Entrances are an enormous part of professional wrestling. When we think about our favorite wrestlers, we remember their greatest matches and biggest victories, but we also remember the music that heralded their arrival, the way they posed on the stage, the fireworks that exploded around them – and of course, what they were wearing. Ring gear is usually designed with athletic intent, but entrance gear, the clothing or props that wrestlers wear to the ring and remove prior to the match, is designed to convey character and theatricality, resulting in some spectacular entrances over the years. If a wrestler's entrance occurs during a commercial break, they're probably pretty low on the totem pole. On the other hand, those lucky (or good) enough to earn a spot on the card at WrestleMania are typically rewarded with elaborate entrances that can be as memorable as any championship win.
Some entrance gear, however, is remembered somewhat less fondly. Pageantry is all well and good – it's one of the things that makes this industry so much fun – but sometimes wrestlers and creative teams aim for awesomeness, overshoot, and wind up with something silly, stupid, or both. Here are eight pieces of entrance gear we'll remember forever, and seven we'd prefer to forget.
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15 BEST: The Legion of Doom and Sunny
Any list involving entrance gear should include the Legion of Doom, also known as the Road Warriors. With their dramatic face paint and massive spiked shoulder pads, Hawk and Animal practically invented the concept, making a living out of looking like a pair of post-apocalyptic barbarians straight out of the movie that gave them their name. But in 1998, WWF decided that the LOD needed an updated paint job. WrestleMania XIV opened with “Legion of Doom 2000” sporting a space-age version of their traditional gear, their faces framed in futuristic helmets featuring fearsome fanged skulls. The new gimmick might not exactly have been an improvement over the original, but the gear was spectacular, putting a modern spin on the shoulder pads without losing anything in the intimidation department. Hawk and Animal had always looked like their were about to eat their opponents alive; now they just looked ready to drag them into the future first and eat them alive there.
Of course, the pièce de résistance was LOD's new manager, the beautiful Sunny, who showed up looking like a space princess from the pages of Heavy Metal. It was probably her sexiest outfit (a tall claim) and definitely her coolest.
14 WORST: Cien Almas
Over the past few years, NXT has used its regular Takeover specials to debut new talent from the independent scene. One of the most recent examples of this was Andrade “Cien” Almas, formerly known as La Sombra, who made his debut in the opening match of NXT Takeover: The End.
Almas is a great wrestler, and in his regular ring gear he looks fine, but it's anyone's guess as to why he first showed up dressed in white pants with white suspenders and a white hat with a white feather. It made no sense whatsoever, looked nothing like the stuff he actually wrestled in, and made a guy who was supposed to be new and cool look incredibly stupid. Unfortunately, it seems this might be the regular “big event” look for Cien Almas, who pulled out a red version for his entrance at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II. Let's hope his recent heel turn facilitates a change, so we can enjoy the sight of his matches without groaning at the sight of his gear.
13 BEST: Becky Lynch
In the years since its transformation from reality show to separate brand, NXT has grown unbelievably fast in every conceivable way. Part of that growth has come in the form of production values, and a much more significant part has come in the form of the elevation of women's wrestling. Those two things came together in 2015 at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable, when Becky Lynch challenged Sasha Banks for the NXT Women's Championship and came out in one of the best entrance outfits of all time.
Lynch was one of NXT's “Four Horsewomen” alongside Banks, Charlotte, and Bayley, but she was also the lowest-profile of the four. The other three Horsewomen all had runs with the NXT Women's title; Lynch didn't. They were younger, more obscure independent wrestlers (in the case of Bayley and Banks) or pure WWE developmental products (in the case of Charlotte); Lynch was a veteran of the indies. They all wound up together on Raw; Lynch went to Smackdown Live, where she became the first Smackdown Women's Champion. And she might not even have gotten that if not for her performance (and her entrance) at Unstoppable.
Lynch made her only one-on-one Takeover match count, appearing on the stage in a hooded black jacket and goggles while steam blasted up around her. This look, reminiscent of “steampunk” culture, shaped Lynch's character and appearance from that day to this, and helped give her a character distinct from her relationships with the other Horsewomen. Instead of being “the Irish girl” or “Sasha's lackey,” she had finally come into her own, fully and completely “Becky Lynch.” She is one of the best examples in wresting history of entrance gear helping to flesh out and define a character.
