Hidden faces in an industry directly associated with popularity and self praise bring a whole other layer of mystery to sports entertainment raising the bar for competitors to have to be not only athletic or strong but to also be able to properly establish their character finding ways to bring it to life. Masks and face paint have helped to create some of the most unforgettable wrestling characters of all time. How can you forget “The Game” Triple H’s entrance at WrestleMania XXX, he sat in that throne looking absolutely like “The King of Kings” behind the most badass golden crowned skull mask of all time an entrance instantly cemented as an all-time classic. Like Triple H some wrestlers use masks and face paint in big moment matches for extra effect while others specifically depend on their costume to strike fear into the opponent and put on a show for the audience beyond the ring, keeping everyone curious and attached. A lot of wrestlers go through constant gimmick changes where they do where face paint or masks until they find that one break out role that turns them into the stars that will always be remembered like The Undertaker or his brother from Death Valley, Kane.
Certain wrestlers will always be remembered for their masks or makeup but not all are necessarily thought of in a good way. Hiding their faces helped write themselves into wrestling history but how many of these stars needed that extra layer and how many could have done it without? Check out the list of 10 wrestlers who look better without masks and facepaint and 10 who should keep it on.
20. OFF – CM Punk
There will always be some controversy around CM Punk’s name and it seems that’s just how he likes it. The WWE calls him “one of the most prolific and influential WWE Champions of all time”. One thing’s for sure, Punk’s “straight edge” lifestyle was more than a gimmick. It was a role that truly embodied the persona of Punk as a person. No drugs, no smoking and no alcohol. If you were not straight edge, Punk considered you stupid and weak. Proclaiming himself a saviour, Punk attempted to rid the WWE of all its unworthy stars.
In 2010, Rey Mysterio defeated CM Punk in a “Rey joins SES vs. Punk’s hair” match, but at the end of the match, he was jumped by the Straight Edge Society. With the help of Kane, Rey handcuffed Punk to the ropes and cut his hair. The following week on SmackDown! Punk was guided to the ring by the SES with a towel over his head. Once in the center of the ring, Punk, who seemed ashamed, pulled the towel off to reveal a black SES MASK and a sinister smile. The mask gimmick may have been short lived but the same cannot be said about the more than impressive wrestling career of CM Punk.
19. ON – Rey Mysterio
5’6 yet more influential than most superstars will ever even come close to becoming. Rey Mysterio is one of wrestling’s most famous masked faces of all time. The luchador put everything he had into his performances flipping, soaring and earning the right to call himself the best, and that’s exactly what he became. The fan favorite went to WWF after being forced into removing his mask for WCW or be fired. “Strongly against it” Rey Mysterio obliged but was understandably upset saying “I don’t think WCW understood what the mask meant to me, to my fans and to my family. It was a very bad move on their behalf.”
The mask means something significant to Rey Mysterio and losing it is not an option. Rey had an outstanding career in WWE winning championships and the Royal Rumble as the No. 2 entrant in an impressive showing. The Lucha Libre legend still competes under his mask today.
18. OFF – Alberto Del Rio
Son of legendary luchador Dos Caras, Alberto Del Rio was born for the wrestling business. No doubt Del Rio sits on a high horse but its not necessarily undeserved. Very early in Del Rio’s career, billed as Dos Caras Jr., he held the CMLL World Heavyweight Championship for 533 days! Dos Caras Jr. signed to the WWE in 2009 where he very quickly unmasked and became Alberto Banderas and later Del Rio. Alberto Del Rio came into the WWE thinking he was the best and letting everyone around him know it. He proved his theory when in 2011 he won the Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank and defeated CM Punk for the title all in the same year. Though not unsuccessful as Dos Caras Jr., Alberto never reached the same heights and recognition as with his role as Del Rio.
17. ON – Vader
Vader was brought into WWE because of his aggression and agility. He played one of the most hated heels of all time in Japanese wrestling then with his astonishing eye ball fiasco it was a no brainer for the WWE to bring in the massive Vader. Antonio Inoki is a living legend in Japan, he is the founder, promoter and star of New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Inoki brought Big Van Vader in under a masked gimmick he created to face himself in 1987. Vader defeated the fan favorite causing the Sumo Hall to riot and sparking a vicious in ring run by Vader in upcoming weeks. In another epic classic, Vader accidentally had his eye ball gauged out by his opponent, and shockingly his friend, Stan Hanson. The 450 pounder simply stepped back, ripped off his mask, pushed his eyeball back into place and continued to wrestle for 10 minutes! The devastating strength and dedication along with the fact that a man of his size would still climb to the top of the turnbuckle lead him to capture championship gold several times around the world. The masked machine of a man became a superstar.
