SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Rey Mysterio not done making WWE memories after inking new deal
The legendary Rey Mysterio is extending his stay in WWE.
Though the terms of the deal were not made public, Mysterio revealed to Sports Illustrated that he signed a new deal with WWE.
“We never made the signing of my new deal public, but there is definitely going to be more time to see Rey Mysterio in WWE,” Mysterio says. “I’m going to keep wrestling, at least until Father Time catches up and says, ‘It’s time to go.’ ”
Mysterio is among an elite few who revolutionized professional wrestling. His work in Mexico, Japan and later the United States changed the style of wrestling, especially in the U.S., which became far more lucha-centric. That foundation was laid in Mexico when Mysterio wrestled for AAA, arriving in 1992 at the age of only 17, setting an absurdly high standard of athleticism and showmanship in his matches.
The 46-year-old Mysterio signed with WWE in 2002. Over the course of the next 13 years, Mysterio established himself as one of the most compelling performers in the world. He accomplished this feat in unique fashion, doing so while wearing a mask, which is rare for a main-eventer in WWE.
He left the company in 2015. That allowed him an opportunity to return to AAA, as well as work for Lucha Underground, New Japan Pro Wrestling, on the indie circuit and headline All In in 2018. Mysterio eventually returned to WWE in 2018, which has provided him the chance to share the ring with his son, Dominik, as well as be on-screen with his wife, Angie, and daughter, Aalyah. Dominik made his in-ring debut in August at SummerSlam, wrestling an outstanding match against Seth Rollins that spotlighted an undeniable flair and precision. Father and son were both in this year’s Royal Rumble match, and the opportunity to work with his son was a key reason behind Mysterio’s decision to re-up with WWE.
“I am so happy to see my son Dominik doing so well, and it means so much to me to be with him in WWE,” Mysterio says. “When I left WWE [in 2015], I was tired, I was beat and I was going through a phase in my life where I just needed some time off. That time away recharged my batteries.
“During that period, I was given time to think about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I sat down with my wife and my kids, and we ultimately made the decision together that it was time for me to come back to WWE. I am thankful for that opportunity because I knew my son wanted to be part of this industry, and I wanted to reopen the door for Dominik to eventually get a foot in the business. WWE has treated me like I had never left, and I am so grateful and truly blessed for that. I’m under WWE’s wings once again, and they’ve seen such potential in Dominik and such a bright future for him.”
While Mysterio did not win this past Sunday’s Royal Rumble, he entered the ring wearing new gear, including a mask sponsored by Victoria Beer.
“This collaboration is special to me,” Mysterio says. “It’s an iconic beer that has been around for a long time, and it’s the best beer in Mexico. This is a chance to represent my heritage and culture, and the new mask symbolizes our partnership.”
Rey and Dominik Mysterio are both part of the SmackDown brand. There are plenty of options for them moving forward, including the compelling potential of a run with the tag-team titles. Family has always been the top priority for Mysterio, which is also illustrated through his new mask.
“The mohawk on my new Victoria mask is a throwback to what my uncle used to wear in the early ’80s on his mask,” Mysterio says. “Right before I came back to WWE, I knew that I needed to change my outfit, and I wanted to do something different. I used to wear the baggy pants, but my son was always a big fan of the tights. He thought those looked so dope, so I ended up going back to the tights.
“I changed up my look a little bit, and I really wanted to include the mohawk. That was big for me growing up as a wrestling fan. The mohawk makes this mask stand out even more.”
Kazuchika Okada on Tetsuya Naito’s run as IWGP heavyweight champion
With or without the IWGP heavyweight championship, Kazuchika Okada stands as one of the most popular stars in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
While Okada is currently removed from the title picture, he remains the face of the company and is never too far from being reinserted into a championship program. That also means he is keeping a close watch on whomever is the IWGP heavyweight champion, which is currently Kota Ibushi.
Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito for the title last month at Wrestle Kingdom 14, winning an outrageously exciting bout to ignite his first run with the belt. Despite difficult outside circumstances, Naito also did a tremendous job as champion. Although he did have a brief 70-day run as champ in 2016, his reign in 2020—which lasted for all but 52 days of the year—elevated him to another tier as a top performer.
Okada is quite familiar with Naito’s work in the ring, and they are intertwined when it comes to the IWGP heavyweight belt. Naito has been champion three times, defeating Okada for the belt on two of those occasions. Asked for his perspective of Naito’s run as champ in 2020, Okada offered an honest answer about the state of the world and how it impacted pro wrestling.
“Naito was unlucky,” Okada says, speaking through a translator. “Right after he became the first IWGP double champion, the pandemic hit the world and he couldn’t defend his titles like he wanted. It was a difficult time for him to show the fans this model champion he was aiming to be.”
At only 33, Okada still has so much to prove, including becoming the most decorated IWGP heavyweight champion in the history of New Japan. He is coming off a spectacular Wrestle Kingdom victory against Will Ospreay, and there are plenty of possibilities for new and exciting matches—and even a title program with Ibushi—this year.
“My motivation hasn’t changed at all,” Okada says. “Just being able to wrestle gets me hyped. I know there are people who like to give star ratings to matches. But even if you did a five-star match, it could be a one-star match for some people who are not interested in it. Or, if you have a one-star match, it would be a great five-star match that is unforgettable for some people who watched the match in person for the first time.
“I love wrestling. So for me, I just wrestle. That’s what I am proud to do.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- Amanda Huber, the widow of Jon Huber, spoke in heartbreaking detail about the death of her husband (aka Luke Harper and Mr. Brodie Lee) on AEW’s Unrestricted podcast.
