Professional wrestling is an industry based on getting fans to believe something they know to be false—that what happens in the ring is entirely on the up and up. As such, appearances are everything immediately, and something as simple as what a wrestler chooses to call themselves can be integrally important to his or her career trajectory. If a WWE superstar is any good, they’ll probably amass a whole slew of nicknames as they climb the ladder of success, and hopefully they’ll be evocative enough viewers can overlook the fact everything they do is simply make believe. On the downside, if a wrestler’s nom de guerre is especially ridiculous, it can take fans out of the experience entirely and remind them what they’re watching is just a (sometimes poorly) scripted show.
Thankfully, one terrible nickname isn’t enough to fully derail a promising wrestler’s career, although it has come close in a few occasions. Of course, if a wrestler isn’t particularly special and also has a horrible moniker attached to their skills on top of that, the combined missteps can more or less preclude someone from history regardless of what they go on to accomplish. Because of this, wrestlers big and small will do whatever it takes to get these embarrassing sobriquets swept under the rug to try and protect their legacy. Naturally, we can’t allow them to get away with it. Keep reading for 15 dumb AF old nicknames these pro wrestlers want you to forget.
18 Ryback – The Big Guy
As we write this article, we’re aware that the former Ryback still occasionally uses The Big Guy as his wrestling name on the independent circuit. Even so, it is with great confidence we state that eventually, Ryan Reeves, Ryback Reeves, or Skip Sheffield, or whatever he calls himself when finally coming to his senses, will realize The Big Guy is a spectacularly crummy name for a wrestler. Let’s face it, the industry has almost never heard a name more nondescript or uncreative than The Big Guy. About 75% of wrestlers are “big guys” by some stretch of the term, and at 6’3”, Ryback is barely above average for his industry in terms of height. Of course, were Ryback actually monstrous in size, that wouldn’t change the fact part two of his nickname is the word guy, a phrase that legitimately couldn’t be more generic if he wanted it to be.
16 Val Venis – The Big Valbowski
The thing about puns based on popular films is that they tend only to work so long as that film remains ingrained in the public eye. The Big Lebowski is a good movie, a great movie, even considered a classic by those who love it. At the same time, however, it isn’t quite part of mainstream culture. If anything, the success of The Big Lebowski resembled that of a cult film from the start, which made it all the more curious that WWE would nickname a rising star after the film. That they went ahead and got rid of the Val Venis name altogether and exclusively called that grappler The Big Valbowski no less than four years after the his namesake movie was released took things a step further, going from confusing to baffling. Unsurprisingly, the constant references to a movie that had a very tenuous connection to his character have more or less been written out of Val’s modest legacy as a performer.
15 Billy Gunn – Mr. A$$
First things first, there’s nothing wrong with finding people’s backsides attractive. Sir Mix-A-Lot isn’t the only rapper who basically made their careers out of positive promotion of the posterior, and the idea a pro wrestler might include the fetish as part of his gimmick wasn’t that strange in the greater context of the Attitude Era. Unfortunately, Billy Gunn overshot the idea by covering his trunks in lips and proudly proclaiming himself Mr. Ass. Calling himself the “Ass Man” was one thing, but straight up changing his ring name to something that emphasized his butt did nothing to help Gunn’s chances inside the wrestling ring. In fact, all it did was make it a little bit embarrassing for fans to say his name, thus invalidating any storyline he was involved with. Nothing could be more telling than the fact this switch was supposed to be the thing that finally broke Billy through to the main event, only to instead derail his potential entirely.
14 Steve Austin – The Ringmaster
Oh, hell no. Quite frankly, not even taking things literally and using Ringmaster to mean the leader of a circus could have made Steve Austin’s initial WWE gimmick any worse. If anything, it might have given some meaning to the nickname, which was no more than a bad pun that didn’t have anyone except Vince McMahon laughing no matter how hard he tried to sell it. Austin was already well known for better nicknames in WCW and ECW, called Stunning and the Extreme Superstar in those promotions, and getting rebranded as a Ringmaster seemed like a huge step down for the extremely talented grappler. Luckily, Austin himself knew the Ringmaster name was a weak one, marching into Vince McMahon’s office and demanding something better. Good thing he did, because the re-rebranded “Stone Cold” went on to become the biggest superstar in WWE history.
