5 Popular WWE Superstars that you forgot wrestled in a mask

It’s not just Luchadors who don masks

Masked wrestling is usually synonymous with Mexican ‘Luche Libre’. The tradition dates back to the very start of the Mexican brand of the sport and holds enormous cultural significance for superstars and fans alike.

The ancient Aztec civilisation, which inhabited modern day Mexico, saw masks as central to many different aspects of their lives, including their links to the spiritual worlds, success in victory and deification of important political figures. In modern day professional wrestling the mask has become more about a wrestler’s identity. All wrestlers, in some way, look to transcend themselves, becoming more than who they are outside of the ring. For Mexican stars, this is a more overt way to get that across.

The tradition doesn’t just extend to the Mexican wrestlers, of course, many Japanese stars such as Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask have sported their own versions throughout their careers. Even in the WWE, there have been some stars that, for different reasons, chose to wrestle at least part of their career behind a mask. Here are five such examples:

#1 Mr America (Hulk Hogan)

Worst kept secret in wrestling.

It’s safe to say the relationship between WWE, and it’s biggest star of the 80’s, Hulk Hogan, has been anything but smooth. As we speak, Hogan is still technically being kept at arm’s length by the company, owing to one too many PR blunders from the former WWF Champion. It’s unsure whether he will ever return to WWE television, but if history is anything to go by, it’s certainly not out of the question.

At times, this troubled relationship has lent itself nicely to some kayfabe storytelling. In 2003, during a moment of high tension between Hogan and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, The Hulkster would put aside his bright yellow and red tights and slip into something a little more left-field.

After McMahon had ordered him to sit out the rest of his contract with WWE in the aftermath to the Wrestlemania 19 match between the two, Hogan started coming to the ring as the masked wrestler ‘Mr. America’. The idea being that Hogan could still make his way to the ring and entertain the fans as Mr America while keeping the Hogan character off WWE TV.

This was one of those rare storylines which managed to be both cheesy and hilarious. The dynamics of it worked so well; both the fans and Mr McMahon knew what was going on, which only served to make the boss even angrier than normal, and we all know that Vince is at his best when he’s at the end of his rope.

Mr America would come to the ring using the Hogan theme music and his signature finisher, delighting the fans along the way. Perhaps it was the sight of the former legend taking a slightly more self-deprecating approach to himself that endeared the Mr America character to the fans, or maybe it was just a good excuse to jeer and boo Vince.

The gimmick would not last long, however, as the real-life animosity between the two would once again get in the way of business. Hogan left the company, citing frustrations around pay, but at least he was able to give fans one last burst of enjoyment before riding off into the sunset for the second time.

Also read: 8 technical wrestlers who have no 5-star matches

#2 The Undertaker

One of Taker’s many character traits.

There’s a reason why Undertaker’s retirement at Wrestlemania 33 early this year shook the wrestling world so strongly. The guy has been a bonafide legend since his WWE debut back in 1990. Now highly revered as one of the greatest in-ring characters in wrestling history, it’s amazing to think that he managed to maintain his eery ‘deadman’ gimmick for so long.

What you might not remember, however, is that back in 1996 the Deadman temporarily wore a mask, looking a little like the Phantom of the Opera. In a feud with Mabel, Taker suffered a broken orbital bone as a result of one too many leg drops from the 500-pound big man. Whether this was a random brainwave from Vince to add a little to the Taker character or an idea from Taker himself is unclear.

The Undertaker character, despite its great history, has always been one of those gimmicks that is too tempting to play around with. It’s actually quite a subtle persona when you think about it. An actual undertaker is simply somebody in charge of handling dead bodies before they are buried, but Callaway’s wrestling character has always hovered around the dark and macabre, following the latest cultural trends along the way.

At one time Taker was a goth like figure, attempting human sacrifices and making various members of the McMahon family do things they didn’t want to do. Other times he’s been more like an actual demon, with the ability to control the weather and the lighting in the arena.

The mask wasn’t around for very long, eventually coming off during a match-up with Bret Hart, but whenever you look back on video packages of the Phenom, you will occasionally see the grey mask upon his head and appreciate just how long he was able to keep it relevant and interesting.

#3 CM Punk

Straight Bald Society.

While wrestling masks are usually designed to hide the wearer’s identity, at least in part, sometimes masks can fulfil an entirely different purpose. Back in early 2011, CM Punk found himself head of The Straight Edge Society, a heel faction that lived a straight edge lifestyle and attempted to convert different people to its purist cause.

Punk was the perfect person to lead this faction, given that he actively followed the straight edge lifestyle outside of the ring and his advanced mic skills meant he could get this gimmick over like nobody else.

