The professional wrestling industry is one that is open to anybody who can get the job done inside of the ring and on a microphone. Your background or ethnicity or who your parents are do not matter as it pertains to your abilities to be a sports entertainer. Characters such as John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kenta Kobashi, Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Alberto Del Rio, The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Ron Simmons and so many others of differing backgrounds and different nationalities all won world championship titles during their in-ring careers, and all are remembered because of what they achieved and not because of what they did in their personal lives.
You probably would not be shocked to learn that former World Wrestling Entertainment performer Barry Horowitz has a Jewish background. If the fact that he was, at one point of his career, referred to as “The Star of David” did not give it away, then the time when he had “Hava Nagila” as his entrance theme during the one WWF run that had him as a babyface would have probably done it. Here is a piece of random knowledge for those of you who only remember Horowitz as a jobber who was featured on television on Saturday mornings: He held numerous singles championships during what was a rather successful pro wrestling career.
Then, there are the wrestlers with backgrounds that you probably never gave a second thought of for whatever reasons. This includes two men who share what is one of the most famous and most respected last names in all of the industry. The individual who is atop of this list is a performer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes in the history of the North American wrestling industry, a man who played his over-the-top character about as well as anybody could have and a wrestler who was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame years too late.
10 Boris Malenko
The father of the Malenko wrestling legacy went by many names during his career, including “Crusher Duggan” and “Otto Von Krupp,” and he was billed to be from Moscow, Russia. Those who grew up watching wrestling in the 1980s and 1990s likely don't know much about his in-ring work, but the name is probably familiar due to one of this children who performed in World Championship Wrestling and in the World Wrestling Federation, and also because Malenko is credited for having trained, among others, the following performers: Barry Horowitz, Buddy Landell, Perry Saturn and X-Pac.
9 Dean Malenko
The performer who went by such nicknames as “The Iceman” and “The Man of 1,000 Holds” was so well-respected during the prime of his in-ring career that Pro Wrestling Illustrated once named him the best wrestler in all of the world. Malenko was, in the 1990s, a throwback in that he did not require a gimmick nor did he need any fancy ring attire or theatrics to get over with crowds. He was simply an incredible talent in the ring, and he had what experts would deem to be “five-star” matches while working for Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling.
8 Lanny Poffo
“Leaping” Lanny Poffo is the son of legendary wrestler Angelo Poffo and also the brother of one of the greatest performers the business has ever seen (more on that man later). Mostly known for his days as heel in-ring worker and manager “The Genius,” Poffo is an accomplished writer and public speaker. His poems that he would recite during on-air segments were hardly rare performances, as he has penned multiple books. The speech that he read during the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony, when he inducted his famous brother into the Hall, was one of the more emotional moments of that evening, and it was a special moment for longtime fans.
7 Billy Kidman
There are three things that stand out whenever I reflect upon the life and times of Billy Kidman: He was, for some time, legitimately married to Torrie Wilson, he was once put over in a feud that featured Hulk Hogan, and he was once booked as a heel cruiserweight with a shooting star press that, in storyline, seriously injured his opponents. Kidman was, truth be told, one of the more underrated workers during his time, and many of the matches that he had while with World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation hold up to this day as entertaining encounters.
Raven may very well have been the most misused wrestler of his time. Nobody got the best out of the character as did Paul Heyman (also Jewish, for what it is worth) in Extreme Championship Wrestling, as neither World Championship Wrestling nor the World Wrestling Federation could quite get the same spark out of the Raven storylines. His feuds with the likes of CM Punk and A.J. Styles in Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Wrestling were extremely entertaining, and they produced matches that outdid his work in either WCW or the WWF. It would be special if a company was, one day down the road, able to put together a best of the best moments of Raven's entire career.
5 Madusa (aka Alundra Blayze)
Here are two notes for the “You learn something new everyday” category: Debrah Miceli was nicknamed “Madusa” because it was short for “Made in the USA,” and the woman is Jewish. Madusa is regarded as one of the best female wrestlers in the history of the industry, and she produced many memorable moments during her runs in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. Most notably, Madusa, who also went by the name “Alundra Blayze” during her days with the WWF, tossed the WWF Women's Championship in the garbage during an episode of Monday Nitro.
4 Robbie E
I'll admit that I thought the Robbie E character had little chance of getting over or being anything of merit when he debuted in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Meant to leech off of the popularity of MTV series The Jersey Shore, Robbie E has evolved into a solid in-ring performer, and he has also won multiple championships while working for TNA. While he has played somewhat of a goofy gimmick during his role with TNA, he has stated that he wants people to see him as more. He recently told the Liverpool Echo the following: “Maybe it's about focusing more on my wrestling because the thing is I think people forget I am a skilled wrestler. Just because I don't showcase it much doesn't mean that I can't and I won't. At some point I will and I think that is going to be sooner rather than later.”
Known outside of the ring for being a political activist, Glenn Jacobs also happens to be Jewish. He has had the most success as a pro wrestling while playing the character Kane, the storyline brother of the Undertaker who went from being a demon straight out of comic books to a multi-time world champion to a man who wanted to “hug it out” with the likes of Daniel Bryan. He is now a strongman and hired gun for heel group “The Authority,” and Kane has shown few signs of slowing down even though he will turn 48 years old in April 2015.
2 Matt Bloom
Bloom has gone by many different names during his pro wrestling career. He was Prince Albert and then A-Train during his first run in the World Wrestling Federation. He then changed to Giant Bernard while working overseas. Bloom returned to World Wrestling Entertainment as Lord Tensai in the spring of 2012, and that run saw him eventually become a comedic character. He has since unofficially retired as an in-ring worker, and Bloom now serves as a trainer in the WWE and also as a commentator for the NXT brand, where he is named Jason Albert.
1 Randy Savage
Randy Savage, real name Randy Poffo, was part of the famous wrestling family that also included his father Angelo and his brother Lanny (Lanny played “The Genius” and he inducted Savage into the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame class). “The Macho Man” was a character unlike any other before or after him, and his trademark elbow drop off of the top rope is one that wrestlers attempt to duplicate to this day. Other than possibly not knowing about his Jewish heritage, you may also be unaware that Savage was a talented baseball player who tried to make it as a pro. Those of us who love the wrestling business are lucky that his first career dream did not come true.