In November 1994, a young wrestler named Rey Mysterio Jr. was introduced to audiences in the United States at When Worlds Collide, a collaborative pay-per-view between Mexico’s AAA organization and World Championship Wrestling. At the time, Chris Cruise, one of the broadcasters, proclaimed that Mysterio represented the future of Mexican wrestling. Little did he know that the man in the mask would actually become the future of wrestling worldwide.
Twenty-one years later, Rey Mysterio’s resume rivals any luchador of record. After AAA, he came to the United States as part of ECW. From there he moved to WCW, where he highlighted the cruiserweight division, and helped revolutionize the product with his high-flying style. He then moved to WWE, where he rose through the ranks, finally becoming World Heavyweight Champion. Now, he’s set to main-event Triplemania XXIII, AAA’s promotion’s first PPV shown in America since When Worlds Collide. As he prepares for his comeback match, Rolling Stone spoke with Mysterio about his humble beginnings, dealing with triumph and tragedy, making it to the top of WWE and where he sees himself now.
Triplemania XXIII will be the first AAA pay-per-view shown in America since your breakout at When Worlds Collide more than 20 years ago. Does it feel like your career has come full circle?
It does. It almost feels surreal. It’s something that I would imagine AAA would have always wanted, and now that it’s taking place, I haven’t been able to talk to the rest of the locker room about it, but I’m extremely excited. This is a very big step to promoting AAA worldwide.
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What are your memories of When Worlds Collide, as that was the event that really brought the lucha style to America for the first time?
I go back to that event and being so pumped. I knew there were going to be cameras, and that I would be able to display my style of wrestling to fans that had never seen it before. I was 19 years old, and how many kids at 19 get a chance to do what they love to do? At the time, I had no clue that it would be a big opening for me to take a bigger step in my career, to go to ECW and WCW.
That event, critically at least, was a huge success. Why do you think it’s taken 21 years for AAA to have another event broadcast in America?
You have to remember that when that event occurred, AAA was riding a wave of success. They had just started the promotion two years earlier. They had all the top stars in Mexico. Many of the guys from CMLL had jumped over, like Konnan and Octagón. It was the company to watch. After When Worlds Collide, that might have been the avenue to open the doors for many of the talents to move further in their careers. Konnan, Psicosis, La Parka, Juventud [Guerrera], myself – we got an opportunity to be part of ECW and then WCW. AAA lost a lot of their stars, and they had to create new stars again. Their main focus was, “Where do we go now?” They couldn’t focus on expanding more in North America, they had to reset and create new stars again. That was one of the steps that threw them back instead of moving them forward.
Do you think Triplemania is the next step in reestablishing AAA?
I do. You have to take into consideration that over the past 18 months, AAA has been able to sign three of the top free agents out there. Alberto El Patron, Myzteziz and myself. With all the exposure that we have coming from WWE, our names brought something extraordinary to AAA.
I know you’ve already worked a few events for them, but what’s it like coming back to AAA after so many years working in the U.S.?
I always think to myself that if I was able to transition from lucha libre style to American style, then I can always go back. You never lose your roots. It’s going to take some time, but I can adapt very well. That’s something that God has blessed me with. I see the talent, the roster that AAA has. Wrestling has really evolved in the past 15-20 years. It’s still the same concept though. You’re trying to innovate and outdo your partner, or your opponent. In my case, I’m trying to outdo myself. I remember what I did in my early days, and I’m trying to outdo what I can do. At this point in my career, I think people will be excited to see Rey Mysterio, and what he’s done in his career. But I can still go. I feel great health-wise, so if I can bless them with another couple years of wrestling, then why not? I’ve always wanted to go back to my roots one day. It happened now, so I’m taking advantage of it.
You left WWE about five months ago. What have these past five months been like for you?
I don’t regret any steps that I take in life. This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I really wanted to have some time off, without feeling any sort of commitment to be on a certain schedule. Now, I’m doing things my way, under my terms. I’m dictating my pace towards retirement. I’m not on the grind. I was constantly competing. This is a good thing for me. This is something that my wife and I thought would be best for my body and for myself. I get to be a husband and a father again. I get to enjoy time with my kids now. I was a workaholic for so many years. I’ve missed so many birthdays and anniversaries. Now that my kids are a bit older, I want to be around and I want to enjoy it. I want to send my kids off to college if that’s what they want to do. I want to do all the family things I’ve missed over the years.
