If you’ve read our recent article, you might have also wondered about popular American wrestlers who managed to achieve stardom in their field of work. While professional wrestling does indeed have its roots in early nineteenth century Europe, most household names usually come from North America or Japan.
Despite this, present-day WWE, the world’s biggest wrestling company, is more diverse than ever. What that means is there are plenty of opportunities for European wrestlers to make their mark on the grandest scene of them all.
While the company has wrestlers like Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne who seek to prove their worth, they have a long way to go before they earn a seat at our table for the 10 best European professional wrestlers ever. Keep reading and see if you can identify your favorite here.
The Switzerland-native made a very good impression upon his first arrival in the North American promotion. Even though already a veteran after testing his skills in a myriad of independent promotions in both the U.S. and Japan, Cesaro still had to prove himself in the “big leagues”.
His unique blend of stiff blows, innovative moves, and extraordinary strength have since established him as one of the company’s most exciting stars to watch. Even though he’s largely been used in the tag team division so far, many fans still have high hopes for the Swiss giant earning an individual title.
Stuart Bennett (Can’t get much more British than that), better known by his ring name Wade Barrett, has been one of the most exciting up-and-comers in the WWE for a while, even though his whole run with the company lasted a mere six years.
His most entertaining work arguably came in the early part of his career when he was the leader of a gang of NXT rookies who almost punched the whole show into submission. The whole angle culminated with him coming close to beating then-champion John Cena for the title and, even if he had succeeded, nobody would have complained after such a stellar performance.
With his main roster push coming in 2014, Rusev seized his shot and ran away with it. “The Bulgarian Brute” came into the WWE sporting a life-sized anti-America gimmick and became, together with his real-life partner Lana, one of the most hated people on the show.
After showcasing his abilities for a while, he made such an impact that fans would end up cheering him no matter what he did, especially celebrating his “Rusev Day”. Even though he’s a huge man, Rusev is cut from that rare breed of big men who are also athletic and can run and jump. Because of this, he will likely stay with the company for many years to come.
The fact that the Northern Irish native is even on this list is a testament to his ambition and his work ethic, seeing how he didn’t wrestle in a single match for the WWE until he was in his mid-forties. Despite his age, he had a productive five-year run and even managed to win the United States title.
After giving up his gig training the young wrestlers for a chance to return to the ring and doing a great job with it, Finlay now commands the respect of the entire WWE roster. Seeing how he quite obviously loves the business, we will probably see him in the backstage of the show for as long as he wants to be there.
If he’s not as known as the rest of the stars on this list, it’s certainly not Tom Billington, aka Dynamite Kid’s fault. After making a lasting impression with his ability between the ropes in the mid-80s, Kid was hit by injury exactly when the whole wrestling phenomenon and ‘90s boom started, missing out on pretty much all of it.
Despite this, he found tag team success together with the British Bulldog and also had memorable singles matches, including a five-star match classic with Tiger Mask in 1983. When you put everything together, there’s no way the Dynamite Kid can go missing from the list of WWE’s greatest European stars ever.
William Regal was maybe never fully appreciated for his in-ring skills because he did so many things for the WWE on the side. At the moment, he earns his paycheck by being NXT’s sage figure and guiding the young talent toward stardom. Before he did that, however, he was a capable wrestler in his own right for about a decade.
Despite his qualities, he was less seen as the brooding technician that he is and more as a source of comic material, wearing a number of hats from commissioner of the Alliance to chaperone of a “special-needs” WWE star. He wasn’t always the favorite of the company’s writers but the fact that he always had something to do is a testament to his many qualities.
Davey Boy Smith’s WWE career took up due to his more than notable performances in the tag team division. Teaming up with his real-life cousin Dynamite Kid they formed what is, to this day, one of the most beloved and admired teams of all time.
When it came to singles matches, the Bulldog did not, unfortunately, have the same meteoric rise. While he was a permanent fixture on Vince McMahon’s pioneering ‘90s TV show, he gained somewhat of a reputation that always followed him around as never being quite good enough to grasp at the world title. He remains the closest anyone from Britain has come to a world champion.
Sheamus did quite well for himself for a guy who used to work in IT. After receiving the push to the main roster in 2009, the Irishman claimed the WWE Championship in his first year with a victory over John Cena and followed that with three more title reigns, a King of the Ring win, and a Royal Rumble in 2012.
Even though his role with the company took a dive in recent years due to the appearance of stars from the independent scene, he is still a solid superstar who has possibly carved out the most prolific WWE career of any European performer before even pushing 40.
Bruno Sammartino was the Rocky Balboa of professional wrestling. The Italian-born grappler sat high atop the wrestling mountain before most of today’s performers were even born. Between 1963 and 1971, he held the WWE Championship for a record-setting 2803 days. A couple of years later, he only managed a “meager” 1237 days.
Even though longevity in those days was not necessarily conflated with genuine quality, there are few critics who defend Sammartino’s place in the wrestling industry. He was instrumental in establishing the WWE’s presence before it got on TV and also in implementing the slower, grappling, head-locking style that is still used by some wrestlers today.
Andre The Giant
Even though history books tend to disrespect Andre by simply labeling him as the giant who was body-slammed by Hulk Hogan, the French wrestler played a crucial role in helping WWE make a name for itself during its 1980s Golden Age.
His colossal size made him an attraction that was impossible to ignore for Vince McMahon and led him to become one of the most recognizable wrestling figures inside and outside the ring. Even though one could argue that it’s fairly easy for a wrestler today to appear in a movie, it was way harder back in those days but that’s exactly what Andre did.