16. OFF – Owen Hart (The Blue Blazer)
The Blue Blazer was a masked superhero like character in WWE played by the late Owen Hart, younger brother of WWE legend Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Owen grew up training in the infamous Hart Dungeon, with his family in Calgary, Canada. As a masked man at the age of 16 he began to wrestle as a last minute replacement. After building somewhat of a reputation for himself at his fathers well-known Stampede Wrestling Promotion and overseas in Japan the WWE signed Owen in 1988. Owen originally did not want to associate himself with his extremely popular older brother Bret, wanting to make his own name he debuted as The Blue Blazer. Not receiving the push he had hoped for competing on a mid-card level Owen left the WWE going on to wrestle in multiple countries all over the world eventually winding up in Mexico where The Blue Blazer was unmasked in a match driving Owen to ditch the act and begin to wrestle under his true name Owen Hart.
15. ON – KANE
The Big Red Monster Kane is an act that has truly terrified since day one. Glenn Jacobs played the role of several different characters in WWE, struggling to connect with all of them until Vince McMahon offered him the role of The Undertakers brother Kane. Paul Bearer began to appear on TV claiming that The Undertaker’s brother who had supposedly died in a fire was actually alive and out for revenge, claiming The Undertaker set the fire he was burned and deformed in. Kane made his first appearance along side Bearer interfering in a Undertaker & Shawn Michaels match at Badd Blood. The hellish behemoth literally ripped the door off the steel cage surrounding the ring, tossed a ref aside, came face to face with his brother and laid The Undertaker out with a Tombstone finishing move.
Since that dark day in October of ’97 Kane’s presence has been sending shivers down the spine of audiences everywhere. The Devil’s Favorite Demon was forced to reveal his face at one point but is now back behind the demonic mask.
14. OFF – The Undertaker
When you talk about WWE it’s hard not to bring up the greatest WrestleMania competitor of all time, The Undertaker. For over 25 years The Deadman destroyed anyone who dared to step in his path. Whether it was the American Badass rolling down the ramp or the infamous ringing bells of The Undertaker you knew when you saw that figure glooming in the shadows business was about to be handled. In 1995, The Undertaker had his orbital bone smashed in a feud against King Mabel forcing him to step away from competition for short time. He returned close to a month later with a mask that some thought replicated that of The Phantom of The Opera’s, making fans believe his face really was smashed, but the mask was actually a safety precaution used by the WWE to protect one of their top stars throughout his healing.
The mask may have been corny as hell, the exact place the Undertaker once rose from, but it kept the dark lord in the storyline instead of sidelined by his injury. Either way, it was not The Deadman’s best look.
13. ON – The Boogeyman
The Boogeyman was like a character out of a real life horror movie. Smoke would fill and with a sudden burst of flames, The Boogeyman would appear. His face was painted like some sort of demonic creature and to top it all off, he would pull out a hand full of live worms and eat them, terrifying and disturbing everyone. He was out for souls and when The Boogeyman stepped in the ring, he annihilated his victims. The locker-room was petrified, none of the superstars wanted to be hunted by The Boogeyman and have worms shoved down their throats. In the beginning the spooky face painted star was definitely a heel but fans couldn’t get enough of the disgusting but dominant character and he became another fan favorite freak.
12. OFF – Papa Shango
Papa Shango is definitely one of WWEs scariest characters to date. The stadium would fill with boos as Papa Shango made his way to the ring, dressed in bones and carrying a skull with smoke pouring out the top. His white painted face was terrifying and his witch doctor act was more than convincing after he put voodoo curses on other superstars like The Ultimate Warrior, making him collapse in pain. Shooting sparks from staffs and smoke shows were all but regular occurrences until Papa Shango was sent to USWA. He returned to WWE two years later as the dominant Kama and later Kama Mustafa of “The Nation of Domination” alongside The Rock.
As “The Nation” began to disband superstar Charles Wright embraced it and became The Godfather, the ultimate mack daddy pimp escorted everywhere by his beautiful train of ladies. The Godfather was inducted into WWEs Hall of Fame in 2016 making it the most popular gimmick lived by Charles Wright, so in the end its a good thing he took off the makeup and bones.
