Professional wrestling is fun. It’s hard work for the guys who lace up the boots night-in and night-out, travel all over the globe on a non-stop basis and miss a considerable amount of time away from their families. At its’ core, however, wrestling is about the suspension of disbelief. It’s about kicking back, relaxing and enjoying an athletic show. A performance. The performance requires legitimate athletes who have a multitude of talents. To be a pro wrestler you need to have strength, speed, conditioning and charisma. A colorful personality. That is what we’re going to take a look at in the latest eWrestlingNews.com editorial: colorful personalities. Literally. Below we will list some of the coolest face-painted wrestlers in the history. The list is not about who the best wrestlers were to wear face-paint. Instead, we’re going to rank some of the coolest face-paint jobs in history. Some of the most memorable paint-jobs and some of the most colorful personalities in the business who are synonymous with face-painting.
#10. The Boogeyman
He’s The Boogeyman and he’s coming to get you. The Boogeyman got the attention of the WWE Universe in the 2000s with his weird persona, ability to pop out of nowhere and gargle a mouth full of worms and to have his face covered in various colors and styles of paint. The character was about as weird as they come, but give it up — the guy had one bad-ass paint-job.
#9. Papa Shango
As written in one of my past eWrestlingNews.com editorials (Five Of The Scariest Characters In History), Papa Shango scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. He was frightening to small children at the time, but much like The Boogeyman, he was considered a joke to older fans of the product in his day. Regardless, Papa Shango had one wicked paint-job.
“The Ugandan Giant” was born in the Memphis wrestling territory ran by Jerry “The King” Lawler. Again, much like Papa Shango and The Boogeyman, Kamala was a terrifying character to young fans of the product and a corny gimmick to the older fans. His paint-job was one of the most memorable, however. Who could forget the white star-shaped paint on his chest and the yellow crescent moon on his stomach? I know I never will. Kamala reached a pretty high level of success as a gimmick-based wrestler and he rocked some pretty cool face and body paint.
#7. The Great Muta
Keiji Mutoh is a pro wrestling god in his homeland of Japan. He was a top star in the world-famous New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) organization before creating All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) which was the equivalent of WCW to WWE in the United States. He is arguably the most successful cross-over star from Japan to the U.S., as his character “The Great Muta” made a huge impact on the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and later WCW. Anyone who grew up on Muta remembers three things: his awesome moonsault, the green mist he would spray out of his mouth to blind his opponents, and oh yeah, his face-paint! The Great Muta is the man.
#6. Doink The Clown
What list involving anything to do with face-painting would be complete without the inclusion of a clown? Doink The Clown is recognized to modern fans mostly as the embodiment of the goofy characters that dominated the WWE scene in the early 1990s. The origins of his gimmick was actually pretty cool. It was simple, too. An evil clown. It sounds pretty decent on paper, right? Well, maybe not. But at first, Matt Borne’s portrayal of an evil clown was great in my opinion. Road Warrior Hawk, who we’ll be talking about later on, is actually partially credited with coming up with the idea for Borne. The character would get watered down as time went on, as it became a regular goofy clown with a sidekick named “Dink.” More clowns would follow, but the original Doink The Clown was actually pretty cool. I promise!
#5. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy was a major part of the Attitude Era in WWE in the late 1990s. After spending a few years as a job-guy in WWE, along with his brother Matt, Hardy exploded onto the scene and made himself a permanent fixture in the wrestling world with his daredevil approach. During that time period, Hardy did not wear face-paint. Like every tag-team eventually does in pro wrestling, The Hardy Boys split up and each went their separate direction. Nobody was surprised when Jeff became the more successful of the two. Much like Edge in the Edge and Christian duo, most people figured Jeff would follow Shawn Michaels in breaking out of The Rockers, as the more successful half of the act. During Hardy’s singles run, he became known as the “Charismatic Enigma” and wore some wild face-paint designs. They were never quite the same, but they were always colorful and personified Hardy’s wild nature.
He’s the grandson of a humble plumber and the son of a legendary figure in professional wrestling. Dustin Runnels had the unenviable task of having to follow in the footsteps of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. He started off as Dustin Rhodes in WWE, portraying exactly what most saw him as: the son of Dusty Rhodes. In WCW he was “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes. The idea there was that he was the most naturally gifted athlete in wrestling. He was a natural at pro wrestling. It wasn’t until Vince McMahon made Runnels a character named “Goldust,” that he created his own mark on the business. The idea was likely a rib on Dusty Rhodes, who competed hard against McMahon and WWE as the promoter of WCW, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Runnels’ career. He took a weird gimmick and turned it into gold, no pun intended. When fans think of Dustin Runnels, one thing comes to mind before anything else: black and gold face-paint.
#3. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior and face-paint go hand-in-hand. He’s one of few guys that during his prime, many probably wouldn’t be able to recognize him without it. I haven’t researched this fact, but if I’m not mistaken, Ultimate Warrior was the first person with a full face-paint job to win the WWE Championship. He’s infamous for being a guy who is hard to do business with. He’s infamous for having the craziest promos of his time. He’s infamous for having an entrance that was a bigger part of his on-camera presentation than his actual matches. And he’s infamous for being a muscled-up dude who wore a ton of paint on his face.
Sting has the rare distinction on this list as being a wrestler who popularized two completely different styles of face-painting. There’s guys who always played around with designs, but always had the same basic look. Guys like Jeff Hardy, Goldust and The Ultimate Warrior. Early in his career, Sting had a face-paint style that would always change as well, but was always basically the same thing. Very colorful, and would always match his ring gear. Later in his career, Sting basically ripped off a look that was made famous in the movie, “The Crow” and ran with it. To this day, Sting uses that design. It became his thing. The black and white face-paint job. He was the lone top-star who didn’t align himself with the nWo in the beginning of the WCW explosion of the late 1990s. Later, he became part of the nWo Wolfpac and changed the colors to black and red to match their team color, but it was the black and white style that stuck. Sting is arguably the single biggest name in pro wrestling to have never worked for Vince McMahon’s WWE promotion and he’s one of the most famous wrestlers to rock the face-paint look in the history of the business.
#1. The Road Warriors
Hawk and Animal. The Road Warriors. The Legion of Doom. Whatever you want to call them, they are arguably the two who started the muscled-up face-painting trend that became wildly popular, and the most ripped-off gimmick in the history of the business. In fact, numbers two and three on this list, Sting and The Ultimate Warrior, started off as a rip-off of The Road Warriors. They were the Blade Runners, and their tag-team gimmick was that of two muscled-up guys who wore face-paint. Later, WWE tried to capitalize on the movement with such tag-teams as The Powers Of Pain and Demolition. However, The Road Warriors came first, and one could argue that they did it the best. You could still make the claim to this day that they are the most famous and successful pro wrestling tag-team in history. That may not mean a lot these days considering the state that tag-team wrestling is in, but there was a time when that was a big deal. To this day, they are the only two WWE Hall Of Famers who are synonymous with face-paint.
Who are your favorite face-painted pro wrestlers in history? Post your own list, or leave your feedback on mine in the “Comments” section below.
NOTE: The above item is an eWrestlingNews.com opinionated editorial, and should not be confused as a factual news item. Readers can contact the author of the above editorial, Matt Boone, via Twitter @MBoone420 or by posting your immediate feedback in the “Comments” section below.