Wrestling has existed as a sport since the time of the ancient Greeks, but the wrestling industry as we know it today has only been around for about 70 years or so, and in that time audiences have been treated to a variety of different in-ring personas. These personas, which are also known as gimmicks, are created for certain wrestlers to adopt a specific behavior as well as distinct traits that are meant to garner some form of interest from the fans. It is because of gimmicks that fans have been treated to the likes of Rowdy Roddy Piper, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ric Flair, John Cena, and Bray Wyatt; but unlike other wrestlers, their gimmicks did not involve them having to wear a mask.
Wearing a mask in wrestling is not a bad thing, in fact there have been multiple successful masked wrestlers who have performed all over the world, with Japan and Latin America being the havens for masked wrestling. In North America, masks are usually used to repackage an already established wrestler who was not all that popular with the fans, and sometimes it works, but a lot of the time it does not. Possibly the most important part of a gimmick involving a mask, is the design of the mask itself, and throughout the history of wrestling, there have been some truly great masks that draw in the fans, as well as some terrible ones which fans can deem dull or simply unappealing. It is the purpose of this article to show seven of the worst masks in wrestling history, as well as eight of the best.
15. Best: Mankind
Mick Foley will forever be known as both a hardcore legend and as one of the most memorable wrestlers to ever compete in the industry, and based on his body of work and accomplishments, he is a well deserved member of WWE’s Hall of Fame. Foley joined WWE in 1996, and prior to that, he had already established himself as a hardcore specialist in both ECW and WCW, but before making his official debut with WWE, he was given a choice of character designs for a new gimmick, and chose the one which became Mankind. For those too young to remember, Mankind was a deranged individual, who enjoyed pain, who abused himself, and who would squeal and shriek “mommy” during matches. What really helped to sell the whole deranged gimmick, was the trademark leather mask that Mankind wore, because it looked like a muzzle that one would place over the face of a mental patient.
14. Worst: Abyss
TNA has had financial woes for several years now, which is unfortunate because the talent they do possess should be good enough for them to turn some sort of profit, so hopefully the recent influx of money will allow the company to become more stable. As of now, TNA has still produced one masked wrestler of significant note, and that wrestler would be Abyss, who has been with the company since 2002. For most of his time in TNA, Abyss has served as an unhinged character, and his actions both in and out of the ring are similar to that of one of the alter egos of one of wrestling’s hardcore legends. Now, Abyss’ mask is not that bad, but anyone can tell just by looking at it, that it was inspired by the iconic mask Mankind wore, except it did not look as good as Mankind’s did, which made it more of an imitation than an homage; and imitations are never better than the original.
13. Best: El Torito
In September of 2013, the WWE Universe was introduced to the second animal themed masked wrestler to appear on this list, in the shape of the small Luchador by the name of Mascarita Dorada, otherwise known as El Torito. Before signing with WWE earlier on in 2013, the man who would be placed in the little bull outfit and become the mascot for Los Matadores, worked on the independent circuit as well as Mexican lucha promotions. He may have not actually wrestled that much while in WWE, but whenever he had to perform, he did so quite well; but once Los Matadores were done as a stable, he was shortly released by the company. There may have not been a place for El Torito once his trio disbanded, but at least he was able to provide fans with the best bull themed mask wrestling has seen so far.
12. Worst: Vader
This list entry has been marred by some debate, as there are some who believe that the thing on Vader’s face was just a piece of wrestling gear, but there are others, including WWE who say that it is indeed a mask. For those who may not remember him, Vader was considered to be a super heavyweight who was capable of performing aerial moves like the moonsault, and in his time with both WWE and WCW, he became a 3-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion and a 1-time United States Champion, while also challenging for the WWF World Heavyweight title multiple times. The WWE itself may say this a mask, but even they can admit that the debate around it is valid, especially since it does in fact look like a piece of headgear that was simply modified for appearance sake.
