Ciao, salut and wilkommen to Casa Baiamonte. No, I?ve not swallowed a continental greetings book, but rather am setting the scene for today’s visit to the Casa. A visit which will see me pay tribute to those wrestlers who have the audacity not to be born in the United States of America. Those treacherous foreign bastards!
From Canadians to my English compatriots to the crazy, humbling Iranians to the Commie- Nazi Eastern Europeans, foreign workers have often been treated with contempt and disdain by the ?USA, USA!? brigade. Maybe because everyone of these foreign, job stealing immigrants often tend to hate America and it’s people despite the fact they ply their trade there, or perhaps it’s because it’s no fun to let them be Yankee loving do gooders who are seeking the ?American Dream? (and no I don?t mean Dusty Rhodes).
See, the foreigner has always been a staple bad guy in the world of wrestling. Now, by no means am I saying that’s the rule for every non American worker who has wrestled Stateside, but as a majority rule, it’s pretty accurate.
Sometimes they will exploit national tensions brought about by war, as the Sheik did to colossal effect during his run with Sergeant Slaughter and Mohammed Hassan more recently did to network petrifying results (note to WWE; never believe it to be a good idea to air footage of men clad in terrorist uniforms choking out a babyface with piano wire just a day removed from terrorist attacks in London).
Often, a Canadian wrestler will find himself with an axe to grind about being apparently treated as a poor cousin to America. Much like The Hart Foundation and later the UnAmericans did as they waged war on all things Hot Dogs and Apple Pie.
The thing is however, is that it’s an easy gimmick to strap to an overseas worker. Crowds eat it up now just like they did 10 or 20 years ago. You Americans tend to be a scarily patriotic bunch and any swipe at sweet lady Liberty is often greeted with furious disdain and more ?USA? chants than you can shake a stick at.
So why struggle trying to think of a clever gimmick to get a guy over when the simplest solution is the best one? If he’s Russian, don?t make him a ballerina from the Moscow Ballet, make him a commie ubernaut who wants to break down the walls of Democracy and freedom and everything they stand for. Likewise, if a guy’s from Italian heritage, make him a mobster. Sure it might be cool for Tony Soprano or Vito Corleone, but Nunzio and the FBI weren?t taken kindly too by the American crowds. No one likes a thief, no matter how Italian they may be.
What also makes these foreign infidel such terrific entertainment is not just their funny accents and crazy dress sense, but the love that is bestowed upon them following a face turn. Wrestling fans love a wholesome immigrant just as much as they hate the evil tyrants from the East.
Take Kofi Kingston as a prime example. He’s more over than an ice cream man at Fat Camp, but he’s basically Sanka from ?Cool Runnings?. Minus Irv Blitzer of course. He jumps around and he smiles a lot and generally makes you feel good about yourself. Then there’s Kai En Tai who spoke in old Godzilla English and only knew the word ?INDEED?, and the crowds still popped as if Trish Stratus had just declared she was going to eat box live on Raw for Christmas.
So my general consensus for foreign workers is this simple calculation;
Foreign + remotely sensible x frown + national flag waving = dastardly heel
Foreign + bright colours x possibly being in a bobsled team = beloved babyface
Overseas workers are hardly a novelty though. So why do they generate such extreme reactions? Granted, some are stellar, even legendary workers with their places in the annals of Sports Entertainment history firmly cemented. Others, well, less so. Yet they are never forgotten. You wouldn?t believe the amount of Renee Dupree fans I?ve encountered. And The Great Khali has gurned and chopped his way to babyface superstardom, despite 99.9% of the WWE audience wondering who the hell he was and what he was doing performing in front of them back in 2006.
Is foreign just funny and adorable no matter what? Do we actually love to boo the Russians because actually, they?re pretty cool and remind us of Ivan Drago? Are the Sheik’s moustache, pointy boots and scarily uncanny resemblance to Saddam Hussain actually endearing in the grand scheme of things? Despite having not progressed as a worker in the five years he’s been with the company, is Carlito’s hair all we care about? I?ve got to say?.. YES!
If a foreign guy doesn?t turn out to be super worker 9000 then he still has the schtick of a half decent gimmick that will earn him ?guilty pleasure? status amongst the throngs of faithful wrestling fans, who have come to learn that Ludvig Borga wasn?t all bad and that for an obese Ugandan, Kamala was a pretty funny guy.
So come, let us celebrate this continental lovefest of all things Bolshevik and Rougeau. Every single one of them who has graced the squared circle deserves a standing ovation from everyone of us, because they have shown us that no facial hair, ring attire or theme music is too questionable or possibly racist (in the best possible way). And, as a half Italian, half Irish lad born in England, I applaud them for it.
Merci and Danke, it’s been another pleasure to have you all visit the Casa and feast upon my visions of the wrestling world. Should you wish to pass judgement on said visions, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.