The professional wrestling industry is filled with all different kinds of characters and gimmicks. What is considered by some fans and wrestling journalists as the most-successful character in the history of WWE is The Undertaker, a “Deadman” who has, at times, supposedly possessed special powers and who has been an individual who could not be defeated in certain cases. This character has come back from the “dead” on multiple occasions, his spirit has risen to the heavens, and he has even managed to survive being buried alive. When you think about it, Undertaker has had a rough life since first appearing on WWE television.
Another tradition in the wrestling business has been for companies such as the WWE, World Championship Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance, Ring of Honor and other promotions to feature “foreign” performers who feuded with babyfaces. Such an evil individual from a far-away land would, in promos, bash American fans and squash American babyface wrestlers, angering fans in attendance and upsetting those watching on television. This would continue until a hero representing the United States would emerge and defeat the foreign wrestling. It was simple and easy, and it also drew money throughout the 1970s, 1980s and even portions of the 1990s.
Pro wrestling is, of course, a work, and thus the characters that are presented on television shows such as Raw are not, in fact, always representations of the actual people playing those roles. Plenty of supposed foreign wrestlers were, in fact, from the good ol' United States. This includes individuals who are currently featured in the WWE and other promotions. While much has changed about the pro wrestling industry over the past several decades, we hope that “foreign” wrestlers will remain mainstays of the WWE roster for years to come. Some things, it turns out, never get old.
15. Mr. Fuji
Any young person in the industry who plans to one day play the role of an evil foreign manager needs to go back and watch Mr. Fuji. While Fuji was often criticized by wrestling journalists such as Dave Meltzer, he was a classic bad guy from another country who easily drew heat from younger audiences who wanted to cheer on American heroes. The funny thing, of course, is that Harry Fujiwara was actually born in Hawaii. He did well to play up to stereotypes and have a career in the wrestling industry for decades, and he managed a variety of acts while working for the WWE.
13 Nikita Koloff
You probably remember Nikita Koloff as being “The Russian Nightmare” and a heel answer for “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and for other American babyfaces. Before he played a menacing bad guy from the Soviet Union, Nikita was an accomplished and impressive athlete. Nikita got into weightlifting at a young age and played football at both the high school and collegiate levels. Injuries stopped his playing days before he was ever able to have a real shot at the NFL. Pro football's loss was, of course, pro wrestling's gain, as Nikita found success working in Jim Crocket Promotions while feuding with Ric Flair.
12 Masahiro Chono
American wrestling fans who mostly watched the WWE and WCW during the 1990s probably remember Masahiro Chono as being featured in certain video games, and also as being a Japanese representative of the New World Order stable. While Chono did get his start in the business working overseas, he was born in the state of Washington. Fans looking to watch Chono work matches against performers they will recognize should look up contests that featured Chono facing Chris Jericho, Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin. Ironically, Austin injured Chono with the same piledriver move that shortened Austin's WWE career when it was just getting hot.
11 Chris Jericho
One of the truly entertaining parts about Chris Jericho playing a heel is that he has, in the past, changed where he is from based upon the reactions that it will get from audiences. Jericho has been from Florida at some points. It has been said that Y2J is from Canada in other situations. The truth of the matter is that Jericho was born in Manhasset, New York at a time when his father was playing for the New York Rangers. Jericho did eventually move up north, where he grew up in Winnipeg, and that is where his love of the wrestling industry grew. Just think that the Y2J persona could have been one taking the NHL by storm. That would have been interesting.
10 Jim Neidhart
The perception some may have is that Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart would have to be Canadian because of his association with The Hart Family stable and also with the actual Hart family. Before he ever wore the pink and black inside of a wrestling ring, Neidhart was a good athlete who tried to make it in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and later the Oakland Raiders. While he could not find a long-term home playing pro football in the United States, Neidhart eventually impressed wrestling trainer Stu Hart. Neidhart went on to work for the WWE, WCW and even ECW.
They just don't make wrestling heels like Yokozuna anymore. The idea behind the Yokozuna character is that he was a Japanese monster who literally squashed American babyface acts such as Jim Duggan, Bret Hart and even Hulk Hogan. Rodney Anoa'i was born in California, however, and he is part of the famous Anoa'i wrestling family. His big break in the industry came when he was given the Yokozuna character while working for the WWE. The shame about this is that Anoa'i's weight skyrocketed in the years after Yokozuna debuted and his heavy frame likely played a role in his premature passing.
