A ring name is a stage name used by a professional wrestler, or in some cases, a martial artist or boxer. Ring names were developed as a defense mechanism to keep kayfabe and allow wrestling performers to hide their true identities from the wrestling fanbase, or because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, amusing for the wrong reasons, or projects the wrong image. Since the advent of the Internet, it is now relatively easy to discover the real name of a wrestler when in the past it was far more difficult. Some example of ring names are Richard Fliehr to Ric Flair, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom to Shawn Michaels, Roderick George Toombs to Roddy Piper, and Chris Irvine to Chris Jericho.
In recent years, however, a growing number of wrestling performers have adopted their real name or a variation thereof for their in-ring persona, sometimes modifying the spelling of their real name to better fit their character or gimmick, such as David Bautista to simply Batista, or Ric Fliehr to Ric Flair. Others simply use part of their name, such as Bill Goldberg using his last name, Ken Doane using his first as Kenny, and Frankie Kazarian simply using an abbreviation of his name Kaz. Many female wrestlers go by their first name only as well. Many also use a nickname in addition to their real name for marketability and other reasons. An example of this is "The Rabid Wolverine" Chris Benoit. Some (mostly independent) wrestlers, such as Nigel McGuinness, still go to great lengths to ensure that their real names are not publicly known.
Professional wrestlers are often referred to by their contemporaries by their ring name. In interviews, Bret Hart has regularly referred to Mark Calaway, Curt Hennig, Kevin Nash by their ring names Undertaker, Mr. Perfect and Diesel, among others. It is generally considered impolite for a fan to address a wrestler by his real name instead of his ring name.
Ring names are often trademarked by the promotion that creates a character or gimmick for a performer, and it is not uncommon to see one performer use a variety of ring names throughout his career, even if his overall persona or gimmick remains similar. For example, Senshi is a ring name used specifically for his second TNA stint so that he would continue to hold onto his original ring name, Low Ki, used elsewhere. Another is example is Team 3D, formerly known as the Dudley Boyz in ECW and WWE, but WWE trademarked the name leading them to have to change their name when they went to TNA. The members' names (Bubba Ray Dudley, D-Von Dudley, and Spike Dudley) were also trademarked by WWE forcing them to have to change their names to Brother Ray, Brother Devon, and Brother Runt.
In rare cases, the rights to a wrestler's ring name may be owned by a company with little or no connection to professional wrestling, such as Marvel Comics' ownership of the name Hulk Hogan until early 2003, which was due to Hogan being advertised as "The Incredible Hulk Hogan" early on in his career, while Marvel owned the trademark for their comic book character The Incredible Hulk.
Sometimes a wrestler will buy the rights to their own ring name; for example, Steve Borden owns the rights to the ring name "Sting". Andrew Martin, formerly known as "Test", took this one step further and legally changed his name to Andrew "Test" Martin. Similarly, Jim Hellwig, aka The Ultimate Warrior, has had his name legally changed to "Warrior".
Protective Name LawEdit
A bill called the "Protective Name Bill" was passed at the end of 2008. This bill makes it illegal for professional wrestlers real names to be posted,given out,and etc. However, the real name may be posted,given out, or etc. if permission is given by the professional wrestler on a signed contract. If not then the fine for posting,giving out, or etc. is a $10,000 fine.
- In Japan, sumo wrestlers use a ring name called shikona (四股名 or 醜名).
- In Mexico, luchadores use ring names, and their identity is further concealed via a mask.ja:リングネーム