As fans of professional wrestling, we are trained from the get-go to believe everything we see is real. From the way the wrestlers feel about each other, to the moves they do, everything is supposed to be taken as real life.
However, as we get older and learn that the action isn't real, we begin to crave the exact opposite. We want to know the behind-the-scenes story lines, the rumors of what's around the corner and we want even more insight into the wrestler's lives. We turn into some weird oxymoron monster: We watch the product and ingest it as if it's real, but we pride ourselves on knowing about everything which makes it fake.
The level of transparency in wrestling is always muddled. The dirt sheets are saying one thing, then the product does the other, which causes the dirt sheets to pivot, and the cycle starts all over again. While the storylines may change, and the truth behind them may never come out, one thing we can be certain of is who these people are outside of the ring.
You can change the winner of Money in the Bank at the last minute, but you can't change who a person is born as. Therefore, here are the REAL NAMES of 20 of your favorite wrestlers -- a fact you can count on.
20 Roman Reigns -- Leati Joseph "Joe" Anoa'i
As one of the most controversial superstars in recent memory, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion on Roman Reigns. His most recent run has been rocky at best, and based on his name, “rocky” is the perfect word to use. Reigns is a member of one of the long-standing Anoa’i wrestling dynasty, which boasts the likes of Rakishi, the Usos and, most famously, The Rock.
The Rock had to overcome some pretty strong hate when he first came into the WWE, which could give Reigns some hope that he can live up to his family name in more ways than one. Reigns of course, also had a football background like The Rock, which is probably why Vince seems so obsessed with him.
19 Emma -- Tenille Averil Dashwood
Despite her history of injuries, and her troubled past, Emma continues to be a fan favorite who gets major pops every time she makes a return. Her real name came to light following her arrest after a mishap at Walmart where she was mistaken for shoplifting an i-Pad case, when in fact it was just a mishap at the self checkout line.
Anyway, fans still love her, and it stands to reason that, with a complicated name such as Tenille Dashwood, Emma chose her name to be simpler and more straightforward. “Emma” also provides a slight change for her as it marks only the second time in her career she’s wrestled as anyone other than Tenille. She went by the stage name “Valentine” once upon a time.
18 Finn Balor -- Fergal Devitt
If you’ve seen any behind-the-scenes videos on Balor, you know that he’s a guy who loves his family. When it comes to wrestling, he hasn’t sacrificed that one bit. Before he was known as Finn Balor in WWE, he used his real-life last name and was called “Prince Devitt” in NJPW. Once he came to WWE, and they required him to create his stage name, he relied on the mythology of his native Ireland to help. However, new talents that go to WWE typically have to change their names, because WWE likes to own the names of the stars.
Finn is from the legendary hunter Finn McCool, and Balor is based on the King of the Fomorians, an ancient ruler of mythological creatures.
17 Sami Zayn -- Rami Stephen Sebei
For a guy who used to wrestle under the name “El Generico” Sami sure has a real name that’s anything but. By using the first letter of his real-life middle and last name, and the rest of the letters of his first name, he was able to create his WWE stage name. You’ll also notice his last name has a distinct middle eastern origin to it.
Sami was born to Canadian-Syrian immigrants and is a practicing Muslim, which explains the Arabic writing on his ring gear. Zayn joked in an interview on Talk Is Jericho that when he was starting in NXT he wanted an Arab name, but one that wouldn't sound too foreign to American audiences. He jokingly said he came up with Sami Zayn, because it's 'an undercover Arab name'.
16 Bayley -- Pamela Rose Martinez
Everyone’s favorite San Jose-born hugger has a much more exotic real name than her generic stage name would suggest. Born Pamela Rose Martinez, Bayley joins a host of wrestlers who most are surprised to learn have hispanic origins. Other wrestlers with hispanic backgrounds include the Bella Twins (real names Brianna and Nicole Garcia) and current WWE Superstar Seth Rollins (real name Colby Lopez). The WWE has never really played up to Bayley's hispanic background, perhaps because Bayley has stumbled on a gimmick that has worked so well for her in her WWE tenure. You have to think that at some point, she'll need to reinvent herself to stay in WWE a long time and perhaps that is when she will delve into other aspects of her background.
15 Dalton Castle -- Bret Giehl
Before he adopted the boys and became a staple of ROH, Dalton Castle was known as amateur wrestling champion Brett Giehl. He was a prolific amateur and NCAA wrestler and even represented the USA in wrestling world championships. If being Brett Giehl the amateur wrestler wasn’t enough, he could be found on New York’s airwaves as DJ “The Giehl”. Once he became a professional wrestler, he adopted the name Dalton Castle and never looked back. There is no word yet on the real name for the boys.
