Any professional wrestler will tell you that the hardest part of the job is coming up with your gimmick. You need to be outrageous and distinctive without being ridiculous. It's a subtle art, one not easily mastered.
Notable failures include ...
The best part about professional wrestling is how it marries fantasy with gritty reality; smoke machines with sweat and blood; dramatic lighting and rock anthems with folding chairs and collapsible tables conveniently left lying about for violent purposes. Most importantly, a good wrestling character is going to have a great story behind it. And what better story is there than The Wizard of Oz? And what character from The Wizard of Oz is better suited for the ring than The Great and Powerful Oz, himself?
Pretty much any of them, it turns out.
Our best guess is this was based on someone's childhood nightmare. Remember, the Wizard of Oz in the movie was just a regular old man, so the character these guys are ripping off didn't actually exist at all. The wizard was just a projected disembodied head:
And he kinda looks like Ralph Nader.
And here's the World Championship Wrestling's version:
He looks like an extra from a poorly budgeted Turkish Broadway production of Aladdin. Where are the similarities apart from a piss-weak reference for a name and the color green? And, in case you're wondering, that's Merlin standing in front of Oz. Merlin the Magician. Not that Merlin ever appeared in the canon of The Wizard of Oz, but apparently one ill-conceived wizard was just not enough to satiate WCW fans.
We've got no issue with the monkey sidekick though.
For anyone who thought that ludicrous wrestling gimmicks were purely a product of the innocent, mescaline-fueled 80s and 90s, think again. Because in 2006, the WWE introduced the gimmickiest of gimmicks: Hornswoggle.
God is dead.
Let's see how many offensive-to-little-people stereotypes we can fit in here: Hornswoggle, who is still an active character in WWE, is a little person who dresses as a leprechaun and hides under the wrestling mat like a damn tiny troll. He only shows himself to hit competitors with his little stick while announcers try to cram in as many Irish and midget jokes as humanly possible.
As time went on, the WWE thought they'd do the character right with an actual storyline. Unfortunately, the storyline involved the little guy wrestling grown-men-sized wrestlers and winning a title. Despite professional wrestling being a completely scripted work, the title belts are still treated as faux achievements and usually mean the winner is the most talented wrestler in that class. So, giving Hornswoggle a title belt would kind of be like handing over a Best Actor Oscar to Frankenberry.
Not that he doesn't do good work.
And if you thought the WWE wasn't done with Hornswoggle yet, after all this humiliation, congratulations, you know wrestling. Next up for the Little Bastard was the revelation that he was literally the little bastard son of Vince McMahon, which eventually led to a father/son steel cage match, which inevitably led to Vince McMahon spanking a whimpering little person in front of millions of viewers with an actual whip.
It's a known fact that wrestling promoters firmly believe that anything popular in mainstream society today can be given a lobotomy, placed in a wrestling ring and kids will eat that shit up two years from now.
Which explains how early 90s World Championship Wrestling thought it would be OK to debut ... Arachnaman. Yes, you read that right -- fucking Arachnaman. Why? Because fuck Marvel and all that horseshit about intellectual property and copyright.
Besides, Arachnaman is totally different from Spider-Man. For one thing, Arachnaman was yellow. And for another, he was entirely stripped of Spidey's sense of humor, wit and the ability to do anything at all without looking like a dick. Arachnaman was the wrestling equivalent of those cheap Korean knockoff toys that are bought by terrible parents at gas stations the world over.
And it didn't help that one of his moves actually involved silly string. Like wrestling fans are supposed to believe that silly string would have any effect on a 250-pound man.
Or an audience.
Here we have The Yeti. Not "The Mummy," which is what you'd guess you were looking at by that picture up there, but "The Yeti." Because apparently in the mid-90s wrestling writers operated under the false belief that abominable snowmen weren't covered in fur, but soiled toilet paper.
With emphasis on "soiled."
The Yeti was a member of the Dungeon Of Doom, that, if you are a connoisseur of embarrassing wrestling leagues, could have had this entire article dedicated to its cringeworthy mediocrity. Which probably explains how the group came up with a villain who had the mobility of an amputee giraffe and the signature move of "opponent humping."
The Yeti won no matches, was allowed nowhere near the rear end of Hulk Hogan ever again and did little else of note. He was quietly retired from television and now lives a normal life as that escaped mental patient who lives under the bridge and yells at things.
That mental patient still has more dignity than the Dungeon of Doom.
In the weeks prior to the World Wrestling Federation's Survivor Series of 1990, viewers of Monday Night Raw were treated to an enormous egg sitting in the middle of the arena. Much hype surrounded this egg and just what would hatch from it ... would it be some sort of hideous creature with the torso of a wrestler and the legs of a chicken? Perhaps a talking velociraptor whose finishing move was to claw the shit out of everything? Or perhaps God could turn his back on the universe and it would be just be a jerk in a giant turkey suit.
Witness the dignity and grace of nature.
The Gobbledy Gooker is what happens when professional wrestling meets Thanksgiving, slips it a roofie, commits several varieties of sexual assault and then draws a dick on its face before leaving in the morning. Instead of getting in the ring and kicking the crap out of a spandex-clad pilgrim or something else Thanksgivingy, the Gobbledy Gooker just ... just danced.
