"Hollywood" Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, "Wildman" Marc Mero, "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, okay, you get the picture. The name says it all. Wrestling has its characters and they all have exotic names.
Look further back in history when wrestling was all about the moves, and you still had "Classy" Freddie Blassie, "Gorgeous" George, and the "Nature Boy" Buddy Rodgers. The name sells the superstar. The tag line of Gorgeous, Stone Cold, Hollywood, Hitman, or Big Daddy Cool, only adds to the personality that exists.
Its a similar story to that of the movie business, if the name does not look good on the marque, it has to be altered or even replaced. How many would have paid to see Michael Hickenbottom versus Richard Fliehr at Wrestlemania? Okay, hands down, Shawn Michaels versus Ric Flair sells more tickets.
It's arguable that in this case, the personality of the superstar can shine through and the name becomes irrelevant, but in some cases it's just difficult to market, just ask Lawrence Wendell Pfohl or Randall Mario Poffo, Lex Luger and Randy Savage to you and me.
When a superstar enters the world of wrestling, he or she is analysed almost immediately by the vultures of the internet community. Admit it, we do. We examine their mat technique, their mic skills, their ability to sell a move, their character, their entrance theme, their finishing move, their biceps, their inside leg measurements...ah, wait no, that last one's just for Maryse. But you see the point.
The name of a superstar helps create this picture. Imagine being at Survivor Series 1990, and hearing that the Undertaker was coming to the ring. It has an effect even now. Now imagine, the Dudebusters coming to the ring. Not quite the same effect.
More and more, wrestling has become about characters. Get it right and it immediately pushes a superstar upwards. Other factors will dictate if they will make it any further, but they will at least have a chance. Fail to create the right name and character and it doesn't matter if they can apply expert half nelsons, they won't make it.
The best wrestler in the WWE today is probably Jack Swagger and yet it's Cena and Orton that hold the championships and sell the t-shirts.
The current generation of wrestlers are a mixed bag when it comes to their commercial success. In one sense, the likes of Cena, Orton, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, and CM Punk are brand names, easily marketed and firm fan favourites.
Flip side, we have had the Dudebusters, the tongue twisting duo, Vance Archer and Curt Hawkins, Boogeyman, Dolph Ziggler, and Mike McGillicutty. Not quite as easily marketed.
The last example is the case in point. Mike McGillicutty is of course Joe Hennig. The WWE, perhaps wishing to avoid having yet another second generation superstar, has chosen to create a new name. But the use of McGillicuty, a proud Irish name meaning 'hearts upwards', is not exactly one that you will see on a t-shirt.
How wrestling markets these new superstars is important. Naming rights is, however, important to the WWE. But surely there is a middle ground where superstars are given names that add something to their personality and move-sets, whilst still being innovative and copyrightable by the WWE.
As it stands, Mike McGillicutty will not sell t-shirts or headline main events. In order to do so, he has to do a Hunter Hearst Helmsley and find a gimmick, Triple H, The Game, The Cerebral Assassin....
Not all superstars with the right name will make it. Some with famous names have been known to fail. But if a wrestler enters the wrestling world with a name that has no impact, then creative teams are failing them.
Wrestling needs to keep replenishing its rosters. To create a sensation, it requires the right mix of name, character, personality, mic skills, mat technique, and luck. If your missing one of these, you start with a mark against you.
Name should be pretty easy—and yet the WWE does not always get it right. When it does, we spend our millions gladly.
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