In WWE, everyone has to have a distinct character, and sometimes that character is entirely based on nationality. At best, it adds a degree of variety to a roster, especially in a company called World Wrestling Entertainment, but at worst it offers some retrograde xenophobia, as “foreign” wrestlers are often portrayed as heels to antagonize a beloved American hero.
Of course, not every foreigner in WWE is actually foreign, as many were American wrestlers portraying a character of a different nationality. In some cases, these wrestlers had very little connection to their character’s country, if any at all.
A two-time WWE Champion and 1993 Royal Rumble winner, Yokozuna was shockingly agile for his size and made the sumo rank of Yokozuna a household name. He also wasn’t Japanese at all — Rodney Anoa’i was born in San Francisco and was part of the same Samoan wrestling family that birthed Rikishi, Roman Reigns, and The Usos, among countless others. Of course, one doesn’t need to be Japanese to be a sumo wrestler — look at John Tenta — but Yoko was presented as a Japanese foreign heel, billed from “The Land of the Rising Sun.”
9 Boris Zhukov
Unsurprisingly, many of wrestling’s various Soviet heels were not actually from Russia. Nikita Koloff (who never wrestled for WWE) was from Minnesota, Ivan Koloff was from Canada, and Nikolai Volkoff was actually Yugoslavian. Then there’s Boris Zhukov, who wrestled for WWE and was American. Hailing from Roanoke, Virginia, he started off in Jim Crockett Promotions (later WCW) as Private Jim Nelson, a henchman for Sgt. Slaughter in the early 1980s, then eventually was repackaged as a Russian bad guy. Upon arriving in WWE in 1987, he formed The Bolsheviks with Nikolai Volkoff, a tag team that didn’t accomplish much save for losing a 19-second match at WrestleMania winning a Slammy for “Best Hygiene.”
8 Mr. Fuji
Mr. Fuji is best remembered to anyone who grew up with WWE’s “Golden Era” as the manager of Yokozuna, who famously threw salt in the eyes of good guys to gain his client an advantage, which famously cost Yoko a match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania IX. But before that, Fuji was an in-ring performer himself.
Trained by Nick Bockwinkle and debuting in 1962, Mr. Fuji was born in Honolulu, Hawaii but billed from Osaka, Japan. In WWE, Fuji tagged with Toru Tanaka in the 1970s and Mr. Saito and Tiger Chung Lee in the 1980s before settling into a manager role by the middle of the decade.
7 Tito Santana
A consummate babyface and perennial midcarder, Tito Santana spent 1983 to 1993 in WWE, here he was billed as being from Tocula, Mexico despite being born in Mission, Texas. Over the course of his run with the company, he’d end up capturing two Intercontinental Titles as well as two runs with the Tag Team Championship, once with Ivan Putski and once with Rick Martel. But in 1991, when WWE started going overboard on the gimmick wrestlers, Santana was repackaged as El Matador, which is more of a Spain thing than a Mexico thing.
6 Saba Simba
Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Tony Atlas had the nickname “Mr. USA” due to his wins in the Mr. USA bodybuilding competition, and in WWE enjoyed a tag title run with Rocky Johnson as the team Soul Patrol in 1983. The following decade, Atlas had a brief 1990-1991 run with the company where he was repackaged as an African warrior named Saba Simba, billed as being from “The Jungles of Uganda,” which was ironic given his aforementioned nickname.
Dubious nationalities aren't just for “old school” wrestlers. Nicknamed “The Ravishing Russian” and sporting an affected accent to match, Lana basically worked a “Brigitte Nielsen in Rocky IV” gimmick for her future husband, “The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev. In reality, Lana was born in Gainesville, FL, but grew up in Latvia (formerly part of the Soviet Union) as a kid due to her father’s missionary work, and even performed ballet for the Latvian National Ballet. Strangely, as WWE moved away from the oddly retro trappings of their gimmick, Lana’s Russian accent mysteriously vanished.
4 The Sultan
Yokozuna wasn’t the only member of the Anoa’i Family born in San Francisco who portrayed a character that wasn’t Samoan. Fatu started off as a tag team specialist in the Samoan Swat Team (The Headshrinkers in WWE), but eventually went solo, where he was repackaged as a streetwise dude who was trying to inspire the kids. Then things went in the completely opposite direction and he became a typical foreign heel.
A WWE undercard guy who showed up more often in NXT prior to his 2014 release, Camacho was a Mexican street kid billed from Juarez and the sidekick to Hunico, who would later take the role of Sin Cara when the original quit. Despite his kayfabe ethnicity, Camacho wasn’t Mexican in the slightest. In reality, he’s not only of Tongan descent, but also the son of Haku (a.k.a. Meng), and found greater success after WWE, tagging with his adoptive brother Tama Tonga as part of the Bullet Club in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
2 Gorilla Monsoon
Born in Rochester, New York, Gorilla Monsoon spent the 1980s and 1990s as a play-by-play guy for WWE, where he formed an iconic commentary duo with Bobby “The Brain” Hennan. Before that, as one might gather from his absurd moniker, he was a wrestler. While initially he portrayed a singing Italian-American named Gino Marella, he soon realized he had more potential as a monster heel and shifted gears. That’s when he became Gorilla Monsoon, who was billed from Manchuria and couldn’t speak English.
1 Chris Jericho
One of the biggest shockers is that Chris Jericho, who once famously screamed at a fan “I’m from Winnipeg, you idiot!”, was actually not born in Canada. His father Ted Irvine was a hockey player for the NHL and competed in the US for the New York Rangers, so Jericho would end up being born on American soil in New York. However, Jericho would grow up in Winnipeg after his father retired, and later moved to Calgary and trained under Stu Hart.
Not every WWE wrestler is from the USA - these incredible stars of the ring are all from Canada.