It is fitting that former WWE Superstar Ryback is from Las Vegas. He's taking a big gamble on himself.
In August, the former Intercontinental Champion officially walked away from what many considered to be a dream job. And he did so not for money, but for what he believed to be injustices against talents in the WWE locker room.
Now, separated from the largest sports entertainment company in the world, he's going all-in on the character made famous under Vince McMahon's tutelage. Ryan Allen Reeves is legally changing his name to Ryback.
On the September 12 edition of his podcast, Conversations with the Big Guy, he revealed that he has already petitioned courts in Nevada to make the switch.
"I legally went and changed my name to Ryback for many reasons. One of which, it was one thing that I did not own, and I created, and I used before my time with WWE," he said. "It is something that is associated with my brand and who I am and that I am very proud of."
An official ruling on the petition is apparently still pending. Pro Wrestling Sheet's Ryan Satin has acquired a copy of a court-mandated ad Ryback took out in a Nevada newspaper announcing his intention. By law, an ad must run once a week for three consecutive weeks before any petition would be granted.
If successful, the name on his driver's license will read Ryback Allen Reeves.
He would also become just the second WWE wrestler in history to make such a switch. The late WWE Hall of Famer James "Ultimate Warrior" Hellwig legally changed his name to "Warrior" in 1993. The courts granted his petition following a nasty dispute with WWE (then WWF) executives over the rights to his character.
Unlike Warrior, the change for Reeves isn't as dramatic. If it were, The Big Guy would likely have thought twice about making the switch.
"Ryback to me is not really so off the wall," he said on the podcast. "My name is Ryan. Ryback is from Silver Back and Ryan -- Ryback. It's different, yes. It's not a common name, but it is a name. There are other people named Ryback out there."
In some ways, the change is akin to Colin Kaepernick and others kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Regardless of how you may feel about the nature of the protest, it is just that -- a protest against perceived social injustices. The name change is less inflammatory, but a no less valiant demonstration.
As Ryback sees it, he's just doing what is right.
"It's not me trying to get over on anybody," he elaborated. "I didn't go to WWE and say 'I own WWE.' This is stuff that I had before and that I want associated with my brand. I'm still going to be Ryan. It's just going to be one of those things where I needed that name and I want that name to be associated with The Big Guy. It's something that had to be done."
There have been reports that WWE's legal team has been aggressively targeting independent promotions and former talents using likenesses created while those wrestlers were still under contract. It is a maneuver designed to protect WWE's business interests.
It is not uncommon for talents to relinquish character and naming rights in contracts. However, it is unclear whether the stock language existed in Reeves' contract with WWE. If it did, legally changing his name may give Reeves some legal leverage moving forward.
Reeves says he cultivated and nurtured the character while in WWE. And stripping him of the Ryback moniker now would erase more than a decade of hard work.
"Many of the WWE talents create their brands and likeness. And they always tell us 'you guys are responsible for your brand.' So I am solely being responsible for my brand," he said. "I don't think it's fair for guys to spend a good chunk of their time in one place and then, when they leave there, they are not allowed to have that brand or that identity. To me that's definitely something that needs to change. More people need to speak up on that and more people need to take control. I'm just doing what is right for me. … It's not fair to talents to give them everything they've got and to be the one who created it and be left with nothing afterwards. I'm just solely looking out for myself and what I'm trying to establish outside of WWE."
Since departing WWE, Ryback has been working on launching a line of nutrition products as well as the podcast and website. He is also scheduled to wrestle on a number of upcoming independent shows.
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Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.
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