12 WORST: Orlando Jordan
Weird stuff has its place in professional wrestling, and these days it's very possible for a guy like Ring of Honor's Dalton Castle to get over with an audience by looking and acting strange. But Orlando Jordan's bisexual gimmick, debuting in TNA in 2010, was little more than a cheap bit for controversy on behalf of Eric Bischoff, who was running the company at the time.
Jordan didn't end up working very many matches for TNA, but he still employed a variety of highly questionable entrance gear even when he wasn't wrestling. His Impact debut, for example, featured him descending into the ring from the ceiling, wrapped in a heavy layer of caution tape and basically nothing else. Later, he would appear on the stage in mask similar to those worn by Castle's boys, squirting milk onto himself in a manner that he probably thought was threatening in its oddity, but was, in fact, merely odd. Jordan wasn't a terrible wrestler, but his TNA run is one of the great failures in attempting to establish character with entrance attire.
11 BEST: Vampiro
As anyone who has seen it might expect, Lucha Underground has a wealth of characters with great entrance gear. From King Cuerno to Drago to Sexy Star to Prince Puma, it seems like almost everyone in that promotion sports an awesome cape or an animal on their head. But none of those outfits and accouterments could hold a candle to the way Vampiro entered the Temple at the first Ultima Lucha.
Of course, Vampiro had a history of wrestling theatricality before Lucha Underground was even conceived, having wrestled in face paint and gotten blood and fire all over everything back in his WCW days. In Lucha Underground, though, he portrayed a “reformed” version of Vampiro who had left all that behind to become a color commentator. But after being goaded into a match by Pentagon Jr., Vampiro showed up at Ultima Lucha looking like a satanic pope, complete with hat, robes, and smoking censer. As he walked toward the ring with the crowd roaring around him, his attire told the story of the evil that had awoken within him, wordlessly conveying the message to his opponent: You have no idea what you've wrought.
10 WORST: Glacier
Glacier will probably go down in history as wrestling's most long-awaited debut. Vignettes announcing his imminent arrival on WCW Nitro began in April 1996, but due to the unexpected success of something called “the New World Order,” the man himself didn't appear until September. When WCW fans finally got the first glimpse of the wrestler they'd waited five months to see, they were treated to something less than stellar.
There's definitely something to be said for the theater involved in Glacier's entrance, as it was one of the more interesting non-nWo things WCW had going at the time. But Glacier himself came to the ring looking like a hastily thrown together Sub-Zero cosplay. The blue balaclava wasn't exactly menacing, but at least it covered the entire lower half of his face; he appeared to be wearing only the left side of a suit of armor, with one breastplate and one massive pauldron decorated in snowflake designs (presumably because Glacier was a special one). A smaller pauldron on his right shoulder and an elaborate belted loincloth “completed” the look, which was essentially meant to convey that Glacier knew karate. Again, sometimes an idea is cool, but its execution misses the mark.
9 BEST: Mortis
Despite a lengthy undefeated streak, Glacier didn't find his footing as a character until 1997, when he was given his first major nemesis: Mortis, a masked and repackaged Chris Kanyon who arrived on stage looking pretty much exactly like his namesake, death itself. Where Glacier's entrance gear seemed shoddy and incomplete, Mortis' was a revelation in creative follow-through on a concept. The skull mask and skeletal singlet he wore in the ring were one thing, but no image of Mortis will ever be complete without the green cape hanging from his shoulders, attached to matching pauldrons shaped like grinning masses of skulls, his hand wrapped around a short staff topped by another skull wearing a jester's cap. Where Glacier's attire screamed “martial arts” and relied on separate cultural connection between an ice-themed character in a video game, Mortis came off as both more original and more logical. His name was the Latin word for death, and everything about his entrance gear reinforced that idea, to awesome effect.
8 WORST: Willow
Any discussion of poorly-executed theatrical concepts has to include Jeff Hardy, who has spent the latter half of his career using his high status in TNA to indulge in his weirdest character fantasies. From his Hulk Hogan heel turn homage to the beautiful insanity of the Final Deletion storyline, no idea is too bizarre for the Charismatic Enigma (and his currently broken brother). This eccentricity was on full display in early 2014, when Jeff introduced the TNA audience to Willow, an updated version of a character he had come up with way back in his pre-WWF days. Unfortunately, when it comes to entrance gear, wrestling doesn't get much dumber that what Willow wore to the ring.
