WWE: What’s in a Name? The Debut of Finn Balor

2014 – “I’ve never spent a dime or a penny on an Independent or Japanese wrestling event in my life but I am FURIOUS that the WWE and Vince McMahon have decided to change the names of Devitt and Kenta.”

1990 – “I cannot believe the WWF and Vince McMahon are not letting him keep the “Mean” Mark Callous moniker. And what the hell sort of a name is “The Undertaker” anyway?”

There may be a lot of things to complain about with the current WWE product. No one is going to stand there and suggest that the WWE is “better than ever” and at the top of it’s game. And I’m well aware that modern technology and sensibilities mean that those people with “grievances” have a worldwide platform to complain about every little thing in wrestling (and in life in general) that they hate/disagree with. So yes, it’s 2014 and we have to accept that people will moan.

But that doesn’t mean that I can avoid certain things annoying me.

It is no secret that where possible, the WWE will change the name of each wrestler they sign. Unless you are a mega-star of the stature of Sting, your name is changing when you walk through the doors at Titan Towers. The issues with CM Punk since his departure will only serve to convince the WWE management that they are correct in this approach.

So my question is why do people bother moaning and whining every time an independent stand-out who they’ve likely never paid to watch in their lives comes to the WWE and goes through that process?

I’ve followed the careers of Devitt and Kenta for quite some time. I’ve taken in independent shows like Preston City Wrestling on the basis that Devitt was there. And whilst I’ve never paid to watch Kenta I have watched as many matches of his as I could find on the internet going back a decade or so. But all that puts me in the distinct minority of WWE fans. I’m not talking about internet fans who complain about the product without ever spending money on it. I’m talking about the fans who watch RAW on a Monday night as a bit of escapism/fun and may catch Smackdown if they’re not busy that night. The kind of fans who don’t appreciate that there is a world of wrestling outside what the WWE offer. The kind of people who chant “ECW” despite never having seen an ECW show when it was alive.

The fact remains that to the casual audience the names Kenta and Devitt mean nothing. Zilch. Changing their names will not effect them whatsoever. The “smarts” will still know who they are and the “marks” can be wowed by their skills regardless of the name. And the old “names” have little value to the WWE. Anyone who knows them by that name will already know they are in the WWE. Is anybody going to boycott the “E” because they’ve changed the name of a good wrestler who they are looking to push into something else?

And quite apart from that side of things, it makes sense for business considerations. The WWE are able to trademark names, make money off their merchandise (and earn more for the wrestlers in the process) and have control over their product. It also makes some sort of sense for the wrestler themselves, who don’t have to sign away control over their “old” name to the evil corporation. To some it may smack of “micro-managing” but the WWE are looking after their bottom line. It’s a sensible way to run a business.

And all this moaning misses the most important thing about all this. That talent like Devitt, Kenta, Adrian “Pac” Neville and Kevin Steen (soon to be Kevin Owens on TV) now have the platform to ply their wares on a global scale. That they have to opportunity to make more money than they could anywhere else. That we the fans have easy, up to date access, to their matches. That the WWE seem to be serious about getting in new talent and letting them do what they do best. That they’re not being saddled with bus driver, street cleaner or bowling instructor gimmicks.

As I said at the top, there are plenty of things to moan about. WWE changing the names of Independent and foreign stars isn’t one of them in my opinion. Just be grateful that they are here in the first place.

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