The whole spectacle gets sadder when you find out that underneath the suit and humiliation was Hector Guerrero, part of the renowned Guerrero wrestling family from Mexico. The Gobbledy Gooker turkey was not only booed (on Thanksgiving!) but the character was immediately abandoned after the match. Which was leaves us with only one conclusion: The Gobbledy Gooker was taken out the back and decapitated.
And while we're on the holidays, we can't forget ...
Christmas and wrestling go together like whiskey and Easter egg hunting. So it was only natural for the WWE to come up with the perfect tie-in to the season.
That's right -- it's the anti-Santa Claus, the Xanta Klaus!
Introduced at a Christmas Pay Per View event called In Your House: Seasons Beatings, the character began by posing as the real Santa, handing out presents and being super Santa-like. Then he suddenly went from St. Nick to St. Dick and began handing out smackdowns like they were candy canes.
Everything about this creepy bastard was frighteningly backwards. The traditional red and white became red and black, he lived at the South Pole and every Christmas he stole presents from good children. After making only one more televised appearance, Xanta Klaus disappeared forever, meaning he is definitely still out there. If you find burnt presents and reindeer shit in your stocking this Christmas, you can be sure that this is the jerk behind it.
Also, sometimes he punches people in the face.
There came a point in 1996 when Extreme Championship Wrestling executives figured out there was one demographic conspicuously missing from their viewership: the Amish. In their scramble to remedy this miscarriage of justice, they came up with a character who really exemplified the best of the simple folk: Amish Roadkill.
Constructed entirely from adipose tissue, back hair and a metric fuck-ton of shame, absolutely nothing about Amish Roadkill made any sense whatsoever.
Sure, we can buy the idea that an Amish guy might get into wrestling for the spirited competition -- we could even get that he'd be good at it. It wouldn't be the first time a fake Mennonite stole our hearts.
Or the last.
But this was freaking ECW -- better known as the Jerry Springer Show of professional wrestling -- and the character who started out as "Roadkill, the Angry Amish Warrior" was quickly rechristened "Amish Roadkill" for simplicity's sake. Because, if you're like us, the first thing you think when you see a dead deer on the road is, "I wonder if it's Amish?"
The most unsettling aspect of Amish Roadkill was his vocabulary, which consisted of one word: "Chickens."
Why? Because chicken is tasty, that's why. Amazingly, this was enough for Roadkill's career and gimmick to last almost five years and he had the distinction of being one half of the final ECW Tag Team Champions before the company went bankrupt.
Who saw that one coming?
If there's room for that wheelchair kid to hook up with a hot cheerleader on Glee, then surely there must be a place for a mentally-challenged person to punch people in a wrestling ring, right? Maybe, but probably not if the best incarnation of "special" that the WWE comes up with is a surefire kick to the groin of people of people dealing with not-fake mental illnesses. Hey guys, meet Eugene!
While it was never explicitly stated by the WWE what was actually wrong with him, Eugene's permanently gormless expression and unfortunate habit of doing weird shit with his hands kind of let the audience know that this guy wasn't your run-of-the-mill wrestler. And it didn't help that he jumped up and down clapping in response to everything, or that his signature move of riding his opponent like a hobby horse.
Yeah, we're thinking this right here pretty much cancels out every positive human achievement of the last century.
The gimmick might have been salvageable if WWE had built him up as one of those quiet yet intelligent autistic people who will one day enslave us all. Unfortunately, WWE made Eugene less Rain Man and more Arnie from What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Surprisingly, the character did not incite every fan in attendance to projectile vomit in rage or to lose faith in the goodness of humanity, even after one match portrayed the character getting beat mercilessly while commentators chuckled things like "Run Forrest!" and his opponent hit him on the head with a stick. But the real kicker is that even after the actor playing Eugene left the WWE for the WFX, he kept on playing the character. Only now he's "U-Gene."
On the surface, Phantasio looks like the most horrifying mime ever conceived, like what you get when you mix Marcel Marceau, hallucinogens and body building. In reality, he was the WWE's pants-shittingly awful attempt at magic.
Oh yeah, that's new and fresh.
You would think that a magician wrestler would be sawing his opponents in half or making them disappear completely ... you know, something kind of menacing but cool. All Phantasio had was a hat that shot smoke, a stick that could catch on fire and some of the most flamboyant hand gestures ever witnessed in the history of hands. This is made all the more hilarious by the commentators, who sell every shitty illusion as though it was Jesus Christ himself performing them.
Just when you thought shit couldn't get any more awful, beneath that mask is an identically frightening face. And beneath that face was a silvery, two-meter long tapeworm that he apparently pulled out of his stomach, then smacked it onto the face of some unfortunate kid.
How exactly does this qualify as "magic"?
But the jewel in the crown of the preposterously idiotic farce that was Phantasio's debut was his finishing move, where he "magically" removed the underpants of his opponent and then used the element of surprise to pin him to the mat, which didn't have any homoerotic undertones whatsoever. Phantasio then proceeded to do the exact same thing to the innocent referee for absolutely no reason other than to appease his seemingly insatiable lust for men's underpants.
Penn and Teller finish their act the same way.
For more terrible gimmicks in wrestling, check out The 8 Most Insane Moments in Professional Wrestling. Or learn about some comic book gimmicks that should've been left on the cutting room floor, in The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters.