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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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