11. Best: Jushin Thunder Liger
Japan has some truly talented wrestlers, and as this list will show, the country also produces some of the better and more interesting masks in the entire industry, and one of the better ones is that worn by the wrestler known as Jushin Thunder Liger. For those who are unaware, Liger has been wrestling professionally since the mid 1980s, where for most of that time he has performed for New Japanese Pro Wrestling and on the independent circuit; but he also competed in WCW, TNA, and Ring of Honor. By all accounts, he is probably one of the best technical and aerial wrestlers who have ever lived, a statement driven home by the facts that he more or less invented the shooting star press, and that he basically turned WCW’s cruiserweight division into a spectacle. Today, Liger continues to wrestle here and there, but when he does, he does so with some variation of his great mask which always looks superbly demonic in nature.
10. Worst: The Conquistadors
This list may appear to focus solely on individual masked wrestlers, but there have also been tag teams which have consisted of two masked individuals, with the aforementioned Los Matadores and the Lucha Dragons being the most recent examples. This entry will showcase our first tag team with The Conquistadors, a team that many of you may not remember that well due to the fact that they primarily served as jobbers who never really amounted to anything within WWE’s tag team division. The team originally debuted in 1987, and their gimmick was that of a foreign heel team from Puerto Rico, and their costumes consisted of golden spandex bodysuits topped off with golden masks. Now, gold colored masks may sound like a good idea, but the end result just made the masks look hideous.
9. Best: Tiger Mask
The world of wrestling has seen its fair share of animal themed masks, and this list will showcase several, with the first being a tiger themed mask which has been worn, in one form or another, by multiple Japanese wrestlers over the years who all went by the same ring name: Tiger Mask. The original Tiger Mask went by the name Satoru Sayama, and he started wearing the mask in 1981 while still in Japan, where his in-ring capabilities caught the eye of the WWE who briefly acquired him in 1982. Tiger Mask would ultimately spend roughly one year with WWE before returning to Japan, where Sayama continued to wrestle full-time until retiring at only 28 years old. Since his retirement, there have so far been 4 other Japanese wrestlers who have assumed the Tiger Mask identity, and each of them have sported a slightly different variation of the mask, but no matter the variation, the mask has always looked great.
8. Worst: The Shadows
In this entry we have The Shadows, who are the second and final tag team to appear on this list, and as it turns out, this brief existing team has a connection to the previously mentioned Conquistadors, as Jose Luis Rivera was a founding member of both teams. The Shadows made their WWE debut in March of 1987, but by the time October came along, the duo were no longer shown on television and quietly disbanded, which is not really that much of a bad thing considering that they wore terrible masks. The Conquistadors may have had bad looking golden masks, but at least their masks gave off some character, something which cannot be said about The Shadows’ masks, which were a dull grey that possessed an unimaginative black symbol. In the world of wrestling, you are done if the fans do not like your look, and who can blame the fans in 1987 for not being enamoured by the team’s lackluster appearance.
7. Best: Hayabusa
With this entry we have Hayabusa, another Japanese wrestler who was unable to really make a name for himself in North America, but who was also very highly regarded in his home country; and as it turns out, he was very good friends with Jushin Thunder Liger. Hayabusa spent virtually his entire career with Japan’s Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, where he was known for his impressive aerial maneuvers, maneuvers which were greatly emphasized by the fantastic mask he wore. His mask always possessed two ribbons which were sewn into its back, and its overall appearance drew inspiration from the falcon, a bird of prey that can glide effortlessly through the air to catch its prey, which is exactly what Hayabusa would do during his matches. It is because of just how good this mask looks, that it is the top animal inspired mask on this list.
