The Real Meaning Behind These Wrestler Names Explained

Professional wrestling may be scripted and not all of the in-ring injuries are as serious as they're made out to be — but, as Mick Foley's long-missing ear can testify, it's not what you could really call fake, either. One thing about the sport that is (almost) always made up, however, are the names the wrestlers perform under. While there are a handful of wrestlers out there whose ring names match the ones on their birth certificates, for the most part, once you go into the wrestling business, you're in for a name change whether you want one or not.


Some of the ring names listed here are really, really cool, and others not so much. There are even a few that you may be surprised to realize aren't real names at all because since they just seem kind of ... normal. Each and every one has a story behind it, though, and nobody sells a story like a wrestler –- or, in the case of Chris Jericho, a "sports entertainer."

Adam Cole

Adam Cole's given name is Austin Jenkins, but he knew he'd need to pick a new one since wrestling is a wee bit oversaturated with Austins at present. There's Austin Aries, Austin Gunn, the Theory Formerly Known as Austin, and of course the original Stone Cold one, Austin 3:16 himself. Of course, as if to prove the point, Cole picked the name Adam and then wound up in a promotion where his number one rivalry would be with another Adam, Hangman Page. He mentioned on "Talk is Jericho" (per Inside the Ropes) that his parents originally wanted his first name to be Cole, but changed their minds at the last minute for some unknown reason.


As for the Bay Bay, he says he got the idea for a name/catchphrase combo when be was wrestling in the indies along with Joey Mercury and Mercury kept shouting out his own name. Cole realized that was one way to make people remember you. The "baby" part, however, came from Chris Jericho, who used to stand on the chests of fallen opponents and say "C'mon, baby." As Cole revealed on the "AEW Unrestricted" podcast (Via Wrestling News Co.), while he started off with "Adam Cole baby," eventually the word changed into "bay bay" and, as he tells it, his delivery "got more and more obnoxious as time went on."

Alexa Bliss

Alexa Bliss has had quite the arc in WWE. The one-time Goddess went over to the dark side in an epic heel turn when she took on Bray Wyatt's Fiend persona, and then there was all that craziness with her doll Lilly, who was ripped to shreds by the sadistic Charlotte Flair (a heel who needs no evil gimmick over and above being Rick Flair's daughter). Then there was that weird business with Bliss' therapy sessions, and now she's back as ... we really don't know quite yet. Her name, however, is a remnant of a long-abandoned NXT persona.


In earlier days, it seems Little Miss Bliss was meant to be a southern belle, and she'd go around uttering the phrase "bless her heart." In Bliss' fake accent (the real-life Alexis Kaufman is a native of Ohio) the phrase came out sounding like "bliss her heart," and as she tells For the Win, "It became a play on words and not meaning a good thing." She felt that with this as her name, she could then play around with it by claiming to be "blissed off" and doling out "Bliss slaps." While her southern belle says are long behind her, Miss Bliss is stilly blissfully beating the bejesus out of everyone who steps in the ring with her, so perhaps the name still suits her well enough.


Bayley, the hugger-turned-heel, is actually Pamela Rose Martinez. She signed on with WWE at a time when they were apparently going pretty minimalist with names, as she tells Chris Jericho on "Talk is Jericho" that all she was given to work with was a short list of just three first names. She was trying to suggest a few options of her own, all of them unisex ones like Jordan or Bobby because, as she explains, "I don't want it to be super girly." WWE shot her down (quel surprise) and insisted she go with one of their picks.


Of the three names on the list, Bayley says she can't even remember one of them, but it must have been pretty bad. Another name was "Davia," which she thought was maybe a typo for "Davina." They said no, "Davia" was exactly what they meant, and she said "That's not even a name." She reluctantly went with Bailey, a name she didn't much care for but found to be less awful than the other options. Still, she did insist on putting her own spin on it, changing the spelling to "Bayley." As she explains, she's from the Bay Area so the spelling is meant as a small shout-out to her hometown.

