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So, the Heel cheated in a Loser Leaves Town match, or he got in the ear of an authority figure, and now a popular Face has found himself unceremoniously ousted from the promotion. The fans of the face are screaming for justice. But never fear, Charlie Brown From Outta Town, the mysterious masked wrestler with an oddly familiar build and wrestling style, is here...
Charlie Brown From Outta Town is a pretty standard storyline in Professional Wrestling; the face, who's been unjustly barred from the promotion, takes up a disguise and works to get himself reinstated and take revenge on the heels who cheated him. The trope's named for the particular implementation of the storyline on Jimmy Valiant; after he lost a Loser Leaves Town match, a new wrestler, calling himself Charlie Brown from Outta Town, showed up, wearing a mask, but oddly enough, with Valiant's signature three-foot beard.
These masks aren't really meant to fool anybody, just create an air of "reasonable" doubt. The heels will often complain to the authority figure that the face is skirting the terms of his contract; however, a face authority figure will remain willfully ignorant of the masked man's identity, and a heel authority figure will bemoan the masked man's "iron-clad contract" (just how somebody can sign an "iron-clad contract" without revealing his real name is never really elaborated upon). Either way, the heels are left with only one alternative; reveal Charlie Brown's true identity, and send him packing for good this time!
Eventually, Charlie Brown gets the face reinstated, clears his good name, exhausts the "leaves town" period of the stipulation, or what have you, and rides off into the sunset just as the face returns and gives a big speech thanking his "good friend" who helped him so much. Of course, this is the happy ending to the storyline, but it's not the only possible ending; in one particular case, Mr. America was finally unmasked, revealing Hulk Hogan, who was subsequently fired (though it must be noted that this subversion was not the original plan; it was an instance of Real Life Writes the Plot, as Hogan had held out for more money once his contract expired).
Anime and Manga
- Sogeking from One Piece, who appears after Usopp left Luffy's crew when they decide to get rid of their original ship as it had fallen into disrepair. It was a gift from one of his loved ones, and he considered it part of the crew. Also, he realized his case of Can't Catch Up right about this time.
- A subversion, in that Sogeking was trying to hide his identity from the GOOD guys; the villains had no idea who he was with or without the mask.
- Of course, the only people he actually fooled were Luffy and Chopper, but the rest of the crew and people he had only met once that day played along anyway.
- Although the from out of town part of the trope has completed, Sogeking is still around to function for a different trope.
- A subversion, in that Sogeking was trying to hide his identity from the GOOD guys; the villains had no idea who he was with or without the mask.
- The anime Kaleido Star had a variation on this as Layla Hamilton, after Yuri Killian had taken over Kaleido Stage, decided to secretly aid Sora Naegino and her fledgling "Freedom Lights" troupe by occasionally appearing as "The Masked Star", performing spectacular feats to effectively be the main attraction of "Freedom Lights". Killian was not fooled, and wished to destroy Layla and the troupe, unmasking her at a Vancouver competition in front of her father, who rather had Layla performing in movies.
- The anime Kinnikuman, being a Pro Wrestlin spoof, has a few. The best example would probably be "Mongolman", who showed up to save Ramenman's friend Brocken Jr. from having his insides sucked out by Mr. Khamen not long after Ramenman had been put into a coma by Warsman. Neptune King's Mildman & Big the Budo gimmicks were not really a case of this, as he's using them from his first appearance in the show, but they are in the context of the story, as Neptune King's supposedly a famous wrestler from long ago. Then there's the Kinnikuman Great costume that various characters have used over the years when they weren't able to wrestle under their real names for various reasons. Kinnikuman himself disguised as Channelman in his trek across America after an incident left him too embarrassed to show his (actual) face. Robin Mask came back to bedevil Kinnikuman as Warsman's manager Barracuda in the next arc, too ashamed to use his true identity.
- A filler arc of Sailor Moon gives us the Moonlight Knight. He was very obviously the then-supposedly-depowered Tuxedo Mask, down to having the same modus operandi and rose motif. (And also looking similar, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything in anime.) In a possible subversion, he kinda was Tuxedo Mask and he kinda wasn't. When Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask was depowered, the part of his mind that was still driven to protect Usagi split off and gained a new body. At arc's end, Mamoru fused with Moonlight Knight and became Tuxedo Mask again.
- In Speed Racer, the mysterious Racer X first appears on the racing scene shortly after Rex Racer's untimely death, has a similar build, and drives exactly like him. The narrator feels obliged to remind the viewer of these facts at every possible interval.
