Legacies are a big deal in pro wrestling. Many wrestlers take pride in what they have accomplished in their careers. However, not all pro wrestling legacies begin and end with a single wrestler.
Over the years, several wrestlers have had their characters passed down to their sons, nephews, or gave their names to their successors. Then there are those who just outright take a gimmick that no one was using anymore. While there are several luchador personas, Japanese gimmicks, and American identities that have been passed on for decades, we've compiled a list of some of the most intriguing wrestling gimmicks that have been shared over the generations, along with some of the stories behind them.
Tiger MaskPhoto: NJPW
In the early 1980s, New Japan Pro Wrestling wanted to promote the popular Tiger Mask anime character by giving one of their top wrestlers, Satoru Sayama, the identity of the masked feline fighter. Not only was the character a hit, Sayama went on to have a legendary feud with a fellow junior-heavyweight wrestler, The Dynamite Kid, that is still revered to this day.
After Sayama left the role in 1983, the gimmick was passed to another young wrestler. His name was Mitsuharu Misawa and he became one of the biggest stars in Japanese pro wrestling history. After Misawa, four other men have been Tiger Mask, the most recent incarnation being Tiger Mask W, portrayed by the WWE Cruiserweight Classic competitor Kota Ibushi.
- Photo: AAA
Ask any lucha libre fan about the legendary El Santo ("The Saint") and he or she will talk for hours about his career and his cultural impact in Mexico. Santo was not only dazzling crowds in the ring, but was a prominent star in Mexican television and film. Many of his movies feature him and other fellow luchadores taking on criminals, mummies, and even vampire women.
Once Santo's son was trained and had a few matches under his belt, he wore the classic silver mask as El Hijo del Santo ("Son of the Saint"). The gimmick continued on in the family as El Santo's grandson would get into wrestling as "El Nieto del Santo" ("Grandson of the Saint") before settling with the English moniker "El Santo Jr."
- Photo: WWE
In late 1992, WWF and Vince McMahon gave Matt Borne the evil wrestling clown gimmick and, boy, did he run with it. Doink the Clown was one of the most underrated heel characters in WWE history, but was turned into a silly comedy babyface over time. While Borne is the best known Doink, veteran wrestlers Steve "The Brooklyn Brawler" Lombardi and Steve Keirn have also applied the clown make-up for house show matches. Over the years, other contracted WWE wrestlers have competed in a match or two as Doink, including Nick Dinsmore, better known to WWE fans as Eugene.
Since then, the Doink character has taken a life of its own. Many independent wrestlers would outright steal the Doink gimmick for their shows in order to get a few extra ticket sales and bookings. This blatant copyright infringement continues to this day.
- Photo: ROH
Tim Woods was not only considered "Mr. Wrestling" due to his masked gimmick and technical wrestling acumen, but also because of the lengths to which he went to protect kayfabe. In 1975, he was in a plane crash along with Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, David Crockett, and Ric Flair. Woods was feuding with Valentine and Flair at the time, so at the hospital he gave his real name and told the doctors he was a promoter in order to protect the on-camera feuds. That's right, he committed to kayfabe while being hospitalized.
In 1972, Mr. Wrestling II (Johnny Walker) came on the scene as Woods's tag team partner and continued wrestling under the mask long after Woods retired in 1983. Mr. Wrestling II retired in 1989, but came back for one more match to team up with his heir-apparent and protégé, Mr. Wrestling 3, in 2007.
Mr. Wrestling 3 was former ECW champion and ROH competitor Steve Corino. Corino wore the mask as Mr. Wrestling 3 on occasion as a wrestler and as a commentator for Ring of Honor TV.