Often times when we think about a country outside our own, we have certain ideas about how they live, act or feel. When it comes to Canada, outsiders may think the people are nice, live in igloos, ride moose, drink maple syrup and eat their daily body weight in bacon. As a Canadian myself, it would be easy to dispute everything there…except the moose thing. In fact, I should probably be apologizing for writing this article.
However, when it comes to wrestling, there have been a number of times when characters were disliked for being Canadian. While there was some playing with the stereotypes, the basic idea in these cases is that those from the North aren’t as friendly as they make themselves out to be. And in these instances, the dislike for Canada was justified. Even though they were highly superior athletes, highly intelligent, and had tremendous mic skills.
That did sound an awful lot like a heel-like tactic on my part, didn’t it? But ensuring that my fellow Canucks receive the proper respect and acclaim they deserve isn’t wrong, is it? To have readers look at each example, and gag at the idea that Canada could in fact be better isn’t wrong, is it?
This list will reflect instances in WWE, WCW and TNA where being Canadian meant being a heel. It’s hard to be humble when you’re this good, and a Canadian. Sometimes the hatred was for the wrestlers or gimmicks, while at other times it was the Canadian fans themselves. Disliking a fan? Yup, it happened.
10. Dino Bravo
Our first instance of someone that the fans jeered would be the late Dino Bravo. His given name was Aldolfo Bresciano, and he was of Italian decent. He initially earned a chance working in the southern United States, but returned home to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and captured the Canadian heavyweight title.
Initially, in 1986, Bravo was slated to compete against Hulk Hogan in his home town of Montreal, but it was canceled on short notice and Bravo left the company briefly. Speculation at the time was that the WWF did not want the Montreal crowd to cheer Bravo, the hometown hero, over Hogan, and that Bravo quit the promotion after finding out. If that was the case he wasn’t too bent out of shape over it. Bravo returned to the WWF the following year and changed his look. He dyed his brown hair blond and was a part of Luscious Johnny Valiant’s Dream Team, alongside Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.
So how exactly does this mean fans hated his Canadian heritage? A little later, Bravo was again repackaged and began playing up his Québécois identity, wearing the Fleur-de-lis and carrying the Quebec flag, and was managed by Frenchy Martin, who often toted around a sign reading USA is not OK. Bravo had several feuds during this time. Among those he feuded with were Don Muraco, Rugged Ronnie Garvin and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
His feud with Hacksaw Jim Duggan was especially notable because it certainly played upon his French Canadian heritage. Throughout his time in the WWF, Duggan always represented the USA and played a staunch patriot. In fact, their feud also included a flag match, which has been used for many years since. The flag of the winning nation would be waved after their victory. After Frenchy Martin left the WWE, Jimmy Hart took over the reigns as Bravo’s manager. With megaphone in hand, he also wore the Fleur-de-lis symbol over his outfits in support for his client.
National patriotism always strikes a chord with the American wrestling audience, and in the case of Bravo the fact that he was waving something other than Old Glory was enough to incense the crowd. When you add the fact that he was also the Canadian Heavyweight Champion, it certainly came across as though he thought he was better than the American talent.
9. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
This real-life brother tandem had been calling themselves Fabulous for some time, and feuded with the Hart Foundation in the late 1980s. The French Canadian duo were part of a storyline where the manager of the Hart Foundation, the “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, still had a contract with the team, and was subsequently giving a portion of the Hart Foundation’s earnings to the Rougeaus as a bonus.
It was at this time that the Rougeaus developed their famously pro-American gimmick, which was deliberately mocking and disingenuous, made abundantly clear by the fact they were of French-Canadian descent. The Rougeau Brothers began to be introduced as “Soon to relocate to Memphis, Tennessee,” instead of the traditional statement of the wrestler’s birthplace.
They came to the ring as “All-American Boys,” and their theme song was an upbeat one they sang themselves. A portion of the song was sung in French, and did acknowledge that fans disliked them. Of course, only once this part was translated could fans know that they were being directly insulted. This confirmed their insincerity, and drew the ire of the fans. They would also draw heat by waving small American flags, and they would attempt to start a USA chant, to the irritation of the fans.
These clearly Canadian wrestlers were calling themselves American and mocking the country at the same time. It was a clever way for these Canadians to get over as heels.
