The name of a performer in pro wrestling is one of the most important aspects of success. A terrible name could sink someone’s chances at getting over before they even do anything on television. Wrestlers typically want to use a stage name. Most regular names are quite boring and a stage name could help add excitement to the viewer. In recent years, wrestlers have tried to use their real name more often for copyright reasons. Promotions, such as WWE, like to own the rights to a wrestler’s name so they can’t profit off of their time on television when moving on to another company.
Damien Sandow having to change his name to Aron Rex following his move from WWE to TNA is the most recent example of this. The politics of wrestling makes it a difficult thing to work around and many are screwed over by it. There have been a few lucky souls that were able to use their real names on WWE television and it allowed them to build a brand around their own identity. If they have left or will leave the company, this sets them up for a better chance at thriving in the next chapter. We’ll look at the top fifteen WWE stars that didn't have to use a fake name.
15 Dave Batista
WWE did change the spelling of his last name but Dave Batista was able to keep his brand strong by avoiding a fake name. The actual spelling of his last name is Bautista, but WWE decided to remove a letter for the ego-maniacal desire of owning a trademark. A huge push saw Bautista become one of the biggest wrestling stars of the era. WWE gave him the shining moment of capturing the World Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 21.
14 Torrie Wilson
Torrie Wilson had one of the most successful careers for a performer that rarely wrestled in WWE. The strengths of Wilson focused on the looks aspect in gimmick matches, managing and photo shoots. Fans adored Wilson and made her a very big star in WWE for a couple of years. The initial brand split in 2002 made her the most popular female performer on SmackDown, landing her a Playboy spread.
13 Jerry Lawler
The life’s work of Jerry Lawler has seen him deliver all of his great matches under his real name. He may not be a king, but Lawler stayed true to his name through 46 years in the business. The gimmick of “king” would usually see a cheesy name attached to it but Lawler felt his name was the right way to go. Lawler was correct as he became a huge star in various federations before becoming a fixture in WWE.
12 Shelton Benjamin
The luck of wrestlers entering WWE developmental in the early 2000s allowed many of them to keep their real name. WWE was in between the era of cartoon-like gimmicks and name changes for trademark purposes. That gave many of the new stars the ability to use their actual name in the ring. Shelton Benjamin was one of those to keep his identity entering the WWE landscape. The athleticism and potential of Benjamin made him one of the better prospects in the company.
11 Mickie James
Most of the female wrestlers in WWE have been given “diva” caliber names or were forced to lose their last name for some reason. Maria and Melina are two examples of WWE wanting us to believe they only had a first name. Mickie James would be one of the very rare women to keep her full name when entering the WWE. The debut storyline saw her stalk Trish Status as a crazed fan and win the Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 22.
10 Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase sounds like a fake name perfect for his Million Dollar Man persona, but it was actually his real name. As the adopted son of “Iron” Mike DiBiase, Ted kept the tradition alive by using his real last name. WWE signed him after years of experience traveling around the world to earn the opportunity. DiBiase would become the most hated villain in WWE for a couple of years as the arrogant and wealthy Million Dollar Man character.
9 Mark Henry
The weightlifting history of Mark Henry made him a valued prospect to WWE. Vince McMahon reached out to the former Olympian and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The Olympic presence of Henry was the main reason for WWE signing him, so they had to allow him to keep his real name. Henry ended up having a wrestling career that has lasted over two decades. WWE has never let Henry go, making him one of the longest tenured performers in company history.
8 Kurt Angle
Another Olympian makes the list, but it's a more successful one this time. Kurt Angle signed with WWE just a couple of years after winning a freestyle wrestling gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics. No one had previously been able to claim having an Olympic gold medal in the wrestling industry, and it just made Angle more special. The harsh world of pro wrestling can be difficult for someone coming in from the legitimate sport background of competitive amateur wrestling.
7 Matt and Jeff Hardy
The Hardy Boyz still hold the reputation of being one of the most exciting tag teams in wrestling history. WWE pushed them to the moon during the beginning of the new millennium. Jeff Hardy possessed the quiet charisma and daredevil mentality that made fans fall in love with him. Matt Hardy won everyone over with his consistent greatness in the wrestling ring. The brothers were allowed to use their real names and actually play amplified versions of their normal personalities.
6 Stacy Keibler
The stunning Stacy Keibler had a highly successful career in WWE. She was discovered by WCW to be a member of the Nitro Girls dance team but quickly evolved into an actual character on the show. Keibler had the total package and fans adored her instantly. The look was perfect, but she also possessed the “it factor” everyone in wrestling tries to find. WWE retained her contract following the purchase of WCW for good reason.
5 Brock Lesnar
With a name like Brock Lesnar, the world is setting one up to be one of the most dangerous professional fighters. Lesnar had an outstanding amateur wrestling career and was scouted by WWE at a very young age. The company debuted him on television with one of the biggest pushes someone can get making their television introduction. Brock would defeat The Rock to become WWE Champion at the age of 25. Talk about having confidence in someone.
4 Eddie Guerrero
The legendary Guerrero family has a rich history in pro wrestling and Eddie Guerrero is the best star from the bunch. Eddie used his real name to follow the tradition in his family. WCW signed him after years of traveling the world in various promotions. Guerrero delivered some of the best matches in the business at the time. Fans developed respect for him but WCW never treated him like a credible talent on the rise.
3 Randy Orton
As a third generation superstar with the ideal look, Randy Orton was pushed to the moon from day one in WWE. The company believed he could be a top star for many years and they found a way to make it happen. Orton struggled with various personal issues in the early stage of his career before getting his head on straight. WWE marketed him as the son of Cowboy Bob Orton so his last name was a necessary thing to keep.
2 Bret Hart
Bret Hart is another star on the list that comes from a family of wrestling legends. Stu Hart ran Stampede Wrestling in company and most of his kids grew up to become professional wrestlers due to the nature of the business being in their lives every day. Bret signed with WWE and was allowed to keep his real name. Vince McMahon is rumored to have more respect for the second or third generation stars, and the freedom of having their own name proves it.
1 John Cena
John Cena is the biggest star of this generation, but he scored a bit of good luck on the way there. The fact that Cena was allowed to wrestle under his real name in WWE has played a huge role in his current position in life. The rocket was strapped to the back of Cena as he became the face of the company for the past decade. Cena has done everything asked of him by WWE and continues to put out a strong body of work on a consistent basis.
After years of working a full-time schedule with no breaks, Cena has finally started dabbling in others projects. The noteworthy movie roles, television hosting duties and other outlets of mainstream media have come his way in the last year or two. You have to imagine it would be a tough sell for Cena to get all of these opportunities if he couldn’t be marketed with the same name he built up in WWE. No one has benefited more from being able to use their real name in WWE than John Cena.
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