Today Vince McMahon practically has a monopoly on the professional wrestling industry with his global juggernaut World Wrestling Entertainment. One of the methods he has used to achieve that goal has been to seek out the most marketable wrestlers or “Superstars” in the world, and a large part of that marketability stems from the given star’s looks. Because of this, it is rare to see a WWE Superstar wearing a mask in this era of the company because McMahon seems to believe no good face should go hidden.
That may have been working out for WWE, but the mask still holds a respected position in the majority of the independent wrestling world and has played a meaningful role in the history of the industry. Masks are prevalent outside of the mainstream scene, particularly in Mexico where the vast majority of luchadors still wear them and see great successes. This is evident when one simply watches one episode of the popular indy hit Lucha Underground, but there are still wrestlers hiding their true identities all over the world.
It may not be evident in 2017, but WWE has actually featured a fairly large number of masked Superstars over the course of its company history, and while most of those men were only around for brief periods of time, there have been some legendary examples of this, too, such as Mankind, Kane and Rey Mysterio. Whatever their levels of success, it would be a shame for the tradition of the mask to go under-appreciated, so let’s take a look at 15 masked WWE Superstars from the past whom you may have – but hopefully, haven’t – forgotten about.
We can kick off the list with the first of what will inevitably be quite a few masked wrestling stars who were only around in a WWE ring for a cup of coffee. Jullian Carrillo is a Mexican wrestling veteran who wrestled in Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, or AAA, for several years throughout the 1990s. In 1996, during this run, AAA developed a working relationship with the World Wrestling Federation, an arrangement which allowed AAA wrestling talents to be exposed to an American audience through competing in matches on WWF television, and Carrillo, known then as Venum, was one of the lucky men who participated.
Carrillo has competed under many other names besides Venum and for the past decade or so his career has been somewhat difficult to follow. This is because he has been wrestling on the less popular Mexican independent wrestling circuit, but it is apparent he still competes.
14. The Great Sasuke
The mention another name you may not remember due to his run in the World Wrestling Federation being so very brief, The Great Sasuke is a highly successful Japanese masked wrestler who has been competing for decades. He has won several prestigious championships, namely throughout popular promotions such as the National Wrestling Alliance and New Japan Pro Wrestling. He very nearly added WWE gold to that resume as he competed in the 1997 tournament which would go on to crown the company’s first ever Light Heavyweight Champion. If you’re curious, the champion ended up being another Japanese Superstar named Taka Michinoku.
The Great Sasuke has continued to compete over the years in both Japan and America. In fact, in recent years he has made appearances wrestling for the popular independent organization Chikara Pro, which has produced many of WWE’s current Superstars. This Japanese legend is still going strong and doesn’t show any signs of hanging up the boots anytime soon.
As you may or may not recall there was once a fiery redhead named Lita who took the WWE women’s division by storm for many years and was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Lita made her debut alongside a popular young Mexican wrestling star named Essa Rios, who also competed in WWE as Aguila. He managed to capture the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, although that was his only big accomplishment in the company.
In 2001 Aguila left WWE and, aside from a stint competing in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s X Division, has continued to wrestle throughout Mexico over the years. He has held gold in two of the biggest wrestling companies in that country, including the Mexican National Heavyweight Championship in AAA and the World Tag and World Trios Championships in Consejo Mundial de LuchaLibre, or CMLL, an organization he still works for today as Mr. Aguila.
12. Aldo Montoya
In the middle of the 1990s when the World Wrestling Federation was still clinging to the last threads of the over the top character era of wrestling, Aldo Montoya was born. He was billed as the “Portuguese Man O’ War” and sported a hideous yellow mask. This silly idea pretty much went nowhere but owns a part of history for just how bad it was. But just in case you didn’t know, Aldo Montoya was played by none other than the legendary former ECW World Heavyweight Champion Justin Credible.
Apparently, the stars aligned during Justin’s early days as a jobber for the World Wrestling Federation when Vince McMahon became aware that he was Portuguese and spoke the language. Though Montoya didn’t exactly work out, he certainly went on to become a hardcore wrestling icon later in that decade as one of the young faces of Paul Heyman’s rebellious wrestling promotion. He retired in late 2015 but remains in touch with his fans through Twitter.
