Professional wrestling’s storied history is peppered with characters whose in-ring personas (or gimmicks) are as unique as their purported day jobs. In WWE, the line between real life and entertainment often blurs, giving us some truly unforgettable wrestlers (for better or for worse)!
From strumming rock stars to calculating IRS agents, we shine a spotlight on ten WWE wrestlers from the past who weren’t just grappling giants but also moonlighted as everyday professionals.
1. Man Mountain Rock
Man Mountain Rock, Darryl Peterson, was an accomplished NCAA amateur wrestler before moving to Los Angeles, California, to pursue an acting career. Here, he met and trained with professional wrestler Red Bastien.
When Peterson’s training was completed, he traveled to Japan to train in their dojo alongside fellow gaijin Chris Benoit.
Interestingly, at this time, he worked for the then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in March 1986, not as a wrestler but as a stagehand who helped put together the steel cage used in the main event of WrestleMania 2.
In 1988, Peterson developed the character Max Pain, a grungy metal guitarist who can deliver maximum pain and made a successful run in the Tennessee-based Continental Wrestling Association (CWA), defeating Jerry Lawler for the CWA Heavyweight Championship.
He spent a brief time in WCW as Maxx Payne, playing up the rock connection at his first pay-per-view appearance, SuperBrawl III, where he played Taps on his guitar before challenging Dustin Rhodes (a guy who knows a thing or two about gimmicks) for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship, in place of the injured Ron Simmons.
Most notably, he would appear at Clash of the Champions XXIII, shooting Johnny B. Badd in the face with confetti, scaring him so badly that he was forced to wear a mask. This devious act led to a match at Beach Blast, which Payne would lose.
The two would face off again at Clash of the Champions XXIV in a Mask versus Guitar match. Payne put his guitar on the line to unmask and humiliate the mutilated Badd. However, Payne lost the match and his beloved guitar.
Payne would later turn face and form a tag team with Cactus Jack. They entered a feud with The Nasty Boys. During this run, he became increasingly annoyed with the Nasty Boys’ stiffness and demand to control their matches. During their brawl at SuperBrawl IV, Brian Knobbs and Payne did not cooperate on a fall, and Knobbs broke his shoulder.
After the match, WCW President Eric Bischoff shouted at Payne about hurting Knobbs, and Payne argued back. Falling out with the President never ends well, and Payne was subsequently buried and later fired.
Renamed Man Mountain Rock, his character was considerably more upbeat. Despite this, he did not achieve the same success. Debuting in February 1995 on a WWF Superstars of Wrestling episode, Rock played a large electric guitar shaped like the WWF logo.
Rock’s music would soon incur the wrath of Bob Backlund, who was playing the role of a cantankerous veteran during this time, leading to a match. This run was unfortunately curtailed by a series of injuries and a dependency on weed and pain medication.
He was subsequently released in October 1995.
2. TL Hopper
In 1996, TL Hopper joined the then-WWF as a plumber-turned-wrestler.
A series of vignettes showed Hopper at work. He would come to the ring with his trusty plunger (Betsy) sporting low-hanging jeans and a stained undershirt because why bother changing your outfit? He’d celebrate his victories by sticking his plunger in his opponent’s face. Such was the case of his most famous feud with Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Drose. What could be better than a plumber versus a garbage man in a ‘Home Improvements Match’?
Not long after this, he would return to the WWF in September 1997 as Uncle Cletus.
Cletus would appear through the audience to help the heel tag team of The Godwinns (Henry O Godwin and Phineas) in a match against The Headbangers. He took out Mosh with a horseshoe, allowing Phineas to make the pin. The now-uncle of the Godwinns became another of the team’s managers, and at Badd Blood 1997, The Godwinns won the WWF Tag Team Championship with Cletus in their corner.
However, these pig farmers didn’t have the best history of keeping wrestling managers. On October 7th, 1997, he interfered in another championship match, accidentally costing his team the titles and allowing the Legion of Doom to triumph.
