By Juan Fourneau, Hola America
At Wrestlemania 39, the greatest Luchador of our time was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. With his best friend Konnan giving a rousing, moving inauguration speech, 175-pound Rey Mysterio, took his place among the giants of professional wrestling such as Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant.
With both Konnan and Mysterio sprinkling words of Spanish in their speeches, they spoke of the humble origins of the Luchador, beginning with his matches in Tijuana. The San Diego native struggled to get promoters to give him a shot, but eventually, he broke through and became a star in the Triple A promotion that was begun by Antonio Pena in Mexico City.
In ECW, he was paired with his Mexican rival, Psicosis, and that brought them both fame through their groundbreaking matches. That was the first time I saw both in action, as I got a tape through the mail of a match they had in Japan. It blew my mind. I had never seen such breathtaking moves, performed flawlessly, by anyone before. Those revolutionary matches got the attention of W.C.W. as it had a need for a faster, more exciting style of wrestling, to fill their two hours of prime-time television on T.N.T.
Mysterio became the most celebrated of the Mexican Luchadores who helped draw record ratings and change the style of professional wrestling in the U.S. forever. His American roots and English, along with his charisma and talent, made him a star. His professionalism and good demeanor in the locker room, all helped give him opportunities to shine on national television.
When WCW went out of business in 2001, he took a short break before the WWE came calling, and he made his debut on the Smackdown brand. With the program being televised at the time on free network television, it drew a large Hispanic audience. The WWE noticed and put an even larger emphasis on Latino stars Rey Mysterio and the late Eddie Guerrero.
Mysterio went on to have a decorated W.W.E. career that included world title championships. He continued to defy the odds by maintaining a high-flying acrobatic lucha style that kept up with the young wrestlers who were influenced by him in their childhood.
I think Mysterio’s legacy will be multifaceted. He was at one time the best high-flying wrestler in the world. He was a draw who sold tickets at the box office and had fantastic matches that always delivered. As was noted in Konnan’s speech, he changed the industry standard of what a pro wrestler could look like. When I broke into the wrestling business in 1994 I was careful to not attempt entering the industry until I weighed a minimum of 200 pounds. And when I walked into my first locker room I was the smallest person in there.
The thought of a wrestler weighing far below that mark had never been considered before Mysterio. He started as a cruiserweight wrestler, but his charisma and skills allowed him to move up to be a main event player. He headlined cards against far larger American stars such as Kevin Nash, The Undertaker, Batista and many more.
His final legacy is of growing the iconic image of the masked Mexican Luchador to heights the cultural symbol had never seen before. Mil Mascaras paved the way by traveling the globe in the 1970’s and blazing a trail for all Mexican Luchadores. But it was Rey Mysterio who walked that path set by Mascaras and blew it wide open for all of Lucha Libre. With the power of Vince McMahon’s WWE machine and television juggernaut behind it, he took the mask and his Lucha Libre style around the world. He became a Hispanic crossover star and a point of pride for many of us Latinos.
My favorite Rey Mysterio match was in WCW at Halloween Havoc in 1997 against his close friend and rival Eddie Guerrero. It was a classic battle between the two greatest Mexican American wrestlers of all time while they were both in their athletic prime.
But the match he had with his son Dominik at this year’s Wrestlemania showed that any Rey Mysterio match is fun to watch. It combined great Lucha Libre action with an entertaining story, and it brought the crowd to its feet.
What was your favorite Rey Mysterio match in his Hall Of Fame career?