Ranking the Best Masked Stars in WWE over the Last Decade
Halloween is in the air, which means there are more people wearing masks this week than at any other point in the year.
In the wrestling business, this is much more commonplace no matter what month it is. Many Superstars go their whole careers wearing masks, often making that the biggest part of their aesthetic in an attempt to stand out from a crowd.
This week saw the addition of a new masked Superstar to the roster in Sin Cara's partner, Carolina, which shows there will always be a market for more.
To help celebrate the holiday season, let's reflect on WWE's masked wrestlers and rank some of the best from the past decade.
Spotlight: Masks for Comedy
When most fans think of masked wrestlers, their minds will go toward luchadores with a serious emotional attachment to their gear. That isn't always the case, though.
Masks are also great tools for comedic purposes when a character has a storyline that allows for playing around with their identity.
One of the best was August 2009 when The Miz defeated Eugene in a Contract on a Pole Match to win back his spot on the roster while dressed as The Calgary Kid.
John Cena once briefly went by the name Juan Cena, Elias tried to sneak by as El Vagabundo when he was taken off NXT, and Bo Dallas also tried to stick on the black-and-gold brand as Mr. NXT.
In a callback to a now decades-old gag, Kurt Angle dressed as The Conquistador last year to earn his spot in the World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel.
The Hurricane has had a few returns here and there for a chuckle, such as when he tried to win the 24/7 Championship from R-Truth during the San Diego Comic-Con in July.
These have all been fun moments, but they cannot be ranked alongside those who have had legitimate careers under a mask.
Spotlight: Masks in Entrances
Plenty of Superstars have incorporated masks for their entrances but take them off before the bell rings.
More often than not, Ali has his light-up mask inspired by Mortal Kombat character Sub-Zero. The Hunt have their animal-themed masks, and Asuka still wears a mask during her entrance.
Up until her heel turn this summer, Io Shirai was also using a face cover for her entrance.
Andrade has had his moments of wearing a mask, too, based off his years wrestling under the name La Sombra. Even AOP went through a phase of covering their faces for their entrance.
Perhaps the most impactful use of masks for entrances was with The Wyatt Family. For years, their heavy use of sheep masks helped drive home how creepy that cult could be, to the point that The Bludgeon Brothers couldn't even escape carrying that over into their stint as a tag team.
Honorable Mentions: Liger and Ligero
Jushin Thunder Liger is in the process of wrapping up a career that has spanned over 30 years, but he's only wrestled twice for WWE.
The most recent was 2015's NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn when he was victorious over Tyler Breeze. That rare appearance was interesting but not worthy of putting him on this list.
Also falling short of placing in the top 10 is Ligero from NXT UK. While he's on the current roster and has shown some promise, he's still to actually accomplish anything.
There hasn't been a noteworthy feud or win with his name attached. He's simply another member of the roster and a fine performer who is still finding his way.
10. Los Matadores and El Torito
In 2013, WWE repackaged Primo and Epico as Diego and Fernando with a new tag team name of Los Matadores. Rounding out the stable was their mascot, El Torito, who acted as the bull to their bullfighter shtick.
They spent months beating 3MB, only to miss out on the tag team titles and see their winning ways derailed from then on.
Los Matadores started to wrestle mostly on Superstars and Main Event, often losing to teams like Damien Mizdow and The Miz or Tyson Kidd and Cesaro.
In September 2015, Los Matadores had their last televised match, losing to The Prime Time Players. El Torito would be released a few months later, and Primo and Epico would go on to do their Shining Stars gimmick, which flopped even harder.
Now, The Colons are rarely even seen outside of a few house-show appearances and dark matches. They haven't even been on television once this year.
Still, their involvement in the WeeLC match from Extreme Rules 2014 was a lot of fun and the highlight of this team's run under this gimmick.
9. Masked CM Punk
For clarification, this is just the version of CM Punk that wrestled in a mask, rather than his entire career, which would place him much higher.
Back in 2009-2010 when Punk was the leader of The Straight Edge Society, he lost a feud to Rey Mysterio and had his head shaved.
To conceal his new look, he started to wear a luchador mask, which he kept for the next few months until Big Show ripped it off in a fun moment just to reveal his bald head.
This was far from the most memorable thing about Punk's WWE career, but it was a good-enough storyline to do something a little different rather than give him a championship to defend or wrestle with no stakes.
8. The Original Sin Cara
With Sin Cara's signing on February 24, 2011, it seemed WWE finally had its next Rey Mysterio. After all, he was a big-enough name in the wrestling world with a good track record of performances, so the expectations were high.
For a while, WWE tried hard to give him a solid push toward stardom. He was paired with people like Sheamus and Jack Swagger to make an impact before going on a winning streak.
Outside of a loss to Christian two months later, his momentum was strong heading into Money in the Bank 2011, which is when the downward spiral started.
He was written out of action with a storyline injury to excuse his violation of WWE's Wellness Policy program, which led to a 30-day suspension.
An impostor storyline started with his return, wherein the original (dubbed Sin Cara Azul) feuded with his heel copycat, Sin Cara Negro. When Azul beat Negro in a Mask vs. Mask match, the latter started to wrestle under the name Hunico and left Sin Cara to get his career back on track.
Sadly, he didn't. While he did find wins over people here and there, particularly when teaming with Mysterio, Sin Cara never reached the success intended for him. By January 2014, he had parted ways with WWE, leaving the name open for Hunico to take on the mantle again.
7. Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado
Two members of Lucha House Party tie for the seventh spot as Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado have yet to do much to stand out.