- The New Day wore gear at the Royal Rumble that paid tribute to Huber.
- CM Punk has made his return to professional wrestling—at least sort of.
- Sheamus turned on Drew McIntyre this week on Raw. While there is plenty of potential for this story—though is it high-profile enough to be the WWE championship match at WrestleMania 37?—I had hoped to watch their friendship develop for months before the Sheamus turn. Time will tell, but had that story been told with patience, this match could have headlined SummerSlam later this year.
- There is so much excitement surrounding every Bianca Belair appearance, but especially so with Friday’s SmackDown, where she’ll discuss her post-Rumble win.
- Monday also included the Raw return of Carlito, who adds some much-needed excitement to the show, and the highlight of the night was Edge–Randy Orton in the main event.
- The decision to have the IWGP champion be a double champ and also hold the intercontinental championship places New Japan Pro Wrestling in a unique position, effectively elevating the NEVER open-weight championship into a position as a top-two title in the company. So it should come as no surprise that Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Shingo Takagi last weekend to become the new open-weight champ.
- Jon Moxley is New Japan’s IWGP United States champion, and he returned Friday night on NJPW Strong, which airs on the New Japan World streaming service. He laid out KENTA, who has been challenging Moxley for months. Moxley is scheduled to return to the show for a promo this Friday, and his upcoming title defense against KENTA is now set for Friday, Feb. 26.
- Jay White also made his New Japan return, and his story line tease of leaving the company served as a great way to keep interest high after losing to Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 14.
- AEW has another loaded Dynamite this week. There was so much to like last week, particularly the Young Bucks–Good Brothers eight-man tag against the Dark Order, which ended in a melee that also featured Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley.
- More good news for wrestling in 2021: Riho is returning to AEW. This new tournament to crown a No. 1 contender is loaded with potential for great content.
- The Shaquille O’Neal–Cody Rhodes feud also escalated this week, which appears to be building toward a tag-team match at Revolution in March.
NXT UK has a massive acquisition with the addition of Meiko Satamura.
- Per PWInsider, Lars Sullivan is no longer part of WWE.
- Will we see Bad Bunny at WrestleMania 37?
Chris Hero provides a phenomenal inside, honest view of NXT on his new podcast. In his first episode, he shared some compelling reasons why this is no longer WWE’s developmental site—and the problems that can arise because of that.
- If you’re among those missing Tegan Nox in NXT, her interview/workout with Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson was extremely compelling.
- In what is hopefully a wonderful partnership with lucha libre, Ultra Violet and Blue Demon is coming to the Disney Channel.
- For action figure collectors, the big news of the week is that there will be an action figure for Sasha Banks’s Koska Reeves character from The Mandalorian.
Triple H on his Raw match against Randy Orton and the brilliance of Tom Brady
Tom Brady will make his 10th Super Bowl start this Sunday, seeking a record seventh title.
Seeing Brady wearing his Buccaneers gear is akin to watching Ric Flair hoist any world title other than the NWA world heavyweight championship.
If Brady played the role of villain under coach Bill Belichick during his iconic run as quarterback of the Patriots, his sojourn in Florida with the Bucs has served as his babyface turn. WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque, a New England native and longtime admirer of Brady’s work on the football field, is an expert of the babyface-heel dynamic.
“It’s hard to believe Brady is still operating at this level,” says Levesque, who attended the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory against the Seahawks six years ago. “To go to a different team and continue to do what he’s doing, it’s a testament to his greatness.”
Levesque also knows about longevity. He returned to the ring three weeks ago against Randy Orton, wrestling his first match on Raw since 2016. After a 25-year career built around connecting with the audience, Levesque found himself in uncharted waters during the match, which took place at WWE’s closed ThunderDome set.
“Anybody that’s doing what we do, my hat is off to them,” Levesque says. “I was just in the ring briefly with Randy, and it’s a different world without a crowd. I don’t know how well I would do without it.
“I was reliant on it. Everything that was ingrained in me was to listen to them, that’s the way I was trained—to listen and adapt. So it’s very different right now.”
Beyond Wrestling and Women’s Wrestling Revolution now appearing on Pluto TV
Pluto TV has added independent wrestling to its slate of growing content.
A free app, Pluto TV’s new pro wrestling channel features content from IWTV, including the entire library from Women’s Wrestling Revolution and Beyond Wrestling’s first season of Uncharted Territory.
Drew Cordeiro, who is the owner of both Beyond Wrestling and Women’s Wrestling Revolution, revealed that this working agreement is the result of negotiations that first began in 2019.
“Pluto TV is acquiring a lot of properties that are going to make the platform blow up,” Cordeiro says. “It’s a platform with live channels that air everything from American Gladiators to MTV dating shows, and there are so many certain types of programming and content on Pluto that aren’t accessible anywhere else. I’m so thrilled to get more eyes on independent wrestling, and I think it’s going to be great for our fans.”
New events will continue to be added to the Pluto channel, which also includes content like Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.
“We’ll repurpose some of our YouTube content and bring it to Pluto so more eyes can see it,” says Cordeiro, whose Beyond Wrestling YouTube page just surpassed three million subscribers. “And none of this happens without the fans. Look at the Keith Lee documentary that recently appeared on the WWE Network. He had been wrestling in Texas for years, but William Regal told him to expand his horizons. He found the right eyes in Beyond Wrestling, and independent wrestling changed his trajectory of his career.
“All of the trends in professional wrestling start at the independent level, and then work their way up the chain. I’m so happy we can bring this content to Pluto TV, and I really hope our fans enjoy it.”
Tweet of the Week
One of wrestling’s best bad guys on screen continues to be a champion babyface in real life.