Pro wrestling isn’t exactly the most sensitive art form known to man. WWE and its various competitions have managed to create dozens of horrible gimmicks that offend even the most diehard of wrestling fans and the particular superstars performing those gimmicks are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how offensive, insulting, and derogatory the wrestling universe is capable of being. On a much wider scale, WWE and the wrestling industry is responsible for an entire genre of stereotypes all its own, outright inventing bizarre and derivative trademark behaviors allegedly shared by entire races of pro wrestlers.
Most of the stereotypes invented by wrestling exclusively apply to the sports entertainment industry, which makes sense, although it hardly absolves the industry of any wrongdoing, as the idea of stereotyping is reductive and disrespectful in and of itself. Of course, it’s even worse when wrestling invents a stereotype that has nothing to do with the sport in the first place, thus promising the only true result of the gimmick will be the proliferation of ignorance. Luckily, gimmicks like these seem to be going by the wayside in recent years, although a few lingering clichés still exist that continue mocking select races and cultures to this day. Keep reading to learn about 15 bizarrely racist stereotypes that only exist in professional wrestling.
15 Foreigners Are Inherently Evil
One trend that will quickly become evident throughout this list is that WWE is a particularly xenophobic work environment. Pro sports in general have a reputation for extreme patriotism, and the wrestling industry has definitely dove head first into the concept despite the various legal battles between Vince McMahon and the United States government. While there’s nothing wrong with loving one’s country, the bizarre sweeping side effect has been the idea that foreigners are inherently evil. It can be one thing for crowd’s to chant “USA” during a match featuring a genuinely anti-American heel, but history has shown again and again crowds will start screaming the letters at the first sign of so much as an accent. The few foreign superstars to become babyfaces have typically done so as some level of comedy character, presumably because any serious foreigner would be unable to get cheered due to how obvious it was they weren’t from America and therefore, are presumed to hate it.
14 Japanese People Are Great Technical Wrestlers
Even though they can still hurt by way of being reductive, it’s always worth pointing that not every stereotype is negative. Evil foreigners though they may be, the Japanese have long held a reputation amongst American wrestling fans for being a class above the rest, with the belief extending so far as to claim any non-Japanese wrestler who has spent time in the country will almost definitely become a better in-ring performer for doing so. In addition to occasionally being positive, stereotypes can often be based in truth and this one likely comes from the fact Japanese wrestling is presented as more serious and technical in general than the American variety. However, this doesn’t mean every Japanese wrestler is therefore better than American wrestlers and the reality is that wrestlers from the Land of the Rising Sun are just as likely to be talented in the ring, or untalented, as potential superstars from any other country.
13 "Savages" Don't Have A Language
The history of bizarre racism in the wrestling industry is such that some of the most “legendary” superstars of all time were pretty offensive in hindsight and one of the worst examples of this is WWE Hall of Fame inducted tag team The Wild Samoans. Afa and Sika won the original WWE World Tag Team Championships on three separate occasions and in doing so became perhaps the most widely known example of the “uncivilized savage” gimmick that has for decades terrorized professional wrestling. Another key example would be Ugandan Warrior Kamala and, more recently, the Wild Samoans’ own nephew, Umaga. The type of savage represented by these gimmicks may have existed several centuries in the past, but by the time they started appearing in wrestling, the lands from which they were billed had modernized as much as any other on the planet. WWE could have simply made it hard for them to adapt to America, but instead WWE implied these cultures didn’t even have language or understand the most basic laws of human interaction, making an anachronistic gimmick downright racist due to the implications it presented.
12 The Canadian-American War
Canada and the United States of America have coincided peacefully for centuries, with the only misstep in their international relations occurring during the War of 1812 when Canada allied with the British. Despite more than 200 years of friendly enough relations that Canada’s national reputation has shifted from the United Kingdom’s little buddy to America, Jr., the War of 1812 never quite got settled inside the squared circle. The battle seemed dormant for many years, until Bret Hart reformed The Hart Foundation and stood together as proud Canadians banding together against the overbearing American audience. Since The Hart Foundation, multiple Team Canada’s have surfaced, as well as The Un-Americans and La Resistance (French Canadians) and, in certain respects, The Quebecers could have been considered a predecessor to the Hart’s. Silly as it all seems, the point is that this Canadian-American War absolutely only exists in wrestling, as the rivalry doesn’t even exist in other pro sports considering how close Canada and America are in physical proximity and the friendly relationship the countries have shared almost forever.
