Mask Matches in America
In the United States, the prospect of a wrestler putting his mask on the line is an uncommon occurrence, in comparison to the major events they become in Mexico. Here, winning championships is the ultimate goal of any Superstar, whereas south of the border, defending your true identity often becomes the objective of a grappler’s career.
That’s why the Mask Match has been a rare attraction in American sports-entertainment through the years. Early stars like The Spoiler and Mr. Wrestling were forced to unmask, but because wrestling was territorial back in its heyday, they might have been able to show up masked in a new venue, with fans none the wiser.
As wrestling expanded into a national business, though, those opportunities dried up, and unmasking became as permanent in the U.S. as it was in Mexico. WWE Classics unveiled some of America’s best Mask Matches, where we saw the true faces of many Superstars for the first time. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
Doom vs. The Steiner Brothers
These masked monsters arrived on the scene as a surprise opponent for The Steiner Brothers during WCW’s Halloween Havoc 1989. The two muscular mysteries lumbered to the ring donning black masks that didn’t do much to hide their identities. Nevertheless, WCW commentators reacted as though they had never before seen the two men.
The pair known as Doom got off on the wrong foot in WCW, losing to the Steiner Brothers in their debut match, followed by a poor showing in the Iron Team Tournament at that year’s Starrcade. Doom’s own fate appeared sealed during the 10th Clash of the Champions event in early 1990. The tandem put their masks on the line against the Steiners’ WCW Tag Team Titles, only for Rick & Scott to emerge victorious once again. Doom unmasked, to the surprise of few, as Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. ( WATCH)
As it turned out, unmasking was the best thing that could have ever happened to the pair. Simmons and Reed soon hired Theodore Long as their manager and finally captured the WCW Tag Team Titles shortly after.
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
WCW fans were thrilled by the Mexican luchadores that arrived in the mid-1990s, but they never expected the instant classic that was the Mask vs. Title Match between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc 1997.
Putting everything on the line in an effort to regain the Cruiserweight Championship against his wily foe, Mysterio fought with everything he had, unleashing every aerial attack from his vast arsenal of moves.
Guerrero also did all he could to take control of the match, however, including an attempt at tearing off Mysterio’s mask. Ultimately, though, the masked man proved to be too quick for his rival. Mysterio slipped out of a powerbomb attempt by Guerrero, reversing it into a hurricanrana for the three-count as the WCW crowd exploded into cheers. ( WATCH THE FULL MATCH)
Kane vs. Triple H
We’ve all heard the story of Kane’s tortured past. He was trapped in his parents’ funeral home as it burned down, leaving him with horrible burns that he covered up with the terrifying mask that the WWE Universe was introduced to in October 1997. As Kane’s horrific reign of terror blazed on, however, The Big Red Monster’s goal became the World Heavyweight Championship.
Kane coveted the title so much that he accepted the career-altering terms Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff put on his title opportunity at Madison Square Garden in June 2003 If he failed to defeat Triple H for the title, Kane would have to remove his mask and reveal his face to the world.
Unfortunately for The Devil’s Favorite Demon, Triple H had no intentions of making the title match a fair fight. Kane had to fight off Randy Orton and Ric Flair, who did everything in their power to keep the World Heavyweight Title around The Game’s waist.
The distractions paid off, as Triple H was able to take advantage and defeat his challenger with a Pedigree. Although it was too little, too late, Kane’s tag team partner, Rob Van Dam, helped clear The Game and his cohorts from the ring as The Big Red Monster struggled with the idea of doing the unthinkable.
Eventually, Kane unmasked, and in addition to revealing his face to the WWE Universe, he unleashed years of rage that had been hidden behind the mask, taking out RVD with a vicious Chokeslam. ( WATCH)
Juventud Guerrera vs. Chris Jericho
In 1995, an influx of Mexican luchadores made their way north of the border and joined the WCW roster. As they dazzled American audiences with their colorful masks and high-risk, high-flying offense, it was only a matter of time before the more villainous grapplers went after their heroic counterparts’ hoods. Rey Mysterio was able to defend his identity when Eddie Guerrero tried to unmask him at Halloween Havoc 1997. Juventud Guerrera wasn’t so lucky.
In his quest to become Cruiserweight Champion, Juventud ran into the obnoxious Chris Jericho, who didn’t just settle for defeating his opponents; he wanted to embarrass them. When the young luchador agreed to put his mask on the line against the loud Canadian’s championship, Jericho had plenty of ammo with which to taunt his opponent. He claimed he would show the world how ugly Juventud was at SuperBrawl VIII, comparing his real face to that of Quasimodo from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Guerrera brought the fight to Jericho in their title showdown. In fact, the luchador even thought he had won the title, pinning Jericho for what looked to be a three-count after a 450 splash. But Jericho grabbed the bottom rope just before the referee counted three. Juventud got caught up in the moment and began celebrating, only to be told he hadn’t won. Jericho took advantage of the situation and eventually trapped the luchador in the Lion Tamer to retain his title. ( WATCH)
Though Guerrera held up his end of the bargain, the mask removal was a little too slow for Jericho’s liking. In one last dig at his opponent, Jericho ripped the mask from Juventud’s face, and began wearing it around his neck as a trophy. Guerrera, however, would get a measure of retribution that summer, finally defeating Jericho for the title.
The Hurricane vs. Paul Birchill
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … mild-mannered reporter Gregory Helms?
Paul Burchill was convinced that Helms, ECW’s roving interviewer, was in fact leading a double life as the extreme brand’s resident superhero, The Hurricane. The British brawler and his sister, Katie Lea, became obsessed with revealing the mystery man’s secret identity, to the point that they were willing to risk their careers against The Hurricane’s mask.
When the hero bested Burchill in the all-in contest ( WATCH), the brother and sister figured that since they couldn’t unmask The Hurricane, they’d take a page out of his book in hopes of getting their jobs back. They showed up on ECW shortly after their ouster, wearing masks and going by the names “The Ripper” and “The Beautiful Nightmare.” ( WATCH)
ECW’s then–General Manager Tiffany was kind enough to play along, giving “The Ripper” a chance to earn a contract in a match against The Hurricane. In the bout, the high-flying hero was able to unmask his villainous foe, revealing Paul Burchill’s face, to the surprise of no one. Another victory for The Hurricane also sent the Burchills packing from ECW once and for all.