Masked wrestling has been around in wrestling for much longer than casual fans seem to realize. The oldest active company in the world is a Lucha Libre company by the name of CMLL. Masked wrestling, however, isn’t just a staple in Mexico, as it’s been used prominently in both Japan and the UK with stars like Kendo Nagasaki, Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger. It has also become a commonly used plot device in wrestling to further a storyline or re-debut a wrestler. In 2010, The Miz wrestled under a mask for one match as “The Calgary Kid” to win a RAW contract after he had been fired from the brand.
There have been many great masks that have been passed down to wrestlers as a sign that their predecessors thought they were worthy enough to dawn the mask and continue the legacy, and there have been masks that were made as a marketing ploy and would ultimately go on to mean absolutely nothing in retrospect. There are masks that stand the test of time and are regarded as beautiful works of art and there are masks that are just rip offs of popular masked wrestlers. Today, we are listing the 15 worst masks in wrestling history.
15. The Undertaker (Phantom Mask)
Though short lived, The Undertaker dawned a mask in 1995 due to King Mabel destroying his face with multiple leg drops. In Reality, The Deadman had actually sustained a injured orbital bone and had to have something to protect him from further injury. He was a very large part of the company at the time and he had already just come back from a hiatus due to a family emergency. Its grey color made it look terrible and The Undertaker just looked like a cheap ripoff of Erik from The Phantom of The Opera. While the mask was only involved in the storyline and had a practical purpose, it didn’t make Taker act any different and felt,without knowing about his injury, like an accessory that was there to sell more action figures.
14. Repo Man
Barry Darsow was a wrestler in the late 80s and early 90s who was mostly known for playing Smash, as a part of legendary tag team Demolition. Following the end of Demolition, Darsow would come back in late 1991 with a repackaged character and a new look, where he was known as Repo Man. Darsow was an unfortunate victim of the New Generation, which seemed to be all about giving wrestlers gimmicks of everyday, working class people. The worst part of his entire gimmick wasn’t the fact that he always seemed to walk around on his tip toes like a cartoon character. No, it was his mask, if you want to even call it that. It looked like he had forgotten to order a mask and Vince just told him to cut eye holes in a shirt and wrap it around his head.
Mainly a staple in Japan, Corporal Kirchner came up with the idea to wrestle as a classic movie villain and when faced with the choice, he chose Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Kirchner started a trend of blatantly ripping off movie properties and using them in wrestling, with seemingly no legal consequences. He not only worked as Leatherface in Japan, but worked as Super Leather in other promotions in the country. Since 2000, Kirchner has rarely used the gimmick of Leatherface, but did revive the gimmick in 2007 to team with a wrestler by the name of Jayson Vorhees to go against Mad Man Pondo and Necro Butcher at an album release party for Insane Clown Posse. Leatherface is a classic example that seemingly anything can be made a wrestling gimmick and you can have relative success.
12. Charlie Brown From Outta Town
A common trope in wrestling is a loser leaves town match, which ends with the heel losing the match and seemingly leaving the company. That is until a mysterious new competitor enters the fray that looks suspiciously like the wrestler who recently left the company. A good example of this is Charlie Brown from Outta Town, who was played by Jimmy Valiant in the early 80s in NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions. Valiant would be banned from wrestling and suddenly a man in a half mask, that sported the same iconic beard as Valiant, would take his place in the match. The only thing wrong with the storyline was that it was VERY obvious that it was Valiant, considering he had a beard that would make a Viking jealous. While this was probably a part of the charm of the gimmick, it was an inherently heelish thing to do and during this time Valiant was a outspoken baby face.
