Wrestling mask

Last updated
A selection of wrestling masks sold at stores. Lucha Masks.jpg
A selection of wrestling masks sold at stores.

A wrestling mask is a fabric based mask that some professional wrestlers wear as part of their in-ring persona or gimmick. Professional wrestlers have been using masks as far back as 1915 and they are still widely used today, especially in Lucha Libre in Mexico.



At the 1865 World's Fair, Theobaud Bauer debuted the mask, wrestling as "The Masked Wrestler" in Paris, France. He continued wrestling using the mask throughout France as part of a circus troupe in the 1860s before moving on the United States in the early 1870s. [1]

In 1915 Mort Henderson started wrestling as the "Masked Marvel" in the New York area making him the first North American wrestler to perform with such a gimmick. In the subsequent years many wrestlers would put on a mask after they had been used in an area, or territory, that their popularity and drawing ability diminished, it would be an easy way for a wrestler to begin working in a new area as a "fresh face". Sometimes workers wore masks in one territory and unmasked in another territory in order to keep their two identities separate.

The mask in the US and Canada

Many wrestlers have had very successful careers while masked such as The Destroyer/Dr. X, Mr. Wrestling, Masked Superstar and the Spoiler. In the days where professional wrestling was more regional, with less national television coverage, it was not uncommon for more than one person or team to use the same gimmick and mask, and there have at times been several masked "Interns", "Assassins" and "Executioners" working simultaneously. Tag team wrestling has seen more masked teams, using identical masks to create unity between wrestlers. Successful masked teams include the Masked Assassins, Blue Infernos and the Grapplers.

Mysterio RAW 800.jpg
Rey Mysterio - 20090525.jpg
Rey Mysterio is one of the most notable masked wrestlers in the US, although he was unmasked in World Championship Wrestling (right)

One of the best-known North American masked wrestlers was Big Van Vader, who was also known for his in-ring agility despite his large frame during the 1980s and 90s. Other notable examples are Rey Mysterio, Mankind, Kane, Edge & Christian as 'Los Conquistadores' & Owen Hart as 'Blue Blazer'.

Today, masked wrestlers are not a common sight in the United States and Canada, but masked wrestlers have a long history in that region, dating back to 1915. A mask sometimes will be used by a well known wrestler in a storyline where they must get around various "stipulations" or betray a trust without revealing their true identity. For instance wrestlers who are suspended in a storyline return under a mask under another name, usually with it being very obvious who is under the mask. Examples of this include: Hulk Hogan as Mr. America, Dusty Rhodes as The Midnight Rider, André the Giant as Giant Machine, Brian Pillman as The Yellow Dog, The Miz as The Calgary Kid, Dan Marsh as Mr. X and Bo Dallas as Mr. NXT. Jimmy Valiant once returned under a mask as Charlie Brown from Outta Town after losing to Paul Jones in a "Loser Leaves Town" match (a stipulation where the loser of the match must resign from the organization for which he worked). Mickie James also revealed to be under the mask when she returned to WWE as Alexa Bliss's partner.

The mask in Lucha Libre

Mascarita Sagrada wearing a mask that covers his entire face. Mascarita Sagrada.jpg
Mascarita Sagrada wearing a mask that covers his entire face.

When I put on the mask, I'm transformed. The mask gives me strength. The mask gives me fame. The mask is magical. When I remove the mask, I'm a normal human who can walk right by you, and not even get a "hello". Usually with the mask on, everything is positive. Without the mask I'm a normal being who has his problems, who cries, who sometimes suffers. I could tell you that I really admire El Hijo del Santo. But do you know who I admire more ? The human being. Thanks to him, El Hijo del Santo has a life. And this human being sometimes sacrifices a lot to give this other identity life.

El Hijo del Santo, [2]

