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.
Leslie then moved onto the Zodiac Man, his face split between white and black makeup and slapping himself like in an identity crisis. He became the Man With No Name then the Booty Man, going around with tights showcasing his rear end. That ended up with the Disciple, working with Hogan in the New World Order and also joining with the Warrior. No matter the name, Leslie’s career in WCW sunk more and more and showed how tossing so many names around can only hurt a guy in the end.
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.
He would take off as one of the company’s biggest stars with his epic feud with Tommy Dreamer and other matches. A WCW run would include him holding the US title and then returning to ECW with later runs in TNA pushing him more. A clear case of a guy changing his name for the better to work perfectly for the times.
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.
It was stupid, changing this monster into a joke and Tenta openly hated it. Indeed, he finally cut loose in a promo on all the stupid names he’d been given and “I’m not a shark, I’m a man.” He went under his real name for the rest of his WCW run before leaving and showcasing yet again the amazing stupidity of this company.
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.
A heel turn elevated him up to the main event as WWE champion and solidified his place as one of the company’s biggest stars. He’s continued that with his coming back from injury and shows the rare case of a guy trading in a cool name for another one as Rollins has ruled better than Black ever could.
16 Bombed: Flash Funk
A case of a guy who already had a cool enough name not to mess with. 2 Cold Scorpio had gotten attention in WCW as a tag team champion, wowing fans with his high-flying moves. Indeed, had WCW started their cruiserweight division then, Scorpio would have been its star. He moved to ECW and became a hot worker there as TV champion, the fans loving his high flying moves which were really ahead of their time. When he was signed to WWE, it was expected to be a big deal...until he got on TV. Flash Funk was made out like a pimp from a 1970s movie, doing nutty dancing and had a bad outfit that seemed to hamper his moves. He had promise but just didn’t get the right push, too much on the “dancing” and not enough on his actual wrestling. Scorpio would leave WWE with little impact and this name sadly rendered him with little “flash” after all.
15 Succeeded: Triple H
Hunter himself laughs at his first names in WCW as “Terra Ryzing,” a blonde-haired wildman type. He changed it to Jean Paul Levesque, a supposed “French aristocrat” with the idea being him not really French, just acting this way. He showed his promise but nothing really clicked, so he signed with WWE. Given the character of a snobbish man, Hunter Hearst Helmsley got some push early on thanks to his skills and the character coming off better. An IC title reign led to more success but it took his partnership with Shawn Michaels in DX for him to finally click. Shortening the name to Triple H, he exploded as one of the biggest stars around, multiple champion and dominating the company in the main event and his relationship with Stephanie. He’s continued to be on top as on-screen manager and for a guy who started off with some rather complex names, Triple H showcases even initials can make a guy a major star if he’s the right talent.
14 Bombed: Akeem
The One Man Gang was a pretty good worker for his size. A big man, he could carry it well, even able to take off the top rope at times and imposing. Throw in his Mohawk and biker look and this was a guy who could be a seriously good monster worker. That made it all the more laughable when in 1988, a video showed Slick announcing his latest find “from deepest, darkest Africa.” Out came OMG, now in a blue suit and yellow tribal coat and cap and called Akeem. His goofball “dancing” looked ridiculous as did his promos trying to talk like a black man. It’s been a constant source of humor by WWE themselves since and OMG’s career never recovered from it. A truly terrible name and gimmick helped kill this Gang off majorly with fans.
13 Succeeded: John Morrison
MNM had a major introduction to WWE as they won the tag team titles in their debut. Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury clicked great as a team with Melina as their manager, holding the tag titles numerous times and boosting themselves up well. The team broke up after Mercury suffered a brutal injury and Nitro winning the IC title. He still seemed a bit off and so took on the name John Morrison and a conceited attitude. It clicked nicely to push him up with his cool ring entrance, reigning as ECW champion and holding the tag titles with the Miz. Many felt he deserved more of a push but WWE seemed reluctant, leading to Morrison leaving the company. In Lucha Underground, he became Johnny Mundo to hold numerous titles there and rise up better than in WWE. A guy with a cool name already who just got better with a new one to show how well a talent can rise given the moniker.
12 Bombed: GI Bro
From the start of Harlem Heat, it was clear Booker T was the bigger star and eventually, WCW decided to go ahead and push him as a singles star. When he got the chance in 1998, he took off as a multiple time TV champion and fans loving following him. But just as it seemed Booker was getting a bigger push, WCW decided to put him in a dumb feud with Stevie Ray and the former Ahmed Johnson on who would get to use the “T” name. Booker lost and so was saddled with GI Bro, a military themed character who came out in fatigues and makeup. It was a bad look that didn’t fit him at all, hurting his chances when crowds wanted him on top. Thankfully, WCW realized this and had Booker regain his old persona to win the World title. He prefers not to talk on this as it was a poor misstep for a major star.
