Anti-American Heels have been a staple of professional wrestling.... well, pretty much as long as there's been professional wrestling! And while this week's Top 50 list will focus on the past 30 or so years (with a handful of exceptions because of historical significance), you have to understand that this is a type of character that will constantly be brought back to wrestling again and again.

 

Why? Because mainstream fans (read: Americans) will always pay good money to see their heroes get revenge on a good foreign threat, whether said threat is from Russia, Japan, Great Britain or even this writer's home country of Canada.

 

In selecting the Top 50 Anti-American Heels, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories looked at the following criteria:

 

  • How much money did they draw while portraying said Anti-American Heel?

  • Were they able to invoke rage in fans throughout the country? Did their mere entrance to the ring incite a riot or just a smattering of boos?

  • How well did they react to the American fan favorite ultimately getting their revenge?

  • How big a stage did their act play out on?

 

One disclaimer: Look, we know that most (if not all) of the people on this list weren't really Anti-American, and in fact most of them are from North America. But we're playing along, just like wrestling fans have done for decades now.

 

Ready? Here we go!

50.

Berlyn

While he never caused much fear as the happy-go-lucky dancing "Das Wunderkind" Alex Wright, the German-born superstar underwent a transformation in 1999 in WCW, changing his name to Berlyn, undergoing a complete makeover and refusing to speak in English.

48.

The Truth Commission

The Truth Commission debuted in the USWA as a group of South African military radicals hell-bent on spreading the word of their leader The Commandant. The Jackyl soon replaced The Commandant as their mouthpiece, and the group lost momentum after Kurrgan became a babyface.

46.

Soldat Ustinov

During the late 1980s, Soldat Ustinov was a feared Russian heel (though born in Minnesota). He held the AWA World Tag Team Championship with Boris Zhukov (replaced later by Doug Somers) and feuded with Sgt. Slaughter and Greg Gagne.

44.

Kenzo Suzuki

Kenzo Suzuki debuted in New Japan in 2000 and by 2004, had made his way to WWE. Although the company scrapped his original gimmick (Hirohito), Suzuki and his manager Hiroko mocked the USA by making fun of traditional American songs. Suzuki briefly held the WWE Tag Team Titles with Rene Dupree.

42.

Alberto Del Rio

A wrestling fixture in Mexico as Dos Caras Jr., Alberto Del Rio debuted in WWE in 2010 as "The Mexican Aristocrat", a gimmick that came complete with a holier-than-thou attitude and his own personal ring announcer. He's competed as Alberto el Patron in ROH, Impact and Lucha Underground.

40.

Dino Bravo

During his second run in the WWF during the late-1980's, Dino Bravo wrapped himself in the Quebec flag and, along with manager Frenchy Martin, declared that "USA is Not Ok". This claim was disputed by Hacksaw Jim Duggan and other patriots, eventually getting to the Real American himself -- Hulk Hogan.

38.

Vladimir Kozlov

When Vladimir Kozlov debuted in WWE in 2008 (after a couple of false starts), he was portrayed as a Cold War-era Russian heel, destroying his opponents in quick fashion and saying very little. He feuded with the likes of Triple H, Jeff Hardy and Ezekiel Jackson before becoming a comedy tag team with Santino Marella.

36.

Boris Zhukov

Boris Zhukov was a hated Russian heel (though born in Virginia) throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, making stops in the AWA (where he was paired with Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie and Soldat Ustinov) and the WWF  paired with Slick and Nikolai Volkoff). 

34.

Team Canada (WCW)

In 2000, Lance Storm created an Anti-American faction known as Team Canada, whose members included Storm, The Quebecers, Elix Skipper (born in Long Island), Mike Awesome (born in Tampa), Major Gunns (born in Sacramento) and Hacksaw Jim Duggan (who obviously is American). 

32.

The Great Kabuki

One of the first Japanese heels to compete in major U.S. promotions in the 1970s, The Great Kabuki is also credited as the first person to develop the "spewing green mist" gimmick that would be adopted by The Great Muta, Tajiri and others. During his heyday, Kabuki held an assortment of titles through World Class and the NWA.