Castle has been linked to join WWE for quite some time, as have many other independent talents, and if he does join the WWE, you wonder if the company would let him keep the Dalton Castle name or if they would want something entirely new.
14 Samoa Joe -- Nuufolah Joel Seanoa
It’s a running joke in some WWE circles that when a Samoan wrestler is mentioned, they’re inevitably part of the Anoa’i family and thus related to The Rock or, as we learned previously, Roman Reigns. However, with the name Nuufolah Joel Seanoa, Samoa Joe is the rare exception. Joe is many things: a brawler, a destroyer, a champion and a fighter, but part of the world-famous Anoa’i family he is not. A big hint that he's not related should have been the fact that WWE chose not to sign him for such a long time. As we've seen with the Anoa'i family, it seems everybody remotely related to them gets a shot in WWE at a young age. If Joe was a member of the family, the WWE surely wouldn't have waited until his late 30s to sign him.
13 Enzo and Cass -- Eric Anthony Arendt and Will "Bill" Morrissey
We know they recently split, but it hurt so much, we're not ready to split them up on our lists. Anyway, the (now former) tag team’s east coast roots are as real as their names. Eric Anthony Arendt took his Italian heritage to the next level when he created his Enzo Amore character for NXT.
Big Cass began his wrestling career the same way anyone with the real name “Bill Morrissey” would -- as a cowboy. However, once that fizzled, he met up with Enzo, changed his name to Colin Cassidy and embraced his own east-coast-Italian roots. How you doin?
We'll have to see how the duo now does on their own. They got over as a team, but getting over as singles stars is an entirely different animal.
12 Charlotte -- Ashley Elizabeth Fliehr
Charlotte’s father, Ric, is arguably one of the most famous wrestlers in history. He also wrestlers under his real name (not counting changing the spelling) and frequently talks about his love for The Queen City of Charlotte. Therefore, when a wrestler debuts as “Charlotte Flair, the daughter of Ric” you’d assume she would wrestle under her real name as well. In this case, you’d be wrong.
Instead of going with her birth name of Ashley and following directly in her father’s footsteps, she decided to go with her birth city instead. Long live the queen. In any event, the name works perfectly for her as it sounds cool and still pays homage to her family legacy of ruling over The Queen City.
11 The New Day -- Austin Watson, Ettore Ewen, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah
Don’t you dare be sour! Prepare for your longest reigning champs to have character names inspired by their own. With a real name like “Ettore Ewen” you would almost expect Big E to go by Big EE, but combining them into one giant E also suits the former power lifter.
And when it comes to last names, you have to give Kofi credit for going with “Kingston” instead of the longer Sarkodie-Mensah. Whether he’s billed from Jamaica or his home in Ghana, Kofi has used Kingston his entire career.
Austin Watson’s “Xavier Woods” name was actually not inspired by a video game, bur rather his original character in NXT as a manager. After transitioning to a full-time wrestler, he decided to keep it.
10 Adam Cole -- Austin Jenkins
As another wrestler with just a normal enough name for you to think it’s his real name, Austin Jenkins has been using the name “Adam Cole” since the beginning of his career (other than small period of time he went as Adam Carelle). It makes you wonder, does he prefer to go as “Austin Jenkins Bay-Bay!” in real life? His name aside, Cole has been one of the best talents in the world for quite some time. He's right up there with names like Kenny Omega that fans have wanted to see in WWE for quite some time. The WWE has been raiding talents from various indie promotions so you have to think that at some point the WWE is going to make a real push to sign him.
9 Sexy Star -- Dulce Maria García Rivas
Known as one of the most hardcore wrestlers in the business today, Dulce certainly lives up to her name “star”. She’s been a winner in every promotion she’s ever been a part of, including being the first woman to win the Lucha Underground championship. And her winning ways aren’t tied only to the squared circle, but to the boxing ring as well. Ms. Rivas is currently undefeated as a professional boxer. The WWE has been gathering names for the May Young classic tournament taking place this summer but it seems her commitments might keep her out of the tournament. She did attend the WWE's HOF ceremony earlier this year though, so perhaps some negotiations took place that weekend.
8 Rey Mysterio Jr. -- Oscar Gutierrez
Whether it’s in his native Mexico, in WCW, WWE or Lucha Underground, Rey Mysterio is a wrestling legend. And even though he’s a luchador, his name is just normal enough for many to think it’s his name outside the mask as well. For Oscar Gutierrez this isn’t the case. His famous name, and mask, were gifted to him from his Uncle, one of Oscar’s wrestling heroes. Proud to carry on the Rey Mysterio name, Gutierrez continues to make an impact on the business wherever he goes. To his fans though, he's always known as Rey Mysterio, particularly because his name is linked to his uncle, who wrestled as Rey Misterio in Mexico. In his 40s, you have to think Mysterio will soon become Gutierrez.
