Back in the early days of wrestling, promoters and performers were so dedicated to maintaining the illusion of reality that faces and heels almost never interacted with each other outside the ring. They even changed in separate locker rooms and only had the referees as go-betweens for the booker. But that all came down over time, especially when Vince McMahon himself announced to a nation-wide audience that professional wrestling was indeed a work.
Since then, the entire wrestling community has had no shame interacting with each other on a friendly basis, even publicly. And what we’ve ended up with today is many stories of backstage cliques, politicking, and the occasional fight. Relationships form in the locker room, whether out of true friendship, or just professional respect. And like any group of friends, wrestlers tend to find interesting nicknames for each other.
And no, I don’t mean their ring names. While many wrestlers do simply go by their ring names or even sometimes their real names backstage, wrestling friends are just like real friends. They come up with stranger nicknames for each other, whether based on in-jokes or just affectionate pet names. For every innocent, obvious one, like Dwayne Johnson almost exclusively being referred to as “Rocky”, there’s more creative ones, some of which make no sense at first. Hell, sometimes the backstories of these nicknames are the most interesting part.
And we’re about to dive into some of them. Here’s 15 of the most unique backstage nicknames of professional wrestlers.
15 Stephanie McMahon – “The Vincess”
The McMahons are an interesting family to say the least. Vince is infamously mad as a hat nowadays, while Linda was always the more level-headed, if far less charismatic of the two parents. Their children however, swapped the gender roles. Shane not only seems to have a far better head for business than even Vince, but he’s also far more liked by the locker room than any of the McMahons. Stephanie on the other hand, seems much more like a female clone of Vince in the making. And even her brother recognizes it.
Stephanie revealed in an interview with Chris Jericho that her brother Shane has a rather interesting nickname for her: “The Vincess”. While most snarky wrestling fans would call her that in a derogatory way, Shane unsurprisingly uses it very affectionately. Even though he does have gripes about her and Triple H being in line to inherit the company instead of himself, he still loves his family to death, as he should.
14 Daniel Bryan – “Dragon”
Daniel Bryan turns out not only to be one of the most popular wrestlers in recent WWE history in the fans eyes, but also in the eyes of the locker room. Not only is he as infectiously kind a person backstage as he comes off as on screen, his experience in many different wrestling promotions meant many of the wrestlers he shared a locker room with already had a good rapport with him. And it’s actually that history in other promotions that led to his friends casually referring to him as “Dragon”.
Before coming to WWE, Daniel Bryan had been known by his real name, Bryan Danielson, and also sometimes under the moniker “American Dragon”. Obviously the “American” part doesn’t translate well into a friendly nickname, but “Dragon” has refused to go away. Close friends in the business, especially his fellow Ring of Honor stars like CM Punk and Seth Rollins, still call him by his old ring name.
13 Alberto Del Rio – “El Presidente”
Alberto Del Rio had his shining moment here and there in WWE, but it seems he was always a wrestler that worked better outside of Vince’s company. His charisma never came off well in a WWE ring, seemingly because it never looked like Del Rio was really having fun with what he was doing. Backstage however, he was well respected for being tough, famously getting fired the first time for refusing to take a racist joke from a backstage worker.
His large stature and stately, well-groomed presence earned him the nickname “El Presidente”. He wasn’t infamous for backstage politics, but his appearance supposedly made him look like he could easily be a real world leader. And indeed, he is a “Presidente” of sorts, now the president of Mexican MMA promotion, Combate Americas.
12 Carlito – “Carly”
Carlito was one of the most famous midcarders of the Ruthless Aggression era, known as the man who spit in the face of people who didn’t want to be cool. Many people got a mouthful of chewed up apple in their face in his career with WWE. He remained very popular in the midcard, but never moved up from it before being released by WWE for a wellness policy violation. Oh, and he was affectionately known by family and friends as “Carly”.
It’s not surprising where that comes from, just a shortening of his ring name and his real name, Carlos Colon. But still, Carly is a feminine name, which sounds especially out of place when you remember his character puts being cool before anything else. Carly should not be a cool nickname for a man…but somehow he still makes it work. I give up. I can’t think anything can make Carlito not cool.