11. Super Calo
Masks are a very important tradition in Lucha Libre and wrestling as a whole. You have to be able to stand amount among the hundreds, if not thousands, of bland and often times solid colored masks. So what do you do to stand out among those luchadores? Why not sew a leather paddy cap and sunglasses to your mask? That must have been the thought process of Luchador Super Calo because that is exactly what he did. The mask originated in 1992 during the golden age of hip hop, so it’s safe to assume that rap music was a major influence in the design of the mask and it becomes even more apparent when you look at the rest of his gear. While the mask is truly a product of its time, it doesn’t stand up when looking at it today. It also seems very impractical, even if the sunglasses are mesh.
10. Aldo Montoya
Justin Credible was a mainstay in both ECW and WWE in the mid to late 90s and was an partial member of the infamous WWE stable, The Kliq. He started as a jobber and was only given a distinctive gimmick in 1995, which didn’t really turn out to be a good thing. That gimmick was Aldo Montoya, The Portuguese Man O’ War, and he wore a very cheap looking yellow mask and yellow, green and red gear to match the mask. Many wrestlers would tease him about the mask and tell him that he had a big yellow jockstrap attached to his face and while that sounds pretty cruel, it was a very apt description of what his mask looked like. It also didn’t help Credible’s case that it seemed like every time he would take a photo for WWE, the photographer would tell him to “pose like a Karate Fighter” and he was left in an awkward pose with both of his hands up.
9. Kane (2011- Present)
One of The Big Red Machine’s trademarks throughout his WWE career has been his mask. When he debuted, he looked similar to a movie horror villain and had the presence to match it. Unfortunately, Kane was unmasked in 2003, yet still managed to maintain his monster mystique, even with a shiny bald head. In December of 2011, Kane returned on the final RAW of the year and laid waste to John Cena while wearing a welder’s mask. Many though this would be his mask for the foreseeable future, until he removed that mask to reveal another one. This one, however, resembled a chewed piece of beef jerky. The mask was underwhelming and, when compared to his other ones, was easily the worst of the bunch. The longer you look at the mask, the more you realize that it is basically a remake of The Undertaker’s phantom mask. The mask has been made even worse given the fact that he seems to take it on and off as often as Psicosis did in WCW. The mask has no real meaning anymore and is now just a nostalgia piece that had run its course.
Big Van Vader is possibly the best big man in the history of wrestling and has proved that he can go in almost any setting. In the 90s, he was the most terrifying wrestler in the world and when he was in Japan, he was treated as an actual Godzilla-esque monster. Often times he would come out with a giant Metal Elephant head that would shoot steam out of itself, but under that was one of the least effective masks in wrestling. Vader essentially had a jockstrap on his face and it didn’t cover any essential parts of his face. Many times, the mask would come off during a match and would be null and void. The mask was at its worst in the 80s when Vader was with WCW and it resembled multiple slivers of black fabric placed at random points on his face. Vader would often appear without his mask, so it was no mystery as to what he looked like. Vader was more intimidating without the mask most times and could have been just fine sporting only the elephant head.
7. Zan Panzer
Brad Anderson was a jobber in the late 80s and early 90s for WCW, where he was featured as Agent Steele and, more prominently, as a masked man named Zan Panzer. Panzer would wear a pink amateur wrestling singlet and black boots with a very simple mask. The mask was all pink with a black rectangle across his eyes and a black triangle connected to the rectangle across his nose and mouth. The worst part about the mask was the fact that the holes in it were too small and didn’t allow for much facial movement. It looks like it was made by someone who recently learned how to sew and decided they wanted to become a wrestler on the same day. The only positive from the mask is that it was just as bland as the rest of his gear.
6. Super Invader
Super Invader was played by Golden Era muscle-bound heel Hercules Hernandez. He was brought in under the management of Harley Race and portrayed a masked wrestler by the name of Super Invader. Invader was billed as an oriental assassin and was said to reside in Bangkok, Thailand. While that was slightly racist, that wasn’t the only terrible part of the character. Invader would wear a mask that looked very similar to a pair of red pantyhose stretched over someone’s face. To make a bad matter worse, he would wear a headband that was the rising sun, which is synonymous with Japan and not Thailand, where the Invader was billed from. The mask featured no eye or mouth holes and looked like it was a very last minute, rush job that somehow ended up being the defacto mask for the character.
