WWE is the biggest wrestling company in the world, and it’s based in the United States of America. Because of this, the vast majority of the most visible and successful pro wrestlers today are also American. If not from the US, many Canadians and Mexicans have also made it big, but they too are American in the grand sense of hailing from North America. These various Americans have found their way all around their world, though, both by way of WWE’s tours of foreign countries, by working in those countries earlier in their careers, or even while off on vacation.
While most people fondly look back on their time traveling around the world, the wrestlers who’ve made the trek around the globe don’t always have the fondest remembrances of their journeys. Wrestlers are a rambunctious bunch and are no strangers to controversy. While controversy in the wrestling ring is one thing, when certain wrestlers brought their dramatic and emotional performance arts to exotic locales, that controversy has led to a few wrestlers ending up hit with some serious fines, others landing themselves in jail, and some even being banned from countries outright. Keep reading to learn which 15 wrestlers got the worst heat of their lives in a foreign country.
15. Ric Flair – Regretted Going To North Korea
WWE likes to brag about packing 100,000+ into Dallas for WrestleMania 32, but that’s actually just barely over half the size of the actual largest crowd in wrestling history. WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling cross-promoted an event called the Collision In Korea in 1995, and the show was held in front of a record setting 190,000 North Koreans. Of course, given the nature of North Korea, it wasn’t exactly a choice for most of the people to attend. It was a choice for the wrestlers, at least at first, but no less a source than Ric Flair has told his story of his time in the country, and it was predictably filled with regret.
Flair mostly went because it was a unique opportunity in a rarely visited land, but in his very brief time there he quickly learned why North Korea was such a scary place for Americans to visit. After the show, Flair and company were detained for several days, with the government demanding he make a public statement about how North Korea was better than the United States. He angled his way out of that by simply saying lots of positive things about the country, but fellow wrestler Scott Norton apparently made phone calls to his family complaining about the lack of hospitality, which lead to his phone access being taken away. Flair describes the entire visit as extremely tense, but amazingly, all of the wrestlers eventually made it home safely.
14. Vader – Attacked A TV Host in Iraq
Plenty of wrestlers have made noise with the law internationally, but Vader is the only one to have been so big, loud, and violent, that it turned into part of his wrestling character for the rest of his career. In 1997, WWE was on a tour of Iraq, and both Vader and then-WWE Champion The Undertaker appeared on an Iraqi talk show called Good Morning, Kuwait. The host of the show asked the wrestlers if WWE was fake, and while The Undertaker wasn’t happy with the question, he ultimately just told the host off for asking something stupid. Vader took what could be called the “Dr. D” approach, instead grabbing the host by his tie and very aggressively yelling curse words at him. Vader was arrested and charged with assault, and forced to spend 10 days in the country under house arrest. Vader eventually returned to America and WWE, where he was booked as a vicious bully in response to the incident.
13. Steve Corino – Stuck Representing A Fake Russian In India
Steve Corino was born in Canada, and currently resides in North Carolina. He achieved the majority of his fame in wrestling in Philadelphia, as one of the final true stars to find his way to the top of ECW. In 2007, Corino ventured to India with a slew of other minor stars including Jerry Lynn and Sonjay Dutt. Also along for the ride was a minor Canadian wrestler locally known as Jason The Legend, and while in India, the Legend was instead playing the role of Nikita the Russian. Things got extremely heated at a press conference after there were some travel difficulties, and ultimately Nikita started threatening members of the press and flipped over a table. The Indian press was unsure how to respond and took it all as real. Nikita ended up being charged and convicted of the crime of verbal assault, and Corino was forced to stand by him throughout the whole ordeal. He later wrote in his blog that he found the ordeal terrifying, and he truly believed he could be killed if he wasn’t guarded by security.
12. Mark Henry – Threatened A Fan In Ireland
Mark Henry has had a long and at times extremely questionable career, but one thing that’s been consistent has been his billing as The World’s Strongest Man. With this and the Hall of Pain in mind, it would take a pretty imaginative wrestling fan to think of something more terrifying than pissing Henry off. An Irish fan understood this and wasn’t at all trying to upset him, and was only attempting to get as many wrestlers signatures as possible during a fan event, which is a pretty common occurrence. For reasons that aren’t clear, after giving a fan an autograph, Henry suddenly switched gears and started threatening the fan instead after throwing a drink at him. Other wrestlers hit the scene and physically had to hold Henry back, until ultimately he was arrested and issued an “adult citation.” The fan has since said it ruined the evening and he didn’t understand why it happened, a sentiment Jim Ross seemed to echo.
