Professional wrestling performers come from far and wide to stand under the bright lights of arenas and stadiums. With all those different backgrounds, you can understand why they all look so different. Just like in your favorite X-Box or PlayStation video games, a pro wrestler can have their own size, shape, height and weight.
But, some in the industry also have a very distinct sound of their own.
Whether it be a foreign dialect, a regional tongue, or just backwoods slang, generations of grapplers have had their own unique way of getting their point across. Often times, it may be to the bewilderment of a confused interviewer or a silent crowd. In other cases, a wrestler could have completed an interview, and though the fans feel excited, they can't really decipher why.
Face it, some accents are just bad. Whether real, or put-on, a wrestler's speaking style is just as much a part of them as their ring style. Confusing gibberish or a dialect that is phony and overblown can cause the wrestler to lose their psychological connection with the fans. And when the audience no longer takes them seriously, they may as well just be talking to themselves.
Some of the worst accents can be overcome, while others will always be just plain, old-fashioned noise.
In honor of one of the most unintelligible talkers of all-time, let's hand out the 2017 MR. FUJI AWARDS to 15 wrestlers who's accents were so bad, that their message almost fell on deaf ears:
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15 Nikita Koloff
You have to give Scott Simpson credit... He knows how to stay in character.
The man behind the guise of Nikita Koloff, Simpson dedicated himself to playing the role of the menacing Communist heel to the hilt. Billed as The Russian Nightmare, he invaded the Crockett territory in the mid-80s under the tutelage of his storyline Uncle Ivan. Waving the sickle and hammer, Nikita would lock eyes with the camera and deliver a promo in his thick, Siberian accent. With an inflection that was half gorilla/half vampire, he swore to take the sacred United States title back home to the Mother Country.
Except Simpson was from Minnesota, and probably didn't have a drop of Russian blood in his body. Unfortunately, Nikita's commitment to the character sometimes went too far, and the foreign inflection was too heavy to decipher.
So give him an A for effort, or whatever that letter happens to be in Russian.
But, overall, Nikita laid it on just a little bit thick. While sometimes effective, his Soviet garble could get downright confusing to his red, white and blue audience.
And just for the record, we're all still trying to figure out what "Jzhe toe ah tah" means.
14 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett gets a bad rap for a lot of things. His business dealings, booking himself on top, and seducing another wrestler's wife are just a few of the complaints the fans and his co-workers have had about The Chosen One over the years.
One of Jarrett's biggest knocks is that he is a regional wrestler who has no business in the main event of a major federation. Critics reinforce that notion by pointing out that Jarrett sounds very regional, making him a poor choice to be the King of the Mountain for any major federation.
This situation reared its ugly head again, when Jarrett launched TNA wrestling. Outside observers felt that Jarrett's image as a small fish in a big pond would only be verified by his Tennessee twang.
For Double J, his accent has may be a part of the reason that he's never been considered a prime time player in the industry. Considering that he hasn't reached the level of an elite Superstar despite years of trying, that theory just may be true.
With an accent as thick as sweet 'n' smoky barbecue sauce, this Kansas City native burst on the scene in WWE, managing the likes of 'The Model' Rick Martel, The Big Bossman and Akeem the African Dream.
The stepson of legendary grappler Rufus R. Jones, Kenneth Johnson had all the country grammar you could ever ask for, long before Nelly introduced that expression to the world. Slick's midwest slang permeated his promos, leaving fans from the left and right coasts trying to buy a vowel.
To folks in cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and his hometown Kansas City, Slick made perfect sense. But in other areas of the country. the expressions he turned and the inflection he used didn't translate to fans in more cosmopolitan markets. In many ways, the Dr. of Style sounded small town, which gave him the perception of being small time.
In the end, his jive won out, as he forged a great career in the company. Despite his regional dialect, his charisma and over-the-top personality win him the respect of fans everywhere.
12 Jean-Paul Levesque (Triple H)
Like him or hate him, Triple H sounds a lot better without that silly fake accent.
For some reason, promoters looked at a young Paul Levesque and thought, "this guy needs to sound different." And why not? He was 6'4" and nothing but muscle, why not make him cartoonish?
So, while in WCW, he was asked to speak with a French accent (a language he didn't speak and had never studied) and then later in the WWE as a Connecticut blood blood (which did no favors for his masculinity, by the way).
Looking back now, isn't it strange to think that a guy who is now one of the most powerful men in wrestling was once forced to use such an awful cover voice?
Triple H is a great example of a fake accent gone wrong. Had he never tweaked his character and revealed not only his true colors, but his true voice, he may have been silenced in the industry forever. If it were up to promoters, he might still be fumbling through interviews as a really bad version of Inspector Clouseau.
Then again, some fans might not mind that so much.
In his "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter" voice, Cesaro cuts promos that sound like they have little to no emotion behind him. Maybe it's because he's Swiss, and you know, they're neutral.
