When you start to gain some momentum as a professional wrestler, more often than not, it dawns on the superstars that sacrifices will need to be made if they want to make it to the top. Most of the time these sacrifices aren’t too difficult to make, but when it comes to a performer’s in-ring name, that can rub some people the wrong way.
For a lot of guys and girls, their name is their identity, and while some choose to represent themselves with their given name at birth, many build their own personas that wind up helping to get them over. As we’ve seen in the last few years there are several stars that have been able to keep their identities from the independent scene, but alongside that, WWE also had to make some tough calls.
When we look back now they do tend to be right most of the time when it comes to what they end up being called on WWE TV, and that’s what perspective does for you. Obviously, many of these performers were never going to use their real names, and once you’ve heard some of these entries, you’ll understand why.
20 Taylor Rotunda > Bo Dallas (Better Real Name)
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Bo Dallas’ ascent to the top of WWE hasn’t gone quite as he would’ve hoped. The former NXT champion was able to thrive under a particular setting and gimmick down in developmental, but for one reason or another, that hasn’t translated particularly well to the main roster and it’s not like he hasn’t been given the time or opportunities as of late.
His name could be a big factor behind that because while the Bo-liever has certainly helped his agenda in terms of getting over, Taylor Rotunda is on a whole new level when it comes to the "cool" factor. Bo Dallas is a name that screams jobber, and while his brother’s name Bray Wyatt isn’t much better, it’s certainly more appealing than having a last name associated with a hated sporting city.
19 Finn Balor > Fergal Devitt (Better Ring Name)
The Demon Finn Balor isn’t the main eventer that we all hoped he’d be by now on Monday Night Raw, but there’s still plenty of time to rectify that. Alongside Bo, he’s also a former NXT champion, and while he was probably much more likely to succeed than Dallas was, his trajectory has been equally disappointing in many ways.
In terms of his name, though, boy oh boy were people wrong about that. "Finn Balor" is a name that was universally criticised by fans who thought it was far too generic until they realised that Fergal himself actually assisted in selecting it. Fergal Devitt is arguably one of the most stereotypical Irish names you can think of, and in that sense, we should be thankful that he hasn’t wound up like Hornswoggle, who isn't even Irish in real life.
18 Claudio Castagnoli > Cesaro (Better Real Name)
Cesaro is a man who was a victim of WWE’s somewhat random mission to remove the first names of some performers a few years back. As Antonio Cesaro, he was a somewhat sophisticated and entertaining performer in the ring, but as just Cesaro, it’s easy to argue that his career hasn’t really gone in the upward direction that many had hoped.
His real name, however, oozes charisma and style – and anyone who disagrees needs to go back and watch some of his early work in Ring of Honor. Claudio Castagnoli is a title that screams "world champion" and while he can still accomplish that feat with WWE, it’s hard not to be upset by the fact that he hasn’t quite managed to reach the mountaintop as of yet.
17 Dean Ambrose > Jonathan Good (Better Ring Name)
Jon Moxley? No. Jonathan Good? Absolutely not. Dean Ambrose? Yes please. There are many things that you can complain about when it comes to someone like the Lunatic Fringe because let’s face it, his character hasn’t really taken off as much as many would’ve hoped. Yes, we know he’s extremely popular, but that doesn’t always equal success.
His singles run, which has included a few title reigns, hasn’t been all that great and his matches haven’t been quite as good as his Shield brothers Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. In terms of his name, though, Dean Ambrose is certainly a good fit – especially when you see the possible alternatives.
Who knows, maybe 2018 will bring us a brand new Dean once he’s back from injury.
16 Colby Lopez > Seth Rollins (Better Real Name)
From one Shield alumni to another, we arrive at the main man, Seth Rollins. Now while with Dean we didn’t really believe in either his independent scene name or his real-life name, the complete opposite can be said of The Architect. Case and point: Colby Lopez? Yes. Tyler Black? Absolutely. Seth Rollins? Meh.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s a perfectly acceptable name, but there’s really no comparison when you put it side by side with "Colby Lopez." Thankfully Seth is someone who can adapt to any kind of style or identity change, and he’s been able to make this current persona work as both a heel and a babyface. Hopefully, he can carry his momentum forward into 2018 and beyond, because he’s certainly got the potential to do so.
15 Big Cass > William Morrissey (Better Ring Name)
Big Cass hasn’t had the best of luck as of late, especially if you believe the rumours that he and Carmella are no longer together. After being separated from Enzo Amore it was clear to everyone that Cass had the potential to succeed in a strong monster heel role, but not long into the run, he suffered an injury which has kept him out for the past few months.
