Names are an important thing in wrestling. Give a guy a great one and he can rise majorly. Give him a bad one and he can sink badly. Would Steve Austin ever catch on fire if he had gone with the names WWE had for him like “Chilly McFreeze?” If Ric Flair had gone as “Ricky Rhodes,” would he have become a major star? A name is vital and so many times, it really can make or break a career and decide if a guy is a main eventer or a curtain-jerker. When Rocky Maivia evolved into The Rock, his career
Some cases are bigger than others. Too many times, a wrestler has changed his name and it’s led to disaster. Their careers suffer as the name becomes a joke. But other times, it can work out the other way as the guy’s new name is bigger than ever to elevate him as a star.
So many cases in wrestling history going both ways but here are the biggest. 10 name changes that bombed but 10 that more than succeeded to show “what’s in a name” means a lot.
20 Bombed: The Butcher, Zodiac Man, Booty Man (Ed Leslie)
A decent worker, Ed Leslie really got pushes thanks to his friendship with Hulk Hogan. As Brutus Beefcake, he caught on in WWE as “The Barber” but plans to have him win the IC title were marred by a brutal parasailing accident. In WCW, he went as “Brother Bruti” and Hogan’s friend before turning on him and becoming “The Butcher.” However, fans never bought this lifelong mid-carder as a World title contender and their feud was a flop.
19 Succeeded: Raven
Scott Levy had a good run in the Pacific Northwest as Scotty the Body, a surfer type and spoiled kid. He changed it in WCW to Scotty Flamingo, a flashy beach bum and pretty boy. In WWE, he became Johnny Polo, dressed in preppy outfits and showing off as the manager for the Quebecers and a commentator. Nothing was working so in ECW, he decided to remake himself totally as a moody goth type with rough outfits and long hair. His promos became dark and moody and ending with the line “Quote the Raven” which became his name.
18 Bombed: The Shark
You have to feel for John Tenta a bit. A big guy who could work a good match if he needed to, he rose to fame in WWE as Earthquake. His crushing of Hulk Hogan set up a big feud as he would wrestle various faces and get a good push for himself. He would hold the tag titles with Typhoon and do a good job as a power worker. Joining WCW, he took the name Avalanche and still pushed well with feuds against Hogan and others. But in 1995, he was made part of the Dungeon of Doom and given the nutty name of The Shark. This included going around with a fin on his head and even changing a tattoo (at his own cost) to a shark.
17 Succeeded: Seth Rollins
Tyler Black was already a good name, taking off in Ring of Honor to blow fans away with his championships and fantastic battles. Keeping that name might have worked but WWE decided to give him the moniker of Seth Rollins when he joined them in FCW. As that changed to NXT, Rollins rose up higher and many were thinking him a true star in the making. He proved it by joining Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in The Shield to take off.
16 Bombed: Flash Funk
15 Succeeded: Triple H
14 Bombed: Akeem
13 Succeeded: John Morrison
12 Bombed: GI Bro
11 Succeeded: Taz
The early ECW was marked by some rough stuff, not quite the great booking and style the fans would know. The Tazmaniac was pushed as a wild man, often coming out in chains and then cut loose, his hair long and lush and tearing at guys in the ring. It pushed him okay but not notable even with a stint as tag team champion. After a severe neck injury, he came back, now simply as Tazz and redoing his act to become a fighter like the recently growing MMA. Now “the Submission Machine,” Tazz became one of ECW’s biggest stars, his matches sensational as he held the TV and ECW titles and his feud with Sabu helped elevate ECW majorly.
10 Bombed: Stardust
Some might argue this one as Cody Rhodes did find a bit of success. However, it just wasn’t enough to overcome a bad decision. Cody was already talented as IC champion and with the right pushes, could work well, was a great wrestler and good on the mic as well. While he had a few rough patches here and there, Cody still carried the Rhodes name and many were thinking he deserved a push for the main event. So it was startling that in 2015, Cody took on the persona of Stardust, a copy of Goldust with the makeup and nutty outfit but acting even stranger. They did hold the tag team titles but seeing Cody acting like this weirdo was a real waste of his talents and didn’t sit right.
9 Succeeded: Dolph Ziggler
Really, when you’re saddled with the gimmick of a male cheerleader, you can only go up from there. Originally Nick Nemeith, he was the sidekick for Kerwin White and not that great on his own. He then joined the Spirit Squad as Nicky, doing okay but the idea of a heel group of cheerleaders was mocked widely by the fans. After some training in OVW, he was brought back as Dolph Ziggler, a name that sounded much better and added something to his presence. Ziggler was soon pushed as multiple champion, improving much in the ring and a great guy on the mic.
8 Bombed: Scotty Goldman
7 Succeeded: Kane
6 Bombed: Braden Walker
5 Succeeded: Razor Ramon
4 Bombed: Kerwin White
3 Succeeded: The Undertaker
2 Bombed: Beaver Cleavage
Headbanger Mosh had a decent run in WWE as one half of The Headbangers but when Trasher was released from the company, the WWE decided that Mosh needed a new name to get over with the crowd. What did they come up with? Beaver Cleavage. Yup, this whole name centered around the gimmick of the former Headbanger acting like an overgrown kid who lusted after his mother. If you come across the vignettes on Youtube, be warned. It's very disturbing.
The WWE quickly ditched this name. When Beaver Cleavage debuted on RAW, the man now simply known as "Chazz" denounced the whole idea. He would remain in limbo for a while before eventually teaming with D'Lo Brown to form Lo Down.
1 Succeeded: Hulk Hogan
It’s something a lot of fans don’t really know about. When Hogan broke out into the business, he went as Terry Boulder, a simple muscleman with blond hair. He was okay as a heel guy but was nothing too major as the “Boulder” name just didn’t sound right. A meeting with Lou Ferrigno had folks noting Bollea looked more like the Hulk than Ferrigno did. That led to him using the “Hulk” name and soon adding Hogan to make it sound better. It was also a case of Vince McMahon Sr. looking for an Irish name to appeal to a part of his audience.
Again, it took a bit to work but as soon as he latched onto his bigger fame with “Rocky III” and the AWA, Hogan took off. His name is now synonymous with wrestling itself and even with his various personal issues, Hogan proves that the right name will not only elevate a guy but create a true legend that can boost wrestling majorly.
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