There are many bizarre things in pro wrestling that become a normal part of it due to the strange world in which the sport exists. Wrestlers change their names very frequently. Bigger promotions will want to own the rights to the performer’s name as a way to control and gain as much profit as possible off of the wrestler. WWE will force a wrestler to change their name most of the time and it has led to various shifts in the wrestler’s career. A talent will have to rebuild if released due to not having the ownership of using the name they are known as.
This prominently started in the 90s during the Monday Night Wars era. WWE and WCW wrestlers went back and forth between companies. The big contracts led to certain wrestlers having to let the company own their character name and the wrestlers would have to try to find a way to change their name when changing promotions without losing sight of an already established persona. There are other times when a wrestler will want to be the one that changes their own name. It can be beneficial to debuting a new character, but wiping the slate clean and starting from square one.
Regardless of why, the name changes tend to become an important part of wrestling. Many wrestling name changes have led to success such as Rocky Maivia becoming The Rock but there are plenty more stories of the new name leading to the wrestler's downfall. Losing a name is similar to losing one’s identity in the wrestling business and it has caused certain performers to see their relevancy completely fall apart. This list is going to take a look at the wrestlers to fall off the map following a name change. Some of these wrestlers saw their last chances at a big push and many had their career end. These are the top twenty stories of wrestlers falling off the map after a name change.
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20 Solomon Crowe
Sami Callihan was a top independent wrestling star with a world of potential. WWE signed him due to the promise and gave him the new name Solomon Crowe. Unlike many of the other top independent wrestling names to succeed in NXT, Crowe failed to capture the audience and ended up hurting his stock more than anything else. Crowe had a couple of decent matches on NXT television but for the most part, he was just an enhancement talent and this led to him requesting his release. Back with the Callihan name, he is looking to rebuild his brand and name value but it will be a long road back.
19 Junior Fatu
Rikishi had multiple names in his career but that was his most successful one with a great run in WWE as a member of Too Cool. He actually went into the Hall of Fame last year mostly due to his run as the dancing babyface. Once his time in WWE ended, it was difficult to find a new promotion to work in and a name to work under. His biggest post-WWE run was wrestling as Junior Fatu in TNA. Despite the name value, his run was a massive failure and he was quickly out of the company with his biggest moment coming when he referred to Bobby Roode as “Rick Rude.” Rikishi’s career went out with a whisper following the Junior Fatu name change.
One of the rare recent cases of a name change leading to a career downfall was the change from Cody Rhodes to Stardust. This was more due to the gimmick change but fans still knowning him as Cody. The name change has become part of the joke with fans chanting “Cody” at Stardust as a heckle, but it completely hurts his potential for career advancement. Rhodes has gone from being a credible midcard star with main event potential into a bizarre gimmick that barely gets television time. This is definitely not working out and it may have already harmed Rhodes career for good. The road to relevancy will be a very difficult one for Rhodes.
17 V.K. Wallstreet
I.R.S was one of the better midcard heel acts in WWE for a few years and created a memorable role for himself on the roster. With various names in his career, almost all of them were serviceable but his move from WWE to WCW during the Monday Night Wars led to a forced name change. V.K. Wallstreet was the name with a play-off I.R.S but it just sounded completely corny. WCW wanted the V.K. initials to stand for Vince McMahon as an inside joke, but the name made him come off like a goof. They changed it back to Michael Wallstreet and it was less ridiculous, but his career was already on the downswing.
16 The Booty Man
Ed Leslie is known by many names in wrestling but the most popular is likely “Hulk Hogan’s friend.” Leslie played Brutus the Barber Beefcake in WWE and was given a job in WCW due to his friendship with Hogan. There were a few name changes with different characters for him but the one that sunk his career was The Booty Man. The gimmick was a man that loved his own butt and wanted the world to know about it. Fans rolled their eyes and laughed at the name and the wrestler. WCW tried to change his name a few more times with different looks, but The Booty Man destroyed whatever credibility he still had.
