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The 10 most stunning personality changes
Each WWE Superstar brings their own unique identity and personality to the squared circle every time they step through the ropes. However, many competitors started their career with personalities that didn’t truly represent them in the ring. Sometimes, those personas worked, but most times they didn’t. A number of Superstars have altered their appearance, and attitude throughout their careers to reinvent themselves or try a new approach.
Some of these competitors have actually found greater success embracing either who they truly are, or unleashing a side of them that has previously not been seen in WWE, WCW or ECW. WWEClassics.com ranks the 10 most influential changes in personalities and examines how they altered careers.
Booker T to King Booker
As WCW Champion, Booker T led the charge during the WCW/ECW invasion in 2001. Although he eventually lost the title to The Rock, Booker T continued his career in WWE, winning the World Tag Team Titles, the Intercontinental Title and three U.S. Titles. In 2006, the five-time WCW Champion entered the King of the Ring Tournament and successfully joined the small fraternity of Superstars who have been crowned king.
Winning the tournament is an impressive accolade, but Booker T took the coronation seriously and transformed himself into King Booker. Wearing a crown, cape and speaking with a feigned British accent, Booker ruled over SmackDown with his royal court consisting of his wife, Queen Sharmell, Sir William Regal and Sir Finlay. Although Booker’s royal turn was comedic at times, it was certainly effective as he won his first World Heavyweight Championship soon after.
Rocky Maivia to The Rock
At Survivor Series 1996, third-generation Superstar Dwayne Johnson debuted as “Rocky Maivia,” a smiling competitor with a bright future in WWE. He enjoyed early success as he captured his first Intercontinental Championship a few short months into his career. Rocky was not well-received by the WWE Universe, however. In fact, they loathed him.
This triggered Johnson’s true persona — The Rock — to emerge. Although he was arrogant and egotistical during his time with The Nation of Domination, The Great One soon earned favor with the WWE Universe by talking in the third-person and hurling hilarious insults at his opponents. By embracing The Great One within him, The Rock became not only an eight-time WWE Champion, but also a major movie star.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley to Triple H
In 1995, Hunter Hearst Helmsley debuted as a pretentious, etiquette obsessed Superstar setting his sights on dominating WWE while teaching proper manners along the way. “The Connecticut Blueblood” from Greenwich, Conn., enjoyed success as Intercontinental Champion, but his snobbish attitude earned him few fans. Following his humiliating loss to Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania XII, he almost seemed doomed to be forgotten.
When Triple H formed D-Generation X with his friend Shawn Michaels, however, he became a much more irreverent Superstar whose sense of humor and juvenile antics earned him the adoration of the WWE Universe. Following HBK’s retirement due to injury, Triple H carried on the legacy of DX, but started to show off a much edgier and brutal attitude. In becoming a contender for the WWE Championship, he adopted the nickname “The Game” and set out to prove that he would be one of the greatest Superstars of all time. A far cry from “The Connecticut Blueblood,” Triple H lived up to every moniker he embraced, including “The Cerebral Assassin” and “The King of Kings.”
Becoming an eight-time WWE Champion and now WWE COO, The Game proved that replacing his handkerchief with a sledgehammer was the best career decision he ever made.
Scott Steiner to Big Poppa Pump
During the late 1980s and ’90s, Scott Steiner was highly regarded as one of the top tag team competitors in all of sports-entertainment. Teaming with his older brother Rick, the agile collegiate standouts from the University of Michigan captured seven WCW Tag Team Titles and two WWE Tag Team Championships.
As The New World Order’s power expanded in WCW in 1998, however, Steiner saw an opportunity to achieve a higher level of success beyond the tag team division. During a WCW Tag Team Title defense against The Outsiders at SuperBrawl VIII, he turned on his brother and joined The nWo.
Big Poppa Pump — a loudmouth, bleached blond powerhouse — was unleashed and Steiner hit the weight room twice as hard, bulking up his physique. His newfound attitude aided him in capturing two United States Championships, two Television Championships and the WCW World Title.
Johnny Polo to Raven
In 1993, a spoiled, entitled Superstar named Johnny Polo made his WWE debut. Accompanying Adam Bomb to the ring, Polo took pride in his finely pressed khaki pants and dress shirts as he wielded a golf club or polo mallet. Classified as a “preppy,” the arrogant Polo led The Quebecers to three WWE Tag Team Championships. After departing WWE in 1994, however, Polo went through a shocking transformation and re-emerged in ECW as Raven.
The khakis and nice clothes were gone, replaced by a T-shirt, jean shorts and a leather jacket. Raven was the antithesis to Johnny Polo and a true reflection of the Superstar himself. With a much edgier and more unforgiving attitude, Raven became a two-time ECW Champion and four-time ECW Tag Team Champion. He also found success in WCW as U.S. Champion and Tag Team Champion in addition to recruiting his own Flock of misfits in both organizations.
