Rey Mysterio: Appreciating What We Have

I love Rey Mysterio. It’s a bit embarrassing really, but I’ve conceded this before. Look, no sane human should idolise fake fighters and I’m not here to suggest that Rey is any different but as far as fake fighting goes, he’s King in my view. I think that everyone agrees on Mysterio, he’s not only great but iconic, armed with increasing longevity too. Must say though, I sense that some don’t quite grasp the grandeur of his significance, the lengths that his legacy covers.

He’s incredibly influential but also timeless, setting a standard before perfecting so many other pieces of the performance. As Mysterio’s first WWE stint came to a merciful close in 2015, his career could quite reasonably be split in half. For a decade, Mysterio was the industry’s most spectacular acrobatic, blazing a trail as WCW’s standout Cruiserweight. That division hosted a squad of sparkling skill but on arrival, Mysterio was something a little different. He pushed the boundaries to their limits, the furthest feats, the highest highs.

That’s an impact that commands respect, a memory worth cherishing. In many ways, those times shaped the decades that have followed, as Nitro’s Cruiserweight exploits influenced a generation that’d soon dominate the wrestling landscape. The eras that followed WCW’s demise eventually featured a range of would-be Cruiserweights that were now headline acts. WCW’s fleet of flyers never managed that ascension in their own system but Mysterio was and is one of those names, doing much more than just setting the tone.

That half of Mysterio’s career was very different to the first though. After arriving in WWE, Mysterio adapted, steadily evolving to suit his new surroundings. In bursts, Mysterio was still as stunning as ever but his game had changed, finding a form that’d prove far more sustainable. Mysterio’s magic was now deeper than the physical thrills, deeply rooted in an authentic emotional investment. As the ultimate underdog, Rey was able to make people truly care, adding gravity to his each and every flurry.

Mysterio never felt truly backed by the WWE’s creative forces but his greatness was above that. If anything, it was a fitting side-plot, the giant-slayer that with each and every epic, came closer to slaying the biggest giant of all. He always had a point to prove, a statement to send. Though he may not have fit the mould of any stateside world champion that came before him, Mysterio could be the exception to that rule. His skill-set said so but more than that, his place in the audience’s hearts said so too.

Famously, Mysterio would reach that mountaintop at WrestleMania 22, but it wasn’t quite what it could’ve and probably should’ve been. That didn’t stop Mysterio’s mastery though, returning to form time and time again, producing immense work years later. In 2009 especially, Mysterio was arguably at a personal best in terms of balance, with that chapter or two being the last before his inevitable decline. Those years weren’t as loaded with daring thrillers that’d live forever but the consistency was unparalleled, cementing Mysterio as a historically great television wrestler.

Mysterio was just so watchable, able to find something of substance in the most aimless of offerings. Against uninteresting opponents with uninteresting setups, Mysterio would have interesting matches. They wouldn’t last long in the memory perhaps, not the classic world title epic but even still, such compelling television in a time that bell to bell, wasn’t always rich with that. After a run of that calibre, Mysterio’s time in WWE deserved a better conclusion, instead painfully stumbling to his 2015 departure.

At the time, Mysterio wasn’t inspiring much hope for a career revival. Instead, he was widely considered finished, physically decimated and just a spent force in general. As usual though, Mysterio soon proved otherwise though, rejuvenated in a world tour before eventually returning to WWE in 2018. Weirdly, things felt genuinely different in Mysterio’s case, as though he’d missed a whole generation’s entry. Due to injuries and such, he basically had, inactive for much of his original stay’s final portion.

Now though, Mysterio was ready to right those wrongs, combining with a new crop of talent to create clashes that’d only enhance his legacy. The most obvious opponent being Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, a third-generation Mexican star that seemed set for stardom. In the end, Mysterio would somehow outlast Andrade within that system but that didn’t stop them from together, producing some of the most electric matches in recent main roster memory. Andrade allowed Mysterio to display something striking, something almost new.

In those matches and honestly, the best bouts since Rey’s return to relevance, he was an incredible combination of his prior-selves. In broad strokes, Mysterio spent one decade as a daredevil and the next as a more traditional, restrained protagonist. That’s an incredible career, certainly but since then, Mysterio has found this mix of the two. Physically, Rey came back with a dynamism that just wasn’t present beforehand, lost along the way as schedule and style had forced him to slow.

Now though, Mysterio was innovating again, doing things that if silhouetted, would’ve seemed like Nitro throwbacks. He still had that emotional connection though also, an innate ability to earn sympathy with the simplest of sell. That’s an incredible blend for any talent at any time but for Rey to find it after already producing over two decades of ground-breaking brilliance, that’s something for the history books. Honestly though, that’s where Mysterio belongs in general at this juncture, even as he continues to produce, adding another highlight each and every month.

In fear of being presumptive, we’re likely in the homestretch of Rey’s in-ring career. I mean, he could prove otherwise, he has before but at 46, it feels as though even in his current form, the end is surely near. Naturally, that forces a sense of clarity when watching someone’s work. It’s hard to ignore the inevitable, difficult to get as lost on the weekly rollercoaster of wrestling television. Instead, everything has this grander meaning, an acknowledgment that this is all worth embracing.

After all, this can’t last forever, we won’t always have Mysterio matches every other Friday. He’s been so accessible for so long that it’s easy to lose sight of that, the reality that the time to enjoy this ride is running out. Though his performances have suggested otherwise for as long as we can remember, Rey Mysterio is human. This isn’t a never-ending comic book, though it may look that way at times. Personally, I’m going to appreciate Mysterio while I can, I’d recommend that you do the same.

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