Top 5 Best Anti-American Wrestling Gimmicks (& The 5 Worst) – TheSportster

Anti-American gimmicks have been a staple of pro wrestling for decades. Some wrestlers have thrived with them, while others struggled.
Almost since wrestling began, one trope has continued to appear time and again. No matter the decade or promotion, there will inevitably be some type of "foreign heel" character around, especially in Vince McMahon's WWE. For decades, it was the "Russians" as it was easy for fans to get riled up over those guys. Later, it became Middle Eastern types and occasionally from Asia as well. While some may debate showing these stereotypes, they're always good for getting fans going.
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Some characters are, frankly, lazy types going for cheap heat and often interchangeable. That includes a lot of masked guys with names out of a comic book. Some heels are terrific at selling an anti-American act with just the right amount of heat to get fans going. Sadly, some are ill-conceived and presented in a way that makes them look bad, not evil. These are the five best and five worst anti-American gimmicks to show how getting fans against that country is trickier than it sounds.
There was a nugget of a good idea in Sgt. Slaughter going heel in 1990. They could have played on how he felt the U.S. had gone "soft" with the Cold War ending and felt let down. Instead, they had him as a full-on Iraqi sympathizer, wearing the uniform and waving their flag.
His win for the WWE championship was hated, not because it was a heel winning but because of how bad it was. His feud with Hulk Hogan was lopsided as Slaughter trashing the U.S. was more annoying than evil. Worse was his "forgiveness tour" that made this one of the worst attempts at a main event heel of the early 1990s.
Jacques Rougeau belongs on this list as he pulled off not one but three great anti-American gimmicks. First, he and brother Raymond were a fun tag team who played up the "All-American" gimmick when actually mocking the country. He later became the Mountie, insulting American police, where he had a brief run as IC Champion.
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Finally, he and Pierre Ouellet became The Quebecers who reigned as tag team champions cheating over Americans. Somehow, this guy made each gimmick work better than it should have, to be a great Canadian jerk heel.
What's bad about Muhammad Hassan was that the original act could have been great. The idea of a guy tired of being judged by the clichés of Arab-Americans and fighting back against that mentality could have worked, boosted him as a heel and maybe even a face turn down the line.
But WWE had him embrace every one of the clichés, from entrance music to "prayer pose" and his slamming of America in rants. It built up to him having masked goons attack the Undertaker, which had the bad luck to air the same day as an actual attack in London. That led to his firing, compounded by his backstage antics, but the entire act was bad enough.
The genius of the Hart Foundation's heel turn in 1997 was how they were hated in the U.S. but heroes in Canada. Reuniting Owen, Davey Boy and Jim Neidhart with Brian Pillman, Bret pushed how Canada was better, slamming the U.S. constantly. That got them booed in the States but cheered hard in Canada like the epic Canadian Stampede tag team match.
It was a terrific idea that sparked all the guys with good matches. It did lead to things getting messed up with Montreal but while there's been a few "Canadian heel" stables since, none were as good becoming actual national heroes in their native land than the Foundation.
As bad as Muhammad Hassan had been, his manager ended up getting it worse in TNA. The former Daivari kept up most of the same act while adding one of Hassan's old headdresses and a bullying bit.
TNA decided it was a good idea to have his entrance theme sound like a plane crashing into a building. He won the X-Division Title but got in trouble backstage for a rib on Kip James. He was set for a longer run but had a falling out with TNA management and left in just a year. That was too long for an awful act.
Actually from Yugoslavia, Nikolai Volkoff was the face of the Russian heel for WWE in the mid-1980s. His stocky build and crew cut leant well to being a good heel, but the best part was opening every match by singing the Soviet national anthem. He and the Iron Sheik held the tag team titles and Volkoff later with Boris Ustinov as the Bolsheviks.
He turned face when the USSR collapsed which was a little odd, but before that, Volkoff was great, as the singing alone was enough to get any U.S. crowd booing him hard.
Doing an anti-American gimmick months after 9/11 was a daring move by WWE. Sadly, it didn't work out. Lance Storm, Christian and Test could have clicked as a good heel trio, even with their slams on America. But it went too far into cheap heat of insulting fans and wearing t-shirts with an upside-down American flag.
It crossed a line threatening to burn the flag in the ring before Kane stopped them. They were talented, holding the tag team titles, but the act was the wrong bit at the wrong time and hated for the wrong reasons.
Unlike many "foreign" heels, the Iron Sheik was from his billed nation of Iran. A former Olympian, he had his strength but aided by how he looked like he'd stepped out of a 1940s movie with his bald head and sinister mustache. The Sheik was great waving his flag around and going on mad tirades against opponents.
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His WWE Title reign set the stage for Hulk Hogan to take over and the Sheik remained a top heel from WWE to Jim Crockett and elsewhere. Known today for his mad tirades online, the Sheik still ranks as one of the best foreign heels ever, guaranteed to get a crowd going.
Some countries can be nicely set up as evil nations set to attack America. Finland is not one of them. Yes, for some reason, WWE had Ludvig Borga set up as a bodybuilder from Finland attacking Lex Luger among others. It was a terrible idea as it was just impossible to take a guy from Finland, of all places, seriously as some sort of sinister fighter.
It didn't help that Borga wasn't that good in the ring and set against better workers showed his weakness. As it happened, a combination of bad breaks and injuries had him out of WWE in just a few months, making him a thankfully short-lived gimmick.
One has to credit Ivan Koloff for making this act work far longer than most on this list. For decades, the "Russian Bear" was the top evil Russian heel in various territories. He made history by ending Bruno Sammartino's record reign as WWE Champion and kept the act going in the territories.
Koloff added to it with his "nephew" Nikita and Krusher Kruschev, holding a few titles, but he was better at riling fans up with his chains and insulting America. While he teased a face turn later, Koloff was better as the wicked heel fans loved to hate.
A long-time pro wrestling fan with experience writing about it. Love lists with a passion and enjoy the history of the business as well as football and baseball. Also an avid comic book and action movie fan so more than looking forward to sharing my fun knowledge with others.


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