Cactus Jack

Cactus Jack may not have been the first of Mick Foley's many faces, but it was the one under which he first made (and broke) his bones. Interestingly enough, this colorful character was originally meant to be nothing more than a placeholder. As Foley once admitted in a piece written for Sports Illustrated, "I only intended to be Cactus Jack long enough to learn the ropes and develop enough confidence to become the man I really thought I was destined to become -– Dude Love." Funny how things work out. As to how Foley came up with this "generic, boring name," it seems he adopted it from a 1979 movie called "The Villain" starring Kirk Douglas (a "screen legend," as per Foley's RIP tweet upon Douglas' death) as well as a pre-"Terminator" Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Foley being Foley, though, there's more to the story than some long-forgotten comedy western. As per WWE, Foley and his dad used to play a wrestling-themed board game, and Cactus Jack was the name he gave to his dad's in-game persona in honor of the Douglas movie, so the name is meant as a tribute to his dad. 

In recent years, Foley has faced some competition for the name from rapper Travis Scott, namesake of the Mickey D's "Cactus Jack" meal that doubtless disappointed countless wrestling fans. (Where's the Mick Foley merch?) While WWE tried to counter Scott's efforts to trademark the Cactus Jack name, Foley's now trying to lock down the rights himself.

Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho, aka Y2J, Le Champion, the Wizard, and, less frequently, Christopher Keith Irvine, may be quite the all-around entertainer (we wouldn't dare call him a pro wrestler out of a healthy respect for his fireball-throwing abilities), but one talent he apparently lacks is the ability to pick a good ring name on the first try. As he reveals on "The Rich Eisen Show," he originally planned to call himself Jack Action. Yes, really. He admits "I thought it was going to make me a million dollars." (Mission accomplished, but no thanks to that name.)


It wasn't until Jericho told someone else his plan, and they told him "You can't be Jack Action, that's stupid," that he realized that yes, it is pretty dorky. He tried to pass that name choice off as a joke, but was then left scrambling to come up with a better one on the spur of the moment. Fortuitously, Jericho laid eyes on the album "Walls of Jericho" by German power metal band Helloween. In that instant, he gained not only a decent ring name, but also a pretty epic finishing move.

CM Punk

CM Punk has worked for many different promotions including WCW, ROH, WWE, and UFC, and is now a top star with AEW, but throughout most of his career he's had just the one ring name. As to what it means, the last name refers to his preferred musical genre, of course. Punk, however, has long preferred to be a man of mystery as regards the initials CM. As he admitted to IGN in an interview back during his WWE run, "Every time someone asks me, I tell them something different." Among the explanation's he's come up with are that it stands for "Simpsons" character C. Montgomery Burns; for "Chicago Made," since he is from the Windy City; for Chuck Mosley, claiming it to be his real name (it's actually Phillip Jack Brooks); and even for such unlikely candidates as Crooked Moonsault, Charles Manson, and Cookie Monster.


The real origins of "CM," though, are something Punk might well be a little embarrassed about. The initials actually stand for "Chick Magnet," as he was once part of a tag team by this name. So how do we know this isn't just another piece of fiction from prolific storyteller Punk? Sports Illustrated confirms it by reporting that he testified under oath to this name origin during the course of legal proceedings in 2018. Hey, as long as AJ Lee doesn't mind her hubs being a self-proclaimed chick magnet, then it's okay with us, too.

Darby Allin

Anyone familiar with old-school punk rock can tell you where Darby Allin gets both halves of his name -– as per eWrestling, the Darby comes from Darby Crash, lead singer of the Germs, while Allin's eponym could be none other than GG, a one-man musical Attitude Era who once defecated onstage at a Milwaukee show. While both men died from drug overdoses -– Darby Crash 13 years before his wrestling namesake was even born and GG Allin when he was about 6 months old –- Darby Allin told "Busted Open Radio" (via Wrestling Edge) that he himself is straight edge, which is something he has in common with CM Punk.


Another thing Allin doesn't really have in common with his punk rock heroes is his style. He's adopted more of a goth look than a hardcore one and wouldn't have looked too out of place in '80s bands such as Alien Sex Fiend and Specimen. The spooky face paint is something he shares with his sometime ring partner and locker roommate Sting, earning the twosome a roasting from The Acclaimed in their hilarious diss track about "two grown men going through a goth phase."

Jushin Thunder Liger

New Japan Pro-Wrestling may just be the purest form of professional wrestling on the planet, but they have struggled to find a mainstream audience in the U.S. due in part to not having a regular TV slot in America. All that may be about to change, however, thanks to AEW president Tony Khan. He's all about establishing a working partnership between AEW and NJPW and now that the Forbidden Door has cracked open, we're hoping there'll be plenty more such matches to follow. WWE, however, has less of a track record of playing nice with other promotions, NJPW included. Still, they can (and do) claim one of NJPW's biggest legends as one of their own due to a brief NXT stint late in his career: Jushin Thunder Liger.


