Saturday, November 12, 2011

Should Abyss Unmask? A Look Back at Other Stars Who Gambled on Life Without the Mask

by Brian Phelps

Recently, Abyss gave an interview to Slam! Wrestling where he said he would be open to losing his trademark mask. Now, I'm not the biggest Abyss fan, but I feel like Abyss unmasking may be a mistake. You have to be very careful when it comes to unmasking because history has shown us that unmasking can be a very mixed bag when it comes to that particular wrestler's fortune. Some grapplers have unmasked with great success, and others have unmasked and it flushed their careers down the toilet. I am here to take you all on a look back at other stars of the squared circle who chose to unmask, and the outcomes it had on their careers and perception of their characters. Buckle up.

Juventud Guerrera
Back in WCW's heyday, Juventud Guerrera wrestled under a mask. Under his mask, Juventud Guerrera seemed like just another luchadore along with Psychosis, Ciclope, and other stars of the time. It wasn't until he lost a Mask vs Title match at WCW's Superbrawl pay-per-view to Chris Jericho that Juventud's popularity really took off in the United States. Juventud Guerrera seemingly overnight became the top luchadore in the company, briefly enjoying a popularity burst where he was bigger than Rey Mysterio for a short while. He had a memorable feud with Raven's Flock faction where he defeated 7 footer Reese with an assist from Van Hammer, and then joined up with Rey Mysterio, Kidman, and Konnan to form the Filthy Animals. This was the apex of his American wrestling popularity. He later went on to run his own faction in WWE called the Mexicools.  Juventud is to this day one of the greatest cruiserweights of all-time mentioned right alongside Rey Mysterio, Kidman, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho. Other than Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, Juventud will go down as arguably the number three luchadore of all-time as far as American pro wrestling promotions go. Had he not unmasked, Juventud Guerrera would probably not be mentioned in the same breath as those guys... nor would he be remembered like he is now.

Mortis aka Chris Kanyon 
Kanyon began his WCW career under a masked gimmick wrestling as a character by the name of Mortis. After being denied entry into Raven's Flock, Mortis sought revenge on Raven. During a cage match between Diamond Dallas Page and Raven, Mortis disguised as a riot cop unmasked  much to everyone's shock. From that point on, he became Kanyon. Once unmasked, it was almost liberating to Kanyon as he enjoyed great success that he never did as Mortis. He ended up joining up with DDP and Bam Bam Bigelow to form the Jersey Triad, and eventually became United States Champion. Had he continued to wrestle under Mortis... he may never have ended up enjoying the success that he did. We would probably chuckle and say things like "You remember that goofy WCW wrestler Mortis?" in the same way that we currently say "You remember that goofy WCW wrestler Glacier?"

Rey Mysterio
Even the greatest masked luchadore of all-time was unmasked. During his time in WCW, Rey Mysterio lost his mask at the hands of the Outsiders. The unmasking was a huge blow to Rey Mysterio's career and popularity. I actually believe that he ended up becoming less of a draw when he lost his mask. My feelings are further bolstered by the fact that when Rey went to work for WWE after WCW's demise, Vince put the mask back on Rey as if the unmasking never happened. Look at him now, a multi-time World Champion.

On the other hand, we have examples of wrestlers who unmasked and the outcome wasn't as kind to them. The legendary Kane is one of these examples. Under the mask, Kane was the "Big Red Machine". He was one of the most dominating forces in WWE history. We were told he wore a mask because the Undertaker burned their house down, killing their parents and as a result Kane was burned beyond recognition. So when Stone Cold Steve Austin convinced Kane to unmask, we were given a guy that just looked like he had some chimney soot on his face, two different contact colors for his eyes, and the front half of his head shaved. Hmm... it was very... weird to say the least. It was such a let down for us all, and this is one unmasking that we want to take back so badly. Everyone thought masked Kane was awesome. No one likes unmasked Kane. He's boring and lame. I haven't been interested in Kane since he unmasked, and 30 feuds (exaggerated) with the Undertaker since then isn't going to change my mind. Kane is particularly important to note because his gimmick is VERY similar to Abyss's gimmick, and therefore there is some logic in assuming that Abyss would wind up in the same situation.

In closing, I think Abyss would face a very similar situation to Kane's unmasking as it was essentially the death of his popularity. Abyss should think about the gamble that unmasking is on a wrestler's career before deciding. I vote to keep the mask. Please Abyss, do not open Pandora's box.

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