A wrestler’s name is very important in becoming a star. The marketing of a name typically helps a talent become a bigger star. Everyone wants to have a cool name that will look good on t-shirts and will sound good when advertised for late night talk shows. Many more things factor into making a star but the name can either help or hurt depending on the choice. A bad name will hurt even the best wrestlers looking to develop a fan base and grow in popularity. The majority of wrestlers in the history of the industry have worked under multiple names having to undergo changes at different points.
We have witnessed many drastic changes that have led to differing results. Some of the name changes catapulted them to bigger and better things. Others have seen the exact opposite with horrible name changes causing them to look like fools, hurting their careers. Both sides of the story will be examined here as we look at the more interesting stories of each. Let’s look at the historical impact of memorable name changes. These are eight wrestlers that thrived after undergoing a name change and seven that failed horribly with the new name.
15 Thrived: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is currently the top star WWE is looking to build the company around. The star power of Reigns may have been limited if going under his original NXT name. WWE named him Leakee before making the change to Roman Reigns. Luckily for him, the Reigns name was here to stay in time for his call-up to the main roster as part of The Shield.
14 Failed: Big T
The wrestling skills of Ahmed Johnson were never impressive but he did have a good stint as a top face in WWE. Vince McMahon loved the physique of Johnson and wanted to make him one of the future main event stars. Johnson received a huge push before his lack of skills and potential started to fail him. WWE eventually cut bait with him after a few injuries.
13 Thrived: JBL
Bradshaw served as a stable presence in the WWE mid-card and tag team picture for many years. WWE loved his toughness and loyalty to the company but didn’t think he was worthy of a big push until many of the top stars started to retire. The brand split also played a huge factor in WWE attempting to give him a huge character revamp.
12 Failed: Braden Walker
The talent of Chris Harris was on display in TNA during the early years. Harris was up there with A.J. Styles, James Storm and Samoa Joe as young talents with the potential to become future top stars in the industry. Harris would never get into the upper echelon as those other names. The best chance for Harris came when WWE signed him shortly after the end of his TNA career.
11 Thrived: The Rock
Between his legendary wrestling career and his massive box office success in Hollywood, The Rock is one of the biggest names to ever come from the professional wrestling industry. The only struggles for Rock came very early in his career under the Rocky Maivia name. WWE hoped to get him over with the selling point of his third generation roots following in the footsteps of his father Rocky Johnson and grandfather Peter Maivia.
10 Failed: Scotty Goldman
Many of the top Ring of Honor stars from the early days went to make huge waves in WWE. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are just a few ROH legends that created new legacies in WWE. One equally popular star from the early days of Ring of Honor was Colt Cabana and fans were ecstatic when WWE signed him in 2007.
9 Thrived: John Morrison
John Morrison is one of the most underrated mid-carders in recent WWE history. The talent, match quality and accomplishments of Morrison earned him a great spot in WWE before leaving the company. There was a ceiling for him early on with the name of Johnny Nitro. That name was created when he was working as Eric Bischoff’s apprentice as a nod to WCW Monday Nitro.
8 Failed: Rellik
TNA created some of the dumbest names in wrestling history due to their consistently terrible creative team. One of the worst names came when former WWE and WCW star Johnny the Bull signed with them. The new character of Rellik was introduced as a horror monster type character wearing a mask with a unique look.
7 Thrived: Umaga
WWE loved the talent of Jamal during his time in the 3 Minute Warning tag team with his late cousin Rosey. They appreciated him enough to revamp his career with a golden opportunity a few years later. The Umaga character was created and led to one of the more underappreciated top heel runs. Umaga had arguably the greatest feud of John Cena’s career when the two had a couple of incredible matches to help establish Cena as “the guy.”
6 Failed: Flash Funk
ECW developed numerous success stories with wrestlers that WWE and WCW failed to get over in the 90s. One of the more talented performers for ECW was 2 Cold Scorpio. The legitimate toughness and aerial display both coincided for Scorpio to deliver outstanding matches consistently. WWE signed him to join the roster under the new name of Flash Funk.
5 Thrived: Ethan Carter III
A recent story of a name change giving a wrestler a new life is Ethan Carter III. WWE dropped the ball with this talented young man under the name of Derrick Bateman. The majority of Bateman’s WWE career was spent in developmental and the NXT competition show before he was released. TNA signed him with a very risky new name of Ethan Carter III playing the nephew of Dixie Carter.
4 Failed: Stardust
The career of Cody Rhodes shows just how badly a negative name change and character change could lead to failure in WWE. Rhodes always had great potential but WWE made him take a huge leap of faith by adopting the new name and character of Stardust. It was meant to be a new version of Goldust playing the face painted heel but that just didn’t work the same way.
3 Thrived: Raven
No one would have believed someone that worked under the names of Johnny Polo and Scotty Flamingo would change his persona into a grunge wrestler that would work to perfection. It somehow happened when the Raven character was invented in ECW. Raven instantly became the top heel in ECW thanks to the tremendous character work that came with the new waters.
2 Failed: Kerwin White
The talented Chavo Guerrero would witness the worst time of his career when WWE developed a horrible new name. Chavo dyed his hair blonde and started pretending to be a white person quitting on his Mexican roots with the new name of Kerwin White. It was meant to be a humorous name and character but just came off as absolutely horrible content.
1 Thrived: Bray Wyatt
The best example of a name change improving a career for the best would feature the recent tale of Bray Wyatt. WWE loved his potential but a failed run on the main roster as Husky Harris could have doomed his career. However, it inspired him for the best to take a huge risk with the name and character change to Bray Wyatt in NXT.
Wyatt stood out as someone special with the unique gimmick and cool name. WWE called him relatively quickly and fans attempted to heckle him with “Husky Harris” chants early on. Wyatt’s new person and name impressed them enough to quit on that by accepting his new identity. WWE allowed him to shine and Bray actually was WWE Champion heading into the recent WrestleMania 33 event. Wyatt going from a joke to a World Champion shows the value of an effective name change.
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