WWE Hall of Famer Eric Bischoff spoke about WWE’s trademark and licensing deals on the latest episode of Strictly Business. The former WCW President spoke about several talents who have had their names changed once they get to WWE, like WALTER to Gunther and Pete Dunne to Butch, and revealed why WWE ultimately makes that move. Speaking specifically about Gunther, Bischoff detailed why it wouldn’t make sense for WWE to allow him to use a name he established on the independents with the company.
“If he was WALTER in his indy career and he’s going to be WALTER on Monday Night RAW or SmackDown, then there’s a cloud over who owns that trademark,” Bischoff said. “WWE doesn’t want to have intellectual property, talent, storylines, creativity, promotion, all of the other things that go into the value of building that intellectual property if they don’t own it. Who would do that?
“That would be the same thing as you or I deciding we’re going to rent a piece of property, a beach-front property, we don’t own it, we’re going to rent it and then we both decide I know we’re only renting that property, we don’t really own it but let’s build a house on it. We built a big beautiful home on this big piece of beachfront property and then the guy that owns the title to the property shows up and goes, this is awesome, you guys did a great job, built my dream home on the property that I own. See ya, here’s your eviction notice. You’ve invested all of this money on a beautiful home, on a piece of property that you don’t even own. In this case, WALTER is the property that they don’t really own and in this case, Gunther is the home.”
As recently as last week, WWE changed the name of Austin Theory to just Theory, something the company has done a lot recently, changing Matt Riddle to just Riddle as well. Continuing to talk about WWE’s goal of trademarking talent and their names, Eric Bischoff explained what the reason might be for WWE changing Theory’s name and whether or not he likes the move.
“I can assume that there was an attempt to trademark Austin Theory and for whatever reason, it’s possible that that trademark was denied and could’ve been challenged,” Bischoff said. “Who knows? We don’t know, so they adjusted on the fly and went with Theory instead as a wrestling-related character. I kind of dig it better actually, I like those kinds of names, I like simple brands that aren’t necessarily traditional first and last names. I liked it when they did it and in terms of the reason why they did it, too much we don’t know to speculate.”
Continuing to talk about WWE changing talents’ names to own the trademark, Eric Bischoff spoke about NXT superstar Bron Breakker and the move the company made to remove the Steiner name. On a previous episode of his podcast, Bischoff discussed his dislike for the Breakker name. Having said that, the WWE Hall of Famer explained why WWE had to change his name to Bron Breakker and why the company couldn’t use the name, Rex Steiner.
“The term is called confusingly similar [in trademark law],” Bischoff said. “Rex Steiner is confusing similar to his actual last name, it could be an issue, it could be a potential conflict. Again, especially with Bron, that’s one when I heard of Bron Breakker, I actually got hot. I was like, whoa, why would they do that? Now I know why they did it but I was still reacting emotionally as the fan in me and part of that is because of my relationship with Rick and Scott. I love that connection, the legacy, the second-generation stuff.
“To me, that’s added value to what this industry brings to the table and I was so disappointed that they went with Bron Breakker that I actually got vocal about it on social media. Then the next day, when my fanboy sh*t faded away, I went well of course they have to do that. If they’re going to push Bron Breakker, if he’s going to become a year from now, or five years from now, or 10 years from now, the next Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock, they’ve got to own that brand, that trademark, and you’re not going to do it with Rechsteiner or Rex Steiner.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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