Only in the world of sports entertainment can the WWE hold a wrestler name hostage. Cody Rhodes was the recent ridiculous example of that taking place. Rhodes was not allowed to use his family name on the indie scene due to the fact that he holds no rights - after all, his last name is Runnels and not Rhodes. For that reason, he was forced to drop the family name, only going by Cody. It’s ridiculous, but we’ve seen this with the WWE on several instances.
For that reason, we rarely see the new crop of talent get the green light on using their real names. Why would the WWE give them such access when they could own the full rights? Thankfully, those times are now starting to change with WWE giving indie veterans the rights to use their indie name - something that wasn’t the norm just a couple of years ago.
In this article, we take a look at name changes that can possibly take place, especially due to the fact that in most of these instances, their real life names actually sound better. We’ll also look at the other end of the spectrum featuring names that the WWE will never change. Enjoy and likes always, be sure to share the article. Here are eight real-life names Vince McMahon would never accept and seven he would. Ring the bell and let’s get started!
15 Never - Benjamin Satterly (Neville)
Vince McMahon loves the one word names and for that reason, the name Adrian Neville was scrapped when he got the call up to the main roster. Of course, he now goes by just Neville, and recently, King Neville.
His real name, Benjamin Satterly wouldn’t fly for a couple of reasons.
For one, Vince hates duplicating names, with Shelton Benjamin already in the fold making such a name switch would only further complicate things in Vince’s Universe. For what it’s worth, Neville did use his real name out on the indies when he got his start in pro wrestling. Other names he used included Ben Sacilly, Darkside Hayabusa, Jungle Pac and perhaps the very best moniker, Pac. I think we can all agree his current name is what’s best for business. However, with a pending release, Neville might be forced to revert to his actual real-life name due to the fact that WWE holds the rights to his name. We recommend he instead perhaps revives an older name such as Jungle Pac....
14 Would - Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado (Sasha Banks)
It would seem idiotic to change “The Boss” Sasha Banks. Let’s face it, it just sounds like the name of a Superstar. However, before her WWE days Banks was using her real-life name out on the indies and we must say, the name suits her pretty nicely as well.
During her Chaotic Wrestling days, Sasha went by Mercedes KV, her real first name and the initials of her last name.
We can see it now, Michael Cole announcing Mercedes to the ring - admit it, does really sound all that bad? Nope, it would actually work. Of course, the WWE always loves to have the rights to one’s name and given the fact that Banks wasn’t well known on the indie scene, changing her name was a no brainer for the company. Among other names she went by included Miss Mercedes, another name that really isn’t all that bad at all. What do you like more, The Boss or Miss Mercedes?
13 Never - The Garcia-Colaces (The Bellas)
As a pair of steamy looking twins, the duo entered the WWE system back in 2007. They were limited inside of the squared circle but due to their looks, they caught on with the WWE Universe. Everything changed for both Nikki and Brie once Total Divas was launched, not only did they become massive reality stars but they also received monster pushes inside of the ring. Both, are now among the most well known Superstars in the entire WWE.
Now imagine taking all that fame and changing their names... The two have created a Bella empire so changing to their actual names, Garcia-Colace would just be silly and something Vince wouldn’t even consider. Perhaps Nikki has a better shot at reverting to Nikki Cena while we can see Brie switching to Brie Danielson or Brie Bryan which kind of sounds awesome - as for their real-names, nope.
12 Would - The Fatus (The Usos)
The Usos are a perfect example of how to maintain proper longevity in the business. They worked as babyfaces for the longest time and their act began to grow stale. Although talented, the group was coasting with the same gimmick for far too long. Switching over to SmackDown changed everything for the duo. They were slapped with a new gimmick and heck, they could have easily changed their names back to The Fatus, a name they also used back in their developmental days.
Given the legacy in the wrestling business of the family name, we have reason to believe Vince wouldn’t object to such a change.
