It’s no secret that WWE loves their All-American heroes. Since the early 80s, Vince McMahon has tried to push his top babyfaces as hard working, blue-eyed, good, honest Americans who just want to defend their country from any outside threat. This worked pretty well back in the Hogan era, but as we saw in the nineties with Lex Luger, the formula got tired and became predictable fast. For the next couple of years, McMahon dropped the idea of the American hero in favour of anti-establishment rebels such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In recent years, however, John Cena’s marine/superhero gimmick and his reign as WWE United States Champion has reintroduced the hackneyed apple-pie eating, late-night TV watching character into WWE storylines.
In order to have an All-American hero, there must be some sort of foreign menace to challenge what the United States is all about (money, Twinkies, and the illusion of freedom). This need for dastardly un-American heels has given the WWE Universe André The Giant, Yokozuna, and, most recently, the WWE United States Champion, Rusev. However, there have been countless foreign superstars in WWE whose nationality was never mentioned beyond their entrance or in their superstar bio on the company website. These superstars rarely, if ever, used their un-Americanness to get heat with the crowd, and instead got themselves noticed through their talent and hard work. In this article, we’re going to be looking at just a few of those performers.
Here are 15 WWE superstars you didn’t know were not American.
15. Kofi Kingston
After spending a couple of years floundering in the mid-card, Kofi Kingston joined up with Big E and Xavier Woods to form The New Day, which quickly became the hottest act in all of professional wresting. Since then, Kingston has gone on to establish himself not just as a solid performer inside the ring, but as a fantastic entertainer, and is now coming on one year as one-half (one-third?) of the WWE Tag Team Champions.
When Kofi Kingston first appeared on WWE’s dreadful ECW imitation brand, he was billed as the company’s first Jamaican superstar and cut a number of promos speaking in a thick Jamaican accent. This was despite the fact that Kingston has no connection to Jamaica whatsoever. The gimmick was eventually dropped and Kofi finally began to be himself on television. While he is not from Jamaica, Kofi Kingston is not an American native either. The New Day member was born in Ghana, West Africa in 1981 before his family immigrated to the United States when he was just three years of age.
14. Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus is fondly remembered – possibly through breakup goggles – as one of the finest professional wrestlers to ever compete in WWE’s divas division. During her time in WWE, Stratus held the WWE Women’s Championship seven times, was named “Diva of the Decade,” and even became a one-time Hardcore Champion. Stratus’ Canadian heritage wasn’t mentioned on WWE TV all that often, with the exception of the lead up to WrestleMania X8, which took place in her home country.
Stratus was born in December of 1975 in Ontario, Canada, and spent the majority of her formative years in the area. She attended York University for a brief period before choosing to pursue a career in modeling instead. It was during her time as a model that Stratus was noticed by Vince McMahon and she was recruited to join the World Wrestling Federation towards the end of the millennium. She signed her first contract with the company in November 1999 and went on to steer the women’s division away – albeit not very far – from the direction in which it had been taken by Sunny and Sable during the Attitude Era.
13. Renee Young
The crush of millions of wrestling fans around the world, Renee Young has changed perceptions about a woman’s place in the business. While the female on-air personalities before her were relegated to ring announcing duties or carrying out mundane interviews backstage, Renee Young became a member of the NXT commentary team and quickly showed that she could hang with any male commentator she was paired with. Her insatiable lust for wrestling knowledge and desire to constantly get better have made her the leader of WWE’s pre-show panels.
Because she does not have an entrance like her in-ring counterparts, many fans of the WWE are unaware that Renee Young is not, in fact, an American. Born Renee Paquette, she is a native of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she lived until the age of 19. After graduating high school, Paquette travelled to California with the dream of making it as a comedic actress. She returned to her hometown a couple of years later and scored a job as a sports anchor. In 2012, she signed her contract with WWE and became Renee Young. She has been with the company ever since.
12. Santino Marella
For the majority of his career in WWE, Santino Marella was billed as being from Calabria, Italy, and made his main roster debut at a Raw taping in Milan. On his debut, Marella defeated Umaga for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, and his comedic antics immediately made him a hit with WWE fans all over the world.
Given that we are in the “reality era” of professional wrestling, it is no secret that Santino Marella is not actually from Italy. Marella, real name Anthony Carelli, hails from Ontario Canada, much like Trish Stratus and Renee Young. Prior to settling on his lovable Italian oaf gimmick, Carelli portrayed a number of other foreign characters, including a mixed martial artist from Russia. Marella still has ties to Ontario, and in 2013 his daughter was crowned Miss Teen Ontario-World. Towards the end of that year, Marella opened Battle Arts Academy, a wrestling and MMA training school located in his hometown.