Following this, the Godwinns attacked Cletus, who was never seen in WWF again.
Phantasio was a short-lived wrestling day job magician gimmick.
Making his WWE debut on the July 16th, 1995, episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge, he immediately showed off his tricks, turning a candle into a walking stick. He mimed removing his mask before taking it off to reveal the same face paint underneath and a long silver strand coming from his mouth, which he then pulled endlessly, revealing more and more silver string.
Phantasio would go on to defeat wrestler Tony Devito, using flashy hand feints and streamers to distract the former Ring of Honor wrestler. His big finish came when he reached down the back of Devito’s tights and grabbed his boxer shorts clean off without ripping them. This distraction was enough to secure the roll-up pin.
He seemingly had a bit of an underwear fixation because he would then steal referee Earl Hebner’s undies. These were, of course, striped, just like his shirt.
Yet, he was never seen on WWE television again.
Why did the underwear-stealing sensation go “poof!” into thin air? Bruce Prichard’s podcast may have the answer.
“This dumb **** was sitting there getting ready to go out,” Prichard explained. “All of a sudden, he’s got a little container about the size of a Visine bottle, maybe a little bit bigger. He dropped it.
“The next thing I know, now, I’m backed up and surrounded by pipe and drapes all around me, and then there are the curtains; they go on fire! The gorilla position was on fire! And Kevin Dunn was screaming, ‘Send him [to the ring]!’
“I go, ‘We’re on fire!’
“He goes, ‘Send him!’
“I was like, ‘The Gorilla’s on fire; get me a fire extinguisher now!'”
Phantasio hit the ring and debuted while Prichard frantically attempted to extinguish the flames. Perhaps this explains the magician’s disappearing act!
4. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese
Rolling your eyes at the WWE and Vince McMahon for another job-related gimmick would be easy. But this one came from Droese, who approached Vince at a media convention and pitched him the “Dumpster” character.
Duke was 6’6″ and looked the part of a future main eventer.
Droese would defeat Hunter Hearst Helmsley (yes, really) for the coveted 30th spot in the 1995 Royal Rumble.
However, he only lasted 70 seconds and accidentally smashed referee Earl Hebner on his way to the floor.
In 1996, he quietly disappeared from TV. It is possible that the gimmick may not have served him. He seemed to have the tools, but the only title he won in his time with the WWE was the Slammy Award for “The Smelliest Superstar” – an award he ended up sharing with Henry O. Godwinn.
He returned at WrestleMania 17 in 2001 at the Gimmick Battle Royal, lasting longer than he did in the Royal Rumble five years before.
Fred Ottman’s Tugboat character made his first appearance in the WWF in June 1989 in a dark match under the moniker Big Man Steel with Slick as his manager.
He debuted on television in January 1990 as a revamped Tugboat Thomas, soon shortened to “Tugboat.”
Tugboat came to the ring dressed in a red striped shirt, white pants, and a sailor’s hat. He raised his fist and pulled it down (similar to how one would signal a passing train or trucker), making a “Toot-toot” noise, like a foghorn on a ship.
Tugboat would help Hogan in his feud with Earthquake and Dino Bravo.
By 1991, though, Tugboat turned heel and dumped his Tugboat character like a heavy anchor.
Now, going by the moniker Typhoon, he aligned himself with the dastardly Earthquake as “The Natural Disasters,” managed by Jimmy Hart. Yet their emerging popularity saw them turn in 1992, feuding with Money Inc (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster) and taking their World Tag Team Titles.
Unfortunately for Ottman, Earthquake left WWE in 1993, which left him wrestling in lower-profile singles matches until he finally left the company.
Some say that what happened later that year caused quite a shock in WCW!
6. Repo Man
The last thing you need is a repo man creeping up behind you to take your things.
Repo Man wore a long grey coat with tires for elbow pads. Why? No one knows; maybe it complimented the license plates on the back.
