The WWE Universe is a very forgiving group. If they accept you and respect you, there is no limit to what you can get away with. As long as you can provide entertainment when it counts, then chances are most fans will stand behind you until the end. The key word there is entertainment. If you aren’t entertaining, that same group of forgiving people will tear you apart, whether it’s during a show, on Twitter or the darkest parts of the IWC.
The ultimate leap of faith for a wrestler to take with fans is when they reemerge as a new character after portraying another. It’s different when you just drop a first name (we’re looking at you Cesaro), as compared to when you change your name altogether. Many times a new name signifies a new personality for the WWE Universe to adapt to, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. Other times it works so well, that we don’t even acknowledge the former personas of our favorites in the ring. That is why today we are going to look at name changes, specifically eight that worked, and eight that didn’t.
As always feel free to let us know what you think in the comments section.
16. Bombed: D-Von Dudley Becomes Reverend D-Von
Wrestling is subjective and depending on where you are, wrestling people won’t appreciate your schtick in the business. One tag team that remains a connective thread through all different genres and subgenres of wrestling is The Dudley Boyz. As one of the most decorated tag teams in wrestling history, D-Von and Bubba Ray have traveled the world winning gold in nearly every promotion. In 2002 The Dudley Boyz were split up with each member going to a separate brand; D-Von was sent to SmackDown.
Almost immediately D-Von expanded his catchphrase “Testify” into a full blown gimmick turning into Reverend D-von, and serving as Vince McMahon’s spiritual advisor. The gimmick was mildly successful and even featured Rev. D-Von pinning Triple H during a main event on SmackDown. Overall though the character didn’t have sticking power, and fizzled out only a few months after getting started.
15. Success: Issac Yankem Becomes Kane
A seven-foot dentist? Yeah, welcome back to the days of cartoony gimmicks, and every wrestler having a job. Glenn Jacobs’ job was to be a freaky looking dentist when he debuted on RAW in June of 1995. As Yankem, Jacobs enjoyed some main event success, working a major program with Bret Hart. Soon after his initial push however, Jacobs was demoted to jobber status until his brief run as fake Diesel.
In 1997 Jacobs was cast as Kane, the storyline brother of The Undertaker, and in the process cemented himself as one of the foundations of the Attitude Era. Kane’s epic entrance along with his ability to stand nose-to-nose with The Undertaker made him an instant fan favorite. Though his character has gone through a few changes, Kane is still featured on WWE television; talk about lasting power.
14. Bombed: Los Matadores Become The Shining Stars
Can going from one gimmick that bombed, to another gimmick that is bombing be considered a step up? I hope so, otherwise The Shining Stars wouldn’t be showing up on this list. Wrestling as Los Matadores from 2013 until 2016, Epico and Primo saw moderate success along with their mascot El Torito. The team, who under their former names were WWE Tag Team Champions, rarely won matches, instead serving as second fiddle to El Torito.
With their popularity declining, the WWE decided to revamp their characters in 2016 and revert the men back into their original names, but with a twist. Instead of worrying about winning matches the duo seemed more focused on selling Puerto Rican timeshares to other wrestlers. While the gimmick is still in development, it doesn’t look as if The Shining Stars will be shining too much longer.
13. Success: Husky Harris Becomes Bray Wyatt
A third generation superstar, Bray Wyatt has etched himself into the history books of the WWE by creating a character that is surrounded by mystery. Though he recently found himself as a champion (tag team) for the first time in his main roster career, Wyatt didn’t always have such high prospects in the WWE. Showing up initially as Husky Harris during the second season of NXT, The Eater of Worlds was forgettable at best.
Lasting a mere year on the main roster as part of The Nexus, Wyatt returned to the main roster after completely reinventing himself in 2012. The use of a “family”, great vignettes, and one of the best entrances since The Undertaker has made sure that Wyatt is here to stay.
12. Bombed: Cody Rhodes Becomes Stardust
You can’t say that Cody Rhodes didn’t try to get Stardust to work. I mean if you look at his work from the middle of 2014 until his departure from the company, nobody could say that Rhodes wasn’t all in on his character. The guy would stay completely dressed for press events and wouldn’t ever break character when giving interviews. Stardust even enjoyed a run as a Tag Team Champion, but it wasn’t enough to keep Rhodes happy with the WWE, as he left in the summer of 2016.
The main reason Stardust could be considered a flop is that Rhodes is absolutely on fire on the independent scene right now. His matches with Kurt Angle and Chris Hero show how much more Rhodes was capable of, the problem was that he wasn’t given the opportunities to do it, especially as Stardust.