"I'm not from here! I have my own customs! Look at my craaaaaazy passport!"
— The Foreigner
, "Raging Bender"
The Foreign Wrestling Heel is one of the major stock characters of Professional Wrestling
. He's from another country, and loves his own country and hates America. Usually, the reason for this is because Americans (and American wrestling fans specifically) lack something that his country has in spades (or so he believes). For example, Brits and Frenchmen may look down on Americans because they lack class and sophistication; Japanese, because Americans lack honor; and Canadians, because Americans lack respect for wrestling tradition. These are the most common varieties of Foreign Wrestling Heel, but far from the only ones; one particular instance, Ludvig Borga, was an evil Finn who hated Americans because he felt Americans lacked respect for the environment.
A Foreign Wrestling Heel will often feud with an All American Face
; the typical climactic match to this feud is a Flag Match, where the flags of the two nations of the participants are placed upon opposite turnbuckles, and the winner is the first man to recover his own flag and wave it. Clashes with the Foreign Wrestling Heel generally cause International Showdowns by Proxy
like this, as he is usually the villain in those situations.
During the Cold War, many (perhaps most) Foreign Wrestling Heels were Soviets, and spoke proudly of Communism and Glorious Mother Russia
. It was difficult to find a wrestling promotion that didn't
have an Evil Russian or three kicking around. Perhaps the best known of these was Nikita Koloff
, and he also became the biggest subversion of the trope; when his arch-nemesis, Magnum T. A., suffered a career-ending injury in a car accident
, Nikita decided Magnum was a Worthy Opponent
, gained a new found respect for him, and all Americans by extension, and dedicated the remainder of his wrestling career to his fallen foe; he thus became the first Russian face
... well, ever
, and did it without renouncing Communism or Russia.
Note that it is possible to be foreign and not a Foreign Wrestling Heel; however, the instant one shows any pride in being from a country that is not the US
, he starts down the path to becoming one. Canada's Bret Hart
, for example, wrestled most of his career as a face with his Canadian-ness being treated as an afterthought (unlike, say, the obviously Canadian heel The Mountie), until his 1997 heel turn, when he became proudly Canadian and launched a feud with all American fans and wrestlers. This led to him being a hated heel in in the States, but unsurprisingly led to his becoming loved even more by Canadian fans. Also, it's not necessary for the Foreign Wrestling Heel to be an actual
foreigner. Simply looking
foreign or having foreign ancestry is often enough for a wrestler to be given a Foreign Wrestling Heel gimmick (don't think too hard about this when it comes to American wrestling).
Lest the gentle reader think this is solely a gimmick for culturally insensitive Americans, consider the team of Art Barr, Eddie Guerrero
, and Louie "Madonna's Boyfriend" Spiccoli, who wrestled as Los Gringos Locos in Mexican federation AAA
, and were Evil American
Foreigners. Likewise with most Japanese media having Foreign Wrestling Heels. Also, no jokes about any news outlets.
If a Foreign Wrestling Heel is particularly hated by the crowd, look for them to piss him off with a chant of "USA! USA! USA!" Even if his opponents that evening aren't Americans. A Foreign Wrestling Heel may end up popular in the nation he hails from
if his only negative trait is to praise said location.
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- Played straight with CHIKARA's rudo (bad guy) stable, Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (BDK), a group of malcontents and traitors, led by Swiss wrestlers Ares and Claudio Castagnoli. They come out to Rammstein's "Engel," and are introduced by their own personal ring announcer, Jakob Hammermeier, in German.
- Claudio Castagnoli got signed by WWE and became Antonio Cesaro, an evil rugby-playing polyglot from Switzerland who really doesn't like Americans.
- In the '70s, the golden age of English Freestyle wrestling, villains were often Americans who thought they could bully everyone else 'cos their country was so big and powerful. Examples include the Iron Greek (played as American, not Greek) and The Mighty Quinn (may actually have been Canadian, but played as Brit-despising American).
- In fact, Americans often play the Foreign Wrestling Heel abroad, particularly in Mexican wrestling. The WWF even did a "USA vs Canada" feud in the mid-90s where the face and heel roles were switched according to the country the matches were taking place in.
- Stampede Wrestling in the 80s had manager J.R. Foley, who dressed up as Hirohito and Hitler on the sidelines.
- Sgt Slaughter played the All American Face through most of his WWF career, but he Face-Heel Turn into the Foreign Wrestling Heel by becoming an Iraqi sympathizer amidst the Gulf War. Shortly after ending his Feud with Hulk Hogan, Slaughter did a Heel-Face Turn back into the All American Face using a series of ultra cheesy "Winning America back" vignettes.
- Mr Fuji became an Evil Japanese manager when he retired, and his most famous client was the Evil Polynesian-born sumo wrestler Yokozuna, his only client to ever win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship while he was manager.
