World Wrestling Entertainment is an interesting landscape as it pertains to naming different characters and performers that appear on Raw, SmackDown, 205 Live and NXT shows. It wasn’t all that long ago when even the thought of the company allowing a wrestler to use his own name or a name that he got over in a different promotion such as Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling or any other organization would have been unheard of, as that individual would have been given a new WWE label for marketing purposes and trademarks. Now, however, there is an odd mix of familiar names, wrestlers using their own names and fake labels on the roster. Bryan Danielson is Daniel Bryan, but Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler have not been given different titles. It’s all very strange.
A long list of WWE Superstars are working under names that were given to them at different points of their careers. For the most part, these handles were created by minds on the writing staff or by somebody within the company who thought he or she experienced a moment of brilliance. Other fake labels have been carried over from independent promotions to the WWE, but they just aren’t working as of March 2018 for different reasons. Either way, at least a handful of the WWE Superstars mentioned in this piece should consider changing into their actual names at some point in 2018 to freshen up their characters and, maybe, inject some life into storylines. The worst case scenario for any is that he or she could always go back. Nothing in the WWE is set in stone, after all.
15 Paige: Saraya-Jade Bevis
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the rumors about Paige never being cleared to wrestle again for the WWE aren’t true. Even if she is able to wrestle again, the Paige name doesn’t have any more value in March 2018 than that given to any other woman or man on the roster. If she is sidelined for a lengthy period of time or for the foreseeable future, having her continue the Paige character doesn’t make a ton of sense since former WWE champion and current Hollywood star The Rock helped make a movie about her professional-wrestling family that is set to be released in 2018.
Logic suggests the WWE should go all-in on promoting the film and have her use her actual name, Saraya-Jade Bevis. Saraya is a better name, anyway, if we’re being honest.
14 Kofi Kingston: Kofi Mensah
From now until the end of his tenure in the WWE, the wrestler linked with the Kofi Kingston name will be seen as a comedy act forever associated with the New Day. That’s fine so long as he doesn’t mind playing that role until he is ready to retire as an active wrestler and pursue other interests.
If, however, the WWE breaks that stable up en route to giving Kofi a push as a singles act, creative should consider having him use his actual name of Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah to signify that the days of him using a fake accent, a wacky dance and playful gimmick are over, and that it’s time for him to get serious if he is to chase after a major championship. Then again, there are worse jobs in the business than being part of New Day for decades.
13 Triple H: Paul Levesque
Everybody, from diehard fans who search for information about the WWE on the Internet to those who only casually follow the product via television shows and major events that take place each month, knows that Triple H isn’t his actual name, and that the real individual will, one day, run the WWE alongside his real-life wife, Stephanie McMahon.
The jig is up, here. Have Triple H, once and for all, become Paul Levesque as a signal that his in-ring career has come to an end (something that should happen not too long after WrestleMania 34) and that he is a serious authority figure who, occasionally, can enter the ring if needed. He doesn’t need to market himself as Triple H anymore. He’s already rich enough, and he isn’t going to be hurting for money ever again.
12 Drew McIntyre: Drew Galloway
This is the first instance in which a WWE name isn’t doing any favors for the wrestler who is attached to it. Drew McIntyre was originally advertised as the chosen one and a future WWE Champion during his first stint in the company, be he floundered despite multiple attempts at pushes for a variety of reasons.
After finding success outside of the promotion, he returned to the organization working in NXT as Drew McIntyre. While he won that brand’s championship, he suffered a biceps injury in November 2017 in what some believed was meant to be his final match before getting a call-up to the main roster. Once he is healed and ready to wrestle, Drew McIntyre should take a backseat to Drew Galloway forevermore before he encounters any other setbacks.
11 Candice LeRae: Candice Gargano
Just as everybody knows, by now, that Triple H is really Paul Levesque and the future of the WWE, everyone knows that Candice LeRae is married to Johnny Gargano. She has been introduced as his wife in NXT storylines, and the two have even teamed up on NXT house shows during Johnny’s final run on that brand before his impending call-up.
Fans chant “Mrs. Wrestling” or “Candice Wrestling” when she is in the ring, so the WWE should cash-in on the momentum and just run with it. At the very least, the two could work together if the company decides to have a second Mixed Match Challenge down the road. For what it’s worth, Candice and Johnny both holding singles titles on the main roster using the same last name would be cool and unique.
10 Curtis Axel: Joseph Hennig
Curtis Axel will be 39-years-old in the fall of 2018, and it seems almost guaranteed that he will not be given even a hint of a significant push anytime in the foreseeable future. Eventually, he and Bo Dallas will break from the Miz, ending “the Miztourage” gimmick that is growing old with every edition of Raw.
Axel probably won’t hold another singles championship on the main roster, but one way the company could squeeze every ounce of juice from the wrestler could be to change him into his actual name of Joseph Hennig and have him reference his father, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and his grandfather, “ Larry “The Axe” Hennig while explaining the need for a switch. It won't ruin the character, but it may help get him over more than he is today.
9 Dakota Kai: Cheree Crowley
The Dakota Kai character has some promise, and she is a believable babyface who has done well to generate sympathy during matches on NXT television and while working against heels on house shows. The name Dakota Kai is rather generic, however, and it really doesn’t stand out on any of the company’s brands.
