For many years, the nation of Canada has been one of the biggest sources for many of the best wrestlers in the world. From Iron Mike Sharpe to the Hart family dynasty to the eternally feuding Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, it seems like as long as there has been professional wrestling, there have been Canadians stepping into the squared circle in most major promotions around the world. The list of Canadians who have been very successful in the sport is extensive, but after extensive debate, we’ve managed to pare it down to the absolute best of the best, the top pro wrestlers from history who call the Great White North their home.
10. Santino Marella
We’re sure this will surprise someone, but the man behind the Milan Miracle, Santino Marella, who spent years portraying a comical Italian stereotype on WWE programming, is actually a born and bred Canadian, who came up from WWE’s developmental system in 2007, winning the Intercontinental Championship in his very first match. While his comical actions, loose grasp of the English language, and sock-based finisher are what people likely most remember about him, Santino was actually a very accomplished competitor, winning the Intercontinental title twice, as well as the WWE Tag Team titles and the United States title. Of course, he was also the winner of the Miss WrestleMania battle royal at WrestleMania 25, but the less said about that, the better. During his career, Santino was consistently one of the most entertaining personalities in WWE, and he came to be beloved by the fans for his dedication to his craft, and positive attitude. While he never really had any blow-away matches or main event feuds (although he came close briefly in 2012, when he was surprise replacement for Randy Orton in that year’s World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match and acquitted himself very well), he was a constant bright spot for the company, and remains a fan favorite to this day. Marella retired from wrestling in 2014, and currently runs the Battle Arts Academy, which teaches both MMA and pro wrestling, in his home town of Toronto.
9. Sami Zayn
The man known as Sami Zayn began life in the North American independent scene under a mask, with the name El Generico (although Zayn continues to insist that Generico was his mentor, and is now running an orphanage in Mexico). Even though he was somewhat of a comedy character, El Generico wrestled all over the world, winning several prestigious titles, including the Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship, and swiftly earned the love and respect of wrestling fans everywhere. After wrestling for over a decade and becoming one of the top independant stars in the world, El Generico signed a developmental deal with WWE, and debuted for NXT under the name Sami Zayn. Zayn became an instant fan favorite in NXT, with his positive attitude, charisma, and high level of wrestling skill making him one of the most likable stars in wrestling. After a near two-year journey to the top of the promotion, Zayn attained his ultimate goal of becoming NXT Champion. Although his reign was short-lived, and a shoulder injury put him on the shelf for nearly a year shortly afterwards, Zayn would make it to the WWE main roster in early 2016, wrestling at his very first WrestleMania only weeks later, and has became one of the top babyfaces in WWE. However, you can’t talk about Sami Zayn without bringing up another top Canadian star…
8. Kevin Owens
The eternal nemesis/best friend of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens’ career began in 2000, as he quickly established himself as one of the top stars of the independent circuit . Owens’ strengths are his incredible agility despite his larger frame, his intelligence, and his dedication to his character. While it has become “cool” to cheer for other heel acts, Owens has remained amazingly consistent in his ability to remain hated, making him one of the most effective heels of the modern era. Owens first met Zayn in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), and the two were practically inseparable from that point forward, spending years either feuding or teaming with each other, and becoming bigger stars in the process. While Zayn got the call to WWE first, Owens quickly made up for lost time upon finally making it to NXT, turning on his longtime companion on Owens’ first night in the promotion, and becoming one of the company’s most hated wrestlers in an instant. Owens debuted on the WWE main roster only months after his NXT debut, already the NXT Champion, with his first feud against the legendary John Cena, whom he defeated in his first official WWE match. Since then, Owens has continued to be one of the biggest heels in the company, and an established main event star, although it seems as if he still can’t escape the specter of Sami Zayn that has accompanied him for more than a decade.
7. Lance Storm
One of the greatest technical wrestlers on the planet in his prime, Lance Storm was a graduate of the Hart Dungeon, alongside Chris Jericho, and built his reputation on being both a serious, no-nonsense competitor and a proud Canadian. He first rose to prominence in ECW as part of a tag team with Justin Credible, then earned himself a WCW contract, where at one point, he held the WCW United States, Hardcore, and Cruiserweight titles all at the same time, making him one of the hottest young stars in the promotion. Unfortunately, WCW was not long for the world, and just as Storm established himself, he was forced to start over in WWE. While Storm would win several titles in his WWE run, he never managed to make the jump to the main event, as unfair criticisms of him being “boring” and lacking charisma dogged him at every turn. After his retirement (although he still wrestles occasionally on the independent scene), Storm opened a wrestling academy in Calgary, which has provided several of the next generation of wrestlers, including WWE Superstars Emma and Tyler Breeze.
6. Owen Hart
The youngest of 12 Hart children, Owen followed his older brother Bret’s footsteps to WWE, where he spent the vast majority of his career. While Owen would never reach the heights of his more famous sibling, he still accomplished a great deal in pro wrestling, winning multiple titles, as well as the 1994 King of the Ring tournament. Owen could never truly separate himself from his brother, however, which led to the greatest matches and feud of his career, as he would shockingly defeat Bret in an incredible match at WrestleMania X, which he followed up by facing Bret in the main event of SummerSlam 1994 inside a steel cage, for the WWE Championship. After years of feuding, Owen and Bret would finally reconcile in 1996, as Bret would reform the Hart Foundation with Owen, as well as Jim Neidhart, Brian Pillman, and Davey Boy Smith. Owen would never win a World Title in his lifetime, unfortunately, and was unable to leave WWE in 1997 alongside his brother after the events of Montreal, due to a restrictive contract. Many felt that Owen was purposely held down after Montreal, but to his credit, he continued to perform at the highest level. Tragically, Owen Hart was killed in an accident during a live WWE Pay Per View in 1998. Due to strife between WWE and the Hart Family, as well as Owen’s widow in the wake of the tragedy, his legacy has been largely unaddressed by the company ever since.
