Dual Identity: Wrestlers Who Shared Nicknames and Legacies
Whether it is “Stone Cold,” “Macho Man,” or the “Heartbreak Kid,” nicknames are an integral part of a wrestler’s identity and give viewers an insight into the character they see on-screen. However, sometimes these wrestling nicknames do not last or are given to someone else. Here is a selection of wrestlers who, for one reason or another, shared nicknames with other stars!
A nickname now almost exclusively used in reference to Dwayne Johnson, the Hollywood megastar first joined the WWE in 1996 as Rocky Maivia. After suffering a knee injury in a match against Mankind, Johnson took a break for recovery.
When he returned to the ring in August 1997, he refused to acknowledge the Rocky Maivia name and began referring to himself in the third person as “The Rock.” The rest, as they say, is history. It remains one of the most recognized nicknames in the world.
Nevertheless, he was not the first to go by “The Rock” in wrestling.
Evolution of ‘The Rock’ Nickname
Afterward, he was repackaged in tie-dye as Don “The Rock” Muraco.
As “The Rock,” he wrestled in the main event of the 1987 Survivor Series, had a successful run in the first Royal Rumble, and was part of the WWF Championship tournament at WrestleMania 4. He is currently a WWE Hall of Famer, although his use of the nickname has been long overshadowed by the “People’s Champion.”
“The Nature Boy”
Famously used by Ric Flair, there have been two other notable wrestlers who went by “The Nature Boy” before and after Flair’s rise.
Flair took many character aspects from the former NWA World Champion, such as the figure-4 leglock, the bleach-blonde hair, and the signature strut.
Unnatural Journey: Buddy Landel and the Nature Boy Nickname
Another star who used this wrestling nickname was Buddy Landel.
Regarded as one of the most wasted talents of all time, Landel never reached his full potential due to personal demons.
Despite his high prospects, such as a run with the Smoky Mountain World Heavyweight Championship and proposed NWA title shot, the Ric Flair-in-waiting never managed to become a solidified top guy.
Trademark Tussle: Ric Flair’s Clash
On a related side note, in 2019, Ric Flair caused a stir when he threatened to sue WWE for the use of Becky Lynch’s nickname “The Man,” a nickname Ric made popular through his famous aphorism: "To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!"
Ric Flair admitted to TMZ Sports that his wish to receive compensation for the nickname, which he used as “The Nature Boy,” caused a rift with his daughter, Charlotte.
“When I almost died two years ago, one person [Wendy] stayed by me,” Flair said. “The whole time—31 days in the ICU, 12 days while I was dying on a respirator—and I’m gonna take care of her, and her family, and my family that has taken care of me no matter what.”
He later added, “I don’t care what the WWE thinks of me personally. I know they love me, but obviously they’ve lost respect for me.”
Ric Flair said that he would allow Lynch to use the phrase if his trademark application was successful and as long as WWE compensated him for it. Unfortunately for Flair, the dispute concluded in May 2020 following WWE’s successful application for the trademark the year before.
Initially introduced as the face tag team partner of Mid-South megastar Junkyard Dog, Butch Reed was given the wrestling nickname “Hacksaw.” This, in turn, sparked a feud with Jim Duggan, who had the same nickname.
Nickname Driven Double Turn
At the time, Duggan was a member of the villainous Rat Pack alongside Matt Borne (who would later play the role of “Doink the Clown”) and Ted DiBiase. This rivalry centered around the nickname and caused a double turn as the heel (bad guy) Duggan turned face, and Reed turned heel amid the feud.
When the two arrived in the WWF years later, Duggan kept the “Hacksaw” nickname while Reed was repackaged as “The Natural” (a nickname Dustin Rhodes would later use).
Both Butch and Jim continued to use the “Hacksaw” nickname afterward.
“Excellence of Execution”
In the days before this nickname was given to Bret Hart, Bob Orton Jr. was credited as the “Excellence of Execution.”
A technically sound all-around worker, “Cowboy” Bob was given the wrestling nickname by commentator Gorilla Monsoon. Working around the main event scene during the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling boom in the mid-’80s, Orton helped popularized the superplex wrestling move. This relatively new maneuver and Orton’s traditional ’80s wrestling style were likely why he was given the nickname.
Bret Hart’s Nickname Arsenal and the Aptness of ‘Excellence of Execution’
Not long after, Bret Hart took the nickname on as one of his signature monikers alongside “The Hitman,” “The Pink and Black Attack,” and “The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be.”
The “Excellence of Execution” wrestling nickname was probably better suited for Hart, considering his offense was intrinsically based on in-ring psychology.
