The Wyatt Family has finally stepped up to the RAW roster with the haunting, strange gimmick they work capturing the attention of the WWE Universe, more so than any other debuting superstar(s) in recent times. With this in mind I thought it would be great to look at some of the more successful gimmick used so far in WWE. This is my own opinion, of course, and I would like to express my thanks to Zack Krasney, Chris Surrency and Jamie Welton for their thoughts and opinion whilst considering who to include.
During the 1993 Royal Rumble one of the greatest gimmicks to emerge in WWE was unveiled to the crowd. Throughout the course of the night an excitable Bobby Heenan worked commentary and often referred to the unveiling of The Narcissist during the broadcast. When the time came, Heenan made haste from the commentary booth alongside Gorilla Monsoon and down towards the arena floor. There, standing in-front of three huge mirrors appeared Lex Luger, flexing his pecks to some synthesized soft rock music. With Heenan’s selling of the adonis posing before the mirrors and Luger’s arrogance flowing throughout the promo, The Narcissist debuted and one of the greatest gimmicks announced its entrance to the WWE.
The Narcissist gimmick only lasted a matter of months for Luger, but during that time he became one of the most hated heels in WWE. Demanding mirrors inside the ring so he could pose before his matches, flexing his muscles after knocking opponents down, Luger truly played The Narcissist to perfection. With an impressive physique and better-than-you attitude, all of Luger’s persona occurred naturally and made the gimmick feel real. His power and presence overshadowed his tidy but rough-around-the-edge ability, and his re-enforced metal forearm served as yet another great gimmick for his signature finishing move, the running forearm. Sold tremendously by some jobbers and mid-cards, the forearm looked devastating when smashed in to an opponent from the ropes, just check the sell from Larry Ludden during his debut on Superstars. The metal plate inserted in Luger’s arm was deemed cheating without cheating, and something that both superstars and fans found unfair. With his running forearm, sly, arrogant persona and physical appearance, The Narcissist quickly began to draw heat from the crowds.
His first notable feud was against Mr. Perfect. This was great booking by WWE as Hennig made Luger appear a viable force during their confrontations. The storyline made sense on two fronts; one, a story of perfection versus perfection, and two, the fact that both men had been sold by Bobby Heenan previously. Luger made reference to Perfect during his unveiling at the Rumble, a period in which some on-screen issues had been documented between The Brain and Mr Perfect.
For me, the best part about The Narcissist gimmick was the ring entrance. The elegant music playing out to the arena was a perfect fit for Luger as he smirked his way toward the ring, arrogant and cocky. His ring attire colored silver and white complimented the gimmick as did the silver cape that flowed from his shoulders as he swanned down the aisle. The pose he insisted on before the bell riled the crowd and drew great heat. Everyone paid to see wrestling, not some guy flexing his muscles for a few minutes when he should have been competing.
Everything about The Narcissist succeeded. The only downfall to the gimmick was the ability of Luger himself, but pitting him against Curt Hennig allowed Lex to learn and develop whilst performing in the ring.
Another reason why The Narcissist can be deemed a success was his popularity above another narcissistic heel already established in the organization. Rick Martel was wrestling under the persona of The Model, and even though Luger boasted a greater physique, Martel was the more accomplished wrestler in terms of ability. The Model and The Narcissist were the same gimmick only repackaged differently. Both superstars thrived on arrogance and self-adornment. Martel enjoyed some success with his persona but was essentially sliding down the pecking order by the time Luger debuted, opening the door another performer to attempt the narcissistic gimmick. It could have been a disastrous move on the part of WWE to introduce two separate, narcissistic, arrogant heels to exist at the same time, but one that ultimately worked out, for Luger in particular. The fans delivered more heat to Luger’s attitude than to Martel’s in-ring ability, a testament to just how well he was working them. Even with the same gimmick, The Model could not compete with The Narcissist in popularity.
The Narcissist had a great run in WWE during 1993 before Lex Luger made the switch to The All American on July 4th. Luger turned face during the bodyslam challenge issued by Yokozuna on board the USS Intrepid. With Hulk Hogan having recently left the organization the role of All American hero was passed down to him to bear. It was a huge risk to take on a number of fronts, not least the popularity of The Narcissist and the heat he drew. Leaving behind his previous persona, Luger had a successful run with his new gimmick and challenged at the top of the card, competing against Yokozuna during the main event of SummerSlam ’93. Luger was involved in a title-challenging story from the 1994 Royal Rumble in which both he and Bret Hart co-won the event and earned a title shot at Wrestlemania X. For Luger, the title challenge ended with a loss to Yokozuna on the grandest stage of them all, opening the door for Hart to compete and win in the main event. This would begin Luger’s slip to mid-card status thereafter, and even though the All American feuded with the likes of Tatanka and Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, he never truly captivated audiences as he had done during his title challenge run, or more importantly as The Narcissist. At the beginning of 1995 Luger teamed with the British Bulldog to form the Allied Powers. They challenged Owen Hart and Yokozuna for the tag team titles at the pay-per-view In Your House 2, culminating in a loss. Luger subsequently left WWE once his contract expired after SummerSlam of that year.
The Narcissist was a gimmick used over the years since Luger’s departure, but none of the superstars really got over. Chris Masters was almost a carbon copy of The Narcissist right down to the epic entrance theme, the pose on the stage and the cape which adorned him. Masters never get across with the WWE Universe during either of the two runs he had with the company. To WWE fans who remembered Lex Luger, Masters was just another incarnation of The Narcissist. Masters struggled to deliver any of the charisma or elegance of the gimmick and ultimately found himself walking in WWE purgatory until his exit from the company. More recently, David Otunga briefly attempted something similar after his run with The Nexus but again failed to deliver anything notable.
In conclusion, The Narcissist was successful due to great planning on behalf of WWE and great delivery from Lex Luger. The fact that it has been tried and tested on various occasions since and failed spectacularly is testament to just how good Lex Luger played the part.
The Narcissist was a fantastic gimmick during its short run in WWE, and I feel it may be a while yet before anyone can replicate it as successfully as Lex Luger.