Cheree Crowley works just fine as a wrestling name, and it’s no more difficult to say or chant, something that is important among those in WWE creative. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the WWE change Dakota Kai’s name to something else before she is called up, anyway. Why not just let her run with her actual name and see how fans respond? It wouldn’t be any better or worse than what she’s working with in the spring of 2018.
8 Finn Balor: Fergal Devitt
We understand this probably isn’t going to happen because of the Finn Balor merchandise that sells on WWE.com, at Raw events and house shows. After an injury cost him the Universal Championship less than a day after the WWE put that belt around his waist, Finn has never been as special or as over thanks to some awful booking.
The current form of Finn Balor wouldn’t work as a heel, because the “Demon” aspect of it is meant to make him into a babyface capable of defeating larger heels. As Fergal “Prince” Devitt, however, he could transition into the type of heel he played before joining WWE. Making this move could eliminate the more goofy nature of Balor Club and turn it into a dominant faction the male roster needs in 2018.
7 Lio Rush: Lio Green
If we are understanding WWE writing correctly, it seems the idea is that Lio Rush was added to the NXT roster and then given a losing streak that may have had something to do with a Tweet he sent after Emma was released from the promotion; or maybe that was all part of the storyline. Either way, Rush, who remains young at just 23-years-old, isn’t doing anything on NXT heading into the WrestleMania weekend Takeover show.
Unless the promotion is planning on selling Lio Rush shirts and other merchandise in the future, having him work as Lio Green isn’t going to hurt. Lio Green wouldn’t be the worst name on the 205 Live roster, and making this change publicly could represent him restarting his run in the WWE later this year.
6 Bayley: Pamela Martinez
After Bayley’s successful run in NXT that saw her capture that brand’s women’s championship from Sasha Banks in a five-star classic and become arguably the most cherished babyface to ever work for that portion of the roster, fans hoped the WWE wouldn’t ruin the character after she was called-up to Raw. We all should’ve known better.
Bayley is actually receiving boos from pockets of fans at shows, and it’s clear the promotion needs to do something drastic to save the wrestler. Having Bayley turn heel isn’t enough. She needs to reject everything about the Bayley persona, including the WWE-created name, and perform as Pamela Martinez. She showed outside of the WWE that she can get over as a heel. Let her blossom, WWE, but only after changing into her actual name.
5 Hideo Itami: Kenta Kobayashi
Much like with the Drew McIntyre name, the time has come for the WWE to admit that there is some sort of negative energy lingering over Hideo Itami as of 2018. Itami seemed poised to be the top babyface on the NXT brand until injury setbacks ended his momentum. By the time he returned and was ready to go, Shinsuke Nakamura had climbed to the top of the roster and earned the NXT title before being given a spot on the SmackDown roster.
Itami, meanwhile, is in limbo on the 205 Live roster waiting to see if the company puts Tag Team Championships on that show. There was once a time when Kenta Kobayashi was seen as arguably the best wrestler in the world. Let Kenta return, and see if that helps him find his form.
4 Goldust: Dustin Runnels/Rhodes
The WWE allowed Goldust to wrestle as Dustin Rhodes during the company’s branded edition of Starrcade near the end of 2017, and he seemed quite satisfied following the conclusion of that match. The Goldust character has run its course and then some, so much so that it is remarkable fans still react, at all, whenever the wrestler emerges from behind a curtain.
Younger WWE fans know little, if anything, about “The Natural,” so why not let him pay tribute to his father, “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and enjoy one final run playing that role before he hangs his boots up for good. He could use either the Runnels or Rhodes last name deepening on his wishes and/or the wishes of his family. Either way, “The Natural” carrying the United States Title for a couple of months could make for a special sendoff.
3 EC3: Michael Hutter
Ethan Carter III, shortened to EC3, notched his biggest and most noteworthy accomplishments as a singles act while using that name. There are two problems with him using that name in NXT and the WWE. First of all, EC3 will always make those who recognize it think of TNA/Impact Wrestling when it was a joke of a promotion that was seemingly on its last legs. Second, those who have never watched Impact or who gave up on it years ago have no idea about the background of the EC3 character and gimmick.
He has a great look, and he’s solid on the microphone. Let him work under his actual name, Michael Hutter, so he can begin anew in the WWE without the black cloud of Impact hovering over him.
2 The Velveteen Dream: Patrick Clark
This one comes with a special add-on, as the Velveteen Dream gimmick is getting over among NXT television taping audiences and also live-show crowds throughout North America. He should keep that name for his character, but others looking to annoy him and/or set him off should point out, in promos, that his actual name is Patrick Clark and that he is living a lie.
The company teased going this direction during the storyline between Dream and Aleister Black, but Black instead merely addressed his fallen foe as “Velveteen Dream” following the match that ended their feud outside of live events. There’s something to be done here so long as creative doesn’t overthink it and gives the wrestlers the ability to do the bulk of the work in promos.
1 Cesaro: Claudio Castagnoli
We save this one for last because it’s the easiest and most logical change to make. Cesaro had all of the goods to be the main champion for either the Raw or SmackDown brand, but the company has never allowed him to carry the ball on his own for any significant length of time. After he and Sheamus are through working together as The Bar, which has to be one of the worst names for a team in recent memory, he should be given an opportunity to go it alone and change into Claudio Castagnoli.
Claudio Castagnoli was a star on the independent scene, and he could be a champion if the WWE didn’t pull the rug from under him. Is there anybody out there who still thinks Cesaro is any better than the “Very European” Claudio Castagnoli? We didn’t think so.