“Bruiser” / “King Kong” / “Brody”
Bruiser Brody is an icon in wrestling. He was a rabid brawler, made even more wild and barbaric by his forehead scars, mad hair, and unkempt beard. Competing in nearly every wrestling promotion of the ’70s and ’80s, he was best known by the Brody name, although he would change it.
Identity Shift: When King Kong Brody Roamed the Midwest
In midwestern promotions, most famously the American Wrestling Association, he was renamed: King Kong Brody.
The reason behind the name change was due to the respect he had for brawler The Bruiser and to avoid confusion.
Also wrestling around this time was Mid-South and later WWF behemoth King Kong Bundy. He also now shared the wrestling nickname of former wrestler Angelo “King Kong” Mosca.
The Influence Of Bruiser Brody
Bruiser Brody’s influence in wrestling runs deep, and the late Jon Huber named his wrestling persona after him to become Brodie Lee. Huber had a similar style and look to the original Brody and went under the name in companies such as Ring of Honor and All Elite Wrestling up until his tragic premature death in late 2020.
With so many preening, self-loving, narcissistic gimmicks in wrestling, it was not inconceivable that multiple wrestlers would share the “Handsome” handle.
Initially, Harley Race took the moniker when debuting in the AWA alongside Larry “The Axe” Hennig. A nickname given to Race in Japan, he was a cocky heel, and he was not beneath using foreign objects and illegal tactics to win matches.
Persona Transformation: Handsome Jimmy Valiant
Together with Mr. Perfect’s father, the duo had three reigns with the AWA tag belts.
Alongside “brother” “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, the duo found much success as The Valiant Brothers in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s in the WWWF, NWA’s Continental Wrestling Association, and World Wrestling Association, amongst others.
Valiant even released Jimmy Hart and The Gentrys’ “The Ballad of Handsome Jimmy,” a song used not only as his entrance theme but also was a staple on Memphis radio stations for years.
One of the most athletic big men of all time, the 400-pound “Bam Bam” Bigelow found a career for himself across the WWF, WCW, and ECW.
Being able to do moonsaults and cartwheels, he could move through the ring with the ease of a cruiserweight.
A credible monster in whatever company he worked, the former ECW World Heavyweight Champion made it to the finals of the 1993 King of the Ring and main-evented the inaugural Survivor Series as well as WrestleMania 11.
“The Beast From The East” too was notable for his distinctive look with a large flame tattooed across his head, missing teeth, and goatee – an intimidating, rugged look that defined his character.
Bam Bam Gordy: Brawler, Champion, and Legendary Feuds
Another notable “Bam Bam” was Terry Gordy.
The gifted muscle of the Fabulous Freebirds, “Bam Bam” Gordy, was the hoss of the group – the merciless brawler who slammed the door on Kerry Von Erich, thus starting the lucrative and long-standing feud with the Von Erich family.
Additionally, he found further success in a team alongside “Dr. Death” Steve Williams called the Violence Miracle Connection.
Gordy was also a solo star, becoming the first UWF Champion and Smoky Mountain Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship holder.
The duo of Bam Bam Bigelow and Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy collided multiple times in bouts billed as the “Battle of The Bam Bams.” The most famous of which was their second encounter in the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, where Bigelow prevailed after aid from The Eliminators, followed by a diving headbutt.
“The Living Legend”
Bruno Sammartino was a wrestling god in the ’60s and ’70s, holding the WWWF Championship for eleven years in total.
As an accomplished veteran of the ring, he tried to teach his craft to others in order to aid them with their career. One of these was Larry Zbyszko, who went on to win the WWWF World Tag Team titles under Sammartino’s tutelage alongside Tony Garea.
Sick of being in Bruno’s shadow, Zbyszko convinced the Italian phenomenon into a match by claiming he would retire if he did not get the match.
Betrayal in Allentown: Larry Zbyszko’s Infamous Turn
In Allentown on January 22nd, 1980, Zbyszko committed one of the most famous betrayals in wrestling history, stabbing Sammartino in the back and memorably hitting the former WWWF champ with a chair, leaving him in a pool of blood.
Afterward, Zbyszko embarked on a heel run, stealing his former ally’s “The Living Legend” nickname.
The two continued to fight, with their biggest bout being at Shea Stadium in front of 36,295 people.
Zbyszko’s heat was so great at the time that his vehicles were destroyed, and he was even stabbed in the backside by a fan after a match with Pedro Morales.
Larry Zbyscko would carry on “The Living Legend” persona as an on-screen WCW personality in the ’90s. He was a commentator and sporadic in-ring competitor in this run, being billed with this wrestling nickname to give him more credibility to newer fans.
One of the greatest heels of all time, Ray Stevens was a heat magnet throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Although not spoken about as much as he should be today, he was a brilliant worker in tag teams with Nick Bockwinkel and Pat Patterson.
