Dr Britt Baker has taken the AEW women’s division by storm in recent months. Unfortunate injuries aside, her heel turn has provided some well-needed colour and interest to a division that could do with many more like her. As many of the better gimmicks in wrestling history have been, she uses her real-life persona as a fully qualified dentist- and turns it up to 10. You can just imagine Vince McMahon looking at her and thinking, “She’s a REAL dentist?! If only you were around in 1993…”.
When anyone ever mentions the WWF’s New Generation it is more than likely that the next topic is the wide variety of weird and wonderful gimmicks that were around at the time. The WWF certainly tried their luck and threw every possible idea at the wall during the mid-90s to see if something would stick. Just a few years prior we saw the debut of arguably the best gimmick in pro wrestling history: the Undertaker. So if an early 1990s slow-walking zombie-like phenom who builds caskets for a living and resides in a funeral home can catch the imagination of the WWF fans, then why not try every possible gimmick under the sun to see if they could catch that same lightning in a bottle a second time.
Vince and his team doubled down and went to work on finding the next wacky gimmick that could fit the right wrestler at the right time and could very well be the next Undertaker-esque superstar. We had a roster full of wrestlers doubling up as everyday 9-to-5 workers such as bin men, dentists, taxmen, plumbers, farmers, mechanics and teachers. Even dual-sports superstars from baseball, motor racing and ice hockey found time to enter the WWF for a match or two.
We had the cartoon-like stereotypes of cowboys, Native American Indians, aristocrats, sumo wrestlers, pirates, clowns and wild savages from both Samoa and Africa. And we also had the mythical and supernatural gimmicks like Mantaur, Giant Gonzalez, Papa Shango and The Berzerker.
But alas, neither Max Moon, Aldo Montoya or any of the other crazy gimmicks caught on and for the remaining years of the New Generation, the WWF relayed on the in-ring work of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, British Bulldog, Owen Hart and later Steve Austin, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Goldust and Mankind to pull them through their low point.
So why did all the different gimmicks not work? Was it the right gimmick but on a wrestler who couldn’t pull it off? Was it a bad gimmick to begin with regardless of the calibre of worker? Or did the gimmick just not fit the super careful, post-steroid scandal laden super-PG era the WWF was trying to portray?
Now that AEW has already picked up the Isaac Yankeem DDS gimmick and given it to Dr Britt Baker, let me tell you 5 more New Generation gimmicks that I think could fit in well in this Reality Era.
Along with the gimmicks, I also think back to the New Generation’s women’s division and how good it could have been if it was given more of a spotlight. Alundra Blayze, Aja Kong, and the brilliant Bull Nakano were cornerstones of the division that unfortunately never really took off.
Elsewhere in the wrestling world- especially in Japan, the mid-90s was the equivalent of the attitude era for women’s wrestling and Kong and Nakano were headlining stadium shows like the gigantic Big Egg Wrestling Universe show in 1994.
Nakano’s gimmick was simple. A big, scary-looking monster who would use her size and strength against her smaller opponents. She would style her hair pointing straight up to add to her crazed look but she was also a fantastic worker and that made her matches all that more engaging.
Now I’m not saying that Tamina should get the hairspray out and start drawing blue lightning bolts on her face, but in the era of the athletic style and look of a lot of the wrestlers they have in the division, a Bull Nakano type would be something completely different. Think of a combination of Asuka, Nicky Cross and Nia Jax. Those three have aspects of Nakano, but the door is open for someone to go fully-fledged Joshi monster.
Skip and Zip: The Bodydonnas
Is there anything more irritating than someone going to the gym every day than telling the world so via social media? That is why I think a Bodydonnas gimmick would work so well in today’s modern era. Take the origins from Skip (Chris Candido) and Zip (Tom Prichard) from the mid-90s, add in some modern technology and there you have the recipe for an irritating duo you would love to see get their comeuppance now and again.
Now some clever booking would need to be administered for this gimmick to succeed. There is currently a fine line between genuine “good” heat that makes you want to see a dastardly heel get what is coming to them, and dreaded “go away heat” that makes you switch the channel to something more appealing. This gimmick could do both, so regular babyface revenge over the annoying muscle meat-heads is a must if we are to keep ourselves from changing the channel. Relentless heat or relentless gym selfies or workout videos is a no-go if you want to keep fans tuned in. One or two is fine, but then they will need to be brought down to earth, preferably by a smaller babyface who can out-wrestle them and show the world that muscles aren’t everything in professional wrestling.
A young tag-team ready for more on-air exposure would be perfect for this. Regardless of what they actually look like, if they think they look like God’s gift then their eventual downfall will be ever so satisfying to watch.
Waylon Mercy is a popular name when it comes to lists of this sort. This should be a testament to the character and shows how far…or deep he could have gone into the role he set out. “Do you know what I mean?”