8. The Amazing French Canadians
A gimmick that resembled The Quebecers team from the WWF once again took center stage in WCW. Jacques Rougeau returned to the ring in 1996 and he reunited with former tag team partner Pierre Ouelet in WCW. The team was renamed The Amazing French Canadians and Pierre began to use his real name, Carl Ouellet, to prevent any potential trademark issues with the WWF. The team remained patriotic in nature, as they would enthusiastically wave the flags of Canada and Quebec during their entrance, in addition to having the Canadian national anthem used as their entrance music. It was during this period where they were managed by Col. Rob Parker, who dressed like a legionnaire and attempted to speak a number of French words in his southern drawl. It was quite amusing. The team began a feud with Harlem Heat, which created animosity between Parker and the manager of the other team, Sherri Martel. The Amazing French Canadians participated in what turned out to be “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson’s last match, as they lost to the Four Horsemen tandem of Anderson and Steve McMichael.
In their final days in the promotion, the Amazing French Canadians lost to their old rivals the Steiner Brothers before leaving in January 1997. While it could be argued that the idea had been beaten to death, and it didn’t really differ from their time in the WWE, the addition of Parker certainly made it more comical, as he was clearly the outsider trying to belong. Interestingly, the Rougeau Brothers were managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart in the WWF, so mixing a southern dynamic with a French Canadian gimmick was done before for amusement purposes.
They were easy to dislike, as their heat was generated by their arguing that “We’re better than you, and even though we are here in America, you aren’t the better country, Canada is.” Could more have been done with them? It’s probably unlikely, as time and injuries would have caught up to Rougeau, and unless they brought in another Canadian to take his place it would have fallen flat. Carl Ouellet was impressive, and could have had some interesting singles matches, even if Rougeau were simply to accompany him to the ring. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
7. The Quebecers
Once you have raised the ire of American fans by acting as though you’re better than them, then why not do it again? Rougeau’s career was winding down, but the addition of Carl Ouellet generated the same heat he had garnered alongside his brother Raymond years earlier. Together Rougeau and Ouellet formed The Quebecers. To emphasize Ouellet’s French Canadian heritage, he used the name Pierre, and like Rougeau he dressed like a member of Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
An interesting note is that, due to the previously started fear by the RCMP that the gimmick could lead to actual distrust of the RCMP by Canadian children, The Quebecers sang their own entrance theme, in which they announced that, contrary to appearances, “We’re not the Mounties.” Well that’s one way not to be considered controversial.
One dastardly tactic used by these Canadians that garnered heat was when they won the titles under “Province of Quebec Rules,” which allowed for titles to change hands on disqualifications. A rule that is clearly so wrong and unfair had to be…Canadian! The team had a limited lifespan as did the pro-Canadian Mountie gimmick. The Quebecers eventually ended their time together when Jacques Rougeau retired.
What explains the WWF’s affinity to use Canadian stereotypes to garner heat? Why did Americans dislike Canada so much? Was it because Canada was unlike them? Was it because they showed pride in themselves and believed that they were better? These are likely explanations. This route has been more effective than European stereotypes, and use more often. A contributing factor is that the gimmicks are attached to Canadian wrestlers who are familiar with the stereotypes, and have fun with them.
6. The Un-Americans
While it didn’t consist solely of Canadians, the Un-Americans took an anti-American stance similar to previous pro-Canadian wrestlers and teams. Lance Storm led this faction, which also included fellow Canucks Christian and Test. While there was speculation that an all-Canadian faction could have been created, the company preferred to create a group composed of various non– Americans, not just Canadians. Still, the concept of the group began when Storm claimed that World Wrestling Entertainment had issues with Canadians for years, and used the Montreal Screwjob as his example. The faction didn’t walk to the ring with Canadian flags or flags of different countries, but rather an upside down stars and stripes, causing upheaval as heels often do.
Is this a reason to hate Canada? No doubt. Despite not espousing pro-Canada propaganda, they certainly highlighted the frustration they had with the United States, and stated that Canadians, and wrestlers from other countries, are being held down. It played up the perceived inferiority complex that Canadians are believed to have towards the United States. It was a clever idea and something that hadn’t been played upon before.
