When it comes to the ring names of wrestlers, it’s safe to assume most of them are totally made up. Like actors back in the day, long, complex, overly-foreign, or boring names were often changed to something that looks a heck-of-a-lot better on a marquee (or poster, TV screen, etc). Nowadays, in both acting and wrestling, real names are used a bit more frequently than before, but in the event wrestlers are christened with a real mouthful of a moniker, they’re still altered.
Now, I should probably point out that I’m not necessarily trying to make fun of any of the wrestlers here. I mean, they were born with these names, so it’s not like they picked them themselves. As a general rule, it’s never really in good taste to make jokes about unfortunate things about people that they can’t help. If it were their ring names that we were calling weird, that might be a different story.
In the end, this is more of an informative piece, as I’m not really in the business of making fun of anyone in the wrestling business anyway. I’m just a weak little journalist behind a keyboard, and you never know when I might cross paths with one of these titans. (And in the case of wrestlers who have passed away, I’d never want to desecrate the dead.) Plus, my surname isn’t exactly normal either – and simple as it looks, it’s always being pronounced incorrectly. So I hear you, fellow funny names – but sometimes when you’re stuck with a mess of a moniker, the best thing to do is just laugh it off.
Here are the top 20 real life names of wrestlers you wouldn’t expect.
20. Jake “The Snake” Roberts – Aurelian Smith, Jr.
Even as a kid, I, like many other youngsters, was well aware that a decent amount of wrestling was “fake” – including a lot of the names. However, for a while I simply assumed Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ real name was Jake Roberts (or maybe something like Jacob Robertson) and he just adopted a rhyming nickname. Nope. Roberts was actually born Aurelian Smith Jr. on May 30, 1955 in Gainesville, Texas. Also a bit of a surprise, his nickname of “The Snake” actually predates his python Damien and the gimmick of using actual snakes in the ring, which didn’t occur until his WWE debut in March 1986.
Instead, the title came from portraying himself as snake-like and untrustworthy, and he would often “slither” in and out of the ring on his belly to emphasize this. Roberts was also a fan of Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken “The Snake” Stabler, and drew some inspiration from him as well.
19. Macho Man Randy Savage – Randy Poffo
It’s always unfortunate when a wrestler’s real name is so un-tough that it immediately needs to be changed upon entering wrestling. Such was the case with Randy Mario Poffo, born November 15, 1952 in Columbus, Ohio. When Poffo started wrestling in 1973, he chose the nickname “The Spider” (and a character similar to Spider-Man), before eventually being dubbed “Randy Savage” by friend and trainer Terry “The Goose” Stephens and Georgia Championship Wrestling booker Ole Anderson, who said Poffo didn’t fit someone who “wrestled like a savage.” “Macho Man” came from a Reader’s Digest article Randy’s mom was reading about the next hot terms.
Poffo did, however, have to use his real name professionally for a bit: when he was a minor league baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox organizations.
18. Bart Gunn – Mike Polchlopek
Whether you remember him as Bart Gunn (the other half of Billy Gunn, as The Smoking Gunns tag team) or Bodacious Bart (the other half of Bombastic Bob, as the Midnight Express tag team), you’ll probably recall his six years in the WWE from 1993 to 1999 when he participated in – and won – the 1998 Brawl for All event. As lame and odd as his ring names were, they at least were extremely easy to pronounce.
His real name, Mike Polchlopek, might seem easy to read it first – but it’s one of those surnames that takes two or three tries to get it down, and even then there’s some lingering uncertainty. To test this theory, I gave the name to three different people, and they all stumbled out of the gate. It may not be the weirdest name on this list (heck, it’s not even the weirdest name among The Smoking Gunns), but if it were yours, you’d get annoyed with the weirdness constantly messing people up.
17. Nikita Koloff – Nelson Scott Simpson
When it comes to guys like the Iron Sheik, you’re not surprised when their name turns out to be something like Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri (which it actually is), because that’s expected based on the character. Which is why it’s so odd that “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff was born Nelson Scott Simpson on March 9, 1959 in Minnesota.
