Wrestling names can be the best. Hulk Hogan. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. The Ultimate Warrior. All of these are instant classics that make you think of bigger than life badasses who thrilled and enthralled us at various times when we watch the WWE, and a good name made them all the bigger deal to us. Other wrestling names are a bit confusing, like Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake, Viscera, or Al Snow. They may be unique but they also aren't the truckloads of awesomeness that the truly great names have proven to be. A good name lasts for years and can define how people see that superstar, for better or worse, and so choosing that name is as much an art as it is a science. Get it right and you're 'The Big Red Machine' Kane. Get it wrong and you're Isaac Yankem D.D.S.
Some guys and girls have a peculiar problem when they enter WWE, and that is that their real name might actually be good enough to consider as their stage name. Why not? They're essentially going to be known by whichever name they are portrayed as and so it could save some confusion and even open opportunities to use their real name or a close variation. WWE is another wrinkle in this equation, half the time demanding that all wrestlers use their real names, like they did during the Randy Orton and John Cena era, before flip-flopping back to demanding that all wrestlers come up with new names upon entering NXT. All in all, wrestler's names, for guys and girls, is something important that should be looked into. that's what we're going to do here, and see which wrestlers made a good call trading in their real name, whereas others should've pressed the pint and committed to going under the name on their library card.
20 Better Real Name: Dean Ambrose - Jonathan Good
Nothing is inherently wrong with the name Dean Ambrose but the fact someone so obviously skilled at being a wild, unpredictable whirlwind has the real last name 'Good' is miraculous. It allows so many possibilities for wordplay as well, such as a finisher called 'His Good Works', a promo segment called 'The Good Word', etc.. It's practically writing itself for anyone inclined to take advantage of it. WWE would have a field day with it as well, making him do more and more 'evil' things just because of the delicious dichotomy between the name and the actions. You can just see the wicked sneer on his face as the man named 'Good' does something heinous to end an episode of Raw. It prints money and sells tickets, and WWE missed the boat.
19 Better Ring Name: Apollo Crews - Sesugh Uhaa
Despite going by the excellent Uhaa Nation on the indies, Apollo Crews decided an amalgamation of Rocky antagonist Apollo Creed and TV badass Terry Crews worked for him and in truth it really does. His ridiculous physique calls back to the two namesakes as well as rolls off the tongue nicely. It's not entirely his fault that he's been saddled with both Titus Nation and Michael Cole's insipid 'He's just having fun' persona where all he gets do to is smile and lose, but at least his name is on point. you can see it in main events and written on championship titles and hopefully, that's something in this talented guy's future. As soon as WWE finds a way to access this athletic freaks personality there's money to be printed.
18 Better Real Name: Jason Jordan - Nathan Everhart
Jason Jordan is a name that feels like it came straight out of a WWE video game generator. It lacks every bit of badass possible while having little to no association with anything cool. He can't even go by 'Double J' because Vince McMahon hears that name and flies into a nostalgia rage the likes of which are rare these days. But Nathan Everhart, or Nate Everhart as I'd have it, is damn solid. While either of those first name variations is decent, the last name Everhart is just babyface fodder waiting to be used. It conveys endless effort and grit, striving for the win beyond limits. Basically, it does a bunch of things his current name doesn't even touch upon. Whether they did this to avoid any association with the other Hart family or just so they could trademark it, it's an opportunity missed.
17 Better Ring Name: Enzo Amore - Eric Arndt
This one is a no-contest. Now that we know him by Enzo, knowing his real name is a simple Eric simply doesn't suit him and makes you wonder if you're being tricked. His last name is a consonant salad as well, so going for the smooth with a 'z' Enzo Amore was a wise decision on his part. Can you imagine if his spiel on the way to the ring was "My name is Eric Arndt"? He's more likely to follow that up with "and I'm a certified accountant" rather than 'certified G'. Amore, of course, means love or devotion, and that again fits perfectly with his character whether he's getting the love for his wild mic skills or simply loving himself with his nuclear ego radiating throughout the arena.
16 Better Real Name: R-Truth - Ron Killings
This one hurts because we've seen Ron Killings go by his real name before in Impact Wrestling and it was awesome. Not only was Ron Killings a great name for his ruthless, lashing out persona, he had the nickname 'The Truth' which highlighted the whole deal into something above even the good or great names. Ron 'The Truth' Killings was a World Champion and he compelled you to take him seriously, while R-Truth is a confusing smooshing of phrases that means you do a double take when you first hear it. How daft or determined do you have to be to ignore a name for a fighter that has 'kill' in it? Maybe that was WWE's problem with it all along, but if it was it's a misfire and waste, especially now as the man is well into his 40s and likely past any reinvention.