11. ON – Goldust
Most definitely a strange character the infamous Goldust is not just a bizarre act, he’s an amazingly talented wrestler. Son of late legend Dusty Rhodes, Goldust has become a legend in his own right. Wrestling with WWE for close to two decades the scandalous star has made quite the impression. Goldust debuted with his face painted all gold in a long blond wig and golden robes escorted to the ring by his sensual cigar smoking valet Marlena, who was his real life wife Terri Runnels. His edgy character did exactly what it was supposed to, get reactions from the crowd.
Goldust’s first solo belt came when he defeated Razor Ramon with his devious mindgames and surprising power moves to win the Intercontinental Championship. Goldust captured the intercontinental belt several other times along with WWE Hardcore titles and two tag team championships, one with Booker T and the other with his brother as Stardust. Goldust became a heel fans passionately loved to hate until his turn to babyface. Now paired with the also loveable R-Truth, the bizarre comedic duo of veterans still entertains the WWE Universe on low to mid level cards.
10. OFF Randy Savage (The Spider)
Randy Savage is one of those names that helped put professional wrestling on the map. His epic performances grasped audiences right from the start. Wrestling wasn’t the plan originally for Randy Poffo. Born the son of wrestling Legend Angelo Poffo, Randy’s natural athletic abilities lead him to sign a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. After an injury to his throwing arm ended his young baseball career, Poffo made the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps as a wrestler.
Debuting as “The Spider”, Randy had a distinct toughness and aggression to him. Ole Anderson at some point tells Randy his spider gimmick doesn’t suit his “Savage” in-ring style, thus creating Randy Savage. As a sort of homage to Savage’s old spider character Randy plays the role of “Bone Saw” McGraw, a wrestler locked in a cage match with Spider-Man in the motion picture, Spider-Man. Though “The Spider” may have been forgotten about by most Randy Macho Man Savage’s legacy lives on forever.
9. ON – The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior was spirit like no other. The way he ran down to the ring and shook on the ropes like an absolute mad man covered in eccentric face paint made him look kind of crazy and the arena packed crowds ate it up. When the bell rang the Warrior’s intensity was unmatched. His dominant strength and high speed made him more than a formidable opponent, it made him a champion. Perhaps one of Ultimate Warrior’s most popular matches came at SumerSlam ’98 where the dynamic superstar defeated The Honky Tonk Man in 30 seconds, winning the Intercontinental Championship. The Ultimate Warrior was chiselled and energetic drawing audiences of all types. At the peak of his career Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI, which was another standout match for his career. His charisma and pure talent would have no doubt lead to championships without the neon face paint but the painted mask made him who he was, an Ultimate Warrior.
8. OFF – Erick Rowan
A Wyatt Family disciple must strike fear into the eyes of his enemies and that’s exactly what Erick Rowan’s masks do! At 6’8 and 315 pounds Rowan is a monster no one wants to stand across from especially not when the sinister Bray Wyatt is barking for Rowan to hit a devastating roundhouse kick. Truth be told the superstar is so massive its incredible how fast he moves around the ring. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, both being ginormous bearded brutes, made for a perfect pairing along with their master Bray Wyatt and the family won the NXT Tag Team Championship. Fast forward a few years of being on the main roster, after feuds with almost all of the big name superstars, the Wyatt Family has become scattered and broken. It could be the perfect opportunity for the giant but surprisingly agile superstar to throw away his mask and cut all ties to the family.
7. ON – Mankind
Mick Foley has a larger than life persona and in WWE he played some even larger characters. Starting as Cactus Jack for smaller promotions, Foley was then signed to WWE as the psychotic Mankind. The freakish man in sloppy attire and a leather mask carried a dirty sock puppet named Mr. Socko that he would shove in his opponent’s mouth. Mankind was just misunderstood and audiences began to take pity on him, turning the freakish masked maniac into a babyface and becoming beloved. Foley’s love for sports entertainment sets him aside from the average superstar.
He never had the standard physique or athletic ability of other star wrestlers but the way he acted out and sold the role of Mankind was like nothing anyone had seen before. Becoming well known for his toughness and being able to take a beating, Foley changed his gimmick one last time. Dude Love was actually a character invented by Mick as a teenager in a home movie. The hippy chick magnet Dude Love or Cactus Jack never made the same kind of impact that Mankind had in WWE but all three “Faces of Foley” are respected because of the tremendous work and sacrifice of Mick Foley.
6. OFF – Jeff Hardy
The Charismatic Enigma got his nickname by standing out to the crowd. His glowing face paint and high flying stunts made him shine just as much as a solo star as he did in a tag team with his brother Matt. Jeff & Matt Hardy are two of the WWE Universe’s most beloved superstars of all time. The risks they took in the ring to entertain the audiences far surpass the norm. Any time a Swanton Bomb is involved you know at least one person is going to be hurting the next day. Over the years the incredible finisher has been done off some unimaginable heights. Jeff Hardy, also known as Brother Nero, became a singles champion winning numerous belts against the likes of Umaga and Edge before rejoining his brother in tag team action.