During the dying days of WCW, the company tried to showcase a few young stars and a couple of them showed potential. Johnny Stamboli had an impressive look and the athletic ability to make many believe he could be a player in the future. As one of the few WCW talents brought over to WWE, he flopped and eventually was let go. Stamboli then tried his luck in TNA as Rellik (killer spelled backwards) but it was significantly worse than anything else he’d done and it ended his career. The character was meant to be a horror movie villain as shown by the creative name but it was just terrible on all fronts. Imagine being afraid of someone named Rellik.
14 The Shark
John Tenta was one of the more successful monster heels in the early 90s WWE to oppose Hulk Hogan as Earthquake. No one ever accused him of being a great worker but he sure did leave an impact on the viewer due to his impressive physical size. Tenta was one of many wrestlers to make the move to WCW when Hulk Hogan signed with the company and brought over his friends. The company couldn’t use the Earthquake name so they tried to rename him Avalanche. If this wasn’t bad enough, Tenta would get another name change to become The Shark. With the gimmick of a shark, it was the name change lame enough to end his chances at success in WCW.
With success as One Man Gang, there was no reason to change his name or gimmick but WWE did it to the detriment of his career. So, One Man Gang became Akeem The African Dream. Despite being a white male, he was forced to portray an African that spoke in a stereotypical black accent. The gimmick was deemed offensive by many and it damaged his career immensely. No one blamed him for what WWE made him do, but it was hard to invest in him after that foolishness. He tried using The One Man Gang name again in WCW and ECW but it just wasn’t the same.
12 Curtis Axel
Mr. Perfect was one of the all-time greats in WWE and his son Joe Hennig was expected to become a star for the company. WWE gave him the terrible name of Michael McGillicutty and he failed to create a memorable presence on television. Still, he was a former tag team champion and seemed to have plenty of potential. WWE actually pushed him in a rebranding effort with Paul Heyman as his manager and a name change to Curtis Axel. The push failed and the name change signified the only time he would be fully rebranded. They don’t just change names on such a high profile level and Axel’s name change flopping showcased his last chance at moving up the card.
11 Kerwin White
Chavo Guerrero was given one of the worst name changes in WWE history when he became Kerwin White. The character was offensive due to him denouncing his Mexican heritage and portraying a white man. It did nothing to help his career and the gimmick would be dropped following the unfortunate passing of Eddie Guerrero. Chavo didn’t have the once in a generation talent like his uncle Eddie did, but he was still a pretty good worker and an asset to the company’s depth. The Kerwin White change was around the time he lost his credibility and he was just viewed as another guy whenever rarely showcased again.
10 Mr. Ass
As a WWE employee for eleven consecutive years, Billy Gunn endured many names changes and monikers. The most random and bizarre choice was Mr. Ass. WWE apparently wanted to portray him as an “ass man” that loved his own backside, remember how well that worked last time we mentioned it? Gunn was always viewed as someone on the precipice of the main event scene but this change was the flop that made him officially a midcarder for life. With the Mr. Ass push, Gunn actually won the 1999 King of the Ring and had the semi-main event match against The Rock at Summerslam. Regardless, the name itself was such a joke and it ended his best chance at becoming a bigger star by the big push not connecting. Gunn wallowed in obscurity for the remainder of his career.
9 The Guardian Angel
Big Boss Man was another former WWE star to make the jump to WCW and struggled to find a new name. The gimmick of playing a cop continued with the name of The Boss but it was later changed to The Guardian Angel. This was meant to be a play off the organization of unarmed crime-prevention patrollers with the same name. He looked silly wearing the bright red beret and the name was not a good decision to go with. WCW would give him a few more changes and he’d go back to WWE with The Big Boss Man name but the name change to The Guardian Angel was the end of his shelf life as a relevant wrestler.
8 Scotty Goldman
Colt Cabana was a top independent performer for years and came to WWE with hopes of blossoming into a superstar like his best friend CM Punk. The new name may have destroyed his slim chances at success in the company before he even debuted. Due to his Jewish background, Cabana was renamed Scotty Goldman and has spoken out against the name for years. The debut of Goldman was instantly a failure as he was a jobber after just two weeks. Cabana returned to form on the indies but his name change to Scotty Goldman destroyed his only run in WWE.