- The Pre-Crisis versions of Star Boy and Dream Girl (from the Legion of Super-Heroes) both left the Legion (Star Boy was expelled for violating Thou Shalt Not Kill in self-defense, while Dream Girl had joined under false pretenses and resigned.) A few months later, when Superboy and Supergirl temporarily lost their powers, they nominated two new superheroes, Sir Prize and Miss Terious, to take their places. Guess who they were!
- Another Legion Of Super-Heroes example: Sensor Girl, who was eventually revealed to be Princess Projectra, who had resigned after killing the man who had killed her husband, Karate Kid. Unusually for this trope, she kept her Charlie Brown name and costume well after her identity had been revealed.
- Spider Man got in on the act too when he was accused of murder; Peter Parker temporarily retired Spider-Man and took on no less than four new superpowered personas - superheroes Prodigy and Hornet and, in a rarity for this trope, supervillains Dusk and Ricochet. The Trapster was heartbroken when he found out the real identity of his new BFF Dusk.
- Which has an added bit of trope, ol' Webhead was able to fight two of Wolverine's rogues, Roughouse the half-Troll and pseudo vampire Bloodscream, whilst changing outfits in between attacks, making them think they were fighting all four.
- Another example from Ultimate Spider-Man. After mutants fall even further out of public favour, Shadowcat starts operating under a new name and costume as Shroud. Cleverly, she's using her existing abilities in a new way that makes her look as if she has completely different powers.
- Who can forget the 1980's Captain America storyline under Mark Gruenwald where he was stripped of the Captain America identity by the US government and forbidden to act as a superhero by a commission whose acts were part of a Xanatos Gambit by the Red Skull. His reaction? Create a new costume and identity which was dubbed "The Captain" after he stopped himself awkwardly from calling himself Captain America. The government also appointed a new Captain America, who later when on to wear the new costume as U.S.Agent.
- The So Bad It's Good b-movie Grunt!: The Wrestling Movie subverts the trope, as after Mad Dog accidentally takes Skull Crusher Johnson's head off during a match (yeah, it's that kind of movie), he disappears for several years, only for the creatively-named masked wrestler The Mask to show up looking nearly identical and wrestling in the same style. The subversion comes in the movie's climax, when Mad Dog shows up to interfere in a Battle Royal being held to fill the vacant championship, to stop The Mask from taking Captain Carnage's head off the same way. The end of the movie features the filmmakers trying to figure out who the hell The Mask was if he wasn't Mad Dog.
- The Speed Racer movie appears to subvert this with Racer X (see the above Anime post) by having X unmask in front of Speed to look nothing like his supposedly dead brother Rex. In fact, Rex underwent major surgery after faking his death.
- In the book that chronicles the history of Deltora, Adin, the blacksmith, has a vision of uniting the seven warring tribes to drive off the evil presence in their land by combining the power of the tribes' magic gems into a magic belt. He realizes that he has little chance of convincing his own people - "a prophet is not respected in his hometown" you know - so he heads off and convinces two or three other tribes to hand over their stones and lend their support to his mission. When he returns to convince his own people, he comes as a mysterious stranger, and his words - along with the other gems - convince his people to believe his story. Then a child reveals him to be just the blacksmith they've known since birth. The politicians rise up against him - why would Fate hand a cool destiny to this uneducated lout? But the common people step up and point out that, if they were willing to hand over their national treasure to a stranger in the night, they should be more willing to do so now that they know who is asking, know that he's never been a self-important or fanciful man.
- A variant occurs twice in Ivanhoe, firstly where the title character shows up for a tournament as the Disinherited Knight and wins without revealing his identity, second when King Richard takes the field in unadorned black armor to hide his identity.
Live Action TV
- The X-Files episode "William" uses a variation on this trope. A severely burned and disfigured man appears with information about the alien conspiracy, claiming to have been sent by Agent Mulder, who at the time was on the run from the conspiracy. When a DNA test shows that he's a match for Mulder, it's assumed that he actually is Mulder scarred beyond recognition (and in order to have Mulder appear in the series without David Duchovny's presence), until at episode's end it's revealed that he is in fact Mulder's long assumed dead half-brother Jeffrey Spender.
