Only in rare cases does WWE allow their performers to use their real names. The most recent example of this is Shinsuke Nakamura. In general, however, most wrestlers are forced to change their name upon signing with WWE so that the company owns the intellectual property rights to it. This prevents the performer from then capitalizing off the name further once leaving WWE.
Wrestling fans tend to dislike this practice but this is one of those cases where the law and this particular industry don't sync well with each other. It goes over even less well when the name in question is "Rhodes" and the performer is the son of Dusty Rhodes.
A strange practice in pro wrestling is that Superstars often call each other by their gimmick names backstage. One wrestler, Adam "Edge" Copeland, rebuked this practice and insisted on being called Adam. He said he did so in order to keep boundaries between his on-screen and off-screen lives.
Wrestling blurs the line between fiction and reality so often that it shouldn't come as a surprise that wrestlers don't even use their real names in their real lives anymore. Sometimes wrestlers, such as Steve Austin and the Ultimate Warrior, even have their names legally changed to stay consistent with their characters.
Here are 20 WWE Superstars and their real names, enjoy.
20 Bray Wyatt - Windham Rotunda
Bray Wyatt was born Windham Lawrence Rotunda. He's the son of Mike Rotunda, aka IRS/Michael Wallstreet. His uncle is Barry Windham, hence the first name Windham.
Bray's brother portrays Bo Dallas on television but was born Taylor Michael Rotunda. His middle name is his Dad's first name. Also in the Rotunda family is Kendall Windham (Bray and Bo's Uncle) and Blackjack Mulligan (their grandfather). How Sister Abigail fits into this is anyone's guess.
Unfortunately for Bray, he is currently going through a divorce right now. Rumors broke earlier this year that he has been involved in a relationship with ring announcer, JoJo. His wife of five years was evidently not pleased with this and the split has been far from amicable. Jojo and Bray are believed to be still together at this point.
19 Apollo Crews - Sesugh Uhaa
Crews started his career under the name Uhaa Nation, a play on his actual last name. His father is from Nigeria but Crews was born and lived his whole life in the United States. On WWE programming he is announced as hailing from Stone Mountain, Georgia, but he was born in Sacramento and now lives in Orlando.
Uhaa was trained by Mr. Hughes, who you might remember as the guy who wrestled in a full suit and sunglasses for a period in WCW. He spent a few years on the indies until taking part in a WWE tryout in late 2014. He was signed immediately and debuted on NXT programming the next summer. The following spring he was called up to the main roster. He only spent a year and a half in the developmental program before debuting on the main roster.
18 Cesaro - Claudio Castagnoli
Cesaro spent the early part of his career wrestling under his real name, Claudio Castagnoli.
The 36-year-old did not have an easy road to WWE. He spent over 11 years on the independents before being signed by the company in 2011. As Claudio Castagnoli, he wrestled in Chikara, Combat Zone Wrestling, and had a six-year run in Ring of Honor. He also did a few tours with Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan and competed on shows for Pro Wrestling Guerilla in California.
When Cesaro debuted on the main roster, he was originally named Antonio Cesaro. In keeping with WWE's tradition of eventually abandoning first or last names, however, it was eventually just shortened to Cesaro. It once looked like WWE was going to push Cesaro but ultimately they have never decided to pull the trigger on him.
17 Jason Jordan - Nathan Everhart
29-year-old Nathan Everhart is better known to wrestling fans as Jason Jordan. He's been with the company for six years but recently he's been placed in a rather poorly received storyline.
Jordan is now being portrayed in storyline as Kurt Angle's long lost son he never knew about. Fans seem to be having trouble getting into the storyline. It's not clear if WWE plans to just bury the angle because of the fan reaction or just keep soldiering on with it. While something as significant as this storyline seems too important to just drop, it might be the best thing for everyone involved. Perhaps after a few weeks, they can show a quick scene with Jason Jordan using the website ancestry.com to learn that Angle never really was his father.
16 Carmella - Leah Van Dale
Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella, was born Leah Van Dale. You can argue she can go by the name of LVD, kind of like RV... okay never mind.
Something few people know about Carmella is that she is a second generation wrestler, just as Charlotte Flair and Natalya are. Carmella's Dad worked as a jobber in the 80s for WWE. He wrestled under the name Paul Van Dale and lost matches to guys like the Big Bossman and even Papa Shango. Despite her dad's influence in her life, Carmella did not go directly into sports entertainment. She worked as a cheerleader for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Lakers. That she used to be a cheerleader for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon's favorite football team probably doesn't hurt her future in the company.
She is not a Staten Island Princess either. Carmella is from Massachusetts and she attended the University of Rhode Island.
15 Sami Zayn - Rami Sebei
Kevin Owen's Guardian Angel, Sami Zayn, was born to the name Rami Sebei in Laval, Quebec, Canada. His family is from Syria, though Sami was born and raised in Canada.
For years, Sami had gone by the name "El Generico" in Ring of Honor and other top independent promotions. The El Generico gimmick involved Sami wearing a mask and pretending to be a generic luchador who didn't speak English. Fans knew he was just a guy from Canada, but went along with his shenanigans nonetheless.
