8 Recent Times That WWE Butchered Wrestlers' Names
By Kevin Wong on
On the April 22 episode of Raw, WWE re-debuted The Viking Experience as The Viking Raiders, Erik and Ivar. And though the commentary team passed it off as no big deal, it was actually a pretty significant concession on WWE management's part. Because The Viking Raiders have been through the wringer over the past week, and unfortunately, it has everything to do with their name.
WWE has a really weird, counterproductive habit of messing with wrestlers' stage names. And lest you think this is trivial, a name is important in a business as character-driven as WWE's. It's the first way we learn to identify and learn our favorite performers, and the more it rolls off the tongue or is visually evocative, the better.
Here are eight times in recent history that WWE has shortened or altered performers' in-ring names. In none of these examples did the name change help. And with some of them, they hurt.
Apollo Crews to Apollo to Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews debuted on WWE's main roster, using the same name he used in NXT, WWE's developmental league. The name had four syllables total, and the last name had one syllable, which allowed the announcer to draw it out for dramatic effect.
But overnight, "Apollo Crews" became just "Apollo." And then some time later, it switched back to "Apollo Crews." What was going on?
According to rumors, WWE didn't want to remind viewers of Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school shooter. And then presumably, after the heat died down, they changed it back. It was a little overly cautious, to be sure. But it was still a better reason than WWE had for some of the other name changes on this list.
Alexander Rusev to Rusev
Rusev was once Alexander Rusev. And on one hand, simply "Rusev" works for a big "Bulgarian Brute," with straightforward, aggressive attack style. By itself, it sounds like a sort of strongman grunt.
But that's also the problem with the name change; it places artificial limits what this character could be, somewhere down the line. Imagine if AJ Styles was simply Styles. It sounds more one-dimensional and gimmicky, doesn't it? And granted, it's not impossible to attain success with a single name--Edge would be a great example of someone who did it--it doesn't make things easier.
Antonio Cesaro to Cesaro
The original name "Antonio Cesaro" had rhythm to it; there was even assonance to the ending "o" sound. But then, WWE had to go and change Antonio Cesaro's name to Cesaro.
The reasoning? According to the dirt sheets, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon thought that the name "Antonio" didn't sound tough enough, which is one of the most uncultured reasons a person could possibly have. Isn't this supposed to be a global company? Would his name have been better as "Biff?"
Adrian Neville to Neville
Here's another example of taking a name that had nothing wrong with it, and shortening it to make it more stagey and less relatable. Neville started out on the main roster as a sort of superhero: The Man That Gravity Forgot, with a cape and everything. So for that character, "Neville" sort of worked. But once he ditched the good guy act and became a heel, the more elongated "Adrian Neville" would have been a better fit.
Generally speaking, it's better when a wrestler has two names, a first name and a last name. It gives the fans choice. They can shorten it to one name in their chants, or give the performer a new nickname. WWE doesn't have to force the issue; these sorts of shorthand names should develop organically.
Emma to Emmalina to Emma
This was an instance of WWE overthinking it. The company wanted to give Emma a fresh start, and they began running soft-lit promos for "Emmalina," a sexier, more seductive version of Emma.
But then, seemingly at the last minute, WWE decided the gimmick wouldn't work. Emmalina came out and addressed the WWE Universe in an awkward promo, and said she would be changing back to Emma. The next time we saw her, she was. And soon afterwards, Emma was fired. It was a bizarre end to an underrated WWE career.
Andrade "Cien" Almas to Andrade
Now we're getting into real, career-injuring territory. How do you take the coolest, most evocative name on the roster and just ruin it? The name "Andrade "Cien" Almas, has a perfect ring to it, and "Cien Almas" translates to "One Hundred Souls." That's just about the most intimidating thing one could dream up.
But now, the man is just Andrade. WWE cut both his nickname and his last name out of the equation, leaving us with the least interesting part of a three-part name.
The original name was the calling card of a champion. But can you imagine the ring announcer proclaiming, "Here is your WWE Champion: Andrade!" We can't either.
Mustafa Ali to Ali
Mustafa Ali has made a lot of noise as a babyface Muslim character; he played the classic, stereotypical heel foreigner on the indie circuit, but he stopped in favor of something that was more aspirational and truer to himself. He wanted to be seen as complex individual, and he wanted the audience to know who he was.
So of course, what better way to emphasize the man's humanity than to shorten his name, "Mustafa Ali," to simply "Ali?" The performer didn't seem to jazzed about the change either. He tweeted about the now missing significance of "Mustafa":
"Mustafa means the 'chosen one' with an emphasis on being chosen from amongst the people. Name or not, nothing has changed. I fight for the people. I am one of them."
Ali was classier than he needed to be; this was probably the best possible twist he could have put on a bad situation.
War Machine to The War Raiders to The Viking Experience to The Viking Raiders
Once upon a time in Ring of Honor, Rowe and Hanson were two promising, burly performers, and they formed a kickass tag team called War Machine. These guys were more warrior-esque than robotic. After signing with NXT, they began calling themselves the War Raiders. That seemed to suit everyone just fine, and they even got a chant going. "WAR! WAR! WAR!"
But then, WWE bumped Rowe and Hanson up to the main roster. And the next time we saw them--on the April 15 episode of Raw--Rowe and Hanson were Erik and Ivar, and the War Raiders were The Viking Experience.
They used to be big, scary guys who channeled a viking warrior vibe. Now, they were literal vikings outside of time. Their new tag team name was reminiscent of when you go to the zoo, and you pay extra to feed or pet the animals, like the Sea Lion Encounter.
Thanks to nearly universal backlash on social media, the tag team name is now in its fourth iteration: The Viking Raiders. It's not as good as the War Raiders, truth be told. But we'll take it. It's better than the alternative.