7 Johnny Mundo -- John Randall Hennigen
Whether he’s Johnny Nitro, Morrison or Mundo, John Hennigen is always going by his first name. He’s the winner of WWE Tough Enough III and a former champion in WWE, AAA and Lucha Underground. We once saw him in WWE as a guy who could eventually be a top main eventer but he never quite took that next step. He's thriving on the indies right now and he hasn't ruled out an eventual return to the WWE. He’s most known for his background in parkour, which gave Hennigen the core strength and conditioning to be one of the most athletic wrestlers in the business today. He's been doing great in Lucha Underground and you have to think WWE will take notice of him again at some point.
6 Braun Strowman -- Adam Joseph Sherr
After having very little exposure on NXT television and house shows, Strowman made his debut as the muscle of the Wyatt family. However, before he was the Monster Among Men in WWE, he was Adam Sherr, monster among men in real life. Adam has an impressive strongman career, winning multiple championships at different levels. While he never had the title of World’s Strongest Man like Mark Henry did, he is certainly in the running for the strongest member of the main roster.
Strowman has undoubtedly been one of the most improved performers on the roster in the past year, as he's been getting cheers despite being a heel. Then again, it could be because he's feuded primarily with Roman Reigns, the biggest unofficial heel.
5 Alexa Bliss -- Alexis Kaufman
The first (and currently only) woman to win the championship on both the Raw and SmackDown brands has an interesting stage name that’s both reflective of her real life name, and original character. Transitioning from Alexis to Alexa was probably an easy transition for the women’s division superstar, easier than transitioning from her original character.
Alexa Bliss was originally a pixie-style face who wore wings and blew glitter as “glitter, glitz, sparkle, bliss” came across her titantron. A far cry from the snide heel she is today. She has come an incredibly long way as a performer and the name Bliss works perfectly for her. She's going to lead the RAW brand for the foreseeable future.
4 Nia Jax -- Savelina Fanene
Remember what we said earlier about anybody being related to the Anoa'i' family seemingly getting a shot in the WWE? Nia Jax didn't have much wrestling training, but got a contract and she's come a long way. While most Samoan wrestlers boast that they’re a cousin of The Rock, it’s usually from a distance, such as being a third or fourth cousin (even “removed” sometimes). But Savelina is a rare case of being a direct cousin to Dwayne Johnson. The Rock’s mother is Savelina’s aunt. But being related to The Rock isn’t her only claim to fame. Prior to becoming a WWE Superstar, Fanene was an accomplished bodybuilder and model. You have to wonder if WWE is ever going to play up her bloodline as part of her character.
3 Dean Ambrose -- John David Good
Until he got to WWE, Ambrose had it easy. All of this characters shared his first name of John, most notably going as John Moxley in CZW. He was given the name Dean Ambrose as he was signed to WWE developmental brand FCW (later NXT). WWE superstars get to have input on their character names, however, in Good’s case, he simply didn’t care. He was given Dean Ambrose and went with it. Perhaps though he hasn't cared enough, as his character has seemingly regressed in the past year. He hasn't taken part in any notable, memorable feuds since his lackluster match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. Ambrose has to find that crazy factor that made his character so appealing to begin with.
2 The Young Bucks -- Matt and Nick Jackson
As one of the most famous and outspoken tag teams in the world, it comes as only a slight surprise that the two are, in fact, real life brothers. Matt and Nick Jackson join the likes of The Hardys as brothers-as-tag team champions. The brothers are also famously known for never appearing on WWE television...or have they? If you remember the time a fake Triple H and Shawn Michaels came to the ring in the 2000s for a comedy segment, they just may look familiar... Anyway, the WWE has tried to sign the Young Bucks before, but they've kept slipping away, saying they're making quite a bit of money on the indie scene and wouldn't want to be tied down by a WWE schedule.
1 Sheamus -- Stíofán Ó Fearghaile
If you couldn’t tell Sheamus’s Irish heritage by his look, name, entrance theme or accent, you can certainly tell by his name. Generally going by Stephen Farrelly in real life, Sheamus maintains a connection to his roots by also recognizing his traditional Irish name. Unlike some of his Irish peers, Farrelly is fluent in Irish and once worked as an IT technician. He came into WWE and earned a break partly because he and Triple H were pretty tight, but his staying power has been quite impressive, as he's quietly been under WWE contract for about a decade now.
Now nearing his 40s, we wonder how much longer Sheamus will be a mainstay on the WWE roster, seeing as how he's not really used in the main event anymore.