- Wrestling has a long history of the Evil Arab (which may even be a trope in and of itself.) Most of them are of the silent mysterious type instead of the obnoxious Foreign Wrestling Heel type however.
- The Great Hossein Arab, who later became The Iron Sheik (Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, from Iran and not really Arab) set the standard for the obnoxious Foreign Wrestling Heel type, and his famous "Camel Clutch" has become the standard finisher for many Evil Arabs since.
- General Skandor Akbar (born Jim Wheba in Vernon, Texas) had a short wrestling career, but made up for it by becoming the Evil Arab Manager, and nearly inventing the heel stable during his feud with the Von Erichs in WCCW.
- Muhammad Hassan, an Evil Arab—excuse me, Evil Arab-American—who appeared in 2004-2005 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks (ethnically Italian and Jordanian). Despite completely averting this trope, people accuse him and Daivari of playing a Foreign Wrestling Heel. His gimmick was so controversial that he was fired after the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London. Then they turn around praise TNA's treatment of Sheik Abdul Bashir (aka Hassan's manager Daivari) even though he played the pretty much the exact same character that he did in WWE, only speaking more English.
- There was also GLOW's Palestina, a sword(!?) wielding Palestinian(they speak Arabic) terrorist who would try to cut people when she got frustrated during matches.
- Fritz Von Erich (Patriarch of the Adkisson wrestling family) used the "Von Erich" name as a gimmick with a tag team partner as "The Nazi Brothers."
- Interestingly, the Von Erich Claw was originally named "The Iron Claw" to reinforce the Nazi gimmick. The Iron Claw became the common name for the move afterwards.
- Subverted by the dual Foreign Wrestling Heel feud between Fit Finlay (Irish heel) and Lord Steven Regal (British heel) in WCW, one of the few times in wrestling history where the "USA vs the World" cliche was avoided, and some sense of the conflicts and hatred between other countries was actually recognized and addressed.
- In the early days of wrestling in Japan, during a time where hatred and fear of the US is legendary (mostly due to the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), white wrestlers were brought in to be beat by Japanese wrestlers, the pioneer being Rikidozan, himself Korean born, and later continued in the legendary New Japan Pro Wrestling (created by Antonio Inoki) and All Japan Pro Wrestling (created by Giant Baba.) This was averted eventually and many wrestlers have obtained fame and respect in Japan (as fan favorites, no less) who wouldn't get it otherwise, way more than vice versa .
- Subverted later when the psychology of professional wrestling asserted itself, and the Japanese fans began to appreciate good ring workers like Bruiser Brody, holding a parade in his honor at his funeral.
- To this day, Big Van Vader [Leon White] is a legend in Japan.
- Many Westerners, by sheer force of talent, have gained acceptance in Japan, and have been allowed to win titles and beat established Japanese wrestlers. The list includes Dr. Death Steve Williams, Chris Benoit, nWo Sting, Johnny Ace, Eddie Guerrero and many more.
- Mick Foley. His Cactus Jack persona and death matches are considered legendary in Japan.
- The Evil Japanese has also surfaced regularly.
- Rikidozan, the father of Japanese puroresu, made a name for himself by touring in the US after being discriminated against for being Korean as a sumo wrestler in Japan, and yes, portrayed as a heel in the US.
- The Great Kabuki would often use "the green mist" as a cheat during matches.
- Keiji Mutoh, aka the Great Muta, was initially introduced as the son of the Great Kabuki, and also used the mist gimmick.
- Hakushi, heel because he's from overseas and little else.
- Yokozuna and Rikishi, both Samoan wrestlers, were given "former sumo wrestler" gimmicks and spent the majority of their careers as heels (well, maybe not Rikishi, but definitely Yokozuna). Also, Yokozuna's character was Japanese, despite being Polynesian. Yokozuna was also managed by Mr. Fuji, as mentioned above, since he didn't have a Japanese accent.
- Antonio Inoki, a consummate professional and one of the "living legends" of Japan, was also given the heel tag in the US. However, given that he (beat) fought to a draw with Muhammad Ali in an exhibition match during Ali's "Take on all comers" world tour, he probably deserved it.
- Ring of Honor averted this trope for a long time with Japanese wrestlers like the silent badass KENTA and guest stars from Dragon Gate (who were face or heel due to having pre-established gimmicks, rather than due to being Japanese). Then they brought in Pro Wrestling NOAH's Takeshi Morishima, a 300 lb. Lightning Bruiser who menaced the fans, disrespected his opponents, and aggravated Bryan Danielson's eye injury after promising not to. The xenophobia was never played up, but Morishima was very clearly an outsider (if only due to not working for ROH full-time).
- Played straight by WWF tag team "the devils of Japan". The name says it all.
