Home Op-Ed Guest Columns Saturday Supplement: What’s in a Name?

Saturday Supplement: What’s in a Name?

saturdaysupplement

In the Saturday Supplement, the Diva Dirt team will aim to discuss a news story, a televised event or other relevant and current topics. The objective, like the average weekend newspaper, is to offer more indepth and lengthy discussion.

With last week’s debut of Courtney Taylor I thought, amongst other things, how awful that name was. But let’s be honest–for a girl that used to be named Wesley Holliday, you can only go “up” in the name department. That thought led me to think of how and why the WWE and TNA name their Divas and Knockouts the way that they do. Some names stick, some don’t, and others just boggle the mind with their awfulness. I’ll ponder that, and take a look at some of the aliases that have become some of the most recognizable names in business, as well as some that just don’t make a damn bit of sense.

Of course, a discussion on wrestling names wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Victoria, er.. Tara. The internet breathed a collective “Huh??” at the unveiling of the new name. After all, how would that sound on television? “Tara hits the Widow’s Peak!” Eh, not really feeling it. After having a name as fitting as Victoria, is was strange to see her suddenly have to change monikers. But let’s figure out why she had to do it: did the WWE have a trademark on the name? Probably, but WWE-to-TNA transfers have often found loopholes and ways to get around that. Christian Cage, anyone? After the recent debut of Lashley, who of course didn’t have to change his name from his recognizable WWE moniker, it makes me wonder if Victoria was forced into changing her name, and if so, why? She had a long, storied history with the WWE, and if any Knockout commanded respect right from the get-go, it was her. Unless I’m wrong and it was her idea to change names, I think it’s pretty crappy to make her switch from something she’s been associated with for so long. After all, don’t TNA love getting a rub from the WWE’s past successes? Why would they want to sever that mental tie to Tara’s success in the WWE by completely changing her name? And for the love of God, why Tara? It’s such an un-intimidating name (Yeah, I get the Tara-Terror connection), and just sounds silly in the context of a wrestling match. Maybe if she had a faux last name with it, it would be easier to digest. Though I will admit, it’s been growing on me after a while, but probably just because I’m getting more used to it.

But while we’re on the topic of TNA, that company has a pretty storied history of questionable Knockout names. ODB, for instance, stands for One Dirty Bitch, clearly a moniker fitting for her over-the-top character, but it’s so damn weird. All I think of when I hear it is the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, which probably isn’t too far fetched, since he often went by the initials ODB as well. Now, I can’t knock her for doing something out of the ordinary, but I personally wouldn’t name myself a bitch. I probably wouldn’t drink from a flask on my way to the ring either, so we’re probably not destined to see eye-to-eye on much. TNA has a plethora of other names that jump onto many fans’ “worst” lists: Sojo Bolt, Salinas, Taylor Vaughn, Priscilla, Goldy Locks, April Pennington, Lollipop, Desire, Simply Luscious/Nurse Veronica (same lucky woman), Moose, Payton Banks, Rhaka Khan, and Lauren Brooke. Most of these names suffer from “Porn Star-itis”, as I like to call it–they sound like they belong in the credits of “Debbie Does Dallas 27”. Though, I must say, the names that take the porn-flavored cake are none other than the Beautiful People themselves: Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, and Madison Rayne. I remember the confusion when Angel Williams and Talia Madison changed their names–did they flip open a hippy parents’ name book, pick two names at random and just combine them? Granted, some fans like the names, but I prefer not to associate my women’s wrestlers with porn stars, however similar they may be at times.

That seems to be the biggest hurdle in coming up with a name in women’s wrestling: Does it sound too porn-y? The random combination of first and last names often sound contrived, fake, and thus like a porn alias. Don’t believe me? Ask Saylor James, Wesley Holliday (now our lovely Courtney Taylor), Taylor Wilde, Rosa Mendes (though Eva might object), Kelly Kelly (the name so nice stupid they used it twice), Alexis Laree (a combo of Mickie James‘s “dancer” name and middle name), and Brie & Nikki Bella. There’s always the random woman who is both a wrestler personality AND a porn star–like Jasmine St. Clair. Clearly she wouldn’t mind being included in this group, since she’s more into doing gang bang videos these days than wrestling. I have to say, too, that a name like Chyna ain’t exactly clear of those types of connotations–think of her as the godmother of wrestling porn names.

