WWE strongly believes in having a diverse roster today. The global branding has made the product available in many countries all over the world. Representation is important in connecting with the viewers from different places rather than just loading up on all Americans and only appeasing that audience. Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, Rusev and many others prove variety is the spice of the WWE. The nice mix gives a great variety of styles and backgrounds as well. Part of the magic in wrestling is knowing everyone doesn’t have the same story and they don’t perform the same way.
Only lately have WWE started to promote the non-American backgrounds of wrestlers for the benefit of reaching out to their home countries. There have been many wrestlers from other countries that didn’t get it discussed on WWE television. Some had their home towns changed to the state in America they resided in at the time. Many others have just had their backgrounds lost over the years with time passing and them being away from the spotlight. We’ll take a look at the various stories of quite a few great talents that may have their birthplace misremembered by wrestling fans. These are the top fifteen wrestlers that you may not know are actually not American.
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15 Trish Stratus: Canada
The hiring of Trish Stratus was obvious given her look. Stratus appeared to have the All-American look WWE wanted in their female performers despite the fact that she isn’t even American. We tend to assume every wrestler without an accent or gimmick about their background is from the United States. Trish falls under that umbrella, but she proudly represents the country of Canada. Aside from the times WWE brought it up for shows in Canadian cities, it is easy to forget where she’s from.
Stratus improved from just being glorious eye candy into the biggest women’s wrestling star in WWE history. Following a legendary career, Stratus has transitioned into running a yoga brand aptly named Stratusphere. She also does acting work infrequently and still resides in Canada filling her days with the joy of being a mother. Trish will always go down in the ranks among the greatest Canadian wrestlers of all time.
14 Neville: United Kingdom
Neville rarely speaks on WWE television and it becomes a bit confusing to figure out where he is actually from. The tremendous high-flying daredevil has wrestled all over the world in numerous countries, so various people believe he is from different places. Neville is from the United Kingdom, specifically Newcastle. The long journey saw Neville wrestle locally before making his name in Japan and on the United States independent wrestling scene.
WWE hired him in the early stages of NXT, where NXT started to ascend into a bigger platform with Neville at the helm. The timing of Neville winning the NXT Championship on the first live NXT TakeOver special was definitely elaborate. Neville has tremendous in-ring skills and can pull off moves unlike anyone else in the company. WWE brought him up to become a consistent member of the main roster and he’ll likely continue to make the UK proud.
13 Konnan: Cuba
WCW signed Konnan to a great contract in the mid-90s and he’s been a fixture in the American wrestling scene since then. Konnan developed a reputation in Mexico as one of the biggest stars in the country before making the jump to the United States. Most wrestlers hope to make it to the U.S. with the potential to make the most money wrestling. The popular belief is Konnan is either from the United States or Mexico, but he’s actually from Cuba.
Konnan achieved his biggest popularity in WCW as a member of the New World Order. Following the company going out of business, he has spent time in TNA and back in Mexico’s AAA but is currently a free agent. Konnan’s ideal position is working in a non-wrestling role on screen or booking in the back. His current job is running the weekly “Keeping It 100” podcast on Chris Jericho’s podcast network. Konnan has a respected voice in pro wrestling and his journey from Cuba proves it was all worth it.
12 Ezekiel Jackson: Guyana
Ezekiel Jackson's WWE career wasn’t exactly a memorable one, but he did have quite a few accomplishments. Jackson is the only wrestler from Guyana to become a WWE Superstar. The West Indian culture community doesn’t have many mainstream stars in the United States, so Jackson’s role on WWE television during his career was a big deal. Jackson would give them big moments, winning the final ECW Championship before retiring the title and becoming Intercontinental Champion.
Jackson didn’t have the greatest in-ring skills, but he possessed the physical look that Vince McMahon strongly believes a wrestler should have. The opportunities afforded to Jackson exposed his weaknesses when it proved he couldn’t hang with the elite performers working at a high level. Jackson ended up getting released after failing to deliver the goods when called upon. Still residing in America, Jackson does Guyana proud by continuing to try to improve and earn a spot in wrestling or other forms of entertainment.
