GPD Special Operative: Lot of loyalty for a hired gun!
Bane: Or perhaps he's wondering why someone would shoot a man before throwing him out of a plane!
GPD Special Operative: At least you can talk. Who are you?
Bane: It doesn't matter who we are. The only thing that matters is our plan. (Man takes off the bag) No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.
That homicidal maniac was right, no one cared until he put on the mask. Can we say the same in professional wrestling? Can a mask make or break a Superstar? That conversation is for another day but while you scroll through the list, remember how important a mask can be for a person.
The wrestling mask was allegedly used for the first time when Thiebaud Bauer put one on at the 1865 World’s Fair in Paris, France. Decades later, Mort Henderson would be known as a wrestler called the “Masked Marvel” in the New York territories. Wrestling historians say the original purpose of the mask was for a wrestler to have different gimmicks in different territories. Guys like The Destroyer and Mil Mascaras would become pioneers of mask wrestlers in the 1970s. The rest is history. Enjoy.
17 The Patriot
Looking for a little patriotism in your wrestling life? Say no more. Del Wilkes, or better known as The Patriot can quell that thirst for some red, white, and blue entertainment. Wilkes would make his professional debut in 1988. With a background in football, he quickly transitioned over to the wrestling industry. He would work for AWA, GWF, AJPW, and WCW before his brief stint in the WWE in 1997.
You may remember him starting a feud with the Hart family and their anti-American gimmick. Although he spent a short time with the WWE, Wilkes had the skills to be considered one of the better wrestlers from his generation. After all, you don’t headline a Pay-Per-View with Bret Hart if you don’t have what it takes to be a good wrestler in the business.
16 The Sultan
Alofa the Polynesian Prince, Headshrinker Fatu, and J.R. Smooth are just a few of the names Rikishi went by but do you remember The Sultan? After an extensive time in the tag team division, Rikishi would become a singles competitor in 1995 for the WWE. In 1996, he would be repackaged as the masked man that never spoke.
Managed by The Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund, The Sultan would unsuccessfully challenge for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 13 against Rocky Maivia but nothing else came much out of the gimmick. Today, Rikishi is all about promoting his sons, The Usos, and he still competes from time to time. If you're ever in California and at a KNokX Pro Academy event, you may see him show up with The Samoan Dynasty.
At one time, Aguila, now known as Mr. Aguila, was one of the hottest rookies in the entire world. At the age of just 18, the WWE would hire him to revamp their Light Heavyweight division in 1997. One of his biggest rivals was Taka Michinoku, as the two would battle at WrestleMania XIV for the Light Heavyweight Championship.
He would leave the company in 2001 but not before becoming one of the youngest talents to hold a title in the WWE at the age of 21. Although he has performed in other countries, a large sum of his career has been as a member of Mexico’s CMLL and AAA since leaving the WWE. He’s only 40 years old and we doubt he stops anytime soon.
14 Aldo Montoya
You’re not confused, that’s ECW legend Justin Credible. He was also Aldo Montoya in the WWE. Vince McMahon wanted to get some international flavor into his programming in 1994. Credible was an enhancement talent at the time and McMahon decided to do something with him because of his Portuguese heritage.
Thus, Aldo Montoya was born. Also known as “The Portuguese Man of War,” Credible would still be regulated to most jobber duties. He actually would be sent to ECW during an exchange of talent and stayed a member of the promotion until 1999. Retiring from a full-time schedule in 2015, Credible still works a few dates out of the year. We’re actually surprised an appearance at Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore hasn’t happened yet.
Just like Justin Credible, Al Snow rocked a mask before becoming a more recognizable name in the industry. Snow would make his debut in 1982 for Midwest Championship Wrestling. He would move around the different territories, including ECW and Smokey Mountain Wrestling before being hired by the WWE in 1995. It was in August of that year that he would go under the lunadore-esque gimmick, Avatar, and the Japanese ninja gimmick, Shinobi.
Both were short-lived but if you were alive at the time, the characters we’re so bad that it made for hilarious entertainment. We can’t blame Snow for the terrible performances. WWE was at a crossroads between kids cartoons and having more attitude. As we all know, Snow went on to break out once the hardcore elements became popular.
