Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. John Cena. These are some of the most iconic names in the business, but they didn't start out with their legendary ring names. The Rock started as "Rocky Maivia," a great tribute to his father and grandfather. However, Rocky Maivia didn't quite work out, and he became The Rock. Old Steve Austin went through a number of names, "Stunning" Steve and "The Ringmaster" to name a couple, before landing "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Even John Cena, who used his real name for most of his career, started as "The Prototype." Would Steve Austin have been the legend he is today as Stunning Steve? Would Hulk Hogan have been one of the most iconic wrestlers in history as Terry Bollea? Wrestlers need a good, iconic name to be taken seriously, whether it's their own name or one that they create themselves.
If a wrestler is very lucky, they can get away with using their own name. Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, John Cena, Randy Orton and Eddie Guerrero, just to name a few, were all able to establish themselves as legends using only their name. Of course, coming from a legendary wrestling family helps put credibility behind some of those names, but either way, sometimes a superstar's real name is enough. However, not all superstars are so lucky.
As great as Steve Austin was, Steve Williams wasn't getting over with the crowd and other superstars have suffered a similar fate. Take Mr. Ken Kennedy, who just wasn't the same as Ken "Anderson," or Dustin Runnels who couldn't make any impact as anything other than "Goldust." Fast forward to today and you can tell some superstars are in desperate need for a name change. Some of WWE's superstars have some of the dumbest names ever conceived, leaving superstars with two choices, use their real name, which may be a bad idea, or create a new identity and see where that takes them. This article is about them. Here are 8 superstars that should use their real names instead of the horrible names they are currently using, and 7 superstars who definitely should NOT.
15 Should: Curtis Axel
Real Name: Joe Hennig
There was nothing really wrong with the name Curtis Axel, initially. In fact, it was a great name based off both his father, Curt Hennig and his grandfather, Larry "The Axe" Hennig’s names. The homage was much in the same vein as Rocky Maivia, and is certainly better than Michael McGillicutty. While the Curtis Axel name would have been perfectly fine, Axel’s push as a Heyman guy went nowhere, the rub Triple H sort of gave him didn’t help, and now, as Miz’s goon, Axel is taking even more beatings. Axel isn’t a name synonymous with his legendary father, Mr. Perfect, or his grandfather after a career of losses and burials.
Why not dump “Curtis Axel” and have him use his legendary family name? Call him “Joe Hennig” (his real name), call him “The Perfect Son,” whatever, just reboot him. Reboot him and push him as Curt Hennig’s son and have him rack up some wins. How could it be worse than jobbing as Curtis Axel?
14 Should Not: Roman Reigns
Real Name: Leati Joseph Anoa'i
Pretty much everyone knew that Roman Reigns was going to get the big push out of all the Shield members. Reigns had the look, the size and, to top it all off, he’s the cousin of The Rock. Being a part of that legendary Anoa’i wrestling family, one would think that WWE would capitalize on it to help market Roman Reigns. However, I am very glad they decided to give him the "Roman Reigns" alias instead of his actual real name.
The Big Dog was born Leati Joseph Anoa’i, and the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. As much I believe the wrestling family names should be capitalized on, this is an exception to that rule. No offense to Leati Anoa’i; it’s a solid Samoan name, but it just doesn’t have the same amount of force behind it as Roman Reigns.
13 Should: Natalya
Real Name: Natalie Neidhart
If you somehow didn’t know, Natalya is the daughter of the legend, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. If you did know, then you’re probably wondering why her last name always seems to be omitted from existence. Natalya has a long career in WWE, but it seems like her relationship to her dad, a former WWE Tag Team Champion, and her entire Hart family, are rarely brought up, unless it’s a rare circumstance. Granted, WWE’s relationship with the Harts has never been on solid ground, but one would think Natalya’s background, family legacy and accolade as the last student of the infamous Hart Dungeon would be worth mentioning.
It’s hard enough to get over, and to ignore cool tidbits is foolish. If WWE insists on calling her Natalya (instead of Natalie), they could have at least kept her Neidhart name (and yes, I know she’s actually a Wilson). If they can quietly add “Flair” to the end of Charlotte, why can’t they do the same to Natalya and add Neidhart.
12 Should Not: Finn Balor
Real Name: Fergal Devitt
Like most superstars that come from the Indies, Finn Balor underwent a name change as soon as he came into the WWE. Balor was known as “Prince Devitt” during his time in the Independent Circuit, and some fans were annoyed at the name change to "Finn Balor." The Indy fans all knew him as Prince Devitt and admittedly, it is a pretty cool name However, Finn Balor (or BAY-ler as Kurt Angle says) isn’t bad either, and it’s certainly better than Balor’s real name.