The comparisons to Fabio aside, there is something a little antiseptic about Cesaro's accent. Here's a guy who may be the most physically talented athlete in the company. He can go hold for hold with anyone, he has surprising power for his frame, and he can fly when he has to.
So what's missing? Emotion, desire, and genuine passion. At least, that's how it comes across. Unfortunately, Cesaro's reliance on his Euro accent makes his promos seem sterile and emotionless. No matter how he tries, it almost sounds like his heart just isn't into it.
Despite not having the greatest tone behind the microphone, Cesaro has still managed to get himself over with fans by being a talented performer. Imagine what he could do if he didn't, at times, sound like he's bored.
10 The Great Khalil
Let's see... how can we describe the not-so-great attempts at english of The Great Khalil?
Foisted upon the wrestling audience by the McMahons because of their potential business interests ties to India, Khali struggled to communicate with his American audience. When it became apparent to the audience that Khali had almost no skill in the ring, the crowd turned on him. The vitriol got even worse when the company put its World Heavyweigh ttitle around the giant's waist.
In any other circumstances, a wrestler of Khali's limited ability would be able to talk his way out of it. He would be able to convey to the crowd that he is qualified for the job, even if he isn't. But handicapped by an accent so thick and heavy that he could barely manage even a few audible syllables, Khali became nothing more than a curiosity.
Based on what we've seen and heard, that's probably how The Great Khali will always be remembered. And, there's no chance he'll be able to talk his way out of it.
9 Bruno Sammartino
Like many ethnic wrestlers of his day, Bruno Sammartino was an immigrant. Never did he shy away from his Italian heritage as he proudly stood as a champion for his people in Madison Square Garden.
Unfortunately, some of the things that made him so popular were also a hindrance to him. As the longest-reigning World Champion in the company's Golden Era, Sammartino's entire gimmick was, essentially, that he was Italian and unbeatable.
When the '80s wrestling revolution erupted, Vince McMahon wanted to keep Sammartino around, so he made him a television announcer. Never was Bruno's strong accent so prevalent as he tried to call the action. His words were thick and his old world terminology didn't appeal to the new WWE audience. Bruno, an intelligent well-spoken man, sounded almost aloof.
Unfortunately, there was still some bias in those type of jobs at the time. Announcers were expected to have polished, trained voices. The action was faster and the audience had trouble keeping up while still trying to follow along with the strongman. Unfortunately, by the point Bruno reached the booth, he sounded like what he was: an old champion who's time had passed.
8 Dusty Rhodes
While most fans embraced Dusty Rhodes' smooth walkin', fast talkin' jibberish, many others didn't care for his rap. Known for being one of the greatest talkers in the history of the business, Dusty had an accent that came off a bit fake.
That's because, as The American Dream, he would scat through a five-minute diatribe that was part violence and part blue-eyed soul. After he was finished, you weren't sure if you wanted to fight the Devil or praise the Lord.
Talking to Virgil Runnels, however, was a bit different. As the head booker for Crockett Promotions and a spokesman of the company, Dusty would revert to a calm, professional tone.
In other words, he would talk more like himself.
Fusing a mix of Thunderbolt Patterson, Sputnik Monroe, and Amos 'n' Andy, Dusty's jive made him a man of the people, even if his 'put on accent' might have put a few other fans off. In time, most wrestling fans came to accept his whirlybird delivery as just one of the quirks of his character. His funny phrasing and bombastic delivery won over a generation of fans.
7 Lash LeRoux
The Ragin' Cajun never seemed to get above curtain jerking status in WCW, at least not during its heyday. As a 'tweener, he wasn't quite big enough to be a heavyweight and he couldn't fly like most of the Cruiserweights could.
Stuck in a situation like that, the only thing a wrestler can do is go to his skills on the microphone... if he has any.
Unfortunately for Lash LeRoux, his thick Louisiana accent made him hard for the audience to comprehend or relate to. Even when he tried to mix some of his backwoods upbringing into his onscreen character, it didn't work. one of the biggest reasons was that the audience couldn't take him seriously because of silly sounding dialect.
With his in-ring skills, LeRoux deserved a better fate than he got in WCW. Odds are, had he had a little better command of the language, he never would have been sent running back to the swamps...
As a matter of fact, we garr-on-tee it.
6 Becky Lynch
Is it sexy, sassy, or scary? Is she Irish, or insane?
Becky Lynch's folksy accent is as emerald green as shamrocks and St. Patty's Day beer. However, when she gets her Irish up, her native tongue gets even coarser and she sounds like a cross between a witch and a leprechaun.
Imagine a Dublin harpie filled with Guiness at two o'clock in the marn, wantin to faht ever' soul in the pub.
That's what Becky sounds like when she tries to cut an 'angry' promo. And while we won't ever shame anyone for their upbringing, Becky's fits of rage stir up images of Maureen O'Hara scolding John Wayne. They do nothing for her character, and the tone in her delivery makes her sound evil and cold. That's fine if you're playing the heel, but what about when you're trying to be a babyface?
