The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin and the best WWE name changes in history

  • Ash Rose

WWE have made a habit of changing Superstars names more and more in recent times. 

Often down to WWE being able to copyright the characters, and other times through creative deciding that ‘evolving’ a persona means a change or dropping of a first name, it’s become a common practice in the company with Tomasso Ciampa the latest Superstar who’s ring name has been tweaked. 

Not all names are met with acceptation – take WALTER’s recent switch to Gunther – but not all WWE name changes have been for the detriment of the Superstar. GiveMeSport looks at some of the best WWE name changes in history.

Cain The Undertaker > The Undertaker 

The Undertaker

How different the landscape of WWE would have been if ‘Cain’ hadn’t been dropped from The Undertaker’s name. It’s hard to suggest that Taker wouldn’t have gone on to have the legendry career that he did, but the full moniker certainly has a cheesy and more cartoony feel too it, that may not have stood the test of time. 

Then there’s little bro. Would there have been a brother of destruction for The Deadman? And if so, would his name worked as well as the Kane we’d first see in 1997. You can find one match on YouTube where Cain The Undertaker competes in WWE, but thankfully it was quickly dropped upon his famous debut at the 1990 Survivor Series. 


Isaac Yankem > Kane 

Kane WWE

Talking of Kane, whereas dropping the ‘Cain’ for Undertaker was wise move, transitioning Glen Jacobs from Isaac Yankem into the Big Red Machine was also one of WWE’s most profitable decisions. WWE was going through an occupation obsession during the mid-nineties, and as frightening as a dentist is to some, the gimmick was never set to last. 

Repacking and renaming Jacobs into Kane and debuting him as Undertaker’s brother, remains one the most iconic moments and characters of that era. 


Hunter Hearst Helmsley > Triple H

Triple H WWE

Not a complete name change, but a move to almost an acronym to cement a new change in attitude. As Hunter Hurst Helmsley we’d seen Paul Levesque portray a bluenose snob, often looking down his nose at everything and everyone in WWE. 

However, as the tide turned in WWE, so did Hunter’s style and attitude and a separation was required to allow him to evolve from the somewhat cartoonish gimmick he’d entered WWE in. However, instead of a brand-new name, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was tweaked into Triple H and it’s become one the most famous names in the business. Good work all round. 


Rocky Maivia > The Rock 

The Rock WWE

Rocky sucks! Rocky sucks! Rocky sucks! WWE may have high hopes for the ‘blue chipper’ Rocky Maivia, but it didn’t pan out the way they’d hoped. Fans couldn’t take to the white meat babyface and not even the combination of his father and grandfather’s names as his WWE moniker could persuade them otherwise. 

However, a new attitude and a simplified name to just The Rock changed everything – and that’s an understatement. As the charisma-filled, brash, cocky, Rock, he’s gone on to not only be one of the biggest WWE Superstars of all time but move into the mainstream where Dwayne Johnson is currently the biggest paid movie star on the planet. Now that doesn’t suck. 


Bradshaw > JBL 

JBL WWE

For years we got used to seeing Bradshaw as one half of the toughest tag team in WWE, The APA, but he needed a change once his time alongside Farooq was up. Fans couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing when Bradshaw remerged on SmackDown, clean shaven, suited and booted and looking like the exact opposite of what we’d seen previously. 

To help the character keep some familiarity but make it clear this was a new era for the Superstar, WWE kept the Bradshaw, but added his real name around his title and used the name ‘JBL’ going forward. It was such a smooth transition, that as JBL, John Layfield would enjoy a memorable heel run on the blue brand and capture the WWE Championship. 


Husky Harris > Bray Wyatt 

Bray Wyatt WWE

The Nexus maybe an underappreciated faction in WWE history, but what wasn’t appreciated was some of the name choice for the original members. One of the those was Husky Harris, fresh out of NXT, Harris stood alongside leader Wade Barret and would endure a largely uneventful debut run on WWE’s main roster. After Nexus were wrote off of WWE TV, Harris resurfaced a year later in a rebranded and new look NXT under a new name and new guise, Bray Wyatt. 

It was evident early on that this was a unique character and one that was set for big things. And while some fans will complain WWE never really pulled the trigger on Wyatt fully, as Bray he’d go on to be a two-time WWE Champion and become one the most iconic personas of the modern era. 


The Ringmaster > Stone Cold Steve Austin 

Stone Cold Steve Austin WWE

Stunning Steve Austin joined WWE 1996 and was given the name The Ringmaster and manager Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. It became all too clear very quickly that it was a bit of a nothing gimmick and within a few months Austin had dropped just about every aspect of the character. 

With his hair thinning, he shaved it bald, grew a goatee and developed a more-rounded character. DiBiase was dropped and soon the name was replaced with the prefix ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. An Austin that as close to the real person as a wrestling ‘gimmick’ has ever been and an Austin that would become one the biggest superstars of all time and define an era. 


Riddick Moss > Madcap Moss 

Madcap Moss WWE

A more recent one, but an example of a simple character and name tweak that has done wonders for finally getting a Superstar some TV time. As Riddick Moss, we’d seen the 32-year-old as part of a tag team on NXT, work alongside Mojo Rawley on Raw and part of the dismal Raw Underground segment hosted by Shane McMahon – none of which made anyone want to see more from Moss.

However, as Happy Corbin’s hapless lacky, he found a spot for himself, which has in turn got over with WWE fans and now turned into a more fleshed-out babyface character. It will need more layers as it goes forward, but it’s the step-up Moss desperately was needing. 


Deacon Batista > Batista 

Batista WWE

The first-ever WWE draft brought about some interesting decisions from WWE creative, most famous of which was splitting up The Dudley Boyz and giving D-Von a preacher gimmick on SmackDown. D-Von’s new direction may not have lasted long, but it did give us the first appearance of a future Hall of Famer in Deacon Batista. 

From the off it was clear that the deacon character was just a way for Batista to get a foot on the main roster, although few could imagine just what a massive Superstar and entertainer he’d become. His alliance with D-Von last just a few weeks and it wasn’t long before WWE dropped the deacon from his name, repackaged ‘The Animal’ and paired him with Ric Flair, Triple H and Randy Orton. 

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