The addition of a mask to a wrestler’s look can either make or break their career in the long run. Many performers love the mystery element of wrestling under a mask. It can lead to fun gear designs that match the mask with different looks at each show. The tradition of wrestling in a mask originated in Mexico, and many wrestlers there still prefer not to show their face while performing.
Not every wrestler to work under a mask will find success with it. Quite a few relevant performers had to ditch the mask at some point in their careers to move forward. Both cases will be featured here, as we look at which wrestlers were better with and without the masks.
10 Thrived with mask: The Hurricane
Some fans might argue that Shane Helms was better without the mask, but he clearly found his strongest success as The Hurricane. WWE gave him the new gimmick shortly after the move from WCW.
The Hurricane character was a comedic superhero who thought he really had powers. Fans fell in love with the act and the charm eventually turned him face. Helms had a solid run after losing the mask as a heel, but he will be remembered mostly as The Hurricane.
9 Better without mask: CM Punk
CM Punk wrestled under a mask for a short time during his run as the leader of the Straight Edge Society. A personal feud with Rey Mysterio ended with Mysterio winning and Punk having to shave his head as part of the stipulation in their final match.
Punk started wearing the mask to hide the bald head he was ashamed of. A feud with Big Show would see him eventually unmask Punk. The facial expressions and personality of Punk were limited by the mask and he was clearly better off losing it.
8 Thrived with mask: Psychosis
Psychosis was one of the first luchadores to make the move from Mexico to the United States. The great matches in ECW and WCW helped showcase the talent of the masked wrestlers. Eric Bischoff ended up signing about a dozen luchadores for the cruiserweight division after Psychosis helped open the door.
Fans were not happy when Psychosis ditched the mask later in his career. The crowd at ECW One Night Stand 2005 chanted “put your mask on” when he attempted to wrestle without it. WWE hired Psychosis to be part of the Mexicools without his mask and it flopped.
7 Better without mask: Mick Foley
The Mankind character was an outstanding introduction into WWE for Mick Foley. Despite wearing a mask, Mankind was one of the most expressive characters on the roster. Classic matches against The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and The Rock made Mankind a top star.
Foley eventually started wrestling without the mask and found more success. Fans connected with the personality of Foley; the last few years of his full-time career without the mask made him arguably the most popular face in the entire company.
6 Thrived with mask: Kane
Glenn Jacobs had a few horrible gimmicks as Isaac Yankem and Fake Diesel before getting the masked character of Kane. The huge opportunity saw him play Undertaker’s brother, with a plan to have them face off at WrestleMania XIV in a major attraction match.
Kane found success right away and made the character worth keeping around for over two decades. WWE eventually unmasked Kane, but the mask will always be a part of him. Even in recent appearances, Kane always gets a bigger pop when he wears the mask, and for good reason.
5 Better without mask: Chris Kanyon
WCW’s Chris Kanyon was one of the most underrated in-ring performers of the late 90s and early 2000s. The first run in WCW came under a mask, playing the Mortis character. WCW had peculiar characters based on Mortal Kombat fighters at the time, but there was no strong backstory.
Mortis unmasked and started wrestling as Kanyon. Between his singles work in the mid-card division and tag team work as part of The Jersey Triad with Diamond Dallas Page, Kanyon was arguably the most consistent performer for WCW in its final year or two, without his mask.
4 Thrived with mask: Jushin Liger
The legendary Jushin “Thunder” Liger is one of the most beloved Japanese wrestlers of all-time. Fans in the North American markets treat him like a legend when he appears at Ring of Honor events and at his one WWE match at TakeOver: Brooklyn against Tyler Breeze.
Liger has wrestled under the mask for his entire career, wrestling against talents of all generations, from Chris Benoit to Daniel Bryan to Finn Balor. Liger’s legacy will be as an iconic wrestler and a top-tier masked legend.
3 Better without mask: Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio started his wrestling career working under a mask. The family tradition saw him follow in his father’s footsteps as a luchador with the name of Dos Caras Jr., honoring their legacy. WWE was the first promotion to request he ditch the mask when signing there.
Vince McMahon loved the look of Del Rio and pushed him right away. Alberto may have ended his WWE run on a sour note, but he achieved incredible success. The fact that he won both the WWE Championship and World Championship in a short run proved he didn’t need the mask.
2 Thrived with mask: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio deserves the nod as the greatest masked wrestler of all-time due to the success he achieved with it. WCW fans liked Mysterio more than the other luchadores thanks to his underdog character and the must-watch matches he delivered.
WWE, however, allowed Mysterio to prove he could thrive at a higher level. The popularity of Rey saw his mask and merchandise sell like hot cakes. Mysterio continued to climb the mountain and eventually won both the World Championship and WWE Championship. The incredible masks of Rey also show that he loved to get stylish with them as well.
1 Better without mask: Owen Hart
WWE initially wanted Owen Hart to spend his career wrestling under a mask as the Blue Blazer character in the late 80s. The character had little depth and the mask itself did not look cool, as the ones that usually found success in the long run did.
Owen was unhappy enough to leave WWE for a few years, working in Canada, Mexico, Japan and even trying a few WCW dates. WWE brought him back without the mask and allowed him to work as a traditional wrestler. Owen proved to be one of the best in-ring performers of his time and is remembered as a wrestling legend.