Again, people change their names and personalities for the ring all the time, but the difference here is Koloff sold it so well that many people incorrectly assumed he was actually Russian. He rarely spoke at all at first, even in interviews, and then slowly started communicating in broken English with a heavy accent. Taking things even further, Koloff used his Russian voice in his daily, off-camera life, and later had his name legally changed to that of his character. In fact, the fake Russian personality was so deeply ingrained in Koloff that following his retirement it took two years for him to lose the accent.
16. Lex Luger – Lawrence Wendell Pfohl
Lawrence Wendell Pfohl. Sounds like someone a school bully would beat up…until they learned that person was actually wrestling legend Lex Luger. Born June 2, 1958 in Buffalo, New York, Pfohl starting using the name Lex Luger right from the get-go in 1985, having been a fan of comic book villain Lex Luthor. Going back to the name Larry Pfohl, he definitely wasn’t someone who would get beat up in high school, by the way. Pfohl played football in high school and college at Miami (alongside future NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly) and was signed with the Green Bay Packers for a season, but never played in a game.
15. Paige – Saraya-Jade Bevis
If you only knew Paige by the name “Paige,” you’d probably be surprised to find out that she was actually born Saraya-Jade Bevis on August 17, 1992 in Norwich, England. Interestingly, her parents, Ian Bevis and Julia Hamer-Bevis, are both professional wrestlers (under the names Ricky Knight and “Sweet” Saraya Knight, respectively), as are her brothers, Roy and Zak Bevis (Zebra Kid and Zak Zodiac).
Paige wrestled in her first match at the age of 13 and used the name Britani Knight in her early years. She briefly went by her birth name, Saraya, after signing with WWE’s developmental Florida Championship Wrestling, but it was changed to Paige after only a month.
14. Buddy Rogers – Herman Gustav Rohde Jr.
Buddy Rogers was one of the biggest stars in the early days of wrestling. He basically invented the now-famous figure-four leglock, was a two-time world champion in both the WWWF and and NWA, and, as the original “Nature Boy,” directly influenced wrestlers like Butch Reed and Ric Flair. Although he wrestled under his birth name for his first match in 1939, he soon adopted another name.
You see, he was a bit of a babyface, and with World War II breaking out across the pond, a man named Herman Gustav Rohde Jr. didn’t stand much of a chance of winning crowds over due to his German heritage. Plus, it wasn’t a very flashy name to begin with. Rohde continued to use the Buddy Rogers name for the rest of his life, including as part of the “Rogers’ Corner” interview segments (which were eventually replaced by “Piper’s Pit”), and even in an attempted comeback in 1992 at the age of 71.
13. The Ultimate Warrior – James Brian Hellwig
Sometimes wrestlers’ real names are so close to being something really useful in the ring. They almost sound like a tough-guy name, but they’re just not quite there. Enter James Brian Hellwig (born June 16, 1959 in Arizona), better known as The Ultimate Warrior. I think most of us can agree that “Ultimate Warrior” is pretty badass, especially for the ‘80s and ‘90s – but we should also acknowledge that the surname Hellwig is pretty apt as well. Maybe it sounds a bit more like a horror movie about a murderous hairpiece (like that old Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episode), but anytime “Hell” is included in a wrestler’s real name, that has to be some sort of blessing.
To Hellwig’s credit, he did use his birth surname in his first year of professional wrestling, but switched to “Dingo Warrior” for WCW, and the much-improved “Ultimate Warrior” for the WWE.
12. Diamond Dallas Page – Page Falkinburg
Diamond Dallas Page is a pretty badass name, but let’s face it: the weakest part, Page, is only passable because it’s a last name. However, in reality, that was actually DDP’s first name. And making matters worse, his last name was Falkinburg, which only adds to the goofiness. That’s right, on April 5, 1965, Diamond Dallas Page was born Page Falkinburg in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Adorable. (Please don’t give me the Diamond Cutter, sir.)