Don’t laugh. Avatar was a very big deal during his time in the ring. Actually, he wasn’t and that’s okay because the man under the mask went on to a pretty impressive career and you may know him by the name of Al Snow. The Avatar character was really not much more than a joke, but Al Snow himself was a fantastically gifted wrestler who largely served the purpose of putting other WWE Superstars over with a quick loss to them. The impressive thing was that Snow left an impression on the business by doing so and is one of the many faces fondly remembered by fans of the famed Attitude era.
Al Snow was one of the men who became practically synonymous with the popular WWF Hardcore Championship, and that’s a legacy he’ll always carry with him. Today he still wrestles occasionally but stays involved in the industry largely through working with TNA as a producer and starting his own wrestling school.
10. El Local
If you blinked, you missed this one. It’s another case of a masked character being portrayed by a well known WWE Superstar and most of the casual viewers at home had no idea. El Local only wrestled a handful of times with WWE a few years back, namely teaming with fellow masked Superstar Kalisto. One day El Local just vanished and that is because the man behind the mask was released from the company. That man was Ricardo Rodriguez, the former personal ring announcer for Alberto Del Rio.
Despite his few outings in the ring while at Del Rio’s side, most fans were not aware that Ricardo Rodriguez was actually a full-time wrestler on the independent circuit before joining WWE. That’s what he returned to once he was released from WWE, wrestling in different parts of the world for organizations like the World Wrestling Council and AAA in Mexico, as well as for former WWE Superstar The Great Khali’s organization in India.
9. Max Moon
In what became one of the biggest jokes in the history of the wrestling industry in 1992, the World Wrestling Federation decided to take a veteran of the ring and dress him up essentially as the video game character Mega Man. His name was Max Moon and he was dressed from head to toe in futuristic blue space armor and walked to the ring with rockets on his arms. It was a gimmick laughable even for its time, and that’s saying something when it comes to the most notorious wacky gimmick era in the history of wrestling.
It wasn’t all bad for Max Moon, but history will certainly always see him that way. The man under the mask was Paul Diamond, who wrestled all over the country for decades, winning championships in many different organizations including a World Tag Team Championship in the infamous American Wrestling Association with his longtime tag team partner Pat Tanaka.
8. Tiger Mask
The name Tiger Mask is legendary in Japanese wrestling. The character is based on a popular anime series and has been played by several different professional wrestlers, with the latest being Kota Ibushi in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The character made its way to the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s with Satoru Sayama underneath the mask. There Tiger Mask won the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship on several occasions, but the influence of the character is felt in all corners of the wrestling world.
As mentioned, Kota Ibushi is now keeping things current in NJPW as Tiger Mask W, the latest version of the character. The tradition has become so popular and versatile that the Tiger Mask lineage will likely go on for a very long time, but Satoru Sayama will always be known as the original. He continues to compete to this day despite recent health issues that threatened his career.
7. Mil Mascaras
The tradition of the mask in professional wrestling is no more prevalent anywhere else in the world than it is in Mexico and you cannot have a discussion about Lucha libre without mention the iconic Mil Mascaras. He is one of the most influential wrestlers in the history of the industry and was the first man to wear a mask while performing at Madison Square Garden during a time when such a thing was not permitted. He is not only a true legend in his native country, but he has also left a big mark on the American wrestling scene as well.
In 2012 Mil Mascaras was recognized for his vast contributions to the sport of professional wrestling with an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame by his nephew and former WWE Superstar Alberto Del Rio. He keeps his identity extremely well guarded, as is the tradition with many luchadors, but was still wrestling at least as of a few years ago.
6. El Torito
Though his time in WWE was rather recent, it may be easy to forget that El Torito was actually a popular Superstar for Vince McMahon. The tiny wrestler (disguised as a bull, obviously) was brought into the company to add some flavor to Primo and Epico, who had recently been repackaged as Fernando and Diego, or Los Matadores. El Torito instantly stole their entire spotlight with the American audience becoming totally fascinated at the way he could fly around the ring and make it look easy.
