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Professional wrestling is a carnival of wonders that defies imagination. Just look at the way performers will rewrite their entire backstory overnight -- in a blink, a character may declare themselves evil, give birth to a hand, or suddenly turn African. Usually, these gimmicks flop and are erased from history, but it would be a crime to forget how ...

The Rock Used To Adorn Himself In Feathers And Ribbons As "Rocky Maivia"

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Even if you've never watched one minute of pro wrestling, you know The Rock. Dwayne Johnson was last seen firing a minigun at a helicopter in the newest Fast & Furious movie, and using his biceps to put an earthquake in a headlock in a disaster movie that hit theaters less than two months later (that was San Andreas, which lots of ticket buyers were disappointed to find wasn't a Grand Theft Auto adaptation).

It's not that shocking that he was the rare wrestler to make a successful jump to blockbuster films. "The Rock" oozes bad boy charisma, and looks damned good in a pair of sunglasses. Plus, he does that thing with his eyebrow which took over ten years of acting classes to perfect.

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And by that, we mean "ten years of watching Eddie Murphy movies."

But Before That ...

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"Your new World Heavyweight Champion, Petey Pinata!"

In 1996, "The Rock" started out as Rocky Maivia, a pure-hearted good guy with a dippy personality and an outfit of feathers and blue ribbons that looked like a gift from a kindergarten class ... one they forgot to get started on until about ten minutes before he was scheduled to pick it up.

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"Are they napping yet? Can I throw this crap away?"

The whole gimmick probably looked better on paper. The name was a merger of Johnson's father and grandfather's names, all offspring of the legendary Anoa'i wrestling family of Samoa (that's not fictional backstory -- that's actually the family The Rock came from). Oh, and here was his theme song:

Do you smell what baby's first Casio is cookin'?

It's like he said, "You know what? Wrestling fans don't need any of this 'bad boy' garbage. They want good, wholesome wrestlers from respected family backgrounds! The kind of upstanding young gentleman that any father would be proud to see his daughter marry! A fellow who isn't afraid to adorn himself in the closest approximation to traditional ethnic garb that can be constructed for under three dollars!"

Though it still beats that time years later when he called that interviewer an "ugly hermaphrodite."

Shockingly, audiences hated him, and whenever Rocky was in the ring, shouts of "Rocky sucks" and "Die, Rocky, die," were right on his heels. Finally, Johnson got tired of the audience's bullshit and reinvented himself as "The Rock," started cursing out fans in the third person, and adorning himself in black:

Spoiler: This approach to problem solving will not work at your crappy job.

A star was born. Wrestling fans heard this muscular man calling them a bunch of ungrateful shitheads and said, "Yes! See, this is all we wanted! Why could you not have seen that before, you beautiful son of a bitch? Here's all of our money."

Triple H Used To Be A Foppish French Stereotype

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Triple H is one of the WWE's biggest stars of all time, and it took him two gritty reboots to get there. He became prominent in the late 1990s, when he joined DeGeneration X, a group of wrestlers whose raison d'etre can be summed up by how they pointed to their own dicks a lot.

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"This just in: OUR DICKS!!!!" -- DeGeneration X, 1997

Triple H has rebooted himself again since then, as a calculating psychopath with a sledgehammer.

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He's also the most successful Motorhead tribute act ever.

His finishing move still involved ramming his opponent's head into the mat with his dick, but he no longer pointed to it first.

But Before That ...

First, Paul Levesque wrestled as "Terra Ryzing," a Ric Flair knockoff with a name designed backwards from the world's most cringeworthy pun. There isn't much to say about this persona other than look at it:

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A rental car-ridin', middle-seat-in-coach flyin' son of a squirt gun.

Knowing that this gimmick was crying out to be erased from history, Levesque then went to WCW, where he wrestled under his real name, almost. He faked a bad French accent to become a cross between a napkin and a stereotype, called "Jean-Paul Levesque."

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He was easily distracted by clove cigarettes and complaining about American politics.

This character was as short-lived as it was awful, and Paul moved to the WWF to play a rich snob named Hunter-Hearst Helmsley:

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And now you know what "Triple H" stands for.

It was an idea so unoriginal and empty that it must have seemed like a good idea when he suggested, "What if instead, my character simply points to his dick?" Weirdly enough, it was.

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Stone Cold Steve Austin Used To Be "Stunning Steve Austin"

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Stone Cold is the badass redneck you are in your imagination after a half rack of Milwaukee's Best. He talks tough, fights dirty, pounds beers, and shares a name with the Six Million Dollar Man -- he's practically the walking American Dream. Oh, and he launched a merchandising empire with his catchphrase:

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And verily, the Lord did stompeth a mudhole in St. Peter's ass,
and He saw that it was good. Helleth yeah.

But Before That ...

Steven Anderson started wrestling in WCW in 1990 as "Stunning" Steve Austin, a pretty boy in animal print tights whose thick Texas accent made him the less-convincing half of The Hollywood Blondes


Mike Lano
"Howdy, y'all! I'm one of them Hollywood Jewish fellas, just like you!"

