First off, before you begin penning the hate tweets, let me start off with a disclaimer.
I love Rey Mysterio.
Pound for pound, he might be one of the best wrestlers in history and is almost guaranteed to be a WWE Hall of Famer. When I first saw him wrestle in WCW in the mid-90’s, I was flabbergasted. I had never before seen anyone treat the ring as his personal playground; Rey bounced, spun and flew through the air in ways I only had seen before in the movies. His battles with Psychosis, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho are what dreams are made of, and its possible no feud in the modern era lasted as long or resulted in such amazing feats in the ring as the one he had with Eddie Guerrero.
I cheered when he won the Royal Rumble, jumped to my feet in delight when they made him World Champion and, like everybody else, absolutely hated the Filthy Animals.
I love Rey Mysterio. When I first heard that Rey had stopped cashing his paychecks and was considering legal action against WWE for renewing his deal, I immediately took Mysterio’s side.
Then, as Doc Manson always advises, I looked at the data.
August 15, 2011 was the last time Rey Mysterio wrestled for the World title. That’s almost three years ago. Since then, Rey has been hampered with numerous injuries, surgeries and his second suspension for violating the WWE’s Wellness Policy. That’s almost three years ago. In that time, he has made, according to what I’ve read online, close to a million dollars a year, and that’s before you take into account any merchandise bonuses.
I love Rey Mysterio. It’s not his fault that he has been injured; in fact, given the amount of wear he has put on his body these last 20 years, it’s expected. While he is responsible for what he puts in his body, I’ll also give him a pass for the drug suspensions. For his original suspension back in ‘09, Rey says he had a medical prescription but was unable to produce it in time to prevent being disciplined, and I’ll go ahead and take him at his word for that.
So I’m willing to overlook those things, to consider them an unfortunate confluence of events that is almost entirely out of Mysterio’s control. He shouldn’t be punished for injuries sustained over a legendary career. If that was all the data, I’d be buying lucha masks and wearing them on the street in protest, holding #FreeRey signs just like Konnan advises.
But that’s not all the data.
We have WWE Network, so we can go back and study Mysterio over the last few years. Look at some of his matches. Does that look like somebody who is working his tail off to be in the best condition, the type of condition necessary to be a regular WWE superstar? Actually, you don’t even need to see his matches, just look at the man himself. I think when you take an objective look at Rey over the last few years, you have to admit that he doesn’t look like he is 100% committed to being the best wrestler he can be. Like it or not, Rey’s addition of a top to his wrestling attire was solely to disguise the fact that he’s got some paunch. Was that extra weight going to help him avoid injury? No, and that’s what I take issue with.
I love Rey Mysterio. And I know that nobody in their right mind is going to take one look at me and compare me to anything remotely resembling a WWE superstar. But if you’re going to be paying me almost one million dollars a year, you’re damn sure I’m going to make a point of being in the best physical condition I can be in, especially if I’ve missed more time with injuries than I’ve spent time wrestling these last few years. I can’t look you in the eye and say that Rey Mysterio has done that. I get that he’s pushing 40 and I get that high-flyers tend to break down faster than mat wrestlers, but has he truly been earning those recent paychecks he now refuses to cash?
Consider the situation from WWE’s perspective. You have a wrestling icon with international appeal and who gives you high merchandise revenue. You’re paying him extremely well to be not only a wrestler, but an ambassador to the Latin American world. You also have a large group of young high-flyers on your roster who could benefit from Mysterio’s expertise and from matches with him, be it on NXT or in WWE. Despite his health woes, Rey can be a positive member of the roster, so if you have an opportunity to renew his deal and try to get some sort of results from the money you’re giving him, I can understand doing so. It’s, as Triple H is so fond of saying, what’s best for business.
I love Rey Mysterio. I really and truly do. If he decides that this is the way he wants to end his historic WWE career, by suing the company and putting a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, then that’s his decision. But if he wants to be remembered for what he is - arguably the greatest high-flyer the wrestling world has ever seen - then he needs to get back in a WWE ring, for that same company that took a cruiserweight and, even for a brief moment, made him greater than giants.
Come back in as good a shape as you can, help put over some of the next generation of talents (talents, I might add, who are going to sing your praises for the rest of their careers), stick around for a few months and then ride off into the sunset on your own terms, not the terms negotiated by your lawyer.
I love Rey Mysterio. I’ve said it before; he’s almost guaranteed to be a Hall of Famer, but the likelihood of that happening significantly depends on what happens over the next few weeks.
That’s a shame.