StarDust Arrives – A look at the best gimmick changes, then and now

”I shouldn’t be surprised… because for over two decades… for over two decades, the McMahons have hated the Rhodes. My dad set Florida on fire, he was a hall of famer, he shows up here they put him in polka dots and they make him dance. My brother was a second generation stud, the natural and I loved him… and they put him in gold paint and he has never been the same… and me…”

And Cody Rhodes

This was a part of a promo delivered by Cody Rhodes, on an episode of Raw. The date was September 2, 2013.

Just a few months shy of one calendar year, Cody Rhodes has went from being fired and a disgruntled Rhodes member to a reincarnation of his older brother. On this week’s episode of Raw, Goldust finally got the tag team partner he needed to overcome RybAxel. Dawning a similar gold and black bodysuit and gold make-up with a black star painted over his face, Cody Rhodes debuted his new character; StarDust.

What does StarDust’s future hold in store? Only time will tell but it got off to a rocking start when he and Goldust defeated the team of Ryback and Curtis Axel, a team that has gotten the best of Goldust and anybody he has tagged with for quite some time. Whether this is just a short stint or a long term solution to Cody Rhodes’ consistent streak of running into a bland wall, the important thing is he seems to have embraced the character. When he revealed himself and carried the match to an eventual win, viewers never got the impression that this was ”Cody Rhodes playing StarDust.”

The WWE has seen it’s fair share of wrestlers that changed gimmicks. Fueled by the sudden change in character direction, I have compiled a list of wrestlers that have changed not only their name, but their entire persona as well. First, let’s take a look at this current era:

Top 5 Gimmick Changes of the new era

5. Johnny Curtis – Fandango
Johnny Curtis is a name that barely rings a bell. The reason for that is because he was sparsely used while up on the main roster. Your best bet of getting a glimpse of his face was on an episode of WWE Inbox, a featured show on the WWE’s YouTube channel. On the verge of being a name on a future endeavored list, Curtis took on the role of Fandango and has danced his way onto television screens since. A Wrestlemania win over Chris Jericho and a theme that has captivated the WWE Universe, the change has been a good one even despite the cooling of his character.

4. Leo Kruger – Adam Rose
It’s party time, EVERY time, but it wasn’t that way at the start. The South African native was once known as Leo Kruger, a big, mean man that took pleasure in destroying competition and assaulting people post-match. When the WWE decided it was time to reboot the character, they took away his bizarre and aggressive nature and replaced with an eccentric, fun and crazy Adam Rose. Armed with his posse of party animals including a man dressed in a bunny suit, Rose now prides himself in stage diving off the apron, turning the cheek to lemons and defeating anyone that dares cross his path.

3. Nicky – Dolph Ziggler
The Spirit Squad was, for a lack of a better term, lame. If Cartman could be here, he’d waddle on down and give us a giant ”lame.” As part of a group with four other men, The Spirit Squad were a cheerleading stable that dressed in green and were continuously embarrassed by Triple H and Shawn Michaels — then known as the new era D-Generation X. Of the five members of the Squad, only Nicky emerged and evolved into Dolph Ziggler. Trading in his pom-poms and green track suit, Ziggler now enjoys such activities like showing off, stealing the show and stealing your girlfriend too.

2. (Roman) Leakee – Roman Reigns
Back in FCW, which is now known as NXT, Leakee was a Samoan-based wrestler, complete with swim trunks — or what seemed like it — and a beaded necklace. His presence in the ring was shaky at best and his character was questioned, Leakee found himself in a place where all he could do was smile and wrestle… until he changed his name to Roman Reigns, adopted the Superman Punch and Spear and surrounded himself with two other men to form one of the most dominant stables in wrestling, The Shield. Nowadays, with The Shield deconstructed, Reigns is pulling away as a singles competitor with star value written all over it.

