What is in a name? For wrestlers, the name that they go by can truly make them or break them. When you look at the superstars of today, and you see the ones that have truly stood the test of time, they all seem to have one thing in common. Their names. Throughout history in professional wrestling, many people have changed their names and their gimmicks over time. But then there are the select few that have had the same name stay with them over the entirety of their careers. Today, I’m going to explore with you, what is in a name.
There are a lot of things that go into a name. For a wrestler, one of the goals is to find one that really resonates with fans. A name should be one that is easy for fans to remember. And you should try to ensure that it sticks out. Ric Flair is the perfect example of this. When you think about Ric Flair, you think of greatness. Whether it was through his matches, or his promos, the way he looked, the way he dressed. When someone says Ric Flair, immediately, even if you are not a wrestling fan, you can picture the blond hair, the glittery robe and can even possibly hear his trademark WOOOOO!!! The same can be said for people like Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, John Cena and The Rock.
Let’s look at Hulk Hogan. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many people in my lifetime. And during those conversations, I’ve brought up professional wrestling. It didn’t matter if the person I was speaking to was a fan or not, when I talked about what is going on currently in the world of wrestling, there is a good percentage of time where a person will nod and be supportive and then I always hear “hey, is Hulk Hogan still wrestling?” Fan or not, his name resonates with people. One could say it is because he ventured into other types of entertainment. Hollywood for example. You look at someone like John Cena, and the same could be said. But there are reasons why these stars have stood the test of time.
It is my belief that they are masters at selling not only their craft, but themselves as well. Everyone who grew up in the 80’s knows about the training the prayers and the vitamins. Or the 24 inch pythons. Hulk was everywhere and he was a symbol of hope for millions. Let’s look at The Undertaker. Upon his debut in the WWF in 1990, not everyone knew who he was, but the one thing that fans can agree on is that he STOOD OUT. And after his debut, you wanted to know more. Fast forward to today, and he is still one of the most well known grapplers that the business has ever seen. He has also gone to great lengths to keep himself fresh.
Then there is The Rock. A man that for years honed his craft and his gimmick and who was eventually given the freedom to truly show his personality. Some would say that his promos were second to none. And now he is in the upper echelon of wrestling personalities.
This brings me to my next topic. The Monday Night Wars. Throughout the majority of the 1990’s, fans were torn between the then World Wrestling Federation, and a company based in Atlanta Georgia, World Championship Wrestling. Several of the WWF Superstars would make the jump to the rival company as it’s president, Eric Bischoff would vie to yank ratings from WWF head Vince McMahon.
The biggest difference during this time between the two companies, is that the WWF was focused on character driven, somewhat campy storylines, while WCW attempted to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. This would remain the case until early 1997 when WWF would usher in the Attitude Era and ultimately overtake WCW as the top company in the world at that time.
Now, as more and more stars from WWF made the decision to jump ship, perhaps the two biggest stars at the time being a man known to WWF fans as Razor Ramon, and a man known as Diesel. But when they debuted for World Championship Wrestling, they simply went by their real names, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. This again, was in an effort to blur the lines of reality, as the higher ups in WCW wanted so much to get away from the campy, cartoony direction of their competitor and instead, present a more real product.
Before I delve into my next point, I should put up a disclaimer. In no way am I attempting to get heat for anything within this article, so if you take offense, it is not my intention. That being said, when the two men now known as Hall and Nash made their presence known down in Atlanta, there was a huge difference between them, and the stars of today who attempt to use their real names in the business. If you were a fan during the Monday Night Wars, EVERYONE knew who Hall and Nash were, because for years prior, they spent time in high profile matches, associating with high profile people. So when they showed up on the rival program, there was no need to rebrand, no need to explain. And WCW accomplished what they set out to accomplish with the shock of OH WOW, that’s Razor and Diesel!!! Hall would even point this out in his first televised promo saying “You know who I am, but you don’t know why I’m here.” My point? When done properly, with the right people, you can make the switch and use your real name, and still remain relevant and become more well known than when under a moniker. For Hall and Nash, this worked.
There are some wrestlers today, who have attempted to do this. But have gone about it completely in the wrong way. The blame, could be placed onto the importance of social media. Back in the 90’s you didn’t have things like Facebook, or Twitter. And in the case of some, I think they should have kept the moniker instead of trying to make a statement. One of these people is Impact Knockouts Champion, Jordynne Grace.
Grace is one of the most impressive female competitors currently on the Impact Roster. She has worked hard from the indies, all the way to where she is now. When you talk about Impact Wrestling, you usually hear her name being brought up on more than one occasion. She caused quite a stir a few months back however when she took to twitter and changed her handle from the name that everyone knew, to her real name.
I am unsure as to the reasoning behind her decision to do this, but from a personal standpoint, I think that whatever it was, completely backfired on her. I think the main reason for her making the change was as stated above to make a statement. The problem was, at the time, her name wasn’t big enough for anyone to really take notice. The ones who did, especially those within the business that were following her on the site, publicly stated that they had to take a second look and even considered unfollowing her, thinking that they had followed a fan by mistake. This folks is a case of thinking that you are bigger than you actually are.
Under her moniker, fans and wrestlers alike knew who Jordynne Grace was. It was a name that she had worked hard to brand and to make people take notice of her undeniable talent. But under her real name, fans and wrestlers alike, as evident from several twitter replies while she was making her albeit misguided statement, had no idea what her real name was and that she was in fact Jordynne Grace, the wrestler. This is the perfect example of your name, making or breaking you. One could argue, that stars such as Dolph Ziggler and Zack Ryder have also made the switch on Twitter to their real names. But the difference between those two men and Grace, is that because of their years within a nationally known wrestling company, they can do this and most educated fans still know who they are, because their names and more specifically their monikers have MADE THEM. Jordynne Grace’s name has not been in the national spot light for what some would say longer than a cup a coffee. Thus, her choice to make the switch to her real name may have proven to be premature.
Whether you feel that a wrestler using his or her real name takes away from the mystique of pro wrestling, or if you enjoy the realism aspect of a star with their given name, any way you look at it, if you’re in the business or if you are a fan, take a look at some of your favorites, or your inspirations for becoming a pro wrestler, or manager or a promoter, and you’ll see just how important it is to ask yourself, what is in a name.
Once again this has been The Magnificent Mind, my name, is Too Magnificent Nicky Martin, and I always get, the last laugh.