Instead, they kept the same name but managed to recreate their entire image. Thankfully, they also got rid of the silly face paint, though the brothers discussed the fact that dropping the paint wasn’t easy as WWE Executives liked the look due to it being PG friendly...
11 Never - William Morrissey (Big Cass)
Big Cass is such a Vince McMahon name. The guy has the look and heck even the name to thrive, however, that wasn’t always the case. Back in his FCW days, Cass struggled immensely under the identity of Collin Cassady. He was even told by various coaches that he would never make it, a confession Cass has stated in multiple interviews.
When NXT was re-launched so was his gimmick. Hunter wisely elected to renaming the big fellow Big Cass, a gimmick that got steam with the NXT and later, WWE Universe. At this point, changing his name would make no sense, especially his real name - just imagine Cass going by William... yea big time crickets. We’d rather see his indie name at that point, Big Bill Young.
10 Would - Robert Roode (Bobby Roode)
Out of respect to his longevity in the business, the WWE elected to allow Roode to keep his name he used for many years with TNA, Bobby Roode. However, if the WWE wanted to, they could have easily change his name to his real-name, Robert Roode. Let’s be honest here, would it really make that much of a difference. Whether it’s the Roode family name lit up on the titantron or the fans chanting “ROOOODDEEE”, the biggest part of his name is truly his last name - Bobby isn’t something fans are chanting.
Whether it be "Glorious" or Roode, his first name hardly serves a purpose making the change one that could take place and one that really wouldn’t make much of a difference. You can even argue Robert Roode sounds better than his current WWE name.
9 Never – Austin Jenkins (Adam Cole)
“AUSTIN JENKINS BAY BAY” – no, good heavens no. Fans actually worried that Cole was in line for a different name and one the WWE would hold the rights to. Though thankfully, that wasn’t the case and he was allowed to keep his ROH name. Perhaps if he would of went straight to the main roster that wouldn’t have been the case if he was dealing with Vince.
Thankfully, Trips understands the importance of keeping a name in line even if the WWE doesn’t own the rights at the end of the day.
If he did get his name changed, his real name Austin Jenkins wouldn’t have made the cut. As we stated earlier, Vince hates similar names. With Austin Aries at the time and of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin, we highly doubt Vince would approve of another Austin in the company.
8 Would – Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens)
Kevin was never supposed to make it with the WWE. He didn’t have the generic Superstar features and even Triple H himself made no guarantees to KO telling him the chances of him being promoted to the main roster were quite slim. In addition to that, he was shown no love for his past accomplishments even being forced to let go of his independent and real-life name, Kevin Steen. Instead, he used the Owens last name paying tribute to his son and the late Owen Hart.
We all know what happens NXT, not only would he dominate NXT as the champion but months later, he would be taking on John Cena over on the main shows. The name change hasn’t affected him in the slightest, though we can see the scenario of Owens reverting back to it playing the role of a rebel on the show. It also helps that he built his wrestling legacy outside of the WWE using his real name.
7 Never - Ashley Fliehr (Charlotte Flair)
Just imagine how stupid the WWE would be if they allowed Charlotte to use her real last name Fliehr, and not capitalize on her actual wrestling royalty roots as a Flair. Thankfully, she maintained the Flair family name and no such blunder took place. We never expect this name change to be made as it would be a slap in the face to the Flair family name in pro wrestling.
Interestingly enough, she actually used the Ashley Flair name briefly, though she was later re-labelled as Charlotte.
An absolute natural in the ring, Charlotte is already a six-time Women’s Champion as she continues to pay homage to her family name. At the age of 31, she’s got plenty left in the tank. Can we get a WOOOOOO!
6 Would – Leah Van Dale (Carmella)
Especially with the female crop of talent, the WWE loves to make the names as basic and memorable as possible. Let’s take a look at some one word names, Asuka, Bayley, Paige, Maryse, Lana, Naomi, Natalya, Tamina, Aliyah, JoJo and Carmella (not to mention past names as well). When it comes to female talents, one name is usually the sought after outcome.
