Rey Mysterio. Translated from Spanish, this luchador’s name literally means “king mystery” or more accurately, the “mystery king”. Well, I’ve got a mystery for you: What makes a 175-pound cruiserweight, who once lit the U.S. pro wrestling scene on fire with his speed, agility, and never before seen high-flying maneuvers, transform into a bloated, overly-muscled oddity who gets caught violating the WWE’s “wellness policy”? I think you already know the answer…
TODAY’S ISSUE: What happened to Rey Mysterio?
Once known as Rey Misterio, Jr. after his famous wrestling uncle Rey Misterio, who trained him for the ring, Oscar Gutierrez didn’t need bulk or size to capture the imagination of wrestling fans in Mexico or the original ECW, and certainly not in WCW, where he regularly thrilled crowds in the late 90s thanks to his unique, high-risk offensive style and his tremendous heart. In fact, it was Rey Misterio, Jr. who helped usher in the age of the cruiserweights on the mainstream American scene. But seven years after his U.S. debut, Mr. Gutierrez packed his bags and went to work for the man who owned what had essentially become a pro wrestling monopoly, Vince McMahon, in his World Wrestling Entertainment promotion.
McMahon runs the WWE universe like his own personal playground instead of a company interested in entertaining fans and making money. He publicly demeans bigger, stronger men then himself, forces buxom young wenches to swoon for him as they battle for his affections, names characters and pushes or punishes them based on what makes him happy rather than what’s good for business, and hires people he hates just so he can humiliate them. Something bad must’ve happened to little Vinnie Mac when he was a young boy, because no matter how successful and powerful he became, he apparently never recovered enough self-esteem to allow himself to be happy being rich and famous. He’s always got to pick a fight with somebody or make some noise, and he loves being the bratty kid on the block who won’t just shut up and play nicely with his expensive toys.
McMahon is clearly obsessed with size; most of the wrestlers he’s pushed to the moon since the mid 1980s have been tall and heavily muscled, or freakish in size some other way like the late Yokozuna was. It’s one thing to push big dudes exclusively, but to require/encourage/support bodily inflation through the use of harmful chemicals is irresponsible and dirty. You see, if the only freaks of nature Vince kept around were the more natural looking ones like Mark Henry, Khali, and Big Show, it’d be difficult to make these assertions. However, with puffed up gargantuan monsters like Batista, John Cena and Chris Masters running around on WWE television amongst unbelievably cut, carved from granite, zero-body fat, living statues like Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, and John Morrison, it’s quite clear that chemicals are rampant in WWE locker rooms. And nobody’s going to convince me that McMahon, who himself was featured on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine three years ago at the age of 60, is either unaware of or against steroid use in his workers. He’s practically the poster boy for chemically enhanced physiques.
If you don’t believe the “bigger is better” attitude in WWE is harmful, think back to the number of injuries caused by excessive muscle growth throughout the years. Triple H had a freak quadriceps injury in which the muscle was ripped right off the bone, and he managed to accomplish this one-in-a-million injury again a few years later. Batista once re-injured a triceps tear by jogging. You’ve got to have some seriously degraded tendons and muscles in order to hurt your arm by running, folks. And we can speculate about the role drugs in general have played in the countless tragic deaths of wrestlers or former wrestlers who were far too young to pass away, but that will take things in a different direction than the one I’m going today. Suffice it to say, Vince has proven time and again that the bigger they are, the harder he pushes them. And professional wrestlers around the world know this and are forced to deal with it. If they want to make it in what most would consider the “big time”, they’ve got to be big.
McMahon’s unhealthy fascination with size has impacted the WWE “divas” as well. Most girls who Vince has drooled over on live television and used as T&A have had ridiculous looking giant breast implants, and unfortunately that “bigger is better” sickness of McMahon’s even trickled over into the body of his own daughter, Stephanie. Sadly, very few of the young ladies who went to work for WWE resisted the urge to have a surgeon carve up their flesh and insert bags of saline so they might better fit the mold of McMahon’s freakish ideal of the feminine figure. Kudos to Stacy Keibler for respecting her own natural beauty and sexy shape enough to resist the temptation of turning herself into a sideways view of the letter “P”, with angry-looking cleavage thrusting out the top of some too-skimpy stripper costume masquerading as wrestling gear. Chyna and Mickie James each had implants burst during matches, and that’s just got to hurt! Are we to understand that when your line of work requires you to absorb large sums of physical contact several nights a week, it’s a bad idea to shove pressurized bags of water under your muscles? Imagine that!