11 Jeff Hardy – “Ice”
Jeff Hardy is one of the greatest tag team wrestlers ever, as well as one of the best daredevil wrestlers in history. With all the crazy spots he agrees to, and all the drugs he does, sometimes even turning up to matches under the influence, it’s a damn wonder he isn’t dead yet. He even lied about his age to break into the wrestling industry early. He wrestled his first match in WWE as a jobber to Razor Ramon when he was just 16 years old.
Back then, he looked nothing like he does now. Instead of the long hair and painted face like he’s known for now, he was just a pasty white kid with blond, flat top hair. Wrestlers in the locker room thought he looked like Vanilla Ice. So much that they actually started calling him “Ice”. Once he came to his own though, the nickname was left behind. You might even say the nickname was DELETED!
….Sorry, couldn’t resist.
10 Dean Ambrose – “T***y Master”
Dean Ambrose is one of the most popular wrestlers on the WWE roster today. However, the creative team hasn’t done him any favors. Many of the nicknames they give to him and his moves make it hard to take him seriously. We get it. His character is mentally unstable. But “The Wacky Line” is a stupid name for a move. However, Ambrose hasn’t done himself any favors either, having his own unofficial nickname “Ti**y Master”.
There are conflicting stories as to how this nickname came about, none of which provide a good enough context to take it seriously. The dominant theory, presented by his fellow Shield member Roman Reigns, is that Ambrose was wrestling Big E, who for lack of a better term, has big man breasts. Apparently someone backstage said about the match that Ambrose was the master of Big E’s pecs. Then the fans found out about the nickname when he wrote it on his wrist tape at a house show, and they haven’t let him forget about it since.
9 Paige, Charlotte, and Becky – “The Freak Show”
For a long time, WWE never treated its women’s division with any respect. That started to change when three of the four horsewomen of NXT were called up and starred in an angle known as the Divas Revolution. It was promising at first, and after it all, WWE women’s wrestling is better than it has been in a long time, but that doesn’t change the fact that the story itself was incredibly sloppy. The logic behind the teams that formed didn’t make a lot of sense.
Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch made up one of the three teams in the feud, and nobody summed up better why the team wasn’t very compelling than Vince McMahon himself. Team PCB, as they were called on screen, were simply known to him as “The Freak Show”. Yep. That’s the end all be all of creative decisions tacitly admitting himself that the teaming made little sense. And people wonder why women’s wrestling in WWE was such a joke for so long.
8 Drew McIntyre – “Avatar”
Drew McIntyre is a prime example of both WWE giving up on a talent too early, and simply not knowing what to do with wrestlers with great potential. Now better known as Drew Galloway elsewhere, McIntyre’s WWE run started with a good run as a midcard heel, before falling down the card and last being seen as part of 3MB with Heath Slater and Jinder Mahal. His booking made fans lose all interest. By the time he left, the only thing interesting about him was his backstage nickname “Avatar”.
It was reported in 2010 that wrestlers started calling McIntyre “Avatar” as a joke that his then-fiancée Tiffany was in complete control of him. Supposedly when Chris Jericho found out about the nickname, he even joked that he looks like a Na’vi from James Cameron’s Avatar. Coincidentally, a domestic abuse incident with Tiffany was supposedly what killed his push in WWE, as he started losing constantly until he had no momentum to speak of.
7 Roderick Strong – “The Machine”
Roderick Strong is one of the newest members of the NXT roster. Having only joined in October, he’s already established himself as a fan favorite. Perhaps what makes it so easy to get behind him is how well fans already know him from his time in Ring of Honor. He spent over 10 years in the promotion where he became the second ever ROH Triple Crown Champion. Even his fellow wrestlers saw him as the hardest worker in the locker room, earning himself the nickname “The Machine”.
Jay Lethal, one of Ring of Honor’s top current stars, said in an interview that Strong is one of the best wrestlers in the industry right now. He revealed the nickname the locker room gave him, and even said that from a purely selfish standpoint, he wished Strong had stayed with Ring of Honor. His fellow wrestlers truly think of him as a guy who can single-handedly carry a wrestling promotion.
6 Shane McMahon – “Simba”
If I have to explain this one to you, we can’t be friends. Like we mentioned before, Shane is easily the most liked of the McMahons, building a camaraderie with the locker room like none of the others can. But it’s still hard to know him as anything other than Vince McMahon’s son. And as such, he has many nicknames relating to that, most commonly “The Prodigal Son”. But one of the less common ones that mostly stays in the locker room is “Simba”.
