There’s been a fair amount of controversy in recent years over WWE’s decision to rebrand most superstars that enter the company. This issue flared back up again at last week’s NXT TakeOver 2, when international sensation Kenta made his debut and immediately announced a new identity.
And, in response, fans put up a big stink about it.
@LingusMafia The wrestler that Kenta is honoring is “WWE copyright”.
— Suit Williams (@IamLWilliams) September 17, 2014
Vince changed KENTA’S name and gave away a PPV match for free. Dude’s going senile.
— Chief J. Strongheaux (@IIDeAIID) September 16, 2014
So is it wrong if we roll-over and accept Hideo Itami as a new evolution of the Japanese sensation? Or should we all have our pitchforks and torches ready to storm Stamford, Connecticut?
Listen, I totally get why hardcore fans hate arbitrary name changes. These wrestlers come in with backstory and identities completely unique – and completely independent – of the WWE scene. They’ve waged wars in other organizations, likely won championships and main-evented shows, and have a proven track record completely tied up in that old identity.
But I do take issue with fans invoking the “revisionist history” clause. Yes, Vince McMahon is a notorious control freak. He likes his wrasslin’ the way he likes his wrasslin’, and nobody can tell him otherwise. Do I think he’s out of touch? Probably a little. But the man has also won more wars than he’s lost, and shown a willingness to punch-and-sway when his business is on the line. He’s a scrappy little fella.
And Vince McMahon knows business. Maybe WWE numbers aren’t what stockholders would like, and maybe USA Network (and its parent company NBC) just doesn’t think “professional wrestling” is that valuable anymore. That doesn’t make him the history-changing, ignorant old coot people are making him out to be. Keep in mind that WWE is MORE open than ever before. With WWE Network, Vince & Co. have turned the rich, illustrious history of pro wrestling into a moneymaker. Consider: you now have unlimited, uncensored access to hundreds of hours of programming where WCW took WWF to the cleaners. You can watch WCW at the height of its power – and WWF when it didn’t have a clue. And if you want, you can see matches featuring Chris Benoit, who was famously erased from the company following his double-murder/suicide. Nothing is being hidden.
So changing names is nothing more than a smart business tactic.
Consider: Daniel Bryan was once Bryan Danielson. Ring of Honor fans loved him, and so they despised the weird name switcheroo he underwent upon entering NXT. But now Daniel Bryan is a MEGA STAR. The name change did absolutely nothing to hurt his rising stock, and to casual fans (who well outnumber the “smart marks”), there isn’t even a difference.
But, you argue, it was an unnecessary measure. That he could’ve kept his name and still had unbridled success, wealth, and everlasting happiness.
Then you’re not familiar with business economics. To YOU, there’s no difference. It’s just a name. But to companies like WWE, branding is everything. If Bryan Danielson was synonymous with Ring of Honor, why try to change the story? It’s a lot easier to hit reset and build something new. Then, with new merchandise, websites, tv shows, comic series, whatever, it’s all WWE-exclusive. Google Bryan Danielson, then follow it up with Daniel Bryan. See the difference?
WWE is a money-making machine. And a big part of the reason why is smart economics, and not wasting time or resources competing where it doesn’t need to. Name rights change everything.
And that’s the case with Kenta. Did WWE put him under a mask, or saddle him with some ridiculous drunken-Brit gimmick? Nope. They’re letting him be HIM. They’re giving
Kenta Hideo Itami a huge national stage, and only asking for a share of the proceeds along the way.
See, that’s not so evil, now is it?
What do you think of the name change for Kenta? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!