He also wore a robber’s mask and possessed a maniacal laugh. To complete the evil ensemble, Repo Man would repossess things he felt he had a right to, such as cars, bikes, and even Macho Man Randy Savage’s hat!
Repo Man had a few short feuds during his time in the WWE, one of which was at SummerSlam 1992, where he would fight Crush. What was not acknowledged was that only a few years earlier, the pair had been tag team partners in Demolition. Crush would go on to leave the WWE for a year, and ‘Smash’ as he was known, had a few single matches before disappearing off television altogether.
His run as the dastardly thief may have been short, but Barry Darsow revealed on “The Wrestling Perspective” podcast that he had greater plans for his character.
"This gimmick isn’t going to beat Andre the Giant or Hulk Hogan,” Darsaw admitted. “But it’s going to be a good middle of the card to get top guys over. I said it’s the perfect job for that.
“I told [Vince that] I do want to turn babyface because I want to do a lot of Make-a-Wish stuff and different things like that. [My Repo Man character] never changed to a babyface, and when I went to [Vince], He said, ‘You’re not going to be a babyface.’ That’s when I quit.
“I was somebody that when you said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re gonna do,’ I did it. [I wanted to end my career] being a babyface and doing that stuff, then hopefully be an agent or something later. But it just never happened."
Dawsaw revealed how he envisioned the babyface turn.
"[I was] a terrible heel that took bicycles from kids. They’d hate [me] worse than anybody. But, all of a sudden, [what if] now I started giving them out to people and I was a good guy screwing the bad guys?
“These little kids in the hospital might want to meet that Repo Man. [He might] bring them a bicycle.
“For what I wanted in my career after wrestling, that was really important. I wanted to go out and play golf with the celebrities. I want to do all of that stuff, but it just never happened and it was because I wasn’t a babyface."
Repo Man last appeared at the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17 in 2001.
7. Doink The Clown
A clown-turned-wrestler somehow caught on. With bright green hair and clown face paint, Doint the Clown used various props to trick his opponents.
Doink, portrayed by Matt Borne, debuted in the WWE in 1993, originally wrestling as a technically sound heel. The evil clown would play cruel pranks on fans and wrestlers. This incarnation of Doink was terrifying to children, but soon, the WWE would turn him babyface, turning on Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Around this time, Borne, the original man behind the paint, was fired for recurring substance abuse, and the gimmick was passed on to Ray Licameli (AKA Ray Apollo).
Doink was now presented as a fan favorite, accompanied to the ring by a little person ally called Dink. He had more of a silly character who slowly became a glorified enhancement talent.
Doink the Clown was last seen in 1997 until he, like so many, reappeared in the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17.
The character would make further appearances played by wrestlers such as Nick Dinsmore (AKA “Eugene”), Steve Lombardi, and Fabulous One Steve Keirn.
Who knows, maybe we will get another Doink reincarnation to facilitate a clown phobia for a new generation of children.
8. The Big Boss Man
The Big Boss Man, Ray Traylor, made his WWE debut in 1988. The character was based on Traylor’s previous Cobb County, Georgia, prison guard career. This hardened guard would commonly handcuff his opponents to the ring ropes and beat them with his nightstick after defeating them.
The Big Boss Man beat Koko B. Ware at the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988 and would later attack Hulk Hogan on the Brother Love Show. He would feud with Hulk and challenge Randy Savage for the WWE title.
The Big Boss Man partnered with Akeem to form The Twin Towers, who would feud with the Mega Powers alliance of Savage and Hogan. This feud remained until Savage’s eventual heel turn on Hogan.
In early 1990, Big Boss Man’s character had a change of heart and aligned with ‘The Hulkster’ to defeat Earthquake’s team at the 1990 Survivor Series.
A year later, in 1991, Boss Man defeated The Mountie in a well-remembered Jailhouse Match at SummerSlam, stipulating that the loser would spend a night in jail.
