Most wrestling fans know the details of a character can be just as important as their in-ring ability. Where are they from, what’s their name, or why is he acting this way, are just some questions to ask when we see new characters. Background information could make or break a character right off the bat. Having the right name in professional wrestling is one of the most important features of a Superstar.
What does Isaac Yankem D.D.S., Bastion Booger, and Terra Ryzin have in common? The names are terrible and didn’t last long in professional wrestling. If fans don’t like the name and aren’t screaming it during a match then the rest of the character could be a total waste. Many fans may have no idea what the real name of their favorite wrestler is today.
Just imagine before we had the ability to look up the private information of wrestlers by way of the internet. Fans decades ago really thought many wrestlers used their real name. Just like years ago, a lot of wrestlers actually prefer to be called by their professional wrestling name instead of their birth name today. It’s just the nature of the beast.
We have 15 former wrestlers that you may have thought used their real name, however, that just wasn’t the case. Enjoy.
15 Jake Roberts - Aurelian Smith Jr.
The rise and fall and rise again of Jake “The Snake” Roberts has been an emotional ride for all his fans. Roberts was once one of the toughest men in the business, however, drug and alcohol abuse turned him into a weak man that need serious help. That help came in the form of one of his best friends, Diamond Dallas Page.
If you haven’t seen the documentary The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, it’s a must watch documentary for any wrestling fan. Roberts made his wrestling debut in 1975 and originally went by Jake Smith Jr. Some other names he would go by were Fred Platt, El Diablo, and The Texan. The term “snake” wasn’t attached to his character until Vince McMahon signed him in 1986.
14 Billy Kidman - Peter Alan Gruner Jr.
The high-flying Cruiserweight was one of the best things going for the WCW before their collapse in 2001. Kidman would make his debut in the industry in 1994. Trained by the legendary Afa Anoa’i, Kidman would take on the name Kid Flash. Paired with Ace Darling, the two would be successful in several promotions before Kidman signed with WCW in 1996.
You can point out a lot of flaws with WCW but one thing they did get correct was the Cruiserweight Division. Importing the best talents around the world, WCW was stacked with the best. Billy would be introduced as Kidman and mostly worked as an enhancement talent his first year in the promotion. The skinny kid from Connecticut would work hard and eventually it paid off when he feuded with a wrestling God, Hulk Hogan in 2000.
13 Dean Malenko - Dean Simon
Ice cold veins and the master of every hold is what Malenko will always be known for. A lot of wrestlers become famous real quick while others take a decade before becoming a household name. Malenko is in the latter. He would make his wrestling debut in Florida during 1979. Malenko is a second generation superstar and his father, Boris Malenko, came up with the name in 1962.
Boris would be billed as a Russian and was called “The Great Malenko” or “Dr. Malenko.” The name stuck and Dean decided to keep the tradition going. Although Dean debuted in 1979, he wouldn’t become a national name until he worked for WCW in 1995. His epic performances with Eddie Guerrero in ECW in 1994 was the very reasons for the signing.
12 Arn Anderson - Martin Anthony Lunde
Anderson can be considered one of the greatest in-ring workers of his time. As a member of the popular Four Horseman faction, he was loved and hated by millions of fans throughout the decades. He would make his wrestling debut in 1982 and bounce around several southern territories. Before becoming Anderson, he would go by the name Super Olympia.
When he signed with Jim Crockett Promotions in 1984, he was linked with legendary wrestler Ole Anderson. The two looked as if they were family and had the same wrestling style, making for a perfect pair. Known as the Minnesota Wrecking Crew, Arn would become the kayfabe nephew of Ole. By the end of 1985, the Andersons teamed up with Tully Blanchard and Ric Flair to form the stable we all love.
11 Trish Stratus - Patricia Anne Stratigeas
When Trish Stratus signed with the WWE in 1999, we doubt anyone at the company would have predict how great she would become. In a time when you didn’t need to wrestle as long as you had the looks, Stratus seemed like any other female talent. After all, she did debut as a manager and not a wrestler. Stratus would quickly gain the fans love and before we knew it, she was wrestling in the ring.
Not only could she wrestle, she also looked good doing it too. Stratus beautiful blended sensuality with wrestling. Not only could she look like the lady in your life, she can appear as a tough cookie as well. Even in 2017, Stratus is looking great and fans would love for her to come back for one last run.
10 William Regal - Darren Kenneth Matthews
Hailing from the United Kingdom, Regal would make his wrestling debut in 1983. His first match would take place when he was just 15 years old. He quickly got a reputation for being a tough S.O.B. It didn’t take long for him to be hired by All Star Wrestling, Britain’s most popular promotion. Regal wouldn’t reach the United States until 1992.
Several names he went by included Steve Jones, Roy Regal, and Hellraiser. He would sign with WCW in 1993 and go by Steve Regal, a babyface but that didn’t last long. Every Regal fan knows he enjoys being the heel and he would quickly turn into the villain, Lord Steven Regal, a few months after his WCW debut. Today, he’s one of the major reasons why NXT continues to flourish.
9 Lex Luger - Lawrence Wendll Pfohl
Luger had muscles that had their own muscles during his prime. His physique was a major reason why promotions fought for his services. The Total Package would make his wrestling debut in 1985 and it didn’t take long before he was booked at the top of the card. Before entering the wrestling industry, Luger tried his hand at professional football.
Trained by Hiro Matsuda, the same man who trained Hulk Hogan, Luger would take on his name because he was a huge fan of the comic book villain Lex Luthor. Within two years of his debut, WCW/Jim Crockett Promotions would sign him to a deal in 1987. Although he would have a successful career, Vince McMahon tried to make him the next Hogan but the project failed.
