Shakespeare famously asked “what’s in a name?” In terms of wrestling, quite a lot. Wrestlers have to base themselves a lot on perception, their appearance and such and the name can be quite important. Steve Austin talks of the terrible names WWE wanted to saddle him with before he settled on Stone Cold and Mick Foley says it was a fight for Mankind instead of something else. Sometimes, a name change can work; Daniel Bryan does sound a bit better than Bryan Danielson and Seth Rollins rolls off the tongue better than Tyler Black. But for every good name change in wrestling, there are some pretty damn bad ones.
Often, they go with a bad character turn that doesn’t really fit a guy and can hurt him badly. There are slews of times promoters go more for the character than the worker himself which can hurt bad and changing a perfectly good name for something far lamer. Too many guys have suffered because of the wrong name in wrestling and these do no favor to them. Here are 15 workers who had to undergo a terrible name change that often hurt their careers pretty bad.
15 Bastion Booger
Granted, Friar Ferguson was hardly a great name already and the idea of a “mad monk” got WWE serious heat from religious groups as it was found as an offensive gimmick to many. But it still wasn’t right for Mike Shaw to have to put up with the horrible name of Bastion Booger, a character meant to be as disgusting as possible. Coming out in what amounted to an outfit of tape around his body to show off his huge belly, bald head and slovenly hair, Booger bounced around with a finisher of dropping his huge rear onto his opponent’s chest. It was truly gross and horrible, and the wrestler never made the impact that Vince McMahon and the creative team had hoped for. The character did not last very long but was still memorable for the wrong reasons as one of the worst names and characters in a bad time already for WWE.
A few guys from ECW tried to jump to WCW in hopes of bigger fame and paydays only to find themselves weakened by that company’s incredible ineptitude. The Sandman, one of ECW’s most iconic figures, fell into that category. Jumping to the company in 1999, most thought he could help with his famed hardcore battles as WCW was doing their best to introduce a hardcore division into their product. The company decided to change his name to Hak and the idea of him as a prep-school rich kid rival for Raven, a role totally unsuited for him. He tried to rebound with his hardcore fighting but it just didn’t take as well, the matches a total mess and WCW not knowing how to use him properly. He returned to ECW later in 1999 and regards his WCW tenure as a mistake as he just couldn’t “hack” it there properly.
13 Saba Simba
This one is just stunning, even more so today than in back in 1990. Tony Atlas had been a good star for WWE in the early 1980s, he and Rocky Johnson reigning as tag team champions and Atlas pretty over as a power guy. However, his push was ruined by some drug issues sending him out of the company for a time. He returned but many believe Vince McMahon was still ticked and so saddled Atlas with the ridiculous bit of Saba Simba, coming out to tribal music and dressed like a bushman, complete with headdress, shield and spear.
Apparently breaking from script, Roddy Piper immediately identified him as Atlas, Vince covering by saying Atlas had “discovered his roots” during a trip to Africa. It was about as racist a gimmick as you could get, poor Atlas didn’t deserve it and it severely harmed his career.
12 Scotty Goldman
This one is truly baffling, even by WWE standards. Colt Cabana had established himself as one of the hottest guys on the indie circuit, a champion in Ring of Honor and fantastic in the ring. His signing by WWE was seen as a major move, fans expecting him to get a push hard and be a main eventer fast. Instead, WWE decided to give him the name of Scotty Goldman, about as uncool as you can imagine. That was then added to by having him come out in a stupid outfit with a headpiece to look like a high school wrestler which didn’t suit Cabana at all. His run on SmackDown was nothing special, looking totally lost with this gimmick and none of the strength he’d shown as himself. Yet another example of how saddling a guy with a bad name and look can ruin a promising indie star and his potential in WWE.
11 Kip James
After rising as part of the Smokin’ Gunns, Billy Gunn found his fame as part of the New Age Outlaws and D-X to become multiple tag team champion and a major star. After some poor runs with Chuck, Gunn moved to TNA to get into a program of feuding with former partner Road Dogg, now going as B.G. James. At first, he called himself the Outlaw as a reference to their past but WWE’s legal team stepped in fast and forced a change. So you had Outlaw declaring that because of their great past relationship, he was taking on the name of Kip James. It just didn’t have the same ring to it at all as eventually, the two reunited as the Voodoo Kin Mafia and a later return to their old names in WWE as champions. Nevertheless, the name change showcased how so many WWE guys had to put up with worse names in TNA.
10 Big T
Ahmed Johnson had gotten a good push during his tine with the WWE in 1996, winning the Intercontinental title with plans for him to win more. However, a kidney injury forced him to give up that belt and sidelined him for a while and he was never quite the same worker. After time away, he joined WCW in 1999 and teamed up with Stevie Ray, who was feuding with brother Booker T. By this point, Johnson had gained a lot of weight and thus given the name of “Big T” which then led to the ridiculous idea of him and Booker fighting it out over who would get to use the letter T. Yes, seriously.
He and Stevie Ray ran as a new Harlem Heat but Johnson’s weight issues led to his being let go from the company, which shows that a combination of your weight and a letter rarely ends up being a good name for a wrestler.
The One Man Gang had a pretty damn awesome name already. His nickname had the meaning of one guy with the power of an entire gang behind him and carried him over as a great heel monster with his dark outfit and Mohawk. And his in-ring ability followed suit with the name of his character. There was really no reason to change the act but WWE did so as Slick brought Gene Okerlund into an alley, flashed some fire and out came the Gang in a blue and yellow outfit as Akeem the African Dream. The online show “Are You Serious?” had a grand time making fun of this as trying to make the huge white guy a “black power” character was as dumb as it sounds and it definitely never really got going after this idiotic shift. While the WWE was changing their characters on a daily basis, this change did absolutely nothing.