Another notable feud was his involvement with Nailz, an ex-convict who claimed The Big Boss Man had abused him in prison. This feud would culminate in Boss Man overcoming the ex-con in a ‘Nightstick on a Pole’ match at Survivor Series 1992.
The following year, Traylor would wrestle his last match, for a while, at the 1993 Royal Rumble against Bam Bam Bigelow.
However, you can’t keep a good (Boss) man down, and after a spell in WCW, Traylor returned to the WWE in 1998.
This time, his character had evolved from the baby blue-wearing prison guard of the early ’90s to a conceited bully-type character willing to lend his muscle to a cause for the right price.
Now decked out in SWAT-style gear, Traylor would join “The Corporation” and go on to win the WWE Tag team and hardcore gold. In an infamous match at WrestleMania XV in 1999, he would compete against the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match, where he was subsequently “hung” inside the cage.
Boss Man took part in some wild and wacky feuds during this time. He would go on to “kill” Al Snow’s Dog and feed him to his owner. This resulted in a Kennel from Hell match at Unforgiven, in which the winner was the first man to escape two cages. Between the two cages were several attack dogs.
Ray Traylor’s WWE career would slowly dwindle from here until his eventual release in May 2003, but there can be no doubt that the Big Boss Man character is one of the most well-remembered career gimmicks of all time.
9. The Mountie
Another man that the Big Boss Man would feud with was the French-Canadian wrestler “The Mountie.”
Jacques Rougeau, the man behind the taser-wielding member of the Canadian Mounted Police, had teamed with his brother as The Rougeau Brothers from 1986-1990. However, when Ray retired, Jacques departed for a year before returning in 1991 as the corrupt Mountie who vowed to “always get his man.”
The Mountie made his in-ring debut at the 1991 Royal Rumble and began feuding with Tito Santana and the Big Boss Man. He would achieve his greatest victory in 1992 when he defeated Bret Hart for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Rougeau later claimed he was given the title as Bret Hart didn’t want to drop it to Roddy Piper.
The Mountie would lose the title, only two days later, to Rowdy Roddy Piper at the 1992 Royal Rumble, in what was, at the time, the shortest Intercontinental Title reign in WWE history.
The Mountie had one last trick up his sleeve, however, and in the rematch, he would use his shock stick on Piper, astonishingly, to no effect. It transpired that the rowdy one was wearing a rubber vest under his shirt, and he would go on to use the stick on The Mountie.
Rougeau bounced around the mid-card before quitting the WWE in 1992. He would return as part of The Quebecers tag team before participating in a “Retirement Match” in 1994 against his former tag team partner Pierre Carl Ouellet.
The French-Canadian got a run in WCW before returning to WWE in 1998 in an updated version of The Quebecers.
10. Irwin R. Schyster (IRS)
Irwin. R. Schyster, a tax man by day and a wrestler by night.
Mike Rotunda made his WWE debut in 1984 as part of the U.S. Express with Barry Windham. By the end of 1986, he had, however, left the company, spending a few years in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).
By 1991, Rotunda was back in the WWE, this time as Irwin R. Schyster. A quality technician, IRS feuded with Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship before forming the tag team of Money Incorporated with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
Money Inc. would become a dominant tag team in the early ’90s, winning the WWF World Tag Team Championships three times.
Unfortunately, DiBiase had to retire from in-ring competition, so IRS returned to competing in singles matches. He feuded with Tatanka and Razor Ramon before joining his former partners, the Million Dollar Corporation.
IRS would go on to feud with The Undertaker leading up to their battle at the 1995 Royal Rumble.
His involvement in the WWE wasn’t over just yet, though. In 2006, he became a road agent for the company and made the odd TV appearance.
Rotunda’s two sons would go on to have WWE careers as Bo Dallas and Bray Wyatt.
So there we have it, a selection of ten WWE wrestlers who stood out with a gimmick involving a day job. Were they silly fun or simply silly? It’s up to the fans to decide!
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