WWE is a form of sports entertainment, and that means that every wrestler on the show portrays a character. These characters are decided by the star themselves with the help of the backstage creative team and often WWE allows the star to choose their own name.
Many wrestlers decide to change their ring name completely because it then allows them to be a different person altogether, and it also allows WWE to then own the copyright and all the image rights to that name after they leave the company.
Many stars like CM Punk, AJ Styles, and Austin Aries came over from the Independent Circuit with names that they were already famous for, so WWE allowed them to keep them when wrestling for their company. Since CM Punk walked away and WWE realized that they couldn’t actually stop him from performing under that name anywhere else, it was thought that they wouldn’t allow any other star to keep a name that they didn’t own, but it seems that WWE has once again decided to take a gamble.
Others decide to keep their own name, whether it’s because their own name sounds much cooler than a made up name, or because they just don’t want to change it, here are 15 stars who have actually found fame under their given name.
Bill Goldberg is perhaps one of the most famous WWE/WCW wrestlers to have been able to wrestle under his given name. Goldberg was known as Bill Goldberg throughout his career and was actually born William Goldberg, since Bill is just a nickname for William.
Goldberg was at the height of his fame back in the 1990s, and before his return last year, he had filed to step into a WWE ring for more than a decade. Goldberg shockingly returned at Survivor Series last year and destroyed Brock Lesnar in record time to set up what could well be a show-stealing match between the duo at WrestleMania next month.
14. Brock Lesnar
The Beast Incarnate, and the conqueror of The Undefeated Streak of The Undertaker, has become a huge star in WWE over the past few years, mostly because he has been on an undefeated streak of his own.
Brock managed to go almost three years without being pinned, which saw him become the longest reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion before he was pinned by Goldberg at Survivor Series last year. Brock has been on one hell of a run and it is thought that he will finally be allowed to extract the revenge he deserves at WrestleMania in less than four weeks time.
13. Mark Henry
The World’s Strongest Man was crowned with that achievement back in 2002 and came into WWE as a well-known athlete already. It is thought that this is why WWE decided to allow him to keep his real name and become quite well known in the company for it.
Mark Henry is a former World Champion and has been dominating the competition for well over a decade. He may not be at the top of the card in WWE right now, but he will always be a threat to any opponent that he steps in the ring with, which makes him both dangerous and useful to WWE after so many years.
12. Randy Orton
Randy Orton and John Cena are two of the biggest stars that WWE have created over the past generation and there is a reason why. Orton is a third generation wrestler and he came to WWE along with his father, Bob Orton, and has since proved that wrestling is very much in his blood.
Orton has managed to stay relevant in WWE for the past 15 years and this year shockingly won the Royal Rumble for the second time. Orton is now set to go on to WrestleMania to face the leader of The Wyatt Family, in what will be a brutal showdown between two former friends.
11. Mick Foley
The Hardcore Legend himself and the current General Manager of Monday Night Raw, Mick Foley has been around WWE for the past few decades and he has made quite a name for himself under his real name.
It is unknown why WWE allowed Mick to keep his real name in an era where most stars were named after inanimate objects, like “The Rock” – but they allowed it, and he has since gone on to become a cult hero amongst wrestling fans. Last year he was given his own reality show on the WWE Network.
10. Brian Kendrick
Brian Kendrick is a former Cruiserweight Champion and he has been around WWE for many, many years. Kendrick was part of the original Cruiserweight Division back in the early 2000s and is even a former Tag Team Champion, alongside Paul London.
Brian was released from the company a few years ago but has still continued to wrestle and was even called in to help train Eva Marie when she decided that she wanted to be serious about her wrestling career. Kendrick was then selected as part of the Cruiserweight Classic last year and then resigned to WWE. He now appears on the Raw brand and 205 Live under his real name.
9. Rich Swann
Another former Cruiserweight Champion and a superstar who made a name for himself before he was signed to WWE. Swann has an emotional backstory when it comes to getting into wrestling and his reasons behind it, and this was used in his early WWE career.
He was chosen to compete in the Cruiserweight Classic alongside 16 other superstars who weighed less than 205 pounds before he was then signed to WWE. Rich went on the become only the third Cruiserweight Champion after TJ Perkins and Brian Kendrick, and still remains a huge part of the Cruiserweight division.