30.

The Sheepherders

Before they were WWE Hall of Famers The Bushwhackers, Luke Williams and Butch Miller competed as The Sheepherders in the late 1970s and 1980s, two vicious rulebreakers who carried the flag of New Zealand with them everywhere they went, including the NWA, Stampede and Puerto Rico.

28.

The British Invasion

The British Invasion was a short-lived trio in TNA that began in 2009 with Brit members Brutus Magnus, Douglas Williams and Welsh-born Rob Terry. Although the group dissolved within the next year, their members had managed to win the Tag Team, X Division and Global Championships.

26.

The UnAmericans

The UnAmericans were a short-lived trio that began on WWE's SmackDown brand in 2002, consisting of Canadians Christian, Lance Storm and Test and later expanding to include Brit William Regal. Their logo was an upside-down American flag, and the members held three World Tag Team Championships.

24.

Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie

The Iraq-born Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie has played a sheik, a Native American and a military general throughout his wrestling career, which spanned over 30 years. A former classmate of Saddam Hussein, Al-Kaissie competed throughout the AWA and other territories, but was most famous as Sgt. Slaughter's manager.

22.

Killer Khan

Although famous for his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling, The Great Muta made his biggest mark on North American fans during various tours of the NWA and WCW, where he managed to top his American counterpart Sting as the result of spewing green mist he inherited from his "father" The Great Kabuki.

20.

Lance Storm

If I can be serious for a minute.... Lance Storm managed to parlay a straight-edged Canadian character who was trained by the Hart family and came from Calgary..... Alberta.... Canada into a heel persona that was equally despised in ECW, WCW and the WWF, though he won championships in each organization.

18.

Killer Kowalski

WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski terrorized many in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as a sadistic Polish grappler (though he was born in Canada). He's perhaps best known for ripping the ear off of Yukon Eric following a kneedrop from the top rope. Kowalski also trained Triple H, Big John Studd and others.

16.

Rusev

Rusev (and manager Lana) deserve credit for resurrecting the Anti-American Heel gimmick in wrestling. Born in Bulgaria, Rusev and Lana (born in Florida) promised to carry out the evil wishes of Russia's Vladimir Putin. Rusev crushed his way to the U.S. Title and other accolades.

14.

The Wild Samoans

WWE Hall of Famers The Wild Samoans, invaded the WWWF in 1979 and captured the Tag Team Championships three times. While being portrayed as vicious savages, Afa and Sika paved the way for numerous Samoans in wrestling including The Rock, Yokozuna, The Usos, Rosey and Roman Reigns.

12.

Mr. Fuji

WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Fuji played the stereotypical Japanese heel (though he was born in Hawaii) and captured the WWF Tag Team Championship five times. Later, Fuji donned a tuxedo and managed everyone in the WWF from The Magnificent Muraco to Yokozuna.

10.

Hans Schmidt

Beginning in the 1950s, Hans Schmidt was one of the first evil German characters in wrestling (though he was born in Canada), characterizing the golden age of television with his antics. Schmidt captured several regional championships throughout the NWA during more than 25 years.

8.

Nikita Koloff

The Russian Nightmare Nikita Koloff in the mid-1980s under the tutelage of his "uncle" Nikita Koloff and pledging alliance to the Russian flag (though he was born in Minnesota). Koloff captured several championships in the NWA and feuded with the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Magnum T.A. before retiring in 1992.

6.

The Sheik

WWE Hall of Famer The Sheik portrayed a madman from Syria (though he was born in Michigan) beginning in the 1950s and going all the way up into the 1990s. He held numerous championships in Detroit and Toronto-based territories and trained nephew Sabu and Rob Van Dam.

4.

The Hart Foundation

Tired of being screwed by "the American wrestling fans," Bret Hart introduced a unique faction in 1997 - a group of pro-Canadians that included family members Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart and friend Brian Pillman, igniting a Canada vs USA war in the WWF.

