Why This Lucha Libre Legend Is So Hated By Other Wrestlers
For many wrestling fans in North America, the man who introduced them to masked luchador wrestlers was Mil Máscaras, the Man of a Thousand Masks. While many fans consider him one of the best lucha libre wrestlers in history, his reputation among other wrestlers is much less flattering.
When fans discuss the history of lucha libre wrestling, names like El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Máscaras often top the list. However, regarding his work in the ring, and in particular his work with young talent, everyone from Chris Jericho to Mick Foley refers to Mil as one of the worst wrestlers they have ever been in the ring with. .
Why is Mil Máscaras so beloved in Lucha Libre?
Mil Máscaras was once a weightlifter who dreamed of becoming an Olympic wrestling champion. However, those dreams eventually came crashing down when the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan didn’t turn out the way he wanted. When he believed that the Mexican Sports Commission, through the Olympic Wrestling Federation, was underpaying him for the time needed to train, he quit. However, he found himself with something to fall back on when he joined the professional wrestling world as Mil Máscaras, a character based on superhero Doc Savage.
Like many other luchador wrestlers, Mil Máscaras took his role seriously. El Santo never took off his mask and ended up buried with it. Mil carried the same respect and desire to maintain the traditions of lucha libre wrestling. In addition to wrestling, Mil also followed El Santo into the movie world and acted as a superhero in those movies, which is the only place he revealed his real name in the credits of those movies (Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta), because he rejected any name other than Mil Máscaras in public. During his career, Mil Máscaras starred in 17 movies and graced the cover of over 100 wrestling magazines in the United States alone, making him almost a legend at a time when it was the only place for see it in action other than band trading.
Mil Máscaras arrived in the United States
For years, North American wrestling fans only knew about Mil Máscaras from wrestling magazines, with Apter magazines always talking about the mysterious masked man from Mexico. Magazines called him one of the best in the world, comparing him to wrestlers like “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. While Rhodes was “the common man”, Mil was a legendary masked superhero, someone with a physique like no other. This led to wrestling promotions wanting to bring it to North America, and Vince McMahon Sr. did so in 1972, bringing mask wrestling to the United States.
Before Mil Máscaras joined the WWWF, the New York State Athletic Commission banned masks. New York law at the time did not allow anyone to wear a mask in public unless attending a masked party. Mil Máscaras helped McMahon lobby the commission, and they allowed him to wrestle with a mask, which he did against Don Jardine. This eventually allowed future wrestlers to wear masks. Wrestlers like Rey Mysterio are now doing something that was once illegal in professional wrestling in the United States.
Why do other wrestlers hate Mil Máscaras so much?
While Mil Máscaras keeping his identity a secret and never removing his mask was in the grand lucha libre style, it rubbed many American wrestlers the wrong way. Mil wasn’t helped by the fact that he had developed an arrogance over the course of his career where he felt more important than any wrestler he was in the ring against. From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Máscaras was the best of the best in lucha libre style wrestling. However, as he got older, he ended up riding his reputation and refusing to put anyone else in the ring. Several wrestlers, including Hall of Fame superstars, have said that Mil is not someone they respect.
Superstar Billy Graham, a man who once held the WWE World Championship, wrote in his book Tangled ropes that “Like the legendary Santo, he took his masked gimmick very seriously and used it to transition into a movie career in his native Mexico. But he was never one of the boys. After games, he was taking a shower with his mask on I understand that you are protecting your image, but the guy was ridiculing us!” Graham also wrote that he hated wrestling Máscaras, calling him “mechanical” and saying that Mil refused to sell other wrestlers’ moves, and usually did so reluctantly. This even happened when Máscaras had a chance to win the world title from Graham in 1978.
Máscaras’ nephew, Alberto El Patron, defended his uncle in a set video, saying there was a lot of politics behind the scenes and that Mil was only trying to protect his position from those who wanted to take it from him. However, when the best guys in wrestling slam a wrestler, it says a lot. Mick Foley rarely has a bad thing to say about anyone, but he hated Mil Máscaras. In his book, Have a nice day: A story of blood and socks, Foley wrote, “Máscaras sucked, and the game was going to suck. In my dealings with Máscaras in Texas, I had found him selfish, redundant, and ugly.” Foley said Mil seemed scared of even landing a backbreaker and was not proud of his matches. “I wondered if having the ability to tuck in your belly and walk on tiptoe for twenty-five years was really all it took to become a legend in this craft.”
Chris Jericho also criticized Mil Máscaras in his book, A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex. Jericho worked in Mexico very early in his career and wrestled against Máscaras. While Jericho had some wonderful experiences in Mexico, including meeting Eddie Guerrero, fighting Máscaras was not one of them. “He didn’t want me or my partner to make any offensive gestures because he said the thousands of fans in attendance wouldn’t believe us,” Jericho wrote. “Still, he didn’t do anything in the ring except flex his saggy pecs and dance like he had antalones in his pants.” He said the two wrestled again in Japan, and Máscaras told Jericho not to do any of his moves because no one cared about him. Jericho said he then walked out and made “every fucking move I could think of. He didn’t say anything to me after the game, and I’ve never spoken to him since.”
Wrestling fans in America had their best chance to see Mil Máscaras in WWE in 1997, when he competed in the Royal Rumble. In his podcast, Something to struggle with, Bruce Prichard said Máscaras was part of the Royal Rumble match, but Mil refused to put anyone else on it, saying, “No Yob, No Yob.” Because of this, they had to find a creative way to get him out of the game without needing someone to throw him over the ropes. As a result, Máscaras jumped over the top rope on Pierroth Jr., which meant he was knocked out so no one could forget. It’s this kind of behavior that has made him one of the least likable wrestlers to nearly everyone he’s faced.