First of all let me dazzle you with a little known wrestling mask fact…
The history of the wrestling mask began in Mexico right? Well, upon doing a little bit of research, apparently it didn’t. It was in fact first used in France by circus/carnival wrestler Theobaud Bauer in the year 1865, before it travelled through the USA and Canada and only then becoming popularised by the luchadores of Lucha Libre in Mexico. Interesting eh?
Well, it got me thinking. Seeing as the majority of the world are still behind masks at the moment, I thought that however tenuous the link may be, I should investigate its connections with the Scottish wrestling scene. So where better to begin than by asking a few of my fellow masked colleagues…
(Now, I’ll just warn you. My line of questioning was very similar with each person I interacted with. Although the questions may be the same, the answers were different and varied I feel. Thus stitching together a patchwork of answers that give a more rounded and comprehensive overall picture.)
Let’s start with an up and coming young talent shall we? Fighting out of the Fife Pro Wrestling Asylum run by Andy Wild, who’s doing a fantastic job by the way, big shout out to him, well done sir. Tallon Jr is known as ‘The Winged Emperor’ a nickname derived from the Japanese wrestling scene, which he’s a big fan off and the style of wrestling he performs.
Tallon, tell me first who are your ‘masked inspirations’?
Tallon Jr: My biggest inspirations in terms of masked wrestlers would be obvious guys like Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon and Jushin Liger, as well as current guys Dragon Lee, Bushi and Fenix.
I’m a big fan of Fenix myself too. What is it about Fenix and the rest of the guys you mentioned and Japanese Wrestling, which your a big fan of, that inspires you?
Tallon Jr: My favourite parts of wrestling are the styles that make fans think they couldn’t do it. If you see a high flying guy like Fenix or Dragon Lee do some crazy dive, you can picture someone in the front row turning to their friend and saying “I don’t know how he’s done that”. The main reason I admire guys like Mysterio and Liger are because they are the guys who made themselves iconic through their masks and presentation in the ring.
In particular with the Japanese style of wrestling, it goes back to what I was saying about the aspects where fans wouldn’t be able to replicate it, except this time it’s the hard hitting nature and focus on endurance that is common in Japanese wrestling.
What do you think makes a good wrestling mask?
Tallon Jr: The best wrestling masks are the ones that are memorable. If you can see a silhouette of the mask and correctly guess which wrestler wears it, I’d say that’s a good mask.
For sure design and quality makes a huge difference as well. A bland mask with little design doesn’t do much to show character or how the wrestler performs, in my opinion.
What inspired your mask in particular?
Tallon Jr: My mask takes inspiration from Dragon Lee and Flamita’s masks mostly. There’s elements from other masked wrestlers and luchadores that are probably noticeable as well. Before I was Tallon Jr, I had some experience wearing a mask that was more similar to the old school luchador style with the tighter open spaces to hide the features of the wrestler. After using one of them for a good amount of time, I don’t plan on making the swap back at all.
Of course Mexico is famed for their luchador masks and I listened to the SWN Podcast you did with Billy and you said you were there on holiday and you went to a show. Can you paint me a picture of what it’s like to attend a wrestling show in Mexico? What do you think are the differences between our shows and theirs?
Tallon Jr: The biggest difference in that show to any other show I’ve attended was the venue. The ring was in the middle of what used to be a bull fighting ring, which is definitely the most unique venue I’ve ever been in. The atmosphere was more like a football match or a baseball game, with guys going row to row selling snacks and merchandise. Most surprising was the amount of US talent on the show who have gone on to big things, like Sammy Guevara and Killer Kross. The one major difference in wrestling style was that, regardless of age, all the talent on the show just went for it. It was a proper variety show.
You’ve touched on it briefly already when talking about the luchador mask you used to wear. But my final question to you is, what’s it like wearing a mask to wrestle in?
Tallon Jr: Wearing a mask is not as easy as it looks, but after a good amount of time with them I’ve gotten used to wearing one, so I’m not keen to stop any time soon.
While interviewing Tallon Jr I asked him whether he looked up to or had had the chance to work with my next group of interviewees.
“The group is definitely doing a good job in Scotland. I’ve not had the chance to be on the same roster as them all yet or see them live but that will have to change after lockdown.”
The team in question was of course Lucha Scotland: Lucha DS, Soldato, Solar, and Falcon.
I asked them also.
Who were their ‘masked inspirations’?
Solar: Rey Mysterio, I idolised him growing up.
Soldato: I loved how he held his own with the bigger guys, and his work with Eddy is the stuff of legend. I always admired the smaller guys, WCW showed the world what cruiserweights can do!
Lucha DS: I was inspired by so many masked wrestlers and super heroes, and TV characters like the Power Rangers etc, the masked dynamic always stands out and makes a character have some mysterious backstory.
Falcon: My inspiration to get into wrestling was my mum and dad. My neighbours got Sky and he would get a tape of RAW every week. My dad and I would sit down and watch it over and over till next week when we would swap tapes. Inside the ring it would have to be Shawn Michaels, Mr Perfect and 123 Kid at the time. Then Dragon Kid and everyone in Dragons Gate. The Dragon Gate wrestlers seemed to be around my size. So to see what they could do and still be interesting opened my eyes too. Size doesn’t matter. It was ability over size!
What is Lucha Scotland and how did it come about?
Falcon: Lucha Scotland started because I was to start a tag team with Solar and he wanted us to be a Scottish lucha. So I messaged Lucha DS, had a great conversation with him and I loved the masked group idea, then he took it from there. It really is his baby.
Solar: It’s entirely the brain child of Lucha DS haha. He saw that there was 4 talented Luchadores in Scotland (Myself, Lucha DS, Soldato and Falcon) and went out of his way to create this brand of performers together that would help each other thrive and grow in support of each other. If it wasn’t for Lucha DS there wouldn’t be a Lucha Scotland.
Soldato: Usually there will only be one “masked guy” on a show, and we aim to prove that doesn’t have to be the case. Myself, Lucha DS, Solar and Falcon all bring different things to the table, and we have shown how exciting it can be when we all work together at the likes of Big Massive Wrestling, or tagging at WXS or down at Southside.
Lucha DS: Lucha Scotland was my idea to bring the various companies masked guys together to break the walls down between promotions and give the four of us an increased opportunity to work together and brand ourselves as a separate entity in the British wrestling scene.
It’s been amazing the three guys bough right in and we’ve had the chance to hang out (drink) and have fun with other guys who know the pain of being under a hood
What do you think makes a good wrestling mask?
Soldato: I think there should be a personal attachment to the mask.
Lucha DS: It has to be different enough that it doesn’t look like others before it and unique enough a design that people recognise it when they see it as yours. That’s why I have the same face design on every mask
Solar: It takes a lot to make a good mask for me because a lot of people don’t realise what it takes to become a masked wrestler and how much effort, time and detail goes into you’re mask, that mask is gonna be what defines you to a crowd, and to other wrestlers, if the mask looks bad to you then that’s what its like to other people for anyone that wants to become a masked wrestler, here is some advice for free:
Take the time to decide on what you’re mask is gonna be as it will 100 percent define you for a lot of you’re career. Do I want a mouth hole? Do I want to cover my eyes? Do I want a full mask or half mask so I can let my hair out? Do I want a chin strap? Horns? Hair? These things are all questions you might get asked when it comes to getting it made and they are all important.
Not quite sure what you want? Then look for a gear designer to help, I’ll recommend Bearhug Designs to anyone, they designed my last three masks and I loved every single design of them.
Falcon: What makes a good mask is it has to be yours. It’s got to mean something to you or it will not mean anything to anyone. You have to be able to see well out of it and it has to fit your face. It can’t be too big as it will move and that’s no fun.
Soldato: Mine is the cross. I had that tattooed on my chest long before I dreamt of becoming a wrestler. A friend and I both got the cross design tattooed on us whilst serving in the Army. When thinking of a mask design, I wanted something that would physically link it to me. It was just a design we both liked the look of.
Lucha DS: I wanted a mix of wrestling and Spiderman faceplate due to my son’s favourite hero being Spiderman.
Solar: My first couple of masks were heavily based off of Rey Mysterio’s. My trainer at the time, Damien O’Connor now NXT’s Killian Dain drew the designs for me with my first three masks being red, blue and green with the yellow sun around the eyes and forehead with what’s meant to be yellow rays of light coming down the side of the mouth hole. I then got a black and white coloured mask and a black and red mask for when I competed for 18+ shows.