While Prince is a cool first name, it's not Balor's real first name. Fergal is his real first name, and it's not cool. Not at all. Needless to say, Fergal is not a common name in the U.S., making Fergal Devitt not nearly as marketable as Finn Balor, “The Demon” or even Prince Devitt. I, for one, am glad WWE went with Finn Balor and hope to never see "Fergal Devitt" across any marquee.
11 Should: Hideo Itami
Real Name: Kenta Kobayashi
Hideo Itami started wrestling in 2000 and established a long, successful career in the Indies throughout the world. He was known to all wrestling fans as Kenta Kobayashi or simply KENTA. Hideo, as KENTA, won several championships from multiple wrestling promotions. Despite being a highly decorated champion, an opportunity in WWE eluded him for some reason. Then, in 2014, KENTA signed with WWE and became Hideo Itami.
Hideo Itami isn’t a terrible name at all, but after over a decade of establishing himself as KENTA, why was using his real name, Kenta Kobayashi, not an option? As Hideo Itami, it’s almost as if WWE is starting over with him and ignoring his decade long accomplishments. Why couldn’t they have kept his real name and built upon what KENTA has already accomplished? That might have helped, you know, promote him and get him over.
10 Should Not: Dean Ambrose
Real Name: Jonathan Good
Dean Ambrose was the “Lunatic Fringe” long before he was Dean Ambrose of the WWE. Ambrose wrestled as Jonathan Moxley for CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling) where he was involved in the most brutal and insane matches ever witnessed. Ambrose’s “hardcore” matches in WWE were a day at the beach compared to his ultraviolent matches in CZW, but some of that extremism and insanity carried over. What didn’t carry over was the Jonathan Moxley name.
The Dean Ambrose moniker isn’t a bad one, and certainly better than his real name, Jonathan Good. There would be very little good to come from using Jonathan Good as a wrestling name, and thankfully, WWE officials noticed this. Unlike, Johnny B. Badd, which sounds kind of cool, Jonathan Good doesn’t quite sound as intimidating.
9 Should: Cody
Real Name: Cody Runnels
As you may or may not be aware, the wrestler formally known as Cody Rhodes, left WWE after he couldn't deal with his Stardust character any longer. Cody departed for the Indies, but had to leave his iconic “Rhodes” surname, that his father, Dusty, had used before him behind. While I’m sure abandoning the Stardust character was no sweat off Cody, not being able to use "Cody Rhodes" probably burns him a little. So, in other promotions, he’s simply known as “Cody.”
I like Cody. He’s a great wrestler, he’s entertaining, he can cut promos and he’s absolutely killing it over in ROH (Ring of Honor). But really? Just “Cody?” Why not Cody Runnels, you know, his name? Dusty, Dustin, and hell even Terri, were all real life Runnels. There’s a history there that Cody could be using to add to his character and legitimacy. Why not use it instead of remaining plain ole’ Cody?
8 Should Not: Rusev
Real Name: Miroslav Barnyashev
As you might have guessed, Rusev is not his real name. No, the Bulgarian Brute’s real name is just your common, Miroslav Barnyashev. Had WWE not changed his name to Alexander Rusev, and then just Rusev, the announcers may have killed somebody. Can you imagine trying to get through that name during a high paced match?
While Rusev is in WWE, he’s going to remain Rusev. There will be no name change. Even if Rusev works for another company and the “Rusev” name cannot be used elsewhere, Miroslav Barnyashev will not be the name another company uses. I’m sure it’s a fine Bulgarian name, but it’s a tongue twister no one on the commentator’s booth is going to want to get through.
7 Should: Alberto El Patron (Should)
Real Name: Jose Alberto Rodriguez
Alberto El Patron was most known for his time in WWE as Alberto Del Rio. El Patron was a great wrestler, however, his sporadic booking and bland promos negatively affected his time in WWE. Still, with El Patron being a former WWE Champion, his popularity was still fresh on every wrestling fans’ mind. El Patron went to TNA and instead of using his family name José Alberto Rodriguez, he decided to use Alberto El Patron, which sounds terrible.
Alberto comes from a Rodriguez family name with a long wrestling history. Alberto’s legendary father, Dos Caras and uncle, Mil Mascaras were both Rodriguezes as well as Alberto’s brother and cousins. Granted, none of them used their real last name in the ring, but "Alberto Rodriguez" would still much better than Alberto El Patron.
6 Should Not: Sami Zayn
Real Name: Rami Sebai
Before Sami Zayn’s time in WWE, he was known as El Generico in ROH. Zayn took his talents to WWE’s NXT to the delight of many wrestling fans. However, wrestling fans balked when they heard El Generico was getting the name change of “Sami Zayn.” I suppose it’s hard to blame them. What kind of name is Sami Zayn? It sounds almost as ridiculous as Dolph Ziggler. However, Sami Zayn, as bizarre as that is, is still a much more marketable name than Zayn’s birth name.