5. ON – Kamala
At the time of The Ugandan Giant Kamala there wasn’t a more terrifying act in wrestling. The 6’7, 380 pound native was painted like a warrior, wore an African tribal mask and carried a spear and shield. The savage man made children cry as he was escorted down to the ring by his keepers Kim Chee and Doctor Harvey Wippleman. The two men constantly mistreated The Ugandan Headhunter until Reverend Slick The good “Doctor of Style” interfered and began to convince Kamala he was not a savage. Kamala turned on his captures and joined the Reverend’s camp so Slick could teach him how to become civilized. The babyface turn was well received by fans and for the first time Kamala was loved instead of hated. Kamala’s career never lead him to a championship with WWE but the superstar’s body paint and his savage character are remembered for better or worse in the wrestling world.
4. OFF – Daniel Bryan (American Dragon)
Daniel Bryan began his career on a WWE developmental deal before even having two years of experience in the business. Bryan’s original gimmick was The American Dragon. He wore a mask that had the true features of a dragon and was very successful wrestling in developmental promotions and in Japan. The 5-foot-10 star was extraordinarily talented, building a reputation very quickly for being a top notch superstar. After the true identity of The American Dragon was revealed, Bryan continued wrestling under the persona due to its popularity but also going by the name Bryan Danielson. After years of grit and grind the big bearded, vegan debuted back in WWE through their developmental program NXT and from there he became the beloved Daniel Bryan known to fans today.
Bryan competed as a main event name until he was forced into an early retirement due to concussion problems. Currently serving as GM of SmackDown Live! Daniel Bryan’s persona is still one of the most popular in WWE and The American Dragon just goes down as another starting gimmick.
3. ON – Finn Bálor
Finn Bálor is one of today’s top talents in WWE. His alter ego of “The Demon King” is beloved by fans all over the globe. The worldwide accomplished wrestler made his real first go at the business in Japan, where he became a massive star. Combining the two Irish myths of the warrior Finn MacCumhail and the Fomorian King Bálor, the dynamic Superstar created a character that is now one of wrestling’s most popular, proving time and time again that the champion doesn’t need the demon gimmick to win matches or be well received by audiences. When Finn summons his inner demon it’s a sight for all eyes to see. With his upper torso and face painted like the mouth of a vicious demon with sharp teeth and at times a lizard like tongue, Bálor’s makeup and impressive track record has already made him a wrestling great.
2. OFF – Chris Jericho (Super Liger)
In January 1997 up and coming star Chris Jericho wrestled as Super Liger for one match and one match only at New Japan Pro Wrestling, defeating Kofi Kanemoto in a poor performance that would have been easily forgotten years ago if it wasn’t for the outlandish attire the future Hall of Famer sported that night. Jericho claims he could hardly see behind the mask, leading to countless mistakes and botched moves. In 1999 a count-down to the millennium began appearing weekly on WWE with no known reason to fans, until early August when the countdown completed and Chris Jericho walked out on stage for the first time in WWE setting the arena on absolute fire in a must see wrestling moment!
Chris Jericho is a massive multitalented star who has won just about every championship there is to win. He is the record holding, nine-time Intercontinental Champion and the first-ever undisputed WWE Champion so its pretty clear cut in this case Jericho as a masked wrestler is a no go!
1. On – Sting
The ominous Sting was so popular world wide that wrestling and non wrestling fans alike know “The Icon” with the painted face. Sting’s in ring performances were absolutely never lacking, a combination of energy and talent sent Sting’s career soaring to new heights. After defeating Ric Flair for the WCW World Heavyweight Title in 1990 it was clear to anyone watching, it was the dawn of a new day. The time of “The Icon.” Stingers wild style, bright face paint and blond hightop hair were completely changed in a character twist no one saw coming. 1996 The nWo began to overrun WCW and while the transformation of the company began, so did that of Sting. The Icon became a silent threat hiding in the arena rafters waiting to strike the nWo.
Sting’s new dark, mysterious look began to intimidate and strike fear into the other wrestlers, The Stinger would use this strategy to win more WCW titles than you can remember. Sting is perhaps one of the most popular wrestlers in history and definitely one of the industry’s all time best. The white face paint helped cement Sting as one of the most popular characters in any industry of the 90s.
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