After the same basic design for several years I switched up the designs I was taking inspiration from. The first one I got was a red and yellow Flash inspired one, with the rays of light now being horns travelling up the side of my mask and coming to a point at the top of my head. After that I got what is my favourite mask, inspired by the original Green Power Ranger from the tv show, it was the same basic design as his helmet but with a mouth hole so I could talk, and it was made from a green snake skin like material, it’s also the only mask I have that my eyes are covered in. My final mask is my “Scotland’s Greatest Luchador” mask, it’s blue with a white sun around the eyes with the thistle, Scotland’s national flower along the side of the mask instead of rays of sunlight.
Falcon: My mask came about because as I was training, the trainer at SCW was looking for a tag partner for a wrestler called Flight. I thought it was the best way to get on a show so my hand went up and I was given the name Falcon. I went straight onto eBay to find a mask. It took me about 3 masks and one was a copy of someone else’s mask before my mum and I sat down and made my own mask. And from then on out it has stayed the same design.
And of course the big question. With us all wearing masks at the moment, we all know how uncomfortable they are to wear now, but what’s it like wrestling in one? Help or hindrance?
Soldato: Wrestling is a complex sport, and you use all of your senses. Wearing a mask can hinder your breathing and peripheral vision, which makes life that little bit harder!
Lucha DS: Really it sucks, it stops your hearing, it’s hot, uncomfortable, messes with depth perception, it really never helps, but I wouldn’t wrestle without it.
Solar: It’s both actually, you lose one of the biggest things for people to react too, your face. Facial expressions dictate everything when you are interacting with someone in everyday life and wrestling is no different, so how do you give something to the crowd too when they maybe can’t see you’re face. The answer is Simple, you use you’re whole body. You need to use you’re whole body to show everything, pain, exhaustion, anger, fire it’s all now having to be told through you’re body. Once you get used to that you have a whole new tool to help connect to a crowd with that can put you leagues ahead of any other wrestler.
Falcon: Wearing a mask is hot and uncomfortable, wrestlers will pick you up by the ears and you can’t hear anything. Some hit you harder thinking it’s padded!
Wearing a mask has its good points to. You will always get a cheer as they see the mask. But wrestling is based a lot on facial expressions and wearing a mask stops that so you have to start thinking about using your whole body instead. But wearing the mask helped me a lot. I was way to shy to do it without one on. It gave me the confidence I needed to do the things I’ve got to do.
A luchador and his wrestling mask as Falcon said always seems to draw a cheer from the crowd, especially with the kids.
And I’ve heard it being banded about that a wrestling mask on a merch table at a show is a top seller. Stands to reason. But I thought I’d ask if this was really true, even at a Scottish Wrestling show. ‘The Granite Bruiser’ Rayhne helped me demystify the myth so to speak.
Rayhne: They definitely are. It was always kids that got them, especially if there was a luchador on the show.
I feel personally that it’s a whole different vibe compared to wearing a t shirt or getting a picture signed. Often the kids that wanna buy a mask are doing it purely to look like one of their favourite wrestlers that they’ve just watched. It could be a fan that has seen the wrestler perform numerous times or it could be a fan that is seeing this for the first time, either way as soon as they put that mask over their face they feel even more part of the show.
Honestly from my experience, as much as it’s important to keep the adults entertained I genuinely believe kids make a show even better than it could be.
From little acorns eh?…
For my next port of call I took Solar’s advice and searched out a good gear designer. Although not their average order my friends over at Scottish based gear makers JJ Creations, who are always hard at work and graciously gave me a few of minutes of their time, have made one or two masks in the past. I spoke to them briefly about how hard it was to make a mask and what makes a good one in their opinion. Design? Materials? Colours?
JJ Creations: Well, it depends. I wouldn’t say it’s something incredibly hard if you know how to sew. But it surely requires particular materials that aren’t always easy to find.
A professional lucha libre/wrestling mask needs to be made with the right processes and right materials. The design is secondary. We saw in the past a lot of simple designed masks but the stitching processes and the materials were impeccable. You have to be sure that you have the right materials and the right equipment to make them.
