The art of the gimmick in WWE can make one’s career sink or swim. Many wrestlers through the years have had a cosmetic gimmick. There are wrestlers that wear masks for various reasons. Luchadors in Mexico have a tradition of wrestling in colorful masks that transferred over to the United States when WCW started hiring these performers for the Cruiserweight Division. Other wrestlers have worn the mask for the cool impact of adding a mystery behind it. Face paint is another cosmetic gimmick used by wrestlers to spice things up with both mystery and cool factors adding to the overall character.
Wrestlers will try to protect this gimmick for the entirety of their career. No one wants to have their mystery unwrapped for minimal benefit. Finn Balor and Kane have been two of the few performers to have success with or without their gimmick. We'll take a look at a plethora of wrestlers that are either known for wrestling under a mask or with face paint. Many of these wrestlers have never officially been unmasked or unpainted, but pictures of their real identities exist. This is what these fifteen wrestlers look like behind the gimmick without their mask or face paint.
15 Sin Cara
One of the few active WWE stars to wrestle with a mask is Sin Cara. Multiple wrestlers have played this character but it has been portrayed by the man formerly known as Hunico in recent years. WWE fired the old wrestler believing the character was more valuable with Hunico playing the role of Sin Cara going forward.
A recent contract renewal is seeing Sin Cara get a slight push thanks to getting a signature shoe with Reebok as a cross-branding opportunity. Here is a picture of Sin Cara without the mask in case you forgot how Hunico looked many years ago. The switch to Sin Cara definitely gave extra life to his career as WWE loves this masked character creation. It is unlikely he'll ever wrestle without his mask in WWE again.
One of the most talented luchadors of the 90s was definitely Psychosis. WCW hired him along with other Mexican stars to help add something unique to the show to benefit the Cruiserweight Division. Psychosis had a couple of classic matches against Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko. The horns on Psychosis’s mask always stood out and sometimes were used as a weapon in matches.
As with many luchadors of the time, Psychosis would end up losing the mask as part of a stipulation of a mask versus mask match. The desire to work without the mask saw him have a memorable moment unmasking on a bigger stage for the WWE run during the ECW One Night Stand PPV. Fans chanted for him to put the mask back on in a rude moment. They apparently preferred to see him wrestle with the mask everyone knows him for rather than the face that most didn’t recognize.
13 Crazzy Steve
A recent successful character to use face paint as part of his persona is Impact Wrestling’s Crazzy Steve. The original character of Crazzy Steve saw him play a clown as part of a circus faction that never took off. This ended up being the best thing to happen to Crazzy Steve’s career as he moved into a new team with Abyss and Rosemary.
All three wrestlers benefited from working together and Crazzy Steve started breaking out in a major way. The team of Abyss and Crazzy Steve had one of the few memorable TNA matches in the past couple of the years against Jeff and Matt Hardy in The Great War. Here is a picture of Crazzy Steve without his paint. It is a rare look at him as he has yet to compete without the paint on TNA television since adopting the character. The non-paint picture was taken at the WWE's Performance Center.
12 The Great Muta
The Great Muta is regarded as one of the greatest Japanese wrestling legends. American fans most remember him for his time working with WCW. A business relationship between New Japan and WCW saw Muta work for WCW many times in the 90s. There was a memorable feud with Sting pitting both wrestlers with face paint against each other.
Muta had another interesting face paint look when joining the New World Order. The black and white paint also saw him have the letters NWO over his face. Muta has experimented with different face paint looks and masks through the years. The wrestler has also competed without anything on his face at various points showing that chapter of his career is over. Luckily, he has never abandoned spitting his trademark mist in matches.
Vader wore a different mask to the other wrestlers in the business in the 90s. The big man clearly wasn’t a luchador but he instead rocked a big red mask that showed most of his face. It wasn’t meant to completely hide his identity as much as it was to add a different look that added intimidation to his competitors.
There is an urban legend that the producers of 90s ABC sitcom Boy Meets World asked WWE to have Vader on the show when needing a wrestling character due to being intrigued by his mask. It landed Vader a sweet recurring spot on the hit show. Vader appeared on the show in scenes without the mask and even took it off in some of his matches over the years. Many know how he looks without it but here’s another picture if you forgot.
10 The Boogeyman
WWE has been home to some of the most cartoonish characters in wrestling history. The concept of The Boogeyman perfectly shows this. Booker T wanted to get his close friend Marty Wright a spot in WWE, so he was hired and pitched this gimmick. Wright was forced to play a portrayal of the Boogeyman character told in stories to kids as a goofy horror character.
The paint of The Boogeyman did not strike much fear into the fans watching the product as he would look like more of a silly comedic character. WWE had him eat worms and do disgusting things but nothing worked. Boogeyman’s shelf life saw his time in WWE end faster than expected. WWE sometimes brings him back for cameos, but this is what Wright looks like when not pretending to be a glorified children’s horror character.
9 Ultimo Dragon
Diehard WCW fans have strong memories of the Ultimo Dragon in the Cruiserweight Division. Many of the Cruiserweight guys of the time are celebrated today in WWE documentaries about WCW. Everyone discusses the great work of Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko. Dragon is often overlooked despite contributing as many great matches as the others.
At one point, Ultimo Dragon had too many belts to count from competing all over the world. The work of Dragon in WCW, Japan, Mexico and other places makes him a legitimate legend. His mask added a cool allure that just made him a more interesting performer outside of the ring. This is a very rare picture of Dragon without the mask covering his face. Dragon protected his identity for a long time, but we found an image of his face.