Though she was a mainstay of WWE’s developmental brand NXT, Emma’s time on the main roster has been continuously cut short. After her initial main roster debut in 2014, Emma was sent back to developmental after failing to connect with the audience. Back in NXT, she tweaked her character and became one of the brand’s top female heels before returning to the main roster in early 2016. In her second stint as a Raw competitor, Emma performed at WrestleMania and seemed ready for a push before she was put out of action with a back injury in May.
Because her time on the main roster has been so frequently interrupted, much of the WWE Universe have not had the opportunity to get to know Emma. Those who have not seen her cut a promo or make a full entrance are likely unaware of the fact that she is from Victoria, Australia, where she performed during the early years of her career. Emma relocated to Orlando, Florida after signing her WWE contract in order to begin her training with the company, and has resided there ever since.
10. Lanny Poffo
Being the younger brother of “Macho Man” Randy Savage could not have been easy for Lanny Poffo during his time as an in-ring competitor. While Lanny was clearly a charismatic and capable wrestler in his own right, the sheer energy which Randy Savage brought to every arena he performed in simply could not be matched. Because of this, Lanny Poffo generally flew – and continues to fly – under the radar.
The younger Poffo’s accomplishments in the squared-circle are generally overlooked, and a lot of fans fail to realize that he has held an impressive number of championships throughout his career. Fans also tend to be unaware of the fact that Lanny Poffo was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Obviously, this comes as a surprise because his older brother was born in Columbus, Ohio, and the family patriarch was of Italian descent. Lanny Poffo came into the world on December 28th, 1954, when his father Angelo was working for Stu Hart and Stampede Wrestling. Unfortunately for Lanny, he would never achieve the stardom of other Canadian born superstars, such as Bret Hart, Edge, and Chris Benoit (although that last one might not be such a bad thing).
9. Rocky Johnson
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of biggest stars in professional wrestling history, the highest earning actor in the world today, and is considered by many to be a true American hero. The Rock’s Samoan heritage is frequently talked about on WWE television, but a lot of fans may not realize that his father, Rocky Johnson, was born in Canada.
Rocky Johnson was born in Nova Scotia in 1944, to James and Lillian Bowles. He was the fourth of five sons and moved to Toronto at the age of 16 with dreams of becoming a boxer. While training, Johnson sparred with both Muhammad Ali and George Foreman; but as he went on, he found himself more and more drawn to the world of professional wrestling (probably because he didn’t want to keep sparring with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman).
Although she achieved her greatest in the World Wrestling Federation under the name Alundra Blayze, I include Madusa here under her non-WWF monicker as she once (infamously insisted) that was and always had been her name.
Despite the fact that Madusa now partakes in the most American of sports, demolition derby (professional wrestling is a close second), she is, in fact, a native of Italy. Madusa was born in Milan, Italy in 1964. However, she spent much of her childhood being moved from foster home to foster home around Minneapolis, Minnesota. Madusa began seeking a better life at an early age and worked a number of jobs in order to earn a decent living. During the early days of her pro wrestling career, she even supported herself by working as a nurse. Madusa now resides in Citrus County, Florida, where she operates a pet grooming business when not crushing cars with larger cars.
7. Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson began appearing on WWE television as the bodyguard of The Brian Kendrick, who seemed to be in line for a massive push to the main event. Ezekiel and Kendrick formed a pretty impressive partnership, but the two were forced to separate when Jackson was drafted to ECW as part of the WWE Supplemental Draft.
During his time in ECW, WWE began experimenting with Jackson as a main event player, and he received an immediate push to the top of the brand. Jackson defeated Christian in February 2010, making him the final ECW Champion before the brand was mercilessly shut down.
Jackson’s push to the top of the WWE mountain was eventually quashed, like the pushes of so many performers before him. WWE have long been accused of racism, and many critics of the McMahons pointed to Jackson’s nationality as the reason for his shoddy booking and eventual release. Jackson was born Rycklon Stephens in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana before his family relocated to the United States of America. After being released from WWE, Jackson, now under the name Big Ryck, began performing for Lucha Underground. He stayed with the company for one season before leaving under mysterious circumstances.
6. Roddy Piper
For the majority of his career, and for the entirety of his run as a main event player, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was billed from Glasgow, Scotland. Like Santino Marella, Roddy Piper was simply playing the character of somebody from Europe. What many fans don’t realize, however, is that the man behind Roddy Piper was born in Saskatoon.
Born Roderick George Toombs in 1954, the future Roddy Piper had a poor relationship with his father and left his childhood home when he was still a teenager. This lead to much rambling around Canada and the United States, and Piper would later claim that he spent some time living on an Indian Reservation.
