A friend of mine brought up the subject of his alltime favorite pro wrestler, Mr. Wrestling II. This got me to thinking about wrestlers who perform professionally for most of their careers under a hood. Anyone who was a wrestling fan in the 70′s in the south definitely knew about Mr. Wrestling II and his famous “knee lift.” I admit that I was a fan, too. But I also was drawn into the intrique and mystery of the masked men of the ring. I definitely have memories of old-school masked wrestlers like Mr. Wrestling II, The Masked Superstar, The Assassin, Mr. Olympia, The Spoiler, The Grappler and others.
Today, masked wrestlers in the United States are somewhat rare with only a handful wrestling mostly under a hood. However in Mexico and Japan, masked wrestlers are a long time tradition based in legend and lore. Classic luchadores like El Santo, Mil Mascaras and Blue Demon have evolved into modern masked luchadores like Rey Mysterio, Jr. and La Parka among others. In Japan, Tiger Mask was a legend in pro wrestling. Today, there is Ultimo Dragon, Jushin Thunder Liger and many others.
I rarely get the opportunity to watch taped matches from Mexico and Japan but what I have seen have been quite entertaining.
Of the current crop of masked wrestlers, I have to say my current active favorite is Rey Mysterio, Jr. whose speed and agility amazes me. Although he is not a large man like most in the WWE, he has carved a niche for himself in that company and has fans all over the world. I first saw him several years ago on TV while watching ECW and he pulled off moves I had never seen before in my life. The WWE doesn’t want its stars to pull many high risk maneuvers like they used to because of the chance of injury but back then Rey Mysterio, Jr. was doing things that just were incredible. If you can find some of those old ECW matches on tape or DVD, I really encourage you to watch them.
As to my old-school favorite masked wrestlers, I would say it’s a tie between the Assassin and the Masked Superstar. When I was a kid, I was a major fan of the heels and any good masked heel got my attention. Two of the best were the Assassin and the Masked Superstar. They drew heat week after week and managed to do fantastic interviews on the mic. I remember the Masked Superstar’s interviews were calm and intelligent with him rarely screaming like a lot of other wrestlers. He really managed to relay a major intensity during those interviews. Now the Assassin on the other hand, was just mean. Downright dirty dog mean. He looked mean and he acted mean. And was able to work a crowd with that nastiness.
I miss those days. I wonder if someone might break out in either the WWE or NWA:TNA under a hood in the future. I doubt it in the WWE but NWA:TNA? Perhaps.