Simba, as you should know, (and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?) is the son of Mufasa in The Lion King. Much like Shane is the son of the “king” of WWE, Vince, so the connection there is obvious. It’s an endearing nickname indicative of how much respect and admiration he commands from the locker room. Here’s just to hoping he doesn’t have to kill Triple H to take back the kingdom.
5 Triple H – “Papa Hunter”
Triple H is possibly the most polarizing figure in professional wrestling. He has a history of backstage politics and refusing to lose. This has arguably led to the shortening of many promising careers in WWE, leading many passionate fans to go as far as calling him a cancer to the business. More recently in a backstage role however, he’s done much more to help develop new stars. In a leading role for the developmental brand NXT, Triple H has fostered a great relationship with the up and coming wrestlers.
So strong is the bond with Triple H and the stars of NXT that many alumni and current members refer to him as “Papa Hunter”. Bayley revealed in an interview that especially the women’s NXT roster and the Fourr Horsewomen in particular see him as a true father figure in the developmental brand. And with how savvy he’s shown to be as the creative lead in NXT, it’s hard not to be excited for Triple H to take over for Vince McMahon more and more.
4 Mick Foley – “Cactus”
Mick Foley is quite possibly the most famous hardcore wrestler ever. His time in ECW as well as his classic extreme moments in WWE, mostly that Hell in a Cell match with The Undertaker, pretty much set the bar for wrestlers risking their bodies for the sake of entertainment. He was also known for getting multiple gimmicks over, even multiple at the same time, as Foley was also famous for his three faces, Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind.
Ask most wrestling fans, and their favorite is usually Mankind, who became a multiple time WWE Champion and took part in that Hell in a Cell match. But most of his fellow wrestlers who know him well still think fondly on Cactus Jack, so much that many people backstage still refer to Foley simply as “Cactus”. And you have to admit it’s a badass nickname. And much better than just “Jack” like they could have gone with.
3 Tommy Dreamer – “Fat Ass”
A large part of what was so magical about ECW was the loose feeling and strong comradery in the locker room. Even people who had very short stays like Chris Jericho and Stone Cold Steve Austin say that the feeling backstage at ECW was so tight and positive, that they completely understand why many wrestlers stayed for so long even when Paul Heyman was too broke to pay them. And what group of tight friends like that doesn’t engage in playful teasing?
Tommy Dreamer was on the receiving end of a lot of playful jabs, usually about being out of shape compared to most wrestlers. The teasing was so rampant, and he embraced it so much, that close friend Raven even joked that he would only ever answer to “Dreamer”, or “Fat Ass”. Supposedly if you needed to see Tommy, all you had to do was shout “Hey, Fat Ass” and he would pop his head right up for you.
2 The Brian Kendrick – “Spanky”
Brian Kendrick has been in and out of WWE multiple times. In his first runs, he was primarily a tag team wrestler, teaming with Paul London, and even becoming the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions until New Day unseated their record. Nowadays he's a top member of the scuffling Cruiserweight Division. Like some other wrestlers on this list, he’s known by some of his closer friends by one of his old ring names on the independent circuit. That name? Spanky.
Brian Kendrick went by the name Spanky as early as his days in the Texas Wrestling Academy, and still uses it whenever he’s not with WWE. And if you have a dirty mind and think it’s a masturbation reference, then you happen to be completely right. The name started as a joke about the way he stays awake during long road trips. In other words, it’s thoroughly unsurprising WWE doesn’t let him use the name.
1 The Undertaker – “Wendy”
The Undertaker is one of the most feared wrestlers in WWE history. And I don’t just mean in the ring. Backstage in the locker room, he’s a respect commanding badass who even threatened to rip Shawn Michaels a new one back when he was infamous for refusing to do business the right way. But he also has one of the most decidedly not tough backstage nicknames in wrestling history: Wendy.
In fairness, close friend Paul Bearer was pretty much the only person who ever called him that. The name came about because The Undertaker is actually a natural redhead, and one day Bearer noticed that his hair looked hilariously similar to the girl from the Wendy’s logo. The name stuck between the two close friends, but I wouldn’t dare anyone else call him that unless they have a death wish.