It is a common misconception that masks in Lucha Libre spring from the Aztec, Inca or Mayan tradition but the mask, or "Máscara" in Spanish, was first introduced in Mexico when a promoter saw American wrestler "Cyclone" McKey working in Texas and decided to bring McKey to work for his promotion, Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (EMLL). The Mexican fanbase quickly took to the mystery of the masked man and soon after Mexican wrestlers themselves started wearing masks, becoming "Enmascarados". Early masks were simplistic with strong, basic colors designs that could be recognized even in the back row of the arena. Over the years the masks evolved to become very intricate and colorful drawing on Mexico's rich history. Unlike in other parts of North America the popularity of the masked wrestlers has not waned over the years, with souvenir masks being sold at events and online. In modern lucha libre, masks are colorfully designed to evoke the images of animals, gods, ancient heroes, and other archetypes, whose identity the luchador takes on during a performance. Most wrestlers in Mexico start their career wearing a mask, but over the span of their careers a substantial number of them will be unmasked. Sometimes, a wrestler slated for retirement will be unmasked in one of his final bouts or at the beginning of a final tour, signifying loss of identity as that character. Sometimes, losing the mask signifies the end of a gimmick with the wrestler moving on to a new gimmick and mask, often without public acknowledgement of the wrestler's previous persona.

The wrestling mask is considered "sacred", so much so that the intentional removal of a mask is grounds for disqualification. If a wrestler is unmasked during the match their top priority is to cover up their face and usually gets help from people at ringside to hide his face. Most masked wrestlers wear their masks for any and all public appearances using the mask to keep their personal life separate from their professional life. Because of the mask most Mexican wrestlers also enjoy a higher degree of anonymity about their personal life. Some wrestlers become larger than life characters such as El Santo, one of the most popular cultural icons who always wore his mask in public, revealed his face only briefly in old age, and was even buried in his trademark silver mask.

Luchas de Apuestas

In Lucha Libre the highest achievement is not winning a championship but winning the mask of an opponent in a "Luchas de Apuestas" match, a "bet fight" where each wrestler bets their mask. The Luchas de Apuestas match is usually seen as the culmination of a long and heated storyline between two or more wrestlers with the winner getting the "ultimate victory”. It is customary for the loser of such a match to reveal his real name, where he's from and how long he has been a wrestler before taking the mask off to show his face. Unmasked wrestlers will wager their hair instead, risking having his or her head shaved bald in case of defeat. There can be several reasons to book a "Luchas de Apuestas" match beyond the obvious purpose of elevating the winner. If the loser is a younger wrestler then the loss of the mask can sometimes lead to a promotional push after unmasking, or the wrestler being given a new ring persona. Older wrestlers often lose their masks during the last couple of years of their career, often for a big payday depending on how long and successful a career they've had, The more successful the wrestler that's unmasked, the bigger the honor for the winner.

The first luchas de apuestas match was presented on July 14, 1940 at Arena México. The defending champion Murciélago was so much lighter than his challenger Octavio that he requested a further condition before he would sign the contract: Octavio would have to put his hair on the line. Octavio won the match and Murciélago unmasked, giving birth to a tradition in lucha libre. [3]

A wrestling mask mural in Madrid, Spain. Mascaraluchalibre.JPG
A wrestling mask mural in Madrid, Spain.

High profiled "Luchas de Apuestas" include El Santo winning the mask of Black Spirit, Los Villanos winning the masks of all three Los Brazos (El Brazo, Brazo de Oro and Brazo de Plata), Atlantis winning the mask of Villano III, La Parka unmasking both Cibernético andad El Mesias, Villano V taking Blue Panther's mask and Último Guerrero winning the mask of Villano V. Some wrestlers have made a career by the volume of masks they have won rather than the general quality of their opponents—wrestler Super Muñeco claims to have won over 100 masks, with at least 80 verifiable "Luchas de Apuestas" wins, while Estrella Blanca is said to have the most Luchas de Apuestas with over 200 masks won.

The mask in Japanese wrestling

The Destroyer, an American, was the first masked wrestler to work in Japan during the 1960s but remained a novelty with very few Japanese wrestlers choosing to wear a mask. In the 1970s Mil Máscaras became the first Mexican Luchador to work on a regular basis and became very popular with the fans. The original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama was inspired by Mil Máscaras to create the masked "Tiger Mask" persona. After the success of Tiger Mask several wrestlers have adopted the mask, mainly lighter wrestlers who like Sayama had a more high flying and flashy style. The wrestling mask is held in more regard by the Japanese fans than the North American fans but isn't as "sacred" as the Mexican mask, meaning that the wrestler can perform both masked one day and unmasked another if he so wishes. Famous Japanese masked wrestlers include Jyushin Thunder Liger, Último Dragón, El Samurai, The Great Sasuke, Dragon Kid and Bushi.

