At its heart professional wrestling is all about gimmicks. Larger than life characters playing on the emotions of the fans to get them invested in the in-ring action. One of pro wrestling’s staples is the rich guy gimmick. Strutting around with the swagger of a lottery winner, flaunting their money and the advantages that they could get by exploiting this wealth or even paying people to perform embarrassing and demeaning acts. This has always worked wonders as a heel (villain) gimmick as it is very easy to hate someone that can gain advantages over the babyfaces (heroes) by using their wealth rather than their skill.
In 2012 WWE released a list of the top 50 villains in wrestling history. It is no surprise that they included two rich guy gimmicks in the top 15, including one in the top 5. One of the most memorable characters in wrestling history was the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. DiBiase was involved in some unforgettable moments in wrestling history. Who could forget the time DiBiase offered to pay a fan $500 to dribble a basketball 15 times only to kick it away on the 14th? That moment sums up DiBiase’s gimmick, he loved money and no matter how much he had he was unwilling to give any away BUT he enjoyed manipulating people into believing they could have even a slice of his wealth. DiBiase even tried to use his wealth to become WWF champion first attempting to buy the title from Hulk Hogan and later got Andre The Giant to surrender the title and hand it over to DiBiase. This was the heart of the DiBiase character, when the going got tough he just threw money at the problem in the hopes it would go away.
A similar character would go on to be one of the longest-reigning WWE Champions of all time. JBL re-debuted as a rich Texan, clearly meant to play off J.R Ewing, with a god complex and enough money to hire goons that could help him win matches. JBL would become WWE Champion by defeating Eddie Guerrero before moving into a feud with The Undertaker. It was during this feud that The Cabinet debuted to ensure JBL remained the champion often interfering in his matches to make life difficult for The Undertaker. JBL’s wealth would later be the defining part of a feud with Shawn Michaels where Michaels was forced to become an “employee” of JBL after losing his savings. While JBL was nowhere near as legendary as The Million Dollar man he was one of the biggest villains of the Ruthless Aggression era and it was only when he adopted the rich Texan gimmick that he became a main event talent and a world champion.
Even today the rich character lives on in some form. AEW’s biggest heel MJF has recently begun flaunting his wealth to hire goons to separate himself from Cody. MLW’s Richard Holliday can always be found sporting airpods and calls himself the “most marketable”. While the rich gimmick alone may not be enough to make someone a hated villain anymore it can be a really good character trait to add to the necessary cockiness that it takes to be a top-level villain. Regardless, the rich guy’s will go down as some of the most unforgettable and hateable characters in the history of pro wrestling and there will always be a place in wrestling for such a character.