Ringside Remembrances: Masks aren’t Just for Halloween
Since it’s Halloween and many little kids are covering their faces with face paint or masks, I thought I’d do a fun little “Masks” column. From time to time, in the old days, a wrestler would temporarily don a mask to hide their identity. Usually, it was because they had lost a Loser-Leaves-Town match under questionable circumstances. To avenge the crime against them, they would create an alter-ego. Strangely, the mask usually didn’t hide their true identity.
Red River Jack
Bruiser Brody was involved in a brutal feud with General Skandor Akbar and his forces. They ran big Bruiser out of town. Suddenly, a man in a white mask showed up. Red River Jack has the distinction of being one of the only masked men (in the US) to bleed while wearing a mask. During one memorable bout, Jack took a nasty shot to the head. After that, a crimson stain began to spread across the ivory cowl. Jack was only around for a few weeks but he became a solid part of the World Class legend.
During his last run (so far) in the WWE, Hulk Hogan ran afoul of Vince McMahon. Big Surprise. Vince decided to send Hogan home to sit out the last few weeks of his contract. Suddenly a huge guy with the very same handlebar mustache showed up. Instead of the Hogan red and yellow, this new guy sported the all-American red, white and blue. Mr. America spoke with Hogan’s voice. He moved just like Hogan. He even used the Legdrop o’ Doom as his finisher and came out to Hogan’s “Real American” theme. But, of course, it wasn’t Hogan (wink, wink). Mr. America really didn’t do much while in the WWE but it was just another weird twist from McMahon-Land. He disappeared almost as quickly as he showed up. Thankfully.
“The Boogie Woogie Man”, Jimmy Valiant was feuding with Gary Hart and the Great Kabuki in the Mid-Atlantic area. Valiant was forced out of the area and suddenly a masked man came in to replace him. The masked man wore a half-mask, so the long, blonde beard emerged for all to see. It was so obviously Valiant that it became laughable (much as it would with Hogan, a decade-plus later). Charlie Brown quickly became a fan favorite and destroyed Kabuki and Hart. Once the feud ended, so did the career of Charlie Brown.
Sting started getting these cryptic messages about someone from his past. The so-called Black Scorpion was a former partner of Sting’s. Most everyone thought it was Lex Luger or maybe Rick Steiner. A few even expected Blade Runner Rock (aka WWF’s Ultimate Warrior) to return. During a Pay Per View, the true person was revealed. Several Black Scorpions came out to attack Sting (Angel of Death, Arn Anderson, etc…). After Sting defeated them all, the true Black Scorpion emerged. He removed his mask to reveal…Ric Flair. This led to a nasty continuation of Flair’s feud with Sting. Black Scorpion then went back to being a classic horror film in the Turner vaults.
Wendi Richter was the Women’s Champion. Vince wanted the belt off her. In what has become known as “The Original Screwjob”, a masked female was sent in to face Richter. That woman was long-time wrestling champion, The Fabulous Moolah. Spider Lady aka Moolah defeated Richter, who soon after left the then-WWF. Spider Lady would reveal her true identity just after winning the title. Spider Lady was never used again, but the deception did what it was needed to do.
The Masked Avenger (Chris Adams)
Chris Adams wanted to face Jimmy Garvin for the gold. Garvin absolutely refused to take on Adams. Adams then donned a mask and challenged Garvin. Garvin, not knowing who was under the mask (supposedly), accepted the challenge. When Masked Avenger took down Garvin, he stripped off the mask to reveal himself as Adams. Task accomplished, Adams retired the alter-ego and eventually took the title he had wanted.
There have actually been two men to use this persona. Dusty Rhodes was the most famous of the two. He first created the character in Florida and also used it in Jim Crockett Promotions. It was really obvious that the pudgy masked man was the American Dream.
The other Midnight Rider was Bill Watts. He was having a massive feud with the evil forces in his Mid-South territory. Joel Watts even made a music video of his dad, driving a big pick-up and talking about what he was going to do to the bad guys.
Los Conquistadores (Shane Douglas/Ricky Steamboat)
Steamboat and Douglas were an amazing team, back in the 80s. They had held the NWA World tag belts but lost them. They had been feuding with “Stunning” Steve Austin and “Flyin’” Brian Pillman. Steamboat and Douglas dressed up in red and green costumes and claimed to be from Mexico. If it had been done in December, instead of earlier in the years, they may have been from Santa’s Village and known as the Mighty Elves. Regardless, they took the win over Austin and Pillman and the feud continued.
Dirty Yellow Dog
This was another character that has been done more than once. Barry Windham was the first person to take possession of this secondary persona. He only used it for a short time.
Ironically, it was Barry Windham who would later face the Dirty Yellow Dog. This time around, it was Brian Pillman under the hood. Pillman wasn’t really trying to hide who he really was. In fact, he would often lift up his mask, while in a match, to share his “secret” with the fans.
The Killer Bees
This had to be the oddest use of masks in the history of wrestling. “Jumping” Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair were brought together in the heyday of the mid-80s. Brunzell had left his long-term partnership with Greg Gagne to join the WWF. The new duo were very similar in physiques, so they decided to add a little something extra to their arsenal…masks. If they decided to do a little of what has lately been called “Twin Magic”, the two would slip their black and yellow masks on. Sadly, the duo never captured gold or made it much above mid-card. They were a fantastic team that just never got the breaks they needed.
Dusty Rhodes had previously used the gimmick of the Midnight Rider (see above). His old tag partner, Dick Murdoch, was also brought in as a masked man. Being a native Texan, he donned the red, white and blue of the Lone Star State and used the simple name of…The Texan. The character was a huge failure and disappeared in a matter of weeks.
Way before his time in the WWF/E, Junkyard Dog worked all across the Mid-South and World Class areas. While in Mid-South, JYD ran afoul of General Skandor Akbar. Dog acquired his alter-ego from a great rock and roll song from the 1950s. (which has been done by everyone from Lloyd Price to Jerry Reed to Amy Winehouse). JYD even had a shirt made up saying that he wasn’t the JYD. The character was another short-lived thing.
There have been a lot of others who only wore masks for a short time. It used to be so common to use the mask gimmick that it became almost boring. Doom, The Machines and so many others were there to make us guess who was under the mask. A few were so obvious, others were not. They were all fun to watch and enjoy, if if they weren’t around for very long.