11 Foreign Nations Don't Contain Cities
Speaking of Canada, Samoa, Japan, and plenty more to come, something everyone outside of wrestling takes for granted about these countries is that they contain dozens if not hundreds of individual cities. In wrestling, Samoa is just Samoa, and most other countries are apparently interchangeable amalgams of “foreign land.” While it would probably be fair to assume not every wrestling fan is intimately familiar with the geography of European or Asian countries, small touches of realism go a long way and completely doing away with them go just as far in the other direction of making things seem fake. Wrestling is scripted and everyone knows it, but part of the deal is pretending for a few minutes that fans could actually believe it and doing things like announcing a Japanese superstar as simply “from Japan” cheapens the entire experience and makes their whole career feel like an afterthought.
10 United Kingdom = London, England
The idea of foreign countries not containing any cities isn’t a concrete one, for the wrestling world has always been ready to acknowledge the existence of London, England. However, the counterpoint to this distinction has been that London is the only city WWE has acknowledged for the entire country of the United Kingdom and the company has gone so far as to have superstars from all throughout England claim they were from London seemingly for no reason. The more glaring example is perhaps the most famous British performer in WWE history, Davey Boy Smith. Davey Boy was born in Golborne and had what most Brits would call a thick Northern accent, and yet he claimed to be from London at the 1992 Royal Rumble and the company would repeat that lie going into SummerSlam 1992 to claim Davey was a hometown hero. Of course, he really was a home country hero, which given how little attention WWE pays to the rest of the world, was still a huge deal.
9 Asian Mist
Out of all the stereotypes on our list, this one has got to be the most magical and, at the same time, the most utterly ridiculous. In wrestling, a select few Asian men have presented the ability to spray magic mist out of their mouths that, depending on the color of the mist, can have mystical effects on their opponent. This skill isn’t shared by all Asians, but Asians do seem to be the race most likely to have the ability. The most famous mist sprayers were The Great Muta and Tajiri and the first was The Great Kabuki, with superstars like Kwang and Killer Khan keeping the tradition alive between the rise of those icons. Asian mist has different side effects based on the color, because you may as well go big or go home when developing the most bizarre stereotypes. It should be obvious why this stereotype is one that can’t exist outside of wrestling and yet it still remains one of the weirdest ones the sport has seen, especially considering how long it managed to survive even as wrestling became more mainstream and less like a cartoon.
8 Japanese People Throw Salt At Their Enemies
Austin Powers once famously asked, “Who throws a shoe? Honestly?” An equally fair question would be, “Who throws salt in a person’s eyes?” WWE knows the answer, though, and that answer is Japanese people. Specifically, it was Mr. Fuji who threw salt in the eyes of his opponents, although this was treated as typical behavior perpetrated by an evil foreign heel. Much like with the mist, the thing that makes this bizarrely racist is how specific it was, in that all heels use weaponry, but making it salt and Japanese people in particular and claiming there’s some connection between the two takes the trope to a dicey and problematic territory. The only logical explanation that has been offered for the salt in the eyes trope is the fact sumo wrestlers throw salt on the ring, however this ignores the fact Fuji had used the gimmick long before beginning his association with Yokozuna. Also, the sumo wrestling connection hardly justifies the whole story, considering Yokozuna’s Japanese heritage was as fake as the idea Japanese people use salt as a weapon.
7 Finnish People Are Overbearing Environmentalists
It would be fair to ask how many performers need to perpetuate a behavior in order for it to turn into a stereotype, especially in a case like Ludvig Borga. Borga was the first and thus far only Finnish superstar to become a notable name in WWE and, as usual, Finland’s long history of warm relations with the US was ignored and Borga was presented as an America hating foreign monster. The bizarre part comes in the nature of Borga’s complaints, which were almost entirely related to the fact America had been destroyed by pollution, unlike the cleaner and more environmentally friendly Finland from which Borga hailed. The environmentalism was only a small element of Borga’s gimmick, but it still deserves mention as the only aspect of his character to standout from the typical foreign bad guy in any manner. Since no other Finns have entered the WWE Universe, fans have only been left to assume their own explanation for this one, and the most common one people can come up with is that Vince McMahon believes Finnish people seriously care about the environment.
6 The Red Scare Never Ended
The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed and disbanded in 1991. Despite these facts, evil Russian heels are still a trope in pro wrestling and any country that was at one point part of the Soviet Union is still considered rife with pink commies as far as Vince McMahon is concerned. While the Cold War actually raged on, the legendary Ivan Koloff lead a team of evil Russians and WWE had teams like Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov’s Bolsheviks bringing the Red Scare into wrestling rings. The characters were a bit racist and reductive at the time, but at least they were era appropriate. Decades later, characters like Rusev and Lana keep the tradition alive and recently retired wrestlers like Vladimir Kozlov prove the Soviet Union didn’t exactly experience a sudden comeback.
