wrestling / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Non-American WWE Superstars

July 7, 2016 | Posted by Samuel Hayward
Cesaro Claudio Castagnoli Image Credit: WWE

This week saw the United Stated of America celebrate their independence day and with it came WWE’s special edition of Monday Night Raw. We saw a family barbecue be reduced to a chaotic food fight, Titus O’Neil failed his family and his country whilst dressed as Apollo Creed as he submitted to Rusev’s Accolade in a Unites States Championship Match, and finally the night culminated into a twenty-minute long match between Team USA and Team World which of course saw the patriots pick up the win over the foreigners.
Whilst the night may have been meant to be a celebration of true American grit, the night itself didn’t have very many great moments and most of the matches felt like they would have belonged on a house show rather than TV.

The main event, while fairly lacklustre and full of many quick eliminations, did highlight one significant point to me: the non-American WWE superstars dominate the mid-card where the Americans dwindle. To fill this team up without putting main event stars like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in the match, Team USA was half filled with stars that are on their way out of the main roster and into the Hall of Fame; Big Show, Kane, Dudley Boys and Mark Henry. The other three members of the group were Jack Swagger and Zack Ryder, two wrestlers relegated to lower to mid card status who we’ll probably never see win a major title again, and Apollo Crews, whose anti-climactic feud with Sheamus has left his main roster push feel under whelming.

This has led me to list the 8 most valuable assets to the WWE that didn’t come out of America. This list won’t include people like Chris Jericho or Kalisto who were born in America, but instead focus entirely on those who were born in another country and are still considered citizens of that country.

There won’t be any NXT wrestlers on this list either, but an honorable mention will be given to Finn Balor, Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hideo Itami. Whenever these individuals get called up to the main roster, it’s a guarantee that their presence will vastly improve the product on whichever of the two brand they end up on.

Number Eight – Sheamus: The Celtic warrior has had a tremendous career during his time with WWE. A four-time World Champion, two time United States Champion, King of the Ring winner, Money in the Bank winner and Royal Rumble winner, he’s received more accolades in his seven-year tenure than most superstars gain in a lifetime. He’s also made history for his country as the first ever Irish-born WWE Champion.

His most recent heel run has received harsh criticism as one that received too big a push despite not deserving it. Fans fast became frustrated with his feud with Roman Reigns, and his time in the faction League of Nations left any momentum he had extinguished. This has since left WWE Creative struggling with what to do with him, putting him in the aforementioned feud with Apollo Crews which quite worryingly could be following the footsteps of Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin with needless repetition and no significant build or plot development.

Despite his steady decline in stock these past few months, Sheamus is a formidable wrestler who always guarantees a good match with whoever he’s in the ring with. He’s a valuable heel in WWE’s repertoire when used correctly, it’s just of case of Creative figuring out what to do with him at this juncture.

Number Seven – Alberto Del Rio: Another superstar currently suffering from a League of Nations backlash, Del Rio is an incredible performer whose character has made him one of the better heels currently on the roster.

When Del Rio was released from WWE for all of 14 months, he established why WWE had made such a big mistake in getting rid of him through his work in the independent circuit. Becoming a Mexican hero, he won the AAA Mega Championship, ending EL Texano Jr.’s record-setting reign at 735 days. He also did work in Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground, as well as several other smaller promotions, all where he became a box office draw.

Del Rio returned to WWE to win the United States Championship from John Cena on his first night back. From there, he slowly began to flounder thanks to WWE Creative, who placed him in a confusing “MexAmerica” storyline, had him join League of Nations specifically to job to Roman Reigns, and since then he has coasted from fight to fight, not being majorly involved in any real storyline or feud. This is another case of a tremendous worker who, when utilized properly, can create great stories and build up the people who are in the ring with him.

Number Six – Neville: There’s a reason that this guy is called The Man That Gravity Forgot. The Red Arrow is one of the coolest and flashiest moves there is, and there’s no one on the roster that can do it but Neville. Every single move Neville pulls off is a work of art. Not enough can be said about his athleticism, agility and technical prowess in the ring. His masterful in-ring ability is the reason he had such a long reign as NXT Champion before being called up to the main roster. Oh, and he’s British, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Whilst being on the main roster, he hasn’t really been given any major feuds to showcase himself as a potential main event player, with WWE prioritizing people more experienced on the microphone. The biggest feud he’s had has been taking advantage of his cape to paint him as a superhero to ally with Arrow’s Stephen Amell against Bad News Barrett and Stardust. Besides this, he’s been thrown into sporadic matches and lower card feuds, then placed into any ladder match the company had on a PPV card to perform all of the more creative spots.

Currently out of action due to a broken ankle, his high-risk spots may become fewer upon his return. This means that WWE may have to shift their focus on Neville creatively in order to protect him from aggravating his injury. Could this mean bringing in a manager to act as Neville’s mouthpiece, placing him in more important storylines? Or could it just mean his in-ring style switches to more mat based wrestling? Only time will tell.

Number Five – Paige: The inaugural and longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion to date, she won the first of her two Diva’s Championships on her Raw debut, making her the youngest champion in the belt’s history at 21. Fast forward two years and she’s still heavily involved in the current product, having brought Charlotte and Becky Lynch to the main roster during the Divas Revolution. At only 23 years old, she has many years with WWE ahead of her, having been established as a character entirely unique to the women’s division.

A second-generation wrestler following in the footsteps of both parents, Paige has been surrounded by the business since she was a child. She started wrestling at a staggering 13 years old, where her own mother would teach her the hard way in the ring how to take bumps correctly. At age 14, she was already traveling by herself all around the world to countries like Scotland, Wales, Belgium, France, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, and Germany, as well as the United States.

