Wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan personify the world of wrestling; the all-American hero gripped a nation in his prime and embodied everything Americans stand for and love – he’s jacked, has that macho man persona, and was a testimony to the fact that with hard work and determination, you can be great at what you do and achieve anything. Since the Hulk’s retired, other wrestlers have come into the industry, have conquered and have taken up the mantle to become true legends of the industry – other wrestlers who personify the American spirit. But what a lot of you wrestling fans might not know is that many of these prominent names who have wrestled with some of the biggest promotions in the industry have Canadian roots, or are actually fully-fledged Canadian citizens.
America’s neighbor to the north has produced a lot of star names in the industry – it’s a country that’s been very well represented over the years, and aside from just adding some diversity to the roster of some of the major promotions, some Canadian wrestlers have actually gone on to become superstars – the wrestling fans have adopted them as their own. We all know icons like Bret Hart, Edge and Chris Jericho ('I'm from Winnipeg you idiot!' are Canadian because they've constantly shown pride in their country, even as on-screen characters.
Here are 15 wrestlers you may be surprised to learn are actually from The Great White North.
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15 Steve Corino
This guy’s certainly been around the block a bit. He made his debut in 1994 wrestling on the independent circuit, and despite a brief retirement in 2007, has been wrestling pretty much nonstop for different promotions around the globe. He’s won a ton of titles – a list as long as his arm – but a lot of you fans may not actually have the foggiest who he actually is. That’s because – amazingly – Corino has never wrestled with WWE. He’s had his chances – one in 2004 – but shunned WWE in favor of life on the independent circuit; looking at all his accomplishments it’s definitely worked out for Corino.
Corino’s wrestled in The States, Puerto Rico, Germany, and the UK, but he’s actually one of Canada’s favourite wrestling sons. While he's billed from Sea Isle City, New Jersey, he was born in Winnipeg, spent the first five years of his life in Canada and is a Canadian national citizen - he’s certainly followed in the footsteps of his childhood hero, Tully Blanchard, and done Canada proud.
14 Lanny Poffo
“Leaping” Lanny Poffo made his debut way back in 1973 when he began wrestling with NWA. He did reasonably well, winning four titles, but much of his success came when he joined his father’s company – International Championship Wrestling. It was whilst wrestling for the ICW he made a name for himself on the wrestling scene – he made his experience with the promotion a true family affair, teaming up with his dad Angelo John Poffo and getting involved in storylines with older brother – Randy Savage. Poffo then went on to wrestle with WWE and WCW before making the rounds on the independent circuit.
While his iconic brother Randy Savage was born in The States, Lanny was born north of the boarder. He was born in Calgary, Canada, and had a stint wrestling with Emile Dupre's "Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling" in Canada’s Maritime provinces – making him extremely popular in his home country before WWE made him a star to the masses.
13 Jinder Mahal
Yuvraj "Raj" Singh Dhesi, or Jinder Mahal to go by his in-ring name, is one of only a handful of wrestlers of Indian origin who have gone on to wrestle with the world’s biggest promotions; the Great Khali is another – Mahal went on to have plenty of storylines with Khali – as is Gama Singh who’s actually Mahal’s uncle.
But let’s get back to where it all started. Although he’s billed from Punjab, India, Mahal was actually born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. After studying business at the University of Calgary, he made the decision to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and get involved with wrestling. Mahal spent seven years training at the Martial Arts Fitness Centre in Calgary before wrestling with other promotions in his home country.
He made his debut back in 2003, but as is the case with most wrestlers from Canada, made a name for himself when he travelled to the U.S. and started working with WWE who wanted to utilize his Indian heritage.
12 The Missing Link
This Canadian wrestler started his career wrestling under his real name – Dewey Robertson. Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Robertson headed off for the big city of Toronto and began wrestling with various small-time promotions, making a name for himself in Canada as a popular babyface, before heading over to the glitz, glamour, fame and fortune – the attraction of the wrestling scene in the U.S.
In 1983, while wrestling with Mid-South Wrestling, The Missing Link was born. Robertson drastically transformed his appearance and became Max The Missing Link – a truly bizarre gimmick, but later one we’d all come to know and love. He carried this persona through various promotions in the U.S. before his career slowly fizzled out. Billed from "Parts Unknown" not many knew that Missing Link was in fact, Canadian.
