Rey Mysterio is as close to a real life superhero as it gets. On April 30th 1989, he made his pro wrestling debut, and an incredible 30 years later, he’s still competing at a high level for the biggest wrestling company in the world. When it comes down to it, Rey Mysterio may just be one of the most influential and important wrestlers of modern times, helping to change the pro wrestling industry for the better.
Just think about that – 30 years at only 44 years old. To put that into perspective, when Andrade was born, a man who Mysterio has had a series of fantastic matches against since returning to WWE, Rey was already a pro wrestler. When Will Ospreay was born, Rey had been wrestling 4 years and had already become the youngest person to be involved in a WON five star match at 18 years old.
What’s more, Rey can still go. I’d personally put his 2/3 Falls Match with Andrade from January of this year up there with some of Rey’s best matches of his career (which you can read a list of here), and he is still able to achieve that after three decades of wear and tear with somebody in their 20’s. He’s currently pulling out moves never before seen in WWE and hitting ridiculous moves just as smoothly as he did back in his WCW days. Not bad for someone who’s had more knee surgeries than even Scott Steiner can count.
If his exceptional in-ring ability isn’t evidence enough of his longevity, his connection to fans young and old certainly is. I was born in 1994: as a small child sat cross-legged on the floor in my pyjamas every Saturday to watch peak-era SmackDown, Rey Mysterio was my hero. By that point, he’d been wrestling for over a decade, so there was a whole wave of pro wrestling fans before me that looked up to him the same way I did. Now, in 2019, the same masked man is my 6 year old nephew’s hero. He’s still bringing joy and blowing kids’ minds around the world after all these years, and that is truly amazing.
What Mysterio will mostly be remembered for is his impact on pro wrestling in regards to changing attitudes towards size in the industry. In his first book, Chris Jericho recalled meeting Rey for the first time in Mexico, where he mistook him for a child. For the first two years of his career, he wrestled as small animal themed gimmicks because of his stature. Due to his limitations, Rey had to find ways to make sure that they didn’t matter, through creativity and pure talent.
From his epic matches with Psicosis in the mid-90’s, to his battles with Andrade today, it’s obvious that Mysterio has always had the creative ability to use his lack of size to his advantage. That’s exactly why he is the smallest WWE Champion of all time. Prior to him, Eddie was the smallest champion ever crowned at a muscular 220 pounds (which by today’s standards is definitely not cruiserweight level), so to be under 5 and a half feet, well under 200 pounds, defying company standards by such a significant margin, you have to be special.
By ascending to the very top despite being small even by cruiserweight standards, Rey opened up the door for so many talented ‘undersized’ performers to break through, leading to a major shift in attitudes across Western pro wrestling. Performers that were once considered cruiserweights are now dominating the heavyweight main event scene in WWE, and we owe a big part of that to Mysterio’s ability to connect with fans. And now, Rey gets to see the fruits of his labour pay off as more and more performers influenced by him as a child begin to succeed in the business.
Thanks to three decades in the ring, Mysterio now gets to step in there with those that got into the business thanks in part to him. The likes of Will Ospreay, Kenny Williams, Io Shirai and more have all credited Mysterio as one of their main influences, with some having the pleasure of wrestling against one of their childhood heroes. Considering he’s been performing on American television for over two decades now, it’s fair to say that plenty of his WWE peers will be stepping into the ring with a hero if they get the chance to compete with Mysterio.
After 30 years, Rey Mysterio admits he doesn’t have many years left in the tank, but even when he’s down to his final match, he will still be one of the best in the game. For his innovative contributions to pro wrestling, and for ascending higher than anyone could have ever expected for a wrestler that size, Rey Mysterio has to be considered the greatest cruiserweight in history, and in the next 30 years, I highly doubt anybody will be able to even come anywhere close to matching his greatness.
For being such a huge part of my childhood, as well as millions of others over the last 30 years, we all have to say, thank you, Rey Mysterio.
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