There's always been a certain mystique surrounding the wearing of a mask. In many primitive cultures, most ceremonies are preformed with masks, with the wearer magically transformed into a spirit or god and obtaining powers that he or she didn't have before putting it on. In speaking with the people involved in Mexican wrestling, it's interesting to note that a similar phenomenon takes place. Santo's long-time friend and manager, Carlos Suarez, told us that when Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, normally a quiet and unassuming person, pulled on the silver mask, he became Santo, with far more confidence and a sense of power that resulted in an entirely new personality. It's therefore not surprising that one of the most popular items with Mexican wrestling collectors are masks.
Obviously, the most prized of masks are those that have been actually worn by the wrestlers, which came in two varieties. The wrestlers would wear a highly ornate mask when making a public appearance, such as a banquet or award ceremony. But when performing in the ring, a simpler version would be worn. Among the most prized items in my collection are masks given to me by Blue Demon, Tinieblas and Mil Mascaras after we had interviewed them for Santo Street.
But the rarity and high cost of "real" masks put them out of reach of the average collector. In trying to find an original Santo mask, I was told that if one could be found, it might cost upward of $500. So many collectors content themselves with collecting masks made for the general public.
People who set up outside wrestling arenas on fight nights sometimes have beautifully crafted masks that are almost the equal of the "real" masks. As you wander around the streets in Mexico, you'll also find many street venders selling masks. But, the quality of these can vary tremendously. Some are colorful, well detailed and have good workmanship. Others look like something made by elementary school children in art class. But even these crude masks have a certain charm.
Among the most interesting masks are mask/cape combos sold by the street venders. While usually children's sizes, occasionally one can be found that's a bit larger. These masks are nicely made, but their real appeal lie in the flowing capes that are sewn right on. These capes are beautifully decorated either with sewn-on or silk-screened decorations, appropriate for the wrestler they represent. These are quite striking in appearance.
Another interesting set of children's masks are a series of twelve masks that are part of the Magnificent Wrestlers line. These are vacuformed plastic, like those you would find in a "Ben Cooper" boxed Halloween costume. They are colorful and well-detailed and come in popular designs like; Mil Mascaras, Pierroth, Ultimo Dragon, Blue Panther, Atlantis, Octagon, Huracan Ramirez, Ultimo Dragon and several others.
Many collectors are mainly interested in adult-sized masks. This presents two problems. Since most masks are made for children, there aren't all that many adult masks available. And even when adult sizes are found, a Mexican adult and an American adult are two different things. It was amazing to discover that my wife, who is approximately 5' 4", was the same height as Huracan Ramirez and that Blue Demon's actual mask fits my 6-year-old daughter pretty well. It becomes understandable why Tinieblas, who stands around 6' tall, was nicknamed "El Gigante." All this makes it very difficult to find many Mexican masks that will fit most adult, American collectors.
Mexican wrestler masks are fun to collect and they certainly make for a colorful display. Plus they have an additional hidden value. The next time you find yourself in a situation when you feel a little insecure, maybe an important job interview or a date with a Swedish stewardess, just pop one of these babies on and see if it doesn't give your confidence a major boost. After all, it worked for Santo!