Oftentimes when we think about a country outside our own, we have certain ideas about how the people there live, act or feel. They may think that they are better than anyone else in the world and conversely we may think it is indisputable that we live on the greatest continent in the world. But of course people everywhere else on the planet would argue that.
When it comes to wrestling, there have been a number of times when characters were disliked for being from a country outside America. While there has been some playing with stereotypes, the basic idea in these cases is that those from the rest of the world aren’t friendly, kind and considerate, but instead downright disrespectful of everything that we stand for. In these instances, the dislike for the rest of the world was certainly exploited. And these performers were hated, despite being highly superior athletes, highly intelligent, highly educated, and having incredible mic skills. The common thread was that no matter what they said or did, they spat on America and all that it stood for. All countries were fair game to this anti-american parade of characters, including those from the north!
There are several gimmicks that followed this angle even though the country may change. The WWE has often found success and popularity preying on how Americans will stand up for their home, especially if someone criticizes it. One of the most notable decisions was to have a popular American become a sympathizer of another country. This list will reflect instances in WWE and WCW where being from another country meant being a heel. Were they really all that bad, or just misunderstood? You can be the judge! Here are the Top 15 Anti-American Gimmicks and Angles in Wrestling History.
15. The Great Khali
Before he was promoted as the Punjabi Playboy, The Great Khali was brought into the WWE as an Indian giant that was a threat to several of the larger athletes in the WWE. It didn’t matter that he was an awful wrestler and couldn’t string together a sentence, he was feared because of his height and presence. He debuted by attacking The Undertaker and challenging him to a Punjabi Prison match. This gimmick match unfortunately didn’t feature Khali, as The Big Show replaced him. Khali eventually did participate in a Punjabi Prison match against Batista, which consisted of bamboo poles making prison walls.
14. The Mountie
Jacques Rougeau was away from the WWE for almost a year after his brother Raymond retired. Upon his returning in early 1991, he became The Mountie, and resumed being managed by Jimmy Hart. The Mountie dressed as a stereotypical member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and per the stereotype proclaimed he would always get his man. The gimmick was a slightly less comical version of the animated character Dudley Do-Right. It caused some controversy with the actual RCMP when he competed in Canada, and he actually had to use his real name when wrestling in his home country, while retaining his Mountie attire.
13. Vladimir Kozlov
The WWE has really had issues with Russia through the years, as shown by this Russian featured in the mid-2000s. He first trained as part of the WWE’s Deep South Wrestling promotion, before appearing on the main roster in 2008 with no music and no entrance video, instead having a single spotlight follow him to the ring. He was advertised as being trained in the Russian military, and his look and style was that of a no nonsense, menacing character. He didn’t walk to the ring waving a Russian flag or boast about his heritage, but it was implied.
12. The Quebecers
Once you have raised the ire of Americans by acting like you are better than them, why not do it again? As Jacques Rougeau’s career wound down, he teamed with Carl Ouellet, and generated the same heat he had alongside his brother Raymond previously. Together, they formed The Quebecers. Ouellet used the name Pierre, and like Rougeau, he dressed like a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. One dastardly tactic they used to get heat was when they won the titles under “Province of Quebec Rules,” which allowed for titles to change hands-on disqualifications. A rule that is clearly so wrong it had to be…Canadian!
11. William Regal
Often known for being highly arrogant, with a proud English manner and embellished mannerisms, William Regal certainly didn’t hide how great he felt about the English and how awful the American people were. Regal would walk to the ring with disdain for not only his opponents, but the audience in attendance. As he came to the ring, Regal held his head up in the air with the pomposity and arrogance that made him a stereotype of upper class English people. Both as an active competitor and as the Raw General Manager, Regal would discuss how he wouldn’t allow himself to be “besmirched.”
10. Dino Bravo
Another instance of someone that the fans jeered for being anti-American would be the late Dino Bravo. He was a Canadian of Italian decent and started working in the southern United States before returning home to Montreal and capturing the Canadian heavyweight title. Initially, in 1986, Bravo was slated to compete against Hulk Hogan in his hometown, but it was canceled on short notice. Speculation at the time was that WWE did not want the Montreal crowd to cheer Bravo, the hometown hero, over The Hulkster, and that Bravo quit the promotion after finding out.
9. The Bolsheviks
This was a faction that the company attempted to build, based on earlier success with an anti-American team. The tandem of Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukoff were put together to represent a very pro-Russian faction that was very much in line with Volkoff’s previous team with The Iron Sheik. But with this incarnation, even though they were seasoned veterans, it didn’t feel as fresh as Volkoff and The Sheik. They would still sing the Russian national anthem and would still put their country above any other, especially the United States.
