10 Best Foreign World Champions, Ranked

Being crowned World Champion in pro wrestling is an incredible honor. The title of World Champion carries a lot of responsibility with it. For that reason, only the elite performers in the industry are even considered for the position. In years prior, the World Champion traveled from territory to territory defending his title. On occasion, the champion would even travel to different continents, which is why Ric Flair would commonly refer to himself as the "World's Champion."

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In some cases, international competitors would travel to the U.S. to challenge the World Champion. In other cases, international performers would put down roots in America and work their way up to the top title. Either way, only a select few foreigners have had the honor of becoming World Champion.

10 Chris Benoit

Pro wrestling history was forever altered with the end of Chris Benoit's life and the circumstances surrounding the entire incident. Unfortunately, apart from the obvious losses that day, a big part of wrestling history was lost with Benoit. Understandably, WWE has done everything in its power to distance itself from Benoit.

However, that has come at the cost of essentially erasing one of the most emotional World Championship wins ever. Benoit would never capture another World Championship but for those fans who were lucky enough to live through it, Benoit's World Title win at WrestleMania XX will remain a lasting memory.

9 The Iron Sheik

In pro wrestling, the term "transitional champion" has always had a negative connotation attached to it. It indicates that a performer wasn't truly worthy of being World Champion, rather just a means to an end and it downplays the accomplishment significantly. However, the argument can be made that a transitional champion is just as important as any other.

In the case of The Iron Sheik, there's perhaps no greater transitional champion ever. In 1983, Sheik ended Bob Backlund's 4-year reign as WWE Champion, essentially ending an era. Less than a month later, Sheik would drop the championship to Hulk Hogan, kicking off perhaps pro wrestling's greatest era. Without The Iron Sheik, the transition from Backlund to Hogan may not have gone as smoothly

8 Andre The Giant

Andre The Giant is viewed by many fans as the greatest giant in wrestling history. Hailing from France, Andre was a mainstay atop the WWE card for over a decade. A fan favorite for most of his career, Andre shocked the wrestling world by turning heel and joining Bobby Heenan's stable in 1987. Andre's motivation was his pursuit of the WWE Championship that had always seemed to elude him.

RELATED: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant: 10 Things Fans Forget About Their Rivalry 

Andre was unsuccessful at WrestleMania III when he attempted to become WWE Champion. However in 1988, at The Main Event, Andre finally defeated Hulk Hogan to become WWE Champion. His reign would be the shortest in company history, as he immediately forfeited the title to Ted DiBiase. Despite that, Andre etched his name in WWE Championship history.

7 Masahiro Chono

In 1992, amidst the controversy of Ric Flair leaving WCW for WWE, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was vacated and held up. In a move never seen before, or since, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship would be awarded to the winner of NJPW's G1 Climax tournament. In conjunction with WCW, NJPW held perhaps it's most integrated G1 ever, including the likes of Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, and other WCW wrestlers.

Masahiro Chono would emerge from one of the most stacked fields ever to win the G1 Climax and claim the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Chono would become only the second Japanese NWA World Heavyweight Champion ever. Chono would lose the title to The Great Muta in 1993.

6 Kofi Kingston

Kofi Kingston is the ultimate poster boy for perseverance in pro wrestling. After a promising start to his career, the Ghana native plateaued in WWE's mid-card for years. After forming the wildly successful New Day stable with Big E and Xavier Woods in 2014, Kofi enjoyed his highest level of popularity.

In 2019, an unlikely series of events saw Kofi thrust into the singles spotlight and ignited "Kofimania." At WrestleMania 35, Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan to become one of the most deserving WWE Champions ever. His inspirational win immediately catapulted him into the upper echelon of modern-day WrestleMania moments.

5 Edge

Canada has provided the pro wrestling industry with some of the absolute best performers in the history of the business. In 1998, the next in the line of great Canadian performers entered the arena in the form of Edge. From the start, it was obvious that Edge had the potential to be a main event star. After a successful run in WWE's tag team and midcard divisions, Edge seemed poised to take the next step.

In 2006, at New Year's Revolution, Edge cashed in the very first Money In The Bank contract on John Cena to win his first WWE Championship. From that point forward, "The Rated R Superstar" would embark on a Hall Of Fame run as WWE's top heel.

4 Trish Stratus

Women's wrestling hasn't always been looked upon as being on par with their male counterparts. That notion was perhaps never truer than during WWE's Attitude Era. For as much praise as the era receives from some fans, it can be rather cringe-worthy when looking back and seeing how some women were booked and portrayed. That makes it even more impressive that former fitness model and proud Canadian, Trish Stratus, thrived in such an era.

RELATED: 5 Ways Charlotte Flair Is The Best Women's Wrestler Ever (& 5 Ways It's Trish Stratus)

Initially booked to be nothing more than eye candy, Stratus worked hard to master her craft and eventually became arguably the greatest female competitor in WWE history. In 2004, Status made history becoming the first woman to ever defend the WWE Women's Championship in the main event of Monday Night Raw.

3 Chris Jericho

When WWE decided to crown pro wrestling's first-ever Undisputed Champion, not many fans considered Chris Jericho a legitimate threat to walk away with the title. With the likes of The Rock, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and Kurt Angle also in contention, Jericho seemed like a longshot, at best.

However, at Vengeance 2001, Chris Jericho shocked the world by defeating The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in consecutive matches to become the first-ever WWE Undisputed Champion. Jericho would use the momentum from his historic win to establish himself as arguably the greatest Canadian performer of all time.

2 Bruno Sammartino

Before WWE became the global juggernaut that it is today, it was a successful regional promotion operating in the New York market. In that coveted territory, one performer was the undisputed king of pro wrestling, Bruno Sammartino. From 1963 to 1971, the Italian born Sammartino reigned as the WWE Champion. That reign remains the longest in WWE history.

As if Sammartino's first reign wasn't impressive enough, he followed it up with yet another long reign. Sammartino's second reign as champion was only half as long as his first but still lasted over three years, from 1973 to 1977. Sammartino's impressive reigns are unlikely to ever be matched.

1 Bret "The Hitman" Hart

When it comes to international superstars, there's perhaps never been a bigger star than Bret "The Hitman" Hart. The Calgary native wasn't just beloved in the United States and his home country of Canada, but all across the globe. Hart was perhaps the most popular WWE Superstar ever in Europe. This fact was solidified at SummerSlam 1992 when Hart and "The British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith main evented the show at Wembley Stadium for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, bypassing the prestigious WWE Championship.

In 1997, when Hart turned heel in the United States, he was somehow able to maintain his God-like status in Canada. Even in retirement, Hart remains one of the most beloved pro wrestling figures internationally.

NEXT: 10 Foreign WWE Wrestlers We All Forgot About 

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