Perhaps the highlight of the SES was its rivalry with another masked WWE star, Rey Mysterio. Punk was desperate to convert Rey over to his side, recognising the connection he had with the WWE Universe, particularly the younger members. After a very solid Wrestlemania match in which Rey successfully navigated his way around having to join the faction, the two had another match, this time with even more at stake.

The stipulation was that if Rey lost, he would be forced to join the Straight Edge Society. If Punk lost, Rey would be allowed to shave off his hair. Punk would often be flanked by Selena and Luke Gallows, both sacrificing their own hair in order to show loyalty to Punk, and Rey’s argument was that Punk should be forced to do the same as his followers. Rey ended up getting the win once more, and Punk’s head would be shaved completely bald.

On the next episode of SmackDown, Punk would seemingly have to reveal his baldness to the WWE fans in attendance. Covered by a towel, the fans waited with anticipation to see what the end result of Punk’s haircut really looked like. Instead, Punk got one over on the universe by sporting a brand new mask.

This was a clever way to extend some of the heel heat Punk had built for himself in his feud with Rey, and he even wrestled a few matches with it, including a number one contender’s fatal four-way match on Smackdown. Eventually, in a later feud with Big Show, Punk had his dignity finally stripped away from him as the Giant pulled the mask from Punk’s head during a ladder match.

Something about this rivalry helped manoeuvre Punk slightly higher up the WWE pecking order, and by the summer of that year, he would find himself embroiled in one of the hottest storylines of WWE’s PG era.

#4 Cody Rhodes

Un-dashing Nightmare.

Similar to CM Punk, Cody Rhodes was another WWE superstar that used a mask to hide something other than his identity. In what was probably the highlight of Cody’s WWE run, the current ‘American Nightmare’ was given what felt like a very old school gimmick. Cody would go around calling himself 'Dashing Cody Rhodes' looking like somebody out of the movie Grease. He would pop the collar on his leather jacket, throw a cheesy smile at the ladies in attendance and berate all of the male fans for being so ugly.

The gimmick was comical and fresh and helped Cody build some much-needed personality after his unceremonious exit from Legacy after Wrestlemania 26. However, the gimmick would soon be ended, once again, by Rey Mysterio. During a rivalry between the two, Cody became obsessed that none of his opponents should strike him in the face. This was Cody's money maker, and he had to keep it from disfiguration at the cost of his entire career.

Rey obviously didn't receive that memo and delivered a 619 to Cody that, in kayfabe terms, broke the Dashing one's nose. Cody was forced to flee the ring, and he was visibly distraught at losing his most valued possession. himself and visibly distraught at losing his most valued possession.

While this might have been an opportunity to transition him back to being another vanilla heel, the WWE instead decided to follow through on what had happened and made Cody come to the ring in a protective mask. This was partly to hide the disfiguration upon his once beautiful facial features, and also to show how paranoid he had become at having to suffer another facial injury.

The mask was part of the new 'un-Dashing' gimmick, where Cody would portray himself as a darker, more sinister character, jealous of all the people around him who weren't in need of facial reconstructive surgery. The mask itself become the centre of controversy, as Rhodes began using it as a weapon against his opponents.

If nothing else, the two back-to-back gimmicks showed a more versatile side to Cody and allowed him to showcase his impressive mic skills and his ability to work off crowd reactions, whether positive or not. It's a shame the whole affair didn’t last longer.

#5 Owen Hart

A tragic story.

Perhaps the entry that evokes the most sadness out of all the people on this list. Owen Hart spent his last days in WWE, and on this planet, as the cartoonish ‘Blue Blazer’. After a troubled few years which saw his Brother leave for WCW under more than controversial circumstances, Owen spent a period of time as a heel, joining The Rock’s Nation of Domination faction.

Then, in 1999, Owen seemingly quit the company in a storyline involving Dan Severn and Jeff Jarrett. But rather than remove himself entirely from WWE programming, he would start coming to the ring as the semi-comedic Blue Blazer character. It was a kind of subversion of WWF’s 1980’s superstars who encouraged the younger fans to ‘take their vitamins and drink their milk’. Blue Blazer did it obnoxiously, criticising the way the company had devolved into the seedy, reprehensible shenanigans of the Attitude Era.

Tragically, in 1999, Owen would make his final appearance at the Over the Edge PPV, falling to his death from high above the ring during an entrance gone awry. To this day, the promo Owen cut, wearing the Blue Blazer mask just before going out to the ring for his match, still holds a very eery, unpleasant feel to it. It’s a crying shame that the career and life of arguably the most talented member of the Hart family ended during a throwaway PPV during a period of high animosity between employer and employee.

It’s probably for this reason that the Blue Blazer character isn’t much discussed by the company, instead preferring fans to remember Owen as the blonde haired athletic mastermind who stole the show with this big brother in 1994 at Wrestlemania 10.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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