WWE Superstars become globally recognizable athletes when they are signed to the company. This means that WWE likes to ensure that they keep all of the copyrights to the wrestlers name so that they can't move on to another company and use something belonging to WWE.
CM Punk is a fantastic example. Phil Brooks has been known by that name his entire wrestling career and when he came to WWE they allowed him to keep the name as part of his contract. Punk has now walked away from the company and continues to be known as CM Punk in UFC which must annoy WWE slightly.
The company has recently allowed the same thing with AJ Styles, but mostly because he was already a well known star under that name.
Wrestlers often choose their own ring name so that it makes sense that they are a completely different person compared to their in-ring persona. Wrestlers like to maintain a private life as much as they can so they attempt to keep their own names private from the WWE Universe.
Many stars do now follow these rules. There are some wrestlers who have preferred to keep their real name as their ring name, which must become confusing when they have to sign for anything and are trying to be inconspicuous.
This also gives WWE a headache when it comes to copyrighting their names, since the likes of John Cena and Mickie James performed under their real name and so own the copyright to it.
That being said, many current WWE Superstars continue to do this. Here is a list of the top 15 Superstars who have been allowed to wrestle under their given names.
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15 Jerry Lawler
The commentary desk wouldn't be the same without the addition of the King of Wrestling himself Jerry Lawler. The legendary wrestler and Hall of Famer has been a part of the business for well over three decades.
Despite the fact that Lawler retired from wrestling almost 16 years ago, he still manages to play a key part in storylines when called upon. Lawler suffered a heart attack at ringside on a live episode of Monday night Raw back in 2012. Lawler returned to the announce desk just two months later. Being the legend that he already was in Memphis, it makes sense that both WWF and WWE allowed Jerry to keep his real name and continue to wrestle whilst using it for so many years.
14 Mickie James
The former five time WWE Women's Champion and one time Divas Champion is still considered to be one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. Mickie burst on the WWE scene in 2005 as Trish Stratus' crazy stalker and rode that gimmick all the way to her first Women's title the following year.
Mickie and Melina then began on a new generation of women's wrestling before she was released from the company in 2010. Mickie is the only woman to have held the Women's, Divas, and Knockouts Championships and had a lengthy career in TNA following her WWE release. It is unknown why Mickie was allowed to keep her real name in the ring since she was known as Alexis Laree for much of her Independent career before she was signed to WWE.
13 Brian Kendrick
Known as Spanky during his early career, the former Tag Team Champion has always been known by his given name while he has been in WWE's spotlight. The former WWE Cruiserweight has returned to WWE a few times since his departure in 2004. His best run with the company being his partnership with Paul London. The duo became the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions, a record that was only recently broken by The New Day.
Following their split a few years later Kendrick went it alone and failed to be as successful, and so left to pursue the Independent Circuit and ROH. Kendrick then returned to the WWE spotlight in 2015 when it was revealed that he was training Eva Marie ahead of her WWE re-debut. Kendrick himself then had a one-off match on NXT before he took his place in the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic.
12 Johnny Gargano
John Gargano is a relativity unknown entity to many fans of WWE's current product, but he is well known to fans of the NXT brand. Along with Tomasso Chiampa the duo have tested the boundaries of the tag team division over the past few months after a mildly successful singles run from the former Chikara star.
Gargano had an incredible wrestling career before he made his mark in WWE back in 2015. This could be the reason why he is only one of a few members of the NXT locker room who has been allowed to keep his given name on WWE's main stage. The company has changed the names of many of the biggest stars who have decided to join their roster, but it seems Gargano has been allowed to keep the name he has gained fame under.
11 Shinsuke Nakamura
One of the biggest NXT signings of the brand's short life, Shinsuke Nakamura's unveiling was one of the most memorable moments in NXT history. It is unclear as to why WWE allowed the Japanese star to keep his family name when making his debut on the roster.
Nakamura had made a name for himself under the name in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and the "King of Strong Style" was one of the most anticipated additions to the company after many fans saw all that he had achieved in Japan. Nakamura is already one of the biggest stars in the company after merely months on the roster and was one of the rumoured picks for the 2016 WWE Draft. However, he narrowly missed out on a call up to the main roster.
10 Mick Foley
The Hardcore Legend and newly named General Manager of Monday Night Raw is one of the most recognizable and well respected Superstars in WWE history. Mick Foley is considered to have been one of the bravest and reckless WWE Superstars in WWE's Attitude Era. This is mainly due to the fact that it seemed Foley raised the bar when it came to Hardcore, Hell in a Cell, and even Extreme Rules matches.
Foley has stepped away from the ring in recent years and instead realized that he now has a family and can't continue wrestling the way he used to. Foley has now taken the on-screen position as Raw General Manager as well as being a part of his own show on the WWE Network entitled Holy Foley.
John Bradshaw Layfield or JBL as he is more commonly known has become one of the biggest characters in WWE over the past few decades. With an impressive WWE career that saw him win the WWE, United States, Intercontinental, and Tag Team Championship before announcing his retirement from WWE in 2010.
