Germans Love David Hasselhoff/Professional Wrestling

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  • Many American wrestlers become far, far more popular overseas than they ever were in the US -- in some cases it's hard to say that this trope applies, because they often spend enough time in another country to be foreign stars rather than American stars; still, it is astonishing how much more popular some wrestlers can be abroad than they were at their American peak. Stan Hansen is the ultimate example; a relatively obscure figure in American wrestling history, but one of the biggest stars in the history of Japanese wrestling. Recently, WWE washouts A-Train and Mark Jindrak have revived their careers in this manner; A-Train became New Japan Pro Wrestling's resident monster Giant Bernard before returning to WWE as Tensai, while Jindrak became Marco Corleone in CMLL.
    • As popular as Mick Foley and Terry Funk are in the US and other countries, they are bigger stars in Japan than anywhere.
  • This was responsible for (briefly) resurrecting Hulk Hogan's career as a face in the WWE. When they set up the match between Hogan and The Rock in shows being filmed in the US, Hogan was clearly playing the heel (coming off his stint in WCW) and Rock the face. The actual match was at Wrestlemania X8 in Toronto, where Hogan was so over with the crowd, mostly due to nostalgic reasons, that the announcers were clearly stunned by the crowd's reaction in treating Hogan as the face and the Rock as, at best, the Worthy Opponent.
  • Bret Hart is one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE's European and Asian markets (moreso than Hogan or Austin), due to being the main TV star when WWE started exporting its programming outside of North America. Similarly, Dave Bautista was a big star in their Mexican markets due to the perception that he was a Mexican-American (he's actually Filipino).
  • MMA is a curious example. In Japan, it's strongly tied to professional wrestling (thanks to the long legacy of Antonio Inoki), promoted as professional wrestling, sometimes features shoot (real) and worked (fake) matches on the same card, and it's no big deal for a "shoot" fighter to "work" a loss to build another star. In the United States, UFC runs like hell from any association with professional wrestling or implications of fixed fights, and former professional wrestlers are often hated by the MMA community, regardless of how good at MMA they are, such as former UFC heavyweight champion and WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.
    • Ironically, UFC (and mixed martial arts itself) may had never hit mainstream success if it wasn't for UFC 40, which was headlined by Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, who had started out in pro wrestling, moved to MMA, but became popular after his stint in WWE during the Attitude Era pro wrestler and later became a household name at that time thanks to 20/20 and the WWF.
    • And the lead-in to the first season of The Ultimate Fighter which featured UFC's second beard growing moment? MONDAY. NIGHT. RAW.
  • Bob Sapp, in Japan. Cracked said it best:
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Bob Sapp was the center of Japan’s media. He had a music video, endorsed hundreds of products, and their tiny people lined up for the honor of being eaten by him. He was the Japanese equivalent of the ‘85 Bears, Crocodile Dundee, Muhammad Ali, and the California Raisins all in one.

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  • Yoshihiro Akiyama. In the UFC, he's an up-and-coming middleweight with an exciting intro who has won "Fight of the Night" bonuses in all of his appearances. In his home country of Japan, he's considered a disgraceful cheat after greasing his legs in a fight with legend Kazushi Sakuraba.
  • This even happened with different regions in the same country during the territorial days of wrestling. For example, Bill Watts built the Louisiana-Oklahoma-Arkansas Mid-South territory around big, grizzled he-man wrestlers. At a loss as to how to turn around his business during a down period (1983), he brought in a bunch of young pretty-boy tag team wrestlers and a new booker from the Memphis territory, which had a surfeit of those wrestlers at the time. With booker Bill Dundee providing what had been, to Memphis, comedy finishes (such as an abortion known as the "Blind Man's Battle Royal," an all-blindfold match treated as comedy fodder in Memphis; doing the same match in New Orleans had fans driving ambulances to the arena, sure that someone would be seriously hurt or dead by the end), Watts was able to make 1984 his most profitable year in the history of the territory.
  • Japanese professional wrestling (particularly in the '90s) had a dedicated fanbase among American Smart Marks, due to the general low quality of the American product at the time. Independent group Ring of Honor even brought the top stars of Pro Wrestling NOAH to the States to appeal to this crowd, and before that, ECW (the original) brought in a number of veterans from Japanese garbage promotions like FMW and IWA.