More than 150 years ago, the first masked wrestler made his pro wrestling debut. With the creative name of "The Masked Wrestler," he debuted at the World's Fair in Paris, then took his act through France in the 1860s before moving to the U.S. in the 1870s. He was followed up in 1915 by Mort "The Masked Marvel" Henderson, a New York-area star who became the first North American native to don the cloth.
Masks - and the traditions and possibilities they brought with them - soon came to Mexico, courtesy of Texas star Cyclone Mackey. He was scooped up by CMLL (then known as EMLL), and under the name La Maravilla Enmascarada (again, "The Masked Marvel") he left a huge impression. Though he only worked in Mexico for a couple of years before heading to California, the mask captured the imaginations of the fans, and soon became a staple of lucha libre.
Of course, wrestling is about showmanship and drama, so where there are masks, their must also be unmaskings. In Mexico, masks are often put on the line in major matches, and winning a wrestler's mask - especially if he's a superstar - is an honor beyond any title victory. In the U.S., unmaskings are more of a backdrop for a story, but they still carry a good deal of weight.
Here are the 10 most shocking wrestling unmaskings. They were stunning for different reasons, but each one turned out to be quite the surprise.
10. The Halloween Phantom
Halloween Havoc 1991 saw the appearance of a mysterious wrestler known only as The Halloween Phantom. The Phantom, clad in a mask and black suit that covered his entire body, took on Tom Zenk, making short work of "The Z-Man" and finishing him off with a neckbreaker. The entire bout lasted less than 90 seconds.
Later that evening, Eric Bischoff conducted an interview with former announcer Paul E. Dangerously, who was returning from a kayfabe firing (and a real-life suspension). Dangerously announced that he may have been done behind the booth, but he still had his manager's license, and that was the role he would now be playing.
Dangerously then brought out his new charge - none other than The Halloween Phantom. As he continued to rant and rave about taking his revenge on WCW - and the company's franchise, Sting - The Phantom patiently waited for his big moment. When Dangerously was done, The Halloween Phantom disrobed and unmasked to reveal none other than "Ravishing" Rick Rude.
Rude was about a year removed from his last major U.S. run, so his appearance was a major surprise. He would end up becoming the centerpiece of The Dangerous Alliance, a heel group that terrorized WCW for much of 1992.