The world of professional wrestling is filled with a number of unique superstars who have fitting names for their characters. While there are a few cases where the company decides to go with someone’s real name, promotions like World Wrestling Entertainment like to create a new moniker. In recent years, these ring names have often been trademarked by companies like the WWE.
One would assume that many of the greatest wrestlers in professional wrestling history don’t actually own their names, but there are plenty of them who do own the trademark rights to their in-ring names. Some of them were born with the name and others were able to create the nickname before joining a promotion like WWE. That’s usually a case of a superstar having a large following before being signed to come on television.
There are even cases where wrestlers are able to earn the rights to their name by buying them from companies like WWE. There’s also the route that involves legally changing the name so that they can use their ring name for their financial purposes.
Whatever their reasons were, and however it came to be, here are the top 15 professional wrestlers who own their ring names.
The character Montel Vontavious Porter is actually trademarked and owned by WWE. Known more commonly as MVP, he was a former United States Champion who had some respectable success on the company’s mid-card. However, when he made the move from WWE, he was still able to utilize the abbreviated ring name, even though the full name was owned by WWE through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
14 Samoa Joe
While his real name is Nuufolau Joel Seanoa, many people know him better as Samoa Joe. It was a ring name he first used when competing in Ring of Honor – where he held the ROH World Championship for 21 months straight. He also went on an impressive run in TNA Wrestling. He’s competed all over the world and won gold everywhere he has been. Fans were excited when he finally signed with WWE in 2015.
13 Tommy Dreamer
There have been a lot of unique superstars to have come from Extreme Championship Wrestling. In a lot of ways, Tommy Dreamer – portrayed by Thomas Laughlin – might have been considered the heart and soul of the promotion that had such a big following in the 1990s. He was able to keep the name when he competed in WWE and also in TNA Wrestling.
12 Chris Jericho
While he was a big star in the WWE – becoming the first WWE Undisputed Champion – Chris Jericho was wrestling on television for several years in WCW. He was born Christopher Irvine, the son of the professional hockey player, but his wrestling career started in 1990 with the ring name Chris Jericho. While it had various nicknames like “Lionheart” and “Cowboy,” Jericho has kept his ring name through his entire career.
Before he was a seemingly unstoppable force in World Championship Wrestling, Bill Goldberg was attempting a career in the National Football League. After graduating from the University of Georgia, he spent three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons – playing in only 14 total games with just one career start. After leaving football, Goldberg would make the transition to the world of professional wrestling.
10 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar has developed quite a name for himself. It actually started when he was an amateur wrestler at the University of Minnesota, winning an NCAA National Championship. He would go into professional wrestling under his real name, winning the WWE Championship multiple times before deciding to pursue a career and mixed marital arts.
9 CM Punk
Phil Brooks has carried the name CM Punk with him everywhere he’s wrestled, whether it was during his time in Ring of Honor, that brief stint in TNA Wrestling and throughout the world for various independent promotions. While many of the recent WWE acquisitions have brought their ring name into the WWE, CM Punk was somewhat of a pioneer for the stars of the independent wrestling scene.
8 AJ Styles
It’s amazing to think about how AJ Styles was finally able to receive a contract in the WWE. For several years, he was the poster boy of TNA Wrestling. Styles made a comment in an interview after signing with the WWE that he was willing to make a change to his name. However, he was able to maintain the moniker that he used not only in TNA, but also for New Japan Pro Wrestling and many of the top independent promotions in the world.
Long before the gaps between the WWE and The Ultimate Warrior were bridged just in time for him to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the two sides were constantly battling each other in the court room. Most of the legal battles involved trademark rights, which eventually led Jim Hellwig – the man behind the face paint – to legally change his name.
6 Shinsuke Nakamura
This one is a little bit interesting. According to several reports, the WWE submitted trademarks for both “Shinsuke Nakamura” and “King of Strong Style” as part of them bringing the Japanese wrestling superstar to the company. So why is Shinsuke Nakamura on this list? Because that is his real name. If the time comes he ever leaves the WWE to work elsewhere – i.e. New Japan Pro Wrestling – he’ll be able to use the name.
5 “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Randy Poffo likely wouldn't have gotten over with the crowd. However, as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, he was one of the best superstars in the WWE during one of the peaks of wrestling’s popularity. While Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were becoming household names, Macho Man was also receiving plenty of attention as a pop culture icon in his own right.
4 Steve Austin
One of the more interesting facts about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is that he was actually born under the name Steve Anderson, but he was able to take the surname of his stepfather, Williams. Because there was already someone in wrestling with his real name – “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – he was able to come up with the Steve Austin ring name. It stuck with him during the earliest days through WCW, ECW and finally the WWE.
Steve Borden has certainly had one of the lengthiest runs in the world of professional wrestling. It’s impressive considering how good of shape he kept himself in during his 40s and 50s. His career spans world heavyweight championship wins under the National Wrestling Alliance, WCW and TNA. However, one thing that might shock fans is that he owns the copyright to the use of the name.
2 John Cena
The biggest superstar in today’s WWE landscape is still undoubtedly John Cena. The WWE does own some trademark rights that allows them to produce all of the different kinds of merchandise. That includes all of those colorful T-shirts, wristbands and hats that The Rock once compared to a bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal. It’s certainly made the leader of Cenation one of the wealthiest WWE Superstars today.
1 Hulk Hogan
Terry Bollea actually started wresting with “The Hulk” nickname after he was on a talk show sitting next to Lou Ferrigno, who portrayed the Marvel superhero on television. So when he came to the WWE in 1979, Vince McMahon, Sr., wanted to keep Hulk in his ring name and added Hogan as the last name. He continued using the name with other promotions before the WWE expanded into a nationwide promotion.
Because the Hulk Hogan name was already established and given to Bollea, when the WWE became a national promotion under Vince McMahon, Jr., the Hulk Hogan name did not belong to him. Bollea was able to trademark the name before going back to begin Hulkamania. That move turned out to be a very smart move since it made Hulk Hogan millions of dollars over the course of four decades.
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