The Canadian heel faction/stable/team had been exhausted by this point, but this was certainly a different direction for the gimmick. Storm took nuances from what he had in WCW’s Team Canada faction and made it new and different here. Presenting them as an Un-American faction left room to have other countries involved, but the primary members of this faction were Canadian. Test, Christian and Lance Storm made up 3/4ths of the faction, with William Regal being the other member. It was honestly less about Canada and more about other countries’ dislike for the United States. It was hard to argue with this talented quartet’s level of competition and ability to compete. Another Canadian who was a prominent ally of the faction was Chris Jericho. While he was never officially a part of the team, he had importance and relevance within the faction. He was more of an honourary member, but wouldn’t really get too involved in Un-American affairs.
5. Team Canada (TNA)
In 2004, Canadian wrestling promoter Scott D’Amore was notable for being not only a personality, but the coach of a group of Canadians aptly named Team Canada. This was during the early years of TNA where they proudly pledged allegiance to the true north strong and free. The team was originally made up of not only Canadians, but Americans who preferred to represent the country north of the border. The team was captained by a member of the Hart family in Teddy Hart, along with fellow Canadians Johnny Devine and Petey Williams. The group also included Jack Evans, an American. Other notable members were added to the faction as time passed, including Canadians Eric Young and Bobby Roode. What was remarkable about the faction is that they remained together after the World X-Cup Tournament, maintaining their allegiance to one another. In the process they captured the TNA tag team titles and TNA X Division championship.
They used an acoustic rendition of the Canadian national anthem which began with an electric guitar riff reminiscent of Jimmy Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. They had no problem playing up the Canadian stereotype, as they walked to the ring with the Canadian flag attached to a hockey stick. As time passed, they added A1, Alastair Ralphs, who represented the strength and muscle of the faction. For a time they aligned themselves with the evil American in Jeff Jarrett, and even attempted to sway Canadian Christian Cage to join them, but that didn’t pan out.
Their feuds at the time were with factions such as 3LiveKru and Team 3D. As time passed, members would step aside, and others would join. During the 2006 World X Cup, Tyson Dux joined the faction. But the number of losses began to mount, and frustration grew as, after the World X-Cup, only Petey Williams, Bobby Roode, Eric Young and A1 remained with the squad. Jim Cornette set up an “all or nothing” match up where either Team Canada would disband or remain together, depending on the result of their match against Rhino, Team 3D and Jay Lethal. The result was a loss for Team Canada and a subsequent disbanding of the group. However, Scott D’Amore would bring the remaining members together, highlighting each of their futures, and blaming Eric Young as the reason the faction was forced to split.
While the promotion would reunite Petey Williams and Eric Young, they failed to capture the TNA World Tag Team Championship against Beer Money Inc., in a match where the stipulation was that if the challengers lost, the man who was pinned or submitted would be forced to leave TNA for good. It was this stipulation that ultimately ended the reunion as former Team Canada member Bobby Roode pinned Petey Williams, forcing him to leave the company.
4. Team Canada (WCW)
Team Canada first came about during WCW’s pay per view New Blood Rising, which fittingly took place in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. At that show, Lance Storm was defending the United States Championship against American Mike Awesome. The match was refereed by another popular Canadian in Jacques Rougeau, and Rougeau was known for participating in several pro-Canadian gimmicks/angles in his career. Rougeau changed the rules of the match, allowing Storm to retain his title. It was after the match that Bret The Hitman Hart came to the ring and showed his support for Storm. Storm once again faced Mike Awesome during an episode of Monday Nitro, again in British Columbia, once more coming out victorious. This time there was interference from not only Jacques Rougeau, but Carl Ouelet and Elix Skipper, though Skipper was actually American. Skipper was noted as having competed in the Canadian Football League, thus being an honorary Canadian. Storm announced that the four were to be collectively known as Team Canada.
During this time, Storm held three different championships: The United States, Cruiserweight and Hardcore Championship. Storm renamed the titles the “Canadian Heavyweight Championship,” “100 Kilograms and Under Championship,” and “Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title,” respectively. It was a brilliant move that allowed for each of the titles to have a Canadian twist. He also placed large stickers featuring the Canadian flag on each of the titles. Storm didn’t retain each of them, but rather gave the 100 Kilos and Under Championship to Elix Skipper and the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title to Carl Ouelet as a thank you for their assistance in his match against Mike Awesome. Unfortunately, Ouelet lost his title in a match against Norman Smiley, though Skipper retained his title for a couple of months. Storm continued to defend the Canadian Heavyweight Championship, but the stable became thinner as both Rougeau and Oulette the company.
