Sometimes the toughest battles that professional athletes, and wrestlers in particular, have to face is not the competition that they contend with in their chosen arena. Instead, the most difficult part of the job can be related to the travel required to get from one match to the next, especially when that trip requires the traversing of an international border.
Whether it be complications related to a work visa, or indiscretions from the athlete’s past coming to the surface as their record is reviewed, border complications have stymied a fair number of wrestlers over the years. Minimally, these battles have left for frustrated promoters and disappointed fans when their scheduled attraction may have failed to appear. At worst, some of these situations have signalled the end of a promising career on the rise.
In some areas, the role of border patrol has taken on such a negative context that the wrestlers themselves have tapped in to that cultural sensitivity to develop their villainous personas. Such was the case when Mike Modest and Mike Diamond formed the “Border Patrol” tag team in California, where the neighbouring international boundary continues to be one of the most debated ports of entry in America.
But while the wrestling industry can playfully poke fun at the societal truth, when professional wrestlers have gone nose to nose with border security anywhere in the world, it is no laughing matter. The following list is by no means a comprehensive directory of all wrestlers to have experienced border woes, but are certainly among the most visible.
15 “Speedball” Mike Bailey
Fans were stunned with the recent announcement that Quebec’s Mike “Speedball’ Bailey had been refused entry to the United States, receiving a five-year ban from returning to the country. Bailey lays claim to a stellar career to this date, scoring rave reviews from audiences on both sides of the Canadian-American border. A one time Tag Team Champion with Kevin Owens in Ottawa’s C4 wrestling promotion, Bailey is also a winner of the U.S.-based Combat Zone Wrestling “Best of the Best” tournament.
Psicosis was one of the most visible Mexican exports during the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, first creating a stir in Philadelphia’s Extreme Championship Wrestling before stays in World Championship Wrestling and later the WWE, where he formed a team with Super Crazy as the “Mexicools.” The two-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion has achieved international success and in 1996 was rated among the top 40 wrestlers in the entire world.
13 Doink (Matt Borne)
There are many accounts of Matt Borne as a troubled soul. His demons, in some phases of his career may have overshadowed his incredible talent. The original Doink the Clown was released from his WWE contract for some of those very reasons. Some of his troubles followed him around and while they did not impede him from pursuing his craft in the United States, when interest came calling from Canada in 2003, he ran into some difficulty.
12 Seleziya Sparx
The American wrestling media was just starting to warm up to the emerging talent from Ontario named Seleziya Sparx when her career encountered an unexpected road bump. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, the 5’5” brunette was starting to make in-roads with appearances for Ring of Honor and select other U.S. organizations when she was apprehended at the border in September 2014 and issued a five-year ban from the U.S. for failing to secure a work visa.
Minnesota’s Jessica Kresa rose to her greatest notoriety as a member of the TNA Knockouts division. Debuting in 2001, she did make a few select appearances in Canada on independent cards, travelling alongside Ken Anderson (later Ken Kennedy), with whom she was romantically linked. Under the name ODB, she has held several championships including claiming the TNA Knockouts Championship on four occasions.
10 Vance Nevada
Best known for his career in Canada, Vance Nevada started his career in Winnipeg in 1993 with aspirations of a career in the WWE. His first trouble with Homeland Security occurred in 1999 when he was singled out at the border while travelling with a fellow wrestler for an engagement in Wisconsin. A vindictive rival promoter had tipped off the border that he was coming and provided a detailed career history prior to his arrival. The apprehension resulted in a five-year ban from the United States.
9 Bobby Bolton
Chi Chi Cruz had been wrestling for ten years across Canada when the opportunity arose for him to take his shot at advancing his career in America. His early career had included tag team partnership with a young up and comer named Adam Impact (later Edge) as well as touring with the likes of Christian, Rhyno and others who were making their mark in the WWE and WCW in the mid 1990s. In 1996, Cruz relocated from Winnipeg to Louisville, Kentucky where a few months of plying his trade on independent cards with Ian Rotten and Beau James landed him in Memphis with Jerry Lawler’s USWA. Re-packaged as “Joltin” Bobby Bolton, owing to his flowing locks which were reminiscent of the crooner of the same surname, Cruz was in Memphis at the same time as rising stars Kane, Brian Christopher and others on the radar of the WWE, it looked like his career was on track.
