The world of pro-wrestling is full of talented men and women that go to great lengths to condition their bodies and minds for the sole purpose of our entertainment. The in-ring work is vital, but almost as important, if not sometimes more important, is what happens on the microphone. The characters that are created in the WWE and other wrestling companies are what engage us and make us care about what happens in the ring. There are some wrestlers that can just dial-up their personalities and be amplified versions of themselves in the ring, but there are still others that flat out portray a fictional character. These characters can sometimes seem silly to non-wrestling fans, but to the marks they are as important as can be. When a wrestler puts on a mask or their signature face paint, they are transformed into the characters that we all know and love.
There was a time not so long ago, before Kayfabe was broken, that fans may not ever know what a wrestler looks like under their mask or behind their paint. When the Demon Kane appeared in WWE back in the Attitude Era, the fans probably never thought that they would get a peek at the monster behind the mask, but thankfully we have had the opportunity to see the real people behind the characters.
Here we have researched, scoured and tirelessly gathered pictures that reveal the real people behind characters like The Boogeyman, the dreaded Doink the Clown, The Kiss Demon and others.
20 Without Face Paint: The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior would define a generation of wrestling fans as much as Sting or Hulk Hogan. The Warrior came to the ring all pumped-up, and despite a limited move set he was still a widespread fan favorite character. The man behind the paint was James Hellwig, although he would eventually legally change his name to Warrior. The man behind the Ultimate Warrior character was known for often being as intense outside of the ring as he was in it. This would lead to him having a very tumultuous relationship with Vinnie Mac’s muscle factory over the years. He spent a lot of time trash talking other pro wrestlers on the internet over the years, but he would finally be accepted back into the fold in 2014 for his Hall of Fame induction. He would also appear on Monday Night RAW. Tragically, the Warrior would pass away just one day later.
19 Behind the Mask: Kane
There aren’t many masked big men that compare to the Demon Kane. He made his debut as the twisted behemoth brother of The Undertaker and an ultimate heel during the Attitude Era. He didn’t speak for a long time, but he eventually began to talk and even removed his mask for a time. Glenn Jacobs is the man behind the Demon mask and he’s surprisingly eloquent. In fact, he is involved in politics in his home state of Tennessee. He is running for the 2017 mayoral seat in Knox County. He also runs an insurance agency with his wife, Crystal, based in Knoxville. Certainly not the resume you’d expect from a giant pro-wrestler, but under the mask is a very different person than we see in the ring.
18 Without Face Paint: Doink the Clown
One of the more interesting parts of being a wrestler that hides behind face paint is that you can become the thing of nightmares. A creepy old clown is definitely one of those horrific ideas that should have gone over far better than it did. Doink the Clown first appeared in the WWE back in 1992. The miserable clown was originally portrayed by Matt Osborne and he is the one we are featuring here, though quite a few other wrestlers would come to portray the character over the years. The idea for the character was actually conceived by Road Warrior Hawk from the Legion of Doom. Doink was one of those characters that initially seemed a bit silly, but was quickly rather disturbing. Happy clowns are bad enough, but disgruntled ones? Forget about it.
17 Behind the Mask: Sin Cara
The masked wrestler known as Sin Cara is a WWE character, so when the original person that portrayed him, Luis Urive, left the WWE to work in Mexico. Once he was done with the company the WWE put Jorge Arias, formerly known as WWE Superstar Hunico, in the mask. It is Arias that we have featured here. The masked Superstar got a big push in the years 2011 to 2013 and was even showcased in a Scooby-Doo animated feature. In fact, he has the distinction of being the only WWE Superstar to be accompanied to the ring by Scooby-Doo. He was drafted to Monday Night RAW and took part in the new Cruiserweight division, but is currently on the Smackdown Live roster, but has yet to make many appearances.
16 Without Face Paint: Papa Shango
There are a few wrestling gimmicks that have been endlessly lampooned by the fans over the years. We’ve had more than our share of gimmicks that now seem pretty silly, but Papa Shango stands out as one that the fans still revile. The evil witch doctor would put curses on his opponents and bring them into “the dark world of Papa Shango.” Personally, I thought the character was just fine, but the marks pretty much hate it. The fact that Charles Wright would eventually work the Godfather gimmick during the Attitude Era and get over like a boss probably has something to do with that. No matter where you fall on the Papa Shango gimmick, there is no denying that Wright put his all into the character like a real pro.
15 Behind the Mask: Jushin "Thunder" Liger
There are few legends in the wrestling industry that have the kind of reputation and mystique of Jushin “Thunder” Liger. The man behind the mask, Keiichi Yamada, got his start in wrestling back in 1984. He has spent the vast majority of his career over in Japan, but he did have stints in WCW, TNA, Ring of Honor and even NXT in the United States. He sports a rather elaborate garb, including his signature mask. Liger made his first WWE appearance at the NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in a match against Tyler Breeze. This has been Liger’s only WWE match to this date. Liger remains a legend and a hero to many that grew up watching his exploits. Now that New Japan is starting to invade the United States, perhaps wrestlers like Liger will finally gain the popularity here that they deserve.