A successful masked character over the past decade has been Abyss. The Impact Wrestling star received comparisons to Kane and Mankind for being a hybrid of both characters at his peak. Abyss actually did great work during TNA’s best days as one of the best hardcore wrestlers of all time. Hulk Hogan actually wanted to build TNA around Abyss and referred to him as their version of John Cena.
Abyss clearly wasn’t as talented or successful as Cena, but he still deserves a lot of credit for his work. This is a picture of Abyss without the mask. TNA fans will remember him playing the Joseph Park character without the mask while pretending to be the brother of Abyss. Some people actually preferred Park over Abyss which had to make the big man question bringing back the mask or pain, which he also used.
7 El Torito
El Torito was one of the few little Superstars to get hired by WWE in recent years. The combination of Hornswoggle and El Torito would see the two smaller wrestlers face off in battles. El Torito shocked the world by delivering great moves thanks to his athleticism. WWE placed the wrestler inside of a bull costume as the mascot for Primo and Epico playing Los Matadors.
A fun fact about El Torito is that he actually appeared in the comedy film Nacho Libre as one of the wrestling dwarves. The WWE tenure is still his biggest accomplishment, so most fans know him for rocking the bull costume. This is a rare picture of him without the mask as he is just a normal little person when not in wrestling gear.
The legendary Goldust character has become an all-time great face-painted gimmick character in WWE. Dustin Rhodes signed with WWE in the mid-90s and was tasked with playing the unique gimmick. Goldust was intended to push the buttons of the homophobic audience by implying a gay character before revealing he had a female love interest named Marlena.
The in-ring work and the commitment to his character made Goldust a tremendous addition to the WWE roster. That’s the reason WWE still has Dustin employed today as Goldust for the roster depth at the age of 48. There’s no doubt that Goldust will eventually be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame one day. Rhodes has wrestled without the paint many times through the years as seen in this picture. However, his legacy will always be linked to Goldust.
5 Ultimate Warrior
An argument can be made that the Ultimate Warrior was the most successful face painted character in WWE history. Fans in the late 80s fell in love with Warrior thanks in part to his persona with face paint, colorful gear and intense promos. Warrior running to the ring at full speed looking like a superhero with his face paint presented a Superstar.
The peak of Warrior saw him take the torch from Hulk Hogan as the first face to beat him in the main event of a WrestleMania event. Warrior would self-implode afterwards with many poor decisions and controversial comments hurting his career until the final few days of his life when inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The late Warrior often was seen without his mask in the later years of his life as seen here. WWE uses the paint to market his legacy in creating various branding opportunities for charities that have been met with controversial response.
The iconic face paint of Sting has seen many different colors through the years. Fans of the early 90s fell in love with the colorful displays used by the “surfer” era of Sting. It helped him stand out at a time when very few wrestlers had face paint gimmicks. Sting would see it reach another level when he started rocking the black and white paint as the “crow” version of his character.
Fans loved the mysterious look and demeanor of Sting making his redemption against the New World Order the best story in WCW history. Sting continued rocking the black and white paint for the rest of his career due to the popularity. This picture shows how Sting looks without the pain. Older years have seen Sting become less lenient about protecting the gimmick and he is now retired so he only has to wear it when needed for special appearances.
The horrible state of Impact Wrestling has seen the talent let down by the management time and time again. There are less noteworthy stars than prior eras, but one special talent is Rosemary. The few fans that do still watch Impact would agree that Rosemary is one of, if not the, best performer on the show. Between her mysterious character and the great wrestling, she is a star.
This picture shows a very rare picture of Rosemary as she used to wrestle under the name of Courtney Rush without any face paint. A decision to switch to the Rosemary character and add the face paint helped get her to a top level as one of the best women’s wrestlers of all time. Considering she took down all old pictures on social media showing her face, this is a rare instance of Rosemary without paint.
2 Rey Mysterio
It’s been a long morning traveling from Laredo to Monterrey in bus then flying to Mexico City for a 2 hr meeting & now to Guadalajara for a 2nd meeting, very productive day! Thank you @rootsoffight for my #Ali T it catches a lot of attention out here in 🇲🇽, no time to feel tired! #GottaLetThemKnow #GreatestOfAllTime #NewDopEProjects #CantWait
The general consensus is that Rey Mysterio is the greatest masked wrestler of all time. WCW signed a few luchadors with their masks at the time, but no one achieved as much success as Mysterio did to stand out. The so called "experts" in WCW wanted to unmask him for the shock value and he spent the final few years of his WCW career without it. Rey looked like a child and lost a lot of his appeal without the mask.
WWE intelligently requested Mysterio wait until his WCW contract expired with AOL-Time Warner before negotiating with them. It allowed Mysterio to make money sitting at home and gave him off time so WWE could put the mask back on him when signing. Fans forgot all about the unmasked era of Rey in WCW. Mysterio has posted a few pictures without the mask on social media in recent years showing the need to protect the gimmick is no longer as important.
1 Legion of Doom
The tag team of Animal and Hawk is considered the best team in wrestling history. WCW fans know them as the Road Warriors and WWE fans remember them as the Legion of Doom. Regardless of the team name, Animal and Hawk did amazing work together and presented a unique gimmick. The Legion of Doom each rocked cool face paint that just made them more popular.
Young fans would show up to shows wearing a similar face paint to show their support for the team in a fun manner. The careers of Hawk and Animal would be linked together forever thanks to their iconic runs in every promotion they worked for. Hawk has passed away, but Animal still rocks the face paint at conventions these days. This is a rare picture of both men unpainted showing their faces together.