11 Val Venis: Canada
The Attitude Era experimented with many peculiar gimmicks. Val Venis was the perfect example, with Canadian wrestling standout Sean Morley receiving an opportunity as an adult star. Fans enjoyed the ridiculousness of it and it made sense given the nature of the Attitude Era providing edgy content. Venis delivered with solid in-ring work and the portrayal of the character working to perfection with a risky proposition that could have killed his career.
Venis’ actual background was rarely mentioned on television and not many are aware he is actually from Canada. His move to the United States clearly worked well as he still resides in the United States and is huge advocate of American politics. No longer wrestling full time, Venis spends his time speaking out on political issues and trying to brand himself as a voice in that community. Some of his takes are quite controversial and have fans wishing he went back to Canada...
10 Justin Gabriel: South Africa
Justin Gabriel had great potential during his early days on WWE television but he rarely was presented as such. The Nexus’ early success came thanks to the intrigue of the group and a few talented performers. Gabriel had arguably the most exciting in-ring skills thanks to his dazzling aerial display. Following The Nexus, Gabriel failed to develop any momentum as a singles star. Part of the reason for the disconnect with the audience is that Gabriel barely spoke and Vince McMahon likely didn’t like his accent.
Gabriel is from South Africa. His accent stands out these days on Lucha Underground because he’s actually allowed to partake in conversations and cut promos. Not many American sports stars come from South Africa, so Gabriel certainly stands out. WWE failed to use him to the best of his potential and he’s finally showing it off on Lucha Underground’s program in a trio along with Jack Evans and Johnny Mundo.
9 Norman Smiley: United Kingdom
Norman Smiley's wrestling career has been a very interesting one with many twists. Smiley is currently known for his role as one of the lead trainers down in WWE’s Performance Center. The upcoming stars of WWE learn under Smiley and many credit him for their success on the main roster today. Smiley’s WCW tenure in the hardcore division stands out among the most popular stints in his career but it paled in comparison to his work elsewhere.
Smiley wrestled for years in his home of the United Kingdom. With the wrestling there being more serious than what he actually did in WCW as a comedic act, Smiley possessed tremendous technical wrestling skills most of us missed out on. Fans naturally assume Smiley is from the United States, but he’s proud of his background from Northampton. Smiley obviously resides in Florida now to help coach the WWE developmental stars on a daily basis.
8 Edge and Christian: Canada
Longtime WWE fans have fond memories of Edge and Christian for their respective careers in the wrestling business. They dominated the tag team division during their early WWE years and could easily be argued as the greatest duo in company history. Edge and Christian each went on to have highly successful singles careers, but will always be linked together for their partnership and friendship. Many younger fans that only know them from the WWE Network or final years of their in-ring careers have no idea they are Canadian.
Both guys loved wrestling more than anything else and became friends at a young age due to their bond. The timing would be perfect when both received jobs with the WWE around the same time. Their Canadian roots have been discussed, but it was not part of their identities like it was for Bret Hart and Owen Hart. Edge and Christian both set up lives in America to make it their home but Canada will always take credit for introducing them to pro wrestling.
7 Jimmy Snuka: Fiji
Jimmy Snuka is celebrated by 1980s wrestling fans for his impressive matches. The Superfly Splash shocked fans as top rope moves were quite uncommon at the time before the high-flying moves evolved over time. Snuka was born in Fiji but moved to Hawaii with his family and that’s where he would learn the basics of his future profession with wrestling training. His wrestling career would take him all over the country, but there’s a misconception he’s from Hawaii rather than Fiji.
WWE found great success with Snuka and he influenced many of the stars of the future. Mick Foley specifically mentioned seeing Snuka executing the Superfly Splash from the top of a steel cage at Madison Square Garden. Every fan lived through Superfly on that night. WWE made him a part of the family for many years giving him appearances at various points before other situations from Snuka’s past made him a negative name to book.
6 Renee Young: Canada
The 30 year old seems to be everywhere at the moment, from backstage interviews, to being a WWE panel host, to even having her own show on the WWE Network which is extremely popular entitled Unfiltered. The show began as a 15 minute segment and later turned into a full 30 minute program.
She seems like your beloved American girl next door type, but Young is actually of Canadian decent. As a matter of fact, her first experience with pro wrestling came on the The Score, a Canadian sports network, in where she served as the host of the wrestling program Aftermath. Shortly after, the Toronto native would ink a deal with the WWE and work in NXT. She would quickly make history becoming the first female color commentator in over a decade when she worked alongside Tom Phillips on WWE Superstars.