So when a very small man like Oscar Gutierrez came to work for Vince in 2002, with an impressive offensive arsenal that focused on speed, agility, athleticism and guile, without the word “power” in his vocabulary, “Rey Mysterio” had two choices. He was either destined to remain in the cruiserweight division, which McMahon regularly disrespected and mistreated (although it could have been a great draw for him), or he had to bulk up. At 5’6”, Gutierrez would obviously never be a physically imposing specimen, but he endeavored during his WWE run to pack on as much muscle as his frame could handle, and it was clear he had a little help in the weight room. A man can’t just suddenly bulk up by that amount in such a short timeframe without some artificial assistance.
If Vince hadn’t ridiculed the cruiserweights and booked the entire weight class into oblivion (didn’t a leprechaun retire that title?) there’d not only be a place for the original-sized Rey Mysterio without having to worry about inflating himself to ridiculous proportions via dangerous substances, but WWE could actually provide an exciting option in some of their SIX HOURS of weekly programming. Think of the impressive roster of cruisers currently under WWE contract who they could combine into a real wrestling division: James Gibson, Shane Helms, Chavo Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Matt “Evan Bourne” Sydal, Jimmy Yang and others could tear it up in all sorts of matches, delighting fans and bringing back a style of pro wrestling that WWE has lost in recent years.
They could even main-event a pay-per-view with the cruiserweight title if it were allowed to be a respected championship; it wouldn’t take long to remind the sheep who watch Vince’s programming that a fast-paced, innovative match which lasts for more than six minutes can actually be very enjoyable. Considering WWE is trying to “theme” their B-shows now, a cruiserweight tourney could actually comprise the majority of a ppv, especially in the new PG environment McMahon is attempting to build. After all, very rarely do cruisers require hatred, ultra-violence, or massive amounts of blood to thrill a crowd. Skilled cruiserweights capture fans’ imagination by wrestling exciting matches with high-risk offense, blurring speed, crazy maneuvers and stiff intensity, but rarely do they descend into the depths to which McMahon currently fears to “lower” his company. That statement is sort of ironic, considering the biggest boom period McMahon ever enjoyed centered on foul language, lewd gestures, nearly naked women, and toilet humor. My, what a difference a decade makes.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – Vince ought to dedicate one hour a week, I’d recommend ECW, to real wrestling and feature nothing but cruiserweights and tag teams. Three matches per show with enough space between them (yes, between them; there’s no good reason to take advertising breaks during the matches!) for character-development and angle advancement segments before and after the commercials, would make for one pretty solid hour of television. But I digress…
Whether or not Gutierrez had a prescription for the drugs that caused his suspension is irrelevant. The point is that he has clearly used dangerous chemicals to drastically alter his body so he could get a run at the top of WWE. McMahon’s obsession with size/bulk/muscles has fundamentally changed a man who succeeded in two of the top wrestling federations of the day based on nothing but his own skills and gifts, and that’s a damned shame. Mysterio is currently at a crossroads in his life, based upon what we’ve witnessed countless times from other men who kept walking down a dangerous path, and paid the ultimate price for the wrestling stardom they craved. I hope Mr. Gutierrez stops short of that terrible fate and keeps himself healthy for a long time to come. Best of luck, King of Mystery.
Vin Sanity is not categorized as a psychological disorder… yet.
p.s. – “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
The original version of this syndicated column, titled Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic, appears each Friday at midnight on Pulse Wrestling.
Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…
Chris Morgado discusses Hell in a Cell in this week’s Column With No Name.
David Ditch looks at Misawa’s final years in AJPW in the latest Puroresu Pulse.
Will Pruett supports the upcoming Orton/Cena Iron Man match in The People’s Column.
Glazer and Pruett go head-to-head in the latest Versus.
Brian Eison has your WWE Superstars Recap for 10/08/09.
Michael O’Mahony writes a very interesting interactive column known as Poll Position. This week he (and the fans) take a look at wrestling films. Visit our reader forums to get involved in his next Poll Position, featuring the controversial Chris Benoit.