It should be noted that “real name” in this case means birth name, because DDP actually changed his legal name to Dallas Page in 2003 – hence all the past tenses.
11. Rhino – Terrence Guido Gerin
When you look at the size of two-time world champion wrestler Rhino (who won both the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Heavyweight Championship), it’s no wonder he renamed himself after an enormous beast; the guy is billed at a whopping 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds. It’s also no surprise he picked a new monicker because his birth one, Terrance Gerin, is so non-threatening. However, the weirdest part isn’t his first or last name, but his middle name: Terrence Guido Gerin. Having some sort of obscenity as part of your legal name is no fun, and when it’s a semi-derogatory term for an ethnic group, it’s even worse.
Plus, as far as I can tell, Rhino’s ethnicity is French (or possibly French-Canadian), so he can’t even get away with being able to play the name off as a nod to his background. To his credit, he’s owning the name, and is proudly using it while currently running for a seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives
10. Dino Bravo – Adolfo Bresciano
It’s hard to poke fun at a name when someone is born out of the country, since we don’t know the context in which they were named, or the meaning the name has abroad. But in Dino Bravo’s case, we’ll make a big exception. Bravo, born in Italy, was named Adolfo Bresciano. I get Bresciano – very Italian – but Adolfo? I think we all know what that sounds almost exactly like; and to name a kid this in 1948, just three years after the end of World War II? Madness. Thankfully, when Bresciano began wrestling in 1970, he immediately chose the name Dino Bravo – which was inspired by Pepe DiPasquale, who wrestled in the ‘60s under the same name when paired with Dominic DeNucci. Interestingly, the younger Dino Bravo would later be on a tag team with DeNucci.
9. Lita – Amy Dumas
When it comes to names, the last thing you’d want is to be stuck with something that makes you sound like a dumbass. Unfortunately for Lita, that’s almost exactly what her birth name does. On April 14, 1975 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lita was born Amy Christine Dumas. Ouch. In her defense, I’m fairly certain it’s actually pronounce “doo-mah,” buy you gotta believe most people, when reading it for the first time, are totally saying “dumbass” in their heads. Fortunately for her, the four-time WWE Women’s Champion is a strong, athletic wrestler that can probably smash most people (including this snarky journalist) into little pieces with a snap DDT – so let’s be nice, okay?
8. General Adnan – Adnan Bin Abdul Kareem Ahmed Alkaissy El Farthie
The former 1976 WWWF World Tag Team Champion and manager of Sgt. Slaughter went by a lot of names in his career. First, in 1959, he was Adnan Kaissey while wrestling locally in Oklahoma. Then, with the WWWF, he was a Native American named Billy White Wolf (an odd gimmick for a dude from Baghdad, and an odd name for a pseudo-Native American). Later, he was Sheik Adnan El Kaissey with AWA, and then General Adnan with WWF, when he had a part in WrestleMania VII and Royal Rumble 1991.
Yet his real name was weirder than all of these names, and longer than all of them combined (if you take out repeats). On March 1, 1939, Adnan was born Adnan Bin Abdul Kareem Ahmed Alkaissy El Farthie. And yet, this isn’t even the strangest part of Adnan’s story: In high school, he was classmates with the one and only Saddam Hussein – and yes, there are pictures to prove it.
7. Shawn Michaels – Michael Shawn Hickenbottom
There are some wrestlers who can get away with using their actual surname in the ring, and then there’s Shawn Michaels. Born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom on July 22, 1965 in Chandler, Arizona, there was really no chance he could get away with a last name like that in the biz, and he picked “Shawn Michaels” instead. When Hickenbottom made his debut with the National Wrestling Alliance on October 16, 1984 at the age of 19, he officially used Shawn Michaels for the first time. Of course, many fans prefer to simply refer to him by his nickname, The Heartbreak Kid – a moniker that actually came from the mind of wrestling legend Curt Hennig.
