There are two parallel definitions of a gimmick:
- A cheat; either a method of doing something that appears impossible, or some device used for cheating.
- A feature that distinguishes something (in this case, a character or series) from the competition (with strong connotations of not adding any functionality or value).
This is about that second, as applied to characters.
The power of sheer gimmickry, when properly used, cannot be underestimated; a properly executed gimmick can make a character truly memorable.
The true definition of a gimmick is if an Alternate Universe
equivalent (or a Captain Ersatz
) isn't "really" that character without the gimmick, then that's this.
Unlike actors, the large majority of professional wrestlers don't really have character roles but rather are reacting to where they are placed in a book, what spots they are given, how an audience reacts and just use gimmicks to make things more interesting. After all, you can't help but react the way you really would, but what if you
decided to react to everything in the most negative way you can possibly perceive it? You are going through a rough patch so why not use it? Maybe you
strive to react in the ways you think will be best for your merchandise sales? If nothing else, people will not have to think hard to understand why someone would act in such a way. Even if your gimmick is that of a survivor from the lost city of Atlantis, you had better react to all things as if you
are a survivor from Atlantis. If the gimmick is not a part of you, it has to become
part of you or will likely fail.
To a professional wrestler, finding something within to magnify and project outward is almost as important as being physically conditioned, almost as much as wrestling in of itself. Something that immediately lets fans pick one out from amongst their peers can give fans something to latch on to and believe in. Drawing people's attention is the first step to drawing crowds. Interest can make crowds want to see one win... or get one's head beat in. So long as they are interested enough to tune in or buy tickets, you win something. Simply dying a few hairs blonde
did wonders for Sputnik Monroe. Randy Savage
's memorable voice and odd way of speaking hyped fans for his matches that much more. And, of course, George Wagner
had people speculating as to whether he was gay or straight.
Most common in Comic Books
and Professional Wrestling
, but can show up elsewhere. See also Idiosyncrazy
, for when a character's gimmick is driven by his insanity, rather than out of universe considerations. Compare the Dancing Bear
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- Batman's gimmick in the Justice League is either his detective skills, or his sheer intellect.
- Batman's Rogues Gallery is filled to the brim with these. To name some particularly famous cases:
- The Joker provides an example of how far you can go without going outside your Gimmick: outside of the Silver Age, he defines the human version of the Monster Clown. Within the Silver Age and Silver Age styled settings, he's merely a prankster Villainous Harlequin.
- The Riddler, in some versions, is actually an interesting case, in that his gimmick is also explicitly his motivation and downfall: His superiority and inferiority complexes are such that he has to leave clues, to prove that he's smarter then everybody else.
- Most Batman villains are like this to either a small extent (Catwoman is fond of going after Cat related valuables) or a huge extent (the Riddler as previously mentioned). Appropriately, Two-Face can't seem to decide whether his theme is opposites or the number two. Maybe he should just flip for it.
- Toyman is an excellent example of a character whose only real continuity between versions is his Gimmick.
- An example of a poorly implemented gimmick: Paste Pot Pete. (Pete later changed his name, because it was too silly, even for the Silver Age.)
- Spider-Man's gimmick, in universe, is his spider theme (less important) and sharp wit (more important); but out of series, his gimmick is One of Us: he's an average person who got hit with the superpower stick, and now has an extra set of responsibilities.
- Captain America's gimmick is Patriotism and embodying the American Fighting Spirit.
- Green Arrow has a whole Robin Hood and Bow And Arrow gimmick going.
- As well as his very outspoken left-wing political views, which, since the '70s, have been a defining character trait of his.
- The Flash's Rogues Gallery was full of gimmick themes with obvious names: Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Rainbow Raider, The Top (In that he spun like one).
- The Punisher's willingness to kill and torture bad guys.
- Nero Wolfe was best known for solving cases while never leaving his house. His narrator, Archie Goodwin, did all of the relevant legwork; the combination of the the Hard Boiled-styled detective and the very Defective Great Detective was the gimmick of the series as a whole.
- Penny of Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain decides to have candy be her main gimmick as a Mad Scientist, and starts designing weapons based around sugar. Some are simple (such as a water knife that uses soda instead of water), but others are more involved, like a wand that covers enemies in a candy coating, freezing them in place. Apparently it's common for mad scientists to have a theme to their inventions.
- Some commonly reoccurring gimmicks have pages on this wiki. They are not mutually exclusive to each other and many different variations of each are explained in more detail on each respective article.
- Jake "The Snake" Roberts, whose gimmick was being evil. And having a snake.