Her relationship with WWE has only developed as time has gone on, involving her in more and more of the company’s product: she was a judge on the latest season of Tough Enough, she’s been a main cast member of Total Divas since Season 3, she’s been a guest on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast and has appeared in WWE Studios film Santa’s Little Helper with another film role confirmed in Surf’s Up: WaveMania.

There’s no doubt that Paige is a valuable asset to WWE who will only to continue to improve as her career moves forward, and as she continues to bring something different to women’s wrestling within the company, she has the opportunity to help reshape the entire perception of women within the company through her in-ring ability.

Number Four – Rusev: And with Rusev’s addition to this list, that’s all three remaining members of the League of Nations fiasco. The Bulgarian Brute is in the best position of the trio at the moment, having regained the United States Championship and beginning to pick up momentum again as a monster of a champion.

Rusev started off on the main roster with incredible momentum, with Lana acting as his mouthpiece and using the anti-American gimmick to gain heat, Rusev became a runaway train as his undefeated streak grew into something people could take seriously, becoming United States Champion for the first time in the process. The title was the perfect catalyst for his Stalin-worshipping tirade.

He became so big that he was given the opportunity to face John Cena at WrestleMania, with the pageantry of riding a tank to the ring. Unfortunately, this is where everything went wrong. Not wanting to bury Big Match John, the infamous WWE Creative booked Rusev in three straight losses to Cena. After this, he entered into a terrible love triangle storyline with Lana and Dolph Ziggler which was botched when his engagement to Lana was announced. Then of course, we got the terrible League of Nations storyline, where Rusev was made to job to Roman Reigns in a failed attempt to get the Big Dog over with the fans.

He’s only now getting back to where he should be as he dominates over his competition with the belt draped over his shoulder a second time. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself and he’ll be given the chance to maintain a long and successful reign as champion.

Number Three – Sami Zayn: Just to emphasize his Canadian origins, when John Cena was doing his phenomenal United States Championship Open Challenge, Zayn made his main roster debut by answering the challenge in Montreal, introduced by The Excellence of Execution, Bret Hart. That’s about as Canadian as it gets.

Zayn has been put over throughout his NXT and WWE career as the underdog, always on the chase for the unattainable and somehow, eventually, he manages to achieve his dream against all odds. This was stressed to the nth degree in NXT where, after spending months chasing the title, he eventually captured the gold after putting his very career on the line.

His feud with real life best friend and former tag team partner Kevin Owens has been captivating since its continuation in NXT from the independent circuit. The duo’s real life connection brings a whole new element to their story which adds more intrigue than there would be to a typical feud. Once both men eventually move on from this feud to other stories, Zayn will have been established as the next bright babyface the company has to offer, and it’s only natural to assume his push as the new ultimate underdog will give him the opportunity to accomplish great things in the company.

Number Two – Cesaro: The Swiss Superman is the internet darling of WWE. Constantly kept in the midcard by Vince McMahon because of a belief that he doesn’t have the “It Factor”, Cesaro has taken whatever has been given him whether it was working with Aksana by his side, teaming up and feuding with Jack Swagger, teaming up with another individual the company didn’t know what to do with in Tyson Kidd, Cesaro has proven himself by his in-ring ability and natural connection with the WWE Universe.

The fans have been begging for Cesaro to receive a bigger push in recent years, even calling themselves “The Cesaro Section” whenever in attendance. Cesaro is so respected and admired by the wrestling fans for his work, with Dave Meltzer awarding him the “Most Underrated” award from WON for the past three years running.

It seems that he may now finally be getting the push that he deserves, with Shane McMahon reintroducing him as “The Professional”, and his contention for the Intercontinental Championship establishing him as true champion material. Hopefully this continues to develop and we may end up seeing in the main event in the not too distant future.

Number One – Kevin Owens: The biggest heel the company has at the moment is a Canadian. Kevin Owens fast established himself as a main eventer when he beat John Cena clean on his debut. Since then his progress to the top has slowed, but he continues to climb the ladder, having successfully held the Intercontinental Championship on two separate occasions.

As previously discussed earlier in this article, the feud between Owens and Zayn has cemented the two a secure place on WWE’s programming. As the feud has developed and continues to grow, so too does both these men’s stock within the company. Both men have been established as incredible athletes with a legitimate story behind them that makes the fans invested in the feud. As each week comes and goes Owens builds himself even further as a classic arrogant heel who takes cheap shots and attacks from behind, but still skilled enough in the ring that he won’t shy away from a fight if it’s on his terms.

With Ambrose as the new face of the company, WWE needs more established heels to seem like true contenders for his title. Rollins came back as a heel despite the demand from the fans for him to turn face, and the Shield rivalry will prove intriguing as it develops. But who is there to face him when that story comes to its end? AJ Styles is one option, but The Club’s momentum has been dwindling of late and needs to re-establish themselves as a dominant faction in the roster. Similarly, men like Bray Wyatt and Alberto Del Rio need to be given time to rebuild themselves so that they look they really could walk away as champion.

KO doesn’t need that time. He gains heat easily from fans and always looks great in his matches. He’s charismatic on the microphone and on commentary, and his current rivalry alone has proven that with the right dancing partner he can be an incredible storyteller. Truly Owens lives up to the name Prizefighter, being the best non-American superstar on the roster today.

So what do you think? Do these people belong where they are on the list? Is someone missing? Also, where do you think guys like Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura would appear on this list when they make their highly anticipated move up to the main roster? Please let us know in the comments below.