"You know that thing that you love? With the pageantry. And the fireworks. And the golden belts. It's fake. And I am suppose to be like "Oh no you have ripped my world asunder." -Ron Funches, comedian
Whenever someone asks me "why do you watch professional wrestling?" My answer is always the same: the pageantry. Don't get me wrong I can go on and on about work rates, high spots, and gimmick matches but the thing I have always enjoyed most about professional wrestling is the showmanship and visual aids that make normal men and women larger than life. Masks, capes, face paint, spiked shoulder pads, robes covered in feathers, dog collars, pyro, lasers, and more are the things I love. This article breaks down my Top 10 favorite wrestlers who have brought the gift of pageantry to us all over the years.
Jeff Hardy - while I am not a fan of his music or art skills I do have to give Jeff Hardy props for constantly adding new visual elements to his appearance especially in TNA. While his ring gear of an Under Armor shirt and Kik Wear pants (seriously did the Hardys buy Gadzook's entire back stock when they went out of business?) has stayed the same for years, he is always finding new and creative ways to paint his face before every match. I especially enjoy his paint jobs where he has additional eyes on his cheeks and forehead. It's kind of like if Sting was really into Nu Metal, psychedelics, and finger-paints.
Glacier - now here is a story of a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Glacier's battle gear, contact lenses, and spectacular light show that turned any arena into an indoor blizzard at night would have put him at the top of the card in the early 90s but unfortunately he debuted right before the NWO changed the business with athletes who were more real then cartoon. Glacier you might not have ever been WCW champion but you'll always make my blood run cold when I see your entrance on the Network.
Dalton Castle - it's not easy coming up with a colorful character for the indies especially when it involves bringing in other people as an intricate part of it but that is what Dalton has done. I’ve been impressed by how he has been able to use this entrance in ROH, PWG, Chikara, and smaller federations. I don't want to live in a world where "The Boys" are not coming to the ring with pro wrestling' proudest peacock.
Finn Balor - the avid Lego fanatic brought his nerdy cosplay side out before leaving NJPW and the indies for NXT and we all know what happened after that. The Demon has been one of the brightest additions to the E in over a decade and his elaborate body paint and memorizing entrance are a big reason for his success. I really appreciate how lost Balor becomes in the character for the NXT Takeover events.
10. Ric Flair - Woooooo! Kicking off the list is the Nature Boy. Slick Ric has always dressed to the nines with custom suits, designer sunglasses, and more alligators on for feet then a reptile park in Florida. Most importantly though he has always made sure that he looks like a superstar when he comes to the ring draped in the finest robes money can buy. Fur, feathers, and sparkling jewels let you know that he truly is the man.
9. Auska - my favorite NXT wrestler has stood out from the rest of the women from the moment she stepped into Full Sail. Her hair, make up, and ring gear are unique but what brings her on to this list are her entrance robes and masks. I love the way she changes her intro costumes up for big Takeover events to make them feel extra special. When she challenged and beat Bayley for the NXT Women's title I marked the fuck out when she came to the ring in a mask that was crying tears of toxic green blood. And then she stepped up the game even more in Brooklyn this summer with a new mask, robe, and long sheet entrance that went from the stage to the ring. All of this aids in creating her mystique of being a walking death machine that doesn't deal in scripted promos but instead head kicks that send motherfuckers' skulls 7 rows deep.
8. Rick Rude - right now I am going to need all of you fat, out of shape Knife Edge Chop sweat hogs to shut up and read about a real man. Rick Rude soaked more panties in the 80s then Splash Mountain with his chiseled abs and Magnum PI mustache. But what got him on this list is his incredible tights which he would have airbrushed to make fun of whichever babyface he was feuding with. It's one thing to try and steal a man's wife, but it's a whole other thing to have an artist paint her face on the crotch of your pants and then grind your dick in front of him. God bless you Rick Rude, you will forever be a greasy asshole of a heel.
