Wolski’s Wrestling Ramblings: The WWE’s History of Chopping Up Wrestler Names

   Well, another poor wrestler has fallen victim to one of Vince McMahon’s weirdest quirks. Andrade “Cien” Almas, amazing technical wrestler and former NXT champion, is now just known as Andrade following the Jan. 15 Smackdown.

   This is not a new trend in the WWE, as ever since I started watching wrestling in 2009 I’ve seen many a promising athlete lose part of their name. For the most part, it’s not a huge deal, as wrestlers manage to succeed or fail based on their ability.

   But my God is it annoying. And it seems that there isn’t a real rhyme or reason for who gets their name cut.

   So let’s take a look at some notable examples of this and evaluate them, as I can admit that some of these name changes ended up working for the better.

   Our first wrestler we’re going to look at is the Swiss Superman, Cesaro. He debuted in 2012 as Antonio Cesaro and went on a nice run with the United States Championship. He floated around the card in 2013 and had a decent tag team run with Jack Swagger as The Real Americans.

   However, everything changed after he won the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30 in 2014. He aligned with Paul Heyman and his name was subtly changed to just Cesaro.

   This one wasn’t a horrible change, yet it was just jarring to see him lose part of his name with no fanfare during the middle of his run. At the very least, Cesaro sounds pretty cool and I think it’s helped him.

   Another wrestler who lost his first name in 2014 was Aleksander Rusev. He carried this name during his dominant streak in NXT, yet showed up on the main roster after WrestleMania 30 just as Rusev.

   This wasn’t a bad change, as Rusev is a unique name (I don’t think Aleksander Rusev Day looks as nice on a t-shirt or rolls off the tongue as well).

   Current New Day member Big E lost his last name back in 2013, right after winning the Intercontinental Championship (that feels like 10 years ago).

   In his roles as dominant NXT champion and Dolph Ziggler’s bodyguard, Langston was attached to his name. I don’t know why the WWE brass decided Langston wasn’t a powerful enough moniker for the pancake professor, but it hasn’t seemed to hurt him thus far.

   One woman who curiously lost her last name is Natalya Neidhart. She is the daughter of Hart Foundation member and WWE legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. She is one of the last remaining torchbearers of the Hart family legacy, so why can’t she wear her last name with pride?

   Of course, it’s unknown if this was a decision made by Vince McMahon or Natalya herself. It’d be understandable if she didn’t want to be bogged down or live in the shadow of her father’s name, but she already dons the pink and black ring attire he made famous, so I digress.

   Maybe it’s just a McMahon vs the Harts thing. Either way, she’s had a good degree of success in her career anyway. It’s just a small thing that annoys me.

   NXT call-ups may be the most common victim of this trend. One of the longest reigning and prolific NXT champions Adrian Neville made his main roster debut sans his first name.

   He wore a cape and had a superhero gimmick. It went ok, then he got injured. He returned from injury as a world-beating cruiserweight champion, then left the company in the fall of 2017.

   When I hear the name Neville, it just makes me think of Neville Longbottom, the bumbling incompetent student from the “Harry Potter” series. Though his indie name is PAC, which isn’t much better.

   One NXT call-up that gained something from losing his last name is Elias Sampson. He also lost his gimmick of being a drifter and focused more on the musical part.

   A few months into his run, he randomly lost his last name and became known as just Elias.

   However, I think this was a strong choice. Sampson is a really generic sounding name, and turning his name into a pseudonym worked to make him fit in with the very pop superstars he was parodying, like Cher and Madonna.

   An honorable mention goes to the late Leon White, also known as Big Van Vader. Making his name and winning titles in NJPW and WCW he made his move to the WWF in 1995.

   Upon getting there, Vince McMahon wanted to christen the big man a new name, The Mastodon. “Oh it’s time, it’s time, it’s Mastodon time!” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

   The two fought over it and compromised. He remained Vader (minus the Big Van), and Vince would constantly call him the Mastodon on commentary. However, in interviews Vader points to this disagreement as the start of why his push didn’t totally pan out.

   But turning El Idolo into just Andrade is the most egregious of all of these name changes. Andrade is the least important part of the name. Cien Almas translates to 100 souls.

   Can you imagine Seth Rollins just being called Seth? The current Intercontinental champion just being called Bobby? That’s the feeling I get when hearing Andrade.

   Nevermind the fact that Andrade Cien Almas just feels natural when it rolls off the tongue. Almas will probably continue with his push and I’ll still be angry at his lack of a middle and last name.

   This practice gets on my nerve because it feels like this just strips away part of the character. It erases the sense that these characters are part of a living, breathing universe. And for the most part there’s really not a good reason for it.

   In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very minor issue that I’m screaming about from the top of a hill, but it is one of the wrestling hills I will die on.

Henry Wolski
Executive Editor

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