"Surfer" Sting to "Dark" Sting
The man called Sting was WCW’s most charismatic and popular competitor. The Stinger was first propelled into the national spotlight at the inaugural Clash of the Champions, battling NWA Champion Ric Flair to a time-limit draw. Beloved by fans for his upbeat attitude mixed with his colorful face paint and ring attire, The Stinger never let ego get in the way of his allegiances or success. Following the formation of The New World Order and their use of a Sting doppelganger, however, the WCW locker room grew wary of Sting’s loyalty to the organization.
Spurned by his peers, Sting walked away from his allies and took refuge in the rafters of arenas all over the country. Ditching the colorful attire for simple black and white, The Stinger silently stalked Hollywood Hogan and The nWo, carefully planning each strike for more than a year. Although Sting’s new demeanor was the exact opposite of his former self, WCW fans never lost faith in the enigmatic competitor. This change in personality completely reinvented WCW’s face-painted franchise and his success continued as he eventually defeated his nemesis, Hollywood Hogan, for the WCW World Title.
Vince McMahon to Mr. McMahon
In the 1980s, Vince McMahon was known to the WWE Universe simply as an interviewer and play-by-play commentator. Memorably broadcasting alongside Jesse “The Body” Ventura, The Chairman’s red bow tie and signature phrase, “What a maneuver!” were highlights of WWE programming. Few suspected that buried underneath the headset was a mastermind.
At Survivor Series 1997, the WWE Universe was granted its first look of the ruthless businessman who launched a media empire. When Mr. McMahon called for the WWE official to ring the bell during the WWE Championship Match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, WWE fans suddenly realized that the spirited commentator was the man in charge — and his word was final. From that point on, The Chairman was no longer a commentator. He was the boss who made life a living hell for anyone who disobeyed him.
"Stunning" Steve Austin to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
In the early 1990s, one of WCW’s most recognizable stars was “Stunning” Steve Austin. A two-time U.S. and Television Champion, Austin also claimed the NWA and WCW Tag Team Championships as one-half of The Hollywood Blonds with Brian Pillman. A promising star who engaged in legendary bouts against Ricky Steamboat and Barry Windham, Austin was fired over the phone in 1995 while recovering from an injury.
After a brief appearance in ECW where he expressed his frustrations with his former employer, Austin joined WWE as “The Ringmaster.” Maintaining some of his “stunning” personality, he displayed his masterful in-ring abilities, but it wasn’t until he won the 1996 King of the Ring that the true Texas Rattlesnake was revealed. With a defiant yet definitive statement — “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your @$$” — “Stone Cold” was born and WWE was propelled into The Attitude Era.
Embracing his true identity as a brawling Texan, Austin forever changed sports-entertainment and helped WWE topple WCW’s rating dominance, eventually leading to WWE acquiring The Rattlesnake’s former employer. It’s crazy to think what would have happened if Austin stayed in WCW or if “Stone Cold” never stunned Mr. McMahon. Nonetheless, becoming “Stone Cold” was the best move Austin could have ever made.
Hulk Hogan to "Hollywood" Hogan
Following a year of retirement to film a series of movies, Hulk Hogan changed sports-entertainment when he joined WCW in 1994. Hulkamania was running wild in the Atlanta-based promotion and for two years, WCW fans said their prayers, ate their vitamins and wore red and yellow proudly. But at Bash at the Beach 1996, the sports-entertainment world was rocked when Hogan betrayed Sting, Lex Luger and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, joining Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to form The New World Order.
The Hulkster ditched his classic red and yellow for black and white. His iconic blond mustache was engulfed in thick black stubble and his unchained ego gave birth to “Hollywood” Hogan. Once the personification of good, The Hulkster now cared only for himself and his control over WCW and sports-entertainment. Ultimately, Hogan’s reinvention as the leader of The nWo led to WCW’s 84 straight weeks of television ratings dominance.
"The Natural" Dustin Rhodes to Goldust
As the son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes carried on his father’s blue-collar legacy early in his career in both WWE and WCW. Dubbed “The Natural” during his time in WCW in the early 1990s, Rhodes captured the WCW Tag Team Titles alongside Barry Windham and also held the United States Championship. But the second-generation competitor never quite removed himself from the large shadow of his legendary father.
In 1995, Rhodes returned to WWE, but no longer felt the desire to fill the shoes of The American Dream. Instead, Rhodes embraced a new persona of “The Bizarre One,” Goldust. Obsessed with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and dressed from head to toe in gold, Goldust was far removed from “The Natural,” but much more memorable. Under this golden guise, Rhodes not only secured his own distinctiveness but he also achieved a great deal of success, becoming a nine-time Hardcore Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion and one-time World Tag Team Champion. As The Bizarre One often promised, you’ll always remember the name Goldust.