12 The Killer Bees
From 1985 to 1988, B. Brian Blair and “Jumpin” Jim Brunzell were known as The Killer Bees in the WWE. The name is a play on a few things. For one, both wrestlers last names begin with the letter “B” and there was the Miami Dolphins that had a defensive unit called the Killer Bs. Allegedly, Hulk Hogan would be the one to suggest the two team up in 1985. Before teaming up, both wrestlers were single competitors.
The move to a tag team division might have paid off as more people remember the hilarious Killer Bees than either’s individual careers. Both would leave the company by the 90s but that didn’t stop them from teaming up together. Today, The Killer Bees are more popular than ever before. They are even asked to show up to Comic-Cons, wrestling conventions, and other autograph type sessions.
11 Juventud Guerrera
One of the pioneers in the Cruiserweight Division, Guerrera was a gifted talent during his days with WCW and arguably, a top the division in terms of his breathtaking talent. Yes and that’s saying a lot given he wrestled with the likes of Mysterio and Dean Malenko. He forged quite the path with WCW becoming a three-time Cruiserweight Champion along with a Tag Title stint alongside Rey Mysterio.
As with most WCW stars, his momentum was completely demolished during his WWE run when slapped with a stereotypical lame Mexican gimmick. Just imagine how much success he could have enjoyed had they put the mask back on him and had him feud with Mysterio WCW style? Now 43, “The Juice” still looks great today and remains active in the ring.
10 The Great Sasuke
Most if not all these photos are about masked wrestler that put the mask away. The Great Sasuke isn’t one of them. We just had to include him after donning his “The Great Trump” mask last year. The Great Sasuke would make his wrestling debut in 1990 and still works a full-time schedule in 2018. He’s one of the most innovative high-flyers from his generation and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
You may remember he was supposed to be the inaugural Light Heavyweight Champion in the WWE but was heard bragging how he would refuse to drop the title on American television. The WWE wouldn’t let him win the championship, instead Taka Michinoku would receive the honor. Today, The Great Sasuke still performs for Michinoku’s promotion, Michinoku Pro Wrestling.
9 Rey Mysterio Sr.
You think Rey Mysterio Jr. learned how to wrestle all by himself? If it wasn’t for his uncle, Miguel Ángel López Díaz, we may never have been able to witness one of the most electrifying entertainers of our time. After being trained by the best in Mexico, Rey Sr. would make his professional debut in 1976. He would become a pioneer of the lucha style and opened the door for many Mexican wrestlers into USA territories.
His biggest impact may have come as a coach and trainer. Negro Casas and Rey Sr. would open a gym in 1987. That first class of students included Konnan, Psicosis, Halloween, and his nephew, Rey Mysterio Jr. Today, he still appears in the wrestling scene from time to time.
8 Assassin #1
If a promotion came out with a tag team called The Assassins in this day and age, they would probably be laughed out of the venue. Especially if the wrestlers of that tag team were called Assassin #1 and Assassin #2. That wasn’t the case decades ago, and The Assassins were actually a popular team. Joseph Hamilton would make his wrestling debut in 1955 but didn’t become one-half of The Assassins until 1961.
Hamilton and his partner, Tom Renesto, would work all over the world for the biggest promotions. They were a huge success for Georgia Championship Wrestling from 1968 to 1972, but Renesto retired from the ring in 1974. Hamilton would retire from wrestling in 1988 and began working as both a promoter and trainer. Another mark he left on the industry was his son, Nick Patrick, the first ever n.W.o referee.
7 Dr. Wagner Jr.
When your father is considered a legend and one of the pioneers of Mexican professional wrestling, it’s a pretty safe bet you’re going to get into the business as well. That was the case for Dr. Wagner Jr., or otherwise known as Manuel González Rivera. He would make his debut in the industry in 1985 and donned the character, Dr. Wagner Jr. in 1987.
As a second generation Superstar, he didn’t let down the family name and has been one of the most successful wrestlers not only in Mexico but the entire globe. After thirty years with the mask on, Wagner Jr. would lose to Psycho Clown at AAA’s Triplemania XXV in 2017. Now known as King Wagner, the grizzly salt and pepper look is working very well.
