Wrestlers are all characters. Sometimes these characters are extensions of the wrestler’s own personality, other times they are one simple character trait or flaw that is expanded to swallow the entire performer. Take, for example, The Miz. His gimmick is that he is a deluded narcissistic Hollywood A-lister who thinks he is better than he actually is. That’s his entire character. There are no moments of self-doubt or other flaws; the man is a stereotype.
Gimmicks tend to start off as stereotypes and stay there. The writers and the audience need the character to fit inside a certain box so that they can then link that character with other characters easily. Is your character an unapologetic ex-porn star with a huge penis who loves the ladies and the ladies love him? We can easily put him in feuds with any other wrestler with a wife/mother/sister/daughter or a censorship stable that will eventually absorb him. Are you a bald, smack-talking badass who kicks everyone up and down the ring? Let’s just have you fight an authority figure for, like, eight years or something.
I have nothing wrong with gimmicks but we are watching wrestling after all and I believe that the characters should be wrestlers-who-are-also-interested-in-other-things as opposed to people-who-should-be-doing-something-else-but-instead-they-are-wrestling. During the early nineties, every single wrestler was wrestling on the side, kayfabe. You had Big Boss Man, who wrassled when he wasn’t beating cons to death. You had the Undertaker who kicked men to death and then buried them in a tasteful ceremony. You had Steven Regal, who was a member of the Village People. Then it all changed to be the PG era where we have legitimate wrestlers who have entered professional wrestling (Dolph Ziggler, Chad Gable, Jason Jordan) you have second-and-third generation wrestlers (Charlotte Flair, Randy Orton, Curtis Axel) and you have wrestlers who are just wrestlers (Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan) amongst others.
Every now and again, the gimmick is strong in a character like R-Truth, Goldust, Stardust and do you notice how these ones do not have names but monikers?
Looking at NXT, a lot of the characters there are gimmicks. We have The Ascension, who rose to obscurity in the main roster and were some Mad-Max-Style-Egyptian-God-Worshippers, The Vaudevillains, who are due to join the main roster and promptly be forgotten about and Tyler Breeze, yet another self-obsessed model-cum-wrestler. It works in NXT because the storylines are simple and the wrestling is great, unlike the Fed where storylines are the focus and the wrestling is backseat (even then, they often call in the storylines).
Gimmicks are important to wrestling, but it should be noted that the most important thing in wrestling is (or at least should be) the wrestling.