7. Big Van Vader - when people ask me who is your favorite wrestler of all time I always respond with late 80s/early 90s Vader. God, I love watching him destroy people with the original Violence Party in the corner and his ability to moonsault his nearly 400 pound frame through the air but that isn't what got him on this list. Vader's mastodon mask/shoulder pad combo looks like something from a Neurosis album cover. Plus the story of the Vader gimmick being a warrior who travels by boat to an empty island to fight the toughest man from another village to the death so they can avoid all out war to settle a conflict is metal as fuck. And of course the cherry on top is when that thing spews smoke into the air like bong rips.
6. Shawn Michaels - the former Playgirl centerfold turned Born Again Ted Nugent Lite has always had a flair for outlandish outfits. I mean where do you even buy red leather chaps with mirrors in them? For decades the Heartbreak Kid has known how to stand out from the pack and his trademark look makes him instantly identifiable and memorable. HBK always goes all out for his big matches with his Wrestlemania zip line entrance or his all white Anti Taker, Shawn knows how to throw in those little extra touches to make his spot on the card become memorable forever.
5. Sting - back in the 80s Sting looked like a number of other 250lbs juiced up monsters outside of the ring so he had to do something to separate himself from the herd. "Surfer" Sting's neon face paint and day glo drum major jackets made him stand out from his ripped brethren. He would even go the extra mile and bust out Patriotic Sting for the Great American Bash, which in the 80s was pure gold. Later in his career we saw him reinvent himself as Crow Sting (awesome) and Joker Sting (meh) but neither compare to his character during his late 80s/early 90s run in WCW.
4. Rey Mysterio - Rey Rey has always combined the best parts of lucha libre together: high flying and colorful gear. Even during his WCW run he stood out on PPVs by donning super hero inspired ring gear such as his famous Spiderman mask/pants combo. When he came to the WWE it became an exciting thing to speculate which new super tights he would have for Wrestlemania such as the Flash, Captain America, and the Joker. Plus his Aztec costume was an unexpected piece of art that brought something new and special to the biggest night of the year. And even now in his post WWE run he continues to dress up on special outfits such as the Terminator for an AAA pay-per-view.
3. Mil Mascaras - the lucha legend is known for many things such as being a notorious sand bagger thanks to Mick Foley but he is better known for his ring wear. "The Man of a 1,000 masks" always had a new hood to wear to the ring with his signature M in the middle of the forehead. Name a pattern or color Mascaras has one. He is like the biggest sneaker head of lucha masks on the planet. Side note how is there not a reality show of dudes who collect lucha masks? I’d watch that show. The thing I like best about Mil Mascaras matches is seeing what mask he is going to wear that night.
2. The Undertaker - Druids. Coffins. Mist. Zombies. Funeral Pyres. There has never been a WWE wrestler with a better entrance then the Undertaker. Even when he was the Bikertaker he would still show up with a different custom motorcycle for each time he arrived on TV. He is also known for his elaborate trench coats which look like at least 2 cows had be killed to just make one of them. Western Taker was a cool variant that worked perfectly for the Texan from Parts Unknown. When he retires and thus his entrance retires with him it will be like when a great band retires and you are sad that you will never get to see them play live again.
1.The Great Muta - when it comes to pageantry no one can touch the Great Muta. His face paint is terrifying. He has come to the ring in a variety of masks. He has worn a ring jacket with a fucking 3D dragon that rides on his shoulders. And of course he is known for blowing a wide variety of deadly mist to blind his opponents. Muta has been able to turn himself into something that isn’t human but at the same is very real. Hands down no one can touch Muta when it comes to making every entrance and match something special.
Anthony "Tank" Mansfield is a Cincinnati artist and avid wrestling fan. A longtime friend of the Knife Edge Chop show, Tank has been on our panel shows for both Summer Slam & Wrestlemania. You can check out his art in all of these lovely avenues of social media.