Maryse is one of a long list of female wrestlers who came to WWE thanks to the Diva Search. This was a contest that WWE prided themselves on by crowning a winner and offering a contract to a female, usually based solely on her looks.
Maryse was part of the Diva Search and even though she didn’t win, she was signed to a WWE contract and trained to wrestle. Maryse was able to keep her real name and is now a former Divas Champion. She left the company in 2011 to focus on other challenges before she was recently asked to return to valet her husband and former Intercontinental Champion, The Miz. Maryse and her husband are now set for an incredible showdown with Nikki Bella and John Cena at WrestleMania.
7. David Otunga
David Otunga has one of the strangest stories in WWE. He was once part of The Nexus and quite a well-trained technical wrestler before WWE decided to take him off TV. He was then used sparingly for a while with many fans wondering how he had managed to remain with the company for so long.
Following the WWE draft last year, Otunga was added to the SmackDown brand as a commentator, something that many fans have stated was a bad idea. Otunga is not the best commentator by a long shot and it is still unknown as to how he has managed to retain his job for so long. It is thought that if WWE decides to have another budget cut clear out, then Otunga would be at the top of the list.
6. Mauro Ranallo
Another member of WWEs Smackdown Commentary team, Mauro came to WWE as a well known commentator and broadcaster having worked on MMA and UFC shows, as well as a wrestling-related show called After the Bell, alongside Renee Young.
WWE drafted Mauro in after it was made aware that the SmackDown roster needed a fresh voice on commentary and he was the perfect candidate. Mauro has managed to make so much of a difference on the Blue Brand and many of the WWE Universe think that he is the best commentator WWE have ever had. One day, Mauro deserves to make the switch over to Monday Night Raw, but Corey Graves seems to be doing a fantastic job over there right now.
JoJo Offerman joined WWE after she and Eva Marie won the 2013 Diva Search. The duo was then added to the first season of Total Divas while JoJo attempted to train as a wrestler. JoJo was just 19-years-old when she was signed to WWE and was allowed to retain her name because the WWE Universe already knew her from the Diva Search.
JoJo dropped out of Total Divas after the first season and decided to attempt to become a wrestler by training much harder. Sadly, she sustained an injury after only a few training sessions and so WWE decided to allow her to work as an interviewer and ring announcer instead, something that she’s taken to much better. She now announces on Monday Night Raw.
4. Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode is one of the newest additions to WWE’s NXT roster and is the current NXT Champion. He has been known by the name Bobby Roode his entire career and is a former TNA superstar that WWE decided to take a gamble on and sign last year.
The wrestling community already knew Roode under that name, much like they knew AJ Styles and Austin Aries from their TNA days, so WWE allowed Roode to keep the name he has become famous for, considering it is his own name. This means that the company cannot own the copyright to it. Roode has been another name that WWE fans hope to see on the main roster soon, especially since John Cena is rumored to be taking more time away from the company after WrestleMania.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura came to WWE as one of Japan’s biggest stars. The WWE Universe eagerly anticipated his WWE debut where he had a standout match against Sami Zayn. Given that he had been known by this name his entire career and it was one that many fans already knew, it was perhaps easier for WWE to allow The King of Strong Style to retain his real name.
Nakamura has become a huge hit with the WWE Universe and is already a two-time NXT Champion. There are definitely much bigger things to come for Nakamura once he makes his main roster debut in the coming months.
2. Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews hasn’t been in WWE for very long, but he has already left quite the impression. Andrews is a former TNA British Bootcamp Winner and after a brief stint in TNA, he decided to make the switch over to WWE to take part in the first ever WWE UK Championships earlier this year.
Andrews was a semi-finalist in the competition and was then signed by WWE and has recently appeared on an episode of NXT alongside fellow British star Pete Dunne. Andrews has kept his real name throughout his career and it seems that WWE has decided to allow that trend to continue.
1. John Cena
The undisputed face that runs the place, the 16-time World Champion, John Cena has become the biggest star to ever set foot in a WWE ring. Outside of WWE, Cena is known by so many non-wrestling fans for his roles in films, his reality TV exploits, and even as a host of different awards shows.
Cena has always retained his real name, something WWE has allowed him to do from the very beginning. The company themselves have even admitted that they never thought John Cena would become a star the way he has. Cena has worked hard over the past 14 years and proved that he deserves everything that has come his way.