It’s rare when a major wrestler joining WWE is allowed to use the name they once had. Part of it is legal reasons and how WWE prefers to own the names of the worker for merchandising and promotion.
Another is that Vince McMahon prefers to put his own stamp on things. Some stars can circumvent this rebranding, with A.J. Styles notably keeping his own name when he joined the company. But even major indie stars like Kevin Steen, Tyler Black, and El Generico had to become Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and Sami Zayn when joining WWE.
WWE’s creative team is paid top dollar to try and come up with names that will appeal to fans and win major approval. Which is amazing when so many of their attempts are absolutely horrible. The list of horrific names for great workers is large (2 Cold Scorpio into Flash Funk for example) as WWE keeps trying to make dumb names stick.
Yet every now and then, they come up with a moniker so horrible that the wrestler themselves put their foot down and refuse it. Time has proven them right in how these names would have hurt them majorly. Here are 10 of the dumbest names future WWE stars were once pitched to show how different their careers could have been.
10 Vader: Mastodon
Big Van Vader is already one of the coolest names a wrestler can possibly have. Even without the Star Wars confusion, it fit Leon White perfectly with his great strength and ability to crush opponents by taking off the ropes. Leave it to Vince McMahon to think he could improve on it. When Vader joined WWE in 1996, Vince wanted to name him “the Mastodon” for his size and strength.
Vader pointed out no one would take him seriously and went by his older name. Yet Vince insisted on calling him “the Mastodon” in almost every Vader match in a vain attempt to make the name stick.
9 Bayley: Davia
Bayley has proven herself in WWE, rising from the cheerful hugger in NXT to a wicked heel champion and impressing with her ring work. She had started off in NXT as a masked luchador, a gimmick that thankfully didn’t last long. Some of the original choices for her name were generic titles like Jennifer and Sally but the weirdest was Davia.
It means “beloved” which would fit her original character but Bayley just found it dumb. So she suggested “Bailey” and just changing the spelling. Given her current heel persona, the original name wouldn’t have worked at all.
8 Neville: Ripley Bishop
“The Man Gravity Forgot” had a good career in WWE as the first NXT tag team champions, NXT champ and then a star of the reborn Cruiserweight division. That’s impressive given the bad names he could have had. Originally, WWE wanted to call him Ripley Bishop which sounds like someone who was a huge fan of the movie “Aliens.”
Worse was a rumor suggesting Neville would go by “The Mighty Neville,” and that he would wear a full-fledged superhero costume. However, the wrestler did say these rumors were false.
7 Great Khali: Lord Shiva
Incredible as it sounds, the Great Khali could have been even worse. When Dalip Singh Rana signed with WWE, he’d been going by the name Giant Singh which sounded too cliche. But then WWE put in worse ideas such as Big Bihma, a character from the Hindu epic “Mahabharata.”
The topper was “Lord Shiva” which is wrong on numerous levels. Not only is Shiva one of the biggest deities of Hindu culture but he’s also a peaceful figure, not a huge monster. Ultimately, they went with the Great Khali and the whole thing makes one wonder about WWE cultural sensitivity meter.
6 Edge & Christian: Riot & Rage
In WCW, Edge had the laughable name of Damon Striker and Sexton Hardcastle in Canada. Joining WWE, he could have been part of a New Midnight Express with Val Venis and thus would have been known as “Adorable Adam.” He avoided that as he and long-time best friend Christian became part of the Brood.
They were briefly going to be called Riot and Rage, which sound like video game characters but that was called off. It’s remarkable how many close calls Adam Copeland had with a name lacking the “edge” that made him a star.
5 Daniel Bryan: Lloyd Boner
Here’s a different spin, as the bad names actually came from the wrestler and WWE turned them down. Bryan Danielson had made a huge name for himself in ROH and most expected the “American Dragon” to do the same in WWE. But he knew WWE likes to own names and thus would need a new moniker.
Bryan threw out a dozen different ideas which included such howlers as Buddy Peacock and Lloyd Boner. Some suspect he put out so many dumb names just to make WWE realize Daniel Bryan was a better pick. If that was his strategy, it worked out to make Bryan a bigger star than ever.
4 Razor Ramon: Shrug Shadow
It’s well known that Vince McMahon is pretty out of it in terms of pop culture. So when the newly hired Scott Hall brought out an act totally based on the movie “Scarface,” Vince thought he had created an original character. That didn’t stop him from interfering with names like Shrug Shadow as he liked a nickname with some alliteration to it.
Hall hated that as he’d felt “Razor” would fit in somehow. “Ramon” was added and soon, one of the biggest stars of the time was born. While Hall became famous under his real name as well, he avoided this bad turn.
3 Steve Austin: Chilly McFreeze
“Stunning” Steve Austin already had a good look and a good name. In WWE, he was saddled with the bad gimmick of the Ringmaster and being Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar champion. Breaking from him, Austin decided to do a new character based on a documentary he saw on serial killers. He shaved his head and went for some “icy” figure.
But WWE creative took that too far by suggesting names more fitting for a (bad) Batman villain such as Chilly McFreeze, Ice Dagger, and Fangy McFrost. Just imagine any of those becoming massive t-shirt sellers.
2 Mankind: Mason the Mutilator
In his first book, Mick Foley had a ball talking about this bit. He’d actually started off in WWE as jobber Jack Foley before gaining fame in WCW and ECW as Cactus Jack. Foley knew that when he joined WWE, they’d want him to have a more intimidating name. The big contender was “Mason the Mutilator.”
In what he calls one of the greatest acting jobs of his career, Mick pretended to like it but suggested maybe the first name could be Mankind instead. By the time he debuted, he’d talked them into dropping the “Mutilator” bit totally to become a major star.
1 HHH: Reginald DuPont Helmsley
After starting out as “Terra Ryzing,” any other name would be an improvement. Jean-Paul Levesque had a French aristocrat character in WCW but that was getting nowhere so he jumped to WWE. His timing was great as Vince McMahon wanted a character meant to mock the snobs of the Greenwich neighborhood Vince had just moved into.
Originally, the name was Reginald DuPont Helmsely but Levesque disliked it just for the stupid middle name. After some talk, it was changed to Hunter Hearst Helmsley which rolled off the tongue much better. Good thing too, as it’s hard to see RDH taking off nearly as well as HHH did.