A Wrestler by Any Other Name…

Joe JohnsonSenior Writer IIOctober 5, 2010

There are a lot of things about the general smarky populous that makes up the Internet wrestling community that gets under my skin. The pseudo-science of the star system of grading matches, the acceptance of comedic characters on the indy circuit while blasting WWE for excessive use of Santino Marella, and the undying faithfulness to Matt Hardy, to name a few.

My greatest pet peeve, though, is its ridiculous analysis of wrestling names. When the American Dragon signed with WWE, the IWC lost its collective mind. They mocked when he debuted on NXT as Daniel Bryan, implying that it was a “jobber’s name” and it “proved WWE doesn’t care about him.” Less than a year later, he has made the anointed one, The Miz, tap out on two consecutive PPVs as he carries the U.S. title.

Former Ring of Honor champion Tyler Black signed with WWE and the jokes started to rain down a few months ago. “What will they call him? Tommy Brown ROFLMAO!!!!!!” “LuLZ. Vince is going to bury him. PWNED!!!”

Last week, the former Tyler Black debuted in Florida Championship Wrestling with the name Seth Rollins. The IWC responded as expected with the same comments about how this was a jobber name and proof he’ll get buried.

Before diving too deeply into the pool of illogical smarky babbling, let’s discuss why WWE often changes their performers’ names.

Vince McMahon is a businessman. He wants to be able to protect and turn a profit off his intellectual and creative property. If a performer, such as Bryan Danielson, arrives and wants to use his real name, Vince can’t copyright it. And if he can’t copyright it, Danielson could go to any other promotion if he leaves WWE and bring an instant marketable name. Vince wants to protect what is his, as any good businessman would do, and not hand his competitors a gift-wrapped basket of drawing power.

In some cases, he utilizes previous names such as Rey Mysterio, who had already established a brand on his name and character that would draw. Vince was willing to sacrifice that ownership for the money he could make instantly without having to create a new character.

In some cases, he uses wrestlers' birth names because they bring a level of credibility from a previous background, such as Kurt Angle or Brock Lesnar, who were both already well-known names due to their amateur background—Angle especially in this case.

Sometimes, it’s a combination of both, such as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho, who were already well-established names using their given name. Needless to say, Bryan Danielson and Tyler Black (birth name Kolby Lopez) do not bring the same cache as Chris Jericho or Rey Mysterio.

Furthermore, let’s take a look at some of the most successful professional wrestlers of the last two decades: Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, John Cena. What about any of these three names make them better than any other generic reality-based first name/last name combinations? Only Cena’s is his birth name. Shawn Hickenbottom and Steve Anderson both opted for stage names for differing reasons—Anderson is too common and Hickenbottom sounds stupid.

What made them successful wasn’t having a marketable name (because Tyler Black apparently isn’t generic?). It was the fact that they brought it in the ring, on the mic, and connected with the crowd. They drew reactions and moved the ratings. They sold tickets and PPV buys. You could name Steve Austin "John Smith" if you wanted to, but if he came out, bashed two beer cans together, poured it down his throat, and told the crowd to give him a hell yeah, you best believe they’d be on their feet shouting HELL YEAH!

Trying to determine the one-time Tyler Black’s success or standing within the WWE based on the ring name they’ve given him for his first FCW match is ludicrous. They change ring names every week in FCW anyway.WWE hasn’t signed very many guys out of ROH. The list is short: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Matt Striker, Kaval, Jamie Noble, Evan Bourne, Paul London, Brian Kendrick. Noble is the only one on this list who didn’t ever really get a shot. Kaval is too early in his run, and Striker will make a much better career for himself as an announcer than a pint-sized wrestler. London and Kendrick ran with the tag belts for a full year. I doubt they hired Black as a way to pillage ROH for the hell of it.

WWE signed him because they saw something in him. Personally, I don’t think he’ll get over due to his lack of mic skills and character. If he develops a passable charisma to go along with some solid ring skills, he might have a chance. Nonetheless, his success will rest on whether or not he connects with the crowd on the stick and in the ring, not because of the ring name he was given.