There’s always something going on in the world of wrestling these days. Last weekend, most of us were paying attention to Mexico & AAA’s TripleMania extravaganza. It’s the biggest show in Mexico most years, and this year’s main event pitted El Hijo Del Fantasma, LA Park, Pentagon Jr. & Psycho Clown against each other in a Lucha de Apuestas cage match. The loser would be unmasked, and the last men in the cage were El Hijo del Fantasma.
Many people thought that this would be the year that the legendary LA Park lost his mask. Last year’s TripleMania saw one of the most famous masks die off, so many thought the trend would continue. As it turned out, LA Park’s career hit another boom period in 2018 with exposure through AAA & CMLL that enabled him to get many more bookings across the world. It would be silly for him to lose his mask until the demand dies down.
The mask is a sacred thing south of the border. It represents a wrestler’s character & livelihood. Most of the famous luchadors throughout history have opted to hold on to their masks for the entirety of their careers, for the sake of their legacy. Some have lost theirs for the payday involved, and for the freedom that losing their mask can bring. As legendary as the legacy of the mask is, a wrestler surviving losing it ensures their immortality.
These are the Top 5 Unmasked Wrestlers.
5. Alberto Del Rio
Dos Caras Jr. was a second-generation star in CMLL. Son of Dos Caras & nephew of Mil Mascaras, he could have easily leeched off their fame for years in his home country. Instead, he opted to go to WWE, who decided he would be better off without the mask. They were right. The winking, handsome Alberto Del Rio looked like he would be a big deal for years in the biggest company in the world as their biggest Hispanic star.
It didn’t work out for various reasons. Alberto inherited the ego that many luchadors have, and it didn’t translate well in the United States. He had two stints in WWE, neither which lived up to expectations. He worked AAA, ROH, Impact Wrestling & other places to mixed success. Alberto kept getting in his own way. It’s a shame, as a man with his ability & potential should have been a really big deal wherever he worked.
4. Andrade “Cien” Almas
After ADR’s departure, WWE’s search for a Hispanic star continued. Their next solution rested in a man known in CMLL rings as La Sombra. Sombra was part of a wrestling family, his father was known as Brillante, his uncle was the original Pentagon & his cousin currently works as Espanto Jr. in CMLL. WWE saw something in this kid, and brought him to Florida to learn the NXT/WWE style. This worked out better than when Mistico was brought in as Sin Cara & went to the main roster right away.
Andrade “Cien” Almas slowly worked his way up the NXT roster. Zelina Vega taking his career under her win helped tremendously, as he soon obtained the NXT Championship & made his way to the SmackDown roster. He’s had some success against Rusev & nearly beat WWE Champion AJ Styles. He’s in a great position to become WWE’s next top Hispanic Superstar.
3. Villano III
We all know that there were a multitude of Villanos competing in Mexico during the 1990s & 2000s. III was the most accomplished of the bunch. He was the one wrestling with Pegasus Kid & Blue Blazer when they made their runs south of the border. III was the kingpin light heavyweight in the UWA, holding the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship on seven occasions. He & Perro Aguayo had their run-ins. The man wound up losing his mask to Atlantis on March 17, 2000 at CMLL’s Juico Final, in a match considered by many to be the best match in Mexico during that decade.
He continued his career for years afterwards in multiple promotions, competing in many hair matches and only losing one, to LA Park in 2007. He retired in 2015 & passed away from a cerebral infarction last week at the age of 66. AAA inducted him into their Hall of Fame immediately afterwards. He will be remembered as the most talented of the Villanos, assuming that more don’t reveal themselves.
2. Juventud Guerrera
Eric Bischoff had a hard-on for making the luchadors take their masks off. He didn’t see the value in hooded wrestlers, as faces tell emotion. Juventud was the first WCW luchador to lose his mask, and he did in a match with Chris Jericho at SuperBrawl 1998. We were all prepared to be pissed off about it, but it turned out that Juventud wasn’t a bad looking dude. He ended up getting more over without the mask than he did with it.
Sometimes, Uncle Eric knew what he was doing.
Dishonorable Mention: Kane
WWF/WWE isn’t known for mask matches, or for masked wrestlers in general. The most famous masked wrestler that spent most of their career in WWE has to be the Devil’s Favorite Demon, Kane. He wound up losing his mask in a match with Triple H in 2003, which resulted in him losing his mind and setting Jim Ross on fire, Tombstoning Linda McMahon on the stage, and electrocuting Shane McMahon’s lower nutsack region.
One of the main reasons WWE sucked in 2003 was unmasked Kane. Unmasked Kane has always sucked in comparison to Demon Kane, who still appears with mask & hair from time to time, usually while teaming with Daniel Bryan.
Dishonorable Mention: Rey Mysterio Jr.
We all knew it was a bad idea when it happened. It was Kevin Nash waving his political member around. We knew Rey wouldn’t be the same without his mask, and we were right. I will admit that one of the best matches I’ve ever seen live was an unmasked Rey vs. Billy Kidman at a Nitro in Cincinnati. Other than that night, it’s tough to say that unmasked Rey brought much of value, certainly in comparison to masked Rey. WWE was smart to put the mask back on.
1. Dr. Wagner Jr.
I must provide full disclosure here. Dr. Wagner Jr. is my favorite luchador of all time. Ever since the first time I saw him, I have been a mark for the Good Doctor. To me, he is the epitome of Lucha Libre. When he lost his mask to Psycho Clown at last year’s TripleMania, I was stupefied. I wasn’t sure how he could carry on with his career without his mask. Fortunately, he looked just like Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man In The World, and people still bought into him as a threat. He can still play politics with the best of them, and as the way things stand, a hair vs. mask match with Wagner vs. LA Park will main event next year’s TripleMania. I want Greg DeMarco or somebody else I work for to pay my way there.
That’s my main goal for the next 12 months, for somebody to pay for me to go to TripleMania. More realistic than WrestleMania, right?