“Hi! My name is…(what?) My name is…(who?) My name is…(scratches)” -Eminem
For some reason, I have always envisioned that everyone should have a different name based on their looks alone. For example: you might know the Swoggle Squad as Rich, Augie, Tope and Mike (Whidden), but I could easily see them as Matt, Seth, James and Paul (still Whidden).
It is a weird quality, but it doesn’t end with just me. Wrestling has taken names and altered them to fit the personalities of the character on numerous occasions.
This article will not highlight those cases.
Instead, I have reached into the bowels of wrestling and uncovered changes to names that were unwarranted, silly, worthless and considerably unimportant. You may remember some, you might be hearing of some for the first time and you may not care like most of the world.
I, however, want to fucking answer Shakespeare after all of these years. So, let’s get on with it.
Vader was…BIG VAN VADER
Perhaps the most well-known of the subtle name changes, Vader dropped the first part of his name in WCW in the midst of his awesome World Title run in 1993. Without any particular reason, he reverted back to Big Van Vader after his cup of coffee in the Dungeon of Doom (surely Rich knows all about this, but I just wanted everyone to imagine what the coffee in the Dungeon of Doom would be like). Granted, Vader’s name was always tricky. As just “Vader”, he invoked images of Star Wars. As Big Van Vader…I have no idea. What does that mean? Was he living down by the river? Was that an advertisement or something? Did he just really like "Brown Eyed Girl"? Either way, neither change was overly necessary.
Carlito was…CARLITO CARIBBEAN COOL
Upon his debut, I called this one. Obviously, his name is Carlito and that is a good thing. It’s different, marketable and sounds good enough. So…why the Caribbean Cool? Just because it is his gimmick doesn’t mean it has to be a part of his name. In that case, should we be watching “Sheamus Irish Badass” or “Kazarian Californian Douche”? Sure, it was 2004 and wrestling fans were going through a lot of crappy things in WWE, but did it need to be spelled out that obviously? Thankfully, “Caribbean Cool” was only a surname for less than one year, but it lived on…until Carlito stopped giving an effort and became “Oh, that crazy-hair dude” to everyone watching Raw or SmackDown.
Val Venis was…THE BIG VALBOWSKI
This is an intriguing one. When good ole Sean Morley returned to the WWE from injury in 2002, he reestablished himself as the totally nearsighted porn character we all knew and loved for six months until it got old. Sensing it was a stale act, what happened? A complete overhaul in gimmick? Nah! Why not rename him HIS OWN NICKNAME. Mind you, not any nickname. A NICKNAME THAT WAS BASED ON A MOVIE THAT CAME OUT FOUR YEARS EARLIER. Stale replaced stale. Despite a cute push on the newly extended SmackDown, the Valbowski did not abide in the crowd’s eyes. Overhaul time? NAH! Just make him Val Venis again!
That is, until he finally got his makeover as Bischoff’s Chief of Staff…Sean Morley…his own boring ass name. That lasted a couple months…and THEN HE BECAME VAL VENIS AGAIN.
“Your Feature Presentation” Sean Morley, indeed.
Cactus Jack was…CACTUS JACK MANSON
Mick Foley talked about this one extensively in “Have a Nice Day” and it makes perfect sense. Foley sort of resembled Charles Manson and hence the name was born. Many might assume that was merely Jack’s gimmick as he was starting out (and Vince McMahon’s inspiration for the infamous Manson the Mutilator idea), but Cactus Jack Manson did exist in WCW, wrestling the likes of Norman the Lunatic and Mil Mascaras (who still owes JBL money). Eventually, “Manson” went away because it was never needed. Of course the name “Manson” is synonymous with being crazy, but one look at Cactus Jack got the point across anyway.
Faarooq was…FAAROOQ ASAD
Now, I have no idea what a “Faarooq” is. I have no idea was an “Asad” is. I have no desire to research it, either. (Journalistic integrity! I wrote that while looking at my degree from UF.)
That being said, Faarooq is bad enough. Why add the “Asad?” It sounds like a theatrical note. Or something you get in your burrito.
Granted, “Asad” lasted about as long as the most unfortunate helmet in the history of helmets, but it served so little purpose. Less is more. And when your name is already Faarooq, a last name is overkill.
(Easter egg here for this segment: check out THIS clip of Faarooq debuting where Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon openly out Faarooq as Ron Simmons. Way to go, fellas. Commit to that choice right out of the gate!
Armando Estrada was…ARMANDO ALEJANDRO ESTRADA
Allow me to get pissed for a moment.
All of these other characters on this list are pretty minor instances that are comical to reflect on. For Armando, this alteration severely damaged his character for good.
In OVW as Osama Rodriguez Alejandro, Armando quickly established his gimmick and got over his catchphrase, which was just saying his name in a comical, badass fashion.
When he was brought to the main roster as Umaga’s manager, he kept the gimmick and it got over within weeks. Naturally, WWE capitalized…
BY TAKING AWAY HIS MIDDLE NAME!!!
No more rolling the tongue! No more extended chance for the audience to chant along! No more rule of threes! No more turkey a la king! Gone! All gone!
From there, Armando just became the guy who walked out with the savage Samoan guy. His career never recovered. One little “Alex” can mean the world.
The Undertaker was…KANE THE UNDERTAKER
Yep. THIS HAPPENED.
(I originally had an entire diatribe planned about the sheer stupidity of billing a dead man gimmick with a first name and so on, but I would rather you soak in the video above. Glenn Jacobs soaks it in…every day, probably.)
Chuck Palumbo was…CUSTOM CHUCKY P
We have finally reached the genesis of this idea. It is such a miniscule moment in WWE history, but it has stuck with me (and I might of planned to drop this reference in every article I have written and could never make it fit).
Abandoning his fake gay character and his fake Italian character, Palumbo went with something very real in terms of himself and his interest. Unfortunately, it was being a motorcycle mechanic.
He had already been a Born Thriller, a Headband Fan and a Guido without changing his name. Why can’t Chuck Palumbo, The Greaser happen?
Moreover, what is marketable, interesting, charismatic, intriguing or worthwhile about the name CUSTOM CHUCKY P? Again, it spells out the entire gimmick and it is cheesier than a Rocky Maivia promo, but at least the other ones didn’t sound sooooooo…magoo.
Naturally, it didn’t work and it never made Raw (only the gold mine known as Sunday Night Heat). However, when Palumbo returned to the WWE a few years later, the gimmick returned as well, but Custom Chucky P was long gone.
Apparently, WWE learns lessons every now and then.
I hope I have learned my lesson writing this article. Names are a tricky thing in wrestling, but it generally doesn’t matter. Either you got it or you don’t. Names can’t kill a career; they can just make everyone giggle.
Right, Michael McGillicutty?