In the field of sports entertainment, a name can do all the talking for someone. Sometimes, a name alone can even create an icon. A wrestler’s name is vital to his or her journey to becoming a superstar, as an attractive moniker can help the audience stay hooked to that person. Most wrestlers tend to replace their real-life names because they know they can't become popular with it. An in-ring name has to pop. It has to be unique. But most important, it has to be memorable.
Though we’ve seen some, such as John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Bret Hart, become icons with their given names, it's rare for a wrestler to use his or her real name--and often for good reason.
These superstars have attained much of their success because of their ring names. Who knows, if they hadn't changed their names, we might not even be talking about them today.
Here are 15 wrestlers who understandably did not wrestle under their real names.
15 Dean Ambrose (Jonathan Good)
“The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose is one of the more eccentric wrestlers on the WWE right now, and that’s why he’s so popular as well. Ambrose’s rise in the WWE, from when he was the major mouthpiece of the Shield to fighting his way into winning the WWE Title recently, Ambrose is one who doesn’t shy away from violence. Infamous for his time at the extremeness of Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) where he was known as Jon Moxley, Ambrose is probably glad he didn’t take his real-name of Jonathan Good. His wrestling persona is anything but a “Good” and Ambrose’s whole gimmick and style would’ve been ruined had he gone ahead with something like a Jonathan Good. Ambrose had a difficult childhood as he mostly spent his time in public housing and had to immerse himself into wrestling to escape from his rough-upbringing and this might’ve been a major factor in him not considering his birth-name, as The Lunatic Fringe wouldn’t have been a Lunatic had he been a “Good”.
14 Rob Van Dam (Robert Szatkowski)
One of the core members during the rise of ECW, Rob Van Dam was the whole f’ing show for the promotion and has left a legacy which not many can match upto. Van Dam has had many nicknames in his wrestling career, all of which has suited his awesome ring name with the initials of “RVD” enough to pump up an audience. So one can doubt whether he’d have had those glorious moments if he had gone with his real name of Robert Szatkowski, as the wrestler of polish ancestry did himself good by not inheriting his real-name to his ring-name. One can expect how much of a mockery his name would’ve been made up off by the ungrateful, insensitive base of wresting fans and he probably never would’ve made it this big if he went with the name of Szatkowski. With all due respect, the name of Rob Van Dam just sounds so cool and with his trademark moves and cool persona, the name of Rob Van Dam is what led him to be this famous.
13 Billy Gunn (Monty Kip Sopp)
Billy Gunn has been known by many nicknames in his wrestling career, from “Badd Ass” to “Mr Ass” mostly because of his sexy persona, but this probably would’ve have been ruined had he gone with the name of Monty Kip Sopp. His birth-name is an instant turn-off as the charismatic, fine-looking Billy Gunn was one of the raunchy members of D-Generation X and also part of “The New Age Outlaws” with Road Dogg. The former WWE Tag Team Champion also had a valuable singles career in the WWE as a mid-carder, as his attractive looks and persona brought many eyes to the WWE and his nick-names tend to suit his name perfectly. But one can imagine how big of a disaster it would’ve been had he taken the name of “Monty Kip Sopp” which is such a weird name itself and would’ve taken the sexiness out of his character instantly. Gunn definitely made it big because of his memorable name, as his birth-name probably would’ve shoved him out the wrestling door in his first day.
12 Test (Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin)
One of the more intimidating mid-carders of the Attitude Era, Test was one of the true henchmen of the authority back in the days and was this strong wrestler who not many wanted to mess around with. The Canadian’s real name was a huge one, as Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin or just even Andrew Martin would’ve made a big wrestler like him sound so soft. In the end he went with a rather quirky, but catchy name in Test and went onto have quite a successful career in the WWE, where he’d be aligned with many prominent superstars and be involved in some heated feuds, mostly behalf of the authority figures. Thankfully he didn’t go with his birth-name of Andre Martin, which would’ve taken away all the credibility his strong presence brought to him and would’ve made him very stale quite early on his career.
11 Rey Mysterio (Oscar Gutierrez)
Rey Mysterio is definitely one of the best Hispanic wrestlers of his decade, as the master of the 619 is probably one of the most exciting wrestlers in the history of the business and an amazing athlete who has been enthralling us for decades now. Mysterio found his prominence mostly in the Cruiserweight Division of WCW, before moving to greater things in the WWE and his appealing name of Rey Mysterio seemed to make for a perfect name for an underdog like himself. This wouldn’t have been the case had he gone with his birth-name of Oscar Gutierrez, as the ultimate underdog would’ve lost his vibe as this name probably just have made him a regular Hispanic wrestler, never letting him get the acclaim he reached with the name of Rey Mysterio which had such a cool tune to it, and also complimented with his great theme song and amazing athleticism in the ring, making him one of the greats of all time.