- However, he may end up being just as well known for his born-again Christian gimmick in the 90s, as it led to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin delivering his Austin 3:16 promo, and the Attitude Era at large.
- Prolific in the late '80s and early '90s WW
FE, when every wrestler would be gimmicky. See Wrestling Doesn't Pay for examples.
- The leprechaun Hornswoggle's original gimmick was to be a projectile for the fighting Irishman Finley. After he got popular he became more of a prankster that lives under the WWE rings. And was the anonymous Raw GM who only spoke through a computer.
- Charles Wright went from a No Celebrities Were Harmed Charles Barkley, to Voodoo sorcerer, to ultimate fighter, to political revolutionary, to pimp, to moral guardian to pimp again.
- Brodus Clay's gimmick was based on his real life job as a body guard but then he became a giant dancing Disco Dan and the only living, breathing Funkasaurus in captivity.
- Bryan Danielson started off as a bland vanilla midget who was picked up by Spanky because he needed a partner but then merged the ROH World and Pure wrestling titles and became an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. Then he became the bland vanilla midget rookie Daniel Bryan until he won one of the ladder matches at Money in the Bank, burnt his bridges and degraded into an insane Small Name, Big Ego who hates goats and the word yes. This was partially based on real life, where he was the very definition of vanilla midget before working on speaking.
- K-Kwik/Ron "The Truth" Killings was just a wrestling rapper but then was betrayed by John Morrison and became an insane conspiracy theorists who talks to people who are not really there and hates all you little Jimmies. He also developed a fear of heights and spiders. He was also the bad toothed Pretty Ricky but most fans would rather forget that one.
- The Rock's gimmick was speaking in third person at all times and comically overselling.
- The Undertaker's gimmick has switched between being a grave digging zombie, a wrestling evil in hearts of all men, a wrestling biker, a wrestling grim reaper and the last outlaw. Through it all, the gimmick of being unbeatable at Wrestlemania has been his only constant.
- The One Man Gang's gimmick was having a chain and squashing jobbers, then he reappeared from an over seas trip to get in touch with his Deepest Darkest African roots, becoming a pretty fly for a white guy Akeem the African dream.
- Albert was one half of Trish Status's T&A, then became the disgustingly hairy A-Train, then went to Japan where he became the star Giant Bernard then returned the the US in an Akeem like fashion as Lord Tensai. He then tagged with the Funkasaurus and became disco dan Sweet Tea.
- Goldust's gimmick was being ambiguously gay and being a movie critic who took himself so seriously he dressed and painted his body to look like an Oscar award. Then he got sick of movies and became The artist formerly known as Goldust, a gimmick which involved dressing in the most offensive manners possible (such as Black Face) and reciting poetry. Then he Goldust returned to form but got electrocuted by Stevie Richards, adding a speech impediment to his gimmick. He popped up in TNA as Black Reign, whose gimmick was being Goldust without the gold and having a pet rat named misty.
- Black Magic started out as a simple mat technician, then became the Foreign Wrestling Heel Lord Henry Norman, then became the dance battler Norman Smiley, then went to being the cowardly screaming Norman who was forced into WCW's hardcore division and would dress in the home team uniforms of the cities he wrestled in.
- Macaela Mercedes started out as an ill tempered narcissist before becoming the relentlessly cheery high flier Jillian Hall. But then Jillian got breast implants and became a malicious, vain bully. Then Jillian became "the fixer", a freelance consultant who needed a protective mask when she wrestled do to a giant mole that grew on her face. Then the Boogeyman bit the mole off Jillian's face and her biggest client fired her, seeing her slip closer to her cheery gimmick before becoming a narcissist again. Then she became convinced she could sing, even though she couldn't.
- Speaking of the Boogeyman, his gimmick was that he was an actor from a failed television program who got lost in character, believing he really was the Boogeyman. He also had the gimmick of randomly appearing to beat up people the fans did not like, talking to clocks, wrestling with glass from smashed clocks sticking out of his head and eating worms.
- LuFisto's gimmick was started as Lucifer, then became a tease who tried to get men to drop their guard so she or her partners in crime could beat them up more easily. Then she became a Kawaii anime about garbage wrestling.
- The base gimmick of Leva Bates is a geeky super hero who wants to protect honorable professional wrestlers from all the evil they encounter in their line of work (except in places where it is the other way around). Extensions of the gimmick include "specialized armor" (goggles to stop eye poking and other case by case bases) and channeling her favorite characters.
- Cheeseburger's gimmick was being the underfed whipping boy of the Ring of Honor locker room but then became a blood thirsty man-leech Landa in Chikara derivatives Wresting is Fun and Wrestling is Respect.