While he may be returning soon, potentially at the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania, we can only hope that he doesn’t come back under his real moniker – William Morrissey. The contrast between the two names really is staggering and for a moment, we genuinely pictured Cass being cast in the Hunter Hearst Helmsley role from back in the 90s.
Funnily enough, we aren’t entirely against it.
14 Thaddeus Bullard Sr. > Titus O’Neil (Better Real Name)
Titus O’Neil has never had much luck either down in developmental or on the main roster, and there are a few reasons for that. One of the biggest is that unfortunately, he just doesn’t compare to the other big guys at this level because they’re all just much more believable than him. Secondly – and most importantly – he hasn’t decided to use his real name in the ring yet.
Thaddeus Bullard Sr is one of the most underrated names in the history of mankind, and we challenge you to deny that. Sure it’s unconventional but that’s what is so great about it, and if you don’t believe us, then go back and see how over Abraham Washington was before he systematically destroyed his own career. Titus is cool, but Thaddeus is better.
13 Sheamus > Stephen Farrelly (Better Ring Name)
When Sheamus first came into the fold back in 2009, his name alone struck fear into the hearts of many. He wasn’t your typical monster heel because he had a certain arrogance and edge to him, in addition to his growing personality and character. The name "Sheamus" was simple, sleek, and to this day we believe it’s one of the reasons why he’s been such a success story.
While this is no knock on his parents, Stephen Farrelly doesn’t really compare to a Celtic Warrior like Sheamus. The two names couldn’t be any more different and despite the fact that he’s criminally underappreciated, Sheamus should already have a place in the WWE Hall of Fame locked up for when he finally calls time on his career.
12 Kenta Kobayashi > Hideo Itami (Better Real Name)
If you want random name conversions, then look no further than the likes of Kassius Ohno and to a lesser extent, Hideo Itami. The Japanese superstar was one of the first major independent stars to make an impact down in NXT, and back then, Triple H hadn’t yet gotten into the habit of allowing guys to keep the monikers that helped them to make a name for themselves.
As a result, we lost "KENTA," but funnily enough, his surname is equally as bad ass and not too many people know about it. Kenta Kobayashi sounds like one of the coolest Tekken characters imaginable, and perhaps if Itami was given a little bit more freedom from the very start, he wouldn’t have had such a stagnant run thus far.
Then again, injuries probably played a big role in that too.
11 Enzo Amore > Eric Arndt (Better Ring Name)
Long gone are the days when fans used to chant “Oh, Enzo Amore” in unison because, in the present day, his supposed real-life attitude has led him down the path of darkness – aka, a heel turn. Enzo has always been a self-starter ever since he convinced The King of Kings to sign him all those years ago, and thankfully, he was smart enough not to use his real name.
It’s safe to say that "Eric Arndt" almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to strike fear into the hearts of millions, and while that was never going to be the aim for someone with Enzo’s stature, they definitely made the right call. Although, while he may be enjoying a spell of success in the Cruiserweight division, we have to question how long that’s going to last.
10 Nicholas Nemeth > Dolph Ziggler (Better Real Name)
This isn’t exactly a "new" opinion, but Dolph Ziggler was at a disadvantage from an extremely early stage after being given such an appalling title. Somehow he still managed to claw his way up the ranks in order to become World Heavyweight Champion, but his tenure with the company could’ve and should’ve been so much more profitable than that.
Nicholas Nemeth is a name that would be perfect for a cocky heel, and ironically enough, he actually used it briefly when he was being utilised on the house show circuit. Of course, they shortened it to Nick Nemeth, which isn’t quite as strong, but the fact that he was getting such good reactions even in 2005 should’ve been a sign.
Make Nicholas Nemeth Great Again.
9 Neville > Benjamin Satterly (Better Ring Name)
Neville was the best heel in WWE throughout the entirety of 2017, and you could even argue that he was the all-around best performer in the company too. His no-nonsense attitude coupled together with his in-ring skills made him the Cruiserweight equivalent of Brock Lesnar, and that probably wouldn’t be happening if he were to have been addressed as Benjamin Satterly.
Every single fibre of our being is telling us that there must have been some kind of mistake because we cannot envisage Neville even remotely being called Benjamin Satterly. Either way, his name doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because all we really want is for him to settle his disputes with WWE and turn up on Monday Night Raw once again.
P.S.: the internet seems to have two different spellings for his name, so if we got it wrong, please don’t hurt us.
8 Leah Van Dale > Carmella (Better Real Name)
Carmella is indeed F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S, but unfortunately, her name is not. For years now female superstars have been subjected to being given one very standard and stereotypical name with no surname, and while it works sometimes, it often leaves us feeling as if WWE has any real investment in them at all.