8. Team Canada
Team Canada first came about during WCW’s pay per view New Blood Rising, which fittingly took place in Vancouver, British Columbia. At that show, Lance Storm was defending the United States Championship against American Mike Awesome. The match was refereed by another popular Canadian, Jacques Rougeau. Rougeau was known for participating in several pro-Canadian angles in his career. The team was composed of Storm, Rougeau, Ouellet and Elix Skipper. Skipper was noted as having competed in the Canadian Football League, and thus an honorary Canadian. Storm announced that the four were to be collectively known as Team Canada.
7. Ludvig Borga
At a time where anti-Americanism seemed the most successful gimmick the WWE could come up with, Borga came along and boasted about the benefits of his country over those of the U.S. Starting as Ludwig Borga before changing his first name Ludvig, he began a winning streak that saw him achieve several squash victories. He came to the ring while the Finnish national anthem played, and looked down on America because of its (in his eyes) weaker education system and poorly kept environment. Borga’s time in the WWE wasn’t long, but certainly notable because of his dominance during his run.
6. The Hart Foundation
The Hart Foundation only consisted of two Canadians, while the remaining members were either English or American wrestlers who had married into the Hart family. Bret and Owen Hart were the Canadians, Davey Boy Smith (from England) and Jim Neidhart (from the U.S.) were married into the family. The most interesting addition was Brian Pillman, who was neither married into the family, a Hart, or Canadian. His connection was that he had wrestled for Stampede Wrestling and was close to the Hart family. The group became so despised by U.S. audiences that they would throw debris during their ring entrances, interviews and matches.
5. Yokozuna with Mr. Fuji
In one of the more unique pro-foreigner gimmicks, the WWE introduced 650 lb sumo wrestler, Yokozuna. Though this surprisingly agile big man was actually of Samoan descent, he was portrayed as Japanese and was managed by Mr. Fuji, a former manager of several tag team champions. Fuji, who as a wrestler had also been an evil foreign heel, was Yokozuna’s mouth piece and often used stereotypical gimmicks. Fuji would discuss how Americans were scum, with Hulk Hogan frequently mentioned in his rants. One of the biggest moments for Yokozuna’s anti-American gimmick was when Lex Luger slammed him on the USS Intrepid.
4. Rusev and Lana
The greatest anti-American, pro-foreigner character that WWE has produced in recent memory is unquestionably Alexander Rusev. He initially went under this moniker, but when he and Lana began to generate more and more heat for their anti-American stance, his name was shortened to simply Rusev. He would walk to the ring waving the Russian national flag, and with the help of Lana would often boast how we should all be proud of a leader like Vladamir Putin. Putin’s face was often displayed on the Titantron during promos by Lana and Rusev. During the character’s height he was feuding with several performers.
3. Sgt. Slaughter
One of the most clever examples of an anti-American wrestler was none other than American hero Sgt. Slaughter. It is hard to believe that there was a time where Slaughter was so disliked that he was more than just a villain, he was a downright traitor! During the turn of the 1990s, the first Iraq War was under way, following Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The WWE capitalized on that by having Sgt. Slaughter align with General Adnan (formerly Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissy) and former WWE Champion The Iron Sheik. Collectively, this group would feud with Hulk Hogan, and Slaughter even held the WWE Heavyweight championship as they went into WrestleMania VII.
2. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
One of the most popular anti-American teams in the 1980s was the combination of The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. If there was any group hated for putting their countries above all others, it was this team. They were meant to represent everything that wasn’t American. The team’s success was attributable to the prominence of the Cold War at the time. At a time when Ronald Reagan was President, Nikolai Volkoff would sing the Russian national anthem and proclaim the superiority of his country. The Sheik could often be heard shouting “Iran #1, Russia #1….USA (makes sound clearing his voice) Ptui.”
1. Muhammad Hassan
While many other characters managed to make fans get angry for pro-foreign beliefs, Muhammad Hassan was the one character that fans hated because of circumstance, timing and how he was portrayed. Hassan, for anyone that isn’t aware, was an Arab-American character (portrayed by an Italian-American wrestler) that was introduced on the heels of the tragic events of 9/11. The character was a very stereotypical representation of the Muslim culture. Hassan wore traditional thawb, sirwal, and keffiyeh clothing to reinforce the character’s gimmick and stereotype. He was even seconded to the ring by Shawn Daivari.
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