The Fan-Favorite Luchador: Rey Mysterio's Wrestling Career Explained

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The long and illustrious career of Rey Mysterio has been marked by trials and tribulations, but the ultimate underdog has proven over the past 20 years he is the biggest little guy in wrestling history. This week's "Monday Night Raw" will pay tribute to Rey Mysterio's 20-year career with the WWE, so it only makes sense to look back on what got us to this point.

Mysterio made his wrestling debut in Mexico in 1989 at just 14 years old. He was trained by his uncle, Rey Mysterio Sr., and wrestled independently for three years before signing with AAA, Mexico’s premier wrestling promotion. From there, he signed a short contract with ECW. However, he got his mainstream start wrestling in World Championship Wrestling.

WCW

In 1996, Mysterio debuted for WCW. He is highly regarded during this time for revolutionizing the cruiserweight division. In his first match, he challenged Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship in an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful. His in-ring luchador style captured fans’ attention and he quickly became a favorite. In the Summer of 1996, Mysterio would earn another opportunity at the Cruiserweight championship, which he would go on to win. He had a respectable three-month reign before losing the title back to Malenko.

In early 1997, Mysterio began to feud with his real-life friend, Eddie Guerrero. The two would put on a series of jaw-dropping matches before Mysterio won his second Cruiserweight championship in November of 1997. In January 1998, Mysterio defeated Juventud to win his third Cruiserweight title.

When Mysterio won his fourth Cruiserweight title, Eddie Guerrero started a new stable within the promotion called Latino World Order. He was the only luchador to refuse to join, resulting in a feud. Around this time, Mysterio became known as “The Giant Killer” for his ability to beat big men like The Big Show and Kevin Nash.

He participated in various blockbuster matches for WCW, winning five Cruiserweight titles and spreading his Luchador style throughout the states. In late 1999, Mysterio joined the tag team division, winning the titles with Billy Kidman and becoming a double champion. He would continue successfully wrestling in the tag team division until WCW’s closure in 2001.

WWE

It wasn’t until June of 2002 that it was announced Mysterio had signed with the WWE. From the get-go, he wrestled in some of the company’s best matches with his 2002 tag team match against Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit being voted match of the year. On November 7th, 2002, Mysterio and Edge won the Tag Team Championships. From 2003 to 2004, Mysterio went on to win three more Cruiserweight Championships. During that time, he was immensely popular with the fans and was becoming one of the greatest luchadors of all time. His in-ring style was captivating and impressive while his underdog mentality and character was relatable for fans.

In 2005, Mysterio teamed with his best friend, Eddie Guerrero. The two won the Tag Team titles before Eddie turned on Rey, making way for one of the most famous feuds in WWE history. Mysterio vs Guerrero was as intense and personal as it gets, with Rey’s young son, Dominick, getting involved in the feud. At SummerSlam, Guerrero and Mysterio would face off in one of the most controversial but greatest matches in WWE history. The match was a ladder match for the custody of Dominick, which Mysterio won.

After Eddie’s tragic and untimely death in November of 2005, Mysterio began to chase the world title. He won the 2006 Royal Rumble as entrant number 2, something that only four other Superstars have been able to do. He set the Royal Rumble record at the time by lasting 62 minutes and defeating 29 other Superstars while doing it.

World Championship

At WrestleMania 22, Mysterio finally reached the top of the mountain. He defeated Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in a triple threat match in Chicago to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Mysterio solidified his reign by defeating both men in rematches in the upcoming months.

He would go on to defeat JBL, Sabu and Mark Henry to retain his title and continue his underdog reign. In July of 2006, Mysterio finally list his World Championship to Booker T. It is still remembered today as one of the most entertaining, gutsy and unexpected reigns of all time. His underdog mentality was brought out in every match, and he played the role to a tee. His connection to his fans was unrivaled by the roster and Mysterio was becoming an international household name.

He would go on to feud with Chavo and Vicki Guerrero in the following months. The rivalry was superb and the chemistry between the families was apparent. Mysterio left later that year to have knee surgery but returned in August of 2007. For the next year, Mysterio participated in various rivalries and programs with the likes of Finlay and Edge before injuring himself again.

When he returned in June 2008, he became the number one pick of the WWE draft, effectively putting him on RAW. He would go on to feud with both Kane and Chris Jericho before finally winning gold again at Wrestlemania 25. He defeated JBL in just 21 seconds to win the Intercontinental Championship and resume his run on top.

On Sept. 4, Mysterio finally lost the title to John Morrison. He would go on to have programs with random legendary opponents such as The Undertaker and Batista for the next few months. His popularity never dipped, and fans longed to see Mysterio on top again.

WWE Champion

Although it was extremely brief, fans got their wish. In 2011, Mysterio took part in a tournament for the vacant WWE Championship. He reached the finals of the tournament and defeated The Miz, winning his first WWE Championship. It was an emotional win with Mysterio and fans shedding tears post-victory. Unfortunately, Rey would lose the title to John Cena later that same night!

Mysterio then lost his rematches before suffering an injury in late 2011. After almost a year away, Mysterio returned and participated in various storylines in the tag team division with Sin Cara, The Rhodes brothers and the Prime Time Players. He would take more time off due to his nagging knee injuries but make another return in 2013. He wrestled sporadically for WWE for almost two years before leaving the company when his contract expired and returning to wrestle in his home country of Mexico. He signed a deal once again to return to AAA, and also worked shows on the independent circuit until 2018 with companies such as Lucha Underground and NJPW.

Today

At the 2018 Royal Rumble, Mysterio was a surprise entrant. Much to fans' delight and surprise, he announced he would return full-time to the WWE after being named the featured Superstar in WWE 2K-19. Mysterio would go on to defeat Samoa Joe at Money in the Bank 2019 to win the United States Championship and add another title run to his already legendary resume.

In 2020, one of Mysterio’s lifelong dreams came to fruition when his son Dominick debuted in WWE. The two would team up, becoming WWE’s first-ever father and son tag team Champions. The two still wrestle together as a team to this day.

Rey Mysterio will always be a highly respected figure in professional wrestling and one of WWE’s greatest high flyers of all time. Whether it was his time in WCW tearing the house down with other cruiserweights, or beating guys twice his size in WWE, he is one of the most beloved and renowned performers of all time.

Make sure to tune into RAW this Monday to catch Rey Mysterio’s 20th WWE anniversary celebration!