11. Biff Wellington – Caught With Narcotics In Japan
Biff (also known as Beef) Wellington is an almost completely forgotten name in wrestling, although he wasn’t exactly a big star to begin with. What little fame Wellington achieved came by way of being the early tag team partner and lifelong friend of Chris Benoit. The two teamed primarily in Japan, and even made a rare stateside appearance at WCW’s Clash of the Champions 19 in 1992. Regardless of that brief fame, Wellington indeed spent most of his life and career in the Land of the Rising Sun, and at least once found himself in some serious legal trouble while there. In May of 2000, Wellington was arrested in Japan for possession of narcotics. Not much is known about the arrest, but he had a well-known addiction to painkillers, and passed away from drug related causes in 2007 only a few days before Benoit.
10. Ed “Strangler” Lewis – Partied Too Hard In Tijuana, Mexico
Ed “Strangler” Lewis was one of the biggest and most important stars in professional wrestling history. He dominated the 1920s and 30s like no other, and as a member of the legendary Gold Dust Trio, he influenced the state of wrestling for the entire century to come. Another way he influenced the future would be his image, which was as a rough and tumble, hard-drinking bad ass, who wouldn’t turn down a chance to celebrate with his adoring fans. Apparently the party once got a little bit out of hand in Tijuana, Mexico, and the Strangler was arrested for assault. The age of the story makes specifics hard to find, but it appears the charges were ultimately dropped.
9. Konnan – Despite What He Says, He’s Definitely Not From Mexico
Talking about the nationality of Konnan, real name Charles Ashenoff, can get a little bit confusing (and the man himself has done more to cause that than fix it). Konnan was born in Cuba and first rose to fame in Mexico, but has spent most of his life actually residing in California. Notwithstanding the confusion, he was most certainly not born in Mexico, and that’s how he found himself in the ironic situation of being arrested in that country for not having filled out the paperwork to legally work there. This happened to Konnan in 1992, just before his status as a Mexican legend was able to take off. Obviously, things were straightened out and the paperwork was completed, eventually allowing Konnan to return to Mexico and become the star he was destined to be.
8. Lex Luger – Not Allowed In Canada
Perhaps it’s a little misleading to say Lex Luger got into trouble in a foreign country, because in Luger’s case, the trouble was the fact he was trying to leave the US in the first place. Luger was traveling to Canada with Buff Bagwell and a Canadian wrestling promoter, and apparently had some fun with the attendant during the flight. Whether that had anything to do with it or not, once they landed in Canada, the border patrol immediately learned Luger had several outstanding warrants for his arrest in Georgia. Canada has several extradition treaties with the US, so this meant Luger was forced to get back on another plane and was sent to Georgia. Luger’s initial arrest was in conjunction with a drug charge that may have been related to the death of Miss Elizabeth.
7. Chris Jericho – Disrespected the Flag of Brazil
Patriotism, and therefore xenophobia, has always been the source of some obvious controversy in wrestling. While it’s great to celebrate the country you live in, wrestlers don’t perform in those countries 100% of the time, and therefore when they leave their residence, some hostile crowds can meet them. Things are even worse when they flat-out invite the hostility, which is what Chris Jericho did during a tour of Brazil in 2012. Jericho, who was born in New York and raised in Canada, decided he would use the Brazilians patriotism against them by way of his own xenophobia, kicking, walking on, and generally disrespecting the Brazilian flag. The behavior wasn’t exactly new to wrestling, but the Brazilians took it especially harshly, with police escorting Jericho out of the arena and briefly throwing him in jail. Jericho was forced to apologize to the people of Brazil and faced a 30-day suspension from WWE.
6. Luke Gallows – Trapped In A Hotel In Nigeria
In a dangerous war-torn country, getting in legal trouble doesn’t always mean you did something wrong. In many cases, it simply means you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nigeria is better off than plenty of countries in Africa, but large areas of the country are still extremely dangerous, especially to foreigners. Luke Gallows learned this first hand after a shady wrestling promoter didn’t pay for his hotel visit, leading to him and a slew of other American wrestlers being held hostage until they could pay their fees. While it’s understandable hotel staff wanted to be paid, the nature of Nigeria meant they were holding M16 machine guns while demanding their money, which takes it from an understandable financial issue into some seriously frightening territory. Eventually the fees were somehow paid, and Gallows and company were let free. Cliff Compton, who performed for WWE as Domino, was one of the other wrestlers stuck in the hotel with him.