Obviously, Carmella is a bit different as she’s the current Money in the Bank holder, but how cool is the name Leah Van Dale? It’s authentic, it’s different, and while it may not fit with her character that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, Leah Van Dale the person was a Lakers & Patriots girl back in the day.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, folks, especially when it comes to the Princess of Staten Island.
7 Bayley > Pamela Martinez (Better Ring Name)
Take what we said about one-word names in WWE and throw it out of the window for this entry, because "Bayley" is absolutely perfect for the woman known as Pamela Martinez. It’s short, simple and to the point, and in addition to that, it’s the kind of name that perfectly sums up her innocence and ‘underdog’ persona.
On the other hand, Pamela Martinez is the definition of someone who sounds like a jobber to the stars. Of course, we can’t know that for certain, but it’s just so generic that it’s hard to envisage Bayley ever getting over if she were to have been known as that at any point throughout her career.
None of this rectifies her current booking situation, though. It’s important to remember that.
6 Nathan Everhart > Jason Jordan (Better Real Name)
Some might look at this entry and think that we wouldn’t have done it had Jason Jordan not been such an unbearable character over the last few months, but the truth is that we actually kind of dig it. After all, the whole point of Jordan’s persona is that he’s an annoying brat who wants to have his own way, and it’s clear that this is going to lead into a heel turn in the not so distant future.
Unfortunately, the name doesn’t reach match up, and no amount of alliteration can make up for that. Nathan Everhart is the name of a guy you desperately want to get behind, and while it is indeed only a string of letters put together, we can envisage the same kind of rags to riches story for him that Jeff Hardy had once upon a time.
5 Baron Corbin > Thomas Pestock (Better Ring Name)
Thomas "Tom" Pestock was a professional football player once upon a time, which is a sporting industry where the importance of your birth name doesn’t really matter all that much. Thankfully, the higher-ups in NXT realised that the same can’t be said of professional wrestling, and the man-mountain that we all know to be Baron Corbin was born.
To put it as bluntly as we possibly can, it just sounds way more bad ass. Thomas Pestock isn’t the kind of person you want to see headlining pay per views and eventually main eventing WrestleMania because instead, you want someone who you know is going into that ring with one sole aim – cause as much destruction as possible.
Oh, and SmackDown Live writers, please stop botching his progress.
4 Chad Allegra > Karl Anderson (Better Real Name)
When you look into the eyes of Chad 2 Badd from Southpaw Regional Wrestling, really take a moment to reflect and think about what’s going through his mind. Why? Because Chad is actually the real name of Karl Anderson, and when you see how much fun he’s having in that role, you’ll understand why we think he should use Chad Allegra from this moment on.
Karl Anderson may have been the name he used over in Japan and beyond, but it’s nothing special. When you look at his body of work in WWE since jumping ship last year, there’s not that much to write home about. Call us crazy, but we believe that a name change could be the catalyst behind getting Machine Gun’s juices flowing again.
3 Braun Strowman > Adam Scherr (Better Ring Name)
Braun isn’t finished with you yet, but personally, we were finished with his real persona from the second we saw it. Sure, Adam Scherr is well known for his strongman antics back in the day, but that stuff should be left in the past in order for us to focus on the man who could well be WWE’s next incarnation of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Now we realise that sounds a little bit far-fetched, and we’ll admit that it’s a silly statement, but it’s impossible not to get carried away with this guy. Braun is one of the most imposing figures we've ever had the pleasure of watching on a weekly basis, and at the age of just 34, it seems as if his tenure with the company could continue for many years to come.
2 Amanda Saccomanno > Mandy Rose (Better Real Name)
This one is tough because in terms of the first names, there isn’t much of a difference, but Amanda Saccomanno just sounds way more elegant than Mandy Rose. It gives her the possibility for a more interesting background story which she desperately needs given how green she is, and in simpler terms, it’s just cooler.
Mandy could be a big star one day and her association with Paige is going to do her the world of good, especially seeing as they’ve got a history together dating back to Tough Enough and Total Divas. Hopefully, if she goes off of TV at some point in the near future they can rectify her name because otherwise, it’s just going to sound a little bit bland. The truth hurts.
1 Rhyno > Terrance Gerin (Better Real Name)
We finish with a man who, essentially, is a low key version of Batman. How you ask? Because by day, Rhyno is a sophisticated politician who goes by Terrance, or Terry Gerin, but by night, he’s the same badass pro wrestler that he was all those years ago ECW. Thankfully, he uses the right alias for the right job because otherwise, he almost definitely wouldn’t find any success in either.
While he may be slumming it a bit alongside Heath Slater right now, it’s important to remember the role that Rhyno has played over the years as a monster heel. Hell, even down in NXT he was able to put a number of guys over, and that’s a testament to his longevity in this business.
Oh, and after meeting him at WrestleMania Axxess, we can confirm that he’s a lovely fella too.