2.

The Iron Sheik

WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik captured the WWF World Championship in December 1983 and famously dropped it a month later to Hulk Hogan. Sheik would go on to win the WWF Tag Team Championship with Nikolai Volkoff and in recent years, the Iranian become a pop culture phenomenon through his exploits on social media.

49

Kai En Tai

The original Kai En Tai faction debuted in Japan in 1994, but emigrated to the WWF in early 1998, targeting Taka Michinoku and mocking the American way of life. Eventually Michinoku joined the group and the concept morphed into a comedy tag team.

47.

Professor Toru Tanaka

Professor Toru Tanaka was a prominent Japanese heel (though born in Hawaii) in the 1970's and 1980's. He's best known for teaming with Mr. Fuji and capturing the WWWF Tag Team Champions three times. After his active wrestling career finished, Tanaka become an in-demand television and movie actor in Hollywood.

45

Krusher Kruschev

Unlike many Russian heels, Krusher Kruschev was always accurately billed by his American roots, becoming a Soviet sympathizer and aligning with Ivan and Nikita Koloff. Later, Kruschev would be known in the ring as Demolition Smash, Repo Man and Barry Darsow.

43.

Mr. Saito

Mr. Saito (also known during his career as Masa Saito) was a veteran of several North American wrestling promotions between the 60's and 90's, including a successful tag team with Mr. Fuji that led to two runs as WWF Tag Team Champion, and a brief run as AWA World Champion in 1990. 

41.

Hakushi

Hakushi debuted in the WWF in 1994, clad in traditional Japanese garb as well as head-to-toe tattoos, accompanied to the ring by a butler-like manager named Shinja. During his time in the company, Hakushi feuded with Bret Hart and Bodydonna Skip and briefly teamed up with Barry Horowitz for some reason.

39.

Sonny Onoo

In 1995, Sonny Onoo (no relation to Sonny Bono) led a contingent of Japanese wrestlers into WCW, challenging the American-based group to a best of seven series at that year's Starrcade. Later in WCW, Onoo would manage Ultimo Dragon, Bull Nakano, Psycosis, La Parka and other foreign grapplers.

37.

Shawn Daivari

Shawn Daivari debuted in WWE in 2004 as the manager and mouthpiece for Muhammad Hassan, a pair of Arab-Americans upset at the way their own country treated them after 9/11. In later years, Daivari wrestled in TNA as Sheik Abdul Bashir, even managing to win the X Division Championship.

35

The Quebecers

Although Jacques Rougeau had a few pro-Canadian gimmicks, including with Raymond Rougeau and as The Mountie, perhaps his most success was in The Quebecers with Carl Ouellette, where they held the WWF Tag Team Championship three times.

33.

Team Canada (TNA)

Unlike WCW's version of Team Canada, the TNA faction that was formed in 2004, actually had legitimate Canadians, including Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Johnny Devine, Petey Williams, A1 and "Coach" Scott D'Amore. The group secured TNA's X Division and Tag Team Championships while in session.

31.

Tiger Jeet Singh

Tiger Jeet Singh was born in India and debuted in Canada as a sword-wielding, vicious heel in the mid-1960's. He then competed in the U.S., where he competed against the likes of Andre The Giant, Johnny Valentine and Sweet Daddy Siki. In later years, Singh competed in Japan, doing quite well in hardcore-style matches.

29.

The Mongolian Stomper

The Mongolian Stomper was billed from, well, Mongolia (though born in Canada), and raised havoc as a heel in territories including the NWA, AWA and Stampede Wrestling (where he competed as "The Stomper" Archie Gouldie). Towards the end of his career, he was a fan favorite in Smoky Mountain Wrestling.

27.

Tojo Yamamoto

Throughout the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, Tojo Yamamoto played a Japanese heel (although born in Hawaii) throughout the Southern U.S. After a career that included championships in the AWA, NWA and CWA, Yamamoto became a manager, transforming Phil Hickerson into PY Chu Hi in the USWA.