Robertson returned home to Hamilton, Ontario which is where he breathed his last and passed away in 2007.
11 Killer Kowalski
Kowalski’s a former Polish–Canadian wrestler who won numerous titles during the course of a 30-year career. He came, he saw, he wrestled, he conquered and he got out of the industry long before many of you were even born, but his career was filled with accolades – a sheer legend of the industry.
Despite winning championships wherever he went, Kowalski’s career was also littered with controversy – aptly named “Killer” Kowalski. He didn’t actually kill anyone, but he was aggressive to the core – he ripped a guy’s ear off and hospitalized plenty of people.
Originally from Poland, Kowalski’s family immigrated to Windsor, Ontario, which is where he was born and raised. In his teenage years he then travelled to Detroit and began working odd-jobs before his wrestling career took off.
10 Rick Martel
Martel’s another guy who rose to fame in the 1970s. “The Model” can thank his Canadian heritage for his good looks, as he was born and raised in Quebec City and certainly came from good stock. Wrestling wasn’t alien to the Vigneault family – his real family name – as Martel came from a family who always had strong wrestling pedigree. He first wrestled at the age of 16, helping out his brother by standing in for a fellow injured wrestler. He quickly became a very accomplished wrestler, and instead of jumping straight over the U.S. he started out winning championships in his home country – wrestling in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling and in the Vancouver-based NWA All Star Wrestling.
After rising to fame on the Canadian wrestling scene, he traveled the world, wrestling in New Zealand and Puerto Rico before he got his big break with the NWA and then the WWE in 1980. His initial stint was brief, but he would return to WWE in 1989, where he would take "The Model" gimmick and was billed from Cocoa Beach, Florida, causing many to forget he is Canadian.
9 Eric Young
Eric Young’s another guy who hails from "The Heartland Province" – Ontario. He got into wrestling straight out of high school, embarked on a ten-week training program and then got right into the action, moving to Michigan where he made his debut. After struggling during those initial years, he’s since gone on to taste a huge amount of success, and has wrestled with various different promotions in The States.
Although he made his professional debut in 1998, it’s remarkable to think that someone who’s as big as Young in the industry has never gained a contract with WWE. But that hasn’t held him back, as Young quickly made TNA is home and gained a huge amount of success with the promotion.
Despite moving to the U.S. at quite a young age, Young’s still proud of his Canadian roots and even competed for TNA for a couple of years as a member of Team Canada.
Born in America but hailing from Canada, you could hardly call Luna a diva; she was one tough cookie who used to strike fear into the hearts of her opponents – a menacing figure who was as tough as nails.
Vachon was French-Canadian and came from the very famous wrestling family of the same name. The Vachon family were prominent in both Canada and the U.S.; they’re regarded to be a rough and tough family – you had to be to make it in wrestling at that time – and have been voted as the Most Powerful Family in Wrestling by WWE. They have a rich history in the world of wrestling; Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon, Paul "Butcher" Vachon, Vivian Vachon and Ian Carnegie all made their mark before Luna carried on the family wrestling tradition and rose to fame with WWE – one of Canada’s – if not the world’s – biggest and most famous wrestling families.
7 Bobby Roode
A lot of Canadian wrestlers who come over to the U.S. stick to wrestling with TNA and then do a little bit here are there on the independent circuit. Roode’s career looked to be following the same pattern. He was trained up in Ontario, wrestled with a number of Canadian independent promotions, before embarking on a wrestling career in the U.S. Initially he was on WWE’s radar; in his early days he took part in a number of non-televised matches with the promotion who wanted to test this new talent, but he didn’t get signed up and ended up getting contracted with TNA. It certainly all worked out for the best, as Roode gained a tremendous amount of success with the promotion, winning a plethora of titles during his 12-year stint with the company.
He’s now with WWE working in NXT; if his WWE career takes off in the same way as his tenure with TNA, he’ll certainly be regarded – if he isn’t already – as one of Canada’s greatest wrestlers.
Roode earned most of his fame by forming Beer Money Inc. with James Storm and the team was billed from Wall Street, leading many to forget that Roode is actually a Toronto native.
6 Rosa Mendes
This Canadian beauty is stunning in every which way – fans are mesmerized when she struts her stuff in the ring.