WWE wanted Sami to be unmasked so his Generico gimmick never made it's way to NXT. Instead, the company saw Sami as a potential next Daniel Bryan. Now it seems Sami has turned his back on the WWE Universe in order to further his career by aligning with Kevin Owens.
14 Rusev - Miroslav Barnyashev
On the first-ever "Rusev Day", the 32-year-old Bulgarian's parents named him Miroslav Barnyashev. He might be the first "Foreign Menace" in WWE history to have a more intimidating real name than gimmick name.
Growing up in Bulgaria, Rusev was a power-lifter and a rower. He moved to the United States as a young adult with the goal of becoming a professional wrestler. He was trained by Gangrel and Rikishi and would toll away on the independents for a few years before signing with WWE in 2010.
Rusev suffered a neck injury early in his developmental career which put him on the shelf for all of 2012. Not long after he returned from injury that year, his real-life partner, Lana, became his on-screen social media ambassador. They were both called up to the main roster in early 2014.
13 Jinder Mahal - Yuvraj Dhesi
31-year-old Jinder Mahal was born to the name Yuvraj Singh Dhesi. He is the nephew of the Great Gama Singh, a heel who worked a similar gimmick for years.
While he is portrayed as being from India, Jinder was actually born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His family's roots are from India, however, and WWE has been quick to play up this fact to the company's Indian fans. Jinder's uncle had worked as the leader of "Karachi Vice" in the Hart Family's Stampede Wrestling in Calgary for years.
Recently Jinder defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to successfully defend his WWE championship at Hell in a Cell 2017. Not including live events or dark matches, it was Jinder's sixth straight successful title defense.
12 New Day - Ettore Ewen, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, & Austin Watson
The New Day is making a play to be the greatest Tag Team Champions in WWE history. They have surpassed Demolition's record for longest Tag Team Championship reign in history and they have still only been a team for a little over three years.
Big E's real name is Ettore Ewen, so his gimmick name has some relation to his real name. Kofi Kingston's real name is Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, but he was given the last name Kingston upon debuting when WWE had him working a Jamaican gimmick. Xavier Woods, who had wrestled previously as Consequences Creed, was born Austin Watson. Woods actually went to the same high school as Cody Rhodes. Yes folks, it is in fact a very small world.
11 Elias - Jeffrey Sciullo
Who wants to walk with Jeffrey Sciullo?!
The 29-year-old has been with WWE since 2014. He began his career six years earlier wrestling under the name Logan Shulo. He was signed in early 2014 and would make his debut on NXT television just a few months later under the name Elias Samson.
For his first year with company Elias mainly worked as a jobber on NXT programming. Two summers ago he was given the gimmick of a traveling drifter and his career took off from there. Although his character was never given too many top storylines while in NXT, he did enough to show he could portray the character on the main roster. It is said that Vince McMahon is a big fan of the drifter character, so don't expect the company to part ways with Elias anytime soon.
10 A.J. Styles - Allen Jones
Allen Neal Jones is better known to wrestling fans as A.J. Styles. He's wrestled for most of his 20-year career under the A.J. Styles name. The name is obviously a take on his actual initials and the name Styles was given just to liven up his gimmick name.
For most of his career, A.J.'s persona has just been that he's a really good wrestler. Styles had still only been in the business a few years when he joined the inaugural roster of TNA Wrestling. He would be with the company for 11 years.
Following his departure from TNA, Styles embarked on a two-year long run in Japan that launched his career to the next level. Although he still hasn't been in the company two years, Styles is already a former WWE Champion.
9 Bayley - Pamela Martinez
The colorful and popular character of Bayley is portrayed by the San Jose native Pamela Rose Martinez. The 28-year-old wrestled under the name Davina Rose on the independent scene for four years before signing with WWE in 2012. Bayley didn't waste any time getting into wrestling. Much like her on-screen and backstage friend, Sasha Banks, Bayley was only 18 years old when she made her professional debut. She wrestled for both Shine and Shimmer, the two major independent promotions for female wrestlers in theUnited States. Bayley credits Shimmer alumni and Mae Young Classic competitor, Serena Deeb, as serving as her mentor earlier in her career.
Bayley debuted in NXT under a mask but would quickly take on the Bayley name and gimmick not long after. She spent four years in NXT before being called up in 2016.
8 Alexa Bliss - Alexis Kaufman
26-year-old former cheerleader, Alexis Kaufman, became Alexa Bliss after signing with WWE in 2013.
Unlike many others signed to WWE developmental at the time, Bliss did not spend any time on the independent wrestling scene. Already an accomplished athlete, she was a competitive cheerleader at a Division I school. Much like Dana Brooke, Bliss also took part in bodybuilding and has competed in the Arnold Classic. This was most likely where she was scouted by WWE.
From 2013 to 2016, Bliss competed in NXT but was mainly a valet for the Blake and Murphy tag team. After being called up to SmackDown in 2016, Bliss got over with fans and eventually won the SmackDown Women's Championship. She's never looked back and currently, she is the Raw Women's Champion. For someone who was not as highly touted coming out of NXT as others, Bliss has done incredibly well for herself.