On AWA TV in 1972, Stevens wrestled Doctor X (“The Destroyer” D. Beyer) in a match. To write Beyer off of television for his run in Japan as “The Destroyer,” he had his leg broken by Stevens. Ray hit his Bombs Away diving knee drop onto Dr. X’s leg, which was tied up into the ropes.
This angle put over the move, playing it off as a deadly, serious threat – so much so that it had to be outlawed from the company. From that point onward, Stevens dropped his “Blond Bomber” persona to become “The Crippler.”
Chris Benoit, Sabu, and the Birth of ‘The Crippler’ Persona
At ECW’s flagship event, November To Remember, in 1994, the main event saw Sabu take on Chris Benoit.
Benoit was still young, early into his career at this point, and the match helped the technical grappler find a better identity for himself.
Just seconds into this match, a botched backdrop attempt saw the death-defying Arabian land on his head, breaking his neck.
This near-paralyzing of Sabu upset Benoit deeply and caused the whole headlining match to be thrown into disarray, with 2 Cold Scorpio being rushed out to help.
ECW booker and head Paul E. Dangerously advised a distraught Benoit to start using “The Crippler” moniker.
This would further get Benoit over as a heel, billed as “Crippler” Benoit further on and described as “The Canadian Crippler” in WCW.
Ever since its accidental invention when Benoit dropped Sabu on his head, it may be the nickname he has become the most synonymous with.
Whilst Ricky Steamboat was “The Dragon” in North America, Tatsumi Fujinami was “The Dragon” in Japan.
Taking his name from Japanese mythological folklore, “The Dragon” Fujinami debuted in the ’70s before finding great success.
Throughout his career, Fujinami won titles in the WWWF, NJPW, and the NWA. The 6-time IWGP World Champion was one of the first to succeed in Japan’s Junior and Heavyweight divisions.
A much bigger star in Japan, he won the 1993 G1 Climax, the Super Grade Tag League, and Karl Gotch Cup, amongst numerous other accolades.
Arguably his biggest match took place at SuperBrawl I in 1991. In this, the double champion lost his NWA strap to Ric Flair after a controversial finish of a match the two had in Japan. This reign meant he was the first to hold the IWGP and NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Largely, his legacy today is cemented by his patent of wrestling moves, the dragon suplex and dragon sleeper, both a nod to Fujinami’s nickname.
He is now in an ambassador role for the WWE and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015 – although he was not the first “Dragon” to be recognized in that prestigious commemoration.
Ricky Steamboat’s Transformation into ‘The Dragon’
When jumping from the NWA to WWF in 1985, Ricky Steamboat ditched his black, short tights for keikogi (martial arts outfit), a headband, and long, white tights. The agile striker was billed from Hawaii but was titled “The Dragon” due to his mother’s Japanese-American heritage.
Steamboat became a hugely popular star in the Golden Era in the mid-late ’80s, winning the Intercontinental Championship in front of nearly 90,000 fans at WrestleMania 3 and taking on the likes of Jake Roberts and The Honky Tonk Man.
Ricky continued to use the nickname from then on, being referred to nearly solely as “The Dragon” during his brief WWF tenure in 1991. The gimmick was also used during his return stint in the NWA in 1989, WCW in the early-mid ’90s, and even post-retirement when with WWE, TNA, and Ring of Honor.
A wrestling icon, he is regarded by many as one of the all-time greats.
The Secret History of WWE’s Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes never had the physique of a wrestling god, but his charisma and innate ability on the microphone more than made up for that. When his name is mentioned, words of kindness and a lispy impression always ensue.
But what was the American Dream like when the cameras weren’t around?
Rick Rude: A Ravishing Man with a Tragic End
“He refused to budge.”
Rick Rude was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime kind of wrestler. He went by the nickname “Ravishing” — and rightfully so. He had a solid moveset, great looks, and unbridled arrogance with the in-ring skill to back it up. He played hard in the ring but even harder out of it.
Mr Perfect Curt Hennig – A Great Life with an Unfortunate End
On camera, Curt Hennig was arrogant, and he backed up his Mr. Perfect persona brilliantly. However, outside of the ring, it was a different story.
Katie Vick – Behind WWE’s Most Shameful TV Segment
Bruce Prichard: "Vince McMahon was like, ‘I love it! That’s perfect!’ I lost a couple of crew members because of this shoot that were highly offended at the subject matter."
In 2002, Katie Vick was introduced to the WWE audience. Many consider what followed one of the most tasteless segments in television history!
Learn more: Katie Vick: Behind WWE’s Most Shameful Storyline
Wrestlers Who Live Unique Lives Outside of the Ring
The lives these wrestlers live outside of the ring may surprise you! Learn more here!
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