Would you say that was the biggest reason you left WWE?
Family was the biggest reason. If anything, I’ll probably do appearances. I’m not trying to stay busy. I’m trying to enjoy my time at home and be around my kids. I want to vacation. I’m a big family guy. I want to do more with them. That was the primary reason that I stepped away. Opportunities are starting to arise. After 15 years, I didn’t know what was out there. I had been wrestling with WWE all that time and wasn’t focusing on anything outside of that. I’m realizing that there’s a lot of opportunities there. The question is just whether I want to take them.
For the last few months of your WWE run, it seemed to be somewhat of an open secret that you wanted to leave. Konnan, in particular, was very outspoken about them being hesitant to let you out of your contract. What’s your relationship like with WWE today?
There’s definitely no hard feelings with WWE. I’m very thankful to them for the opportunity that was given to me. The lifestyle I have now is due to the success that I had there. There’s one thing that I’ve always been is appreciative of the opportunities that are given to me. I’ve always left every company that I’ve been with on good terms; WWE is no exception. I have no negative comments or feelings towards WWE at all.
As far as Konnan’s part in all this, he got a little overexcited. I’ve been very close to Konnan for many years now. I thank him for much of my success in this industry. He opened the doors for me in AAA, ECW and WCW. I’m very thankful. Even though we don’t see each other as much, we do talk a lot. He would hear many times that I was tired and constantly on the grind. I would pour my heart out to him on many occasions. When my term was coming up and that I was thinking about not re-signing, I told him about it, and I think he was just excited for me.
Looking back on your WWE career, is there anything you wished you had accomplished?
No, I accomplished so much that I never thought I’d be able to accomplish. Of course, I won the World Heavyweight title. I enjoyed being there, and getting to wrestle the people that I wrestled. I cherish every moment that I was there. When I wrestled Shawn Michaels for the first time, my first match with The Undertaker – I never thought I’d be in that position. I’ve done more than I could have ever imagined. I’m blessed that I’ve had the career that I have.
You’ve been a part of so many iconic moments in wrestling – winning the world title, the Rumble win, your great matches in WCW with Eddie Guerrero – if you had to choose one as your all-time favorite, what would it be?
I’ve gotten this question a lot. At first, I was saying it was 1997, Halloween Havoc with Eddie Guerrero. I really thought about it, and then I changed my answer. I realized that my favorite match was the ladder match we had at SummerSlam 2005. The reason why is that it was the last time I was in the ring with Eddie. I enjoyed every moment of that match. On top of that, how many fathers get to bring their kids to work and be on TV with them? Throughout that whole feud, my son was traveling with me. We were road buddies, we went to all the shows together. When it was time to shoot a vignette, he’d go into a working mode, and then go back to playing with toys. I enjoyed all that, and then the payoff was my last match with Eddie. I’m very blessed by that.
What did you think of that feud? Some found it distasteful, others loved how personal it got.
I really enjoyed it. Eddie was coming up to me with ideas, and Bruce Prichard was helping out as well. For me, I was enjoying my moment in WWE. I was creating a name for myself. I had the opportunity to work with my sons and with one of the all-time greats in Eddie. I believe it was Eddie’s idea to start the feud with one another. It really just had a great premise, and we had so much chemistry. Storyline-wise? I don’t recall many stories being that deep and this emotional. It had its ups and downs, and at the end of the day, you gotta look at it as exciting TV. You have drama, you have excitement, you have all the mixed emotions involved in the feud. As a fan, you just have to look at it that way and enjoy the drama.
You were always close with Eddie. Following his death, how hard was it to get arguably the biggest push of your career, and reach possibly the pinnacle of your career, while having it so closely linked to that tragedy?
It was really, really hard. Me and Eddie would speak about going to Mexico and eventually selling out huge arenas with WWE, and how cool that would be. The opportunity for the title came to me way too soon in my opinion. I didn’t expect it to come after Eddie’s death. It was just so hard to absorb. At times, I think that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, because there was that one person missing that had to be there. It was hard for me not having him there to enjoy the run with me. Although I know he was with me and felt my emotion from heaven, it wasn’t the same.
