Top 5 UK and Ireland Wrestlers to Make It in WWE
Before professional wrestling was a big money business in the USA, it packed out community halls, stadiums and theaters across the Atlantic in good old "Blighty" and The Emerald Isle.
Names like Giant Haystacks were well known across the country and people seemed excited by the action on offer. It was nothing like the product of today, no pyro, no high-flying, little weapons, and it was focused mainly around "real" wrestling moves. People loved it nonetheless.
Interest in wrestling died down and English companies found it difficult to fill out halls with the advent of Sky television. The WWE was a massive hit on Sky and once people saw the over-the-top storylines, daredevil moves and exciting matches, the English product looked stale by comparison.
Only a few have ventured from these shores to pursue a career at the top end of the business and in this list I will give you my top five, who not only have made the journey but also enjoyed success.
If I have left anybody out, or if you disagree, then please do comment; nothing like a good old fashioned debate after all!
5. Dave "Fit'" Finlay
Dave "Fit" Finlay is a veteran in the business and well respected both inside and outside the ring.
He debuted in America in WCW in 1995 as the Belfast Bruiser. He instantly feuded with Lord Steven Regal in an English/Irish feud. The significance of this feud was slightly lost on the American audience and with WCW having little coverage in the UK, Finlay and his character lost momentum.
He then moved to WWE as a trainer in 2001, training Trish Stratus, one of the most successful WWE divas of all time. He also trained a certain CM Punk.
In 2006 Finlay made his return to the ring and enjoyed some early success as a great heel. Finlay would have been much, much higher on this list had it not been for the fact that he was a victim of circumstance.
With WWE deciding it was time to drop the Attitude era, Finlay got hit with all the Irish stereotypes possible. They even gave him a leprechaun. Either way I think Dave had enough and went back to training the next generation of superstars.
4. Wade Barett
Barett topped of an impressive year in WWE by being voted the most hated wrestler. As a top heel, Barrett led an invasion of NXT rookies and demolished a large chunk of the WWE roster.
Barrett stands out for his great in-ring ability and impressive move set. He also is great on the Mic and can generate plenty of heat from the crowd.
Many fancied him to take on Taker at Mania this year but again like Finlay, Barett was a victim of a company shake-up. With Vince stepping back from the wrestling side of the company, HHH had to move into the business side quicker than expected. So he got a shot at the Streak and lost giving him a natural excuse to slip into the wilderness.
Whilst he might have felt a little bit disappointed by his use at this year's Mania, Barrett has one crucial thing around his waste. The intercontinental belt. This Championship, in particular, has been used to launch the career of many a superstar but at the minute he can't win a match clean. I envision a feud with the Corre this year and finally breaking free to move on to what he deserves, a shot at the WWE title.
3. William Regal
William Regal has enjoyed an impressive tenure in WWE. I have to admit I am not putting Regal on this list for his wrestling ability or any great match he was involved in. Regal is in here for his time as "The Commissioner."
Regal is very good at playing his character as an English Gentleman with a brutal side and a tendency for over-excessive violence. He enjoyed success as a heel, winning the now de-funked European title and having a good time in the now, second-rate Tag-Team division.
Despite being very successful as a heel and getting good responses from the crowds he was laboured with the ultimate insult. He became the inaugural member of Vince McMahon's kiss-my-ass club in order to save his job.
Career low points don't come much lower than that, but with an impressive tally of four tag team championship belts, three Hardcore championship reigns, four European championships, two intercontinental Championships and a King of the Ring under his belt, Regal earns my No. 3 spot!
So far Sheamus has been lucky, I'm going to go as far as stress, so far. His character has stayed pretty much the same as it was in IWW (Irish Whip Wrestling), an Irish promotion where he started. His bleach white skin and red ginger hair make him stand out and indicate his nationality instantly. Although we are not all ginger and pale white over here.
Luckily for Sheamus he's avoided the majority of stereotyping that made Finlay a circus act as opposed to a wrestler. Sure, his name is as Irish as they come, he looks like he came straight off the potato field and he has some Gaeilge on his trunks. But Sheamus is a great wrestler and more than a gimmick.
Sheamus got a lot of heat for his obvious push to the main event scene. We fans don't usually like seeing someone get so obviously pushed with no real background to their character. If you blinked you would have missed Sheamus become Ireland's first WWE champion.
Sheamus has managed to turn a lot of people around, though; he is a hard worker and although quite poor on the Mic, he has a good solid in-ring product. His Brogue kick shows excellent timing skills and looks every bit a legitimate move.
Although like Barett he was squashed at Mania, his feud with another great superstar Daniel Bryan had the potential to be a show stealer. WWE, however, have shown faith in Sheamus by using him to build up the Sin Cara character. If he keeps working hard and putting on good matches hopefully he will return to the main event scene.
1. Davey "Boy" Smith: The British Bulldog
I would argue that there is no other UK superstar more instantly recognisable or as well" known as Davey "Boy" Smith, The British Bulldog. In his prime he was the most well known European superstar and part of the Hart Dynasty as well as holding the intercontinental belt when it meant something significant.
The Bulldog was big, powerful and well rounded in the ring and was able to play a heel or a face at any given time. His running powerslam was famous and looked the real deal, and his wildly over sized biceps made him memorable. The Bulldog found success in every part of the WWE.
WWE can thank Smith a lot for the company's major success in the European market. With WWE a huge hit on Sky Sports,The Bulldog was the face of European and English wrestling. The highlight of his career was undoubtedly his victory at Summerslam 1992. In front of 80,355 of his fellow countrymen, Smith defeated Bret Hart for the intercontinental title. The match was epic, everyone was on their feet and the victory produced one of the loudest pops in wrestling history, at least on European spoil.
Smith was a victim of his own success, however, and was released by WWE after he was found to importing human growth steroids. Really? As if we needed any proof.
He then found a home in WCW, briefly challenging for the Heavyweight title, but with WCW losing out to WWE he found himself back where it all began. On his return he dropped the colorful tights and streamers and wrestled only with a pair of jeans, in keeping with the attitude era. He appeared in a few six-man tag matches and feuded briefly with The Rock, but he had lost his sparkle and outside the ring became a troubled individual.
His wife divorced him in 2002, and Vince McMahon paid for and insisted Smith entered rehab for his addiction to painkillers. Sadly it was too little, too late and the most iconic British superstar died of a heart attack later that year. No doubt his drug abuse played its part, but Smith will always be remembered as "The British Bulldog" and in my opinion, the greatest British export to the WWE.
* Notable Exceptions
Rowdy "Rody" Piper—He was only about 13 percent Scottish and 7 percent of that was the Kilt
Dynamite Kid—Fan favourite in the UK but only one success in WWE.
Ken Shamrock—Shamrock was not Irish yet JR once referred to him as "The Angry Irishman"
Drew McIntyre—What has he actually achieved since being built as "The Next Big Thing"