Metalik peaked early when he reached the final of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament in 2016.
Dorado has had a few shots at the belt, too, as well as plenty of opportunities alongside Metalik and Kalisto to reach the top of the tag team division, with no positive results.
They're talented performers who have the potential to reach greater heights, but the more time that passes raises questions of whether they'll actually achieve anything noteworthy.
Perhaps even Thursday's Crown Jewel tag team turmoil match will be when The Lucha House Party takes the next step forward by winning the World Cup and giving these two their first major accomplishment in WWE.
6. The Current Sin Cara
While the original Sin Cara was meant to be a major star but flopped, Sin Cara Negro was the one to really take the character to its highest success to date.
On December 2, 2013, Hunico put the Sin Cara mask back on to portray the character going forward. Now, he's wrestled longer under the gimmick than the original.
After being moved to NXT, Sin Cara formed a tag team with Kalisto known as The Lucha Dragons. They managed to capture the NXT Tag Team Championship from The Ascension, who were nigh-on unstoppable powerhouses at the time.
Although that has been Sin Cara's only title reign to date, it's still a feat few others on this list have managed to accomplish.
Here and there, he will receive some random pushes as a midcarder, proving WWE hasn't given up on him. Even now, while he's been losing his feud with Andrade, it's a prominent-enough storyline that he was given a valet in Carolina to help add something new to his character and overall value.
Perhaps this is the start of an even more successful run that will result in another title reign in 2020.
At this point in the list, the true contenders arrive, and Kalisto has been one of the most successful masked Superstars in modern WWE.
His first taste of gold was his NXT tag team title run with Sin Cara, but he's also been a cruiserweight champion and two-time United States champion.
Kalisto has an winning record in WWE and has been part of some great moments such as his Salida del Sol off the top of a ladder at Tables, Ladders and Chairs in 2015.
Whether he's goofing around on UpUpDownDown or leading The Lucha House Party in their quest for tag team gold, he is always reliable for a "good lucha thing" whenever he's performing.
4. 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt
Outside of a short stint as WWE champion, Bray Wyatt has mostly been a character of untapped potential. He has been so close to the top of the food chain but manages to fall from grace when the big matches happen.
However, after many months missing in action, his career was given a shot of adrenaline with the emergence of The Fiend character.
The creepy mask set him on a more twisted path than before, which allowed Wyatt to resonate with audiences for the first time in years. Practically overnight, he was a sensation again.
WWE put a bump in his road by booking him poorly at Hell in a Cell, but there's a very good chance he wins the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel in his Falls Count Anywhere match against Seth Rollins.
If he manages to take the title on Thursday, he'll be worthy of moving even higher on this list, if not topping it soon enough.
3. 'Dashing' Cody Rhodes
In 2010, "Dashing" Cody Rhodes spent months giving grooming tips to the WWE Universe. Then, on January 21, 2011, hard times fell on him when Rey Mysterio broke his nose in a match on SmackDown.
This sparked the next phase of his character in which he wore a prosthetic mask to protect his face and also utilized as a weapon by headbutting his opponents.
A whole new dynamic emerged with Rhodes handing out paper bags to hide fans' "offensive, ugly faces." It was a great gimmick that led to his first singles title when he won the Intercontinental Championship from Ezekiel Jackson.
One of the best things to come out of this era was Rhodes bringing back the classic design of that title, which WWE has used ever since.
Randy Orton broke the mask in a Street Fight, but Rhodes didn't lose his momentum. He spun that into another change in character, saying he had been set free and continuing to hold the title for nearly 260 days between two reigns.
This was the peak of his singles career in WWE and much of that success was due to how well the masked gimmick worked.
From his debut up until his exit to become Mayor of Knox County, Kane was busy building a Hall of Fame career.
There are countless accolades to talk about, but when keeping things to his time under a mask, many years have to be skipped, including his World Heavyweight Championship reign.
In late 2011, though, Kane sported a new mask and a rejuvenated lust for violence, trying to force John Cena to "embrace the hate." He destroyed Zack Ryder, who was incredibly over at the time, and beat Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Out of all the directions to go from there, he was oddly paired up with Daniel Bryan to form the popular Team Hell No—one of the best tag teams in the past decade.
Together, Kane and Bryan stole the show nearly every week with their segments and held the tag titles for 245 days—the longest reign in the past 11 years bar The New Day's record.
This breathed new life into Kane's career and built up enough goodwill that when he ditched the mask again to join The Authority as Corporate Kane, it was a bigger deal.
This also started a new incarnation of the character by allowing some flexibility. He now has the ability to go without a mask as Glenn Jacobs or put it on again as Demon Kane, which allows the best of both worlds.
1. Rey Mysterio
Even after a three-year hiatus in the past decade, Rey Mysterio still lives up to his moniker of The Greatest Mask of All Time.
In April 2009, he defeated JBL in near-record-setting time to win the Intercontinental Championship, which also earned him Triple Crown status. Even after losing it to Chris Jericho, he won it back and held it for a combined 131 days.
In June 2010, Mysterio won his second World Heavyweight Championship by dethroning Jack Swagger, Big Show and CM Punk at Fatal 4-Way.
Mysterio had another, albeit brief, world-title reign when he won the WWE Championship on the July 25, 2011 episode of Raw, which he then lost later that night to John Cena. Still, it counts in the record books.
Most recently, he became a Grand Slam Champion at Money in the Bank 2019 when he defeated Samoa Joe to win his first United States title.
With all those accolades and possibly more on the horizon, it's hard not to award the top spot to one of the greatest to ever put on a mask.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.