8 Flash Funk
In the early 90s, 2 Cold Scorpio was one of the rising stars of the business, taking off in WCW and the indies well. At a time when high-flying action was still rare, Scorpio was pulling off stunning moves to wow fans and do some terrific work while boasting a pretty awesome name to go along with it. His in-ring ability continued to shine in ECW, where it caught the eye of Vince McMahon as he asked Paul Heyman for a talent exchange. When WWE hired him in 1997, they made the bad decision to saddle him with the name of Flash Funk and the gimmick of a 1970s pimp outfit. While he was good in the ring, the name just didn’t work as well or the gimmick, Scorpio better off with the ring work than rough promos and his work sinking fast. Sad to say but this name failed to give Funk and “flash” at all.
7 Red Rooster
Few guys have suffered over a bad name as much as Terry Taylor. A truly fantastic worker, Taylor came into WWE in 1988 with the popular rumor that it was literally a clip of the coin between him and Curt Hennig over who would get the Mr. Perfect gimmick. Unfortunately for Taylor, he lost. And while the gimmick of Mr. Perfect would’ve been great for him, he received one that is as bad as you can imagine as, for reasons that still baffle, WWE saddled him with the name of the Red Rooster. He was never called his real name, just Rooster as he was promoted as a heel then face, doing interviews of crowing and had a red streak in his hair.
It was as stupid as you can imagine, even WWE themselves today poke fun at it and poor Taylor never recovered from as cartoon an act as possible.
6 Junior Fatu
After years of failed gimmicks like Fatu and the Sultan, Solofa Fatu Jr. finally got famous as Rikishi, the dancing and butt smashing Too Cool member. With his goofy dancing and sticking his rear end in people’s faces, the guy was truly over, a run as IC champion and still doing pretty well despite rough stuff (the Austin hit and run for example). In 2007, he joined TNA but for legal reasons, couldn’t use the Rikishi name. Instead, he went out as Junior Fatu, a play on his real name but not a good one. Calling a big guy “junior” just doesn’t work and it made him look second-rate from the start. His run was short as he had a falling out with management over money and left after just a couple of matches, making this an embarrassingly short run that showcased how changing your name can work out for the worse.
Low Ki was already a pretty cool name and he used it well for his terrific work in TNA and ROH, a top-notch worker in both technical and high-flying stuff as the independent scene grew. When he signed with WWE in 2008, he at first went by Kawal, which means “soldier” and that made perfect sense to try and take off well. But for no reason, he changed it to Kaval which translates as…a flute. Why they thought this would strike fear in opponents and make Low Ki a more intimidating figure is utterly baffling.
While he did show a ton of promise while competing under the NXT television show banner, his WWE run was short and nothing of special note before he moved back to the indies and TNA under his old name. This all showed how a name based on a musical instrument really doesn’t do much good.
4 Lord Tensai
Despite his rough looks and lack of serious in-ring ability, WWE has attempted to push Matt Bloom several times as a serious main eventer. First, he was Prince Albert after his piercings, then simply A-Train but it still didn’t work out right. Yet, it was still something when Bloom returned to WWE in 2011 as Lord Tensai, his body now having different tattoos and pushed as some sort of Japanese warrior despite having been born in Massachusetts, although it did help that he found his rhythm in Japan as a monster heel in various promotions.
From the moment he entered, fans were laughing at the look and the attempt to push him as a major threat just didn’t work at all. Retiring after a run with NXT, Bloom was a fair worker saddled with bad characters and his last name change not helping sell him at all with fans.
3 Kerwin White
A famous case to be sure. In 2005, Chavo Guerrero was still a top cruiserweight and over as a heel when WWE decided to give him one of the most racist gimmicks imaginable. Coming out with blonde hair and lightened skin, dressed like a country club guy, Chavo now called himself Kerwin White with the line of “If it’s not white, it’s not right” and putting down his own Latino heritage, despite representing his native country for multiple years in both the tag team division and as a singles competitor. Needless to say, this did not go over well with fans, ripping into it as stupid and downright insulting and “Kerwin” wasn’t given much of a chance to show off his athletic skills. It ended when Eddie’s death pushed Chavo back to his roots but even trying it in the first place is one of the more insulting acts in WWE of recent years.
2 Braden Walker
Poor Chris Harris. As “Wildcat” in TNA, he proved himself as one-half of America’s Most Wanted, a multiple tag team champion and having some good singles runs as well, someone who had the look and talent to make it in main event programs on his own. Many believed he could take off nicely as a major worker when he signed with WWE. Rather than his actual name, they instead gave him “Braden Walker” followed by the now infamous catchphrase of “I’m going to knock your brains out.” The second he told a knock-knock joke, it was over. Harris never had a chance as the fans turned on him in a flash. He had just one victory before being released and Harris’ career has never been the same since, a clear sign of how a bad name and catchphrase are more than enough to bury an otherwise talented guy.
1 Hugh G. Rection
Who else but Vince Russo could have thought this up, someone who claims to be the mastermind of the Attitude Era, but why was a name like this never on WWE television? Hugh Morrus was a dependable worker, a tough guy, brawny but could be good in the ring and was still able to bring stuff to the table. In 2000, he was hooked with a bunch of other lower-card guys to become the Misfits in Action, a stable of military themed goofballs. He was then saddled with the most Russo name imaginable, just say it out loud and you’ll see what it is. It was meant to be nothing but a major joke to mock the guys more, rather than push them as a serious force and Morrus got the worst of it. The whole thing was a waste and pushed Morrus further down while being a great showcase for Russo’s terrible WCW tenure.
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