Your wrestling name. The announcer declares it. The audience chants it. The posters immortalise it. Don’t mess it up.
You wonder how I got my name.
It was a Sunday afternoon in 2013, and I was down at the pub with a friend I knew from school. Tinder was an exciting new phenomenon, and she wanted to know what I did to stand out.
So I picked a random tactic and recounted, “Well, sometimes after a date I ask to walk them home. I take this chance to make a mental note of their address. Unit, block, street, whatever. And then the next time I am travelling, I mail them a postcard from wherever I am. Innocent as hell, but that’s what blows their mind.”
I paused to sip my beer, before delving into the science.
“It’s a complex message – of subtly flexing about being on an exotic vacation (lol #wanderlust), reminding them they’re in my thoughts, demonstrating an attention to detail about where they live, and romancing them with the old school charm of handwritten snail mail.”
I drew a loose circle in the air with my finger to finish. “All that wrapped up in one innocuous postal delivery? That’s what gets them.”
“Smooth,” she conceded, while rolling her eyes and grinning. “You’re such a ladykiller.”
I raised my eyebrows and shrugged, accepting my new nickname graciously. Ladykiller? What an absurd word.
They say the best nicknames are the ones others give you. Not the ones you call yourself. In 2013 I wasn’t a wrestler yet. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to try out wrestling. But this was a name I filed away in my brain, to be called up at a much later time.
Your wrestling name is a key part of your brand. If you are lazy about it, you are sabotaging your marketing strategy.
So how do you choose your wrestling name? We didn’t all get a catchy, potent one handed to us. I understand that. There are many points to consider when picking a good one. Let’s help you out with some guidelines.
You have a name you thought was cool when you were 8 years old, and you really wanna use it now? Forget about it. What you think is cool is not important.
Instead, you want a name the audience can identify with. Something they can emotionally latch on to. That’s what matters. When they hear your name, they need to go, oh, yeah, I know such a guy like that in my life. Then you’re on the right track.
Example: The Greatest Singapore Team (GST)
Everyone pays 7% goods & services tax, so we can all relate to the concept. The team name is an obvious play on the GST. The notorious tag team proclaimed themselves to be the best in the country. The audience gets it.
Does your name have its own associations and connotations? Good. Then a big portion of your work is done. Now you just need to back it up during your performance. A good name lays the foundation and tells the audience your attitude, motivations, and style.
But if your name is too abstract, too clever, or too vague, try harder. If nobody can understand it right away, it’s a poor choice. Scrap it.
Example: Da Butcherman
Covered in blood, swings a cleaver like a maniac, looks like he lives in a slaughterhouse. Combined with lunatic promos and a method acting social media voice. Persona is straightforward and received well by fans.
Pick a name that you can grow into. This name should both reflect elements already integral to who you are, and at the same time provide you with a direction to develop towards your ideal self.
If the name you picked isn’t really you, you will run into difficulties expressing yourself, you will be confused internally, and it will hurt your portrayal.
I do this question activity with my trainees. What does your ideal self look like? What does your ideal self think about? What is your ideal self known for? What has your ideal self achieved?
Your ring name is a visualisation exercise for your ideal self. It is a roadmap. Everything you do is now consciously guided by active choices, so that you become the ultimate version of yourself that you see in your head.
For this reason I am not a big fan of the [random first name] [random last name] nomenclature that has become popular nowadays, because the names are meaningless without context.
Sunglasses, coat, championship. He fashions himself like a star, and chose a name to match that aspiration. At Grapple MAX, he grew into an ideal version of himself by following the waypoints set by his ring name.
This is a practical consideration. Not too critical, but when picked well it adds to the magic of a live performance. Wrestling audiences behave with a self aware predictability. They are dying to chant something. Imagine competing chants going on the rhythm of “Let’s go Cena!/Cena sucks!”
A 4-syllable name in one opponent and a 3-syllable name in another creates this dynamic perfectly. I once wrestled Black Arrow and the duelling chant that rang out in the arena went “Ladykiller!/Black Arrow!”
Consider also a 4-syllable name fitting into a chant based on “This is awesome!” and its accompanying claps. I would know. I have benefited from this. Did I plan for it? No, it was a happy coincidence that worked out in my favour. Now that you have a chance to choose, use this hindsight observation to your advantage.
Always Google. Do an image search too. Urban Dictionary it even. It gives you an idea of what you’re up against. Does someone already run with the name you have in mind, and is he doing a better job of it than you? Are there already a hundred other generic tough guy wannabe idiots called the same unoriginal thing? Does the name have a slang connotation you aren’t aware of?
The Rock famously went by other names such as The People’s Champ, The Brahma Bull, The Great One, etc. The Undertaker was also well known as Deadman Inc, The Phenom, The American Badass, etc. These gimmick names are helpful for marking important chapters of your career.
Sometimes you go through a phase, but you don’t want to forsake your main identity. Use these to support your character’s development. Generally though, at the small time level of independent wrestling, you want to focus on building one brand. You don’t need these sub names when no one even knows your main name yet.
At Grapple MAX, your wrestling name is hard earned. It is one of the privileges you unlock for yourself when you reach Grade 3.
By Grade 3 you should have wrestled at least 8 matches, giving you enough opportunity to find your style on and off the mats. You would have largely figured out your persona by this time, and your character has established some stability and consistency.
After reaching Grade 3, with your personality already starting to take shape, we give you the option to choose a ring name. We tend to add the nickname in front of your first name. For our audience, they’ve seen our senior grapplers work their way up over the years, and it is a rewarding moment shared by everybody.
Examples of the Grapple MAX [nickname] [first name] configuration.
We guide our Grade 3 trainees so that we can all arrive at a name that suits them. It is a significant moment in their career, and we spend a lot of time going through options together. We don’t rush this step. Last thing we wanna do is change your name 2 shows later, and imply how fickle and indecisive you were.
Grapple MAX has been repeatedly voted the top wrestling school in Southeast Asia. Without a doubt. But it is not just a place to learn wrestling. We’re brand consultants who cultivate your image together with you. We encourage creativity and self expression. And we help you undergo a profound personal transformation. How? A lot of that happens precisely because of creative exercises such as the process of picking your wrestling name.
Ready to give it a shot? Book a wrestling class here. Then you can start brainstorming your ring name too.
What other ways do we give our trainees room for self expression? Try wardrobe colours.