Monday, March 2, 2015

50 Shades of Rey - 50 Shades Freed

Fare thee well, Rey Rey
Photo Credit:
Rey Mysterio has finally been granted his long-running wish and has been released by WWE. The move came last week on Thursday, which you may have missed because of runaway llamas and a dress that looked different colors depending on which angle you were watching from. He's wanted his release for over a year now, going so far as to appear via tape at the pay-per-view broadcast of AAA TripleMania saying he'd see everyone there soon. His contract situation protracted out into the murkiest of waters and included Vince McMahon getting to treat a real live human being like a fungible asset by deciding whether he'd tack time that Mysterio sat out hurt onto the end of said contract or not. Fun!

Mysterio first came up as Rey Misterio, Jr., and almost immediately, he turned heads so quickly that he snapped a few necks. Extreme Championship Wrestling and then World Championship Wrestling jumped on the opportunity to bring him into the fold, which led to mixed results. Positively, he was a huge part of the cruiserweight movement, the crowning jewel of which was perhaps the finest match in WCW's history, a lucha de apuesta where he wagered his mask against Eddie Guerrero's Cruiserweight Championship at Halloween Havoc 1997. Of course, within a month or so of his debut, he was tossed like a lawn dart into the side of a trailer by Kevin Nash, and his woes at the hands of the nWo did not stop there. WCW offered his mask as a sacrifice to the endlessly rogue group's altar, and Mysterio  never got to give the group reprisal for it. Of course, the chapter was seemingly expunged from history when WWE brought him in with his mask in tow.

Mysterio's run in WWE was checkered, but the highs soared to atmospheric levels that he could only have dreamed of in WCW. He rekindled his feud with Guerrero, which led to a series of classic matches between the two, the most surreal of which was a ladder match for the custody of Mysterio's son Dominic. After Guerrero died, Mysterio assumed the mantel of the WWE's Latino ace, which came with a Royal Rumble victory and a run with the World Heavyweight Championship back when it was still on par with the WWE Title. Regardless of booking highs or lows in any of the big three companies, Mysterio produced a resume that would easily put him in the top three in-ring workers of the cable TV era at the very least.

Of course, the ending of his WWE career was not remembered for the epic matches or the big moments, but it was for who he wasn't rather than who he was. He drew #30 at the 2014 Royal Rumble and had the capacity crowd rain a typhoon of jeers upon him because he was the 30th wrestler to come out of the curtain not named Daniel Bryan. "Deserving" things in wrestling or not is always tricky because "deserving" things in a worked environment leads to dumb arguments, but I can claim without hesitation that Mysterio did not deserve that reaction as the final touchstone in his WWE career.

Then again, I'm in the camp that a lot of the criticism that was laid at Mysterio's feet was uncalled for. He faced a lot of chatter for being a boring or bad wrestler because big guys sold for him or the 619 was a bullshit finisher, but few wrestlers were able to put on matches week-to-week at as high a caliber as Mysterio did. The Eddie Guerrero Memorial Push™ may have rubbed people the wrong way, but it was more a fault of creative than of his. Accounting for taste is one thing, but the man gave his body for pro wrestling. That "d" word comes up again, but he deserves respect if anyone else does.

Speaking of having given his body for pro wrestling, Mysterio to the common observer may seem like he should hang 'em up. The man's been hurt off and on for the last five years, and age plus history is not kind to someone in a business this rough on the body. But conversely, no one knows Mysterio's body like he does. He wants to continue to work, and he wants to do so outside of WWE. He'll show up at AAA like he promised, and since Lucha Underground is the American arm of the lucha libre promotion, he'll be back on weekly television before anyone knows it.

And whatever he wants to do, he should do it, not even just out of general pathos for the working man in general and actual wrestlers in specific. But Mysterio should do what makes him happy because the man has had such a long career, mostly at the mercy of gringos who never really got him. If he gets to go home and work out a nice farewell tour, take a few laps around the Temple with Dario Cueto, and retire when he feels like he's had his fill, then it would be a nice coda on a career that looked like it was going to crash land with a sour moment at the Rumble. Maybe he'll get to find peace during that path. And hey, maybe some promoter will get frisky enough to pay him the $20,000 he's asking for per-appearance dates. When you've reached the legendary status that Mysterio has, you get to weed out appearances with the high price. It's a perk.

And believe me, Mysterio is a legend. He's on a short list of best TV workers ever, an innovator in modern wrestling, and a man who loomed large despite his short stature. This release may not be the end of his career, but it's certainly the end of an illustrious if not flawed chapter in it. Here's hoping he finds what he's looking for elsewhere. He deserves it.