JBL has returned to the ring a few times since this announcement and has since become one of the greatest colour commentators that WWE has ever had. JBL manages to retain the character he portrayed in the ring as a part of the commentary desk and was even switched to the SmackDown brand alongside David Otunga and Mauro Ranallo during the historic 2016 WWE Draft.
8 Cathy Kelley
One of WWE's newest acquisitions and one of the women that WWE have big plans for. Cathy burst onto the scene in WWE in 2015 and has since become a huge hit with the WWE Universe.
She is a well known Journalist, actress, TV host and ring announcer which is why it makes sense that she has been able to keep her own name despite the fact that it has been shortened down from Catherine. She is currently hosting WWE's AfterBuzz following Monday Night Raw as well as being a part of WWE's social media presence. Having only been with the company for a few months there is only a matter of time before WWE offer Cathy a bigger position within the company.
7 Lilian Garcia
Lilian Garcia has been part of WWE since 1999. During her first tenure with WWE she was the first "Diva" to be a part of the promotion for more than ten years. Lilian has been classed as a Diva for many years and has been allowed to appear on many DVD's with the females of the company.
Even though Lilian is only considered to be a ring announcer, she is also a talented singer and has played many roles in different storylines over the better part of 20 years. Lilian often sings the national anthem on holiday and special episodes of Monday Night Raw. Many ring announcers have come and gone over the past few years but Lilian has been a main stay on the brand and despite many announcers changing their names when they joined the company, Lilian has been allowed to keep her real name throughout her career.
6 Shelton Benjamin
WWE rumoured for many weeks that following the historic 2016 draft they would be bringing back some recognizable Superstars from past eras. It seems that Shelton Benjamin is the first name on that list. A name that is a former Intercontinental, United States, and Tag Team Champion in WWE.
Since he left WWE in 2010 The Gold Standard has continued to make a name for himself under his given name as part of the Ring of Honor roster with his best friend Charlie Haas as The World's Greatest Tag Team. Since Haas stepped away from wrestling it has seemed that Shelton has been missing something and hopefully he will regain it when he returns to WWE in the coming weeks.
5 Mark Henry
The World's Strongest Man has made an incredible career for himself since joining WWE and given the fact that he had an amazing Olympic career could have been one of the main reasons why WWE decided to allow him to keep his real name.
Mark Henry is a former World, ECW and European Champion in his career and has managed to remain with WWE for 20 years despite a constant lack of direction in his storylines. Most recently, Mark Henry has been away from WWE TV for the past few months after he failed to win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal in the match at WrestleMania. However, Henry was still part of the WWE Draft and took his rightful place on Monday Night Raw.
The former Diva Search contestant and wife of current Intercontinental Champion The Miz, Maryse was able to hold onto her given name after she was unveiled as part of the WWE Diva Search. Many other women who WWE signed including Ashley Massaro, Candice Michelle, and Michelle McCool were all also given the same opportunity.
Maryse left the company for a few years and only returned the night after WrestleMania this year to help her husband win the Championship that he had been denied the night before. Since then Maryse has been ever present at his side and despite the fact that she was once the longest reigning Divas Champion in her own right, it seems she has been relegated to The Miz' valet for the time being.
3 Randy Orton
The Viper, The Legend Killer, and one of the biggest stars of WWE's current era entered WWE as a third generation generation Superstar. Like many other Superstars that have been brought up in the company, many thought Orton was a flash in the pan. However, after becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history merely years after his debut and going on to become a 12 time World Champion, it's safe to say that Orton has proved his doubters wrong.
Orton was the last person to hold the World Heavyweight Championship and was considered one of the greatest ring technicians and all around characters of WWE's PG Era. Finding fame under his given name doesn't seem to have phased the current SmackDown Live Superstar. Following the success of his father and grandfather before him WWE decided to allow Orton to keep his own name and follow in their footsteps.
2 Brock Lesnar
The Beast Incarnate, the legend of Suplex City, and the only man to ever defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar has made quite a mark on WWE since he made his return in 2012. Having left the company in 2004 to pursue what was a World Championship calibre UFC career, Brock made his return the night after WrestleMania XXVIII and targeted John Cena.
Since then Lesnar along with his "Advocate" Paul Heyman has become one of the most feared stars in WWE after not being pinned in a WWE match since 2013. Given that Lesnar was already a huge star on the wrestling scene when he signed for WWE (having become a well known amateur wrestler), it makes since that WWE allowed him to keep the name he found fame under and has continued to do so.
1 John Cena
"The face that runs the place," the 15 time WWE World Champion, and one of the biggest names in the history of the company. John Cena has excelled anyone's expectations of him following what was a rocky few years with WWE, and has even managed to branch out to making films, albums, and even presenting at some of the biggest awards shows in sports and entertainment.
John Cena is considered the New Era's version of The Rock, a star that now owns the rights to his own name having acquired them when he reached the peak of his fame. Cena is obviously wresting under his real name and has been doing so since his debut in 2002,. This obviously means that WWE would hit a few problems if they tried to stop John Cena using his own name if he ever moved to other companies, but since WWE made Cena the star he is today, it is highly unlikely he is moving anywhere.
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