Though we know El Torito well from his time in WWE, he has actually been competing in Mexico for many years. He has wrestled under the names Mascarita Dorada and Mascarita Sagrada, a character you may know as being played by another wrestler in Lucha Underground. He has returned under the former of those names to the independent circuit where he still competes today.
Known for many years for his wild mask and hair in World Championship Wrestling, Psicosis eventually came to World Wrestling Entertainment and proved he didn’t need the mask to find success when he, Super Crazy and Juventud Guerrera formed the Mexicools for a memorable run on the SmackDown brand. Psicosis has become something of a Mexican wrestling icon, having not only enjoyed runs in the biggest organizations in the United States but in his home country as well.
The former WCW Cruiserweight Champion has also held a plethora of titles in Consejo Mundial de LuchaLibre (CMLL) and AsistenciaAsesoría y Administración (AAA) as well. Though, despite all of his work otherwise, he will likely always be remembered for being one of the most iconic faces of WCW during the Monday Night War. In 2016 Psicosis made his return to AAA, where he continues to wrestle to this day and shows no signs of slowing down.
4. Jushin Thunder Liger
One would be hard pressed to find a professional wrestler whose influence has reached as many popular organizations and audiences as has Jushin Thunder Liger. This masked Japanese wrestling icon has done it all in practically every company you could name, from his usual home of New Japan Pro Wrestling to WCW, as well as TNA Wrestling, Ring of Honor and CMLL. He even made his first appearance under the banner of WWE in 2015 when he made a special appearance at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn where he defeated Tyler Breeze.
Jushin Thunder Liger’s accomplishments in the sport of professional wrestling are second to none, with far too many championship reigns to count among all of his runs within the various wrestling promotions around the globe. Although he has been wrestling since the mid-1980s, it would seem he has no intentions of retiring anytime soon and he still competes for NJPW.
3. Ultimo Dragon
Japan has seemingly produced nearly as many masked wrestling stars as Mexico, not that there isn’t any overlap. Ultimo Dragon is a Japanese wrestling legend who has made a name for himself throughout his native country and Mexico as well as the United States. Fans of World Championship Wrestling fondly remember him as a former Cruiserweight and Television Champion and this is largely how he is known if you ask American audiences. He did compete briefly for WWE in the mid-2000s but was apparently not very happy there as he soon asked for his release.
The bulk of his work since he started competing in the 1980s has been within the Japanese and Mexican wrestling scenes, however. He has seen success and many championships in New Japan Pro Wrestling and CMLL, although for the past few years Ultimo Dragon has been defying age by continuing to compete mostly with All Japan Pro Wrestling as a freelancer.
2. The Hurricane
Gregory Helms, sometimes known as Shane Helms, has been a popular wrestling star since his days competing for World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s. He became known for his Vertebreaker finishing move and his involvement in the boy band trio 3-Count before coming to WWE after Vince McMahon bought WCW. While with WWE Helms would find his greatest success as a professional wrestler when he would put on a mask and a superhero costume and become The Hurricane.
The whole thing was pretty goofy, but it worked and provided wrestling audiences with a ton of good memories, such as a WWE World Tag Team Championship reign alongside the Big Red Machine Kane. This former Cruiserweight Champion was insanely over while playing the Hurricane character, but it’s been a minute and a half since his WWE run so many have forgotten about him. Today, Helms most notably works with TNA Wrestling, managing Trevor Lee and Andrew Everett.
We hope you haven’t forgotten Vader, and if you have then shame on you. Sadly, it’s probably not too rare as Vader is seldom mentioned by WWE as being the influence that he was. He was one of the earliest big men to pull off the athletic moves that he did, and he did it all while under a mask that became a wrestling icon all to itself. Perhaps the reason Vader has gone so underappreciated is that time in WWE never turned into anything very memorable, but the man is a true legend in the business and was certainly one of the greatest WCW stars of all time.
With the recent, sad news of his declining health, fellow wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, one of Vader’s biggest rivals, has advocated publicly for the company to give the big man a Hall of Fame induction of his own. Foley says WWE should induct Vader in 2017 as doctors have given him only a couple of years to live.