Often times when we think about a country outside our own, we have certain ideas about how they live, act or feel. In the eyes of someone from any country outside North America, they may think that we believe that they are better than anyone else in the world. And conversely, we may think it is indisputable that we live in the greatest continent in the world, but everywhere else on the planet would argue that.
When it comes to wrestling, there have been a number of times when characters were disliked for being from a country outside North America. While there has been some playing with the stereotypes, the basic idea in these cases is that those from the rest of the world aren’t friendly, kind and considerate, but instead downright disrespectful of everything that we stand for. In these instances, the dislike for the rest of the world was certainly exploited. And these performers were hated, despite being highly superior athletes, highly intelligent, highly educated and having incredible mic skills.
There are several gimmicks that followed this angle even though the country may have changed. The WWE has often found success and popularity preying on how Americans will stand up for their home, especially if someone talks down about it. One of the most notable decisions was to have a popular American become a sympathizer of another country. This list will reflect instances in WWE where being from another country meant being a heel. Here are the 10 times the WWE made their fans hate the rest of the world.
10. The Great Khali
Before he was promoted as the Punjabi Playboy, The Great Khali was brought into the WWE as an Indian giant that was a threat to several of the larger athletes in the WWE. It didn’t matter that he was an awful wrestler and couldn’t string together a sentence, he was feared because of his height and presence.
Upon entering the WWE, Khali was booked to take part in feuds with The Big Show, Kane and The Undertaker. The booking decision of having him feud with other giants within the company made sense. While having him face smaller competitors as a means of showing his dominance helped, it was his feuds with the larger athletes in the company that stood out.
He debuted by attacking The Undertaker and challenging him to a Punjabi Prison match. The gimmick match unfortunately didn’t feature Khali, as The Big Show replaced him. Khali eventually did participate in a Punjabi Prison match against Batista, which consisted of bamboo poles making prison walls. He did have a feud with Rey Mysterio where he had an astounding 21 inch and 250 pound advantage over the smaller opponent.
9. Vladimir Kozlov
The WWE has really appeared to have issues with Russia through the years, as another Russian was featured in the mid-2000s. He first trained as part of the WWE’s Deep South Wrestling promotion, before appearing on the main roster in 2008 with no music, and no entrance video, instead having a single spotlight follow him to the ring. He was advertised as being trained in the Russian military, and his look and style was that of a no nonsense, menacing character.
He didn’t walk to the ring waving a Russian flag or boast about his heritage, but it was implied that he was better than his competition, which was often primarily North American. Kozlov could have benefited from having a mouth piece boasting how the Russian military was better than that of the United States, but that didn’t happen. Kozlov’s character was lightened up after some time, and he was paired up with Santino Marella after his championship pursuits early on.
8. William Regal
Often known for being highly arrogant, with a proud English manner and embellished mannerisms, William Regal certainly didn’t hide how great he felt about the English and how awful the American people were. Regal would walk to the ring with disdain for not only his opponents, but the audience in attendance. As he came to the ring, Regal held his head up in the air with the pomposity and arrogance that made him a stereotype of upper class English people. Both as an active competitor and as the Raw General Manager, Regal would discuss how he wouldn’t allow himself to be “besmirched.” While this word wasn’t common, it certainly became a common part of the Regal character. He would often wipe his shoes before he got into the ring as a means to clean the remains of the American “soil” from his shoes. Regal remains one of the most disliked foreigner characters that the WWE ever used.
7. The Bolsheviks
This was a faction that the company attempted to build based on earlier success with an anti-American team. The tandem of Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukoff were put together to represent a very pro-Russian faction that was very much in line with Volkoff’s previous team with The Iron Sheik. But with this reincarnation, even though they had been matching attire and were seasoned veterans, it didn’t feel as fresh as Volkoff and the Sheik.
They would still sing the Russian national anthem and would still put their country above any other, especially the United States. It was hard to argue with how disliked they were though. Russian teams such as The Koloffs in the NWA had been successful elsewhere, so creating a WWF version of the team seemed like the best fit for the company; certainly using Volkoff again seemed to make the most sense.
6. Ludvig Borga
At a time where being anti-American seemed like the most successful gimmick the WWF could come up with, Borga came along and boasted about the benefits of his country over those of the United States. He first appeared as Ludwig Borga, changing his first name Ludvig, and began a winning streak that saw him achieve several squash victories. He came to the ring while the Finnish national anthem played, and looked down on America because of its (in his eyes) weaker education system and poorly kept environment.
