The "dramatic unmasking" is a pretty cool trope when done properly, and it lends itself well to a daydreaming fan: how exciting would it be to make either a heroic save or a treacherous turn while shrouded beneath some hood, and then remove it to the collective shock of everybody? We've *all* had that daydream, haven't we?
Movies and TV series (particularly espionage, mystery, and comic book-centric ones) have mined this concept for many, many years, and professional wrestling has certainly been no different. Looking back through the years, here are some of the cooler reveals of concealed heroes and villains, even if the storylines that followed didn't live up to the unveiling.
PLEASE NOTE: The following list is presented in chronological order because every single reveal is terribly, terribly shocking!
10. Jake Roberts As El Diablo (1991)
In a bog of run-of-the-mill jobber squashes, it's fun to see something unusual happen, like the 123 Kid upsetting Razor Ramon, or Papa Shango setting a preliminary guy's feet on fire. You know, something that breaks up the charming monotony of basic Saturday afternoon wrestling.
Take the case of El Diablo, a jobber that wore a bubblegum-pink mask and matching karate gi. His opponent was to be Sid Justice for what looked to be a light workout for Sid. That was until The Undertaker and Paul Bearer arrived, with the manager offering Diablo a briefcase full of cash to let Undertaker take his place. Diablo agreed, and the match between towering behemoths was on. Ah, but Diablo was actually Jake The Snake ("El Diablo" does mean "The Devil" after all), and he helped Undertaker assault Justice. The angle also provided us the great visual of Roberts striking a mock karate stance.
9. Rick Rude As The Halloween Phantom (1991)
At the 1991 WCW Halloween Havoc pay per view, an unknown figure in a black bodysuit and phantom-print mask made what was ostensibly his WCW debut, crushing "The Z-Man" Tom Zenk in under 90 seconds. While WCW had introduced some absurd characters over the previous year (The Black Scorpion, Oz, Big Josh, et al), this would not be one of them.
Later in the night, the Phantom was flanked by Madusa and Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman), present for one of Heyman's best screeching brimstone speeches of all time. He declared that this masked Phantom was going to help him destroy the very WCW that once fired him, and bring the almighty Sting down to his knees. And with that, the Phantom peeled his mask off to reveal the smug mug of "Ravishing" Rick, in WCW's biggest signing in quite some time.
8. Brutus Beefcake As The Pipe-Wielding Fiend (1994)
At the August 1994 Clash of the Champions, WCW Champion Hulk Hogan was whacked in the leg by a masked individual, a rather topical take on the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding controversy from earlier in the year. At one time, the assailant was supposed to have been a debuting Curt Hennig, which would have rekindled the Hogan-Mr. Perfect feud from 1990.
However, the story went in a different direction. The attacker continued to hound Hogan for two months before being de-hooded at Halloween Havoc to reveal Hogan's supposed "friend to the end" in Beefcake. While the eventual match between the two at Starrcade was rather substandard, it was still a pretty neat reveal in its own right, severing a friendship that had existed in some form on-camera for five years.
7. Diamond Dallas Page As La Parka (1997)
For all of the "Because WCW" and "LOLWCW" anecdotes we share that remind us of just how incompetent WCW could be on even some of its best days, they still managed to surprise us at times with moments that were genuinely cool. Take the instance where nWo-aligned Macho Man Randy Savage was taking on La Parka in what seemed to be just another filler squash on an endless Nitro.
The quickie match appears over when Savage heads up to deliver his patented elbow smash, only for La Parka to get the feet up as a counter. Seconds later, Savage is planted with an emphatic Diamond Cutter, and La Parka sheds the mask to reveal that it was DDP the whole time. Tony Schiavone's throaty scream of "THAT'S NOT LA PARKA!" equalled the jubilant reaction from the shocked fans.
6. Vince McMahon As A Fan (1998)
It's not uncommon to see fans cosplay as their favourite wrestlers. Wrestling's like the Rocky Horror Picture Show in several respects, and one shared trait is that enthusiastic audience members will dress up as the inhabitant characters, be they Bray Wyatt or Riff-Raff.
