When you think of the name Rey, at least in a wrestling context, only one performer comes to mind. Rey Mysterio Jr has achieved a great deal of success over the course of his career. Whether it was in ECW, WCW or in the WWE, Mysterio’s talent and aerial assault resonated with fans watching all over the world. He is one of a kind, and his mask and brightly coloured outfits and size make him easy for fans to connect with. His size certainly gives fans the impression that he had to overcome a number of obstacles in order to achieve success in the ring.
Soon after he began performing in North America, fans became aware of this twenty-something year old that took the Lucha Libre style and modernized it. He captured the attention and interest of a generation that weren’t familiar with this type of wrestling. In a number of ways, Rey was a pioneer because he had a number of different qualities that contributed to him being a success. He was likable, and his moveset would often widen the eyes of those that watched him perform, in particular children. Mysterio went on to capture a number of different championships, but it wasn’t until he won his first World Championship in WWE in 20016 that fans realized anything is possible. Before that, he had been easy to dismiss, considering his size and build. Often times seeing him in the ring with the likes of The Great Khali, The Big Show, Kane or The Undertaker gave fans the impression that not only was he going to lose, but he was going to do so badly.
Earlier in 2015, Rey’s contract with the WWE expired, and an almost thirteen-year run with the company came to an end. He had been marketed heavily when he first came into the company, as WWE highlighted this special wrestler that could leap and hit moves from nearly all over the ring. They were creating a sense of mystery, oddly enough, about Mysterio. Over time, however, injuries caught up with him and his role was changing.
He couldn’t hit some of his signature moves because of the number of knee operations he had. The shine on Mysterio wasn’t what it once was, as injuries prevented him from having continued success.
So many wrestlers will give everything they have and leave nothing to chance when it comes to the ring, and Rey Mysterio mirrors that sentiment. But while Mysterio the performer doesn’t appear the right fit for the WWE, that isn’t to say that the character, or a facsimile of his character, couldn’t still succeed. Knowing that injuries were what prevented him from doing what he once could, the promotion has developed characters that resembled Mysterio in some way, shape, or form.
A character that Triple H was standing by a few years ago was Sin Cara. Sin Cara as we see him today isn’t the same wrestler that played him a few years ago; Lucha Libre star Mistico had originally performed as Sin Cara while he was in the WWE starting in 2011. However, he had his ups and downs with the company and would eventually be released in March 2014. The Sin Cara character was taken over by Hunico, who still plays him to this day. The problem is that the Sin Cara character didn’t have the same sustainability that Rey Mysterio has had. Whereas Sin Cara wears Lucha Libre attire and a mask, Mysterio was a cross between the lucha style and that of a high flying American wrestler. With that said, the company appeared determined to make the Sin Cara character a success. Despite Mistico leaving the promotion, the WWE put Hunico under the Sin Cara mask and had him carry on with the role. But regardless of what Sin Cara did on his own, the character didn’t have the ability to move around the ring as effortlessly as Mysterio did during his prime. At one time, there was some mentoring going on between Mysterio and Sin Cara, as they were aligned with one another as a tag team. But that could only go so far, and after the team had some success working together, Mysterio once again suffered an injury which left Sin Cara left to succeed on his own.
One of the better decisions WWE made with the Sin Cara character was sending him down to NXT. It was there that he was able to have competitive matches and help aid the development of other talent. It was while Sin Cara was in NXT that he was aligned with Kalisto. When you watch the spots and moves that Kalisto does, he reminds you of a certain wrestler that captured the attention and interest of fans of all ages. While it could be argued that he could be ‘spotty,’ it is the spots that have caught the attention of fans and had them all chanting ‘lucha’ each and every time he is in the ring. During their time together in NXT, Sin Cara and Kalisto captured the NXT Tag Team Championships, which was a great accomplishment for both men. They were known as the Lucha Dragons. But their time in NXT could only last so long; shortly after losing the titles they were brought up to the main roster. It seemed at first that they were used sparingly, even though their high flying and exciting style was unquestionably an asset on any program they were booked on. But much like any successful team, fans look to see who is the standout performer of the duo. It is clear that while both Sin Cara and Kalisto wrestle a similar style there is something about Kalisto that fans have gravitated towards. When you consider his size, aerial assault, and ethnicity, it could be said that the WWE are essentially reinventing Rey Mysterio.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in the case of Kalisto the company has gone so far into making him the second coming of Mysterio, that before his United States Championship match he mentioned Eddie Guerrero as someone who wore the title with pride. He could have said anyone else, but why a guy that had such a close relationship with Mysterio? It may have just been coincidental, but considering the opportunity he was given to succeed on his own, it may not be as much of a coincidence as one would think. After Sin Cara suffered an injury, Kalisto was booked in a program with Alberto Del Rio; he picked up a surprise win one week, and then captured the United States title the following week. His winning the title when it appeared he had no chance is similar to any time Rey had to overcome the odds in order to win. Even though the promotion decided to have Del Rio recapture the title on Smackdown a few days later that was due to outside interference and doesn’t impair the booking of Kalisto as a singles competitor.
So where exactly do they go from here? Kalisto holding the US Title, even temporarily, says something about what plans may be for him moving forward. While some may be skeptical about how successful he can be, consider how much the idea of the ‘little man with a big heart’ captures the attention of WWE audiences. Maybe this was always the long-term plan for Kalisto in the long-term, and the tag team was simply a short-term plan to see how much he would be able to connect with audiences before committing to giving him a chance. It seems as though a shoulder injury to Sin Cara helped to speed up the process.
Will Kalisto be as successful as the next Mysterio? That depends on a few things really. First off it depends on him, and if he has enough in him to maintain the rigors of the WWE schedule. Mysterio sustained many injuries throughout his career, but put on incredible matches against the likes of Eddie Guerrero and Shawn Michaels. Kalisto will have that same opportunity, and booking him to overcome the odds would certainly substantiate that. Having him battle the likes of Del Rio, Sheamus or Rusev and overcome the odds by beating them would certainly flip the booking on its ear. He is capable of drawing emotion, but it will not mean anything if it isn’t sustained, such as by continuing to follow wins with losses. A second factor is how long Sin Cara will be out of action. While they could easily split the team and create animosity between them when he returns that may not be ideal especially since the tag team division needs more teams.
Something that the company has been clamouring for is for someone of Latin descent to carry the torch that Mysterio lit while he was with the company. Kalisto will hopefully manage to become what the company had with Mysterio: a young, exciting talent that demonstrates heart and connects with the Latin-American community. Does this mean that Kalisto will be a future WWE World Heavyweight champion? That isn’t fair to say. In the case of Mysterio, it took a great deal of time and energy put forth by all involved for him to reach that level. In the case of Kalisto, and Sin Cara (the Mistico version) before him, there has to be a conscious effort by all involved to put Kalisto in a position to win. As mentioned earlier, the wrestler and the booking of the wrestler go hand in hand. However, Kalisto shares qualities that a young Mysterio had. The younger audience imitates the lucha chants and copy his gestures as he comes to the ring. He has the potential to be a merchandise selling machine. The brightly coloured masks and outfits are as appealing as those of Mysterio’s before him. So while the promotion appears to be reinventing Rey Mysterio, they should also be trying to establish Kalisto.
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