- In the U.S. version of The Office season 7 finale "Search Committee", Dwight interviews for the vacant Regional Manager job disguised as "Jacques Souvenir", a burn victim with his hands and face covered in bandages. According to his resume, he's a former Assistant to the Regional Manager in a French paper company that burned to the ground. After a bit of baiting, Jim and Jo see through the ruse, and Dwight takes off the disguise to their mock-shock.
- As mentioned, it has been used many, many times in wrestling: Dusty Rhodes became the Midnight Rider, Bruiser Brody became Red River Jack, both Brian Pillman and Barry Windham, at different points, became the Yellow Dog, and Hulk Hogan became Mr. America.
- Subverted hard by Stone Cold Steve Austin. When he was (kayfabe) fired he simply showed up, fought his way into the building, publicly humiliated Vince McMahon and eventually annoyed the Chairman until he got his job back.
- In a slight variation, Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett took turns playing the Blue Blazer, as heels, after Owen quit because he "injured" Dan "The Beast" Severn; their motivation for this was never revealed, due to Owen's untimely death. Strangely the Blazer also used several of Severn's moves and the fact that him and Owen had faked his injuries implied that the beast might have been under the mask sometimes.
- At one point during the storyline Owen Hart's former partner Koko B. Ware did a run in to help "prove" Owen wasn't the Blue Blazer. For those who don't know, B. Ware is African American.
- When Edge and Christian lost a third title match in a row against the Hardy Boyz, they were denied any more title matches until the Hardys lost the tag team titles. So then Los Conquistadors, Uno and Dos, challenged the Hardys using the same in-ring tactics. The Hardys complained that the Conquistidors were Edge and Christian in disguise, but the two had hired local jobbers (one of which was Christopher Daniels) so that the four could be seen at the same time. Once the Conquistadors won the titles, they allowed Edge and Christian to challenge for the titles. But, during the match it was revealed that these Conquistadors were the Hardys in disguise. This can be the only time in WWF/E history that a tag team has technically lost the titles to themselves.
- In 1986, after Andre the Giant was suspended for no-showing, a new Japanese tag team was introduced called The Machines made up of the masked Super Machine (who looked and sounded like the Masked Super Star) and the Giant Machine. The weird part about this is, since there were not that many giant Japanese wrestlers, the WWF promoted the Giant Machine as All Japan Pro Wrestling founder Giant Baba; ironically, Andre would have his final run teaming with Baba in AJPW.
- Hogan/Mr. America. No-one aside from Hogan and his absolutely closest ally took it seriously. And it ended with not even Hogan taking it seriously; after a show went off the air, he lifted his mask and raised a finger to his mouth, telling the audience not to tell McMahon. The next week it was shown that despite the show being off the air, cameras were still rolling, and Hogan was fired. As mentioned above, this was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot; the original plan was for Hogan's Charlie Brown From Outta Town gimmick to continue for a while longer. People who attended other WWE Smackdown tapings from that time have said this after-show unmasking routine for the benefit of the live audience, once the cameras and the heels were gone, was a regular occurrence.
- A more recent, heel example happened when Paul Burchill feuded with the Hurricane; Burchill was trying to prove that Hurricane was really Gregory Helms (which isn't this trope, Hurricane is a superhero gimmick with a secret identity), so they had a match with the stipulation that if Burchill won, Hurricane would unmask, if Hurricane won, Burchill would retire. Hurricane won, and a week later he was assaulted by a masked villain known as The Ripper (as in Jack. because he's British, get it?). A week after that, Hurricane won again, demasking Burchill and sending him home. Sort of a lost opportunity, really; Burchill was an outstanding performer, and the storyline was so ridiculous that it couldn't help but be funny.
- In a slightly different take on the trope, John Cena was recently "fired" from the
nWoNexus (and, in the storyline, WWE) after a complex series of events. To fill in for Cena on his house-show dates, Cena's Mexican cousin Juan Cena was signed. However, the new superstar never appeared on WWE television (he was usually used in main events and house shows to "send the crowd home happy"), and his entrance music was suspiciously familiar to most WWE fans. Additionally, Cena mentioned on Twitter that he intended to purchase tickets for his replacement's first match.
- The Raw after he left WWE, the real John Cena showed up instead of Juan. Eventually, after Wade Barrett rehired him, the character was completely scrapped.
- One of the more famous wrestling versions occurred during the heyday of Memphis wrestling, circa 1983, when Koko Ware (he didn't have the "B" in those days), was chased out of Memphis, only to be replaced by masked badass Stagger Lee (who was, arguably, more popular than his unmasked persona).
