The name of a wrestler is extremely important when it comes to achieving success on the big stage. Think about it; Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H all sound much more appealing than The Ringmaster, Rocky Maivia and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. You need to grow to accept and view the wrestler by their name and it needs to sound cool enough to work with the character. Unfortunately, not everyone can choose their name or keep the same name throughout their career. The WWE is especially protective of their personas and often want to choose a performer’s name or will own rights to it.
That guarantees the wrestler will not be able to profit off of a character or act that was developed in WWE. If you ever wondered why your favorite stars were under new monikers in WCW, TNA or other promotions following a WWE run, now you know why. Many wrestlers earn their reputations under their most popular name and it’s a tough journey when forced to change. The struggle can be due to the gimmick, name or just timing. We’ll look at that world of momentum going downwards and careers failing. These are the top fifteen wrestlers to flop following a name change.
15. Scotty Goldman (Colt Cabana)
The independent wrestling career of Colt Cabana has always been extremely success. Cabana is known for being the best friend of CM Punk and having highly entertaining matches through the art form of comedy. WWE signed him in 2006 to make his lifelong dream come true but it ended up being the worst thing to happen to his career. Cabana took a pay cut to join WWE developmental and was forced to change his name to Scotty Goldman on the main roster.
If you remember his main roster run, you are a better wrestling fan than most. Scotty Goldman had very few appearances on television and was used primarily as a jobber in the rare appearances. WWE ultimately released him and he went back to the Colt Cabana name on the independent scene. No one could understand the Goldman name and it didn’t help him in the slightest. Luckily, Cabana’s career has been revitalized making good money on smaller shows and hosting his hugely successful weekly podcast.
14. Curtis Axel (Michael McGillicutty)
As the son of Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig, wrestling fans had high hopes for the third generation superstar and WWE signed him at a young age. The bizarre name choice given to him in developmental was Michael McGillicutty. It was puzzling to understand the logic there but he was never positioned high on the card so it never really mattered. The highest level of success under the McGillicutty name was winning the tag titles with David Otunga.
WWE repackaged him in strong form by changing his name to Curtis Axel and having Paul Heyman serve as his manager to find the untapped potential. The new name paid respect to his father and grandfather but it added new expectations. Axel entered a short term feud against Triple H and ended up winning the Intercontinental Championship on Father’s Day in a touching moment. All of the momentum was on his side but Axel tanked and quickly slipped back into irrelevancy. The name change was proven to be all for nothing.
13. Akeem (One Man Gang)
The WWE had an impressive monster heel on the roster with the One Man Gang. We all knew he would never become WWE Champion but he had a great presence to secure a role on the show. One Man Gang served as a credible threat against the likes of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage but he always did the job. WWE decided to make a drastic change by having him embrace the new name and character of Akeem.
Watching any Akeem matches or segments today becomes very awkward with the changes in society. A white man portraying an African and speaking in a stereotypical accent was less offensive back in the 80s and WWE thought it could land success. Fans didn’t buy into it and most recall it among the dumbest gimmicks in wrestling history. It clearly wasn’t his fault but the gimmick was troubling and harmed his career. Akeem changed his name back to One Man Gang for stints in WCW and ECW but the shame of Akeem lived on.
12. V.K. Wallstreet (I.R.S)
The heel work of I.R.S in WWE is often overlooked, but he did a stellar job as a member of Ted DiBiase’s Money Inc. How could you not hate a smug jerk in his shirt and tie reminding you have to pay your taxes? The act was ideal for the midcard and he was arguably the best heel in that tier of the roster. WWE’s battle with WCW was in its early stages and we entered the world of copyrights and trademarks.
WCW could not legally use the I.R.S name but wanted to continue on the character. The name of V.K. Wallstreet debuted in the company portraying a wealthy villain again. Obviously, the VK initials were meant to be an insult towards Vince McMahon, despite there being no reason for him to feel shame there. The character was a flop and could not replicate the success from WWE. WCW eventually changed his name to the more practical Michael Wallstreet and became one of the worst members of the New World Order.
11. Beaver Cleavage (Mosh)
The Attitude Era is met with overwhelmingly positive memories due to nostalgia, but there were many horrible ideas. The Headbangers were a fixture in the WWE tag team picture but Thrasher suffered an injury that forced partner Mosh to go it alone. WWE decided to give him a completely new gimmick and name with the concept of Beaver Cleavage. The concept was meant to be a parody of the old television series Leave it to Beaver.
