the “New Era” heels, whose gimmicks were often occupational or outright silly (or both, in the case of Doink the Clown). Instead, the mountainous Mercy (played by veteran big man Dan Spivey) came off as a soft-spoken, even gentle southern man, who would graciously shake the hand of the referee and his opponents before utterly decimating them once the bell rang.
The character was a thinly veiled take on Max Cady, the sadistic stalker and murderer from Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Dear. His promos would often speak in circular allegories, his calm demeanor would give way once he was laying in his punishing offense on his almost ubiquitously smaller opponents, he wore a Hawaiian shirt to the ring…he was the proto Bray Wyatt, is what I’m getting at. Sure, Wyatt’s probably better in the ring than Spivey (whose years of experience, and the wear-and-tear that comes with it, are what led this run to be so short), and Jake the Snake (another Wyatt influence) did the menacing promo thing better, but Mercy was a villain in an era of “bad guys.” He was a serious character with nuance, who cut an imposing figure, backed it up in the ring and could have gone far if Spivey had found it in him earlier in his career. That being said, the sharpie-drawn prison tattoos were not great. If he was ever asked to work a match longer than 10 minutes, I have to imagine they would start to run.
Shan: The Boogeyman is something about wrestling that is super personal to me. Mostly because he was my biggest fear when I was about eight years old. My brothers would sneak up behind me and either scream “I’M THE BOOGEYMAN AND I’M COMING TO GET YA!!” or sing that little Boogeyman tune ripped from Nightmare on Elm Street. Hearing his intro music still gives me a little chill down my spine. I guess I was in the small minority of people that the bit really worked on.
In real life the Boogeyman was played by Martin “Marty” Wright, he was already 40 years old when his WWE career began. Wright attended an audition for MTV’s Tough Enough, and he would have made it too if he didn’t lie about his age. WWE still invited him to train at OVW and thus the Boogeyman was born. Looking back I should have guessed that he wouldn’t be looked back on fondly. Besides being generally creepy Boogey’s other bit was that he would eat live worms in the ring. Other times he would baby bird those worms into superstars mouths. That wasn’t the grossest thing he ate either, he also ate a growth off Jillian’s face. Boogey didn’t even wrestle that often, he was just…gross. Maybe this mole eating weirdo won’t end up in the hall of fame but he’s in mine.
Steven Regal “A Real Man’s Man”
Jason: Now this was more a theme song than a cohesive wrestling gimmick, but WHAT A THEME SONG! It’s no secret that I’m a huge William Regal fan. Dude’s unique in-ring style was a wonderful mix of World-of-Sport-style grappling, dirty boxing and Japanese strong-style that would inspire the best parts of in-ring luminaires like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk. It’s a shame, then, that the WWF/E never saw much in him more than a funny accent. It’s not to say his days as commissioner Regal weren’t pretty great, but I think the Real Man’s Man could have been a fun midcard heel act in the attitude era if they actually ran with it. They sort of implied he was a construction worker (or a lumberjack) but short of a sleeveless flannel shirt (and an interaction with a fun-loving sex trafficker that has NOT aged well), and an immensely physical in-ring style, we never really got a chance to see what Regal could do. Sadly, this is another gimmick that died because of outside circumstances, rather than a lack of in-ring success – as Regal’s real life issues with substance abuse would cut short his tenure with the WWF. That would prove to be something of a pattern for the brawler from Blackpool, sadly, as substance abuse issues would also sink his tenure as King of the Ring. If he could have kept his nose clean, there’s a real chance that we’d be hearing “Real Man’s Man” at every bachelor party, Bar Mitzvah and dude’s night out to this day.
Shan: I was in between Seven and Eugene for my final addition. I decided to go with Seven because AEW’s Dark Order recently clearly referenced the character when asking Dustin Rhodes to join them. Seven was an extremely short lived wrestling character played by Dustin Rhodes after his return to WCW in 1999. Late WCW was full of silly failed gimmicks and wasted talent. We could probably make a second Mt. Rushmore of failed WCW gimmicks between 1998 and 2001. When Dustin Rhodes made his return to WCW in 1999, he needed a new character and Rhodes had had success with edgy characters like Goldust in the WWE. Looking at his one live appearance you can see he’s a Undertaker rip off. Except he floated to the ring which was way cooler if you ask me. He was based off The Strangers, a hive mind alien species from the movie Dark City. There was one vignette that was pretty unsettling, having Rhodes float outside of a little boy’s room. Asking the kid to “join him in complete bliss,” because they’re a hive mind, obviously. The network definitely though this clearly gave off a…strange vibe and pulled the plug before Seven could even get off the ground. They covered this up by having Seven’s only live appearance be a work shoot where Rhodes denounced the character, took off the costume, and said “WWE can take Goldust and shove it up their *ss, WCW can take this silly thing Seven and shove it up your *ss, and you both can kiss my *ss.” Although this was a completely failed gimmick, I still appreciate Seven for being Slenderman before Slenderman.
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