15 Better Ring Name: Rusev - Miroslav Barnyashev
Miroslav Barnyshev is a mouthful at the best of times let alone in WWE where overcomplicated isn't on the menu. Now that 'Rusev Day' has become a thing it's even less likely that his real name could've worked in WWE. With Vince McMahon on a recent tear of shortening names, there's no way these names would've lasted together. If we had to guess, the surname that sounds like a purple dinosaur would've been cut unceremoniously, leaving us with Miroslav, which is ok but Rusev is better. Now that Aiden English is making his career by proclaiming the gloriousness of Rusev in his melodic tones we can't imagine it another way, so here's to Rusev Day and hoping for many more, and maybe even some tag team championship gold.
14 Better Real Name: Titus O'Neil - Thaddeus Bullard Sr.
Titus is admittedly a great first name but when we're seeing him come out in those wild suits as this massive mouthpiece for his brand the name Thaddeus Bullard Sr. suddenly becomes the only name he should have. Thaddeus sounds like a turn of the century carnival barker and Bullard Sr sounds like an ancient strongman contest winner, both of which paint a distinctly clear image of the guy sporting that name on his driver's license.
If WWE ever considered the man's real name as a possibility then whoever made the call to change it deserves to be fired out of a cannon towards a mildly sturdy embankment. O'Neil is a name you don't associate with the visual you get, and so given the chance to change things they definitely should've gone with the man's birth name, especially since it would've had some small residual cred from his arena football days.
13 Better Ring Name: Tyler Breeze - Mattias Clement
Finding your gimmick can be vital when you're stature isn't naturally impressive or your look isn't distinctly unique. Such was the case with the future Tyler breeze who found success when he turned himself into the Zoolander-esque male model along with adopting an appropriately young and aloof name for that persona. Part of the success of the gimmick was changing his name to fit and considering his original name he had no choice but to go vastly different.
His original name of Mattias Clement suits a southern preacher style gimmick more than anything else, harkening back to D-Von Dudley's short-lived biblical tenure and that was a bust, so thankfully Breeze discovered his niche which is now working overtime on Smackdown Live in The Fashion Police.
12 Better Real Name: Hideo Itami - Kenta Kobayashi
The man whose real first name is so good that it is spelled in capitals by law (probably), Hideo Itami is simply a downgrade that didn't need to happen. Itami came into NXT in that period before WWE just gave in and let the major internationally known stars use their working names. After Itami and Finn Balor came in and had their names changed, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and a slew of others waltzed in and kept their names, while the man formerly known as KENTA got seriously downgraded. Not only that, his last name is an excellent callback to the movie The Usual Suspects, so if that tickles your brain it's a bonus bit of goodness we're missing out on. Here's hoping we see the true Kenta, whether in name or in spirit in WWE.
11 Better Ring Name: Zack Ryder - Matthew Cardona
This is one of those rare times when someone swung for the fence going for a 'cool' name and it worked for them. Often choosing the coolest names you can think of comes off as trying a little too hard, but Zack embraced the slightly douchey name when he was teamed up with Edge and now it's hard to think of him as anything else. He certainly doesn't feel like a Matt, and Cardona sounds like he wants to lend his ride to lesser families so all in all we can be thankful the Long Island Iced Z chose this. Not only did the name allow him to go extra goofy but still fun with his 'Woo Woo Woo' catchphrase, it's directly comparable to his former partner Curt Hawkins in that they both chose 'cool' names but only one of them has gone on to a degree of success in singles action.
10 Better Real Name: Dolph Ziggler - Nicholas Nemith
There are volumes of text across the internet lamenting the fact that a guy so clearly talented at the art of wrestling has been saddled with such a shocking name that it's literally held him back all on its own. WWE simply can't promote a guy with the name Ziggler on the front of their posters in any prominent way, and Dolph just sounds like a stupid person sound a cartoon character might expel. Meanwhile, his real name is a tight, alliterative combination that has a bit of coolness to it. A decent nickname in the middle like 'The Natural' or 'Showstealer' and it' off to the races. Yet here we are, a decade in and Dolph appears to be either on the way out or gearing up for one last hurrah. What could have been...
9 Better Ring Name: Charlotte Flair - Ashley Fliehr
Phonetically there is nothing wrong with Ashley Fliehr, but WWE, Ric or Charlotte herself knew their history when going with her new ring name. With Charlotte being Ric's hometown and clearly preferring to use her father's ring name variant on their real life last name, Charlotte flair was born and it's suited her down to the ground. The name is a classic thanks to her father, with his decade's long fame and relationship to the city of Charlotte giving his daughter the perfect name combination to make herself famous. Now that she's back atop the Smackdown Women's division as champion and looking to fight the winner of the first ever Women's Royal Rumble, Charlotte Flair will be etched into WWE history the same as her father's.