5. Trish Stratus
The blonde bombshell from Toronto began life in WWE as a nearly completely untrained fitness model, and was largely expected to act as eye candy and a valet for wrestlers. However, behind the scenes, Stratus worked hard to become a legitimate wrestler, and rose to become the top female star in the company, and probably the most popular female wrestler in the world. Alongside other well-trained women like Lita, Jazz, Victoria, and Molly Holly, Stratus worked tirelessly to raise the profile of women’s wrestling in WWE beyond a sideshow act, putting on some of the best women’s matches in the history of the company by a wide margin, making the division one of the featured parts of WWE at a time when the company was at its peak in terms of popularity. Stratus remained one of WWE’s most popular performers for several years, until she retired in 2006, winning the Women’s Championship for a record seventh time in her final match. Trish was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, and still makes occasional appearances for WWE.
4. Roddy Piper
Although he spent basically his entire career playing a rowdy Scot, the Hot Rod actually hails from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and began his wrestling career in Manitoba (for non-Canadians, yes, those are all real places). After bouncing around the territories during the 70’s and early 80’s, Piper came into WWE and established himself as one of the company’s top heels and best talkers. His interview segments on Piper’s Pit have become legendary, especially the infamous time when he assaulted “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka with a coconut. Piper would be Hulk Hogan’s opponent in the main event of the very first WrestleMania, and the two would clash several times over the years. After leaving to make movies in Hollywood (most notably the cult classic They Live), Piper returned to WWE as a massive babyface, as beloved a fan favorite as he had been hated as a heel, winning the only singles title of his WWE career when he claimed the Intercontinental Title at the 1992 Royal Rumble PPV. In fact, Piper only had two title reigns over his entire WWE career, but he was so popular that he didn’t need one to be one of the main attractions of the promotion. Due to his massive contributions to the industy, Piper was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. Sadly, he passed away in his sleep in 2015, at the age of 61. UFC star Ronda Rousey, who claimed Piper as an inspiration and had been given personal permission to use the nickname “Rowdy” by Piper himself, dedicated her title match at UFC 190 to his memory.
3. Chris Jericho
The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla, best in the world at what he does, and a huge rock star, Chris Jericho has been one of the biggest stars in wrestling for the better part of two decades. After graduating from the Hart Dungeon, Jericho made his name in Mexico and Japan, as well as ECW, before bursting onto the scene in WCW as one of its top cruiserweight stars. That was really only the first part of Jericho’s legendary career, however, as he would be one of the biggest talent jumps of the Money Night Wars, making a spectacular appearance on Raw that is widely considered the best debut in wrestling history. At seemingly every turn, Jericho crafted a Hall of Fame career, setting a record by becoming a nine-time Intercontinental Champion, defeating Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night to become the first WWE Undisputed Champion, and winning a total of six World titles and 31 championships across the three major North American wrestling promotions. Outside the ring, Jericho is the lead singer of the band Fozzy, and has made several forays into the world of television and movies. However, he still regularly returns to WWE for extended runs, often completely re-inventing himself in the process, while remaining one of wrestling’s most entertaining personalities.
From humble beginnings as a trenchcoat-wearing vampire, Edge quietly rose up the ranks in WWE to become one of the company’s most decorated stars. Alongside his lifelong friend and tag team partner Christian, Edge was a seven-time WWE Tag Team Champion, ultimately finishing his career with 14 reigns with a variety of partners. Overall, Edge won 31 titles in WWE, including an incredible 11 World titles, and was the 2001 King of the Ring, as well as the winner of the 2010 Royal Rumble. Along the way, Edge also competed in some of WWE’s most memorable matches, including ladder matches, TLC matches, and the very first Money in the Bank match. In fact, Edge is one of only two Superstars so far to successfully cash in Money in the Bank twice. His feuds with John Cena and The Undertaker are legendary, and he is without a doubt one of the biggest stars in WWE history. Following his sudden retirement due to injury in 2011, Edge was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame a year later. He has also had a very successful career outside the ring, with several appearances in TV and movies, including a recurring role on the SyFy series Haven.
1. Bret Hart
When you’re talking about professional wrestling in Canada, the first name that comes to mind will almost always be Bret “Hitman” Hart. Considered by many to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Hart first made his mark in WWE as part of the legendary Hart Foundation, wrestling spectacular matches against teams like The British Bulldogs, Demolition, The Brainbusters, and Strike Force. When the Foundation split, Bret rose through the singles ranks, winning multiple Intercontinental titles before defeating Ric Flair to become WWE Champion in 1992. Overall, Hart would win the WWE Title five times, and was the face of the company for much of the 90’s. His matches with Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and his brother Owen have been among the best in wrestling history, and his run as a pro-Canadian advocate made him a national hero in his home country. Following the Montreal Screwjob, Hart went to WCW and achieved similar successes, becoming a two-time WCW World Champion, but due to the failures of the company itself, never reached the height of stardom he found in WWE. Hart’s career had almost as many hardships as it did successes, losing several family members to a variety of tragedies, and seeing his own career come to an end due to an errant kick to the head. However, he has remained a legend among wrestling fans, as well as pro wrestlers, as an uncountable number have cited Hart as their inspiration. Hart’s fame is especially true among those from the Great White North, and in 2004 he was named one of the 50 Greatest Canadians of All Time. After a long wait and a reconciliation with the company where he’d spent most of his career, Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.