It's often been said that masked wrestlers have to work all the harder. After all, facial expressions cannot be seen outside of a mask. The masked wrestlers must utilize other ways of expressing themselves. The Masked Superstar is a great example of this. While many would say that his in-ring work spoke for him, no one can forget his intelligent yet calculating interviews. Bill Eadie worked hard to make what could have been a forgettable masked heel exactly the opposite. Before the matches even began, fans knew that Superstar's heroic opponent was in for a true battle. In the opposite direction, Mr. Wrestling II worked a similar way. Throughout most of his run, Wrestling II was able to capture the hearts of fans rather than strike fear into them. Famously captivating the mother of President Jimmy Carter as one of his biggest fans, the charismatic Mr. Wrestling II became a staple of southern-based wrestling promotions for over a decade.
It's Mexican wrestling that is probably best known for masked stars. Lucha libre was built upon superhero-style grapplers who took to the mat and the air equally. It's hard to imagine in the United States, but several legendary luchadores became God-like in their popularity in Mexico. El Santo is one of those stars. Wearing his famous silver mask, El Santo ruled both lucha libre and Mexican pop culture for decades. Appearing in the ring and starring in many motion pictures, comic books, and other media, his popularity was so that his funeral in 1984 is said to have been comparable to a president or other top state figure. Both he and his legendary rival Blue Demon have had their masks handed down thus continuing their mysterious legacies.
Japan has created its own masked stars as well, with the look and style fitting well into the wrestling culture of the far east. Tiger Mask, in various incarnations, has been thrilling wrestling fans for over thirty years. As originally portrayed by Satoru Sayama, Tiger Mask toured around the world, perhaps most famously in matches against the equally agile Dynamite Kid. Jushin Liger, with his horned mask and long black hair, became another popular lightweight star and is still gaining fans such as in his recent NXT appearance. Both of these characters were ripped from the pages of Japanese manga books, thus instantly producing real life super heroes.
WWE has not fared well in trying to recreate the Mysterio magic. Still, the popularity of Lucha Underground and other recent outlets prove that it can still be done in the United States. I would love to see the return of a Masked Superstar-style star. A masked villain who is as heelish as he is mysterious. It could be done, and would actually be a fresh idea after being on the shelf for so long.
Who were those masked men? Maybe you'll be inspired to hit the Halloween streets dressed in honor of one of them. After all, many wrestling masks were designed to instill fear in the hearts of opponents. Other wrestlers had faces that were designed perfectly to be right on masks themselves...
Happy Halloween, pencil-necked geeks!