After three months of inactivity and real life getting in the way, I’m back with a new 10 Count! and what better way to celebrate the Halloween season than with a look at wrestlers masquerading as other wrestlers, be it for revenge or… yeah, it’s usually for revenge. These aren’t alter ego gimmicks, like The Yellow Dog or Mr. America, but one-time performances that resulted in a surprise unmasking post match. So read on, take your fill and let the spectacle astound you.
10. Savio Vega as The Caribbean Kid
More like Caribbean Kwang, right? I was into Savio Vega as a kid, but that’s no secret if you’ve read my Art of Gimmicky: The Overly Latino Wrestler post. And apparently so were the makers of WWE 2K16 and the r/SquaredCircle subreddit users who were more than happy to ask Savio questions during his AMA. So, naturally, I liked his feud with Steve Austin, even though Austin was still wrestling more like The Ringmaster and less like a mud hole stomping redneck. Everyone knew it was Savio under the mask wearing a ripped up Trader Joe’s store manager shirt, including Mr. Perfect who was on commentary, and Ted DiBiase who, despite being outside the ring had to relay this bit of information to Austin, who was so damn close to Vega he should’ve been able to tell it was him just based on Vega’s breathing. Once the big reveal came most of the crowd remained sitting on their hands, but Vince McMahon’s commentary and Ted DiBiase’s physical reaction was enough to sell it like it was Ciclope revealing himself to be Dean Malenko. Small gems like this are exactly why we need old episodes of Superstars on the WWE Network.
9. The Miz as Calgary Kid
During the storied history of “on a pole” matches, one of the most coveted items to dangle from a pole was a wrestling contract. When two of the wrestlers fighting for said contract happen to be Eugene and a young Canadian upstart, that you’re pretty sure looks like The Miz, it’s tough to give one shit about it, let alone two. I’ll give The Miz credit for changing up his fighting stance to that of an uncoordinated MMA fighter, who can’t stand on one foot for longer than a second, in order to throw people off. Once he won the contract and revealed himself the crowd reacted much like how they’ve always reacted to The Miz: with disdain. This was the start of Miz 2.0, which included his “I’m awesome!” catchphrase and Chris Jericho circa 2009 inspired wrestling attire, and the version who would eventually become WWE Champion, headline WrestleMania, and become the catalyst that eventually forced CM Punk to quit wrestling.
On a side note, this would’ve been a great way to debut Tyson Kidd.
8. Sami Zayn as El Local
So this is the debut of El Local, before he got flabbier. Luckily, this was not Sami Zayn’s intended NXT/WWE gimmick. Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if the WWE kept Ricardo Rodriguez under the mask and had him team up with Kalisto instead of goddamn Hunico. Anyway, Sami Zayn goes undercover in order to steal a win from Bo Dallas and get a shot at the NXT Title, which he was previously barred from competing for. You gotta love wrestling mask loopholes!
7. Rick Rude as The Halloween Phantom
This is a nice tie-in to my Phantom of the Opera “Masquerade” reference. Although, I’m not sure what would’ve drawn more money, WCW advertising the debut of Rick Rude at their Halloween Havoc pay-per-view, or an unknown wrestler who reminded people of the Wrestlecraptacular Black Scorpion angle? Either way, they did a good job of hiding who it was until the camera zoomed in on the worst-looking, most ill-fitting mask. Then we saw those Rick Rude elbow drops and eventual Rude Awakening neckbreaker. I’m guessing this match was under two minutes because that’s as long as Rude could go without gyrating his hips. You couldn’t really gauge how loud of a reaction he got considering they played his music as soon as he unmasked, but who cares. This was the beginning of Rick Rude’s greatest run! The run he should’ve had in the WWE, really. This debut also brought about the creation of one of the greatest wrestling stables: The Dangerous Alliance.
6. The Hardy Boyz as Los Conquistadores
More wrestling mask loopholes! So after losing the right to challenge The Hardy Boyz for the WWE Tag Team Titles, Edge and Christian dressed up as Los Conquistadores and won the belts back from The Hardy Boyz, in order to have some jabronies (Christopher Daniels and Aaron Aguilera) dress up as Los Conquistadores so Edge and Christian could beat them and officially win back the titles. But, the next night on Raw, The Hardy Boyz jumped the other fake Los Conquistadores and beat Edge and Christian in order to retain the belts as Los Conquistadores, but really win them back as The Hardy Boyz. Despite this version of Los Conquistadores doing very little to hide who they really were by performing signature Hardy Boyz maneuvers, the crowd still popped big time after they unmasked themselves to be The Hardy Boyz. Because being a wrestling fan means being in on the joke, but going along with it nonetheless. This is probably the only time the WWE Tag Team Titles changed hands while the same “team” remained champions.