10 Bray Wyatt (William Rotunda)
Before finding the name and persona of Bray Wyatt, William Rotunda went around as Husky Harris who was a member of the Nexus, and was this over-weight, chubby guy no-one really noticed. But once he changed his persona to Bray Wyatt, a mystical, philosophical man who ran rampage with his “family” of brawny men, everyone seemed to follow the buzzards as Bray has been termed as the next Undertaker because of his personality. But what if he had gone with his original name of William Rotunda? He definitely wouldn’t have been able to portray the character of Wyatt and there definitely wouldn’t have been no “Rotunda Family”(which is strong in wrestling heritage) as he probably would’ve drowned down to mediocrity. William Rotunda is no name to get over with(which his father and grandfather knew) and Bray Wyatt just has such a hypnotic feeling to it, as Wyatt seems to be getting better each day with his work as this mysterious man as the name Rotunda is something he’ll use in his life outside the ring.
9 Jake “The Snake” Roberts (Aurelian Smith Jr)
Jake “The Snake” Roberts paved the way for the calculative heels to come after him, because his intense promos and amazing personality as this “snake-like” heel brought him much popularity when he was in the WWE. He went onto have legendary feuds with the likes of The Ultimate Warrior and Randy “Macho Man” Savage and was one of the top heels in his time, who had the ability to really scare the audience with his promos and his snake-like behavior. He Rightfully didn’t go with his birth-name of Aurelian Smith Jr which sounds like the name of rich-good guy and never would’ve fit into his character. Aurelian is for one, no name for a wrestler and the name of Jake “The Snake” Roberts sounded so cool and also immediately caught the audience’s attention, which his birth-name of Aurelian Smith Jr would never have done and he probably would’ve never made it as a superstar which he was in the 80’s, as the name of Jake Roberts is still remembered by fans and also dearly beloved by others.
8 Kane (Glen Jacobs)
There’s a lot of personal things about Kane which people probably don’t know. For one, he was born in Spain. Secondly, his real name is Glen Jacobs which seems like such a good guy name who is well mannered and quite peaceful. Well that’s not the case with Kane, who after some awful gimmicks found himself in the WWE as the Big Red Monster who was the “brother” of the Undertaker. Kane would later go onto win various titles and has been amazingly competing for the WWE for almost two decades now, as the Big Red Machine’s name is known by everyone who is following the WWE in the last 20 years. His birth-name of Glen Jacobs definitely wouldn’t have made for that of an intimidating monster like himself, and Kane has such a cool, intimidating feel to it which compliments his character superbly. An Icon in his own right, Kane is the name which is perfect for the character and anything even close to “Glen Jacobs” would have ruined any chances of him making it big in the WWE.
7 Roman Reigns (Leati Anoa’i)
Roman Reigns has slowly become one of the most polarizing figures in the WWE, as he gets reactions(mostly the ones’ he doesn’t hope for) which not many/any other WWE wrestler gets at the moment and is the talk of the town every-time someone talks about the WWE right now. After his split from the Shield, Reigns has been massively pushed by the WWE who want him to be it’s next “The Guy” but the fans just won’t approve of that. Can you imagine if Reigns would’ve gone ahead with his birth-name of Leati Anoa’I in the WWE? Fans would’ve mocked the hell out of the guy and he would’ve never been even considered as one of the top stars of the WWE. Much like other members of his wrestling family, Reigns also made his own wrestling name which made a mark for him and has helped him become how big a star he is right now. Leati Anoa’I on the other hand would’ve only helped the fans make more jokes on him, as the name is not something a wrestler should be called, having the ability to bug the hell out of fans.
6 Christian (William Jason Reso)
Christian’s development as a wrestler in the WWE was amazing, as starting out as part of “The Brood” To “Edge and Christian” and then having a solid singles career as a heel and face, he was definitely one of the more entertaining wrestlers to come out of the Attitude era. Having won numerous titles in WWE and TNA, Christian had his own “peeps” who were his set of loyal fans, but would he have had the success had he gone with the name of William Jason Reso? I don’t think so. His birth-name sounds really weird when you take into perspective what we’ve known him to be in the past years, and the name of William Reso would’ve never gotten over with the fans inspite of Christian being so charismatic. He Rightfully took the name of Christian which was pretty catchy and his antics as the character made him a memorable wrestler who’s legacy will not be forgotten anytime soon.