- Averted by one of the devils later when she went solo as Bull Nakano, who was still heel but not of this type. Then inverted when WWF was in Japan. She emulated the Unstoppable All American Face, and Alundra Blaze the hopeless foreigner.
- English-speaking foreigners usually subvert or avoid this trope.
- Any attempt to use Canadians or Mexicans for cheap Foreign Wrestling Heel heat has never lasted. The Hart Foundation, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Gino Hernandez, and others have had some heel turns, but the majority of their careers were as faces.
- Played very much straight for Lance Storm in WCW and WWE, leading a Team Canada in WCW and going so far as to rename the US, Cruiserweight and Hardcore titles the Canadian, 100kg And Under and Saskatchewan Hardcore International Titles respectively. In the WWE he formed a similar stable called the Un-Americans.
- British wrestlers, on the other hand, have had mixed success maintaining heel status. The British Bulldogs (singles or doubles) were always brought back as faces. William Regal has been a heel for most of his career (though he did have a brief face turn when he gained "special" wrestler Eugene as a tag-team partner and Morality Pet), as well as Fit Finlay. "Gentleman" Chris Adams started as a face and then took a long turn as a heel. The British Invastion (Brutus Magnus and Doug Williams) had a long heel run in TNA's tag division; after the breakup, both wrestlers have gone from heel to face.
- Wade Barrett as well has spent his WWE career as a heel.
- Australian wrestlers are virtually ignored, or if their immigrant status is known, it is not used as a source of Foreign Wrestling Heel heat.
- Although this might not be the fault of the wrestlers themselves, Australian national symbols are rather inherently humorous. From 1957-1983, the Fabulous Kangeroos used "Waltzing Matilda" as their entrance music.
- The Bushwhackers were The Sheepherders turned face. And they were from New Zealand.
- There was also Nathan Jones, although he was more of a heel due to his criminal past rather than being Australian.
- In his days with World-Class Championship Wrestling, the Ultimate Warrior was known as "Dingo Warrior" and tried to play up an assumed Australian origin for heel heat. It didn't last, partly because he signed with the WWF soon after.
- The most notable aversion of this trope is Tony Garea, the New Zealand-born wrestler who spent virtually his entire wrestling career in the WWF, all as a face; today, he is a road agent for what is now WWE and still makes sporatic on-camera appearances.
- The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau), who later teamed with Carl "Pierre" Ouelette as The Quebecers, and even had a theme song that spoofed The Mountie's, played the Foreign Wrestling Heel for laughs.
- TNA had their own Team Canada, though it included nobody who had been in either the FMW or the WCW groups with the same name.
- TNA stable World Elite was a gang of Foreign Wrestling Heels from all over the world who had come together as a global community to all hate America together.
- Kaientai subverted this trope, as they turned face by turning up the evil foreigner gimmick.
- A rare (white) South African heel: Colonel DeBeers (who made no effort to affect an appropriate accent).
- Then in the late 90's there was the short-lived, pseudo-fascist Truth Commission, which was supposed to be a stable of South African commandos (who would refer to South Africa as the "Fatherland.") Once the head of the stable (The Commandant) was released, the South African angle would be eased up and eventually they would disband.
- Leo Kruger, who's character is similar to a poacher
- Vladimir Kozlov's was pretty much the bad guy because he was a native of the Soviet Union (born in Ukraine billed as Russian) even though he came to WWE long after the Soviet Union had dissolved.
- As was Nikolai Volkoff, a Russian heel until he teamed with with the Iron Sheik, then he was also a heel for his atrocious singing (always of the Soviet National Anthem). When paired with the Iranian Iron Sheik, the two formed arguably the most hated duo in the WWF, if not all of professional wrestling, particularly for their anti-American promos. (Surprisingly, two avowed Americans — "Classy" Freddie Blassie and Slick — went right along with their promos.)
- Ivan Koloff, who was really from Canada, qualifies as well. Nikita Koloff mentioned above also counted before his face turn.
- Colonel Ninotchka was yet another in the line of evil soviets whose face turn was brought on by moving to France, which apparently wasn't as evil a place to be proud of in the eyes of the audience.
- Parodied in CHIKARA by MosCow, The Communist Bovine.
- Super Mex Hernandez played an evil Mexican in the USA and evil US American while in Mexico, back to back. For the record he is really Puerto Rican.
- The Great Khali was an evil Indian with an evil Persian-American manager until Daivari was swapped out for another Indian.
- Jinder Mahal was also an evil Indian, but as Khali was a face by then he was evil more because of his entitlement and bullying than for his nationality. He could have played the Canadian heel as well—while of Indian origin, he was born and raised in Calgary.
- FWE made Sonjay Dutt into an evil Indian and billed him from Bollywood (he is from New Dheli and was born in the District of Columbia)
- Cheerleader Melissa worked in TNA as Awesome Kong's manager Raisha Saeed, who was billed from Syria.