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.
His runs in WWE and TNA were rough but by shifting his name a bit, Tazz went from low card talent to the main event of ECW and boosted the entire company up to become a major star.
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.
It culminated with Cody leaving WWE and revealing he’d been demanding to drop the Stardust act for months but was denied. Thus not only did this name change hurt Cody but drove him out of the company, as clear a bombing as you can get.
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.
He’s taken off with fans, many believing he deserves more of a push than he’s gotten and hopefully a push on SmackDown will help him out. Either way, Ziggler shows that a name can help you escape the bad gimmicks of the past and elevate a guy up majorly.
8 Bombed: Scotty Goldman
Colt Cabana already had a fantastic name. It sounded amazing, worked wonderfully and boosted him nicely on the indie scene. He was a standout in Ring of Honor and did a terrific job winning over a major following. Why you would want to change that name is odd but WWE insisted. Thus, Cabana became Scotty Goldman, dressed in a dorky wrestling singlet and complete with a college wrestler cap on his head. It looked bad and the name was no help either. Despite Cabana’s best efforts, it was a name that just didn’t impress fans and slumped quickly. He was released to go back to the indies and show that when you saddle a great worker with a bad name, it’s going to be harder for him to get over.
7 Succeeded: Kane
Glenn Jacobs was a big guy who had to put up with a lot of bad gimmicks and names. In WWE, he started off as Isaac Yankem, the “evil dentist” with as dumb a name as imaginable and his run not that great. He was then saddled with the terrible gimmick of the “Fake Diesel” that also did him no favors. But in 1997, he finally struck with Kane, the masked brother of The Undertaker pushed as a true monster. It took off wonderfully as Kane exploded into a top heel for the company but could also work as a face. No matter if masked or not, Kane has been one of the company’s top characters going on 20 years, a remarkable achievement for anyone in WWE. Going from a dumb pun to the Big Red Machine has paid off dividends to make this demonic character a top name for the company.
6 Bombed: Braden Walker
Few guys from TNA have been screwed by WWE as badly as Chris Harris. He and James Storm had been sensational as America’s Most Wanted, holding the NWA tag titles a few times and putting on classic battles. Harris was also a good singles competitor and it was anticipated he would have a good career with TNA. It didn’t work out so he moved on to WWE, no doubt expecting something big. Instead, he was saddled with Braden Walker, a lame name already. But it got worse with the now infamous promos of “Knock knock…Who’s there…Braden Walker and I’m going to knock your brains out!” The fans gave up on him right away and Walker was released quickly. This stupid name has hung over him since and his career never recovered, showing how a bad name can hurt a guy.
5 Succeeded: Razor Ramon
Scott Hall was a guy who always had the great look of a wrestler and good talent. However, he lacked some mic skills and really the presentation to make himself something special. He finally got a makeover in WCW as the Diamond Studd with slicked hair, toothpick and some good instincts along with a finishing move called the Diamond Drop. He was pushed out and soon took to WWE as Razor Ramon, adding a Cuban influence and bad accent with gold chains, the finisher renamed the Razor’s Edge. It was exactly what Hall needed as he exploded to stardom, first as a heel, then as a face, holding the IC title five times and was among the company’s biggest stars. This paid off when he jumped back to WCW under his real name as part of the Outsiders and pushed them to stardom. All it took was a little cosmetic changes for Hall to finally become the star long promised.
4 Bombed: Kerwin White
It’s one of those ideas you can’t believe was ever imagined, let alone put on air. Chavo Guerrero had been a standout worker for WWE as a cruiserweight and fantastic talent, able to put on a great match with anyone. In 2005, someone at WWE decided to remake him as Kerwin White, a tanned guy with blonde hair dressed in preppy outfits. He came down to declare himself a white man and putting down his own heritage with the line “If it’s not White, it’s not right.” Fans slammed it hard for its outright racist image and Chavo clearly wasn’t enjoying it as his stock sunk fast. It ended faster than expected due to Eddie’s death but that it was even created in the first place ranks among the worst ideas in WWE history and something Chavo shouldn’t have done.
3 Succeeded: The Undertaker
It’s still the best case of a gimmick that sounded so incredibly dumb only to turn into a true hit. In WCW, “Mean” Mark Callous was a decent worker, tall and strong and could have been boosted up even more but the politics of WCW got in his way. Leaving for WWE, Callous would be given the gimmick of The Undertaker. At first, the idea of a guy in funeral clothes acting like an undead zombie sounded stupid but he made it work. Not only in being a great worker but also his terrific ring skills and drive as well as how he carried the act to get fans going. He would shift it up from time to time (the “American bad-ass phase”) and still be able to make it all work. Even today, The Undertaker gets fans going like no one else and shows how well a name change can work for the right guy.
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.
Names like this will kind of make you happy we're not in the Attitude Era anymore.
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.