7 Embarrassing Ways That WWE Buried Wrestlers
Back in the before-times, when the majority of the public still believed wrestling was real, it was up to the wrestlers to get "over" with the crowd. Wrestlers were in charge of their characters; they wrote or improvised their own promos and had near-total creative input into how a match would proceed, even if they had to abide by a predetermined finish.
The WWE changed that culture on a widespread scale. The company, known in the territorial days for favoring a more theatrical approach to wrestling than traditional southern wrasslin', popularized a top-down approach, in which wrestlers would be assigned their gimmicks by the promoters. These gimmicks could stretch incredulity. And rather than it being the job of the talent to get themselves over, it often became the job of the talent to get the gimmick or the company over.
This approach has both positives and drawbacks. One notable success was the Undertaker, who parlayed an undead mortician gimmick into a three-decade, legendary career.
However, not everyone has that same success stories. Here are seven embarrassing ways that WWE buried their own wrestlers, either because they meant to do it as some sort of backstage punishment, or because they had a bad, but good-intentioned idea that failed in practice. Most (not all) of the people in this gallery overcame their respective setbacks, eventually. But that wasn't for lack of trying.
7. Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky, Mikey!
The evil, all-male cheerleader Spirit Squad was a Vince McMahon idea. At the time he conceived the gimmick, all five wrestlers were in Ohio Valley Wrestling, an independent promotion that functioned as a developmental territory for WWE Superstars and predated NXT.
In an interview with ESPN, former Spirit Squad member Kenny Dykstra recalled Vince McMahon pitching the idea to them in Cincinnati; Dykstra originally thought it was a rib. The Squad tested the gimmick out in OVW before debuting it on the main roster; they performed a cheer for McMahon to get the green light.
McMahon gave the members the opportunity to turn it down; Elijah Burke was offered a spot and bowed out. But a young Dolph Ziggler, then known as Nick Nemeth, saw an opportunity to get his foot in the door and took it, despite hating the gimmick. Today, Ziggler is the only Spirit Squad member still working with WWE, and that was after being sent back down to OVW to continue refining his skills.
Terry Taylor was a clean-cut babyface with several titles under his belt in NWA Mid-South wrestling. But then he went to WWE, and it all went horribly, horribly wrong. He wore a spangly red outfit, put his hair up in a red mohawk to resemble a rooster's comb, and began flapping his arms and yelling "Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!" to taunt his opponents. Ladies and gentlemen: The Red Rooster.
According to WWE's resident bullying expert JBL, this entire gimmick was a backstage rib on Taylor, who had garnered an unfortunate reputation of being a stooge for the WWE front office. Taylor's in-ring career didn't survive this gimmick. And these sorts of "stooge" rumors followed Taylor even after he left WWE. But his backstage career has been more fruitful: he's now a trainer in WWE's developmental promotion, NXT.
5. Piggie James
This particular burial is notorious. It is viewed, in hindsight, as one of the lows of the WWE women's division. Layla and Michelle McCool, known as "Laycool" to fans, picked on fellow performer Mickie James for being fat, which was as objectively ridiculous then as it is now. Rumors were that the angle was intended as backstage punishment because WWE officials weren't happy with her supposed weight gain, and they disliked that she split her time between her WWE career and her country music aspirations.
She left the WWE soon afterwards but returned in 2016 to a women's division that treated her like a future Hall of Famer.
4. Extinct Funkasaurus
Brodus Clay had a decent beginning as Alberto Del Rio's bodyguard; the bodyguard role was a great starting point for other WWE Superstars like Batista, Test, and Diesel. And after a brief hiatus to film a movie role, Clay was poised to break out as a singles star. He was hyped as the next big, frightening monster, who would squash the division and leave a path of destruction in his wake; WWE delayed the debut by two months, just to keep the audience waiting.
Instead we got the Funkasaurus, a massive dancer who came to the ring in a Run-DMC-esque tracksuit. This was not championship material, for the same reason that Fandango and No Way Jose were not championship material.
It was too goofy, especially after the hype accorded to it. Clay eventually turned heel, went back down to NXT, and was released from his contract.
3. Bark Like a Dog!
Yep. We're talking about this.
In the storyline, Mr. McMahon was cheating on his wife with Trish Stratus. But Vince suddenly turned on Trish, referring to her as nothing more than a "toy," in favor of his daughter. And he began humiliating her in degrading skits; the first week, Stephanie used a mop to drench Trish in "sewage." The second week, Vince made Trish get on all fours, bark like a dog, and then stand up and strip in the ring.
McMahon was a heel at the time; presumably, this was meant to garner heat. But instead, the audience took Vince's side and began cheering on the humiliation.
McMahon would eventually get his comeuppance at WrestleMania, when Trish came out and low-blowed the boss. In a later shoot interview, Ivory recalled how upset and hurt Trish was by the entire storyline. But Trish, on the other hand, tends to focus on the end of the storyline rather than its worst parts; she went on to become a WWE Hall of Famer, with one of the most distinguished careers of any female performer.
Still, the clip has endured, years later, as the depths to which WWE will stoop. It sank Linda McMahon's U.S. Senate campaign, and Vince McMahon continuously has to answer for its existence.
2. DDP The Pervert
In the early '00s, WWE combined its roster with WCW and ECW's in the "Invasion" storyline, which should have been awesome, but instead buried nearly every single major non-WWE star. And Diamond Dallas Page, the working class, scruffy hero of WCW, was no exception. He was reinvented as a pervert, who took shaky, creepy video footage of Undertaker's wife Sara at her home. At one point in the storyline, non-wrestler Sara pinned DDP in an intergender wrestling match, thanks to outside interference from the Undertaker.
DDP left the company after suffering neck injuries in 2002. He was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and he received praise for his DDP Yoga motivational regiment, which helped both Scott Hall and Jake Roberts break their alcohol and drug addictions.
1. Natalya Neid-fart
There is no love lost between the Hart family and Vince McMahon, and this gimmick, which McMahon gave to Natalya, the daughter Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, couldn't have helped things.
Simply put, her gimmick was to have uncontrollable gas. She would fart at inopportune times, and the nearby people, even the referees would visibly react with how much it stunk.
"No matter what I’m given, I’m going to make it great. I’m going to pass gas, maybe I had too many protein bars that morning. I’m sorry, but as a Diva, I’m going to eat a lot of protein, and if I’m going to do that, then I’m going to look like a rockstar doing that, dressed to the nines in vintage couture and I’m going to make it gold.”