Beaver’s mother “Mrs. Cleavage” was a part of the act and they showed implications of incest. Wrestling was that ridiculous in the 90s. No performer could have pulled off that character, let alone the name. Fans reacted with apathy and the cringe-worthy experiment ended rather abruptly. WWE changed his name to Chaz and stuck him in a tag team with D’Lo Brown but it was nearly impossible to get past the Beaver Cleavage debacle.
10. The Shark (Earthquake)
Only in pro wrestling can you say The Shark jumped the shark. John Tenta achieved success for WWE in the early 90s as a massive human portraying a villainous monster against the top faces in the company as Earthquake. Hulk Hogan struck a friendship with Tenta and that eventually extended to getting him a deal to join WCW. The company underwent a complete makeover with Hogan as the face of the franchise and his friends like Tenta joined the roster to appease Hulkster.
WCW changed the name of Tenta to The Shark and had him try to portray an actual shark. The look of face paint on his face and a headband saying “ATTACK” on it was comically bad. The Shark ended up drowning with zero momentum as a performer in WCW. Most of his career there featured him in enhancement matches or on secondary shows like Saturday Night. Tenta eventually ditched WCW back for WWE but the time spent as The Shark definitely harmed his overall legacy.
9. Braden Walker (Chris Harris)
Chris Harris showed the potential of becoming a future superstar in the wrestling business during his time in TNA. Everyone views the top TNA stars of that young core as being A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe, Bobby Roode and James Storm due to their success but Harris was right there with them for years. In fact, he looked like he could be an even bigger star than some of those name following classic matches against Storm and Christian Cage.
Like most talents, TNA dropped the ball with Harris and he eventually split from the company heading to the free agent market. WWE tried to stay far away from TNA talent but saw something special in Harris, enough to give him a try on the ECW brand. They changed his name to Braden Walker and his career completely hit rock bottom. Everyone remembers the stint of Walker as an absolute disaster due to awkward promos, disappointing matches and him looking out of shape. Following a WWE release, he went back to the Chris Harris name but his career has not been able to get anywhere near on track.
8. Kenny Dykstra (Kenny)
The Spirit Squad is remembered for being an embarrassing faction of jobbers that were humiliated by Triple H and Shawn Michaels but all five men had great promise. WWE actually thought the five members could blossom into stars, but only Dolph Ziggler was able to accomplish anything past the cheerleading group. Kenny had the most potential at the start and appeared to have the skills to one day become a world champion.
WWE sent the rest of the Spirit Squad back down to developmental but Kenny was renamed Kenny Dykstra as an ode to the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies legend Lenny Dykstra. Kenny was actually paired with main event heels Randy Orton and Edge in a feud against DX and Ric Flair but he stood out as the weak link by a mile. The career of Dykstra went downhill quickly and the once surefire star was released following nothing but mediocrity following the name change.
7. Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio)
ECW was home to popular hardcore wrestling. Everyone remembers Tommy Dreamer, Sandman and Raven being on top of the promotion with their violent matches but 2 Cold Scorpio could be argued as the best in-ring performer in the company’s history. Scorpio delivered unbelievable matches on a nightly basis in Philadelphia during ECW’s early years of big success. His work was impressive enough to get him offered a contract but that was where a name change occurred.
Flash Funk was born and instead of just dazzling the crowd, he portrayed a bizarre dancing pimp character that no one could really figure out. Aside from busting out a sick 450 splash and dancing during his entrance, his WWE tenure as Flash Funk provided little to no success for the talented star. The skills of Scorpio should be remembered today and he could have been the one to revolutionize the game but he was just a footnote in the history of failed WWE name changes.
6. Rellik (Johnny Stamboli)
The late years of WCW featured the company desperately trying to find young talent after relying on old legends, and Johnny Stamboli stood out among the top prospects. Between his impressive physical look and the athleticism, Stamboli found a spot on Nitro in the tag team and hardcore divisions before WCW was bought by Vince McMahon. WWE saw enough potential in Stamboli to bring him over to the company and give him a couple of chances as Johnny the Bull.
Stamboli’s career never bloomed but he always had some level of respect from the viewer. That changed when he made the move to TNA with a new name and character. TNA named him Rellik and introduced him as a creepy horror movie villain trying to terrify his opponents in the ring. Everything involving Rellik was a complete mess but the funniest thing was TNA wanting everyone to know that Rellik spelt backwards was killer. All it did was kill our desires to ever watch Rellik again.