Anatomy of the wrestling mask

The original wrestling masks were often masks attached to a top that snapped in the groin making it very uncomfortable for the people wearing it. If the masks were not attached to the top, then they were made from uncomfortable material such as brushed pig skin, leather or suede. In the 1930s, a Mexican shoe maker called Antonio Martinez created a mask on request from Charro Aguayo that became the standard for wrestling masks created since then. The basic design consists of four pieces of fabric sewn together to create the basic shape that covers the entire head. The mask has openings for the eyes, nose and mouth with colorful trim around the open features, this trim is known as "Antifaz" in Spanish. The back of the mask is open with a "tongue" of fabric under laces to keep it tight enough to not come off accidentally during a match. The first variation in style came when the jaw and mouth area was removed from the mask to expose the skin. Other masks have solid material over the mouth, nose, eyes or all three, in the case of fabric covering the eyes a stretched fabric that is see through up-close is used.

Originally being made from fabric masks have evolved and are now made from a variety of materials from cotton to nylon to various vinyls in many different colours and patterns. Several additions have been made to the mask decorations over the years with the most prevalent and visually striking being foam horns and artificial hair attached to the mask. Mock ears are also commonly used, especially if the mask has an animal motif such as a tiger.

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<i>Lucha libre</i> Mexican style professional wrestling

Lucha libre is the term used in Mexico for professional wrestling. Since its introduction to Mexico in the early 20th century, it has developed into a unique form of the genre, characterized by colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, as well as "high-flying" maneuvers, some of which have been adopted in the United States and elsewhere. The wearing of masks has developed special significance, and matches are sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a wager with a high degree of weight attached. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in lucha libre, particularly matches with three-member teams, called trios.

Fishman (wrestler)

José Ángel Nájera Sánchez was a Mexican luchador or professional wrestler best known under the ring name Fishman. Fishman was one of the top wrestlers in the mid-1970s and 1980s and worked for Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, the Universal Wrestling Association, the World Wrestling Association and AAA in Mexico as well as frequent trips to Japan and the United States. Nájera was unmasked after losing a match in 2000 and retired shortly afterwards. Three of his sons are all luchadores enmascarados known by their ring names Black Fish, El Hijo del Fishman and El Único de Ciudad Juárez.

Villano III

Arturo Díaz Mendoza was a Mexican professional wrestler who performed under the ring name Villano III. Díaz was a second-generation wrestler, son of luchador Ray Mendoza and the father of professional wrestlers Villano III Jr. and El Hijo del Villano III himself. All five of the Díaz brothers used the Villano name; José de Jesús, José Alfredo, Tomas and Raymundo. Of the five Villanos, Arturo was considered the most successful in terms of championship and Lucha de Apuesta wins as well as the most talented luchador in the family. He retired from wrestling in 2015 due to health issues stemming from wrestling. A few days after his death, he was inducted in the AAA Hall of Fame.

Villano IV Mexican professional wrestler

Tomas Díaz Mendoza is a Mexican professional wrestler, better known by his ring name Villano IV. Within the stable Los Villanos, he has wrestled for Universal Wrestling Association (UWA), AAA, and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). While popular and successful in Mexico, he frequently performed as a jobber in WCW. The other sons of Ray Mendoza who have used the name "Villano" include Villano I, Villano II, Villano III, and Villano V.

Villano V Mexican professional wrestler

Raymundo Díaz Mendoza Jr. is a Mexican professional wrestler, who has performed under the name Villano V until he was unmasked on March 20, 2009, after which he became known as "Ray Mendoza Jr." after his father Ray Mendoza. Mendoza is part of a well-known Mexican wrestling family that includes four other Villanos, I, II, III and IV. Since making his debut in 1976 Mendoza has wrestled for every major Mexican wrestling federation including Universal Wrestling Association, AAA and Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. He also worked for the United States-based World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as enhancement talent, usually appearing on secondary shows like WCW Saturday Night.

Brazo de Oro (wrestler) Mexican professional wrestler

Jesús Alvarado Nieves was a Mexican luchador, or professional wrestler, who worked under the ring name Brazo de Oro. He was a part of the Alvarado wrestling family, the son of Shadito Cruz and brother of Brazo de Plata, El Brazo, Brazo Cibernético, Super Brazo and Brazo de Platino. His son Felipe de Jesús Alvarado Mendoza currently works as La Máscara for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. His nephews, Máximo Sexy and Psycho Clown are featured wrestlers for CMLL and Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide respectively.