Which are your personal favourite masks?
JJ Creations: We personally love the latest versions of the Rey Mysterio masks. Always been a fan of Mil Mascaras masks as well as Tiger Mask too.
While putting this small article together it suddenly occurred to me…
Do masks have to be made from fabric?
Is Scottish resident, Italian star Aivil/Jokey’s face paint not essentially a mask of sorts too?
I don’t know if you read my previous interview with Aivil, which I recommend you go back and do if you missed it because I know I always say it, but it was an absolute pleasure and one of the highlights of my so called “wrestling journalism” career so far. In that interview I asked her about her face paint;
Aivil: There was never a day I wrestled without my face paint on. For me it’s like wearing a mask that allows me to kick my shyness away for awhile and create that relationship with the crowd that’s so essential in what we do. We are athletes and also storytellers. If we don’t engage with the crowd we’re partially failing as wrestlers. Even though I look very confident from the outside, I have many insecurities. The face paint is a brilliant method, at least for me, to cope with insecurity and let my spirit free.
My inspiration might come from everything around me. Of course, being a clown and a demon priestess, my main inspirations are fellow freaks and gothic creatures. Paxxo and I, back in the days, took part in a project called Painted for War, where we asked our friends and fans to help us find a character to inspire our next wrestling make up. I think my favourite one to do was Scar, from the Lion King.
You mentioned clown and demon priestess there. Just how did Jokey and Aivil come about?
Aivil: Both Aivil and Jokey are fragments of my personality. Of course I took inspiration from books, movies and fantasy characters to create my outfits and build up the gimmicks, but they are part of who I already am. That’s why I feel comfortable showing their colours in the ring. It’s a matter of finding yourself along the journey and not being afraid to show it to the world. Your light, your darkness, your clumsiness, your grace, your faults and your strength points. This is also why it’s important for everybody to remember one thing: beyond the character and the masks we are all human beings, just like you. We might be your superheroes or the best villains on the planet, but we are also people. Words affect us the same way they do with you. Please allow me to use this platform to spread a message of love and support. We, the wrestlers, always try to be at our best for our fans, no matter how difficult our life may be. We perform to deliver you joy, emotions and memories. You are allowed to have an opinion, to like us or not. But remember, you can express your thoughts and be respectful at the same time. We are trying our best. Be kind. Don’t wait till it’s too late to show affection and love. And this last statement goes for everyone.
And once again at this strange and difficult time in the world I’d like to strongly endorse those sentiments to everyone out there too.
Another interesting wrestling mask fact was that they were used sometimes when performers were getting stale in a particular area of the country and they needed to give a character a break. It would either allow a wrestler to carry on fighting in that area or alternatively they could work in two areas, with their original character and a seperate masked identity also.
And talking about travelling, let’s think about this once again. A completely different way. Another mask altogether could of course be the ‘Crimson Mask’ made famous by such wrestlers as Terry Funk, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley et al. Do we have a Scottish wrestling equivalent? Why of course we do. The ‘Blood Tourist’ himself Lou King Sharp. He has spilt blood from Glasgow to Shanghai, stopping off in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and the USA just to make a few.
What does a ‘Crimson Mask’ give the ‘King’ that a fabric one wouldn’t?
Lou King Sharp: I guess the crimson mask doesn’t hide my identity entirely it’s part of it, it’s an extension of it, a lot of people will express themselves through their mask and I express myself through mine!
Accidental or on purpose is it scary to see your own and in fact so much blood sometimes?
Lou King Sharp: Well if it’s accidental that’s worrying! I guess it’s just down to knowing your limits and knowing how much you can deal with, luckily I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve surpassed my limits with it.
It must be an adrenaline rush?
Lou King Sharp: It’s definitely an adrenaline rush absolutely, for me what I want when I’m wrestling is genuine reactions, that’s why I enjoyed comedy wrestling, it’s easy to make someone cheer or boo because they’re almost programmed to but it’s harder to make them laugh because that’s a genuine emotion, the same as concern or even disgust, when people see the blood I feel it invokes a genuine reaction of real emotion, and I think that’s pretty cool.