Carmella is an okay name, though Leah Van Dale, her actual name, has a much better ring to it.
The Fabulous Leah Van Dale - be honest, that sounds pretty darn good. We can see the name easily getting changed and most fans not having a problem with it at all. Her family name Van Dale is also somewhat of a well known name due to her father Paul’s run in the industry.
5 Never - Amanda Saccomanno (Mandy Rose)
WWE is extremely inconsistent with lots of things behind the scenes, the purist wrestling fan is well aware of that. We saw that once again with Mandy Rose, who was allowed to use the Rose last name. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, a couple of years back, Bayley requested the Rose last name, utilizing her indie name, Davina Rose or anything with Rose in the last name. The WWE turned the request down claiming they had too many Rose names (Adam Rose and Rosa Mendes) and that the name was far too generic. Well, fast-forward to a couple of years later and Mandy Rose was granted access to the name...
In truth, Rose seems to be an exception for lots of things. Not only was she allowed to use the Rose name, but she was also kept off NXT television due to Vince’s appreciation for her look and talent.
4 Would – Peter England (Pete Dunne)
It’s pretty remarkable that the WWE’s UK Champion is still only 24 but already has over a decade of in-ring experience. Once this guy makes his main roster debut he’s going to be a massive star and we can almost guarantee a future Intercontinental Champion - he looks like absolute money and he backs it up inside of the squared circle.
His real name, really isn’t all that bad either, we don’t have a problem with Pete Dunne but doesn’t Peter England sound even better?
He briefly used his real-name on the indie scene, other names he utilized included the bizarre gimmick of Streetfighter Ken, which is a name that would make it in the Attitude Era or with WCW in the 90s. He also used the Tiger Kid, which sounds like a created character made by a ten year old.
3 Never – Patrick Clark (Velveteen Dream)
Appearing on season six of WWE Tough Enough, the WWE easily could have elected to keep Clark’s real name given the fact that he became a known commodity on the show based off his actual name. However, let’s face it, keeping the name would lead to a rather vanilla career similar to the likes of Maven. Keeping the name seemed like something of a kiss of death given past examples.
In one of the most dramatic changes you’ll ever see, Clark was completely altered following a number of defeats.
His new gimmick, the Velveteen Dream caught serious heat with the crowds in NXT and because of it, he’s became a must-see talent with the brand. We don’t expect this gimmick to go away anytime soon.
2 Would - Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan)
This name change can actually take place in the very near future, though sadly, it might happen outside of the WWE. If Daniel is to leave the WWE, we have no doubt he would revert back to his real name, Bryan Danielson. He used the name during his first run with the company in the NXT competition, however, the WWE cannot hold the rights to a performer's real-life name - that would just be weird and make no sense at all.
After getting released, Danielson reverted to his new name, Daniel Bryan during his second run with the company that began back at SummerSlam in 2010.
His true success in the WWE came with the name, however, his indie success came with his real name, Bryan Danielson. We expect the name to be reused out on the indies, American Dragon likely won’t be revitalized.
1 Never - Allen Neal Jones (A.J. Styles)
If A.J. was heading towards a career as a country music artist, we would encourage the name change. However, making the jump to the WWE, the last thing he needed was a dreadful name change - we can see it now, Allen Neal Jones approaching the ring as a throwback to the Smoking Gunns. Seriously, we wouldn’t put such an idea passed Vince.
To quote Chris Jericho, the WWE would have been regarded as a bunch of “stupid idiots” if they decided to touch A.J.’s name given his phenomenal (no pun-intended) indie career prior to the WWE. If they did elect to change the name, some of his old names to chose from included Air Styles and Mr. Olympia, which are both extremely tacky. Thankfully, country music star Allen Neal Jones wasn’t used, but just think of the feud he could have had with Elias if it was?