Throughout his career, the old-school Piper did everything he could to keep his Canadian nationality hidden from the audience; short of speaking with a Scottish accent, of course. Piper and his wife settled in Portland, Oregon after their marriage in 1982, and raised their children in modest surroundings. He died last year after suffering a heart attack while in California.
5. Adam Rose
2016 has been a tough year for Adam Rose. He was suspended for violating WWE’s wellness policy, was arrested for domestic assault, and was eventually released from his WWE contract. The previous few years were also less than stellar for Rose, real name Raymond Leppan, as his career began to falter the moment he appeared on WWE’s main roster.
Prior to becoming Adam Rose, Leppan appeared on NXT as Leo Kruger, a twisted, sinister character named after former president of South Africa, Paul Kruger, and not Freddy Kruger, as many fans assumed at the time.
Leppan is actually a relative of former president Kruger, and is himself a native of Johannesburg, South Africa. His life in Johannesburg was a difficult one and Leppan spent two years living on the street as a teenager. Fortunately, he managed to get himself back on his feet when he began training as a professional wrestler. The fact that wrestling pretty much saved Rose’s life makes his final year in WWE all the more heartbreaking.
4. Stan Stasiak
Despite being billed from Buzzard Creek, Oregon for the majority of his career, Stan “The Man” Stasiak was actually a native of Canada, which is also where he began his training as a professional wrestler.
The Quebec-born Stasiak moved to the United States of America in the 70s and signed with Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wide Wrestling Federation. It was in the final month of 1973 that Stasiak achieved his greatest success in the squared-circle, when he defeated Pedro Morales for the WWWF Championship, a title which Morales had held for three years. Unfortunately for Stasiak, he was nothing more than a transitional champion, as the company wanted to put the belt back on “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino, but needed a heel champion for him to defeat. After dropping the championship to Bruno, Stasiak’s star began to fade and he retired from the wrestling business in 1984. After stepping out of the limelight, he relocated to Toronto, Canada and took a job as a shopping mall security guard. His son, Shawn Stasiak, spent some time wrestling for WWE in the early naughties, where he was billed as being from “Planet Stasiak.”
3. Norman Smiley
Norman Smiley is today employed as one of the foremost trainers at WWE’s Performance Center and has been responsible for training some of the finest talent on the NXT and WWE rosters at the moment. Prior to his career with WWE, Smiley was a member of the WCW locker room, where he played a comedic character who competed in the company’s hardcore division despite his fear of being hit by weapons.
Those who are familiar with Smiley’s work in WCW might be unaware that he was actually quite a capable in-ring performer during his early days, and exhibited much of the talent we are used to seeing from English-born competitors. That’s right, Norman Smiley was born in Northampton, England. However, Smiley did not stick around to be trained among the William Regals and The British Bulldogs of the era and instead emigrated to Miami, Florida shortly after his parents divorced.
2. Val Venis
For the majority of his time in WWE, Val Venis portrayed a sexually obsessed, would-be male pornstar and was billed from Las Vegas, Nevada. The gimmick was admittedly pretty entertaining at first, but as WWE came out of the Attitude Era and entered tamer territories, the character was toned down and fans eventually grew tired of his gyrating, innuendos, and his horribly gravelly voice saying “Hello Ladies” at the beginning of his entrance music. Fans began wishing Venis would just go back to where he came from, which was not actually Las Vegas. In reality, Sean Morely, the man behind the Val Venis character, was born in Canada.
Morely was born in Oakville, Ontario, Canada and began his wrestling training under Dewey Robertson, otherwise known as The Missing Link. After learning the basics, Morely began performing on the Canadian independent scene and eventually worked his way to Mexico and Japan, where he really began to come into his own. After a brief tour of the Untied Kingdom in the mid-90s, Morely signed with the World Wrestling Federation and was given the name Val Venis.
“The Big Red Machine” Kane is one of the longest tenured performers on the WWE roster and has held countless titles throughout his career. Before taking the Kane persona, Glenn Jacobs portrayed a number of less-successful characters, including the fake Diesel which WWE offered as a cheap replacement for Kevin Nash after he went to WCW in 1996.
As Kane, Jacobs has always been billed as being from Parts Unknown, a land from which some of WWE’s most mysterious performers have hailed. His kayfabe half-brother, The Undertaker, has been billed from both Death Valley and Houston, Texas.
However, Glenn Jacobs is, in reality, from none of those three places. In fact, Jacobs was not even born in the United States of America. The man who would become Kane was born in 1967 in Madrid, Spain. Jacobs’ parents were members of the United States Air Force and were stationed in Spain at the time of his birth. The family returned to America shortly after and Jacobs received his education in the States.
Despite the fact he was born outside the country, Jacobs is heavily involved in American politics and is a staunch libertarian.