5. Berlyn (Alex Wright)
WCW rarely gave a legitimate opportunity to a young performer looking to move up the card. Alex Wright showed promise as an in-ring worker and personality with his heel character as the dancing fool. Fans enjoyed booing Wright and his matches frequently delivered. Wright likely would have been able to put out classics if booked in a better position. Das Wunderkind failed to become a top guy but he was at least entertaining to watch.
The huge name change to Berlyn signified a completely different character and look. Wright shaved his head into a mohawk and had a darker look. Using his German heritage, Berlyn tried to get the cheap anti-American heat. WCW spent a great deal of time and money in video packages highlighting the Berlyn character but no one cared. The experiment was given up on in quick time and he went back to being the dancing Alex Wright, but with a bald head. A poor name change is always bad but losing your hair for it makes it far worse.
4. Junior Fatu (Rikishi)
The recently inducted WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi had a tremendous career with the company. Rikishi achieved great success during the Attitude Era as one of the most beloved faces as the dancing big man. The problem is an act like this had a shelf life and WWE eventually let him go when there nothing left to get out of him. Rikishi made the move to TNA with the new name of Junior Fatu for obvious legal reasons.
Junior Fatu’s time in TNA was a colossal failure and he had the reputation of one of the older wrestlers treating TNA like a retirement home. Many former WWE stars showed up to collect a paycheck and put very little effort into their performances. Fatu couldn’t recapture the magic of the Attitude Era and actually embarrassed himself. During a promo, he referred to Bobby Roode as Rick Rude showing just how little he paid attention to the product. TNA let him go and he worked part-time on the indies before becoming part of the WWE family again.
3. Kerwin White (Chavo Guerrero)
Many of the WCW cruiserweights and midcarders went on to achieve massive success in WWE but Chavo Guerrero was the exception. The nephew of Eddie Guerrero was an afterthought but fit a role in the lower card for years. WWE tried to change his persona with one of the more offensive gimmicks in recent memory. Chavo changed his name to Kerwin White and was forced to portray a Latino male desperately wanting to be white.
The Kerwin White introduction saw Chavo renounce his Mexican heritage and start dressing like the stereotypical middle-aged, upper-class white male. Kerwin had a joy for golfing and talking down to other minorities. The gimmick did not get over in the slightest. Fans couldn’t grasp what they were watching and it made for horrible television. WWE were forced to drop the gimmick following the unfortunate death of Chavo’s uncle Eddie. Chavo remained employed under his own name for years after but the Kerwin White chapter is likely still a big regret.
2. Big T (Ahmed Johnson)
Vince McMahon wanted Ahmed Johnson to become one of the top stars in WWE due to his physique and presence. Johnson was one of the last wrestlers you would want to meet in a street fight but that didn’t carry over to his in-ring work or talking skills. Ahmed absolutely sucked as a wrestler and the other performers didn’t want to work with him in fear of injury. It didn’t help that his promos were also horrible with his words being impossible to understand.
Injury issues and others passing him in the pecking order allowed WWE to release Johnson. Most former WWE stars made their way to WCW and that was the next step for him. The lazy creative team decided to put him in a storyline with the Harlem Heat as Big T. He feuded with Booker T over rights to having the letter T in their name. If the horrible booking wasn’t enough, Big T didn’t improve and actually appeared out of shape. The career of Big T was a huge failure and the name change played a role in the flop.
1. Stardust (Cody Rhodes)
Cody Rhodes always had superstar potential and WWE realized it by signing him at a young age. We saw an evolution of his character from the Legacy group to the Dashing days to the babyface fighting for his family’s legacy against The Authority. Rhodes could have been a main eventer easily with the right story progression but he was always left in the midcard or tag team picture. The worst thing to happen to his career was the name and persona change to Stardust.
The silly heel version of his brother’s Goldust gimmick didn’t connect in the slightest and flopped instantly. WWE refused to give up on the character because kids reacted to it at house shows in a favorable manner for a family-friendly heel. The problem is that didn’t matter on television as Stardust could not get over to save his life. Cody demanded a release from WWE due to hating the little chance at moving up the card as Stardust and chose to wrestle on the independent scene instead. The worst name change saw a promising WWE career die in the lamest of ways.