5. William Regal – Forgot Where He Was While Flying Over Japan
William Regal is obviously one of the most famous British wrestlers in history, but he earned the majority of his fame in the United States, and by the time of this arrest he had been working full-time in the country for at least six years. While wrestling full time for WCW, Regal was a regularly suffering alcoholic, and his disease caught the best of him in an epically embarrassing fashion on a flight from Tokyo, Japan back to the states. Regal was blackout drunk while on the flight, and apparently relieved his bladder on a female flight attendant. She was understandably mortified and Regal found himself in an Alaska jail cell. Regal has since shown a sense of humor about the situation, titling the chapter of his autobiography dealing with the incident “Walking the Golden Mile.”
4. Juventud Guerrera – Naked and High on PCP in Australia
Juventud Guerrera was born in Mexico, and spent a very successful decade in the United States, so he certainly fits the bill as a North American wrestler. Australia is about as foreign as you can get from Mexico, so the circumstances of his arrest also definitely fit the theme of this list regardless of where he’s from. A few of these wrestlers didn’t do too much wrong, but Juvi unquestionably made a great deal of mistakes leading up to his arrest. He was found in an Australian hotel naked and high on PCP after having caused thousands of dollars in property damage. When authorities tried to subdue him, Juvi did what most people high on PCP do, and attacked the police. Amazingly, Juvi’s punishments were pretty slim, ultimately amounting to only a few fines and getting fired from WCW.
3. Roddy Piper – Played His Role Too Well in the Dominican Republic
Roddy Piper is quite possibly the greatest wrestling heel of all time. No one had greater passion than the Hot Rod at riling a crowd into an absolute frenzy, and he started developing those skills as early as the days he was a mere teenager expelled from school for bringing a knife to class. In an infamous moment in wrestling history, Piper was in the corner of Ric Flair during an NWA World Championship match against local Dominican Republic hero, Jack Veneno. The security for the event was handled by the local police force, who didn’t really understand wrestling, and who also brought their machine guns with them to ensure things went off smoothly. The match was scripted for Piper to interfere so Flair could keep his title, but the guards either didn’t know that or didn’t care, and immediately pointed their guns inches from Piper’s head when he tried to hurt the local hero. Piper’s mouth might’ve made it look like he had a death wish at times, but he immediately backed off, and the match was changed on the fly for Veneno to win in order to protect him and Flair.
2. Bruiser Brody – Alleged Death Cover Up
Bruiser Brody didn’t exactly get into legal trouble in a foreign country, and it’s not just the technicality surrounding Puerto Rico being a US territory. Brody was murdered in Bayamón, a Puerto Rican municipality, and many people have accused the Puerto Rican government and police force of conspiring to cover up the circumstances of his death. Puerto Rico is technically a territory of the United States, but considering the amount of government interference in the murder investigation of a US citizen, it’s not hard to see how it must’ve at least felt like a foreign country to Brody’s friends and surviving family at the time. First, Puerto Rican police refused to speak with any American wrestlers on the scene, only speaking to the Puerto Rican wrestler who stabbed Brody in the first place. Later, the Puerto Rican government lied to the wrestlers about appearing in court as a witness, instead acquitting Brody’s murderer of the crime after postponing the trial several times (but never informing the wrestlers).
1. JBL – Acted Like A Nazi in Germany
Most people know by now that former WWE World Champion and current Raw color commentator JBL is a bona fide bully. Regardless of his contributions to the sport of wrestling, he’s been a total jerk behind the scenes to just about everybody, and in one instance that included the entire country of Germany. While the top heel of SmackDown in 2004, JBL joined WWE for their Passport of Pain tour, which saw him wrestle several main event matches in Germany. JBL has bullied countless other wrestlers in deeply insensitive ways, but nothing compares to the stupidity on display when he decided, in Germany, to raise his arm in the Nazi salute and goose-step around the ring. Both gestures are highly illegal and obviously offensive in Germany, and although JBL was able to eschew legal charges by passing it off as him doing a great job at playing his douchebag character, his actions got him fired from his side job with CNBC.