7 Flash Funk
As one of ECW’s rising stars, 2 Cold Scorpio was making his way into the upper echelon of top wrestlers in the world with great matches on a weekly basis. WWE signed the talented star and renamed him Flash Funk. The gimmick of a PG pimp was a silly concept and the name was confusing, especially when he entered a short-term tag team with Terry Funk. The career of Scorpio took a downturn when he turned into Flash. His WWE tenure was extremely forgettable and harmed his career going forward. Scorpio never could rebound and get back to his value before Flash Funk. It’s sad that not many may realize it but Scorpio is arguably the most talented wrestlers on this list.
6 Beaver Cleavage
This could be the most embarrassing name change of all time. Mosh was in the successful tag team of The Headbangers but his partner Thrasher suffered a knee injury and Mosh turned into Beaver Cleavage. The character was meant to be a comedic parody of the Leave it to Beaver television series with a weird incest storyline involving his "mother," Mrs. Cleavage. While the overall booking was the main failure, there’s no way he would survive the Beaver Cleavage name. The stint was a massive failure and he endured another name change to Chaz before reforming The Headbangers. Unfortunately, the team could never get back to its former relevancy and the Cleavage name change was a major reason for it.
5 Kenny Dykstra
The Spirit Squad was a heel faction of male cheerleaders most known for being humiliated in a feud with Shawn Michaels and Triple H during their D-Generation X reformation. Ken Doane was seen as the most promising member of the faction and positioned as the leader. Once The Spirit Squad ended, Doane was the only member to get a singles push, at the time, with the new name of Kenny Dykstra. The name was meant to be a tribute to baseball player Lenny Dysktra but that just made it more confusing to remember his name and many of us would refer to him as Lenny Dykstra by habit. The run was a huge flop and his career went down the drain rather abruptly, as he was quickly released by WWE.
4 The Red Rooster
Terry Taylor has developed an interesting career in pro wrestling but he’s become most known for his work in the office and behind the scenes rather than his wrestling. Taylor wrestled for various promotions all over the country building up his name before finally getting signed by WWE. The bad news was that he had to wrestle under the name of The Red Rooster and was made to wear all red and style his hair like an actual rooster. The gimmick was horrific and he was mockingly referred to as The Red Rooster for the remainder of his career, despite ditching the gimmick in other promotions. Taylor works for WWE now in the performance center but having to go by The Red Rooster completely ruined his in-ring career.
Between his Das Wunderkind gimmick and the dancing humor, Alex Wright always managed to deliver memorable moments on WCW television despite never moving up the card. The roster was loaded and his ability to leave an impact, even through comedic work, made him a successful performer. WCW tried to rebrand him by completely changing his look and giving him the new name of Berlyn, where he would sport a mohawk and goatee. The gimmick was meant to be a controversial figure speaking out against Americans but it could not get over. After realizing it was a failure, WCW made him go back to the dancing character and the name Alex Wright but he already lost his hair. The company soon went out of business and Wright retired from the business.
2 Big T
Every 90s WWE fan fondly remembers Ahmed Johnson for his hilariously incoherent promos. WWE tried to push him as one of the future main event faces but his lack of wrestling skills ended his chances at success. Like most other wrestlers to flop in WWE, he moved to WCW and was renamed Big T. The story was he reemerged as a former close friend of The Harlem Heat and feuded against Booker T for the rights to the letter T being used in their name. Big T should have intentionally taken the loss because the name helped end any opportunity he had at success in WCW. The silly name, a weight gain and the inability to improve caused Big T to fade away and become a forgotten existence in wrestling history.
1 Braden Walker
The worst case of a wrestler’s career falling apart after a name change has to be Chris Harris. As one of the biggest rising stars in TNA as both a singles star and tag team performer, Harris had huge potential and was one of the rare TNA stars to jump to WWE. On the surface, the move looked like the right decision but his wrestling career imploded once he debuted with the new name Braden Walker. The name is often met with snickering and snide comments because of an all-time bad WWE tenure that saw him become a laughingstock on the WWE ECW program due to bad promos and a weight gain. Chris Harris went from the star of tomorrow into a guy that completely fell off the map following the name change to Braden Walker.
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