Many gimmick tropes get tapped into across the wrestling industry, and one of those is the “American Hero.” It has been done countless times over the years, allowing another trope, the foreign heel, to be created to go against them.
The “American Hero” is normally extremely patriotic, and while it can be fantastic when done right, it can equally be forgettable and cheesy if it’s done poorly. Throughout wrestling history there have been some great examples of it that have worked well, becoming iconic characters, but those that have fallen flat have lacked the impact needed to make them work.
10Best: Jim Duggan
Jim Duggan was superb in his patriotic role which is something that helped to get him over with fans. He would charge to the ring with his trusty 2×4 in hand alongside the American flag, and it quickly gave fans a reason to cheer for him. It shaped his entire character and worked wonders for him.
Duggan was beloved by fans, proving just how successful his character was because even at the latter stages of his career he would still get some of the biggest reactions possible.
9Worst: Lacey Evans
Lacey Evans’ best work in WWE came as a heel, but the company did attempt to tap into her legitimate history in the military to try and make her a babyface. The idea was for her to be an American hero with fans looking back at the work she’s done in a positive light, but it didn’t work.
The main reason for that was down to the creative, with WWE going back and forth on whether they wanted to commit to her as a babyface in that spot. Because of that, the character never truly established itself or connected with the audience.
8Best: The Undertaker
When fans think about The Undertaker they instantly go to him being The Deadman, and that’s because it was such an iconic character. However, he did switch things up during his career by becoming the American Badass, which brought a completely different side out of him as a performer.
Fans appreciated seeing that as it was something new, and it allowed ‘Taker to showcase a different side of himself. He brought a new touch to this classic trope as well, and the fact he brought a little more edge to the gimmick helped it a lot.
7Worst: Kurt Angle
The idea of Kurt Angle being the worst at anything might seem strange, but when it comes to being seen as an American hero it wasn’t a role he thrived in. However, that was intentional, as Vince McMahon knew that fans would potentially turn against him if he came out and bragged about being an Olympic Gold medal winner.
That’s precisely what they did, and while Angle would end up having good runs as a babyface, that was more due to the comedic aspect he brought, rather than anything patriotic. His American Hero run was as a heel, and while it was effective, it wasn’t as a beloved hero that people got behind.
6Best: Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter was a true American hero in every sense, and it’s something that he did perfectly. Slaughter knew how to get the fans behind him, and it went so well that he became a star outside the world of professional wrestling.
While he would ultimately go on to do amazing work as a heel being anti-American, his time pushing patriotism is what set him apart from everyone at that time.
5Worst: Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger was another talent that pushed his patriotism for his on-screen character, but it was a gimmick that didn’t always connect, particularly as a babyface. He spent his best moments working as a heel, and when he did get his ‘We The People’ gimmick over, it was a short push due to personal mistakes.
The character isn’t one that people still talk about to this day, and that’s the sign of a gimmick that didn’t truly get over. Even though Swagger is a good in-ring worker, he ultimately wasn’t a character that people cared about deeply.
4Best: Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes wasn’t someone that ran around in red, white, and blue flying the flag as much as other people did, but that didn’t stop him tapping into the American Hero character. He did it in a very relatable manner by being the working-class hero that everyone could connect with and understand.
His gimmick was all about being an underdog and someone who had to work for everything he got, chasing that true American Dream. It’s something that got over massively and is one of the reasons that Rhodes became such a legendary figure.
3Worst: The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior is an iconic character, but he isn’t someone that fans think about when it comes to being an American hero. WWE changed his character up a bit for his feud with Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter, as Warrior was much more patriotic than usual during their 1991 Royal Rumble program.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that stuck. He had always been billed from Parts Unknown, which didn’t help matters as people were never pushed to associate him with America in the first place. His gimmick was one that didn’t need changing, and the tweak in this instance just didn’t work.
2Best: Hulk Hogan
While Hulk Hogan may now be a divisive character in the world of professional wrestling, it is hard to argue that he wasn’t the ultimate American hero during his career. The red and yellow ring gear and the character he played in WWE was the ultimate babyface that could do no wrong and would tick every box possible.
Hogan would tell everyone to say their prayers and eat their vitamins and while that is something that some people would likely turn on nowadays, back then people loved it. He became the face of wrestling as a sport with this character, and he is still seen as the perfect one for being the American hero.
1Worst: The Patriots
The Patriots were a tag team from WCW that always felt incredibly over the top and goofy. They were pushed as American heroes, which is clear from the name they were provided. It was always extremely forced and the unit didn’t get over to the same level that others did.
The gimmick was never popular and that is why they were one of the worst examples of this stereotypical gimmick as it proves that it won’t work with absolutely everybody.