You were in the ring when Perro Aguayo Jr. was killed. How hard has it been to move past that?
It was horrible. There’s no moving past it. You can’t leave it behind you. You just have to live with it. You hear stories on the road of terrible things happening in the ring. You never imagine that it would happen to you. It was just like a nightmare. You always imagine the worst. A shoulder injury, a neck injury – you never imagine death. There was nothing we could do. God said it was his time, and it was his time. I was just praying and praying, because it didn’t look good. But you can’t do anything when God says it’s time for you to go.
The first time you wrestled after his death, how difficult was it to get back in the ring?
It was really hard. It was like taking baby steps again. Once you feel the support of the fans though, it helps. I’m religious, I like to pray before I go to the ring. I pray that everyone involved in the event goes in and out of the ring safely. I specifically asked for Perro to be looking out, and enjoy this moment with us, however long it was going to take us. As we’ve gone on, it’s gotten easier, but that first night was hard.
You’ve wrestled with such a high-energy, high-impact style throughout your career, and you’ve had your share of injures. People wonder just how much you have left. What do you say to them?
It’s really hard for me to answer that. A year ago or so, I probably would have said that I didn’t have more than three years left. After being at home for some time, and being able to train and rehab and strengthen my quads, I really feel rejuvenated. I feel great physically. I think that sometimes, you just have to give your body time to heal. Sometimes wrestlers are stubborn about doing that; we’re on the road constantly. I think this rest has extended my career another couple years. At the pace I’m going right now, I’m not on the road four days a week, [and] that definitely helps heal all my injuries even more. I will leave my career up to God, but I definitely think I can go longer than I would’ve expected a couple years ago.
Regarding your future, Lucha Underground has become one of the most buzzed-about promotions in wrestling. It has an affiliation with AAA, and if season two happens, could we see you there?
That’s something that I’m looking at right now. If the opportunity is right, if the negotiations go well and there’s an interest in both parties, then I’d definitely like to do that. I enjoy their show very much right now. That’s as close as it’s going to get, at least right now, to lucha libre in the U.S. I’m going back to my roots, this is what I thrive off of. It’s never too late, so if the opportunity comes about, and the offer is good, then I don’t see why not.
AAA is billing you versus Myzteziz as a ‘Dream Match.’ It seemed like WWE had wanted to do it at WrestleMania for a while, but it never could come together. Does this feel like a long time coming for both of you?
Eventually this match was going to happen. I know this match occurred because of the fans. The fans wanted to see this a long time ago. Eventually, when Myzteziz became part of WWE, they thought they might be able to see it there. Unfortunately injuries and other things didn’t let that happen. Now, AAA finally brought it to the table, thanks to the fans. The fans constantly went back-and-forth about who would win, and who was the best. This is a present from AAA to the fans. On my behalf, I know I’m going to go out there and put on one hell of a show so the fans can be entertained.
I’m very excited, to be honest. There were a lot of comparisons between him and I. At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to stepping in the ring with him. It’s a legacy-defining match. For all these years people would say, “Rey is better,” or, “Myzteziz is better,” and argue about who did what first. So it all comes down to this. It’s about style and aerial maneuvers. Two styles clashing against each other, to see who is going to be best.
If I told you 21 years ago, when you stepped into the ring for When Worlds Collide, that you’d have the career you’ve had, would you believe me?
There’s no way. If you told me that I’d become the World Heavyweight Champion in WWE, that’s crazy. Back then, this industry was a big man’s sport. It didn’t matter if you had the skillset, if you were entertaining, or brought an amazing style to the ring. I would’ve thought there was no way. Now that I’m looking back at it, and it actually happened, and I’m still living it, it’s still hard to believe. Nobody could have predicted it, but it happened, and now the doors are open for this industry to evolve even more. This ain’t a big man’s sport anymore. Anybody who has the charisma and the talent to want to become a star can do it.
Triplemania XXIII airs Sunday, August 9 at 7 p.m. ET on pay-per-view.