5. Chainsaw Charlie
Terry Funk is one of the craziest wrestlers to ever enter the squared circle and seems to have retired almost 50 times. Funk would rarely compete in WWE, where he would only ever have one prominent role as the “masked” wrestler, Chainsaw Charlie, teaming with Cactus Jack. Funk played a crazed old man that carried around a chainsaw and wore a mask, if you even want to call it that. They did not hide the fact that it was actually a single pantyhose stretched on his face. The character was originally based on Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre (apparently a popular character to parody in wrestling) but the announcers quickly got rid of that and would eventually just acknowledge that it was actually Terry Funk. My main problem with masks on already established characters is that they don’t change their character at all and are just an accessory to sell toys. If someone has appeared unmasked and suddenly appears with a mask, they need to change something in their character to make the unmasked and masked personas feel like different people.
4. The Johnsons
Early TNA didn’t know what it wanted to be and was pretty much a giant freakshow with circus acts, hillbillies and former WWE stars. While there were some high spots (the X-Division), there were also dark spots and when TNA first started that was the Tag Team division. A tag team by the name of The Johnsons were managed by Mortimer Plumtree and were booked as a monster tag team in early TNA. The main thing about The Johnsons that stood out was their attire. It was a skin tight tan body suit complete with a mask that had eye holes and a mouth cutout. To make it brief, the joke was that the tag team were made to look like a man’s private parts and were given a name to solidify that fact. They were never even given separate names because the office knew the team would be short lived. The reason this team is on the list is because of the lack of detail that the mask had and the gimmick that they were given. While the occasional subtle joke can be funny in wrestling, when something is this obvious and terrible, we have to have on a list of ‘worsts’.
3. Battle Kat
Brady Boone was a wrestler who was mainly used as a jobber by the WWE, either as a singles wrestler or in a tag team with Billy Jack Haynes. In 1990, Boone would return to the WWE during a house show tour and begin to wrestle under the name Battle Kat, sporting a fur mask and a orange and purple singlet. Boone had a background in gymnastics and would use that to make himself seem more “cat-like” during his matches. The mask was half cutoff and resembled a cat (shocking). There can be animal gimmicks in wrestling, but the main thing that made the mask terrible was the fact that it was covered in fur. It seemed impractical and would quickly get dirty when wrestling other people. To make matters worse, he didn’t actually wrestle like a cat (whatever that means), he would wrestle as he did before, but throw in the occasional cartwheel.
Brad Armstrong is a second generation wrestler and the brother of WWE regular, Road Dogg Jesse James. Armstrong would spend time in WCW in 1992 and would be given a gimmick by the name of Arachnaman, which was very obviously a blatant ripoff of Marvel’s Spiderman. Armstrong’s costume was yellow and purple as opposed to the classic blue and red, but was almost identical to a Spiderman costume, including the signature webbed design. The costume, and more specifically the mask, looked very shoddy and badly put together with the eye and mouth holes poorly placed on the costume. The gimmick was short lived as Marvel quickly saw this and threatened legal action towards WCW. WCW didn’t see the gimmick as valuable enough to fight for and it was quickly dropped, never to be seen again (thankfully).
Very few masks are eligible to be the worst mask in wrestling history and they need to have a good combination of poor design, poor gimmick, and poor execution to truly be the worst. Mantaur was a wrestling minotaur and sported a giant bull headpiece to the ring before removing it and revealing a poor man’s Bam Bam Bigelow. Mantaur’s entrance was elaborate, as it seemed like the company wanted to give him some kind of push and they even gave him a winning streak over jobbers (the ultimate way to build someone in the 90s). Mantaur would perform minotaur-like moves including rams, charges and mooing (not sure how that one fits in) at opponents. His push would end when he was entered into 1995 King of the Ring and lost in the first round to Bob Holly.
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