Sami Zayn was born Rami Sebar, and I hate to admit it, but Sami Zayn sounds a lot more marketable. If WWE would have used Rami Sebai, you can bet they would have put Sami in some sort of stereotypical racist gimmick to play off his Syrian ancestry. All things considered, Sami Zayn could have been a lot worse off. Zayn revealed on a Talk is Jericho podcast that he picked the name because he wanted an Arab name that wouldn't sound too foreign to mainstream audiences, especially given that he started as a babyface.
5 Should: Johnny Impact
Real Name: Johnny Hennigan
With Melina Perez and Joey Mercury, John Morrison was one of the three members of the group MNM. After the stable went their separate ways in singles careers, John Morrison showed off his amazing abilities and owns more than a couple Royal Rumble highlights. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, Morrison’s tenure in WWE ended, and Morrison found himself wrestling in the Indies.
Now, he wrestles in TNA under Johnny Impact, but throughout his wrestling career he’s been Johnny Blaze, Johnny Nitro, John Morrison, Johnny Onyx, Johnny Spade, Johnny Superstar and Johnny Mundo. How about Johnny Hennigan, his actual name? What’s his name in ROH going to be, Johnny Ring? Johnny Honor? Why not just knock it off with the fake surnames and just use his own? Compared to the 12 other names, John Hennigan isn’t that bad.
4 Should Not: Big E
Should Not: Ettore Ewen
I don't mean to be sour, but I hate the name, "Big E." When Big E. joined WWE as "Big E. Langston" I could at least have lived with that, but then they chopped off his last name. The chopping off of last names (like Samson off of Elias) is really annoying, but at least Big E found some personality with The New Day to settle that annoyance. With The New Day catching on as well as it has and Big E's popularity at a high, Big E's name isn't ever changing, and that's probably for the best considering the alternative.
As much as I don't care for the name "Big E.," it's better than his real name, Ettore Ewen. After seeing his real name, I see why he just went with Big E. To put it nicely, Ettore is a little too distracting. Big E is straight and to the point, even if it is sans a last name and most of a first.
3 Should: Cesaro
Real Name: Claudio Castagnoli
Cesaro may be the bar in the tag team division, but he's the unattainable brass ring in singles competition. Years before, Cesaro seemed like he was finally getting a deserved push. They dropped his first name, Antonio, which I hated, but that seemed to indicate a significant push, like when they dropped "Dave" from Dave Batista or when WCW dropped "Bill" from Bill Goldberg. Then, out of the blue, Cesaro's singles push ended.
When upper management gets a clue, hopefully, Cesaro will be pushed again, and maybe this time he can just drop the Cesaro name which has done nothing for him. Have him use his real name, Claudio Castagnoli like he did in ROH as a rising superstar. Reboot Cesaro and really push him to the moon this time. It's a simple change, but it worked for JBL in elevating him to the main event. Why not reboot Cesaro and push someone fans actually want to see?
2 Should Not: Sheamus
Real Name: Stephen Farrelly
In continuing with the trend of chopping off surnames, enter the Celtic Warrior, Sheamus. The name Sheamus annoys me because in no other sport does someone get introduced by their first name only. It just sounds bush league to me. Not to mention that WWE just had to go with the most stereotypical Irish name. With that being said, one might think I'm pushing for Sheamus to go by his real name instead. How about, no?
Sheamus may look stupid, and his name may be stupid, but Sheamus is still a better name, by itself, than his real name. I don't care if "Sheamus" is copyrighted, Stephen Farrelly isn't going to sell tickets with a name like that, no matter which company he wrestles for. It's a nice Irish name, to its credit, but Stephen Farrelly reminds me of the Farrelly Brothers (no relation), and while that's good company, probably not an association Sheamus or WWE or any other company would want.
1 Should: Bo Dallas
Real Name: Taylor Rotunda
I really want to "Bo-Lieve in Bo," but his reign of sucking has lasted too long. Whether it's jobbing or as a minion of The Miz, Bo Dallas doesn't have a lot going for him. He does, however, come from a strong family line, and has that strong last name just sitting on the shelf.
Bo Dallas is really Taylor Michael Rotunda, son of Mike Rotunda or I.R.S. (a.k.a. Irwin R. Schyster). With the character Bo Dallas going nowhere, why not reset Dallas, use that lineage to create an entertaining character, like his father, and dust off that Rotunda name. A reset could at least give Bo Dallas a fighting chance at being a relevant and an entertaining superstar. The worst case scenario is that Bo Dallas continues jobbing.