One of his most notable feuds was against Lex Luger, who was the prominent American hero, at the time. He was even part of The Foreign Fanatics team at Survivor Series alongside Yokozuna, Crush and Jacques Rougeau. The character was in the vein of other dominant anti-American characters in movies like Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago character in Rocky IV. Borga’s time in the WWE wasn’t long, but certainly notable because of how he was so dominant during his run.
5. Yokozuna with Mr. Fuji
In one of the unique pro-foreigner gimmicks, the WWF introduced 650 lb sumo wrestler, Yokozuna. The surprisingly agile big man would often be heard uttering the word “banzai,” and even though he was actually of Samoan decent he would walk to the ring in a kimono, led by Mr. Fuji, a former manager of several tag team champions.
Fuji, who as a wrestler had also been an evil foreign heel, was Yokozuna’s mouth piece and often used stereotypical gimmicks. Fuji would discuss how Americans were scum, with Hulk Hogan frequently mentioned in his rants. One of the biggest moments for Yokozuna’s anti-foreigner gimmick was when Lex Luger slammed him on the USS Intrepid as part of a body slam challenge; Luger represented the United States and Yokozuna represented Japan.
The character’s success was attributed to the work both Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji did to get as much heat as possible, at a time when the WWE was really trying to build a pro-American character to challenge him and thwart his championship reign.
4. Rusev and Lana
The greatest anti-American, pro-foreigner character that WWE has produced is unquestionably Alexander Rusev. He initially went under this moniker, but when he and Lana began to generate more and more heat for their very anti-American stance, his name was shortened to simply Rusev.
He would walk to the ring waving the Russian national flag and with the help of Lana would often boast how we should all be proud of a leader like Vladimir Putin. We would often see Putin’s face displayed on the Titantron during promos by Lana and Rusev. During the character’s height he was feuding with several performers in order to improve and build his position.
While feuds with Big Show, Mark Henry and Jack Swagger may not have been considered notable, defeating Sheamus for the U.S. title certainly was. As part of the Rusev character’s storyline he received a gold star, a medal of accomplishment from President Putin that made him a “Hero of the Russian Republic.” Rusev’s most notable feud to date remains his program with John Cena.
3. Sgt. Slaughter
One of the most clever characters to be pro-foreigner and anti-American was none other than the notable American hero, Sgt. Slaughter. It is baffling to believe that there was a time where Slaughter was so disliked that he was more than just a villain, he was thought of as being a downright traitor!
During the turn of the 1990s, the most prominent war taking place was against Iraq, and its President Saddam Hussein, after the invasion of neighbouring Kuwait. The WWE capitalized on that by having Sgt. Slaughter align with General Adnan (formerly Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissy) and former WWF Champion The Iron Sheik. Collectively, this group would feud with Hulk Hogan, and Slaughter even held the WWF Heavyweight championship as they went into WrestleMania VII.
The heat that Slaughter garnered at the time was incredible, as he often boasted about supporting the Iraqi leadership over the United States. Do you remember the anti-American propaganda that the beloved former G.I. Joe was spewing? His heel run was short lived, as he returned to supporting America once again.
2. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
One of the most popular anti-American teams in 1980s was the combination of The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. If there was any group more disliked and spit upon for putting their country above any other, it was this team. They were meant to represent everything that wasn’t a reflection of the US. The team’s success was attributable to US and Russian relations, and how important the Cold War was to society during that time.
At a time when Ronald Reagan was President, Nikolai Volkoff would sing the Russian national anthem and proclaim the superiority of his country. The Sheik could often be heard shouting “Iran #1, Russia #1….USA (makes sound clearing his voice) Ptoui.”
The team captured the tag team championships using the most unscrupulous of means, when they defeated the US Express after jabbing the cigar of their manager Classy Freddie Blassie’s cigar into their opponent’s eyes. It was another reason to hate this dastardly anti-American team!
1. Muhammad Hassan
While many other characters managed to make fans get angry at pro-foreign beliefs, Muhammad Hassan was unquestionably the one character that fans hated because of circumstance, timing and how he was portrayed.
Hassan, for anyone that isn’t aware, was an Arab-American character (portrayed by an Italian-American wrestler) that was introduced on the heels of the tragic events of 9/11. The character was a very stereotypical representation of the Muslim culture that fear-mongered the fans. The character was highly controversial and often used tactics that referenced terrorist attacks, including having masked men attack The Undertaker during one segment on Smackdown.
Hassan wore traditional thawb, sirwal, and keffiyeh clothing to reinforce the character’s gimmick and stereotype. He was even seconded to the ring by Shawn Daivari who is a talented wrestler in his own right, but was equally caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Muhammed Hassan will go down as arguably the most hated foreign character in WWE history.