ECW was a big exponent of the hardcore style of wrestling and was known to shed a few drops of blood now and again. You’re a big fan of ECW aren’t you? Who are your favourite blood thirsty wrestlers?
Lou King Sharp: Sabu is top of the list easily, absolute maniac, Terry Funk is definitely a favourite as is Mick Foley, more recently I’ve started watching more FMW from Japan and Onita is the man. FMW is like nothing else and the old footage just adds to the grittiness of it.
Although you don’t wear one, what do you think makes a good wrestling mask?
Lou King Sharp: I like an open mouthed mask as that way you can still see the emotion on someone’s face, that way there’s more of a story to get behind.
I think the coolest masks though are the ones with a story behind them, like the ones in Mexico passed through generations, it’s like a super hero taking over the role!
The funny thing is, in a bit of Scottish Wrestling folklore Lou also is infamous for ‘taking over the role’ and wearing a Rey Mysterio mask during a show run by a company no longer in existence called 5 Star. Lou takes up the hilarious story.
Lou King Sharp: So basically I was a teenager probably 16/17 and I get told I’m gonna do this spot with Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles and that I had to look like a fake Rey.
So I pull out a vest, some old Nike joggies and a merch table Rey mask, duct tape 619 on ma troosers and was ready to conquer the Lucha Libre scene once and for all.
I showed up, the promoter clued me in on the segment and I got ready, however Rey Mysterio and AJ Styles were not clued in on this yet, but they soon would be, by me walking up and introducing myself to Rey Mysterio while dressed as Rey Mysterio…
He was actually super chill about it with me but definitely wanted to know what the deal was lol, I told him and AJ and off to the promoter I was marched.
After what was probably the longest and quietest elevator ride I’ve ever been on, Rey and AJ were not up for doing the segment at all, never mind my involvement in it, but big Dan The Man of 5 Star fame stood his ground and made sure he got his segment and kept his promise of me getting to do a bit with these 2, which I’ll always be greatful for.
So AJ Styles goes out and cuts a promo to a SOLD OUT Newcastle Metro (never let the truth ruin a good story) only to be interrupted by the much anticipated Rey Mysterio!
Except it wasn’t.
It was a teenager in joggies with duct tape on them who had completely forgotten everything Rey Mysterio does in his entrance out of nerves and just kept shouting “BOOYAKA!”
The crowd seemed confused by this but were happy enough to see fake Rey get his ass kicked by AJ Styles before the REAL Rey Mysterio showed up to save the day!
All in I was in the ring with AJ for about a minute but that was enough time to notice that the guy is absolutely incredible at the auld wrestling, regardless of time it was an invaluable experience to be involved in a segment with these two and was genuinely a dream come true to be involved with two of my childhood heroes in the same building where my dad first took me to WWE .
My dad’s always been my biggest supporter, so that’s the part that will always stick with me
But there was no time for sentiment! Because next up was a handicap match against Killian Dain and GFW Champion Magnus (now NWA Champion Nick Aldis).
But that’s a story for another day!
And I would love to bring you it too. We’ll see…
But I want to finish this article with another masked Scottish wrestler who tried to ‘take over the role’ in a way. He combined two of his ‘hooded’ heroes to create his own wrestling persona.
Although better known on the English scene. Ultimo Tiger was born in Glasgow before moving to Devon at an early age. He’s fought more than a handful of top guys in the industry including Doug Williams, Low Ki, Tajiri, Moose and Pete Dunne. He’s even tagged with ECW Legend Raven. But I’m sure locking up with Kotaro Suzuki (which is a fantastic match. I highly recommend you watch it on YouTube. Pro Wrestling Pride) and Kenny Omega are some of his proudest moments.
Lucha Scotland hinted earlier that their aim was to prove that masked wrestlers deserved top billing, which they don’t seem to get on the European or American scene. But Ultimo Tiger stands out from the crowd as someone who has defied the odds and won big titles, becoming a triple crown winner with the Pro Wrestling Pride promotion.
I ran through some of the same questions with him too and enquired about his successes also.
Who were your inspirations and where did Ultimo Tiger come from? What’s it’s origins?