5. Chris Jericho as Doink the Clown
Chris Jericho was feuding with William Regal heading into WrestleMania X-Seven, the same ‘Mania that would feature another version of Doink the Clown competing in a gimmick battle royal. I guess the WWE figured it would kill two birds with one stone by having Jericho further his feud with Regal while promoting Doink the Clown’s appearance. This would’ve made more sense if Regal was wrestling Jericho disguised as Doink the Clown, as has been the case with many of these masquerading wrestlers, but instead Regal was wrestling Crash Holly. For whatever reason, Jericho decided to ambush Regal after the match inexplicably dressed as Doink.
It wasn’t quite the unmasking as the other entrants listed, but to put on a full Doink outfit takes commitment. Especially for no reason whatsoever. Even the all-Doink Survivor Series team didn’t put this much effort into their attire.
4. The Undertaker as Kane
I forgot that Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker for the WWE World Title at SummerSlam was based on this Number One Contender’s Match. Then I remembered why. It was uneventful save for the Undertaker’s unmasking. In typical Attitude Era fashion the main event segment was about 10 minutes long and less than two minutes were dedicated to the actual match itself. Mankind refuses to fight and “Kane” simply blasts him with a chair and then pins him. That’s it. Then Kane unmasks himself to reveal that he’s really The Undertaker and Austin’s all, “Whaaaa?” End of show.
3. Fabulous Moolah as Spider Lady
This one is placed so far up the list more because of its importance than the effect of the surprise. Especially because there probably wasn’t supposed to be a surprise reveal. It preceded the Montreal Screwjob as the original screwjob, or at least the first one caught on video. Man, Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter don’t get any credit for being trailblazers in the women’s division. Just like how WWE/NXT snubbed them as the first women to main event a major televised wrestling show. Maybe it had to do with how terrible a person Fabulous Moolah was to other female wrestlers. This screwjob is a great example of that.
Apparently, Vince McMahon and Wendi Richter had a falling out over her contract and McMahon was afraid she’d show up on NWA’s World Championship Wrestling on TBS and trash the women’s title in front of the studio audience, or something. Can’t blame him, I guess.
2. Diamond Dallas Page as La Parka
DDP can thank the Diamond Cutter for making him popular, but what really got him over with the entire wrestling world was his star-making feud of the year with “Macho Man” Randy Savage. After having been blindsided and attacked countless times by the nWo and Savage himself, Page decided to exact some revenge via La Parka’s getup. La Parka was in full-on “Chairman of WCW” mode where he beat the crap out of other wrestlers (mostly luchadores) with any chair within reaching distance. You have to give DDP credit for trying to commit to the character—not so much in lucha libre moves, but in Parka-type dancing taunts, even though the damn cameraman was always focused on something else instead of La Parka’s dancing during this match. Stupid WCW production truck. Looking back on this, I should’ve known it wasn’t La Parka based on how slim he looked. It was the best he’s ever looked in WCW.
Despite this being a great moment, I’m kind of sad we didn’t get a legit Macho Man vs. La Parka match. That could’ve been great. Maybe. But this match did prove that DDP could beat the Macho Man and that the Diamond Cutter was a bonafide badass finisher.
1. Dean Malenko as Ciclope
Out of all the things that WCW did terribly, no one can argue that they were pretty good at the surprise masquerade attack gimmick. And this is the best one. The mostly unassuming Dean Malenko, character-wise, was in the midst of one of the more popular feuds WCW had going on at that time, and he had Chris Jericho to thank for that. Jericho had outnumbered him in terms of moves in his repertoire, made fun his father, and gave Malenko ridiculous nicknames.
After having lost the WCW Cruisweright Title to Jericho and taking two months off of TV, Malenko returned at Slamboree ’98 disguised as Ciclope and entered the cruiserweight battle royal, whose main highlight up until the end was Jericho’s outstanding wrestler introductions. As the final two participants squared off, Juventud Guerrera shook Ciclope’s hand and eliminated himself granting WCW’s worst luchador a shot at the cruiserweight championship. Then we found out it was actually one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time, Dean Malenko, who received the biggest crowd reaction of his career for giving Jericho his best comeuppance.