14 Without Face Paint: Legion of Doom
Yeah, I know that smarks like to call them The Road Warriors, as a nod to their NWA and WCW runs. This allows them to smugly prove how diverse their wrestling knowledge is, but to me they will always be The Legion of Doom. I didn’t grow-up with cable television, so I wasn’t familiar with them until their WWE debut. Hawk and Animal were two of the most legitimately tough guys on the roster at the time. The entire WWE was a steroid era muscle factory, but those two aways came off as more legitimately tough. Their giant footballs pads covered in spikes didn’t hurt their image either, or that deadly finisher the “Doomsday Device.” Hawk passed away back in 2003 at the young age of 46. Animal was still wrestling up until his retirement from the ring in 2014.
13 Behind the Mask: Vader
The saga of the man known to wrestling fans as Big Van Vader is still unfolding today. One of the most intimidating big men of all time, the man behind the Vader mask was Leon White. Vader is a legend not only in the United States, but in Japan as well. He is infamous for his stiff in-ring work and his agility despite his size. He has worked for WCW, TNA and of course the WWE. Vader was recently given a very poor health diagnosis, but is still doing his best to power through and is dedicated to working in wrestling until he dies. He will go down in history as a three time WCW World Heavyweight Championship, but was never able to gain a title in the WWE. Hopefully, we will see a lot more of Leon in the years to come.
12 Without Face Paint: Sting
The Icon Sting has had one of the most complete careers in the business. He started out as a young man tag teaming with the man that would become the Ultimate Warrior. Sting quickly became the young, hip babyface in paint on the WCW roster and stayed that way until things began to shift in the mid-1990s. Sting would then reinvent himself to the persona that would solidify him the history books, “Crow Sting”. The white and black paint would become synonymous with the Stinger throughout his WCW, TNA and now WWE careers. The real man behind the paint is Steve Borden. A true traditionalist, he is rarely seen without his trademark face paint. Sting sadly had to retire from in-ring action last year, but the fans won’t soon forget Sting.
11 Behind the Mask: Mankind
The man known as Mankind was a unique WWE Superstar. He debuted as a twisted and deviant character that lived in a boiler room. He would eventually become the ultimate babyface, an unexpected Attitude Era game changer and one of the most respected wrestlers of all-time. Mankind was the creation of Mick Foley and the masked weirdo that pulled out his own hair. He would eventually win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and pull the viewership over from WCW at a critical time in the wars. We can’t mention Mankind, of course, without also mentioning that 22 foot angled drop off the Hell in a Cell when he was facing The Undertaker. He’s the Hardcore Legend for a reason and we love him for it.
10 Without Face Paint: Goldust
He’s the son of a son of a plumber. Goldust is better known by his real name, Dustin Runnels. He spent the early part of his career as “The Bizarre One”, doing his best to make his opponents uncomfortable with his sexual ambiguity. When he debuted in the 1990s it was a very controversial character. He would go on to have a long and illustrious career, often morphing his face paint design and his status of heel or babyface. He went to TNA for awhile as he dealt with substance abuse issues. Thankfully, he got involved with DDT Yoga, as many Superstars have, and it helped encourage him to change his life. Now, Goldust has been back in the WWE on the RAW roster for quite a few years. He’s currently gone back to his old heel ways and is feuding with former tag team partner R-Truth.
9 Behind the Mask: Psicosis
Psicosis is one of the more well known Mexican wrestlers that crossed-over to the big promotions. The man behind the mask pictured here, Dionicio Castellanos Torres, had stints in WCW and the WWE over the years. He was the two time WCW Cruiserweight Champion and has held titles in other promotions across the world. Psicosis would have feuds with other big name Cruiserweights, like Rey Mysterio and the often overlooked by history Juventud Guerrera. He would eventually join the WWE for a short run in 2005 as a part of the faction, The Mexicools, along with Super Crazy and Juventud Guerrera. He would be released from the company due to an incident with the police where he was arrested for stealing a car at gunpoint.
8 Without Face Paint: SheRri Martel
She was once the WWE Women’s Champion. She would valet and manage major talent from Harlem Heat, Shawn Michaels and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase to the "Macho Man" Randy Savage. She was often known in her career as Sheri Martel or Sensational Sherri, but would also gain the moniker of “Scary Sherri” during her run with Macho Man. Sherri Russell trained as a professional wrestler at the Fabulous Moolah’s school and spent some time in Japan. Her reputation as a party animal soon got her booted by Moolah, but she went on to work for AWA, WWE WCW and TNA before her untimely death from a drug overdose in 2007. Sherri would often be seen with as much eye make up as the Ultimate Warrior, sometimes consisting of glitter or spider webs.