- Briefly inverted in 2013 in the feud between Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio. The former played an all-American athlete of the type who would typically be a face - except that he was managed by Dutch "Zeb Colter" Mantell, playing the part of a Tea Party extremist who despised immigrants and Latinos in particular. The latter, an openly and proudly Mexican aristocrat, was presented as an All American Face who represented the ideal of America as a land of equality and opportunity. Once their feud ended, however, Del Rio would go back to playing a straight heel who hated Americans because they never cheered for him all that enthusiastically when he was a good guy.
- Killer Khan crossed this with Fake Nationality, as he was a Japanese wrestler playing a Mongolian.
- The Fabulous Kangaroos represented Australia and could provoke riots.
- 2014 saw the WWE debut of Alexander Rusev, a Bulgarian strongman (who was in fact actually born in Bulgaria) who often enters the ring accompanied by the Bulgarian national anthem, cuts promos in Bulgarian and Russian and is presented as speaking almost no English, and is accompanied to the ring by Lana, a steel-hearted Russian villainess (played by CJ Perry, an American who lived in the USSR/Latvia as a child.)
Anime and Manga
- Often subverted in the Pro Wrestling themed anime Kinnikuman, where many characters start out as Foreign Wrestling Heels, but later become allies of the title character. Strangely, they even had a few Japanese Foreign Wrestling Heels (since, while the series is made in Japan, the protagonist is a space alien), with Rikishiman, who wasn't evil so much as arrogant & later became a good guy & also The Ninja. Also subverted in that they have characters from numerous different nations whose gimmick has little if anything to do with their background, like Stecasse King, a living tape recorder who happens to be Belgian.
- Tiger Mask has a lot of them in many directions, as we are shown a lot of non-American heels in America (including two Japaneses) and many non-Japanese heels in Japan, with many being real-life wrestlers of the Sixties using their actual gimmicks. In a subversion, both in America and Japan there are foreign face wrestlers (the most notable being the Mexican brothers Mil Mascaras and El Sicodelico, wrestling in US, and the fictional South American Star Apollon, who faced Tiger Mask in Japan and gave him a desperate run for his money without a single foul), while the protagonist himself started playing this straight: his initial gimmick was that of the wrestler who fought only for money and greviously beat up the others so that the next time there would be more people paying in the hope of seeing him defeated, and got assaulted by civilians twice during the very first chapter (the first, being a child and the son of one of his victims, got the suggestion to train hard and try again in ten years, but on the ring. The second, being an adult with a knife, was unceremonously slapped on the throat as an example to what would happen to anyone attacking him without being a fellow wrestler on the ring or a child)
- The Wrestler has the character of The Ayatollah be the heel in the original Madison Square Garden fight that makes up the back story of the character.
- Of course, behind the scenes, he's referred to as "Bob" by Randy, and has apparently made a successful career as a used-car salesman.
- Rocky IV has the American lead going up against a Russian boxer.
- The Ip Man series has these as its villains. The first has Ip Man, the Chinese lead, fighting a match against a Noble Demon Japanese general during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The second film takes place in colonial Hong Kong and has Ip Man fighting an Ax-Crazy boxer sponsored by the British government.
- Huo Yuanjia (played by Jet Li) fights several of these in Fearless. In the intro scene, he fights three Westerners who are all Sore Losers. In a flashback, he fights an American wrestler who starts out as just another Foreign Wrestling Heel but has a change of heart after Huo saves his life.
- In the wrestling chapter of Live A Live one of your opponents was a Hulk Hogan knockoff named Max Morgan.
- Parodied in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Blind Bandit": Among the line up of Earth Kingdom wrestlers in Earth Rumble VI, there is one Fire Nation fighter, naturally named "Fire Nation Man", whose only purpose was to go on stage with a Fire Nation flag, declare loudly his allegiance to Fire Lord Ozai, ask the audience to stand for the "Fire Nation National Anthem", and be thrown across the room by the Earth Kingdom contender "The Boulder" (voiced by actual wrestler Mick Foley). His parody of a heel goes as far as having a Russian accent that violates everything known about people in the Asian-influenced Avatar world. Moreover, his over-the-top performance and his entry in an Earthbending contest make his Fire Nation nationality amusingly suspect (especially when he actually earthbends in the mega fight against Toph). On the DVD commentary they mention that he is actually an immigrant from the desert.
- The Futurama episode "Raging Bender", where the page quote comes from, has a similar parody. "The Foreigner" is shown as part of a montage of stock heel stereotypes who are quickly vanquished in turn by Bender.
- Judging from his accent, the Foreigner hails from the far-off land of New Jersey, as it happens.
- South Park also had their fun with this trope in the episode "W.T.F.". Among other things, no one in the kid's league was from the country they were billed from.
- Osama bin Rotten from an episode of The Simpsons.