Therefore, nobody batted an eye at the animated fan in the Stone Cold mask and tan jacket that stood in the front row at a Raw in May 1998. During a post-main event scuffle between Austin himself and Dude Love, the fan climbed over the rail and whacked Austin across the back with a steel chair, before walking off whilst doing a rather-hilarious version of Austin's head-bob. The attacker was, of course, Vinnie Mac, in the early days of the Austin/McMahon holy war that changed everything forever.
5. The Undertaker As Kane (1998-99)
Undertaker and Kane have had themselves a rather complex history, not unlike two warring nations that are sometimes allies. In the late-nineties, at a time when each monster's aura was at its peak, the idea of the brethren hellspawn coming together as one was enticing to the Fangoria-minded fan, and WWE knew that quite well.
That was why on a handful of occasions, the man that everybody assumed was Kane would sometimes remove his mask to reveal that it was actually Undertaker donning the red and black garb. Perhaps the best example came when Vince McMahon was gravely worried that Undertaker was going after his family, and tearfully attempted to get "Kane" to try and reason with him. That's when "Kane" lifted the veil to reveal Undertaker's face in some insidiously-wicked head game.
4. Diamond Dallas Page As The Stalker (2001)
Let the record show that DDP as the stalker of Undertaker's wife Sara was a rather hare-brained idea. Anyone that knew Page understood full well that, at the time, he was married to voluptuous former Playboy model named Kimberly Page, thus undermining the idea that Page would wanna stalk the wife of another man. When you win the lottery, you don't go robbing banks, as they say...
But until the angle was fleshed out, the mystery was quite compelling. Videos of Sara Calway were aired with distorted voiceovers from the apparent voyeur (they were actually voiced by Vince McMahon), and WWE had an intriguing bit of drama on their hands. DDP finally revealed his identity after dramatically pulling off a ski mask, and it was sadly downhill from there. But while it lasted, the angle was some crackerjack stuff.
3. Eric Bischoff As The Commitment Ceremony Priest (2002)
When Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo became 'engaged' to one another in the late summer of 2002, there were collective groans from throughout the fanbase. The whole thing just felt like a desperate ratings ploy, an attempt to create shock and controversy in a storyline that few fans had interest in to start with.
When the night of the ceremony came, fans booed throughout much of the proceedings, save for Godfather's cameo appearance, as well as the presence of a 'justice of the peace' that appeared to be 114 years old. His haggard-sounding speech seemed to be unintentional comedy on its own, but that was before he made his identity clear. Upon speaking in his normal voice, Eric Bischoff began tearing at the latex makeup that did one hell of a job concealing his facial features. A Raw-centric beatdown from Three Minute Warning followed, and the night's angle was capped astonishingly.
2. Vampiro As Raven's Attacker (2003)
Back in the Nashville/Asylum days of TNA Wrestling, the product felt like a mish-mash of different eras and styles, and in 2003 it was mostly a good thing. There was just enough of ECW's remnants and WCW's remnants at the time to mix with territory-style storytelling to make for a wholly unique weekly show. This was evident when Raven ran afoul of Father James Mitchell's Disciples of the New Church, and began enduring off-camera beatings from an individual whose appearance was completely cloaked.
That ghastly spectre finally revealed himself to be Vampiro, in the closing moments of a hair-vs-hair match pitting Raven against Shane Douglas. After Raven endured a bloody haircut (Mitchell dug too deep with the razor while going the wrong way with the blade, apparently), he exacted his revenge by beating Vampiro in a match where in order to win, you had to hang your opponent from a chain.
1. Edge As Every ECW Fan's Hero (2006)
There was no weeks of build-up for this particular reveal, but yet it made fans happy all the same. At ECW's One Night Stand in the heart of New York City, the extreme loyalists wanted nothing more than to see WWE poster-boy John Cena drop the top belt to ECW icon Rob Van Dam. The heat for the match, if you remember, was off the charts, and nothing but a Van Dam victory would've been acceptable.
When a man clad in all black with a motorcycle helmet speared Cena through a table leaned against the turnbuckles, the crowd would've been happy no matter who it is - it could've been Tom Brady, and New York *still* would've been thrilled. But alas, it was Edge, little more than an hour after he trashed ECW's core values over the microphone. That wasn't enough to prevent the chants of, "Thank you, Edge", of course.