7 Behind the Mask: Ultimo Dragon
Ultimo Dragon is a legendary Japanese wrestler. The man behind the mask, Yoshihiro Asai, is a well respected performer that has spent time in Japan, Mexico and in the United States with WCW and the WWE. He won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship back in 1996, which he eventually lost to Dean Malenko. Dragon would also carry the WCW World Television Championship and another run as the Cruiserweight Champ. He would join the WWE in 2003 to chase his dream of having a WrestleMania moment, which he would eventually obtain. Dragon quickly returned to Japan and eventually Mexico after that and has been there ever since. He worked for New Japan for a time and is currently a free agent, working various promotions in North Korea and Japan.
6 Without Face Paint: Finn Balor
He’s the face of the new generation. In fact, he’s two faces. You never know if you’re going to get Finn Balor or The Demon King. Fergal Devitt is an Irish born pro-wrestler that made a major name for himself over in Japan. He started the Bullet Club faction that has quickly taken the world by storm, much in the way that the nWo did during the Monday Night War. He worked in Japan as Prince Devitt and had some legendary matches. Then, he was brought into NXT and is now on the main roster of Monday Night RAW. Balor will sometimes come out as himself, but on special and often random occasions we will get the fully body painted Demon, which is always a sight to see.
5 Behind the Mask: Mortis
The legendary career of Chris Kanyon came to an end all too soon with his tragic suicide, but when he was with us Kanyon gave it his all. He spent a time in the WCW as the super-creepy masked character named Mortis. It was a WCW answer to The Undertaker and Kane. Mortis tried to join Raven’s Flock, but was unable to do so. Kanyon would shed the Mortis persona and start feuding with Raven as a result, which lead to some fantastic and underrated matches. Kanyon would be a part of the original 2001 WWE/WCW Invasion angle, but would go on to be very underutilized by the WWE. He was released from his WWE contract in 2004 and eventually retired from in-ring work in 2007.
4 Without Face Paint: The Boogeyman
You may remember The Boogeyman from your nightmares. The wicked wrestler from the WWE had a run from 2005 to 2009 in the WWE and eventually ECW. His signature move was to shove live worms in his mouth, all the while sporting a devilish grin. The man behind the Boogeyman is Martin Wright. The now 52 year old wrestler still works the indie circuit and he can be seen appearing on WWE programming from time to time, most recently making an appearance on the WWE Network prank show, Swerved. The painted demon actually got his break in the WWE thanks to his time on the Tough Enough reality series. He didn’t win, but the powers that be at the WWE saw potential in Wright and signed him to OVW.
3 Behind the Mask: Rey Mysterio
The little guy in the luchadore mask known as Rey Mysterio is one of the most highly regarded luchadore wrestlers in America. Mysterio, real name Oscar Gutierrez, started his career in Paul Heyman’s ECW and was soon a high flyer in WCW. Although under appreciated like a lot of his cruiserweight bretheran, he soon found himself in the WWE after Vinnie Mac acquired his competition. He had runs as the Cruiserweight Champion, Intercontinental Champion and even the World Heavyweight Champion. He made his high risk move, the 619, a household name amongst wrestling fans. He currently works for Lucha Underground and is enjoying a veteran status in a company that has a less demanding schedule than the WWE. There are no current plans for him to return to the WWE, but you never do know what Royal Rumble season may bring.
2 Without Face Paint: The Kiss Demon
The Kiss Demon was one of those absurdly gimmicky celebrity crossovers that the WCW became infamous for. It was during the era when KISS was back on tour and setting the world on fire, selling out all over the country. They had a new flow of merchandise, including toys, and Eric Bischoff saw dollar signs. He signed a deal with the band to theme a wrestler after the Gene Simmons Demon persona. The character never got a fair push, because Bischoff was booted out of the company before he made his in-ring debut. The segment that featured KISS playing a live concert on WCW programming was also the lowest rated segment of the era. The Kiss Demon was portrayed on screen by Dale Torborg, who now works for the Chicago White Sox as a conditioning coordinator.
1 Behind the Mask: El Torito
El Torito is one of the coolest little people to make an appearance in the WWE for some time. He would accompany the tag team of Los Matadores to the ring as their mascot. He would eventually get involved in the matches. No one knows his real name, as he takes the traditions of the Mexican Luchadore very seriously, but we do know that he also wrestles in Mexico under the moniker of Mascarita Dorada. El Torito would end up being involved in a number of feuds with Hornswoggle and 3MB . He even beat the current WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal, clean in a match. He had a three year stint in the WWE from 2013 to 2016. El Torito may not be in the WWE anymore, but he certainly was fun to watch while he was.