Rey Mysterio Recalls Standing Ovation After WCW Debut

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Rey Mysterio got plenty of cheers this past weekend at WrestleMania 39, which continued a trend that has been going on for decades.

Many wrestling fans consider Rey Mysterio to be the greatest luchador in modern times. He’s one of the most instantly-recognizable wrestlers in WWE history and has plenty of accolades under his belt.

But life wasn’t always so easy for Rey. There was a time decades ago when he was completely unknown to most American fans outside of Mexico and the southern states bordering that country.

So when he joined WCW and was booked in the opener for The Great American Bash 1996, he had to deal with a lot of pressure. In an interview with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated, Rey Mysterio explained how he walked into a locker room filled with giants and immediately felt out of place.

“I remember walking into the building in Baltimore, and I felt so uncomfortable,” says Mysterio. “I was walking into a locker room full of giants. The Steiners, Big Show, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. It felt really awkward. I kept on hearing voices say, ‘Who’s that kid? What the hell is he doing in here?’ No one knew who I was. It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there.”

“Right before my match, Konnan spoke with me, ‘No pressure, but you’re representing Mexico and you’re representing lucha libre. You’re representing all the little guys. Now go out there and kick some ass.’ I was already nervous facing Dean, but that took it to a whole new level.”

Some people expected Rey Mysterio to crumble under all of that pressure. But instead of failing in his big test, Rey Mysterio thrived. His match with Dean Malenko is still regarded as one of the best openers in modern wrestling history, and he even had some of those backstage skeptics watching his match carefully backstage.

“I’d been trying to study Dean, watching his matches. In the ring, we connected right away. It was immediate. From my understanding, Eddie spoke with Dean and told him a little bit about me. That was extremely important. Dean could have easily buried me, but no. He took me under his wing and made me look like a million bucks.

“I remember coming back after that opening match. Everyone had been glued to the monitor, and we got a standing ovation from the boys. It’s still one of the greatest moments of my life. That was the moment I felt I’d made it.”