I love a good mullet. I love bad mullets and mediocre mullets, too—really the mullet spectrum runs from “person who gives no fucks to a degree that scares me” to “person who gives no fucks and is really really hot”—and that love, like too many things in my life, has its roots in professional wrestling.
The mullet is the pro wrestling hairstyle. It knows no country, no gender, and does not discriminate between heels and faces. Mullets of various quality have appeared in the sport for at least five decades, longer than we’ve had the word we call them by, and outside of NASCAR and mid-ninties country music, I can’t think of many modes of cultural expression as closely associated with them.
The wrestling mullet is unique among haircuts in popular culture in how expressive it is. It emotes. The most famous mullets in wrestling tell you something about the wrestler who grew it, and even more if it is eventually shorn as a consequence of losing a match. It is a beautiful haircut, a marvelous coif, one deserving as much attention and praise on its own merit as a good match or promo. Let’s start with a perfect one.
Eddie Guerrero wore a mullet for most of his career in professional wrestling, and it was always great. As a babyface, his mullet said “I’m one of the best wrestlers in world history and don’t have time to clean up my bangs.” As a heel, his mullet said “This is intentional, just like how I’m grinding my boot into your face is intentional.” It’s the intentionality of Eddie Guerrero’s heel mullet that is terrifying to behold, as there is functionally no difference between it and its babyface brother beyond the degree to which it was wet down. Years away from picking up the hot guy nickname “Latino Heat,” late-nineties Eddie Guerrero’s mullet elevated the man from being good looking to being one of the hottest wrestlers—one of the hottest men—on the planet.
It was rude, that mullet, which is why Octagón and El Hijo Del Santo cut it off in 1994, and presumably why he went with the frosted Midwestern mom look a decade later when he won the WWE Championship—how, after so much time spent with a sneer framed by those magnificent locks, could anybody cheer a mulleted Eddie Guerrero?
You can be a dork and say “because he was a great wrestler,” or you can lean into his status as one of wrestling’s all-time greatest heels, whether he was tagging with Art Barr, portraying Tiger Mask’s arch rival, ripping at the mask of Rey Mysterio, psychologically torturing his nephew Chavo, or disingenuously romancing Chyna. Eddie Guerrero had a mullet for all of that. When he took to the skies with his Frogsplash, it flowed from his scalp like the tail-feathers of a phoenix, part of the whole, but beautiful on its own merit if you cared to look.
For a lot of wrestlers, hair is just hair—it no more defines them than any other aspect of their look. Yes, a “look” is often how one figures out how to read a wrestler, but there are a lot of generic dudes in flashy tights, a lot of gaudy hair disguising a lack of personality. That isn’t true of Guerrero’s mullet. It’s a straight-up, no nonsense 1990s piece of work, one you would see anywhere, only not. Its well-shined black was luxuriant. He wore his bangs long to obscure his eyes, making it harder to read his intent. He kept the length consistent and, in photoshoots, promos, and ring entrances, made sure to display part of it over his shoulders. He was a proud man, and he was proud of his hair.
That’s a heel thing. That’s the sort of thing a wrestler bets when he’s ready to go all in against a rival, and the sort of thing they lose in humiliation due to their irredeemable hubris. Eddie Guerrero bet his hair four times in his wrestling career, going 3-1 in those contests. The one time he lost, the above tag team match where he and Art Barr lost to El Hijo del Santo and Octagón, was a match his career hinged on, a match generally considered to be one of the best of all time, on a pay-per-view generally considered one of the best of all time. Yes, two legendary luchadors put their very identities on the line, but growing out your hair in a sport where long hair is a weakness (it can be pulled, after all) is a conscious choice, something one does because looks are as important to them as technique. It was just as important to his identity as anything else.
Losing it hurt. He cried as his partner cut it. Then he grew it back. He chose the mullet. The mullet chose him. It’s a beautiful union, Eddie Guerrero and his hair. Many wrestlers wore a mullet. None as beautifully as him.