El Brazo Mexican professional wrestler

Juan Alvarado Nieves was a Mexican Luchador. He was best known under the ring name El Brazo, which he used since his debut in 1980. Alvarado was part of the Alvarado wrestling family, which includes his father Shadito Cruz, five brothers who used the "Brazo" name at some point and several third-generation wrestlers.

Arturo Beristain

Arturo Beristain is a retired Mexican professional wrestler, or Luchador in Spanish, who works as a wrestling trainer at the Mexican professional wrestling promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre's (CMLL) gym in Mexico City, Mexico. Beristain is best known for working under two different ring names, Talismán and El Hijo del Gladiador; both personas started out as enmascarados, or masked, and Beristain lost both masks in Luchas de Apuestas. He lost the Talismán mask to Atlantis in 1984 and the Hijo del Gladiador mask to Rencor Latino in 2000. As Talismán, Beristain won the Mexican National Welterweight Championship twice, the Mexican National Middleweight Championship and the Mexican National Lightweight Championship. As el Hijo del Gladiador he has won the CMLL World Trios Championship with Gran Markus, Jr. and Dr. Wagner Jr. and the IWRG Intercontinental Middleweight Championship. When Beristain lost the "Hijo del Gladiador" he was announced as "Arturo Beristain Ramírez" to further the storyline that he was actually the son of wrestler "El Gladiador", but his last name is not actually Ramírez.

Super Muñeco

Super Muñeco is a Mexican Luchador enmascarado, or masked professional wrestler. Super Muñeco is Spanish for "Super Toy", a comedic ring character based on a clown. Super Muñeco is best known for having the second highest number of Luchas de Apuestas "bet match" wins, having won the mask or hair of over 100 wrestlers. Per the tradition of masked wrestlers in Mexico, Super's real name and identity have not yet been revealed.

Rafael Herbert Reyes is a Dominican born professional wrestler, who has worked most of his career as a Luchador in Mexico. Reyes has used many ring names during his career, most notably Kendo Star, El Salsero, Pierko el Boricua and currently wrestles as the enmascaradoHijo del Pierroth or El Limón. Reyes is a former holder of the Mexican National Welterweight Championship, having won it as "El Salsero" while working for the Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) promotion. Reyes changed his name from Hijo del Pierroth to Pierko el Boricua after Pierroth, Jr. withdrew his endorsement for the various Pierroths in wrestling.

Villano I

José de Jesús Díaz Mendoza, known by the ring name of Villano I, was a Mexican luchadorenmascarado, or masked professional wrestler. He was the son of luchador Ray Mendoza, and the first of the five Díaz Mendoza brothers to become a professional wrestler, although not the oldest. His older brother Alfredo wrestled as Villano II until his death in 1989, while his younger brothers wrestle under the names Villano III (Arturo), Villano V (Raymundo), and Villano IV (Thomas).

<i>Homenaje a Dos Leyendas</i> Mexican professional wrestling supercard show series

Homenaje a Dos Leyendas is the collective name of a series of annual lucha libre, or professional wrestling major show promoted by Mexican professional wrestling promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). The show started out as Homenaje a Salvador Lutteroth, honoring CMLL founder Salvador Lutteroth, it would later honor Lutteroth and El Santo until 2005 where the event would honor Lutteroth and a different retired or deceased luchador each year. CMLL has held a total of 23 Homenaje events, starting in 1996 and one each year since then. The shows are usually main evented by a Lucha de Apuestas or "Bet match" where competitors wager either their wrestling mask or hair on the outcome of the match.

Festival de las Máscaras (2011) 2011 International Wrestling Revolution Group event

The Festival de las Máscaras (2011) was an annual professional wrestling major event produced by Mexican professional wrestling promotion International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG), which took place on August 2, 2011 in Arena Naucalpan, Naucalpan, State of Mexico, Mexico. For this annual event the "Comisión de Box y Lucha Libre Mexico D.F." allowed wrestlers who had previously been unmasked after losing a Luchas de Apuestas, or bet match, to wear their masks again. The main event of the show heralded back to long running storyline feuds between Rayo de Jalisco, Jr., El Canek and Konnan against the brothers known as Los Hermanos Dinamita. Cien Caras had originally lost his mask to Rayo de Jalisco, Jr. and Universo 2000 was unmasked by El Canek, but for one night they were allowed to wear the masks again as they wrestled against their longtime rivals.