12 King Kong Bundy – The Walking Condominium
In fairness to Vince McMahon and the rest of his marketing executives, as far as anyone can tell, the idea of calling King Kong Bundy a “Walking Condominium” came straight from the mind of announcer Gorilla Monsoon and was seldom said by anyone else. Unfortunately, the legendary grappler turned commentator said it during practically every single appearance Bundy made, forever linking the plus-sized performer with the phrase. While Monsoon was merely trying to make reference to the fact Bundy was a fairly large fellow, the word condominium simply wasn’t the best choice for the metaphor. Condominium is basically a fancy word for an apartment, and the idea of an especially mobile one would make people think about RVs before sports entertainment ever comes to mind. Maybe this weak nickname has something to do with why a Hall of Fame induction eludes Bundy to this day…okay, probably not.
11 Sting – The Vigilante
On paper, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with WWE giving a wrestler “The Vigilante” as their nickname. Of course, there is one catch to the scenario—said grappler needs to have a gimmick and/or character motivation that has something to do with outlaw justice. Of all the wrestlers in the world, Sting simply didn’t possess this quality, at least in the WWE Universe. Sure, there were shades of vigilantism as he battled the nWo throughout the late ‘90s, but those days were long behind Sting when he showed up to face Triple H for reasons that still don’t make any goddamn sense. Especially since WWE tried to pigeonhole in some nonsense about how Sting was defending the honor of a dead company in WCW, justice was the last thing on his mind. Not that we necessarily should have expected WWE to put any thought into the nickname, considering how little effort they put into Sting in general.
10 Sheamus – The Great White
WWE and Vince McMahon most likely had plenty of things in mind when they decided to nickname four-time World Champion Sheamus as “The Great White.” Vicious sharks probably passed through their heads, and the Celtic Warrior’s pale skin probably had something to do with it, as well. Unfortunately, it somehow never occurred to the company brass that this phrase might also come off as just a little bit racist if viewed out of context. It really didn’t help in this regard that Sheamus debuted the new sobriquet during a feud against Mark Henry, an athlete who is considerably less pale, to say the least. Back in a more racist era, any white boxer looking to take down a black challenger was called a “Great White Hope,” a fairly racist term in retrospect, and only one word away from what WWE tried calling Sheamus.
9 Mark Henry – The Silverback
Speaking of horrifically racist nicknames, right around the same time Sheamus was getting called The Great White, his occasional rival Mark Henry was briefly labeled “The Silverback.” Like the gorilla. Anyone with even a tenuous understanding of race relations in America should be able to realize this is outrageously offensive in just about every way, and that included Henry himself. Ever the company man though, Henry allowed WWE to get away with the borderline racial slur for a few weeks before finally putting his foot down, at which point the implications had already been drawn by plenty of fans. In the WWE’s defense, it probably wasn’t their intention to be racist, simply drawing the comparison that the World’s Strongest Man is equally powerful to one of the largest animals in the jungle. Unfortunately, too many racists over time had made less flattering, wholly inaccurate comparisons that tainted the idea from the start.
8 Jack Swagger – The All-American American
With the notorious insensitivity of Vince McMahon in mind, at least the All-American American wasn’t part of some sort of stuttering gimmick. Then again, while more offensive, a wrestler with a speech disorder would have still been less stupid than a character so boring all he can do is repeat his homeland. It doesn’t matter that most wrestling fans are aware “All-American” is a term related to collegiate and amateur sports. Out of context, it sounds like Jack Swagger had so little personal character that all he could do is take patriotism to the next level. Of course, that never quite worked, since he was usually a heel wrestling in America, where that sort of thing usually gets cheered. All that was left was a clunky, difficult to say moniker that made it clear Swagger’s greatest accomplishments were behind him, in college—not the WWE Universe.
7 Dolph Ziggler – Mr. Ziggles
All right, so Mr. Ziggles was more of an insult than a nickname, but it stuck around just long enough it needs a little bit of attention on this list. For those lucky enough to forget about it, the term Mr. Ziggles came into the WWE nomenclature during Dolph Ziggler’s feud against John Morrison over the Intercontinental Championship circa 2009. What exactly went through Morrison’s head when he came up with “Mr. Ziggles” as the meanest thing he could say about his opponent isn’t entirely clear, but it might be a fair guess that it has something to do with the IC title being his ceiling in WWE. Of course, the fact announcers and fans bought into the term means he’s not the only one to blame. Unsurprisingly, the more noteworthy Ziggler became as a heel or face, this brainless moniker gradually faded away for new names that actually related to his talents.
