On Saturday night, the fans around the world tuned into SummerSlam, the second biggest event in World Wrestling Entertainment’s yearly lineup. Through fights, fireworks, and more frenzy, it was apparent that professional wrestling continues to be a staple of American culture and entertainment. And within the world of professional wrestling, there is no better standard-bearer of said culture —or cultura— than Rey Mysterio, a.k.a Rey Misterio Jr., one of Mexico’s more decorated and celebrated sports icons.
At the age of 14, Rey Mysterio —born Óscar Gutiérrez in Chula Vista, California— first laced up his boots and debuted at the Auditorio Municipal de Tijuana. Since then, he has remained one of the pillars of lucha libre, Mexico’s dramatic, high-flying style of professional wrestling, for almost 35 years.
As many before and after, he started his career in the independent circuit where he wrestled for three years before being signed by Lucha Libre AAA. Almost immediately, he would catch the eye of American promoters and secure a contract with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. It was on the WCW platform that Mysterio would popularize Mexican-style lucha and make gains for luchadores and cruiserweights alike, with iconic matches against the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Juventud Guerrera, Billy Kidman, and many more.
Rey Mysterio was red-hot, and it seemed like nothing would stop him. Unfortunately, his stellar run came to a screeching halt when WCW closed its doors in 2001 and sold its properties to Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (which changed its name to WWE a year later).
Following another brief stint in the independent circuit and a couple of appearances in Puerto Rico’s professional wrestling promotion, World Wrestling Council, Mysterio would return to the U.S. airwaves on July 25, 2002, in a SmackDown! match against Chavo Guerrero—which he won.
It has been two decades since Rey Mysterio debuted on SmackDown! and changed the perception of what a sports entertainer could be. Since then, he has held the record for the longest time in a single Royal Rumble match (62 minutes and 12 seconds at the 2006 Royal Rumble, which he also won), becoming a multi-time world champion in various categories, and making history as Tag Team Champion as half of the first father-son duo in WWE history to win the title.
Without a doubt, lucha legend Rey Mysterio has made Latinos around the world proud! And in his own words: “Siempre con respeto, admiración y del corazón“—always with respect, admiration, and from the heart.
On last week’s WWE RAW, he was received by a thunderous ovation from a packed Madison Square Garden. Surrounded by friends, family, fellow luchadores, and even WWE aficionado Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rey Mysterio reminisced on his pioneering career.
“Thank you for accepting me, for rolling with the Mysterios, and for 20 of the dopest, most awesome years,” he told those in attendance and his legions of fans around the world.
He also directed some special love and appreciation to his Latin American fan base. “Soy orgullosamente latino,” he said. “¡Que viva mi raza! ¡Los quiero un chingo!”
Afterward, The Judgment Day faction, led by Finn Bálor, made its unwelcome presence known by spoiling Mysterio’s moment. Bálor confronted Rey’s son Dominik Mysterio, telling him he would be better off abandoning his father and being mentored by Bálor and his group—thus forsaking his namesake in the process. For those unfamiliar with lucha tradition, this is a cardinal sin, as the name and mask are passed on from father to son or a son-like mentee, as Rey himself was trained by his uncle, the original Rey Misterio.
Upon The Judgment Day’s arrival, the showdown between the two camps led to a match, one in which the father-son team took the win, thus closing out a memorable Monday night celebration.
Fast forward to Saturday night, the Mysterios and The Judgment Day squared off once again but this time in a No Disqualification match. Both Rey and Dominik had an excellent display of athleticism and teamwork, prompting the commentators to note: “Twenty years of doing this, and Rey has not missed a step! Twenty years of being a giant slayer and here he looks at doing it again.”
Ultimately, the Mysterios prevailed with the assistance of long-time friend Adam “Edge” Copeland. The return of Edge was yet another nod to Mysterio’s past, as the two had been a championship team early in his career.
Although he shows no sign of stopping just yet, Rey Mysterio is already a legend. All that’s left to settle, once and for all, is the bad blood between the Mysterios and The Judgment Day, as it seems this rivalry is far from over with the addition of Edge.
Whichever way the saga ends, it would serve as a finale to Rey’s 20-year career and the start of the next 20-year Mysterio reinado with Dominik, who looks to carry on the legacy, the mask, and the last name that has become synonymous with the reaching of new heights.
It’s a story fit for a king.
César Delgado lives in the Port Arthur-Beaumont area in Texas where he recently earned his English and modern languages degree from Lamar University’s Reaud Honors College. Having presented at the Popular Culture Association of the South conference as an undergraduate, his areas of interest continue to be Latino entertainment, pop culture, and professional wrestling.