8 Rick Steiner - Rob Rechsteiner
Where are Rick Steiner’s freaks at? The man with the peaks and freaks would make his wrestling debut in 1983. Famously known as one half of the Steiner Brothers, his amateur wrestling background made wrestling a perfect industry to perform in after college. Before becoming Rick Steiner, he did wrestle under his real name. He decided to change it in 1987, a decision that seems to have worked out nicely.
Both WWE and WCW would hire Steiner but he performed for WCW in his prime. Known as having a unique physique in the business, Steiner originally looked like a nimble kid before becoming a muscle-bound meathead. His promos were terrible and his matches lacked a special “it” factor but for some reason, his freaks love him for it.
7 Dino Bravo - Adolfo Bresciano
Sadly, Bravo is another tragic tale in the wrestling business. Almost a year after retiring, Bravo would be found dead in his home. Allegedly, he was tied to a mafia organization and was involved in selling cigarettes on the black market in Canada. The story says his competitors didn’t like this because he was famous and stealing their customers. Bravo would be found with 17 bullets, seven to the head and 10 to the torso.
The Canadian native would make his wrestling debut in 1970. Former wrestler Pepe DiPasquali used “Dino Bravo” in the 1960s and passed the alias onto Bresciano. The name Bravo would stick with him throughout his entire wrestling career. Although he didn’t win a lot of titles, he was considered a great wrestler and one of the top from his generation.
6 Pat Patterson - Pierre Clermont
Known as Vince McMahon’s right-hand man, you can’t talk about wrestling if you don’t mention Patterson. Patterson has been involved in so many epic matches and feuds as a wrestler, however, he really shined backstage. Pat has had a hand in most of the gimmick matches, storylines, and events that took place in the WWE in the 80s and 90s.
The legend would make his debut in the professional wrestling business in 1958. Many wrestlers go through several names throughout their career, however, Patterson stuck with his kayfabe name from the moment he debuted in wrestling. The Canadian native has won numerous titles, matches, and earned many accolades throughout his career. Maybe his biggest achievement in his life is coming out several years ago.
5 Randy Savage - Randy Mario Poffo
Savage truly was the cream of the crop and it’s sad he can’t be around to give us one more “Ohhhh Yeah!.” If there was a Mount Rushmore of wrestling, there is a strong case to make that his face should be up there. Savage wrestling almost wasn’t meant to be. His father and brother wrestled, however, Savage originally wanted to be in the MLB. In four minor league seasons, he batted .254 with 16 home runs and 66 RBIs.
In his wrestling debut in 1973, he would wrestle part-time as The Spider. Georgia Championship Wrestling’s Ole Anderson and Terry Stephens thought he wrestled like a savage and the name stuck. Macho-Man”would be his mother’s idea when she read a magazine that featured an article about “the next hot term.”
4 Dusty Rhodes - Virgil Riley Runnels Jr.
Say what? Dusty Rhodes isn’t really Rhodes. If you don’t know about the Rhodes family, then you may be shocked to learn Dusty wasn’t born with the name Rhodes. After reading a classified ad in the paper in the Boston area, Dusty decided to give wrestling a try in 1967. It was one of the greatest decisions he ever made and would go on to become a legend. Before becoming a legend, he would be billed as Dusty Runnels.
His name wouldn’t become Dusty Rhodes until he moved to Texas and worked for World Class Championship Wrestling. The Rock may have trademarked “The People’s Champion,” however, most fans can agree the original champion of the people was Dusty. Both his sons, Dustin and Cody, would continue the tradition of using the Rhodes name and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
3 Hulk Hogan - Terry Gene Bollea
Most of us can figure out Hulk is not his first name, but Hogan does sound very realistic. He would make his professional wrestling debut in 1977. Towering over most, he quickly became an attraction for several promotions. During the early years of his career, he would go by the names; Sterling Golden, Terry Boulder, and The Super Destroyer. Hogan would get his first taste in the WWE during 1979.
Vince McMahon Sr. would give him the name Hogan because he wanted an Irish character on the roster. It was a short stint and after working on the set of Rocky III, he would perform for American Wrestling Association. Between his theater debut and his feud with Nick Bockwinkel, Hogan would explode onto the national scene.
2 Ric Flair - Fred Phillips
A little known fact is that on Flair's birth certificate, he went by the name of Fred Phillips. Following his adoption, Ric would change his name to Richard Morgan Fliehr. He would make his wrestling debut in 1972 for American Wrestling Association. Trained by legend Verne Gagne, Flair would be given his name we all know at the start of his career.
There was once this one time when he went by the Black Scorpion but all fans agree to forget that moment. Flair was a great wrestler in the 70s and 90s but his best work came in the 80s. Countless five-star matches and top feuds make him one of the greatest wrestlers to live. It’s crazy to think he wrestled until 2012, 40 years after he made his debut.
1 Shawn Michaels - Michael Shawn Hickenbottom
Having the last name Hickenbottom doesn’t seem sexy so we don’t blame “The Heartbreak Kid” for not using it during his wrestling career. Michaels would make his wrestling debut in 1984 and never used another name in his career. Always known as Shawn Michaels, he would become one half of the Rockers with Marty Jannetty.
The two would make waves in several promotions and the WWE decided to hire them in the late 80s. Most of us know how the story goes, Michaels would be pushed to the top and Jannetty ended up on the wrong end of the stick. Michaels would become a legend and one of, if not, the greatest wrestler of his generation. One more match with A.J. Styles would be too sweet.