Martín Antonio Alvarado Nieves is a Mexican luchador, or professional wrestler best known under the ring name Súper Brazo and is part of an extensive Alvarado wrestling family that was founded by his father Shadito Cruz and includes Alvarado's five brothers as well as a large number of third-generation wrestlers. Most of the wrestlers in the Alvarado family is using or has used a ring name with the word "Brazo" ("Arm") in it at some point in their career. Martín Alvarado has worked for a number of Mexican professional wrestling promotion, but is currently working on the Mexican Independent circuit and not permanently for one specific promotion.

Daniel Alvarado Nieves is a Mexican luchador, or professional wrestler, better known by the ring name Brazo de Platino. He is a part of the extensive Alvarado wrestling family that was founded by his father Shadito Cruz and includes Alvarado's five older brothers as well as a large number of third-generation wrestlers. Most of the wrestlers in the Alvarado family is using or has used a ring name with the word "Brazo" ("Arm") in it at some point in their career. Alvarado has worked for a number of Mexican professional wrestling promotion, but is currently working on the Mexican Independent circuit and not permanently for one specific promotion.

The 2009 Festival de las Máscaras was a major lucha libre event produced and scripted by the Mexican International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG) professional wrestling promotion on August 20, 2009. The show was held in Arena Naucalpan, Naucalpan, State of Mexico, which is IWRG's primary venue. The 2009 event was only the second time IWRG held a Festival de las Máscaras, which would become an annual tradition.

The 2010 Festival de las Máscaras was a major lucha libre event produced and scripted by the Mexican International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG) professional wrestling promotion on July 23, 2010. The show was held at the Centro Banamex Convention center at the Hipódromo de las Américas race course, part of the 2010 Lucha Libre Expo

Festival de las Máscaras (2013) 2013 International Wrestling Revolution Group event

The 2013 Festival de las Máscaras was a major lucha libre event produced and scripted by the Mexican International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG) professional wrestling promotion on August 11, 2013. The show was held in Arena Naucalpan, Naucalpan, State of Mexico, which is IWRG's primary venue.

IWRG <i>Festival de las Máscaras</i> International Wrestling Revolution Group event series

The Festival de las Máscaras is an annually recurring major professional wrestling show produced and scripted by International Wrestling Revolution Group. The focus of the show is paying homage to the history and "legends" of lucha libre each year. In Mexico when a wrestler loses a Lucha de Apuestas and is forced to remove his wrestling mask they are usually not allowed to wrestle wearing the mask again. Starting in 2008 IWRG has held an annual show where they have been granted permission from the State of Mexico wrestling and boxing commission to allow previously unmasked wrestlers to wear their mask for one night of the year.

Festival de las Máscaras (2017) 2017 International Wrestling Revolution Group event

The Festival de las Máscaras (2017) was a major annual lucha libre event produced and scripted by the Mexican International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG) professional wrestling promotion held on July 2, 2017. The show was held in Arena Naucalpan, Naucalpan, State of Mexico, which is IWRG's primary venue. For the 2017 event Bombero Infernal, Black Warrior, Cerebro Negro, Demonio Infernal, El Hijo del Diablo, Máscara Año 2000 Jr., Oficial 911, Oficial AK-47, Oficial Fierro, Veneno, and Villano IV all wore their masks again after having lost Luchas de Apuestas, or "bet matches", in the past and thus lost the rights to wear their mask. Others worked under a previous ring name, wearing the mask of their former alter ego such as Freelance, Black Terry, Oficial Factor and Oficial Spartan and Mike Segura


  • El Nacimiencito de un Sueño (the birth of a dream), Pages 41 - 51
  • Masks, Pages 46-49
  • The Mask in the match, Pages 60-61
  • Los Enmascarados (the Masked Men), Pages 71-127
  • The Assassins, Pages 52-54
  • The Interns, Pages 76-78
  • The Infernos, Pages 199-201
  • The Mysterious Medics, Pages 213-215
  • Mr. Wrestling I & II, Pages 231-232
  1. Shoemaker, David (2013). The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Professional Wrestling. Penguin. p. 69. ISBN   978-1592407675.
  2. ESPN Interview Born + Raised: El Hijo del Santo Spanish version
  3. Lourdes Grobet; Alfonso Morales; Gustavo Fuentes & Jose Manuel Aurrecoechea (2005). Lucha Libre: Masked Superstars of Mexican Wrestling. Trilce. p. 115. ISBN   978-1-933045-05-4.