For all the abuse they take from fans, pro wrestling writers can go through just as many ups and downs as the WWE characters whose stories they put to paper.
In the last week, two writers have quit WWE, according to Uproxx.
One, Robert Evans, either quit or was fired (depending on who you listen to) because he dared to write Vince McMahon’s name into Bret Hart’s Hall of Fame speech during WWE WrestleMania 35 weekend. Another, Brian James (formerly “Road Dogg” Jesse James) resigned over frustration at McMahon’s proclivity for last-second rewrites.
Doing any job for WWE isn’t easy. Much less handling the creative aspects of the company. Among the many things that separates pro wrestling from other forms of entertainment is that nobody gets credit for anything.
Except Vince McMahon.
Sometimes that’s fair, sometimes it isn’t. So we thought it might be fun to give credit where credit’s due. This is our list of the five best WWE character creations, along with the creators’ due props.
5. Razor Ramon
Created by Scott Hall
After years of success in the old American Wrestling Association, Scott Hall got a tryout with WWE, set up by his long-time friend and former AWA partner Curt Henning (by this time wrestling as Mr. Perfect in WWE).
Hall impressed McMahon with his sheer size. See, it takes more than talent or ability to make it in Vince’s world. You have to be a freakin’ giant. And at 6-feet, 7-inches and 295 pounds, Hall fit the bill.
But even a size-fetishist like Vince knows the importance of having a character. Hall’s suggestion was to put on a fake Cuban accent and play his new character like Tony Montana from Scarface, which Vince hadn’t seen, because his finger’s always on the pulse of pop culture.
Hall put on the voice, suggested the name Razor, and they were off to the races.
What makes Razor important, and why I think he deserves a spot on this list, is that he was a very transitional character between generations. He was a major part of the end of the WWE’s golden era, and he teamed with Ric Flair not long after his debut. He and he was a pillar of the WWE New Generation, having integral feuds with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.
The WWE character was so strong and so well-received, that it was Razor Ramon and not Scott Hall who was inducted into the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame.
His run as Scott Hall with the nWo in WCW may have made more money, but it was Razor Ramon who was remembered.
Created by Mick Foley, with Vince McMahon
Yeah, Vince is going to get a margin of credit for some of these. I’m as bummed about it as you.
It took some serious arm-twisting to get Mick Foley a gig in WWE back in 1996. Foley wrote in his first book that Jim Ross and Jim Cornette had long been lobbying McMahon to bring the Hardcore Legend (who had wrestled all over the map as Cactus Jack) into pro wrestling’s major league.
McMahon had been resistant. Foley just didn’t have the look.
But the boss knew when to listen to his lieutenants and brought Foley in with the idea of marketing him as … MASON THE MUTILATOR!
“Mason” would come to the ring, chained in a Hannibal Lecter-like rig, in a straight jacket and a mask.
Most pro wrestlers will gush over a McMahon proposal because 1. They want a damn job and 2. They want to work for WWE. Foley, on the other hand, threw in his input.
The name Mankind can be attributed to Foley, who argued that the name could have a double-meaning – mankind had scarred his body and his mind, and with his self-destructive style in the ring, he would have his retribution on Mankind. That’s deep, man.
McMahon acquiesced to Foley’s input and even agreed to forego the chains and the entrance rig. The mask, would stay, though.
“All right, dammit, I’ll bring him in,” Vince said. “But I’m covering up his face.”
3. Doink the Clown
Created by Michael Hegstrand, with Bruce Prichard and Pat Patterson
You either love clowns or you hate them.
Matt Borne seemed to hate everybody and everything. He had come in for a tryout with WWE in 1992 after a stint in World Championship Wrestling as Big Josh (why did WCW go out of business, anyway?), and the whole locker room noticed that he seemed absolutely miserable.
By the way, if you look up at the header for this one, it lists the creator as Michael Hegstrand. Who in the blue hell is Michael Hegstrand?
He’s Road Warrior Hawk.
Bruce Prichard noted on Steve Austin’s podcast a couple years ago that Hegstrand noticed that Borne reminded him of Krusty the Clown. Prichard, who had worked with Borne before, couldn’t help but agree.
“He was very funny, and very quick-witted,” Prichard would say on his own podcast, Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard. “But he was very mean-spirited.”
