Masked Wrestler Shenanigans: WWE's Rumored Sin Cara Substitution Is Nothing New
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As I noted yesterday, WWE is reportedly considering using developmental wrestler Hunico in the Sin Cara gimmick until the end of the latter's suspension for failing a drug test. There are rumblings that it could even become a permanent change.
With Hunico having had issues with Sin Cara in the past because Hunico was named Mystico before Sin Cara was named Mistico, it's as if WWE is trying to make the situation as volatile and amusing as possible.
This is far from the first time that masked wrestlers' identities (obviously) being hidden has been exploited by wrestling promotions and dubious wrestlers. They haven't just done this to keep a masked gimmick active.
They've put masks on normally unmasked wrestlers when they were injured or left the promotion so they can pretend the wrestlers were still around. They've put masks on wrestlers so they can work multiple matches without anyone noticing.
They've stolen the gimmicks of popular masked wrestlers from other promotions. Obscure wrestlers have bought costumes to pose as much more famous masked wrestlers. And so on.
Let's take a look and some of the things that promoters and wrestlers have (tried to) pull off.
Sin Cara Double-Books Himself as Mistico, Sends His Brother in His Place
Sin Cara as Mistico. I think. Who else could it be? Oh. Right. (Photo by upeslases on Flickr)
In Mexico, it's not at all uncommon for a popular star wrestler to be in high demand from independent promoters to the degree that he will work multiple times a day on the weekends. Sin Cara was a huge star in Mexico as Mistico, and promoters were dying to book him out of the CMLL office.
It got to the point that Mistico would book himself on two shows even when he couldn't possibly work on both. The solution? Send his brother to one of the shows in the Mistico outfit.
His brother was also in CMLL and working as Astro Boy, Sin Cara's previous gimmick. Their body types and skill levels are close enough that this worked out fine for them. Better for Sin Cara, though, because he got to work the higher profile, higher paying show.
Shane Douglas Gets Injured, Leaves WCW and Somehow Doesn't Miss a Show
Aren't those masks really uncomfortable? Why didn't Shane Douglas take his off like Ricky Steamboat did?
In late 1992, WWE Hall of Famer Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and future ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas won the WCW/NWA Unified World Tag Team Championship from Dustin Rhodes (also known as Goldust) and Barry Windham.
They were an excellent team and found the perfect foil in The Hollywood Blonds, Steve Austin (then "Stunning" as opposed to "Stone Cold") and the late Brian Pillman.
They had a great feud with a number of excellent televised matches, including a title change that aired on WCW's main syndicated show World Wide Wrestling, as well as TBS' Power Hour on cable.
The feud was endangered when Douglas injured his shoulder. To keep it going, WCW came up with a clever angle that also happened to lead to false advertising.
One night, a pair of masked men from Mexico showed up at Center Stage Theater in Atlanta for an episode of WCW Saturday Night with their interpreter, Ms. Murphy. They were the Dos Hombres, a team from Mexico.
With just $19 in their pockets, they wanted a non-title match with the Blondes so they could prove themselves and have a video of them against big American stars to air in Mexico. The Blondes agreed to wrestle them the next night on WCW Main Event.
I bet you can guess what happened in the match: The Hombres started using Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat's trademark moves and won when one of them hit Pillman with the flying bodypress, Steamboat's finisher.
After the match, announcer Tony Schiavone wanted to try to interview them in Spanish. Steamboat unmasked and cut a promo on the Blondes. Having earned a title shot with their win, they wanted a steel cage match at Slamboree. Yay!
Hmm...that's strange. Only Steamboat unmasked, and after he did, the majority of the segment was had the camera zoomed in tight on him while Douglas kept his mask on. That's because it wasn't Douglas. It was Brad Armstrong.
After this, there was one more Dos Hombres TV match where Douglas (the real one) came out to distract the Blondes, and then it was time for Slamboree.
But first, Douglas left the company. At this point it didn't really matter if he was injured, but the Dos Hombres needed to stick around a little longer.
At Slamboree, Steamboat and "Douglas" (Tom Zenk) came out in the Dos Hombres gear again, with Steamboat telling the fans it was a good luck charm. Zenk did a good job, but screwed up near the end of the match by doing the superkick, one of his trademark moves and something that Douglas never used.
