Professional wrestling is a worldwide phenomenon with many traditions that date back many years. Like many common global customs, wrestling and its format varies from one location to another.
In Canada, professional wrestling is very much centered around mat philosophy and the technical aspect of the craft. Many of the great Canadian wrestlers have included a style of submission into their repertoire.
In Mexico, things are far from what they are in The Great White North as masked men compete in the Lucha Libre style of wrestling which encompasses more of an aerial technique while in the ring.
In Japan, professional wrestling is much more than just choreographed mayhem. Professional wrestling is taken very seriously and is upheld with tradition, respect, honour, and strong competition.
In the United States, professional wrestling was once a carnival act that had grown into a country-wide sensation. Many styles from around the world have found their way to America as well as the beloved hardcore style of wrestling.
However, we are not here to discuss Canadian, Mexican, Japanese, or American professional wrestling. We are here to focus on European wrestling and some of the greats that have come out of the glorious continent.
The following list will not contain the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, or Shawn Michaels but rather those who have made their way across the pond to take part in a world of Rattlesnakes, Great Ones, and Heartbreakers.
The wrestlers who wanted to find success in the Land of Opportunity. Those who came attempting to conquer a professional wrestling world that can only exist many miles away and in another hemisphere.
As we go along, you will notice how few on our list have attained a World Championship in major promotions. However, such a circumstance must not take away from the achievement and abilities of the following Athletic Anarchists.
These are the top 15 European wrestlers of all time:
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16 Honorable Mentions: Paige and Becky Lynch
Paige was born in Norwich, England while Becky Lynch was born in Dublin, Ireland. Both women have traveled through the European independent circuit before heading across the ocean in search of WWE success.
Paige and Becky Lynch are currently part of the "Divas Revolution" which we hope will not fizzle out anytime soon as both these young competitors are full of ambition, charm, and wrestling talent.
15 Fit Finlay
Fit Finlay was born in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He is a well-traveled professional wrestler who has worked for many different promotions on different continents - a real man of the world.
Fit Finlay is known as a tough Irishman whose in-ring style was more of a brawler than a wrestler. Nevertheless, his contributions to the business and rough fighting are enough to place him on our list.
14 Antonio Rocca
Antonio Rocca was born in Treviso, Italy. While his wrestling career is not particularly well-documented, Rocca managed to find success in cities with a large Italian-American community.
Antonio Rocca holds a strange place in WWE history as he has been listed as the official loser in the finals of the tournament to crown the first WWWF (WWE) Champion - a tournament that never occurred.
13 Ivan Putski
Ivan Putski was born in Krakow, Poland. In the wrestling world, Putski has been given the nicknames, "The Polish Hammer" and "Polish Power" due to his physical strength and powerful in-ring presence.
Ivan Putski had wrestled for both the NWA and AWA before finally making his way to WWE where - along with partner Tito Santana - would capture the WWE World Tag Team Championship.
12 Baron Mikel Scicluna
Baron Mikel Scicluna was born in Balzan, Malta. His wrestling career began in Canada where he performed for many years until finally finding his path to the WWE and a chance at higher glory.
Baron Mikel Scicluna was known for his arrogance and claim that he was of Maltese royal descent. Scicluna would also help with the regulation of foreign objects into professional wrestling matches.
11 Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett was born in Lancashire, England. Prior to the professional wrestling game, Barrett took part in the very real and violent world of bare-knuckle boxing - a fact often mentioned on WWE programming.
In WWE, Barrett has sometimes struggled to find his place. However, the current King of the Ring is a phenomenal European talent who is also a former five-time Intercontinental Champion.
10 Nikolai Volkoff
Nikolai Volkoff was born in the Socialist Republic of Croatia. However, despite his upbringing, Volkoff will always be associated with Russia due to the professional wrestling character he once portrayed.
Nikolai Volkoff may not have been a real Russian but knew how to draw heat from the live crowd with his performance style and dedication to the character. Volkoff is regarded as one of the best wrestling heels of all time.
Cesaro was born in Lucerne, Switzerland. He would one day make his way to America with professional wrestling hopes and dreams keeping him afloat. Cesaro would work many years on the independent scene before signing with WWE.
Cesaro is now one of the most underutilized talents on the WWE roster despite the fact that he is an exceptional wrestler. In fact, Cesaro could be the best actual wrestler on the main roster.
8 Karl Gotch
Karl Gotch was born in Antwerp, Belgium. His influence on wrestling is huge as he is considered a pioneer of Japanese style wrestling. Gotch was known in Japan as "God of Wrestling."
Karl Gotch was not well-received in America due to his lack of style and charisma. However, Gotch - who was raised in Germany - can be credited for the popularization of the wrestling term "German Suplex."
7 Finn Balor
Finn Balor was born in Bray, Ireland. He began his professional wrestling career on the European circuit before heading to Japan where he would become one of the biggest wrestling stars in the country.
Finn Balor is now, finally, employed by WWE after years of hard work. Balor is the current NXT Champion and a fan favourite who will hopefully find his way onto the main roster soon enough.
6 William Regal
William Regal was born in Staffordshire, England. He began wrestling at a very young age and would never look back as he began what has seemingly become a lifelong road in the professional wrestling industry.
William Regal may have assumed many roles in WWE of the authoritative nature but his in-ring ability must not be overlooked. Regal has always been a technically sound wrestler who possessed the selfless ability of getting someone "over."
5 Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith was born in Wigan, England. He would garner early attention as a professional wrestler working in Canada and Japan - eventually joining the ranks of the WWE.
Davey Boy Smith is a former European, Intercontinental, Hardcore, and Tag Team Champion as well as a once acclaimed member of the legendary Hart Foundation faction during the Attitude Era.
4 Dynamite Kid
Dynamite Kid was born in Lancashire, England. He would get his first taste of success while performing for Stampede Wrestling before embarking on a tour of the world and ultimately ending up in WWE.
Dynamite Kid played a major role in the career of many future professional wrestlers who would model their own in-ring techniques after the rugged Englishman and his unique style.
Sheamus was born in Dublin, Ireland. Having made a name for himself on the European wrestling scene, attention from WWE was soon to follow and eventually, Sheamus was on his way to America.
In terms of "WWE numbers," Sheamus is the most successful on our list having been a former two-time WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, two-time United States Champion, Royal Rumble and King of the Ring winner, and current holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase.
2 Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant was born in Grenoble, France. His massive size was a result of gigantism - a condition where one experiences excessive growth and height. Andre would put this condition to use and find his way to the world of professional wrestling.
Known as "The Eighth Wonder of the World," Andre the Giant was an attraction all his own as people far and wide paid top dollar to catch a glimpse of the mega-sized-man as he stepped into the ring.
1 Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino was born in Pizzoferrato, Italy. He would take interest in professional wrestling and someday become a hero of Italian-Americans as well as a fixture on the North-Eastern wrestling scene.
Bruno Sammartino would hold the WWE Championship for a total of eleven plus years over the course of two championship reigns - selling out Madison Square Garden on a regular basis.
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