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, or the less wanted, Madonna.
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. (also, it makes it easier to escape with your fight purse in some of the crummier barrios)
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 in this list are wrestling writers’ brainchildren, brains that might’ve been deprived of oxygen for a prolonged state. 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 syphilis 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”