Like a lot of divas, Mendez stared off modelling and rose to fame after winning the coveted "Piel Dorada" – a famous Latin American modelling contest. She already had a feisty character – she was suspended from school for fighting – so decided to channel her aggression into a career in wrestling. She got involved in the industry by taking part in the WWE Diva Search; despite not winning, she impressed, wrestling in developmental territories before getting signed up to the main roster in 2008.
A decade after making her professional debut, she’s still with the world’s biggest promotion. Mendes has been billed from Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, with virtually no mention of her real place of birth, Vancouver.
5 Val Venis
Venis is another wrestler who hails from Ontario. He began his wrestling career on the Canadian independent circuit, getting trained up by fellow Canadian pro – The Missing Link. He then travelled far and wide, wrestling wherever he could get a gig – he wrestled in Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the UK – before he was signed up to WWE. He probably wasn received the Val Venis porn star gimmick, which had the character hailing from Las Vegas, so not many knew of Venis's Canadian roots.
He embraced the porn star gimmick and consequently remained pretty much a permanent fixture on the main WWE roster for the entirety of his decade-long stint with the promotion. In fact, Venis was once the brother-in-law of Edge, as Edge was first married to Val's sister.
4 Gail Kim
This is another wrestler you may not have known to be Canadian. Kim’s of Korean decent but has certainly made Canada her home; she was born in Ontario, and has accomplished plenty – wrestling, acting and modelling - in Canada before moving over to the U.S. to further her wrestling career.
Kim decided to embark on a wrestling career pretty much out of the blue. She got her college education in Toronto, studying kinesiology and then nutrition, and then when her studying days were over, she decided to try her hand at wrestling. She took to wrestling like a duck to water, and after gaining experience on the Canadian independent circuit, was signed to WWE, and amazingly won the WWE Women’s Championship in her debut event on the main roster. After that she had a lot to live up to, but her WWE career didn’t really reach the heights she or a lot of people expected; she was released a couple of years later, but has since gone on to have a long and prosperous career with TNA, becoming a Hall of Famer in the process.
Despite her Canadian roots, she's mostly been billed from Tampa, Flordia or Korea throughout her career.
3 Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper was one of the biggest stars in the industry – most recognizable and most loved due to his stints with WCW and WWE. He had a remarkable career that spanned over four decades – he’d probably still be making appearances if he hadn’t have met an untimely death in 2015. This deserved Hall of Famer certainly led a full and eventful life, but what a lot of people might not know is that he actually hailed from Saskatoon, Canada.
Fans may not have realized this as he was often depicted as a proud Scotsman – he did have Scottish heritage – but Canada will undoubtedly claim him as their own; he’ll forever be remembered as one of Canada’s – and the world’s – most entertaining and influential wrestling. stars.
2 Brock Lesnar
This guy’s popularity has just continued to soar over the years, and today he’s a headliner in two industries – MMA and wrestling. There’s always a great deal of razzmatazz around his events – he’s box-office in every sense of the word.
He’s made a name for himself in America, but Lesnar’s actually American-Canadian. Where most people tend to start out in Canada and move across to The States, Lesnar did it the other way around – surprising considering the U.S. is where he earns his money.
Lesnar likes a quiet life, a life of peace, in solitude, surrounded by open land and nature. Saskatchewan is therefore his ideal place, and it’s a province he’s made his home. The 59,366 square kilometers of forests and the 100,000 lakes, means that Lesnar can live the country boy lifestyle he feels most comfortable in - this Canadian province suits him perfectly. He’s proud to live in Canada and has represented his adopted country – wearing the nation’s apparel – at various UFC events.
1 The Rock
Dwayne Johnson’s dominated the world of wrestling for years and has now done the same when it comes to movies - he’s already established himself as an utter legend in two of the toughest industries to become successful in. He’s a global superstar who made his name in the U.S., but he’s actually Canadian-American and has Canadian roots – something’s he’s very proud of.
He followed in father’s footsteps and became a pro wrestler – actually getting trained up by his dad and competing alongside him during his early days in the industry. His dad – Rocky Johnson – is Canadian, born and raised in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He then moved to Toronto, which is where his wrestling career began.
The Rock also lived in Canada at one point – albeit for a very brief period. He was in the Canadian Football League in 1995, but moved back to Florida after having an unsuccessful stint. Football’s loss was wrestling gain, and we all know what went on to happen next. Despite having a pretty awful time of it while living in Canada, he’s always been proud of his Canadian roots and is more than happy to be called a Canadian-American wrestler.
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