8 Better Real Name: Rowan - Joseph Ruud
This one has the benefit of being a homonym to one of the classic last names in WWE and wrestling history. Any variation on 'Rude' has legs to stand on and now that Rowan's name has been shortened due to its uselessness in getting him any attention he may be regretting not using some form of his real last name to gain a leg up. Joe Roode/Rude/Ruud attached to a gargantuan sized human like him could have been an interesting twist on the commonly used narcissistic gimmick. It's still not too late to go down that route, with a shave and a makeover all that's really needed to test the waters on whether Joseph Ruud is a viable name for this intimidating presence.
7 Better Ring Name: Corey Graves - Matthew Polinsky
A combination of two types of a cool name that fits well together, it's a shame for Corey that it didn't result in a successful in-ring career although he has converted that into a solid commentary gig. His name did, however, fit his look, the tattooed upstart fitting the Corey monicker as well as Graves just being dangerous and badass. When the man was still wrestling his scowl and personality fit the name down to the ground, his clenched fists pose where he locked the words on his knuckles together 'Stay-Down' making up the entire package into more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately concussions prematurely ended his in-ring career but all in all the fans won out as he has gone on to become the cornerstone performer on both Raw and SmackDown Live at the commentary desks.
6 Better Real Name: Carmella - Leah Van Dale
Carmella is just another of those single names WWE gave to their women wrestlers for a while, but her real name of Leah Van Dale oozes the smarmy, stuck up witch attitude that she has right now anyway, with the added benefit of being a full name so it doesn't sound silly. If you heard The Princess Of Staten Island, you'd expect a name as pompous and overdone as Leah Van Dale, so WWE again missed the boat on this one. On top of all that, if she ever got the crowd behind her, you can imagine the ease with which an LVD chant could fill an arena. Get Rob Van Dam to sign off on her appropriating his pose and she's set for her entire career.
5 Better Ring Name: Bray Wyatt - Windham Rotunda
While Windham Rotunda has some history to the names, being related to WWE legends will do that, WWE wisely made the decision to steer their non-traditionally built, hefty superstar away from names with ham and rotund in them. They didn't do him any favors the first time around, naming him Husky Harris and expecting that to work, but on the reboot in NXT Bray Wyatt has proven to be a far more fitting name than even his familial ones which would only have held him back more than likely. Bray is clearly a reference to his propensity for speechifying, and Wyatt interestingly is either 'wooden' or 'war' related, making the combination work on multiple levels while also fitting the backwoods preacher style he's perfected.
4 Better Real Name: Naomi - Trinity Fatu
In the wake of the first Matrix movie and in a world where a unique name is always a feature how did WWE pass up Naomi's real first name of Trinity? It sounds cool, is easy to chant, fits her style of wrestling whereas Naomi doesn't, and would probably give the ring announcers more to work with when introducing her. The fact that she married Jimmy Uso/Jon Fatu adds the last name lineage that they may or may not want to exploit given The Usos avoiding it, but the entire thing is a mystery why they didn't want to jump on it. Trinity could've been making a big deal right now how her next Women's Championship was her third, given the meaning of her name and all, but nope.
3 Better Ring Name: Braun Strowman - Adam Scherr
In recent times WWE cannot claim a better naming job than the one they gave to a big dude called Adam. Obviously taking the words Brawn and Strongman down to tweak-town, they came up with a combination that perfectly encapsulates the monstrous behemoth tearing things up on Monday nights. They could have come up with a dozen worse names but this one was always the winner, especially over the man's regular name which just doesn't fit him. Do you know any Adams who can flip an ambulance out of pure "I'm not finished with you" rage? Not to pick on the last name since there's little you can do about it, but when it sounds like plain old 'sure' it lacks a vital quality in the wrestling landscape.
2 Better Real Name: Pete Dunne - Peter England
Pete Dunne is a solid name for a brilliantly talented bruiser with a world-class sneer and scowl, but when you could've gone by your real name of 'England' you messed up. Pete Dunne embodies almost everything WWE wrestling audiences know about England based purely upon William Regal. The sneer, the curled upper lip, the haughty attitude and puffed out chest. It all screams belligerent English prick, and that is exactly what Dunne currently is and if he'd just gone with Pete England we could've hated him for a million more reasons than we already do by virtue of his name. Not to mention the England puns and wordplay that was left on the table. Dunne again isn't a slouch of a name in this regard, but it's still not a contest.
1 Better Ring Name: Kane - Glenn Jacobs
This one is the creme de la creme of changing someone's name enough times until the right thing reveals itself. Someone as giant, as powerful, and as naturally intimidating as this man is cannot go by the name Glen Jacobs. that sounds like the name of a dentist, except when he was introduced as a dentist on Raw he was the awful pun0named Isaac Yankem D.D.S. Going from that to Diesel is an improvement but not when it's as a doppelganger, faker as his version was. Finally, through trial and error, he got to be the brother of destruction, tying into the old biblical name of two brothers born from the first, a cool link and a badass, short name for someone who literally tore doors off of cages. The less said about 'Corporate Kane' the better though.