25.

La Resistance

La Resistance began in 2003 on WWE's Raw brand, with Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier portraying French heels (though both born in Canada). The group tapped into U.S. anger towards France at the time, and soon expanded to include Rob Conway as an American turncoat character. "N'AYEZ PAS PEUR!"

23.

The Great Muta

Although famous for his work in New Japan Pro Wrestling, The Great Muta made his biggest mark on North American fans during various tours of the NWA and WCW, where he managed to top his American counterpart Sting as the result of spewing green mist he inherited from his "father" The Great Kabuki.

21.

Ludvig Borga

In 1993, Ludvig Borga showed up in the WWF as a Finnish brawler that claimed Americans were weak. Borga's hatred was primarily targeted at the newly-patriotic Lex Luger, although he also managed to end the undefeated streak of Tatanka. Before he died in 2010, Borga also competed in Europe and the UFC.

19.

Colonel DeBeers

Colonel DeBeers wrestled primarily in the AWA as a racist, pro-Apartheid South African (though he was born in Missouri), who feuded with Sgt. Slaughter, Superfly Jimmy Snuka and several others. Before the AWA, DeBeers was briefly known as The Polish Prince in the WWF, feuding with Ivan Putski.

17.

Fritz Von Erich

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, WWE Hall of Famer Fritz Von Erich played a fearsome Nazi (though he was born in Texas) along with his "brother" Waldo Von Erich. Of course, later in his career, his children Kerry, Kevin, Mike, David and Chris become one of the most famous families in professional wrestling.

15.

Kamala

Kamala debuted in the Mid-South during the early 1980s as an Ugandan cannibal (though he was born in Mississippi). He took his gimmick to the WWF, WCW and other territories over the next 20 years, battling the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Jerry Lawler.

13.

Abdullah The Butcher

Completing our vicious savage trifecta is WWE Hall of Famer Abdullah The Butcher, who played a bloodthirty Sudanese madmen for decades (though he was born in Canada). Abby competed in rings throughout North America, Puerto Rico and Japan, carving up his forehead all in the good name of the Sudan.

11.

Baron Von Raschke

Baron Von Raschke debuted in the 1960's as a German heel (though he was born in Minnesota) known for his "brain claw". Over the next three decades, he would hold championships in the NWA and AWA, and appeared briefly as the manager of The Powers Of Pain in WWF.

9.

Nikolai Volkoff

WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff portrayed one of the most visible Soviet heels in wrestling history (though he was born in Croatia), winning the WWF World Tag Team Championships with Iron Sheik at the first WrestleMania. He also challenged WWF Champions including Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan.

7.

Yokozuna

WWE Hall of Famer Yokozuna terrorized the WWF throughout the early to mid 1990s, portraying a Samoan sumo wrestler (though born in California). He captured the WWF Championship twice in 1993 and squashed the likes of Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart, all while waving the Japanese flag of manager Mr. Fuji.

5.

Muhammad Hassan

Along with Daivari, Muhammad Hassan arrived in WWE, angry at America for making him a victim of racial profiling. By the time his career prematurely ended, Hassan had taken his character to that of a full-blown terrorist, and was making life miserable for the likes of The Undertaker.

3.

Sgt. Slaughter

Though WWE Hall of Famer Sgt. Slaughter is best known as a G.I. Joe character come to life and All-American patriot, he declared that American had "grown soft" in 1990. He then became an Iraqi sympathizer, drawing legitimate death threats after winning the WWF World Championship in 1991.

1.

Ivan Koloff

A surprising pick for # 1, sure, but Ivan Koloff shocked the world in 1971 when he defeated Bruno Sammartino to capture the WWWF World Championship - a result that caused silence among the crowd. Koloff, known as The Russian Bear (though he was born in Canada) remained in the NWA and other territories over the next two decades, spreading the word of Mother Russia along with "nephew" Nikita and Krusher Kruschev.

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Wrestling Merchandise and Memories podca
Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard