Professional wrestling is all about entertainment, and with that comes an endless amount of characters with interesting backstories to say the least. Many wrestling personas are based on a certain ethnicity or a foreign country in order to build fan interest whether with love and cheers or hatred and boos. We have seen many "foreign" athletes come into the wrestling ring and beat the hometown hero much to the chagrin of the local fans in attendance. The vast majority of wrestling fans understand that the entertainers performing aren't actually leprechauns or vampires, but when a wrestler is said to be from a certain country and they look and act the part, fans tend to believe it. Promotions have thrived on linking a country with a certain wrestler. It is interesting to see how many of these foreign wrestling personas are not actually from where they say they are from.
In this article, we will be exposing 15 foreign wrestlers who weren't actually foreign at all. As always, feel free to leave any other wrestlers who weren't actually foreign in the comment section, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Here are 15 foreign wrestlers who weren't really foreign.
15 The Sheik
Not to be confused with the beloved Iron Sheik, The "Original" Sheik, Ed Farhat, was one of the most despised villains in the history of wrestling. Sheik's character was based on a rich, wild man from Syria who would use dirty tactics in the ring. However, the so called 'foreign heel' was really from Lansing, Michigan and had a Lebanese background. Sheik was also actually the uncle of one of ECW's biggest stars, Sabu, which would explain their similar ring attire and personas.
Sheik was one of the first wrestlers to really master the art of playing the foreign heel and playing off the audience's emotions. It's hard to imagine Sheik playing some regular guy from Michigan because he mastered his persona so well. He left a tough act to follow for future foreign heels.
Mr.Fuji was involved with many different WWE acts throughout his career in the wrestling business, and he is one of the most classic characters in all of wrestling. The definition of the evil foreign manager that everyone loved to hate, Mr.Fuji was used to drawing in heat as his wrestlers usually battled the American wrestler everyone was rooting for. However fans were pretty much just led to believe Mr.Fuji was foreign. In reality, Harry Fujiwara was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and not across the world in Japan like many people believed during his wrestling days. His ability to succeed with whatever act the WWE gave him allowed Mr.Fuji to have a long and fruitful career in the wrestling world. He was definitely one of a kind.
13 The Sultan
The Sultan was one of the less interesting characters we have seen in the world of wrestling, as his gimmick was pretty unimaginative. His backstory wasn't extensive, as little was known about the Arab wrestler who had his tongue cut off which is why he never spoke during his wrestling days. Managed by Bob Backlund and The Iron Shiek, The Sultan will be remembered as a forgettable wrestler from the 90s. It was no surprise that the gimmick failed, as it was one of the last remnants of WWE's cartoonish era. The Sultan wore a mask and shaved the top of his head, as the character was played by Rikishi. We are now aware that The Sultan who was billed from from an Arab nation wasn't actually Arab at all, as Solofa Fatu, better known as Rikishi, was born in San Francisco.
12 Krusher Khruschev
Wrestling promotions really must have liked playing on the Russian theme during the 80s and 90s, as many different wrestlers came through the promotions pretending to be big scary Russians to get fans excited. Krusher Khruschev was another one of these wrestlers. Barry Darsow had some seriously terrible wrestling gimmicks throughout his career, however he did find some stability with his Russian alias, as he teamed up with other Soviet Union supporters that would ultimately end up finding some success within the WWE and WCW.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Darsow had zero ties with the Soviet Union despite promotions wanting you to believe the opposite. I guess there was just an insanely high demand for multiple Russian wrestlers a few decades ago in the wrestling industry.
11 Abdullah The Butcher
Abdullah The Butcher is one of the most notorious madmen in wrestling history, as almost all of his matches had one of the wrestlers drawing blood. Even sometimes called "The Madman from Sudan," Abdullah The Butcher was billed from being from one of the most depraved corners of Sudan. With scars in his head from all of his blading in his wrestling days, Abdullah did it all in the ring. While Abdullah The Butcher may have been from Sudan, the man who portrayed the wild character, Lawrence Shreve was not from Sudan; he was from Windsor, Canada.
Even though The Butcher was from a nice place in Canada, we have to give him some credit for the way he portrayed the ruthless Abdullah, as he became one of the most interesting heels in wrestling history.
10 Boris Zhukov
James Harrell wrestled for many different promotions usually under his Russian alias, Boris Zhukov. Wrestling for both the AWA and the WWE, Boris Zhukov was a Russian heel who rarely spoke as he was pretty much just a big burly Russian who was adept at using his strength to get over more than his mic skills. Competing for over 20 years as Boris Zhukov of Russia, it may be interesting to know that Boris wasn't from Russia at all in fact, as James Harrell was actually from Roanoke, Virginia. James definitely looked the part of a menacing Russian character during his wrestling days, so we can't blame him for running with what was working with fans, as he had a very long and successful career in the wrestling industry.
While it is now known that Yokozuna was not from Japanese decent but actually part of the legendary Anoa'i family, the WWE tried to pass Yokozuna as a completely different heritage than he actually was. Considering Yokozuna was an absolutely massive man weighing in over 600 pounds, the WWE went with the whole big Sumo wrestling gimmick, however the act didn't just end there. Yokozuna came out to a Japanese themed flute song before each of his wrestling matches, and his manager was Mr.Fuji who waved a Japanese flag around while Yokozuna wrestled. The WWE used the fact that Yokozuna wasn't as well known as being a member of the famous Anoa'i family, as the native of San Francisco, California had zero affiliation with Japan.
8 Santino Marella
Santino Marella had one of the most interesting and unique debuts we have seen in professional wrestling. 'Selected' from a crowd on RAW to face Umaga, Santino beat the Samoan Savage to win the Intercontinental Championship, in one of the best debuts in WWE history. However the story of random triumph would have been a lot better if it was genuine, as the Italian comedic relief was not actually from Italy at all.
Anthony Carelli was born in Mississauga, Ontario Canada, even coming up through WWE's developmental system. Even though Santino had an excellent backstory from being randomly picked from the crowd, the WWE had something planned for the fake Italian wrestler years before he debuted.
Ironically, he played another foreign character in OVW, as he was known down there as Boris Alexiev, a Russian mixed martial artist. That gimmick was a far cry from the comedic Santino Marella.
Umaga or the "Samoan Bulldozer" was a savage tribal gimmick portrayed by Eddie Fatu years ago. Being billed from the Isle of Samoa, however fans may be interested to know that Eddie was born and raised in the United States. While he was related to the Samoa descended Anoa'i family tree, Umaga was not from the Isle of Samoa. His character of Umaga was much different from his street character Jamal, who was billed from being from the United States unlike Umaga. While he wasn't one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, Umaga was a popular wrestler in the WWE throughout the 2000s, and even though he was born and raised in America, Umaga did a good job of representing his family, in the ring.
Sadly, he was released from WWE in 2009 after refusing to go to rehab and passed away later that year.
6 Gorilla Monsoon
Gorilla Monsoon easily had one of the most successful careers in wrestling history. Not only did he find successes in the ring, Monsoon became one of the most iconic voices in the business. Ironically he didn't speak as a heel in the WWWF as he was billed from Manchuria as a savage man who even fought and ate bears for kayfabe. However Gorilla Monsoon was not a bear eating man from Manchuria at all. Robert Marella was actually from Rochester, New York, as he was a multi-star athlete in his hometown high school. Marella even started out in the wrestling businesses as the proud Italian American, Gino Marella, but decisions made by both Marella and his promotions lead him to being the giant from Manchuria.
5 Ivan Koloff
Ivan Koloff was yet another 'Russian' heel that garnered heat with crowds in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps the most heat he ever got was when he ended Bruno Sammartino's seven-year reign as the WWE Champion before a stunned crowd in Madison Square Garden. While Koloff wasn't American, he wasn't that Russian he was portrayed to be. In reality, he is Oreal Perras, a native of Montreal, Quebec Canada.
Would Koloff have garnered as much heat if he was billed as the Montrealer who beat Bruno Sammartino for the title? Probably not. Like many other foreign heels on the list, Koloff played his role to perfection and accomplished something that was very difficult to do in the WWE in the 70s; becoming champion as a heel.
Lana is one of the biggest heels in the industry right now, as she is the perfect partner to Rusev as the two make a powerful Russian duo. While she isn't actually technically a real wrestler out in the ring doing flips, she is one of the most enthralling characters in all of the WWE. Being the valet to Rusev, who claims to have ties with Vladimir Putin, has brought out many Russian outbursts from Lana. However "The Ravishing Russian" isn't so Russian at all, in fact, Lana, or Catherine Perry, was actually born in Gainesville, Florida. Her accent sounds so real because she had plenty of practice, as she grew up in Latvia until coming back to the United States to go to college at Florida State University.
3 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has said that he considers himself Canadian, as he was raised way up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and he began his career by training in Calgary. Throughout most of his career, he's billed himself from Winnipeg and while that isn't false, it's often forgotten that Jericho wasn't actually born there. Jericho was in fact born in Manhasset, New York. His father was an NHL player playing for the Rangers at the time, which is why Jericho was actually born in The States.
In any event, Jericho now resides in Tampa, Florida when he isn't out on the road with the WWE or his band Fozzy. Whether it's for convenience, the warm weather or just loving the country, Jericho has now made his birth country his permanent home. That doesn't mean he's forgotten his roots to Winnipeg, though.
2 Nikita Koloff
Nikita Koloff or the "Russian Nightmare" which he was called as throughout his wrestling career was always good for whiling up a crowd whenever he went up against the American babyface the crowd was rooting for. Researching Nikita has led me to believe that he is actually one of the more dedicative wrestlers we have seen in the business. Apparently he didn't even speak English for a whole year to immerse himself in his Soviet Russian character during the Cold War years. Nikita sure did spark hatred in fans as he proudly beat American wrestlers up as a Russian wrestler.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota as Nelson Simpson, Nikita has since changed his name to Nikita Koloff and is now a preacher for his ministry. That's what you call getting immersed into a character.
1 Bret Hart
Bret Hart is one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, and even though he may not have the same story on this topic like some of the others, a large part of Hart's gimmick was his ties to Canada. He was billed from being from Canada his entire career, however many people don't know that Bret Hart is actually American as well. Seeing that his mother is from New York, Hart has dual citizenship in both Canada and America.
This wouldn't be such a big deal, however Hart did use the fact that everyone thought he was just from Canada to gain clout in the industry, as he even cut some anti-American promos during the 90s. Bret Hart is a legendary wrestler, however the 'foreign' wrestler from Canada isn't so foreign at all actually.