As with all ideas in WWE, there was a Final Boss to face. Prichard, along with fellow writer and WWE legend Pat Patterson, still had to convince Vince McMahon.
Prichard and Patterson’s pitch was very to-the-point: “Evil clown, Vince. Evil clown.”
They showed McMahon the 1988 film Killer Clowns from Outer Space, as well as some Krusty segments from The Simpsons, and McMahon immediately bought in. Doink the Clown was born.
Doink was a landmark WWE character in a lot of ways. He was colorful, as you’d expect from the WWE of 1992, but he was sinister, creepy, and … well, evil.
As all clowns are.
Seriously, to hell with clowns.
2. The Undertaker
Created by Vince McMahon
I know. I know.
The Undertaker is iconic. He’s a cornerstone of professional wrestling, he’s spanned nearly three decades and countless eras, and he’s one of the greatest creations in wrestling history. One of.
Like Foley after him, Mark Calaway, the man behind the Deadman, took some convincing to get Vince McMahon on board.
McMahon thought that Calaway, who was languishing in WCW as “Mean Mark” Callous at the time, looked too much like a basketball player. But all of the people who had McMahon’s ear would not let up, and the boss agreed to meet the future American Badass in 1990 in person.
We’ve mentioned that Vince has a thing for big dudes, right? Yeah, everything worked out.
Prichard, who was playing the faith-healer Brother Love, needed a new WWE character to manage. Calaway seemed like the right fit. McMahon instructed the company’s creative services to draw up some sketches of Calaway in a dark outfit (“like an old-time undertaker,” as explained by The Ringer) to contrast Brother Love’s shining white suit.
In November of 1990, Ted DiBiase introduced the mystery member of his team at Survivor Series as Kane the Undertaker (more on that to come).
Undertaker had a pretty good debut. Within his first 90 seconds, he had choked Bret Hart, delivered a slam to Jim Neidhart, hit a tombstone piledriver on Koko B. Ware, and managed to eliminate some indy guy named Dusty Rhodes.
The WWE character has changed and evolved a lot over the ensuing years, into a devil-worshiping weirdo and then into a giant Kid Rock on a motorcycle and back to the Deadman.
And he’s still there. The sure mark of any great WWE character.
Created by Bruce Prichard
Why is Kane number one?
Because this list is about WWE characters. It could be argued that Kane is a gimmick, but I think that’s unfair. Gimmicks are “wrestling accountant” or “wrestling hockey player.” WWE characters are born from creativity and, more often than not, necessity.
As Prichard covers in detail in an episode of Something to Wrestle, Kane was born out of the necessity of the Undertaker needing a credible opponent.
“I just started freestyling,” Prichard said. “What if the Undertaker had a brother that he thought was dead, but in reality, he lived, and he’s … hated the Undertaker his entire life.”
Prichard further fleshed out by including a callback to Undertaker’s original name. WWE retconned the name “Kane” to be a tribute to his dead brother, who Undertaker believed to have been killed in the funeral home that also killed his parents. As it turned out, Undertaker’s former manager, Paul Bearer, was raising Kane — horribly burned and mutilated in the fire — to hate his brother.
But who would “play” Kane? The company already had history with wrestler Glenn Jacobs, who had wrestled for WWE as Isaac Yankem (wrestling dentist) and as the fake Diesel (we don’t have time right now …). WWE knew that Jacobs could match Undertaker’s signature moveset and be a credible threat.
The WWE character, who had yet to even debut, was an integral part of the Undertaker’s WWE title match with Bret Hart. Not even on-screen yet, the WWE character was already hovering over the Undertaker.
Like his “brother,” Kane debuted in main-event fashion. He crashed the first-ever Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels by ripping off the cage door and actually putting down the Deadman.
WWE would seemingly try everything they could over the years to ruin Kane. The company retconned his disfigurement to be psychosomatic. He later wrestled in a suit as part of the Authority. Eventually, he would turn out to be a Republican politician. Just ridiculous stuff.
But the care taken to make this WWE character believable, credible, and dramatic, shines a light and how important good writing is to a good pro wrestling story.
And why it’s important to give credit where credit’s due.
All images courtesy of WWE.