8 Mando Guerrero
In the 1980s, few brother tag teams generated as much excitement as the trio of the Guerrero brothers – Mando, Hector and Chavo. Their reputation landed them a spot with Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association circuit in 1988, around the time of Super Clash III, a multi-promotion effort to combat the takeover of the sport by Vince McMahon’s WWE.
7 Cuban Assassin
Easily the most unusual entry on our list relates to the circumstances faced by Cuban-born Angel Acevedo when he made his first trip to Calgary to meet with promoter Stu Hart. Fresh off a tour of Japan, the Acevedo’s travel arrangements were made by the administration with the Japanese promotion where he appeared and the task of arranging for his travel was left to a female staffer who was not overly familiar with the wrestlers or some of the unique circumstances which living and working with multiple aliases can create.
6 Daniel Bryan
While Daniel Bryan’s legacy may best be remembered for the “Yes” movement in the WWE, he certainly wasn’t receiving the same fond agreement when he arrived in the UK for an appearance a few years ago. What was to be his first tour of England got off to a rocky start as his work visa had not been processed by the time of his arrival. He was promptly turned around and sent home on the next available flight.
5 Moondog King
In the case of Sailor White, it represents one of the most heart-breaking tales of border issues killing a career. Sailor White had debuted a decade earlier and had great success across Canada as well as on international campaigns in South Africa, Japan, Malaysia and other exotic ports of call. He was wrestling in Montreal when he received the call up to the WWWF where he was partnered with Randy Culley and assigned to manager Lou Albano as the Moondogs. White was dubbed Moondog King, Culley renamed Moondog Rex.
4 Bushwhacker Luke
Bushwhacker Luke’s career is one that has spanned the global. Starting as a youngster in the 1960s in his native New Zealand, he debuted in Canada in 1972 and after stays in a number of Canadian territories, along with partner Butch Miller, went on to become one of the most celebrated tag teams of the 1970s and 80s. First as the Kiwis, then the Sheepherders and eventually landing in the WWE as the Bushwhackers, few pairings can boast the career longevity as a duo as Butch and Luke.
3 Tony Condello
The travel ban that changed wrestling history occurred in 1972 at the Pembina border crossing which separates Manitoba from North Dakota. Tony Condello, who had been wrestling and refereeing for twelve years up to that time, had aspirations to succeed the American Wrestling Association’s agent for Winnipeg, Al Tomko. Condello had spoken to Verne Gagne’s right hand man, Wally Karbo about his plans and a meeting was set for Condello to meet with Karbo and Gagne at the television tapings scheduled for Minneapolis.
However, word got out about Condello’s plan and Tomko, in a counter-measure called ahead to the U.S. border to caution them to refuse entry to Condello, warning that he was affiliated with mafia interests in Montreal. Condello was turned back, but determined to make his meeting attempted a second land crossing and had considered trying to catch a flight, only to be met with closed doors at each turn.
2 Michael Elgin
Michael Elgin’s ascent in the wrestling business was one that mirrors the image that many young wrestlers hope for their own careers. He started out on the independent scene and through dogged determination attracted the attention of a top U.S. circuit and rose to capture the company’s top championship. Elgin got his first opportunity with Ring of Honor in 2007 and five years later defeated Kevin Owens (then Steen) to win the company’s heavyweight title.
1 Chris Hero
While WWE NXT’s Kassius Ohno’s career was not derailed by his run in with an international border protection agency, Chris Hero tops the list as his setback with the Australian border has secured international television visibility. Hero was headed to Australia to wrestle in December 2008 without the applicable visa when he was apprehended by customs officials. They identified that Hero, who was trying to enter the country on a tourist visa was inadmissible.
The incident captured international attention as at the time of the incident, the customs office was participating in a television taping for the series Border Security: Australia’s Front Line. The internationally syndicated program has since played multiple times in North America, serving as the most visible warning to professional wrestlers of the risks of international travel without securing the appropriate permissions.
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