His singles career never really took off in WCW, so he was fired and moved onto WWF where he wrestled as "The Ringmaster," a character with far less of a circus theme than his name implied.

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Note: He was not actually champion at the time; that's just a belt he wore.

He came to Vince McMahon with the idea of a cold, remorseless killer character, and Vince responded with the following ideas for names: Otto Von Ruthless, Ice Dagger, and Fang McFrost. Fang McFucking Frost.

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Pictured: Fang McFrost counting down the minutes until his unemployment benefits kick in.

It was Steve's wife who came up with the name "Stone Cold," over a cup of tea. Shortly thereafter, he would shave his head, win the King of the Ring tournament, utter the words "Austin 3:16 says 'I just whupped your ass,'" pound the very bottom of many a foamy, exploded beer, and make wrestling history.

The Undertaker Was A Redneck Trucker

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"The Undertaker" has been using the mystical powers of the dead to dominate pro wrestling since the early '90s. Which, again, would seem like an unfair advantage, even in a fake sport. His gimmick involves body bags, coffins, and a magical urn wielded by his manager, Paul Bearer.

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"It's a family name."

But Before That ...

When WCW took a look at their newest hire, a huge Texan named Mark Calloway, they said, "Eh, make him a redneck trucker," and immediately stopped thinking about him ever again.

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To their credit, his look didn't quite scream "wizard zombie" yet.

"Mean Mark" Callous, master of the deadly "Heart Punch," was born. Yes, his character was so fully realized that his finishing move was punching his opponent in the chest.

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Whoever came up with this needs a punch somewhere much lower.

Like other wrestlers on this list, WCW dropped the ball again, and Calloway walked straight into the arms of the WWF. They made a desperate grab for what should have been the stupidest, corniest idea of all time, and instead created magic: The Undertaker, a demonic undead monster whom Mark was born to play.

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"Vince, this will never work, will it? Will it!?"

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Razor Ramon Was "Starship Coyote"

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The "Razor Ramon" character was a toothpick-sucking, gigantic Cuban villain with the catchphrase, "Say hello to the Bad Guy." This idea of a clumsy Tony Montana knockoff was allegedly pitched to Vince McMahon as a joke, but since the WWF president wasn't familiar with Scarface, he praised the idea as brilliant and ran with it. It turns out it wasn't such a terrible idea after all, since Razor Ramon became a huge character in the 1990s, holding the Intercontinental Title four different times.

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"The difference is that my life involves about 300 percent more cocaine!"

But Before That ...

Now, let's talk about the man before all this Razor Ramon business ...

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"Our bulges are up here, ladies."

Scott Hall bounced around between organizations wrestling as different characters, though none of them showed much creativity. He competed as "Scott Hall," which was based on his name, "Texas Scott," based on his name and an unrelated state, and "The Diamond Studd," which was based on a different wrestler ("Ravishing" Rick Rude) and nothing else. His most unique character was "Starship Coyote," one half of the tag team "American Starship," who seemed inspired by something that might jump out of C-3P0's cake. So maybe a Scarface knockoff was the right move.

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"Hi. Which one of you handsome fellas is havin' a space birthday?"

Kane Used To Be An Evil Dentist

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Kane is the scarred, psychotic, and pyromaniac half-brother of the Undertaker. He speaks only in violence and flames.

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"..." -- Kane

Though he slowly de-masked over time, one thing has stayed constant: Kane is an unspeakable monster. He has lit men on fire, electrified their balls with a car battery, and, most terrifyingly of all, endorsed Chef Boyardee.

ConAgra Foods
"...!?" -- Kane

But Before That ...

We can all agree that dentists are sadistic mouth-fingering monsters. That doesn't necessarily mean the job would make a great wrestling persona, which the WWF discovered when they introduced Glenn Jacobs as the evil dentist, sigh, Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.

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"Unrelated to me being an evil dentist, what's it take for a WWF writer to get fired?"

The WWF worked hard to remind everyone of his evil dentistry with tooth puns like "I can't wait to sink my teeth into you" and promos in which he was giving someone a root canal. And if all that was too subtle, his entrance theme was the sound of a drill starting. Some people say they are "not their job," but those people are absolutely not Isaac Yankem, DDS.

Thankfully, Dr. Yankem went to the ever-growing gimmick trash heap, but even after all his success as Kane, Jacobs still holds a grudge about his dentist gimmick. He once hung up during a radio interview when the hosts mentioned it. You'd think someone who put an entire can of Beefaroni into their body would have a better sense of humor.

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On the other hand, if you want to ask Kane about property values or politics, he is in.

Sam Jackson has had more Rock Bottoms than he cares to admit. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Cristian also has a Twitter, a blog, and YouTube channel.

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Also check out The 6 Most Disastrous Gimmick Matches In Wrestling History and 5 Insane True Tales Of Wrestlers Refusing To Break Character.

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