WWE like to push the idea on fans that this is where every wrestler from around the world wants to end up. That there is nowhere else to make a living but in Vinnie Mac's promotion and for the most part (with minimal exceptions like the Young Bucks) this has held true. This means that wrestlers from far and wide are lucky to perform in the WWE, from Australia, the UK, Japan, Mexico and everywhere in between. No matter the product quality, there will always be an extensive range of wrestlers on show.
Some of the greatest performers of all time (Antonio Inoki, Andre the Giant, Bret Hart) and some of the greatest storylines of all time have been centered around a performers country of origin. It can make for controversial, but must- see TV (remember, controversy creates cash). While this has not always been the most respectful or ethical use of a performers background (see: Kai en tai, Cesaro’s ‘yodeling’ gimmick or Becky Lynch’s first NXT gimmick), this will always be a staple for WWE writers, as it is an effective way to garner heat from the crowds or a baby face pop for any given performer.
Within the landscape of the current WWE product, we see several performers proudly flaunt their heritage, whether it be with an obvious accent, music or overall gimmick, and this gives the WWE the diverse image that they seek. However, obvious or surprising their heritage may be, here are the 15 best current WWE superstars from outside the United States of America, with 7 different countries being represented on this list.
15 Wade Barrett (United Kingdom)
The once promising heel Barrett has never been one to shy away from his English heritage, noticeably wearing tights with the Union Jack on them for the entirety of his run, and he always received deafening ovations from the European crowd whenever WWE toured. Though things have not panned out the way Wade and the WWE would have liked (no thanks to SuperCena), he has had quite a respectable career in the WWE, beginning with The Nexus, leading to several Intercontinental Championship reigns, but disappointingly ending with The League of Nations, as it is presumed Barrett will be leaving in the summer when his contract expires.
14 Asuka (Japan)
Bursting onto the scene in 2015, with hype matching any WWE international signing in history, Asuka has torn a path of destruction all her own through the NXT women’s division, culminating in a championship victory over Bayley at NXT Takeover: Dallas. The former Kana is one of the most decorated performers, male or female, in the history of Japanese wrestling, and this signing, not long after the debut of fellow Japanese star Kenta signalled further legitimacy for Triple H’s NXT brand, as Asuka looks to be the first of many new Japanese stars in the company, where she will hopefully be taken as the serious ass kicker she is, rather than the stereotype Vince McMahon has straddled Japanese stars with before.
13 Paige (United Kingdom)
The former Britani Knight has been wrestling in her homeland of England since she was 13 years old, as both her parents are storied wrestlers and it was only natural that she would make her way to the US, and eventually the WWE. She debuted in NXT, where she is the longest reigning and first ever NXT women’s championship, and has made her unique mark on the WWE women’s division, where her own eclectic character has shone through, despite the fact that it can not hide her thick English accent, which make her a crowd favourite during the WWE’s yearly European tours.
12 Becky Lynch (Ireland)
The now ‘lass kicker’ is a perfect example of WWE using someone’s heritage as a stereotype, as she came to the ring in her original NXT run, complete with an Irish jig and folk music, which definitely was never getting over with the WWE Universe. While still proudly rocking her Irish background, Becky has now transformed her character, being allowed to implement more of her own unique rock star personality, which has made her a hit on the main roster. One of several Irish wrestlers on this list, the future looks bright for Lynch, along with her Four Horsewomen, who look to be the future of the WWE Women’s division.
11 Hideo Itami (Japan)
The former KENTA arrived in WWE after tearing up the independent scene around the world, gaining a name for himself as one of the stiffest and most exciting wrestlers around, which naturally created buzz in the WWE, despite some question marks (what is his English/promo skills like? And how will his stiff style translate?). Being out with a significant injury for much of 2015 and all of 2016, it’s hard to judge the prospect of Hideo Itami going forward, as he wasn’t exactly lighting NXT on fire unlike new arrivals such as Kevin Owens and Finn Balor. However, the fact remains, Japanese sensation Hideo Itami is one of the finest workers around and is well liked backstage, which bodes well for his future in the WWE.
10 Sheamus (Ireland)
The Celtic Warrior (maybe a bit of a subtle hint, right?) has been in WWE for years now and personifies the Irish brawling style, which has served him well and led to several WWE title reigns, even with his… uhh, lets say unique look. The ‘Great White’ (ugh again with the Irish stereotype) has dominated for years, with victories over Roman Reigns, John Cena, Randy Orton and many more, and has paved the way for many other European stars to join the company over the past few years. He looks to have a solid spot locked up on the roster for the time being.
9 Rusev (Bulgaria)
Debuting as The Super Athlete in NXT, many were surprised at the athleticism shown by the big man upon his arrival, making him one of the more impressive superstars to ever come through WWE developmental in recent memory. With help from valet and real life fiancée ''The Ravishing Russian’, the Bulgarian Brute found a way to over come the language barrier and still continue his dominant ways. The two became a genuine power couple on the main roster in the lead up to WrestleMania 31 and many hope Rusev can find this dominant, serious streak once more, as a great heel on a roster which currently lacks big time heels.