Liger's name, and his extremely colorful ring gear and mask, were taken directly from an anime series that debuted in 1989, which was the same year he adopted the persona. By the following year, Liger had gained the sobriquet "Thunder," as well. In a case of life imitating art, the anime series was even spun off into a 1995 classic cheesefest called "Jushin Thunder Liger: Fist of Thunder" that stars the Living Legend himself.

Macho Man Randy Savage

Macho Man Randy Savage was born Randy Poffo, and if that last name rings a bell (perhaps a ring bell), it's because his dad, Angelo Poffo, was also a wrestler, as was his brother, the poetry-reading Leaping Lenny Poffo (kind of a proto-Max Caster). Randy Poffo got his start in the sports industry playing pro ball in the Cardinals' minor league system, but when he decided to join the family business he didn't want to ride on his dad's or baby brother's coattails. Instead, he went with a Spider-Man gimmick and called himself The Spider, but Biography says that Ole Anderson convinced him to drop the spider shtick and just call himself Randy Savage after his "savage" style.


As to the "Macho Man" moniker, Savage credits his mom, Judy, although there is some question about the actual timetable involved. He told IGN Sports that his mom read a Reader's Digest article about how the term was going to become the next hot catch phrase long before the Village People song of the same name became a hit, but his mom's obituary indicates that the article may have come out in response to the song. We may never have the whole truth (we tried, but searching the Internet Archive "Reader's Digest" collection for "macho man" yielded zero results), but one thing we do know: Savage did not adopt the Village People hit as his entrance music. Instead, he opted for a true classic: "Pomp and Circumstance" by Sir Edward Elgar.


Penta El Zero M

Penta El Zero M is a man of many monikers, so much so that Rey Fénix complains in a hilarious YouTube interview, "I don't know what to call you anymore, dude." Fénix doesn't think much of this practice, saying "one day your name is this and the other is that." Penta, however, explains: "My name depends on the circumstances." In Lucha Libre AAA, he wrestled as Pentagon, Jr., and started out under that name in AEW. He's now Penta El Zero M on the current AEW roster and has wrestled under this name in CMLL, as well. In Lucha Underground, he started as Pentagon, Jr. and wound up Pentagon Dark, and he's been known to show up in AEW as Penta Oscuro. This mysterious asked man also goes by the name of Penta El Zero Miero, perhaps when he's wishing to be formal.


As for the reason behind these names, the Pentagon character has been passed down through several luchadors, but there is thought to be some bad luck associated with the name. The "El Zero (or Cero) Miedo" (meaning "zero fear") started as a catchphrase adopted by Penta Jr. to show that he wasn't worried about any Pentagon curse, but he later adopted it as a ring name due to the fact that AAA owns the rights to Pentagon Jr.

Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat

Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat is one of the few wrestlers in WWE who never did turn heel. In fact, it's thanks to his perpetual babyface status that he owes his ring name. As Steamboat told the "Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw" podcast (via Inside the Ropes), he'd been wrestling in the indies under his real name of Ricky Blood. When he went down to Florida and met up with promoter Eddie Graham, Graham told him that while Rick Blood was "a great wrestling name," he added "Blood, that's for heels." The future Dragon was not starting a heel run then (or, as it turned out, ever), so Graham chose to book him as the nephew of another Hawaiian wrestler who'd worked the territories a decade or so earlier, Sammy Steamboat. Sammy Steamboat was quite the star back in the day, so his kayfabe nephew went over in a big way. As a result, the newly-dubbed Ricky Steamboat would stick with that name for the rest of his career.


As for the "Dragon" bit, this came in 1985 when Steamboat started working for WWF. Steamboat is of half-Japanese descent, so WWF decided to give him a whole Asian dragon gimmick complete with nickname and Japanese-inspired ring gear. The whole dragon bit served him well in his feud with Jake "The Snake" Roberts -– when Roberts brought out his pet python, Steamboat saw the snake and matched him with a komodo dragon.

Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper, the original Rowdy One, spent most of his career as a faux Scotsman, but as per his obituary in the newspaper also called The Scotsman, his not-quite-native land didn't seem to mind one bit. In fact, the paper made sure to point out that the late Roderick George Toombs was, in fact, of Scottish ancestry despite being Canadian by birth. The popular Mr. Piper was also an adopted son of Portland (via The Oregonian) for the last few decades of his life.