One of the more infamous moments in the faction’s history was the addition of one of the most patriotic Americans to Team Canada. During a feud with General Hugh G Rection, the guest referee of a title match between Storm and Rection were Hacksaw Jim Duggan. It was at this time that Duggan turned, helping Storm to beat Rection and joining Team Canada in the process. Other defections to Team Canada included Major Gunns and Mike Awesome, who was also aiding Storm’s Team Canada faction.
The stable disbanded after WCW was purchased by WWE. The most remarkable thing about this “Canadian” group was that it had more Americans than Canadians. Mike Awesome, Jim Duggan, Major Gunns and Elix Skipper were all in fact American, but certainly had a bone to pick with their country.
3. The Mountie
Jacques Rougeau was away from the WWF for almost a year after his brother Raymond retired. Upon his return, Jacques became The Mountie in the early part of 1991, and resumed being managed by Jimmy Hart. The Mountie was dressed as a stereotypical Canadian Mountie (a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,) and like in the Mountie stereotype he proclaimed he would to always get his man.
The gimmick was a slightly less comical version of the animated character Dudley Do-Right. When we say he wasn’t ethical when winning his match, we can cite as evidence his use of an electrified cattle prod to achieve victory. He took part in several feuds during this time, most notably with Tito Santana and The Big Boss Man.
Did we dislike him because he was Canadian, or because he claimed to be above the law and would do whatever it took to get his man? It was probably a bit of both. The Big Boss Man similarly represented law and order, but he also represented the good old US of A. The character’s greatest success as unethical Canadian man of the law was when he defeated Bret Hart for the Intercontinental championship, although for only a couple of days.
The gimmick caused some controversy with the actual RCMP when he competed in Canada, and he actually had to use his real name when wrestling in his home country, while retaining his Mountie attire. Even though Rougeau was a heel at the time, he was cheered like Canadian wrestlers usually are in Canada, especially in his home province of Quebec. While wrestling a match against then-champion Hulk Hogan in Montreal, Hogan was actually booed by the crowd and Rougeau was cheered, though Hogan was at the height of his popularity and Rougeau was a heel. Rougeau and Jimmy Hart tried whatever they could to get the crowd to jeer Rougeau, to no avail.
Eventually Rougeau formed a team with Carl Ouellet, and together they won the World Tag Team Championship three times as The Quebecers, both wearing Mountie inspired attire.
2. The Hart Foundation
The family that is synonymous with wrestling in Canada is the Hart Family. Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Dean, Ellie, Georgia, Bret, Allison, Ross, Diana, and Owen were all the children of Stu and Helen Hart, born and bred in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Many of the Hart children were successful wrestling in Western Canada for the various incarnations of Stampede Wrestling. But the formation of a new Hart Foundation in the mid to late 1990s, and their battles with Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock and Shawn Michaels among others, led to the lesser known Harts taking the international stage.
The Hart Foundation only consisted of two Canadians at the time, while the remaining members were either English or American wrestler who had married into the Hart family. Bret and Owen Hart were the Canadians, Davey Boy Smith (from England) and Jim Neidhart (from the U.S.) were married into the family. The most interesting addition was that of Brian Pillman who was neither married into the family, a Hart or Canadian. His connection was that he had wrestled for Stampede Wrestling in the past, and was close to the Hart family.
The Canadian hatred began when Bret Hart was feuding with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hart denounced American fans because of their increasing negative reaction to him in favour of Austin, in contrast to his continued popularity through the rest of the world. The Hit Man soon reformed the Hart Foundation with the aforementioned members, and as the leader of this stable, he would regularly carry a Canadian flag to the ring and engage in promos where he declared the superiority of his glorious and free home nation. The character became so despised by U.S. audiences that they would often throw debris during his ring entrances, interviews and matches. How could it be that such a beloved fan favorite was so disliked by fans only in one country? The answer is that he spoke his mind and expressed everything that he didn’t like about the country that supported him while he was on top.