6 Rey Mysterio Jr.
Most North American wrestling fans might argue that Mysterio is the most successful masked wrestler of all-time. His road to success began as a Cruiserweight with WCW connecting with the audience instantly. He became a five-time Cruiserweight Champion and a big time contributor to the show, though he was just starting to scratch the surface.
His stock blew up with the WWE and he became a monster figure especially in terms of merchandise sales. The WWE rewarded his success with multiple World Championship runs along with a Royal Rumble victory. Age 43, we recently got a glimpse of Mysterio at the 2018 Royal Rumble and many argue that he looks better than ever today. We hope to rumors are true and he returns to the ring with the WWE following WrestleMania.
5 Villano III, V, & IV
Ray Mendoza would have five sons that followed him in his footsteps as a professional wrestler. The brothers would create Los Villanos and are arguably one of the most recognized wrestling families in the industry. Villano I and II both passed away, but III, IV, and V are still kicking strong in 2018. This photo is from one of their more recent matches down in Mexico. This photo is of Villano III, Villano V, and Villano IV, left to right, before a big match last year. You should see the afterwards picture where they’re all bloodied up.
The family didn’t just wrestle in Mexico, they would also compete in the WWE and WCW throughout their careers. Although they never won major titles, they still could wrestle at a high rate during their primes.
4 Volador Jr.
Volador Jr. seems to be like wine, as in he gets finer in age. One of the best wrestlers to come from CMLL in Mexico, he would make his debut in 1996. His father, the original Volador, would train him to be one of the best and it turns out he is. He would be involved in a several unmasking matches, but he usually won them all.
That wouldn’t be the case in 2013 at CMLL 89th Anniversary Show. La Sombra, better known as Cien Almas in NXT, would be the one to unmask Volador Jr. Today, he’s still working a full-time schedule and is lighting it up. Check out NJPW and CMLL’s joint event, NJPW Presents CMLL Fantastica Mania 2018 so you can watch some of his work.
3 Mr. Wrestling II
When The United States Secret Service told Mr. Wrestling II that he would have to take off his mask to attend President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, he declined to go because he cares that much about kayfabe. It wasn’t like President Carter and he weren’t friends either - because they were and had a great relationship together. John Francis Walker debuted in 1955 and would become Mr. Wrestling II in 1972.
Legend says he hasn’t taken off the mask since and that’s why it’s so fitting to see him wear it for interviews in the 21st Century. He’s a legend under the NWA promotion and we’re glad at the age of 83, he still puts on the mask from time to time. Steve Corino was the last Mr. Wrestling character, so maybe Mr. Wrestling IV is going to spring up sometime soon.
2 Dos Caras
There are several wrestlers on this list that helped advance Mexican wrestling but maybe no one did better than Dos Caras. The father of Alberto Del Rio would make his professional debut in 1970. He’s considered by many historians and older fans to be the greatest heavyweight to ever come out of Mexico.
As the brother of the legend of legends, Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras had big shoes to fill and boy did he fill them throughout his career. At 66 years old, he could probably still take a bump. If you’re a fan of Impact Wrestling, you may have seen him accompany his son, Del Rio, to the ring at Slammiversary XV. Usually any photo involving Dos Caras is with his mask on, but as you can tell, the guy on the right isn't wearing one.
1 The Destroyer Dick Beyer
One of the greatest wrestlers to not be associated with the WWE, Beyer is still donning the mask, even at the age of 87. The New York native would make his wrestling debut in 1954 and wouldn’t retire until 1993. Originally a babyface, Beyer would use the figure-four-leg-lock before Ric Flair made it cool. He would spend a large amount of his time working for the promotion Worldwide Wrestling Associates and even beat Freddie Blassie to win the main championship.
Blassie would also be the man to convince him that wearing a mask wasn’t a bad idea. Over the decades, Beyer would entertain the fans as a heel. Mostly known as The Destroyer, he also went by the name Dr. X. Since retirement, Beyer can be seen at several conventions and old timer events.