The Hawaiian shirt wearing, Jim Jones-esque cult leader had a lot of promise when appearing in 1995, but like so many others, it just didn’t take off and Mercy (aka Dan Spivey) soon found himself out of favour, then out the door.
Cult leaders have been quite common throughout the years. Early Bray Wyatt of the Wyatt Family, CM Punk and the Straight Edge Society, and Mr Brodie Lee of the Dark Order all spring to mind straight away, but with Mercy- his character was slightly different. Like real cult leaders, on the outside, he seemed a nice, happy and smiling man- an approachable type who can lure in the vulnerable followers. He would slap hands with the fans on his way to the ring, he would shake the referee and his opponent’s hands before the bell, he seemed almost jovial as he danced with Savio Vega before their match at In Your House 3, but like so many cult leaders- once the outer layers are stripped away we saw the deeper darker and more truthful side to him.
Mercy’s eyes would widen as he cranked on his sleeper holds. He would stare into the crowd with wide eyes, almost trying to hypnotize the onlookers as his true to self moniker came to fruition. The manipulative Mercy would lure in his followers with kindness, then trap them with his true viciousness. A Waylon Mercy today could give a different slant to the cult leaders we have seen recently. A debuting “babyface” with a very slow-burning heel revelation of his dastardly ways is just waiting to be used. Clever planning and long-term storytelling would be needed here, so I guess that rules out one major “entertainment” promotion…
Henry O Godwinn
Britt Baker brought back the dentist, Matt Striker brought back the teacher, Paul Burchill brought back the pirate, so it is about time someone brought back the pig farmer… right?
Henry O. Godwinn (H.O.G, get it?) debuted as a happy-go-lucky babyface managed by legendary fan favourite Hillbilly Jim and got straight to work on covering his hated heel adversaries like Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler, Sunny and Ted DiBiase in slop. The sight of a posh, aristocratic, stuck-up or royal wrestler exploding in disgust at being covered head-to-toe in goodness knows what kind of mixture was a pleasant comedy spot back in the New Gen’ era.
A modern-day twist on this wouldn’t be too out of tune in this day and age. Put a decent worker in a pair of overalls, have him a bit unshaven and unkempt. Have his back story that he works/ed on a farm and we are off to the races. We could have cinematic matches on location at the farm, bring back the hog pen match for a one-off, get him sympathy as a babyface by being outnumbered in a beatdown or ridiculed for his looks or profession, or garner heel heat by using his lack of personal hygiene and “dirty” tricks to his advantage.
Hear me out here. Damien Demento, in my opinion, had a good gimmick but was using it at the wrong time.
Looking like a villain from Superman 2 and sounding like he was channelling a sci-fi version of Rasputin, Damien Demento originated from “The outer reaches of your mind”, talked to the heavens during his matches but left a lot to be desired with it came to the action between the ropes.
Using the usual WWF in-ring style, Demento did not stand out when it came to an in-ring repertoire, but the character was an intriguing one and one that could have gone places if given the right air-time at the right time in history. Calling himself “A creation of your mind… and torment”, the Demento character resembles parts of Bray Wyatt, Aleister Black and even Kane, given that he is playing up his psychological, mythical and demonic characteristics.
Back in the early 90s, Demento did not get a fair whack with his gimmick. He will forever be the trivia note of being in the main event of the first-ever Monday Night Raw (in a losing effort to the Undertaker), but if the character was around today with a modern twist, it would be one of the more “out-there” gimmicks and would intrigue many of us. Maybe if the gimmick was planted on a Wyatt, Black or Kane, with someone who could back up the claims with an in-ring style that differs from the cookie-cutter ABC style then maybe- just maybe, the legend of Damien Demento would be a lot different to what it is.
However you want to remember the New Generation, you can’t deny that the gimmicks were and forever will be a talking point. As with a lot of positives in wrestling, a lot of them came around by mistake or sheer luck. Before Ted DiBiase introduced the Undertaker in 1990, would anyone have predicted we would still be talking about him and predicting his return to the ring 30 years later? Or if the Ringmaster didn’t take Triple H’s winning spot at King of the Ring 96′, would we have seen the evolution to Stone Cold Steve Austin and Austin vs McMahon feud? If Rocky Miavia initially got over with the crowd, would we have got the 97/98 heel Rock character that developed into one of the most famous people in the world today?
A lot of the best moments in wrestling were born out of moments of luck or coincidence. And in the New Generation, the WWF tried their best with every style of gimmick they could think of to try and catch some sort of lightening in any shape of a bottle they could find. Some worked (Goldust, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Yokozuna) some did not (The Goon, Kwang, Phantasio) but you should not jump on the bandwagon and paint all New Gen’ gimmicks with the same brush. With a little tweaking and a mixture of the modern era rolled into them, some of those gimmicks might just very well work in today’s Reality Era.