Look for big things out of the Canadian as the WWE is extremely high on her.
5 Bruno Sammartino: Italy
Bruno Sammartino’s iconic run in WWE over the 1960s and 1970s made him a huge success. The company sold out Madison Square Garden frequently with Sammartino as their World Champion. No one has reached anywhere near Sammartino’s record for 4,040 cumulative days holding the WWE Championship. Bruno’s first title reign lasted nearly eight years and he followed it up with another reign that lasted over three years. Considering most didn’t watch and only know of him from WWE Network footage, it is a relatively unknown fact he’s from Italy.
Sammartino made the Italian fans in New York proud by dominating the WWE. It can easily be argued that Sammartino was the first Superstar in the WWE with his name value selling tickets. The reputation of Bruno can’t be denied. His long rivalry with Vince McMahon ended in 2012 when he agreed to return to the WWE family by entering the Hall of Fame at WrestleMania 29 weekend which took place in the NYC area. Sammartino deserved closure for all of the success he achieved in WWE.
4 Roddy Piper: Canada
The late great Roddy Piper is always going to be in the discussion when talking about the greatest villains in wrestling history. Piper had a unique ability to portray the villain to perfection and get you to cheer for anyone he faced. Wrestling promotions all dream of finding a performer like Piper to bring in the emotional investment from fans watching the product. No one has a bad word to say about Piper because he always gave his all to the business and treated everyone with respect.
One slightly hidden fact about him during his wrestling days is he was actually from Canada. Piper was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and he spent the majority of early life there before becoming a bigger star in wrestling. WWE jumped at the opportunity to make him the top villain to oppose Hulk Hogan during the latter’s rise to mainstream America. Everyone assumed Piper was also from the United States or maybe Scotland due to his bagpipes, but he represented Canada.
3 Kofi Kingston: Ghana
The legitimate background of Kofi Kingston is still very confusing to wrestling fans. Kingston made his debut on the ECW brand for WWE pretending to be from Jamaica. His accent was endearing, but it was purely an act, as he had no relation to the island country. Kingston is actually from Ghana in West Africa but moved to the United States at the age of three. Kofi grew up in New England making it impossible to guess he’s from Ghana without finding out more information.
WWE has employed Kingston for about a decade now and he’s finding his greatest success in The New Day. Kingston rarely showed his comedic side with a white meat babyface character, but he’s having the time of his life now participating in silly antics with Big E and Xavier Woods. Despite being raised as an American, Kofi is proud of his Ghanaian background and prefers to be introduced from his home country.
2 Andre the Giant: France
Andre the Giant will always be remembered by the WWE for what he added to the company. Hulk Hogan bodyslamming Andre is a highlight moment in the historical importance of WWE at WrestleMania III. As their most successful giant character, Andre added that attraction appeal that was pivotal to WWE becoming a mainstream entity in American pop culture. The success of Andre’s wrestling career came in the United States but the big man was actually not American.
France was the birth place of Andre and he made them proud by becoming the biggest French star in wrestling history. Andre was beloved by Vince McMahon and the McMahon family. Stephanie McMahon claims Andre was the friendliest person in the locker room when she was a child visiting. The speaking of Andre was nearly incoherent, so you couldn’t make out any accent when he tried speaking. Most fans have no idea the giant legend is non-American, let alone from France.
1 Kane: Spain
Ready for the biggest shock of the list? Kane is not from hell!
In all seriousness, most fans assume Glenn Jacobs is from the United States, but the man to portray Kane is actually from Spain. The family of Kane was stationed in Spain due to his father being in Air Force. Kane was born in Spain before moving back to the United States to have a life there growing up. It is almost as interesting as his WWE storyline of setting everyone on fire as The Undertaker’s evil brother.
The work ethic and reliability of Kane has allowed him to hold a roster position in WWE for nineteen years now. Kane has never been “the guy” like many others, but could hold down any spot needed. We’ve see him go from the main event to the lower card, play both face and heel, pull off varying characters from serious to comedic. Kane is the model employee, a legend and shockingly from Spain.
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