1. Husky Harris – Bray Wyatt
Remember the first NXT season, when all of the contestants formed a stable known as Nexus? Led by Bad News Barrett and featuring wrestlers like the One Man Band Heath Slater and Darren Young, another member that cruised along in the shadows was Husky Harris. While he never quite made a name for himself, he went down to FCW and completely overhauled himself into whom we now know as Bray Wyatt, the leader of The Wyatt Family. Commanding those that will listen to follow the buzzards, Wyatt has been involved in several high profile matches including the likes of John Cena and The Shield.

Future stars and a couple of entertaining wrestlers fill up a list of this era’s present but what about the past? All-time, here are some wrestlers that went from nobodies to sombodies:

Top 5 Gimmick Changes of all time

5. Bradshaw – John Bradshaw Layfield
A beer-drinking, foul-mouthed redneck, Bradshaw, paired with Farooq, formed a tag team that saw themselves transition from being known as the Accolytes and engaged with The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable to the APA. Together, he and Farooq accepted cash donations in exchange for protection. That all changed when Bradshaw ditched the beer and gambling, as well as his long-time tag team partner and friend for a life of fame and money. Bradshaw became John Bradshaw Layfield and embraced the greed and arrogance of a true Wall Street wolf, coming out to the ring in a stretch limo laced with a set of bullhorns on the hood.

4. Hunter Hearst Helmsley – Triple H
While the person is the same and the initials of the past form what is now known as Triple H, Hunter Hearst Helmsley as a character was nothing like the Cerebral Assassin we see today. Then, he wore a suit and tails and gave lessons on proper etiquette before giving a curtsey and a stiff right punch. After feuding with Goldust over the Intercontinental Championship, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chyna and Rick Rude would form the very first carnation of the popular stable D-Generation X. All the manners and politeness went out the window and instead, Triple H taught the world how to break all the rules and pushing the envelope.

3. Big Scott Hall – Razor Ramon
In the days of the AWA, a wrestler by the name of Big Scott Hall was a household name and was often referred to as the biggest bachelor in wrestling. He had a great physique, a well-groomed mustache and white trunks. When he debuted in the WWE, Big Scott was packaged as a Cuban-American thug out of Miami, known as Razor Ramon. His face was now rugged and full of stubble and he tossed a toothpick in your face if you got too close, Ramon turned up the grease and in the process, turned up the heat. His ladder match involving Shawn Michaels is still recognized to this day as the greatest ladder match in history.

2. The Ringmaster – Stone Cold Steve Austin
Managed by Ted DiBiase, The Ringmaster was true to his name; he was a master of the ring. He had all the smarts and the physicality to soar in the WWE but one thing lacked… an actual character. Ringmaster brought nothing more than a guy that can wrestle and in those times, they came a dime a dozen. After being sent home and countless new names thrown at him like such winners as Ice Dagger, Austin, with the help of his then-wife, came up with the new persona of Stone Cold Steve Austin. A classic promo and many memorable moments later, the Ringmaster is long forgotten and Austin 3:16 is still whooping your behind despite being retired for many years.

1. Isaac Yankem – Kane
A dentist. A wrestler with the gimmick of a dentist. Back then, the WWE had a fun time coming up with new ideas to put on their wrestlers. One of the worst at the time was Isaac Yankem, a brutal, barbaric wrestler that would hurt you and rip out your teeth in the process — no, not actually. His role at the time was to rid the WWE of Bret Hart. Hired by Jerry Lawler, he used his obvious size and stature to intimidate his foes. When that persona ran stale, he was sent away and returned in 1997 as the Undertaker’s brother, the Big Red Machine, Kane. Laced with a mask, a full singlet and tights and the backstory of having his face brutally burned, Kane terrorized the WWE and his older brother Undertaker, while capturing numerous WWE Championships, including the WWE Title, World Heavyweight Championship and ECW Championship, all of them on one occasion. A long and illustrious career that would surely bring a smile to anyone’s face.

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