So how did Piper come up with the whole Scottish ring shtick? Well, both the bagpipe entrance music and the name date back to his days in the long-defunct American Wrestling Association. As per "In the Pit With Piper," his first match was in 1973. On this occasion he walked out to the ring passing out dandelions to the crowd while a friend played the bagpipes, The ring announcer didn't know the wrestler's last name, so he just introduced the man as "Roddy the Piper" (although Roddy the piper's friend would have been a more accurate description). Piper apparently abandoned the dandelion gimmick in short order, but he kept the ring name (minus the "the") and embraced the whole Scottish theme with his signature kilt, pipe music, and Glaswegian billing.


Stone Cold Steve Austin

Wrestling these days may be oversaturated with Austins, yet there's only one who merits his own scripture, Austin 3:16 ("I just whipped your a**!"). Steve Austin has wrestled under that name since early in his career, although his birth name is Steven Anderson (later changed to Williams). There's not much information about how or why the Austin moniker was chosen, although it seems likely that it was meant to refer to his very non-kayfabe Texas roots. As to the "Stone Cold," however, there's a well-documented (and very amusing) story that lies behind this.


In WCW, Steve Austin was "Stunning," while in ECW he became "Superstar." When he arrived in WWF, however, he was stuck with a "Ringmaster" gimmick that he was understandably anxious to ditch in favor of something more menacing. Inspired by a documentary about a serial killer called The Iceman, Austin took this idea to WWE creative, but as he later told Larry King (via Essentially Sports), they came up with "the worst names I'd seen in the history of my life ... Otto von Ruthless, Ice Dagger, Fang McFrost." Luckily, help would soon arrive in the most unlikely way. Austin's now ex-wife Jeannie Clarke, who is British, made her husband some tea and told him to drink up before it got "stone cold." A light bulb went off, a legend was born, and all on account of a cup of tea. Who knew? We've always assumed Austin was strictly a beer man.



As we all know now, since he's been breaking kayfabe right, left, and center since his retirement, the menacing Undertaker is really an affable (if impressively large) man named Mark Calaway. His ring name, however, is less of a name than it is a job descriptor, although the whole "Man With No Name" gimmick harks back to the spaghetti western genre that seems to have been a clear influence on the character. At one time, however, the Undertaker character did have another name. According to Bleacher Report, his last (or maybe first) name was meant to be ... Kane. Seriously, "Kane the Undertaker" was the name WWF came up with, but the announcers were leaving out the Kane part so they decided to save it for later use when a "brother" showed up.


As to the genesis of the Deadman character, and the name attached, it seems we have Vince McMahon to thank for the idea of a Wild West gravedigger. As the Phenom told Joe Rogan (via YouTube), one day he was at home and the phone rang and he picked it up to hear a very distinctive gravelly voice ask "Is this the Undertaker?" He thought to himself, "Undertaker, that's pretty f****** cool," certainly compared to certain other gimmicks he might have been saddled with (he had the notorious Gobbledy Gooker in mind). Needless to say, the new Undertaker was on board right away. and was happy to spend the next 30 years digging holes and taking souls.

Big Van Vader

Back in 1987, as Pro Wrestling Stories tells it, a fellow named Leon White was wrestling in NJPW. They felt that he had the size and the skills to be the new monster heel who could serve as a foil to the great Antonio Inoki. Unfortunately, no one is all that intimidated by a Leon, not even in Japan, nor did his nickname of "Baby Bull" (bestowed by Verge Gagne in his AWA days) lend him sufficient gravitas. When the promoters got the idea of creating a brand-new character, though, White took to the Big Van Vader role as if he were born to play it.


Big Van Vader was created by Go Nagai, the same artist who would later be responsible for Jushin Liger (both manga and wrestling character). Vader was an ancient Japanese warrior complete with sci-fi samurai ring gear including mask and (sometimes) steam-spewing helmet. The one thing Vader wasn't, was any relation to Star Wars villain Darth. While some wondered whether George Lucas would object to Vader's using that ring name once he came over to WWF, Jim Cornette had this to say: "I can't sit here and say with a 100% certainty that no one ever contacted him because of his name, but obviously nothing ever came of it." Cornette went on to explain that the reason the masked wrestler was introduced as "The man they call Vader" had to do more with the sound of it than for any legal reasons.