6. Worst: The Repo Man
If one of us were ever visited by a repo man, it would not be a fun experience, seeing as it is their job to take away one or more of your possessions if you are unable to make some sort of payment. A repo man usually looks like an average guy with a pickup truck, but when the WWE introduced a character known as The Repo Man, they for some reason decided to give him a rope and a mask to help hide his identity. As it turns out, the man behind this awful mask was Barry Darsow, and surprisingly, his Repo Man gimmick lasted for nearly two years between 1991 and 1993, where in that time he participated in the Royal Rumble and in a WrestleMania match. For those who do not know what The Lone Ranger looks like, he wears the exact same mask that The Repo Man wore, a look that may have somewhat suited a cowboy, but which definitely does not suit a modern day profession.
5. Best: Kane’s Original Mask
In the summer of 1997, fans were reintroduced to Glenn Thomas Jacobs when he was brought out as Kane, the son of Paul Bearer and The Undertaker’s half-brother; and since his debut as Kane almost two decades ago, he has been called a demon and The Big Red Machine. Throughout his tenure as Kane, Jacobs has been seen as a dominant force, especially during the Attitude Era, and because of that he has managed to win multiple championships including the World Heavyweight and WWE Championship titles. During the Attitude Era though, Kane truly embodied a demon, and it was mostly thanks to his original mask, which looked so menacing that it truly instilled fear in some of WWE’s youngest fans, which is why it is odd that the company would greenlight less impactful masks like the one he wears today.
4. Worst: The Undertaker
Mark Calaway, otherwise known as The Undertaker, made his WWE debut in November of 1990, which currently makes him the company’s longest serving in-ring competitor, and he will likely go down as one of the most important wrestlers in WWE’s history. The Undertaker may have had his biker phase, but he will always be remembered for his horror-themed gimmick which has him associated with the supernatural, and which sees him use various scare tactics against his opponents. There was a time though, that Undertaker sported a mask of his own, similar to what his ‘brother’ Kane used, except for the fact that it was entirely white in color. This mask was incorporated into a feud with Mabel and Yokozuna, and although it looks fine, it simply did not suit Undertaker’s look which was much more intimidating without the mask than with it; and it is because of how it made Undertaker look that it is a part of the worst category.
3. Best: Mortis
Chris Kanyon was a wrestler who spent most of his time with WCW, and after Vince McMahon bought the company, Kanyon was one of the wrestlers that he brought over to the WWE. Kanyon may not be remembered for ever having worn a mask, but for a short time he did, although it was when he went by a completely different name. In 1997, Kanyon was repackaged into a masked individual named Mortis, a Latin word which literally means death, and it was a truly exquisite mask which really did look like the embodiment of death. The mask possessed a well made skull portion which paired very well with the rest of Mortis’ look, but there is one negative thing about this mask, and that would be that it was not even used for a full year before being shelved when WCW who decided to simply drop the angle.
2. Worst: Kendo Nagasaki
The title of worst mask in wrestling history, belongs to the mask worn by Kendo Nagasaki, who despite the name, is not Japanese, in fact, he is not even related to anyone from Japan. Peter Thornley is a native of the UK, and he based this gimmick after the story of a Japanese samurai who had a mysterious past, and who had special powers revolving around healing and hypnosis; and it was the hypnosis aspect of the story that he seemingly based the design of his mask on. Most of the time that Nagasaki wrestled, he did so with a mask which was completely red in color, except for the white symbol on the front; but unfortunately, this mask does not say ‘ancient samurai warrior’ it says that there should have been more time spent on actually designing it.
1. Best: Rey Mysterio
It is fair to assume that most of you are not surprised to see Rey Mysterio’s name in the number one spot for the best mask in wrestling history–in fact, it would be surprising not to see him in the number one spot. We all love Rey Mysterio; he is a great wrestler who has performed incredibly well for every company he has been apart of, and he is a prime example that smaller wrestlers can indeed become top guys in the industry. Ever since he debuted with ECW, Mysterio has always competed with some variation of his trademark mask, all of which are incredible in their own right, and it is because of the fact that Mysterio possesses so many great mask variations, that his mask surpasses all the other great ones seen on this list.
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