6. Ricky Steamboat – Richard Henry Blood
The oddest thing about Ricky Steamboat’s real name is just how much it already sounds like a wrestler’s name. He was born in upstate New York on February 28, 1953 as Richard Henry Blood. That’s right, his name was literally “Rich Blood.” I could definitely envision some type of wealthy heel character evolving from this – and Steamboat actually used “Rick Blood” when he debuted in the AWA in 1976 – but prior to his first match with Championship Wrestling Florida, Eddie Graham gave him the name Ricky Steamboat due to his resemblance to Hawaiian wrestler Sammy Steamboat, whom Blood was originally billed as the nephew of. As Graham correctly pointed out, “Blood” was no name for a babyface – and Ricky was a babyface in every sense of the word.
5. Rick Rude – Richard Rood
Okay, here’s a guy whose name has to be totally made up, right? Wrong. This is one of the only entries on the list where the wrestler’s real name is weird because it’s the same as his ring name. Believe it or not, Rick Rude was actually born Richard Erwin Rood on December 7, 1958 in Minnesota. Just think about that for a second. The guy actually got to respond to “Mr. Rood” for his whole life: during school roll calls, in doctors office waiting rooms, and basically any other time last names are read aloud.
In fact, this is one of those instances where it would be upsetting if a wrestler didn’t use his real name in the ring. Rood/Rude even used the name briefly as a babyface at the beginning of his career – except he used “Ricky” as his first name, because that’s what a “good guy” would do, right?
4. Trinity – Stephanie Finochio
Like many female wrestlers, Trinity went with a ring name that was a single word. Well, actually, throughout her career she went by American Power, Italian Finesse, Starfire, Stephanie Starr, Stephanie, and Untamable Spirit, but you probably know her best as Trinity, since she used that name while with TNA, WWE, and ECW. Although Trinity used her real first name, Stephanie, at various times, she never went by her real last name. That’s probably because it sounds like a bad spoof of a Disney character, which is definitely not an association a wrestler wants to make. On December 1, 1971, Trinity was born Stephanie Finochio. And that’s no lie.
3. Tor Kamata – McRonald Kamaka
Based on the heading, you’d probably think Tor Kamata is the weird name, yet his birth name is even stranger. On March 9, 1937, Tor Kamata was born in Hawaii as McRonald Kamaka. Let’s break this one down. First, it’s kind of curious that Kamara would only change his ring name to Kamata. They’re so similar; what’s the advantage? Kamaka, in my humble opinion, sounds cooler anyway. But then there’s that first name: McRonald. Yeesh.
It sounds like Ronald McDonald smushed together into a single name. It would even sound strange as a last name. And then there’s the juxtaposition! Pairing McRonald and Kamaka is probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole moniker. Unsurprisingly, despite using four different ring names (also Mr. Moto, Dr. Moto, and Killer Moto), “Kamata” is the closest Kamaka would come to using his real name.
2. Billy Gunn – Monty Kip Sopp
Billy Gunn has used a lot of names since he broke into wrestling (Billy G, Mr. G, Mr. Ass, The Kipper, and about a million more), but none is weirder than his birth name. On November 11, 1963 in Orlando, Billy Gun was born Monty Kip Sopp. Really. No nicknames, it’s just Monty Kip Sopp. You know that thing parents do when they’re brainstorming names to make sure the first and middle gel with both each other and the last name? Somehow I think Gunn’s parents forgot this part, because this name is a mess to say. It sounds like a type of food you’d order at an exotic restaurant. But hey, Gunn has made quite the living for himself, and even worked the “Kip” part into a few ring names – so bonus points there.
1. Test – Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin
Test spent almost a decade with WWF, WWE, and WCW, and probably has one of the shortest ring names ever used. His real name, however, is much longer: Andrew James Robert Patrick Martin. Yikes. Clearly some indecision was at work here. Unsurprisingly, AJRPM decided on a shorter name once he started wrestling (after meeting Bret Hart in a restaurant and getting trained by him), opting for “Martin Kane” and “T.J. Thunder” at first. When he joined the WWE in 1998, he was given the name Test, which he used until his retirement in February 2009. Sadly, Test died only a month later of an overdose, just four days before his 34th birthday.
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