WWE and other promotions wrestlers need more than just in-ring ability to connect with fans. If someone has a great gimmick but they can’t back it up in the ring, they might not last long. Similarly, a rising star with one of the worst wrestling names might struggle to progress in the business.
Steve Austin, for example, might not have become such an iconic star in WWE if he agreed to be called Chilly McFreeze instead of Stone Cold. The same could be said for Rebecca Quin, who almost received the name Madeleine before becoming Becky Lynch.
Wrestlers work with the creative team to come up with name ideas ahead of their televised debut. In rare cases, another member of the roster sometimes helps by suggesting a better name instead.
In this article, let’s count down five WWE stars who contributed to another wrestler’s name.
#5. Corey Graves helped create Roman Reigns’ WWE name
Joe Anoa’i went by the names Leakee and Roman Leakee in WWE’s Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) and NXT developmental systems. Shortly before joining the main roster in 2012, he switched his name to Roman Reigns.
On a 2017 episode of Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast, Reigns said commentator Corey Graves helped with his name. The Tribal Chief decided to alter his surname from Leakee to Raines following the departure of fellow developmental talent Calvin Raines.
Graves suggested he change Raines to Reigns to come across like a King. The former football player agreed, adding that it sounded like a “total heel name.”
#4. Cody Rhodes helped create Bad News Barrett’s WWE name
In 2013, Wade Barrett underwent a character transformation when he began referring to himself as Bad News Barrett. The persona previously appeared on The JBL & Cole Show on YouTube, where he delivered bad news to people at the end of comedy skits.
Barrett revealed in an interview with DNA India in 2014 that Cody Rhodes created the amusing gimmick. One day, Rhodes jokingly told everyone in the locker room that he grew up watching Wade perform as Bad News Barrett on television.
WWE’s online team later wanted Barrett to appear on The JBL & Cole Show. The Englishman thought it would be funny to bring the fictional character to life on the YouTube series, leading to the creation of Bad News Barrett.
#3. Shawn Michaels helped create Triple H’s WWE name
Triple H appeared in WCW as French aristocrat Jean-Paul Levesque before joining WWE in 1995. J.J. Dillon, an executive at the time, originally wanted to call him Reginald DuPont Helmsley. After The Game raised concerns, they eventually agreed on the name Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
On a 2014 episode of Talk Is Jericho (H/T Wrestling Inc.), the NXT founder said his D-Generation X stablemate Shawn Michaels shortened his name to Triple H. The 14-time world champion was still named Hunter Hearst Helmsley at first, but he became known as Triple H as the years went on.
#2. Drew Gulak helped create Wheeler Yuta’s name
AEW star Wheeler Yuta was trained by Drew Gulak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the start of his career. He originally wanted to be named YUTA, but Gulak advised him to add Wheeler at the start of his name.
In 2022, the Blackpool Combat Club member said on the Under the Ring podcast (H/T Wrestling Inc.) that he had reservations about the name Wheeler. He originally wanted a one-word name like fellow wrestler Taz and singers Cher and Prince. However, over time he began to embrace his unique name.
#1. Bray Wyatt helped create Corey Graves’ WWE name
Corey Graves wrestled for more than a decade before being forced to retire in 2014 due to concussion issues. During his days in WWE’s FCW system, he wanted the surname Graves to pay homage to the lead singer of The Misfits.
As for his first name, the former NXT Tag Team Champion struggled for ideas until Bray Wyatt sang a song by Corey Hart at practice one day. Wyatt turned to Graves and said, “There’s your name. You’re Corey Graves.”
The wrestler-turned-commentator said on The Kurt Angle Show (H/T Wrestling Inc.) that he “hated” the name. However, he failed to submit a better choice in time before the office approved Corey Graves.
Do you have any wrestling name origin stories to share? Let us know in the comments section below. A former WWE star regrets not facing Goldberg, as revealed here.