What, exactly, Willow's character was supposed to be remains unclear to this day, but his attire certainly did nothing to help or define it. Between a mask that made his head seem Photoshopped, a black trenchcoat inexplicably decorated with skulls, and a black-and-white umbrella that Hardy twirled hypnotically before him, Willow looked like nothing so much as a first-draft Alice in Wonderland character that Lewis Carroll wisely threw out. With gear like that, it was no surprise when a few months later, the wrestling character was thrown out, too.
7 BEST: Asuka
Even before arriving in NXT in 2015 as the new face of the women's division, the woman now known as Asuka had an incredibly unique look. Besides her face paint and multi-colored hair and ring gear, she stood out visually in NXT thanks to the Japanese mask that covered her face during her entrance, and which she removed and held in her teeth upon entering the ring. Given that she has entered into a dominant women's championship reign during an era of NXT that has seen the coming and going of Finn Balor, it only made sense that she would eventually get a full-blown entrance at the increasingly high-production NXT Takeover events.
It finally happened at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 2. Coming out to defend her NXT Women's Championship, Asuka wore the mask as usual, albeit a far more elaborate version. But that wasn't all she wore. Asuka also had a massive coat that looked half fur and half silk, decorated with a plethora of Japanese designs. And in her hands she carried a huge white banner that trailed behind her to awesome effect. This entrance gear wasn't just a reinforcement of her Japanese heritage (though it was certainly that). It was also an affirmation of her star power, a symbol of her status as the one of the premier wrestlers of the brand, regardless of gender. Even in modern NXT, it's a rare thing to get an entrance quite like that.
6 WORST: Chris Jericho
No wrestler in history has mastered the art of reinventing himself like Chris Jericho. His endless creativity and determination to remain fresh and interesting has maintained his shelf life as a character and as a wrestler for years, long past the time when most veterans of his era became stale. His return to WWE in 2012 saw the debut of his latest innovation: a light-up jacket that announced his presence before the spotlight on the stage was even turned on. Initially flashing with blue lights, the jacket has had several different incarnations in the years since. But while it was initially a cool visual, the light-up jacket, unlike Jericho himself, definitely wore out its welcome.
By the time Jericho came out to face CM Punk at WrestleMania 28, the jacket had officially gotten ridiculous. It was now entirely covered in flashing red and blue bulbs. When the arena lights were out, it was garish, and when they were on, it was just dumb. And this version of the jacket wasn't a one-time WrestleMania thing, either – it kept coming back. Jericho wore it for pretty much ever match he wrestled during this period, and even during his irregular appearances in subsequent years, he continued to bring out increasingly weird variations. It wasn't until his most recent lengthy run in WWE that Jericho blessedly dispensed with the light-up jacket... for now, anyway.
5 BEST: Rey Mysterio
Choosing a favorite between Rey Mysterio's WrestleMania costumes is almost an exercise in futility. Very few wrestlers have used the Showcase of the Immortals as an excuse to play dress-up as frequently or as memorably as Mysterio: He was Daredevil at WrestleMania XIX, the Flash at WrestleMania XX, the Joker at WrestleMania XXV, a Na'vi from Avatar at WrestleMania XXVI, and Captain America at WrestleMania XXVII. When it comes to big time entrances, almost nobody can match Rey's outfits.
Still, the best one of all remains the incredibly pageantry he displayed at WrestleMania 22, the night he won his first world championship. As P.O.D. played his theme song live, Mysterio erupted onto the stage as always, bedecked in gold ornamentation reminiscent of the ancient tribes of Mexico. He then immediately turned around and walked backstage, only to appear moments later alongside the band wearing an astounding Aztec headdress. At other WrestleManias, Rey paid tribute to his favorite movie characters, but when he walked out to win the World Heavyweight Championship, he paid tribute to himself and his heritage. It was truly one of the greatest entrances in all of professional wrestling.
4 WORST: Mantaur
Professional wrestling wasn't exactly overflowing with top-notch creative ideas in 1995, but Mantaur was undoubtedly one of the worst gimmicks, period, in the history of the industry. It's pretty self-explanatory: The guy was a minotaur. Or at least came to the ring dressed as one. The bull mask covered his entire head, his shoulders, and most of his upper body. It was huge, furry, and fake-looking, even down to the horns and the eyes. When Mantaur walked out onto the stage, it was like one of the creatures from Where The Wild Things Are had escaped from the book's pages and somehow come out looking more cartoonish. It says something when a wrestler who used bull-themed moves and made moo sounds in the ring was still less embarrassing between the ropes than he was while marching down the ramp.