During the In Your House: Canadian Stampede PPV, held in Calgary, the Hart Foundation would defeat the team of Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and The Legion of Doom, who represented the U.S., in an elimination match as the main event. They were assisted in their victory by some of Bret and Owen’s lesser known siblings. The North American border war continued on an edition of Monday Night Raw in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Bret, Owen and Davey Boy Smith, representing Canada and the Hart Foundation, defeated the team of Dude Love, Austin and The Undertaker, representing the U.S., in a Flag Match.
Shortly thereafter, Hart vowed that if he could not defeat The Undertaker for the WWF Championship at SummerSlam, he would never wrestle in the United States again. He certainly gave American fans reason to cheer as this was what they clearly wanted to have happen to the anti-American hero. During the match, Hart tried to use a steel chair, only to have it taken away by the guest referee, his long-time rival Shawn Michaels. In response, Hart spat in Michaels’ face, Michaels swung the chair in retaliation, and accidentally struck The Undertaker, leading to Hart pinning the Dead Man for the victory. Similar to the condition imposed upon Hart, Michaels would be banned from wrestling in the United States if he did not remain impartial as the referee, and so had no other option but to count the Taker down and give Hart the win.
During Hart’s pro-Canada gimmick, he was often going head-to-head with Michaels, who, despite being a babyface, was displaying anti-establishment, anti-respect attitudes. Michaels turned heel soon after inadvertently costing Taker the title. It was also no hidden fact that Hart did not like the new Attitude Era and remained true to his traditional family values.
Hart defended his title against The Patriot (who dressed in the red, white and blue of the American flag and wore a mask), with whom he was involved in a feud as part of the Canada vs U.S. storyline. Weeks later, the Canada/US storyline would reach its conclusion at the Bad Blood PPV where Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith, representing Canada and The Hart Foundation, defeated The Patriot and Vader, representing the U.S., in a Flag Match. This didn’t sit well with an American audience because the hated Canadians got the better of the Americans.
It was remarkable how the Hart Foundation was celebrated throughout Canada and yet spat in the face of American fans. In the lead-up to the Michaels-Hart match at Survivor Series 97, Michaels fuelled their rivalry during an episode of Raw by putting the Canadian flag up his nose, a clear sign of disrespect. It wasn’t until the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series, in November of 97 that Canada fought back.
After the shocking conclusion of the match, the fans littered the ring with debris, much like Hart himself did with items from around ringside. The fans in Montreal supported Bret Hart, and were shocked and disgusted by what they had just seen. Their hero was no longer champion, and it was done in the most legitimately underhanded manner. Often times, in many sports there is suggestion of fixing games to have a determined winner. However, in the sports entertainment industry, to see a legitimately fixed result left a bad taste in most Canadian’s mouths.
1. The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan @ WrestleMania XVIII
You may not see what connection between this matchup has with hating Canada. Allow me to explain: Leading up to the match, it was being built as “icon vs icon,” two men representing completely different eras of the WWF/E, face-to-face in the promotion’s signature PPV of the year. As both men stared at each other, the fans cheered for the heel Hogan OVER the babyface Rock. Each man hit their signature moves against one another, but as Hogan hulked up once again, the reaction by the fans in the SkyDome (now known as the Rogers Centre) was incredible. The match ended with The Rock being put over by Hogan, and to that the crowd gave a smattering of boos. They eventually cheered as The Rock allowed The Immortal Hogan an opportunity to pose to the crowd in attendance. After the match, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall came down to attack Hogan.
Hogan has stated publicly that the course of the match changed on the fly, as the crowd showed an overwhelming amount of support towards Hogan. While this could have happened anywhere, it didn’t. Could the same thing have happened if the event took place in Philadelphia or Chicago, in 2002? Two of the most anti-establishment and progressive wrestling town would assuredly not be cheering for Hogan. How about a crowd in Los Angeles or New York, two of the biggest markets in North America? Not likely.
It was not the same crowd that were witness to the Montreal screwjob five years prior, but certainly this crowd was going to make history. The reaction of the crowd shortened the length of time the nWo would operate in WWE. Even though the faction continued their run with other members, the original faction saw its demise on March 17th, 2002, and Hogan had a late career resurgence that saw him win another WWE title and WWE Tag Team Title. The course of history appeared to be in an instant changed because of the Toronto, Ontario crowd. Blame Canada.