5 "Superstar" Bill Dundee
It's odd that a little man with a thick Australian accent can be such a hit in a mid-south town like Memphis, but that's exactly what Bill Dundee was.
It wasn't without a lot of work, however. Born in Scotland of Australian descent, when William Cruickshanks first arrived to Jerry Jarrett's territory, some observers and fans claimed that his Down Under diatribes were too hard to understand. Even in later years, Dundee would sometimes lose the CWA audience if he got angry or started talking too fast. At certain points, it seemed as though only announcer Lance Russell could decode what Dundee was spewing.
Not phased by any of it, Dundee became a headliner and one of the greatest stars in Tennessee wrestling history. His friendship and rivalry with Jerry The King Lawler will go down as part of southern 'rasstlin' lore. And within a short time, he was on the same page as the loyal crowd in the WMC studio.
Still, one has to wonder if it wasn't just his diminutive stature, but his big accent, that kept The Superstar from seeing the bright lights of bigger federations.
4 A.J. Styles
This is another accent that is natural, but unfortunately, doesn't play well with the audience.
For years, one of the biggest knocks on A.J. Styles was that while he may have been arguably the world's best wrestler, he wasn't very good at delivering convincing promos.
One of the running jokes going around was that Styles could hold a vertical suplex longer than he could hold the audience's attention. Ouch.
Born in North Carolina and later relocating to Georgia, Styles spent a good majority of his time in the indys wrestling almost exclusively in the south. His first real national exposure was in WCW (based in Atlanta) and then TNA (Nashville). For many fans, this left The Phenomenal One as simply just another southern 'rassler.
As Styles has progressed in his career, he has worked hard to shake the stereotype that he can't be a main player because of his drawl. So far, so good, as A.J. sat on top of WWE for most of 2016.
3 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik has embraced everything about American culture: the people, the places, and the language (well, sort of).
Born Hossein Kosrhow Ali Vasiri in Tehran, Iran, The Sheik portrayed an anti-American who sympathized with the Ayatollah and everything jihad. In reality, nothing was further from the truth, as the former Olympic wrestler had actually once been a bodyguard for the shah and had no allegiance to the evil regime.
That didn't matter in the world of professional wrestling, though.
Whether he was swinging giant clubs or breaking some poor jabroni's back with his patented camel clutch, the Sheik seemed to enrage fans the most when he was holding a microphone.
It was surprisingly effective. While some of his words sounded like they had so many consonants that they could warrant a 100-point score in Scrabble, he conveyed his message through stern rebuffs of the United States. Even with his hard, broken English, he was able to spread his heeldom, although fans often had to translate every third word for their friends.
Often standing next to his equally incoherent tag team partenr Nikolai Volkoff, he somehow still got a simple message across.... Iran #1, Russia #1 USA? Hacktui!
2 Shinsuke Nakamura
If there's ONE wrestler in the world right now that should be signing up for a public speaking class, it's WWE newcomer Shinsuke Nakamura.
The consensus among observers is that Nakamura's English has gotten better and will continue to improve as he assimilates into American culture. It better, because the former New Japan star has the chance to make a huge impact on these shores. It would be a shame if he loses the buzz around his arrival by not being able to effectively communicate with the fans.
The folks who want to pull for Nakamura will tell you his heavy Japanese accent isn't that bad. Quite frankly, that's just wishful thinking. Nakamura's interview prior to his NXT match was BAD, and even worse, it was pre-taped. that means they actually spent time coaching Shinsuke, and the interview was still mostly just mumbling and fumbling.
If this star from the Land of The Rising Sun wants to shine brightly in the States, he's going to have to add cognizant promos with his incredible in-ring skills. At least enough to where the American audience doesn't want to send him packing for home.
As many fans already know, Rusev's evil, pseudo-Russian babe is really a just a sweet, Southern girl from Florida named C.J. Perry. In fact, she' so red-blooded American, that she used to be one of the FSU 'cowgirls' who gained attention in the stands at Tallahassee during Florida State football games.
When she was pitched the idea of joining WWE as the Eastern Bloc ice queen Lana, she initially rejected the idea because she didn't think she could pull off the character. And in the beginning, she was absolutely right.
For months, Perry struggled to evolve into Lana, often slipping out of her thick accent by accident in front of live crowds and on television. A fully-forming Lana didn't flinch, however. She used it to her advantage, thanking her American fans for 'noticing that her English was getting better.'
Talk about keeping it kayfabe.
Since then, she's improved, despite a political snafu that ruffled some feathers and made her appear to truly be a sympathizer to Russian President Vladimir Putin. As time has passed, she has been like many other characters who came before her. Real or fake, wrestling fans have embraced Lana's lingo, as they have all the others.
In the end, the various inflections and dialects that have graced the sport over the years shaped the fans' perceptions of the characters. Really awful accents are a part of life, so naturally they made their way to the squared circle. If a wrestler can't find a way to overcome that and convince the crowd, then their message falls flat.
But if the audience believes your rap is real, no matter how awful, it will always be music to their ears.
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