Steamboat unmasked again late in the match before hitting the flying body press, perhaps drawing a little too much attention to the issue. The good luck charm didn't work, as they lost. That blew off the feud, and Shane Douglas wasn't seen in WCW again for seven years.
So What If Psicosis, La Parka and Friends Left? You Can Recycle the Gimmick!
Mascarita Sagrada. I think this is the original. Probably.
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If you were watching wrestling during the Monday Night Wars of the '90s, you remember the influx of Mexican talent in WCW that had been brought in by Konnan.
Rey Mysterio/Rey Misterio Jr., Psicosis/Psychosis, Juventud Guerrera and La Parka were the most popular members of the group, but a lot more like Los Villanos, Silver King, El Dandy, Super Calo, et al also came in and were reliable for good undercard matches.
Most of the wrestlers were from the late Antonio Pena's AAA promotion. AAA was started when Pena got backing and left his job as one of CMLL's bookers. The wrestlers who were loyal to him jumped, while those loyal to the other booker (Juan Herrera) stayed.
Fast forward to 1996, and Konnan's crew jumps to the Promo Azteca, the end result of the TV Azteca network buying the smaller PROMELL promotion.
Pena was an incredibly creative man. His ideas could get bad or just plain weird, but he had the type of genius wrestling booking and promoting abilities that very few have.
He made a very risky move and replaced as many of the masked wrestlers as he could in their gimmicks with less talented undercard wrestlers.
Here are some examples where the wrestler who left would be someone that American fans would be more familiar with.:
|Gimmick/wrestler who jumped to Promo Azteca||Undercard wrestler who replaced him|
|La Parka||Karis La Momia|
|Histeria (Super Crazy)||Quarterback|
Thanks to the magazines and rumor mill, it was obvious to many fans what was going on, but it actually worked out well for Pena. Eventually, the AAA versions were considered the genuine articles.
As for the originals, they eventually had to change their names. Psicosis changed his name to Nicho El Millionario, La Parka became L.A. Par-K and Histeria went back to using the name Super Crazy, which he had used in the past.
Pena continued to use replacements as other wrestlers like Mascarita Sagrada, Octagoncito, Pentagon, Abismo Negro and others either left the company or had health issues.
They weren't always replaced with inferior performers; each Mascarita Sagrada and Octagoncito was seeming better than the last. The first replacement Pentagon wasn't as good as the original, but he was no slouch.
Why Pay for the Assassins, Masked Superstar or Spoiler? Just Make Your Own
The "Memphis" Assassins with manager Gorgeous George Jr.
I love old Memphis wrestling with Jerry Lawler, Jerry Jarrett, Bill Dundee, et al. I really do. They had one especially bad habit in Memphis, though: They would use the names/gimmicks of famous masked wrestlers without permission and put them on other wrestlers.
They wouldn't say "Look! It's world famous wrestler _____!", but the implication was obviously there.
In the early '60s to early '70s, Joe Hamilton and Tom Renesto were big draws in many territories as The Assassins.
There were a legendary team who cut great promos, had great matches as "technical" heels and are well remembered for their legendary feud with The Kentuckians (Luke Brown and Jake "The Snake" Roberts' father Grizzly Smith).
When Renesto retired, Hamilton mostly worked as a singles wrestler, though he did eventually form a new Assassins team with Hercules Hernandez under the hood as his partner.
In Memphis, Roger Smith (also known as Dirty Rhodes) used the Assassins gimmick in 1979-1980 and 1983 as one of many masked team gimmicks they used in the territory.
Eventually, Don Bass would join him as his partner, but first, Smith was joined by Randy "Moondog Rex" Colley and then by Bill "Kurt Von Hess" Terry. While plenty of other wrestlers worked as "The Assassin" after Hamilton and Renesto, they had more generic outfits.
Bass and Smith completely ripped off Hamilton and Renesto's look of yellow masks with black trim and either black bodysuits or yellow bodysuits with black trim. When they wore the yellow bodysuits, they even wore robes that looked like the ones Hamilton and Renesto wore when they did the same.
Meanwhile, Hamilton would sometimes work in Alabama. He opted to become The Flame there since the fake Assassin in that territory killed the gimmick. He stuck with the mask and bodysuit look, but now, he wore a red suit and a yellow mask with red trim. In 1986, Bass and Smith debuted a new gimmick in Memphis: Fire and Flame, ripping off Hamilton's Alabama gimmick. Eventually, they added Larry Wright as Torch.
