Top-Down Smackdown: What’s in a Name?
Amid all the things WWE gets wrong, it was good to tune in last week and see that they’re getting one thing right – Dean Ambrose. I assume the promo where he supposedly stole the T-shirts, while planned, was not word-for-word scripted (if it was, kudos to the writers); the natural charisma this guys has is phenomenal, but more importantly – he can wrestle. Where Seth Rollins is defining himself by high spots, and Roman Reigns by power moves, Ambrose is etching himself in my mind by having good matches with people who don’t always have good matches. He’s even making John Cena look better, and odds are he’ll be in the main event at Hell in a Cell.
There’s just one problem…
Think about every all-time great wrestler who’s been the top guy. Their names almost always fit into one of three categories:
1. Blatantly fake superhero names. Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Undertaker, arguably even Dusty Rhodes.
2. Partially real names, with a twist. Daniel Bryan, Randy Savage, Steve Austin, Ric Flair.
3. Real names so awesome they sound fake. Kurt Angle. Bret Hart. Brock Lesnar.
Where does “Dean Ambrose” fit? Like Chris Harris’ much-derided “Braden Walker” name that he apparently made up on the spot, it is definitely a name that is made up, but it doesn’t seem very marketable. Dean “Unstable” Ambrose is even more of a mouthful that doesn’t roll off the tongue. The damnedest thing is that his real name is one that practically screams marketability: Jonathan Good. Naturally, WWE has to come up with a new name so they can trademark it, but couldn’t they have maybe just done a small change, like “Jonnie Goode”? T-shirts like “It’s Goode to be Bad” write themselves.
The key to a good wrestling shirt is a good catchphrase. People don’t buy shirts that just say “John Cena” – they buy shirts that say “Never Give up” and “You Can’t Stop Me.” Dean Ambrose may yet come up with a great catchphrase that will make a good shirt in and of itself, but “Ambrose” just ain’t a name that’s real versatile. (“Bo Dallas” is a good example of a fake name you can do a lot with.)
It’s not unheard of for stars to change their names on the way to the top – “Rocky Maivia” is the most notable, and the switch to “The Rock” was essential. For the movies, he became Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; for Ambrose’s upcoming movie role, are we actually going to see him billed as Jonathan “Dean Ambrose” Good? Ai-yi-yi, even more of a mouthful.
So maybe one day Dean Ambrose will cut a promo where he says he’s tired of going by a fake name. My thought is that it would be better done sooner than later.
Meanwhile, Mattel just revealed a whole bunch of new action figures, including Elites of Debut Undertaker, red/black reversal classic Kane, Debut Heel Turn HBK, Steve Austin in jorts and What? shirt, Trish Stratus with brown hair, Sgt. Slaughter, Junkyard Dog, Ultimate Warrior, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Blue-tista, and defining moments Razor Ramon and WrestleMania III Hulk Hogan.
New Basics include multiple Hogans, as well as classic Ric Flair, classic Booker T, Dean Ambrose, Usos with full tattoos and the New Age Outlaws. Wrestlingfigs.com has the pics.
Talk back about Raw or anything else below.