5 The Big Show (Paul Wright Jr)
After Andre The Giant retired from the wrestling business, many thought they’d never get to see a man of that size perform in the ring again. They were hugely mistaken. A Man in the Big Show came into the wrestling business in the mid 90s, signing first with WCW where he was known as “The Giant” before signing a 10 year contract with the WWE in 1999. The Big Show has since caused rampage to those who have come up against him, as the mountain of a man has been in the memory of fans ever since debuting in the wrestling business. But being a man of that size, Show’s real-name if Paul Wright Jr which seems like that of any ordinary, working guy and thankfully he didn’t use that name. Can you imagine a guy named Paul being billed as the World’s Largest Athlete? And someone as big as him being referred to as “Jr”? The Big Show is probably the perfect name for him(The Giant was also very good) and pays justice to this humongous man who has been serving the wrestling fans superbly over the last two decades(inspite of his ever-changing roles as a face or heel) and anything which didn’t signify his size would’ve been a travesty, with something like “Paul Wright Jr” enough to end his career then and there.
4 CM Punk (Phil Brooks)
CM Punk made himself into a cult figure amongst the fans, becoming the “Voice of the Voice-less” as the man who was denied opportunities time and again in his WWE career finally went rampant and shattered the kayfabe mirror in his scathing promo in 2011. This made for the Summer of Punk and he would become the star of the WWE, having a 434 day WWE Title Reign. The Straight Edge Superstar became what he is mostly because of his name, which was extremely likable for the fans who kept on chanting his name soon after he left the WWE. But what if he had gone with his real-name of Phil Brooks. Can you even imagine chanting for someone like Phil Brooks? Or the “Summer of Brooks”? Fortunately, Punk didn’t even think of adapting that name as his ring name, as his name became a means of voice for the fans as the iconic superstar probably never had the chance of voicing his opinions if he went with the name of Phil Brooks.
3 Sting (Steve Borden)
As “The Franchise” of WCW, Sting was definitely one of the guys for whom many tuned into watch WCW in the 90’s as his mystical face-painted aura and unique personality caught everyone’s attention during the Monday Night Wars. Sting has since become one of the Icons in the history of wrestling, as he helped TNA rise up in the 2000s and later even debuted in the WWE to an underwhelming career. But the man named Sting is someone everyone remembers even 90s, as his antics in the ring has made for an amazing legacy. But had he gone with the name Steve Borden, not many would’ve paid much heed to him. Regardless of his visual outlook, his name is as iconic as his gimmick and Steve Borden would’ve ruined the brilliance of the character. Thankfully he went with the name of Sting(and even trademarked it as others also refer to Sting as the musician) and the rest they say is history, as The Icon has gained much of his popularity because of his appealing name itself.
2 Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom)
The Heart-Break Kid Shawn Michaels definitely has to be one of THE Icons in wrestling history, as his charisma, ability in the ring and entertainment skills made him irresistible when he was performing and brought him immense popularity because of it. Shawn Michaels is such a cool name which summed up this exciting superstar perfectly, and thankfully he didn’t go with his birth name of Michael Hickenbottom. Hickenbottom? Can you believe if he was to be called as Michael Hickenbottom? He probably would’ve been dissed and buried by the fans, who probably would’ve laughed him off and never given the chance of such an amazing athlete to take center stage. HBK went with the name of Shawn Michaels and later went onto dazzle the world with his amazing ability in the ring and outside it, as “The Show Stopper” would’ve had his own show stopped had he gone with his birth name of Michael Hickenbottom and we would’ve never had the privilege of watching this marvel at work.
1 Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea)
Hulkamania was the talk of the town in wrestling in the 80’s, as “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan is definitely one of the most recognized wrestling stars in the history of wrestling, as he’s recognized by casual fans even to this date. Hulk Hogan was the name which spearheaded the WWE into cruise control in the 80’s, as the muscular Hogan would attain huge popular in his time and continued his popularity way after his supposed “peak” was over. Hogan is one of the most memorable names in wrestling, but the wrestler’s actual name is Terry Bollea. Can you even expect a guy named Terry Bollea to spearhead wrestling into mainstream popularity? NO! The Hulkster’s birth-name is shocking for most to hear, as he’s been Hulk Hogan for so long that people forget that it’s his ring name! Fortunately The Hulkster went ahead with this iconic name and ditched his birth-name of Terry Bollea, which is just awful and probably if he went ahead with his name and didn’t create Hulk Hogan, we probably wouldn’t have seen wrestling in the same shape it is today, as Hulk Hogan was the name which sky-rocketed wrestling into the hearts of millions.