Don Jardine was a major star from the '60s through the '80s as The Spoiler. Best known among modern fans as the man who inspired The Undertaker to walk the ropes and ape other elements of his style, he had a reputation as one of the best big men in the business and drew money just about everywhere he went.
The exception was the WWWF (now WWE), where he didn't wear his mask because masked wrestlers couldn't wrestle at Madison Square Garden for reasons nobody has figured out.
In 1984, Jardine was on national TV thanks to the Georgia promotion's exposure on TBS. That didn't stop Lawler and Jarrett from giving the name to Frank "The Angel" Morell, another area mainstay. With Jardine on national TV and Morrell looking nothing like him in the outfit, he didn't come off as a straight-up "fake" like The Assassins did in Memphis.
Tim Woods was an amateur star who broke out under a mask as Mr. Wrestling. Later, aging journeyman Johnny "Rubberman" Walker became a big star as his partner, Mr. Wrestling II, in his iconic white mask with black trim. Various other Mr. Wrestlings popped up everywhere to ape Woods, with Memphis using another local veteran in the role.
Tommy Gilbert (father of Eddie and Doug), like Bass and Smith, used a lot of masked gimmicks in the early to mid '80s. In 1985, Mr. Wrestling became one of them in the promotion now formally known as the CWA.
Later that year came possibly the oddest of these cases. Jerry Stubbs came in to the CWA as The Masked Superstar, a gimmick made famous by Bill Eadie (AKA Demolition Ax and The Super Machine).
Stubbs was already a star under a mask (which he used often to hide his prematurely balding head) as Mr. Olympia in many southern territories. He looked nothing like Eadie, only wearing the same style mask and not trying to co-opt the rest of his look, much less his wrestling and talking styles.
He was out of the territory pretty quickly and went home to Alabama as himself, taking on the nickname "Mr. Perfect."
And before you ask: Yes, some people claim that Curt Hennig asked for Stubbs' blessing before he became Mr. Perfect in the WWF.
Rey Mysterio's Cousin Gets a Makeover and Makes Money from Lies of Omission
Not who it looks like...
While I would expect hardcore fans to know, Rey Mysterio has had the current version of his name so long that newer casual fans wouldn't know he used to be Rey Misterio Jr. His name was changed upon entering WWE for trademark reasons and because Vince McMahon hates the name "junior."
As the legend goes, wrestlers always called Vince "junior" even though he has a different middle name from his father, and it infuriated him. Thus, Rey Misterio Jr. became Rey Mysterio, Dory Funk Jr. became Hoss Funk, Chavo Guerrero Jr. became Chavo Guerrero while his father became Chavo Classic for his WWE run, Ricky Steamboat Jr. became Richie Steamboat when he went to Florida Championship Wrestling under his developmental deal, etc.
Anyway, it was never a secret that the original Rey Misterio is WWE Rey Mysterio's uncle, not his father. When Rey Sr.'s son was ready to wrestle, there was no way he could use name name Rey Misterio Jr., so he went by Hijo de Rey Misterio.
At first, he dressed similarly to his how his cousin did through his WCW unmasking, as you can see in this photo of the three of them together. After a while, that changed.
Hijo de Rey Misterio underwent a big makeover a few years ago. He put on a lot of muscle mass. He got new gear consisting of the pleather pants and strappy masks that look like what his cousin wears. Then he got a bunch of tattoos done, and yes, they are the same as his cousin's ink.
To complete the package, he got the same type of stylized contact lenses that his cousin wears. This all added up to the look in the above photo of Hijo de Rey Misterio. Familiar, isn't it?
With carefully deceptive but not quite false advertising, Hijo de Rey Misterio became a pretty good draw on independent shows in Mexico and the United States. The photos on posters were real, and he had every right to his ring name, so it's not like there was much that could be done to stop him.
I hope he likes his tattoos, because he soured on the wrestling business and quit around the end of last year. His father quickly replaced him with a wrestler from outside the family (the former Horus) who (at least for now) looks more like early Rey Misterio Jr., but with a Mohawk on the mask like Rey Sr. used to have.