6 Butch Reed – The Natural
Unlike the other racially-inspired nicknames on this list, Vince McMahon’s decision to start calling Butch Reed “The Natural” didn’t really have any offensive implications attached to it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t totally stupid anyway. The extremely simple joke was that Reed had bleach blonde hair, and nonetheless called himself “Natural” in spite of this obvious dye job. Oh, the hilarity. Had the moniker been a reference to Reed’s natural skills or instincts, or perhaps a smooth talking nature on the microphone, there would be no harm, no foul. As a matter of fact, taking Reed’s considerable talent into consideration, it might have even made him a modest star. However, with his nom de guerre no more than a really lame joke about his haircut, there was no way Reed would ever be a success in the WWE Universe.
5 Christian – Creepy Little B*stard
Each time a popular pro wrestling tag team breaks up, fans immediately begin speculating which partner is going to become the bigger solo star. Few duos in WWE have reached the peaks attained by seven-time Tag Team Champions Edge and Christian, and it would be fair to claim both men went on to pretty decent success on the solo scene, as well. That said, it was also obvious Edge was always a bigger star than Christian, and part of how that happened may relate to one of Captain Charisma’s less popular nicknames. As Christian attempted to branch out on his own, then-Raw “Sheriff” Steve Austin dismissively dubbed him the “Creepy Little Bastard.” Not only is this highly insulting, it didn’t even make sense, as Christian was 6’2”—the exact same height as Stone Cold. Being called a creepy bastard didn’t exactly help raise his star power, either.
3 Daniel Bryan – Goat Face
No! No! No! Okay, on the one hand, Daniel Bryan did indeed bear a slightly resemblance to our farmyard friends, with his big bushy beard and previously long, flowing locks not that different from a billy goat’s mane. At the same time, repeatedly referring to him as Goat Face wasn’t the best way to market him. It would be one thing if the name was only used by enemies mocking Bryan, but before long, he started to embrace and reclaim the term by renaming some of his trademark moves Air Goat and the Flying Goat. Once that started happening, Goat Face was practically a friendly persona, which made it hard to take him seriously as a vicious in-ring performer. Thankfully, now that Bryan has cut his hair and shaved off a good chunk of his beard, not even his detractors have any reason to call him by the insulting name.
2 Mark Henry – Sexual Chocolate
For anyone wondering how Mark Henry let WWE get away with calling him a Silverback even for a single episode of SmackDown, one possibility is that after “Sexual Chocolate,” even racism felt like a step up. In the context of a dark-skinned Casanova who the ladies can’t get enough of, Sexual Chocolate actually isn’t the worst thing for a man to be called. However, Mark Henry wasn’t a consummate ladies' man, he was a professional wrestler working for Vince McMahon, which meant any name focusing on his sexuality was bound to have terrible results for everyone involved. Indeed, not only did Henry suffer from the nickname, but so did Chyna, Henry’s entire family, and of course Mae Young, all of whom were dragged through the mud on WWE television through their relationship with him. Also, Sexual Chocolate is a lot less endearing when the person isn’t bragging, instead getting mocked for the more serious kind of sex addiction.
1 The Undertaker – Booger Red
Even the greatest wrestling personalities of all time make mistakes now and again. No, we aren’t talking about The Undertaker himself, who was called Booger Red for a brief time during his heel phase as WWE Undisputed Champion circa 2002. The legendary gaffe in this case belongs to Jim Ross, the announcer who for some reason believed Booger Red was a good nickname. JR has since tried to defend himself, noting that in the south, “booger” can be any sort of big, mean, menace, short for boogeyman, and not necessarily just something a person finds in their nose. With red being the Phenom’s natural hair color, it almost made sense. Unfortunately, most people thought about mucus no matter what secondary definitions Ross threw at them, making this one of the most disgustingly failed sobriquets ever bequeathed upon a World Champion.