The Viking Raiders and the 7 Worst Name Changes in WWE History
The vast majority of Superstars do not wrestle under their real name in WWE for a number of different reasons, but every so often, management changes someone's name after the fans already got used to calling them something else.
Monday's Raw saw Bobby Roode officially change his first name to Robert. Since Bobby is just a shortened form of Robert, this change barely registered with the WWE Universe.
Whenever WWE hires someone, the questions of trademarks comes up. If their name is owned by another company, it makes sense for WWE to change it to avoid a lawsuit.
Other times, management will simply drop part of a Superstar's name like it did when Elias Samson went the Madonna route and started going by just Elias.
There are plenty of logical reasons to change someone's name in this business, but every so often, WWE makes one of these changes without rhyme or reason.
Here's a look at some of the worst name changes in WWE history and why they may have happened.
War, What Is It Good For?
When WWE signed the tag team War Machine, Todd Smith was already wrestling under a different name as Hanson, but Raymond Rowe had been working under his real name for years.
WWE shortened his name to Rowe and allowed Hanson to continue using that name, but the War Machine team name was immediately changed to The War Raiders.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling likely owns a trademark on War Machine, so that initial change made sense. Nobody seemed to care because people were so stoked to see them join NXT. They debuted at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 weekend.
Almost exactly one year later, WWE brought them to the main roster during the 2019 Superstar Shake-up. However, they did not debut as Hanson and Rowe.
WWE has renamed them Erik and Ivar, and while those names sound like something Vikings would use, it didn't make any sense to rename them after the WWE Universe spent a year watching them work as Hanson and Rowe in NXT.
That's not even the worst of it. They were called The Viking Experience that first night on Raw, but then a week later, Michael Cole told us they were actually The Viking Raiders, and The Viking Experience was the name of their finishing move.
If that wasn't bad enough, Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc reported that WWE sent out a survey referring to them as The Viking Warriors, so Erik and Ivar could have a third name change in as many weeks if this wasn't an error.
Here's a novel idea: WWE should hire the actress who played Paige in Fighting With My Family, Florence Pugh, to manage them collectively as Florence and the Machine. That would work, right?
Colin Didn't Sound Big Enough
At one time, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady were one of the hottest acts going in WWE. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand every time they picked up a mic.
When WWE brought them up to the main roster, Colin Cassady's name was quickly changed to the more WWE-sounding Big Cass.
This is one of those things you can tell was done on a whim by Vince McMahon for no other reason than thinking Big Cass was a more marketable name than Colin Cassady.
Calling someone who is large "Big" seems redundant, but that never stopped Big John Studd, Big Van Vader, Big Show, Big E, Big Daddy V, The Big Red Machine Kane or The Big Dog Roman Reigns.
They're Like Cher with Beards
Changing Hanson and Rowe to Erik and Ivar happened between NXT and the main roster, so WWE was betting on a lot of fans not knowing who they were from the developmental system. But WWE has been known to do this to people who were already on the main roster, too.
In the case of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, WWE didn't necessarily change their names. It just dropped their first names so they were referred to as only Harper and Rowan.
This happened after they had already been with the company for a few years, so everyone who watched the product knew what their names were, especially during The Wyatt Family's epic feud with The Shield.
This is one of those headscratchers that makes no sense from a logic or marketability standpoint. Harper and Rowan aren't more intimidating than their full names, so nothing was gained by making this change so late in the game.
Singers like Madonna and Cher going by a singular name is one thing, but why does McMahon think so many wrestlers should only have one name? Does he think our memories are incapable of processing the idea that someone has both a first and last name, or does he think we don't notice these things?
Sometimes, WWE Makes a Name Longer, Too
When WWE signed Kenta in 2014, it made a big deal out of his hiring by airing press conferences and showing video of his arrival on Raw and SmackDown.
This is one of those rare times when WWE not only botched a name change, but it actually made it longer instead of shorter like it usually would.
Kenta became Hideo Itami, and while that name sounds Japanese, it's neither his real name nor nearly as cool as the singular and often capitalized KENTA.
He was hired because he was such a big star in Japan, so changing his name to anything other than what he used to make himself famous made no sense. This had nothing to do with licensing since Kenta was his real name, not some monicker he chose when he began wrestling.
WWE may have wanted to trademark his name for merchandise, and that's fine, but it should have just worked out a deal with him to use his given name instead of changing it.
Mr. Perfect's Son Did Not Have a Perfect Start
Curtis Axel is a perfectly suitable name for Joseph Hennig because it incorporates his family's history in the wrestling business. His real middle name of Curtis comes from his father's first name, and his last name of Axel is a reference to his grandfather, Larry "The Ax" Hennig.
Before he was able to use his family history to come up with a new name, WWE saddled him with the unfortunate Michael McGillicutty name when he first debuted during the original incarnation of NXT in 2010.
Alliteration is often used with characters to make their names memorable. Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Lois Lane and many others from the comics have used this technique over the years.
Michael McGillicutty certainly uses alliteration, but it has to be one of the least intimidating names WWE has ever given someone.
Glenn Jacobs Is a Man of Many Names and Faces
Glenn Jacobs has been known to the WWE Universe as Kane for over 20 years, but his history leading up to the debut of this demonic character in 1997 is both confusing and amusing.
When he first joined WWE in 1995, Jacobs wrestled as a character named Unabomb, which was a name he had been using in regional promotions prior to signing with WWE.
After a couple of matches, most of which were never televised, Jacobs was renamed Isaac Yankem DDS and turned into a demented dentist who worked for Jerry Lawler during his feud with Bret Hart.
The next year, WWE repackaged him in one of the most infamous angles of all time. When Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left for WCW, Vince McMahon still owned the names Diesel and Razor Ramon, so he decided to use them for other people.
Jacobs was the new Diesel for all of four months until his final appearance at the 1997 Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Starting a few months later in April, WWE began the vignettes that eventually led to the introduction of Kane.
Many fans already know The Undertaker was originally referred to as Cain The Undertaker during his first appearance with the company, but the Cain part was eventually dropped. All WWE did was change the spelling and made Kane into his brother.
The Big Red Monster went on to have a great career that will earn him a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame someday, but he almost ended up being one of those people who is remembered solely for having a bad gimmick.
Was Someone Playing a Joke on Johnny Curtis?
If you count his time in the developmental system, Fandango has been with WWE for 13 years, but he spent the first half of that time going by Johnny Curtis.
When WWE revealed his new name would be Fandango, nobody knew how to react at first. It somewhat applied to his gimmick since the fandango is a Spanish dance, but it also has other meanings.
Most Americans probably associate the word with the online service you can use to check movie showtimes and buy tickets, but its second official meaning is where things get interesting.
Fandango is a term people can use to mean something pointless or foolish, as in "The Viking Experience renaming fandango."
Changing his name from Johnny Curtis to Fandango didn't hurt him in the end, but it was one of those weird decisions that stands out in recent history.