- Junkyard Dog actually did the exact same gimmick (and the same name) just a year or so before in the Mid-South wrestling scene.
- Mick Foley. Have a Nice Day!
- In the 1998 Royal Rumble, Mr. Foley showed up as Cactus Jack, got eliminated, showed up again as Mankind, got eliminated, and showed up YET AGAIN as Dude Love! The trope was partially averted by explaining that Foley had multiple personalities and that each, apparently, counted as a separate entity -- the "Three Faces of Foley".
- To date, Mick Foley is the only wrestler able to switch personas on-the-fly and people still believe that he is a genuinely different character. For example, Triple H scoffs at Mankind... Mankind takes his mask off, Triple H still laughs at Mick Foley... Mick Foley removes his shirt, Triple H shits bricks at the sight of Cactus Jack.
- The TNA Impact! video game inverts the trope -- in the story mode, you play as the former masked wrestler Suicide, who, after getting screwed out of the world championship, badly beaten, and left for dead in Tijuana, gets Magic Plastic Surgery and comes back to TNA without a mask for revenge.
- TNA are now (May 2009) running a similar storyline on their TV show, with the Motor City Machine Guns trying to prove that Suicide (yes, TNA used a real wrestler to portray an original character from their videogame) is actually Christopher Daniels. The truth is... complicated, but the short form is that Suicide was going to be Kazarian, but when he was injured Daniels took on the role, but Kazarian took the mask back just as this storyline began.
- Puerto Rican wrestling company WWC ran this angle with a wrestler named Pulgarcito (Spanish for a male version of Thumbelina), who was actually a big fat guy who hailed from the town of Ponce. After he lost his loser leaves town match, he returned under the name Pedro Ponce, wearing the same outfit and a mask. After Pulgarcito was reinstated, they aired a vignette with Pulgarcito driving his alter ego back to Ponce.
- One week after The Miz was fired from Raw (thanks to special guest Jeremy Piven) after losing to John Cena, a pole match was made where the winner would grab a contract and become a new Raw Superstar. The participants were the returning Eugene and Calgary Kid, a masked Canadian wrestler (after all, the show was in Calgary). After Calgary Kid grabs the contract, he attacks Eugene and tears off the mask to reveal... The Miz.
- A bit of a subversion, as it wasn't that obvious that The Miz was under the mask until after the match when he used the Skull-Crushing Finale on Eugene before unmasking.
- This was part of Sgt. Slaughter's run as the guest host of Raw, where he showed disrespect towards Canada and proved the United States superior.
- Ultimately, Eugene was released a week later, and The Miz later became WWE Champion.
- In the state of Florida (reprised in Jim Crockett's WTBS-based NWA territory from a suspension), Dusty Rhodes lost a "Loser Leaves Town" match to Kevin Sullivan. Just as Rhodes had left, a mysterious new superstar, The Midnight Rider, came onto the scene, looking awfully similar to Rhodes. Sullivan and heel manager J. J. Dillon were not impressed, and tried to get Bob Geigel (the NWA on-screen "president") to suspend Rhodes, using a promo as videotaped evidence. Sadly for them, Geigel told them to get better proof, and the Rider would team with good friend Magnum T.A. to win the tag team titles, only losing them after the Rider had to unmask. The Rider even won the NWA World Title (at a time where that meant something) from Ric Flair, but had to forfeit it after Geigel informed Rider that he would have to choose the mask or the title. Eventually, Rhodes was reinstated after the stipulation had expired, and brought several Midnight Riders to ringside for one of his many matches with Flair.
- In Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Jim Cornette was able to get face Commissioner "Bullet" Bob Armstrong fired from the company. Cornette, as only he could, was happy as a pig in slop about it. However, less than a month later, a new wrestler debuted under a mask called "The Bullet" who walked like, talked like, and wrestled like Armstrong, even coming out to Armstrong's entrance music "Bad to the Bone".
- Played straight AND subverted with "El Gran Luchadore." When the late Eddie Guerrero was fighting John Bradshaw Layfield for the WWE title, the supposed "champion of Mexico" was making guest appearances on Smackdown. Then El Gran Luchadore attacked JBL in the ring, pulling off all of Guerrero's moves and then declaring (in a voice that sounded a lot like Eddie) that he and Eddie were very close. The next week, Eddie and JBL were fighting for the title in a cage match - until Luchadore came out... and helped JBL win the match! Luchadore was then unmasked and revealed to be - Kurt Angle, who was supposed to be permanently confined to a wheelchair due to an assault by The Big Show weeks earlier.