7 Seth Rollins - Colby Lopez
31-year-old Colby Lopez is better known to wrestling fans as Seth Rollins. One might assume that Rollins has Latino heritage with the last name Lopez but that is actually not the case. Rollins' background is Irish and Armenian, but his mother married his step-father who helped raise the future WWE Champion. Rollins took his last name and said he ate a lot of Mexican food growing up but doesn't speak Spanish.
Rollins' father was Armenian but he does not appear to have a close relationship with his biological dad.
As of this writing, Rollins and his fellow Shield members have just reunited on Raw. Rollins and Ambrose are the current Tag Team Champions for the brand. Rollins is in his prime years, so as long as he can stay healthy, he should win quite a few more championships before his career is done.
6 Samoa Joe - Nuufolau Seanoa
Evidently, Nuufolau Seanoa wanted to pick an easier name for people to remember when he changed his name to Samoa Joe. "Joe" appears to have been something of a nickname for the now 38-year-old from Orange County. He's only ever used the ring-names Samoa Joe, Joe Seanoa, and King Joe.
Joe's family began a Polynesian dance troupe in Orange County when Joe was just a kid. That was how the family made money as Joe grew up during the 1980s.
He competed in football and judo while a high school student. After high school, he went to wrestling school and hit the independents. In 2002, he began his tenure with Ring of Honor and the rest is history. Joe would also be a big part of TNA during some of the promotion's more successful years. His feud with Kurt Angle is often considered the greatest angle in company history.
5 Roman Reigns - Leati Anoa'i
32-year-old Leati Joseph Anoa'i is better known to wrestling fans as Roman Reigns. He's used the name Roman Reigns ever since signing with the company in 2010. He played professional and college football under the Anoa'i name, however.
WWE doesn't like to have their performers using their own names as they're not able to patent them. Now if Roman Reigns ever leaves the company, he wouldn't be able to use the Roman Reigns name. In this case, however, his real name would make a far more intriguing ring name.
That Roman is a member of arguably the largest wrestling dynasty on the planet is sometimes overlooked because his name doesn't sound all that Samoan. Perhaps fans would find it easier to get behind Leati Anoa'i than they would Roman Reigns.
4 Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows - Chad Allegra and Andrew Hankinson
There's a couple of good brothers in WWE named Chad Allegra and Andrew Hankinson. You probably know them better as Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, however.
37-year-old Chad Allegra has used the Karl Anderson name for most of his career. The moniker was suggested to him based on his appearance resembling the members of the fictional Anderson wrestling family. Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and even CW Anderson all were bald with a goatee. To further pay homage to his gimmick family, Anderson also uses a spinebuster in his offensive arsenal, just like Arn Anderson used to do during his in-ring career.
Andrew Hankinson is better known as Luke Gallows but he has wrestled under plenty of names before. Doc Gallows, DOC, Festus, and Imposter Kane are all different gimmicks Hankinson has performed under.
3 Finn Balor - Fergal Devitt
36-year-old Fergal Devitt is better known to WWE fans as Finn Balor. He wrestled most of his career under the name Prince Devitt, including for New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was while in NJPW that Devitt, along with Bad Luck Fale, Karl Anderson, and Tama Tonga, founded the Bullet Club.
Devitt would only change his name when he signed to NXT and the company wanted to have full rights to the name he used on their programming.
As of this writing, Balor is in his second full year on the main roster, having lost most of his first after being sidelined with a shoulder injury. WWE could use some new good guys at the top of the roster so hopefully, Balor will remain relatively injury free over the next few years.
2 Dean Ambrose - Jonathan Good
Cincinnati-native, Dean Ambrose, was born Jonathan David Good in 1985. He's wrestled under the names Jon Moxley and Moxley Moxx as well.
Ambrose went seven years on the independents before being signed by WWE in 2011. He didn't take it easy on the indie scene either. Ambrose even competed in Combat Zone Wrestling, the promotion that has kept hardcore wrestling alive the last decade and a half.
Nowadays, Ambrose lives with his wife, Renee Young, in Las Vegas. He is said to be a very private person and rarely uses social media. As of this writing, Ambrose has just reunited with his brothers in the Shield and he's feuding with the likes of The Miz (yes, still). He is only the eighth wrestler in WWE history to win the company's Grand Slam championship; a former WWE Champion, Intercontinental, Tag Team and United States Champion.
1 Braun Strowman - Adam Scherr
34-year-old Braun Strowman has had a breakthrough year on Raw. His rivalry and series of matches with Roman Reigns has turned the former member of the Wyatt Family into one of the hottest acts on WWE programming.
Born Adam Joseph Scherr, aka Braun Strowman is a former competitive strongman and signed with WWE four years ago. He began competing in strongman competitions in 2011 where he was scouted by WWE. In total, he won seven strongman competitions over his short two-year career in the sport. In 2013, he transitioned to a career in pro wrestling when he reported to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. In 2015, Strowman made his debut on the main roster as a member of the Wyatt Family.
Strowman's father is Rick Scherr, who some consider the best slow pitch softball player of all time.