8 Gorilla Monsoon
Younger wrestling fans who only know Gorilla Monsoon as the babyface wrestler known for yelling “Will you stop it?!?” while working with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan may not even know that Monsoon was once known as “The Manchurian Giant” during a portion of his wrestling career. Monsoon was actually from the state of New York. It is, nearly two decades after his passing, almost hard to believe that some fans at the time were not all that fond of Monsoon's announcing. Compare Monsoon to some of the guys calling the action for the WWE today and then get back to us about Gorilla's supposed lack of skills.
7 Baron von Raschke
Pro wrestling was a simple business back in the 1960s. A man such as James Raschke could shave his head, give himself the name of Baron von Raschke and claim that he was from Germany. That, along with being skilled inside of the ring, was all that he needed to get over as a heel. It did not hurt that Von Raschke was a skilled amateur wrestler before he entered the pro wrestling industry. The WWE would probably never push a 2016 version of Baron Von Raschke today, as the company learned a lesson after the disaster that was the Muhammad Hassan persona.
Solofa Fatu Jr. played multiple different characters during his active in-ring career. Many of those were, for lack of a better description, lame and even offensive to the point that they would not be promoted on WWE television in 2016 or anytime in the future. Rikishi, however, was a fun-loving dancer character who teamed up with Too Cool and who became a beloved babyface among fans. Rikishi also had his serious moments, though, such as when he “did it for The Rock." OK, that storyline was no good, but it is something that we can joke about long after the fact.
5 Jimmy Wang Yang
The career of the character who was known as Jimmy Wang Yang in the WWE was fascinating. James Yun was placed in The Jung Dragons in WCW and he remained with that company until it closed its doors. Yun was then rejected by the WWE on multiple occasions until he was given the gimmick of Jimmy Wang Yang, a cowboy who was a throwback to characters found in wrestling throughout the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Yun was neither born overseas nor was he raised on a ranch in the middle of the United States. He was born in California.
4 The Original Sheik
Depending on your age and on when you first fell in love with the wrestling business, you may have been terrified of the man who was known as “The Sheik” and later as “The Original Sheik.” While he was billed to be from somewhere in Syria, Ed Farhat was actually born in Michigan. Original Sheik is a legend of the wrestling business who is seen as one of the grandfathers of what became the “hardcore” style of working. Sheik's feuds with icons such as Bruno Sammartino, Johnny Valentine and so many others helped to cement his status as an individual worthy of being inducted into multiple wrestling halls of fame.
Odds are that unless you did not grow up during The Attitude Era and thus know very little about the “Suicidal, Homicidal, Genocidal, Death-Defying” wrestler, you are probably aware that Terry Brunk is from Michigan. Brunk's gimmick of Sabu did not originally come from the fact that he is legitimately the nephew of The Sheik/Original Sheik, but we are glad that it eventually evolved into that persona. Sabu was one of several talented performers who helped put the original ECW on the map, and he also had a stint in the WWE during the re-branding of ECW. To his credit, Sabu was also involved in some fun matches in the early days of TNA Wrestling.
Somewhere out there, some smug wrestling fan is scoffing and commenting that Lana is not technically a wrestler. She worked at a WrestleMania, dear fan and that makes her a wrestler in our book! While you have to give The Ravishing Russian credit for her accent, C.J. Perry was actually born in Florida. When she has not played Lana in WWE storylines, Perry has earned acting gigs in movies and television shows. Perry may, in fact, have a future of landing jobs outside of the WWE, which may serve her well unless she becomes of the stars of the next season of Total Divas.
1 Rey Mysterio
Ever since he first emerged in Extreme Championship Wrestling, it was assumed by some pockets of wrestling fans that Rey Mysterio was a masked wonder from somewhere south of the border, probably Mexico. Mysterio was, in fact, born in the San Diego metropolitan area. It does not matter one bit where Mysterio was born, though, as he was able to get himself over among fans of different ages from all around the world. While his WWE career probably did not end as he would have liked, Mysterio has successfully moved on and found gigs working for AAA and also for Lucha Underground.
1. Bret Hart
This could be our favorite example of a wrestler you did not know was actually an American. Bret “The Hitman” Hart has been billed as being Canadian since his early days in the industry, and his Canadian pride played a big part of his feuds with Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin and Vince McMahon. What you may not know is that Bret's mother Helen was actually born in New York. This means that her citizenship does, in fact, extend over to Bret and to her other children, making him a dual citizen. Think about this the next time you go back and watch some of those anti-American promos that Bret cut during the 1990s.