- Santina Marella. Santino Marella had some issue where ha was trying to out-Diva the WWE Divas, and then his very masculine-looking "sister" Santina invaded and won the Divas battle royal at Wrestlemania 25. This was a subversion because Santino was still active the whole time and getting ridicule from wrestlers who weren't buying the charade, and because Santina was later fired in a (obviously pre-recorded and edited) scene that made it look like Santina and Santino were two separate people all the time.
- Melissa Anderson at one point was appearing in TNA as two separate people - Alyssa Flash and Raisha Saeed (under a burka and veil) and this carried over into the Indian TV show Ring Ka King. There was even a match booked as Alyssa Flash against Raisha Saeed though it was extremely obvious that it was a man under the veil, playing Raisha. In the next episode, Melissa was clearly playing Raisha again.
- TNA inverted this with Chris Parks, who plays the masked Abyss, unmasking and playing Abyss's "Brother" Joseph Parks while still playing Abyss in Ring Ka King.
- In Guilty Gear, the first game has an insane, 12 ft tall, skinny as a rail, evil doctor named Dr. Baldhead. The sequel and all subsequent games have an insane, 12 ft tall, skinny as a rail, and good doctor named Dr. Faust, with a paper bag on his head. Characters who know about Dr. Baldhead make the connection, though.
- In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the character Devdan does not return, despite the fact that every character besides Largo, who lost an arm between the games and can't fight anymore, returns. Instead, a character who looks and acts the same and receives bonus stats from data transfer if Devdan would receive them is included, who is named Danved. Though the plot never clarifies it, it can be safe to assume that they're the same person.
- Played for Laughs in Metal Gear Solid 2 - After the Tanker chapter, Snake is presumed dead, with his body fished from the bottom of the ocean. Raiden runs into Iroquois Pliskin, Lieutenant Junior Grade Navy SEAL, who happens to look exactly like Snake, and is played by the same guy. The game makes it as obvious as possible that this guy is Snake, while having several characters aggressively claim that Snake is definitely dead. When Pliskin reveals that yes, he is Snake, you can practically hear Hideo Kojima laughing at you for believing Snake really was dead. The name he used for his alias was an even an obvious Shout-Out to S.D. "Snake" Plissken.
- In Bushido Blade 2, Black Lotus from the original game reappears -- fighting for the opposite side -- as Highwayman, complete with Domino Mask. Seeing as he's still basically an Irish ninja in both games, no one who knew him as Black Lotus is fooled for long.
- Street Fighter IV's third current revision, "Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition" features a new character, name of Oni... who bears a large resemblance to recurring character Akuma. Many have believed that Oni is merely a new super mode for Akuma, though so far Capcom haven't said much on the subject.
- The Japanese bio for Oni confirms that he is indeed Akuma, only as a literal demon instead of a metaphorical one. How he assumed such a form is currently unknown, with many suspecting that he trained to the point that the Satsui no Hadou overtook his body.
- If there is a masked or semi-masked character named after the Buddhist monk Tenkai in a Warring States-based game (such as Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams or Sengoku Basara 3: Samurai Heroes), expect them to be at least rumored to be this trope for either a character named after Akechi Mitsuhide or a relative of said character. This is taken off the popular theory that Tenkai was this for Mitsuhide in real life.
- The Simpsons once did a hilarious subversion of this basic trope; after Homer was banned from Moe's Tavern, a man who looks and sounds suspiciously like Homer wearing a top hat, suit, and fake moustache and who goes by the name "Guy Incognito" shows up and asks Moe if he may "trouble Moe for a drink." Moe roughs up "Guy" and throws him out of the bar; at which point a dejected Homer walks by and is shocked to see that Guy looks exactly like him! (He is soon distracted by a dog with a puffy tail, however.)
- SpongeBob SquarePants did a similar subversion, where Spongebob is trying to get into a tough guy bar. Shortly after someone tells him that only people with cool haircuts get in, somebody looking just like Spongebob shows up with a pompadour and a leather jacket. After the bouncer tries to pull his wig off, the real Spongebob shows up wearing a rainbow-colored clown wig.
- Ditto Family Guy, when Peter took a free sample of sausages, followed by 3 look-alikes who also take samples. The exasperated employee explains that they're free, and he doesn't have to keep disguising himself to get more. Of course, at this point, all of the others, including the real Peter show up for more samples.