Top 20 Worst Masked Wrestling Gimmicks of All Time, Part I
January 29, 2009 | Sports
In pro wrestling there are a few ways to temporarily prolong your career. You can bed a member of the McMahon family, (preferably one involved in wrestling), adopt a tranquilizer regimen usually reserved for dancing circus bears or change up your identity with regularity like a wanted felon. A great way to do this is by hailing from the menacing-sounding “parts unknown”.
An integral part of adopting this US Customs and Immigration-defying strategy is donning a mask, which adds considerably to the air of mystery not present if someone were to say, “hey, isn’t that Bob from Akron?’
In Luche Libre wrestling, they’ve known about this for a while, not because it’s some foil to work illegally in the United States, but because in Mexico, the mask is a key character component, passed down through generations and held in the highest esteem.
In Mexican wrestling, the mask is honorable and totemic, so much so that grapplers are occasionally even buried in them (with a closed casket just in case some heel attempts a funereal unmasking).
In these parts, masks are also associated with burial–if your Larry the Village Grocer, “paper or plastic” routine is in jeopardy of being buried in the bottom half of the fight card, you can change up your identity and see if the crowd pops for The Gimp Assassin instead.
Masks are a great part of your gimmick arsenal, especially when they’re used to introduce a new character, like Kane or put a twist on an old one. When The American Dream Dusty Rhodes became The Midnight Rider after losing a match and being ‘banned from the state of Florida for 60 days’ [Snarky Editor's note: Like that's a bad thing?], a mask put the big man back in contention and suspicious heel manager J.J. Dillon noted, “In a very strange coincidence, a few days after that match took place, emerges a ‘new’ wrestling superstar, conspicuously 265 lbs and over 6 feet tall.”
Many wrestlers, for their very survival, concealed their identities so they could fight in different territories.
We’re not talking about those guys.
The masked grapplers featured on this list are wrestling writers’ brainchildren, brains that might’ve been deprived of oxygen for a prolonged period. Some of these scribes should be masked themselves, perhaps a bag worn over their heads, (after they’re repeatedly face-planted in the turnbuckle), for devising these less than spectacular creations.
So here are, scheduled for one fall and for all the marbles, our Top 20 Worst Masked Wrestling Gimmicks of All Time!
20. The Repo Man. A repossession agent is some guy in a pickup truck with a clipboard, who tows your cherished possessions off the driveway if you’ve run afoul of the bank. How he turned into some kind of er, “Loan Ranger” with a rope, is beyond us. You can’t just grab a mask, and slap it on any old profession, especially if it’s one typically not associated with wearing a mask. Perhaps this is how repo men operated in the 1880s. Regardless, this gimmick was repoed pretty darn quick.
19. The Conquistadors. Recipe for a lousy gimmick: Give yourselves a moniker inspired by 15th century Spanish explorers, fail to reference this or the New World in any way whatsoever and then inexplicably drape yourself in gold tights and matching masks. The idea here, which is as much of a stretch as spandex after a leapfrog, is that they were treasure seekers. However, rather than crested kettle hats and capes, or anything else that would’ve resembled a Ponce de Leon or Cortes (guys who originally brought dysentery and horses to the Americas) these Conquistadors, who were Puerto Rican and pawned off as Mexicans, became relegated to ethnic jobber feuds with the likes of the Young Stallions.
18. The Patriot. Given the unhealthy doses of xenophobia and nationalism always rampant in pro wrestling the last thing you needed was some condemned flea market knock off of Captain America, especially when The Real American, American Dream, and the cross-border tension easing Can Am Connection already beat you to the fake punch, as far as saluting the flag is concerned. Much like the other Patriot Act, this wore thin pretty quick. What would’ve been fun: a wigged, Patriot founding fathers gimmick. “I’m gonna take you out and beat you senseless. We hold these truths to be self-evident”
17. The Executioner. Again, zero effort on the part of the WWF at the time to enhance his executioner persona with say, a dark black hood (effectively put to use by the other Executioner, menacing boxing hall of famer Bernard Hopkins) or an axe. Instead, what was obvious to everyone watching Wrestlemania I, was that it was none other than “Playboy” Buddy Rose in a really tight-fitting mask (red for some unfathomable reason), whose identity top brass wanted to conceal as an immediate loss to Tito Santana would’ve sidetracked his career. If you look closely at the attached photo, you can see the look in Buddy Rose’s eyes as he realizes the only thing he’s executing is his career.
16. Aldo Montoya. Aldo Montoya, “The Portuguese Man O’ War”. Opting for a superhero look rather than the marine invertebrate was a good choice, as a human jellyfish doesn’t play well in any arena. However, this superhero looked like a sketch scribbled in the sub basement of a rec center for wayward youth. Bears passing resemblance to a forgettable incontinent-sounding comic book creation from the 40s, The Whizzer, dressed up in that always intimidating color: yellow. Forever known to fans of the squared circle as “the guy with a yellow jockstrap on his face”.
15. The Battle Kat. Easily the least intimidating masked wrestler of all time that isn’t the one following this entry, this kitty was doomed from the start, as his feline mannerisms/persona were immediately undermined by Gorilla Monsoon’s unhelpful “It’s gotta be hard for him to step into the ring and do anything with that kind of mask on, you’ve got no peripheral vision and it’s tough to breathe”. Even more difficult had this extremely lame gimmick gone on for any longer would have been fending off lawsuits from Mattel, owners of the He-Man franchise from which the Battle Kat idea was blatantly stolen.
14. Shark Boy / Shark Girl. Shark Boy (thankfully, no relation) would draw his hand to his forehead like a pontifical blessing and then mimic a shark’s dorsal fin, because, well, he hailed from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” and at various times “from the deep blue sea”.
To demonstrate how much wrestling has evolved since the introduction of masks, his female counterpart Shark Girl, it would seem, sprouted limbs and crawled ashore, as she hails from an island. (For other terrible TNA masked wrestlers, please check out the offensive and tacky partner of Sharkie Curry Man).
13. Golga. Speaking of sharks, the talented John Tenta (R.I.P.) best known as Earthquake, was ‘The Shark’ in WCW (“I’m not a fish, I’m a man!”) and just when you thought things couldn’t possibly sink any lower, the accomplished sumo wrestler was weighed down by an even more astonishingly brain-dead gimmick, Golga, part of the decorous Parade of Human Oddities. The character was obsessed with Cartman from Southpark, a cheap product tie-in during the show’s heyday.
12. The Giant Machine. Many speculate that during his heyday Andre The Giant was one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. Nobody else had as much difficulty getting in and out of imported rental cars. Just before Andre turned on Hulk Hogan, the WWF decided it would be a good move to put one of their all-time biggest draws in a mask and bill him as Giant Machine, a masked wrestler from “The Orient.” If you’re nearly 7 feet tall and 500 lbs, a masked masquerade is less effective than throwing a tarp over you and being passed off as a Ringling Brothers elephant. To their credit, wrestling brass and if memory serves, Bobby Heenan, pointed out to the audience in protest, ‘that guy’s really Andre the Giant!’
11. The Killer Bees. An above average, athletic tag team known for their feuds with the Hart Foundation, they make our B-List by being a babyface team that adopted a dirty tactic used by heels—not a good one, like a chair or a foreign object—but ‘Masked Confusion’, whereby the referee would be confused about who was the legal man in the ring, due to their concealed masked identities (At least the facial identities. Completely different physiques and hair length were a different story, but wrestling referees are notorious for being not the brighest of lights on the Christmas tree.)