Former NXT creative producer Ryan Katz weighs in on WWE changing the names of talents

Ryan Katz, former creative producer at WWE, shared his thoughts about the company changing the names of their talents

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Ryan Katz describes what he did during his time in WWE and discusses talents’ names being changed.

This past January, there were multiple cuts from within the infrastructure of the NXT brand and among the names let go includes William Regal, Brian ‘Road Dogg’ James, Ace Steel and Creative Producer Ryan Katz.

Katz had been a part of WWE since 2012 and learned under the late Dusty Rhodes. Since departing WWE, Ryan has got back into music and he also co-hosts a podcast with Brian James. To promote his projects, he chatted with the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling Podcast and during their conversation, Ryan weighed in on talents in WWE having their names changed.

Most recently, the likes of Zack Gibson and James Drake’s names were shortened along with Kacy Catanzaro and other talents undergoing name changes. Katz said it boils down to WWE wanting to own the names but is of the mindset that the talent makes the name and not vice versa.

It’s the same thing — so another timely thing, all these wrestlers in WWE are getting new names again and now we’ll see the I.W.C. generally take an opinion of, ‘Oh, they’re ruining people with these names. Why do they change the names?’ Here’s the deal, it’s business. They wanna own the name so, that’s the fact of what it is and when you sign the contract, you understand that that’s something that WWE likes to do. Now when it comes to the actual names, names don’t make the talent, talent makes the name. I feel very strongly that if I was given an absolutely ridiculous name and in fact, I’ve given myself ridiculous names in my career, that like, you can go and make something of it. When I went to TNA, I called myself ‘Lee Handsome’, ‘Devilish Lee Handsome’ and it was stupid and I always knew it was stupid but it was quirky, it was fun, it was awkward and it made people — it gave them the opportunity to crack a joke, it gave them the opportunity to poke fun at me, it gave them the opportunity to chant something at me. When I first started my career, I was ‘Ringside Ryan’ and people immediately started calling me ‘ringworm’. I felt like that’s a positive thing. An insult in the world of being a heel character is something that’s positive so you can take a name and use it to generate heat, you can use it to garner sympathy. It’s just one of those things that even when we pitch names, there’s so many times where people would, ‘I don’t like that name, that doesn’t sound like a real name.’ ‘Oh, that wouldn’t be something –‘ how many times do you meet people who have an awkward name or an usual name? And you sit and go, ‘Huh, I’ve never heard a name like that before’ and you hear a little story of how they got that name. That’s what helps them and made them who they were. So once again, if you get an awkward name in a situation, then use that to help form your character because now you need to think back and not go, oh, I’m a new character who has this outrageous name of… I don’t even have something stupid in my mind. I was gonna call someone ‘Teddy Barilla’ — I’ll go ‘Westin Blake’ on the scene right now, Corey Weston. He was part of Blake and Murphy, The Forgotten Sons. When I first met him, I jokingly, playfully said, ‘Let’s call you Angus Chuck’ because you just look like some ground beef, tough ground beef right now’ and it was a joke name. Once again, it’s not something that I was pushing for real but it was something I thought was fun and accentuated his personality. Now, you think about it, if you grew up with the name ‘Angus Chuck’, you’re probably gonna get teased, you’re probably gonna get — all these things help create the character. So to me, an outrageous and silly name absolutely helps a performer pull out personality traits, backstories, anything interesting that allows them and helps them mold them to be the performer that they are.

Ryan’s job title in WWE was a ‘Creative Producer’ and he explained what he did in that role. He said he would help talents become comfortable with being a sports-entertainer and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Another way Ryan would describe his title is ‘motivating coach of performance’.

So I was a Creative Producer is what I was for most of my tenure there [WWE] and that was a wide variety of responsibilities. So generally speaking, I ran promo classes and helped newer talent kind of get their footing in the building and develop their persona, get comfortable as a sports-entertainer, get comfortable performing in front of people, get comfortable being uncomfortable and putting themselves in positions where maybe they’ll feel a little embarrassed, maybe they’ll feel a little shy and try to break down that barrier. Generally, I would say I was a motivating coach of performance. I tried to bring confidence out of the talent and help them envision what they really wanted for themselves and then try to push them into that vision so they can become it.

The aforementioned Zack Gibson and James Drake were involved in a brawl on the 4/19 NXT 2.0 show. After the show, Drake took to his social media and posted an image of his locker and captioned the image with a ‘thank you’ to WWE.

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions. 

About Andrew Thompson 8246 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.