Ultimo Tiger: So Ultimo Tiger came from two of my favourite wrestlers growing up. Ultimo Dragon and Tiger Mask. When I was first starting to get into wrestling I didn’t know how to portray myself the way I wanted. So I created the mask and the two wrestling styles I loved the most with two parts of wrestlers which I looked up to. Almost like a little bit of a challenge to myself. If I had those names it meant I better be good enough to have them.
Ultimo Tiger then became an extension of what I loved in wrestling. The competitive creative aspect. Always trying to be better and do better each time.
So was your mask a blend of the two wrestlers too?
Ultimo Tiger: The mask was a design I created originally. The name was a blend from both, the colours were taken from an idea of how bright and stand out Ultimo Dragons gear is. The design was based off Tiger Mask then altered to combine my own take on it. With more of a fluid wave of clouds on one side. Then a striking line across the other. The centre star and gem were taken from old style masks and manga.
What do you think makes a great mask?
Wrestling masks can be great if they show us who the person underneath is. A mask is an expression of self and I think a great mask is only as good as the one who is wearing it.
That’s a great point. So a mask can hide and bring out a character at the same time. Interesting…A question I’ve asked all of my interviewees so far and I’m getting a pretty clear picture now. ‘It’s a nightmare but they wouldn’t have it any other way’. Haha. What’s it like wearing a mask to wrestle in?
Ultimo Tiger: So wearing a mask depends on the mask itself. Some have a mesh over the eyes like Sin Cara or Jushin Liger. This makes it a bit more difficult to see as your peripherals are blocked from the edges of the mask. Etc
Then let’s talk about the heat. Wrestling gets your body temp up especially under a lot of lights. A mask basically just holds that in your head.
Breathing is always key. I wouldn’t say it makes wrestling harder. But I would say it gives you lots of things to practice on. Such as making yourself bigger and more open, as your face is covered more. The face being the main selling point of anything in wrestling. So you become more expressive with your body and your motions to portray the emotions you have to give.
This is one of the reasons I left my eyes and mouth cut open in the mask. So you could still see my eyes for emotion.
With possibly the exceptions of masked wrestlers in Mexico and Japan there aren’t many who get to win heavyweight titles in Europe and North America but you’re also a triple crown winner for Pro Wrestling Pride. What was that like? And to wrestle some of the worlds best too. You even got to wrestle your hero or an incarnation of your hero Tiger Mask. That must’ve been a thrill?
Ultimo Tiger: In regards to winning the titles and the belts. Some of those moments were some of the best parts of my time wrestling. Mainly because it was a moment where I as a wrestler stepped up a notch and was able to show those around me that I deserved what I was doing in and out the ring.
Being able to wrestle those great wrestlers would have been meaningless, if I didn’t learn from each and everyone of those matches and encounters. From how to wrestle movement thoughs ideas the way to even carry yourself in and out.
Some I was not ready for and I think that made me better 100 times faster than any gym training could have. Being around someone who is better than you isn’t a bad thing, if you can use there greatness to better yourself.
I noticed that you said they were “some of your best times wrestling”. I haven’t seen Ultimo Tiger for a while now. Did you retire the Ultimo Tiger character?
Ultimo Tiger: I myself retired it. But I passed my blue mask onto a promising trainee from the DWA training academy in Devon. So he could use it if he wanted to carry it on.
And similar to the fact that I told you about previously about wrestlers wearing a mask in a new area to give a character a break, so too the mask can be passed down from master to apprentice to carry on the characters legend, continuing to entertain new fans through the generations.
So, to conclude, as I mentioned at the very start of the article, although we are all still in lockdown, our second lockdown in fact, the end seems to be in sight, again. But what will it be like when shows do return? Will there be a period when most of us will still be wearing masks? Most of us know how uncomfortable they are and while it may only be a temporary measure for us, we heard our Scottish Luchadors and what it’s like to perform in the ring wearing one.
Tallon Jr said at the start of this article “wearing a wrestling mask isn’t as easy as it looks”. We all know this now. And when chatting to Rayhne about the wearing of masks at shows she told me “If wearing a mask means live shows return I feel like it’s an easy trade.”
So please try and remember when we do get back into shows. If we still have to wear masks…
Make sure you give those facial expressions your all in support of those babyfaces and disapproval of those heels, and make as much muffled noise as you can. Our masked friends will appreciate it more than most.