5 Foreigners Refuse To Learn English
Close to one million foreigners immigrate into America every year from all around the globe, which almost justifies the wild influx of bizarre characters into WWE. Sure, it would be better if less of them were stereotypes, but nonetheless it is true that with so many people entering the country, a few of them might fit into weird boxes that Vince McMahon can easily promote. However, one thing most of these immigrants have in common that the wrestling world ignores is that if these immigrants have any intention of beginning a long career once they make it to America, they’re going to develop at least a passing understanding of the English language. This obviously isn’t always the case, but it is often enough the case that WWE needs to be chastised for presenting the exact opposite as the truth, with most foreign superstars being presented as outright refusing to learn English for whatever never explained reason.
4 Germans Love Dancing
Germany and Finland have more than lederhosen in common and for the purposes of our list, we’re referring to the fact neither country has birthed a great deal of significant sports entertainers. Finland had Ludvig Borga as we already mentioned and Germany was responsible for “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright. Like Borga and virtually all other foreign superstars, Wright’s gimmick heavily dealt with his German heritage, which to WCW meant Alex Wright loved techno music and absolutely never stopped dancing. Alex Wright might have even enjoyed dancing more than Disco Inferno, which is why the two eventually formed a team as The Dancing Fools. Wright was only able to shake the dancing stereotype when he adapted a more common German industrial stereotype as Berlyn. Wrestling tropes die hard, though, and thus Wright would be back to a dancing fool before WCW closed its doors, proving Germans simply can’t overcome the tarantism they’ve apparently been afflicted with.
3 Cannibals Can Be Easily Rationalized With
The Ugandan Giant Kamala could be the most racist gimmick in wrestling history and we already started to touch upon why. Kamala, who was actually a man from Mississippi named Jim, purported to be an uncultured savage from the wilds of Africa, completely unable to communicate outside of grunts and belly slaps, and potentially even a cannibal capable of murdering members of the audience and eating them for dinner. That is, were it not for the thankless efforts of his “handler” Kim Chee, a dude in a mask who pushed Kamala forcefully enough that his cannibalistic urges momentarily subsided. The fact kimchee is also a Korean dish was apparently mere coincidence. Regardless, the point is that WWE managed to take a racist idea like Kamala and make it even more racist by claiming a dude in a whiteface mask could civilize a savage in a manner of seconds, and yet the savage would immediately regress to his or her uncivilized nature moments later, as soon as the masked handler stepped away.
2 Irish People Are Literally Leprechauns
Anywhere outside of WWE, it would probably feel extremely weird to see “leprechaun” listed as a stereotype. Leprechauns are a unique form of cryptozoology, possibly part human, part mystical being, obviously entirely nonexistent in the actual world in which we live. And yet, multiple actual leprechauns have materialized throughout the wrestling world and no one even bats an eye when these folklorish faeries prance their way into the ring. The most famous wrestling leprechaun is Hornswoggle, although WCW had their own infamous Braun the Leprechaun. Chances are that neither of these talents were destined for wrestling greatness, but even talented wrestlers have been effected, considering the original gimmick of Becky Lynch wasn’t exactly that far off from the idea. The idea Irish people are leprechauns could be one stereotype that slightly extends out of wrestling, but whenever the concept presents itself in other media, everyone accepts something mystical is at foot. In WWE, though, mysticism is for The Undertaker and Ireland is apparently populated by dozens of real leprechauns.
1 Samoans Have Hard Heads
Many of the stereotypes on this list relate to wrestling, which should be a no-brainer. Only a few of them actually effect a wrestler’s performance in the ring, however, and number one on our list is maybe the weirdest of all in the way it actually has. In addition to apparently being uncivilized and language-less savages, according to WWE, people hailing from the Isle of Samoa have particularly hard heads, making headbutts more painful to receive and headshots completely ineffective forms of attack. This strange stereotype likely began with The Wild Samoans, who used wild headbutts in their offense to seem less polished and trained, and went on to teach their many offspring the gimmick. The trope was kept alive throughout WWE history as a result and the dreaded Samoan headbutt could survive even as some other tropes on this list start getting called out for their obvious negative ramifications. Samoans having hard heads is like Asian mist in that wrestling probably won’t ever let it go away and, as long as WWE finds a way to present it in a less bizarrely racist manner, fans probably will continue allowing them to do so without complaining too loudly.