Because the world is at least a marginally sane place, Mantaur dropped the bull mask early in his WWF career, which lasted all of about six months. But while it was around, it was about as stupid as entrance gear gets.
3 BEST: Triple H
Over the past several years, “the Triple H match” has become an established part of WrestleMania. He might wrestle a few more matches per year than, say, the Undertaker, but Triple H is still very much a part-time wrestler as he has gotten older and taken on a larger role in WWE's corporate structure. But like the Undertaker, he always has a spot at WrestleMania, and there's probably never been a better example of “entrance signifies status.”
Triple H's first real entrance gear theatrics came at WrestleMania 22, when he emerged sitting on a throne dressed like a Triple H-themed Conan the Barbarian. But it wasn't until WrestleMania XXX that he really went back to that idea, and it was unquestionably spectacular. The throne and the crown were back, but both were now gold and considerably more elaborate. Additionally, he wore a crimson robe that hung from a huge piece of golden “armor” that was half spikes and half skulls, trimmed in chain mail and fastened by his personal symbol. When he stood from the throne and spread his arms so that pre-stardom Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Alexa Bliss, dressed as valkyrie slave girls, could remove the armor, the moniker “King of Kings” had never seemed so appropriate.
The ensuing two years have seen variations on this theme, including his Terminator-themed outfit and entrance at WrestleMania 31, whose coolness was reduced somewhat by the shameless product placement nature of the whole thing, and his main event WrestleMania 32 entrance whose highlight was Stephanie McMahon looking like she'd put on bondage gear before being possessed by Zuul, but it's the golden armor that truly stands out as the full realization of an idea that started back in 2006.
2 WORST: John Cena
If there were ever a person who doesn't need to go all out for his WrestleMania entrances, it's John Cena. Over the last 10+ years, his presence alone has been enough to signify the importance of a big match, and his traditional entrance gear – a baseball cap, a t-shirt, and a carefully folded towel – is comparatively understated. That's a good thing. As he himself might say, all John Cena ever needs to do is be John Cena.
And yet, he keeps trying. Almost every WrestleMania features Cena coming out in a bizarre spectacle that just doesn't need to be there. Some quirk in the universe seems to dictate that Cena's WrestleMania entrances will never really be cool and will always feel like a man who is trying too hard. From the college marching band entrance at WrestleMania XXIV, to the Cena clones entrance at WrestleMania XXV, to the gospel choir entrance at WrestleMania XXVII, it all just feels weird and out of place.
Probably the most laughable one, though, was his first attempt at a big entrance at WrestleMania 22 (the same event that featured Hunter the Barbarian). Not only did a car full of Chicago-style gangsters (including CM Punk) arrive at the ring immediately before him, but Cena came out as a gangster himself, sporting a long coat, hat, and tommy gun. It was thoroughly ridiculous, and the blatant Chicago pandering didn't stop Chicago from booing Cena out of the building that night. Enough with these elaborate entrances, John. Just be you.
1 BEST: Big Van Vader
There's really no way to adequately describe the mastodon helmet that Big Van Vader wore to the ring in the late 80s and early 90s. You have to see it for yourself. The best entrance outfits on this list have been brought out for special occasions like Takeover or WrestleMania. This was Vader's standard look. The best entrance outfits on this list have inspired awe. Vader inspired terror. There was nothing flashy or colorful about the mastodon helmet. It was simply a massive piece of steel shaped like a demonic elephant's head and covering his shoulders in spiked pauldrons that looked like they were made for war rather than decoration. The helmet's most theatrical element was the steam that shot up from it at the appropriate time, but even that served the image of a man who had come here to murder his opponent.
The mastodon helmet originated in New Japan, but an American version of it surfaced in WCW, when Vader made his debut at the 1990 Great American Bash. It was retired after a short time, partly because it was unwieldy and hard to travel with, partially because WCW felt Vader's character worked better without it. But for a time, it was the scariest thing in professional wrestling, which was appropriate for a man who responded to having his eyeball poked out during a match by putting it back in and finishing the match. More than just a one-off costume, a fear-inducing complement to a fear-inducing man, the single most no-frills bad-ass thing ever worn by a professional wrestler, Vader's mastodon helmet is the greatest piece of entrance gear of all time.
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