What about the single-named women? Names like Melina, Lita, Ivory, Layla, Sable, Tori, Sunny, Maria, Sarita, Jacqueline, Maryse, Natalya, Sharmell, and Daffney add a little bit of mystery, but tend to come off to me like Prince or Madonna–too stage-y. A lot of these women are using their real names and just chopping off their last names. So, it’d be simple to just add those on and you’d get a full name–would you prefer Melina Perez, Layla El, Maria Kanellis, Maryse Ouellet, and Natalya Neidhart? Personally, I’d prefer the last names to be added on. It adds an element of realism and makes the character less like a character and more like a real person. Some prefer the theatricality, but I don’t.

Speaking of real people, many wrestlers tend to stick with their full, real names–no smoke and mirrors here! Women like Mickie James, Michelle McCool, Eve Torres, Gail Kim, Christy Hemme, Torrie Wilson, Lilian Garcia, and Stacy Keibler are examples of this. Some of these are Diva Search contestants who were introduced under their real names and just stuck with it, and others just prefer to go all natural. It’s not as creative as other options, but if your birth name has enough pizazz, why not go with it? It also makes things a bit easier if you leave your company and want to branch out elsewhere–they shouldn’t be able to use legal ties to keep you from using that name. As I mentioned before, I like the realism, and you don’t run the risk of concocting some stripper-esque stage name.

All of that considered, what names stick while others don’t? Fan or not, you have to admit that Lita succeeded in making a single name more synonymous with her than anyone else, even rock legend Lita Ford. How was this achieved? Well, the single name certainly didn’t hurt when it comes to fans remembering it, and its uniqueness made her stand out amongst all the more Americanized names. It’s almost as if she took the name and made it an adjective, defined as “red-haired, tattooed, high-flying female wrestler”. And Trish Stratus.. These days, that name sounds a little hokey in itself–the Stratus part, obviously–but there’s no denying that she (real name Patricia Stratigias) made the name popular and catchy. It never seemed silly to me as a young viewer. And I won’t deny that, while studying various cloud formations in elementary school science class, I couldn’t help but think of Trish when memorizing which clouds were stratus and which were cumulus. Sable is another example of this. A sable, technically speaking, is a small Russian mammal, hence her famous growling entrance music. Though, many people conjure up the image of the blonde bombshell when hearing that word. But she is arguably one of the most famous women in wrestling history, so commandeering the name of an entire species of animal is small potatoes for her.

What other names are destined to be forever attributed with their owner? Well, it’s obvious that Awesome Kong‘s name won’t get her confused with anyone else anytime soon. That name is wonderfully old school–it calls to mind the powerful wrestlers of the 80’s–and fits her perfectly. I mean let’s face it, and regular old name just isn’t going to work for her. Beth Phoenix, while probably inspired by a certain X-Men member, has a name that’s equal parts theatrical and memorable. It’s not all that silly, but still commands your attention when you hear it. MsChif, the SHIMMER wrestler, has name that’s a bit fractured and MySpace-y, but it’s perfect for her–her character is spooky and strange–so a weird name just fits. Alicia Fox, I feel, has a fantastic name. It almost has shades of an Austin Powers character, but it’s funky and cool. It’s unique, and not her real name (that’d be Victoria Crawford), yet when Lilian announces her name, it doesn’t sound like she’s next on stage 3 at the strip club next to the airport.

What can we learn from these successes and failures? Maybe, that a name in itself should be memorable. In wrestling, the Divas and Knockouts are often an afterthought in the minds of fans. Having a “blah” name isn’t going to help you stand out amongst a sea of silicone implants and tanning booth-tinted skin. But, with that in mind, one cannot forsake taste and integrity in choosing a name that’s cheesy or skanky. When your name is announced, you don’t want people to conjure up images of a rough-around-the-edges stripper or a porn star. Whether they go with their birth name or come up with something new, the important thing is to make sure it reflects their personality–when I think of “Melina”, do I think of a dark-haired, limber latina? When I hear the name “Mickie”, is there anything else that can pop to my mind other than the smiley Diva and that peppy music? What about “Maryse”–does anything reflect that sense of French sensuality better than that? You want a name that becomes synonymous with you, much like Lita, Trish, and Sable. With that, you’ll be on your way to becoming as fabled as they are. And that, my friends, it what is in a name.

What are you favorite and least favorite monikers in women’s wrestling? Share your love and hatred below in the comments!