8 Neville (United Kingdom)
Adrian Neville has been wrestling around the world for over a decade (formerly known as PAC) and has wowed audiences wherever he has been, including NXT and now the WWE upon his debut the night after WrestleMania 31. The Newcastle native has often shown the WWE Universe moves and sequences they never thought possible, but a lack of mic skills and a recent injury has held him back, despite quite possibly being the most impressive wrestler on the roster. With increased mic time and storylines, Neville could become a key player in the ‘New Era’ as his high flying exploits embody the new generation of wrestlers coming to the WWE.
7 Alberto Del Rio (Mexico)
During his first run in the WWE, JBL often referred to Del Rio as ‘Mexico’s greatest export’, a shout out to the storied legacy of Mexican wrestling in the WWE and a compliment to the ability of the former Alberto El Patron, as he is viewed as a legend in modern Mexican wrestling, most notably in the AAA promotion. While his last run has cooled and he remains in mid card purgatory, Del Rio has the in ring ability, and the personality if WWE lets him loose, to be a main event star for years to come.
6 Chris Jericho (Canada)
Not much more needs to be said about the storied career of Y2J, as he will no doubt go down as one of the finest characters, whether heel or face, and one of the most consistent and impressive in ring performers of all time, competing and succeeding in Japan, ECW, WCW and of course the WWE. While he was born in the States, Jericho is of Canadian descent and is still to this day a valuable contributor to the WWE product, having totalled 31 championships in his time within the big three North American wrestling promotions. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer, with much more to offer the WWE now and for the next several years.
5 Shinsuke Nakamura (Japan)
Despite only being on the WWE roster for just over a month, Shinsuke Nakamura has already made an incredible impression on the WWE Universe, both prior fans of his, and fans who were only introduced to him in the no doubt Match of the Year with Sami Zayn at NXT Takeover: Dallas. The King of Strong Style, who sweats charisma, is one of the best wrestlers on the planet and it is only a matter of time until he is plying his trade on the main roster (hopefully against old foes like AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar). If he's booked correctly, he could be the biggest Japanese star the WWE has ever seen.
4 Sami Zayn (Canada)
The Canadian-Syrian Zayn can be seen representing both sides of his heritage on his WWE ring gear, as the Montreal native has climbed his way through the ranks of developmental finally up to the main roster of WWE at the beginning of 2016. The former El Generico has wowed audiences with phenomenal matches against all kinds of opponents, with the story telling ability, likability and in ring prowess that make him a future main eventer in the new era of WWE. His extensive indy background and ability to connect with the fans have made him one of the most popular superstars to ever come from NXT, as he has garnered the respect of fans and peers alike around the world. The Triple H favorite no doubt will see more and more TV time, many championships, and hopefully more of his old foe Kevin Owens.
3 Cesaro (Switzerland)
The Swiss Superman has long been underutilized in the WWE, as fans have taken it upon themselves to create the ‘Cesaro Section’ after Vince McMahon's comment that he does not have the ‘it factor’ that management look for in a superstar. No doubt one of the most technically gifted and strongest wrestlers in the world, fans have got behind Cesaro in a strong and unique way, and it seems the boss is finally taking notice. With a whole new gimmick, Cesaro looks to be on the rise in WWE, which will hopefully one day culminate in the winning of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It's an honor which could be bestowed upon him today and would be a universally loved decision from the often second guessed WWE decision makers.
2 Finn Balor (Ireland)
Make no mistake about it, the Irish born Finn Balor, who made his name all over Europe and in Japan as Prince Devitt, is going to be a huge main event player in WWE for years to come, as he has shown an ability in different promotions to play heel/face, and is one of the best in ring workers in the industry today. He has the look, the personality, the in ring ability and charisma, and is very well liked backstage. After dominating the NXT scene for almost two years, he is set for his main roster debut at any time, where the time and effort he put in getting to the WWE main roster will be validated, when he and his Bullet Club mates will hopefully be given the credit they deserve, and remain in the main event scene for years to come.
1 Kevin Owens (Canada)
The man from Quebec, Canada has captivated the WWE Universe, both young and old, in the ring and on Twitter since his WWE main roster debut in 2015 and has consistently stolen the show whenever he appears on screen. Ideally, his WWE World Heavyweight Championship win should come within the next year or two. Though not the perfect look and size for WWE management, within the new regime, led by Triple H, the focus on personality and in ring ability has been heightened, and this will be to the credit of Owens and many of his former independent allies such as AJ Styles, Neville and the Joker to his Batman, real life friend Sami Zayn. Coming from Canada, Owens is the best of the international bunch on a stacked WWE talent roster, which many historians have claimed is the deepest and most talented roster the WWE has ever possessed.
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