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Two Moments That Shaped Rey Mysterio’s Hall of Fame Career

Even after his Hall of Fame induction, the famed luchador has plenty left to accomplish.

More than a week has passed since Rey Mysterio was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

WrestleMania marked an incredible weekend for Mysterio, including an introduction from best friend Konnan, a memorable induction speech and a tremendous match on the first night against his son, Dominik, who is starting to flourish as a heel.

Mysterio is the most renowned luchador to ever grace a squared circle. And while he is not finished just yet, the trip to the Hall of Fame allowed him to reflect on a legendary career.

He remains in awe of the moment that forever changed his life, when he debuted in WCW against Dean Malenko at The Great American Bash pay-per-view in June 1996.

Malenko was the reigning cruiserweight champion, so it was not uncommon for him to wrestle a variety of internationally acclaimed opponents. But Mysterio was only 21 at the time and looked even younger, and wasn’t helped by his lack of height. He was a largely unknown commodity to WCW fans—and especially so to the WCW locker room at the Baltimore Arena.

“I remember walking into the building in Baltimore, and I felt so uncomfortable,” says Mysterio. “I was walking into a locker room full of giants. The Steiners, Big Show, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. It felt really awkward. I kept on hearing voices say, ‘Who’s that kid? What the hell is he doing in here?’ No one knew who I was. It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there.”

WCW was picking up momentum, and this PPV card would help carry the promotion into the famed Bash at the Beach the following month. There were plenty of noteworthy moments: Steve “Mongo” McMichael turned on NFL star Kevin Greene and joined the Four Horsemen, which was significant at the time; Randy Savage was reinstated, allowing him to wrestle at the following month’s PPV; and Nash and Hall powerbombed Eric Bischoff through a table.

Konnan also wrestled on that card, defeating Pat Tanaka, who was wrestling at the time as the masked El Gato. Before Mysterio wrestled, he shared a moment backstage with Konnan, who offered a few words of encouragement.

“Right before my match, Konnan spoke with me,” says Mysterio. “I still remember him saying, ‘No pressure, but you’re representing Mexico and you’re representing lucha libre. You’re representing all the little guys. Now go out there and kick some ass.’ I was already nervous facing Dean, but that took it to a whole new level.”

This marked the first time Malenko and Mysterio ever shared the ring together, and it was magical. Further enhanced by the commentary of Mike Tenay, who joined Tony Schiavone and Dusty Rhodes at the broadcast table, the match was full of old-school storytelling with Malenko working over Mysterio’s arm, and featured a rare blend of athleticism and excitement that remains cutting edge.

Nearly three decades later, Mysterio still credits Eddie Guerrero for helping the match move so smoothly.

“I’d been trying to study Dean, watching his matches,” says Mysterio. “In the ring, we connected right away. It was immediate. From my understanding, Eddie spoke with Dean and told him a little bit about me. That was extremely important. Dean could have easily buried me, but no. He took me under his wing and made me look like a million bucks.

“I remember coming back after that opening match. Everyone had been glued to the monitor, and we got a standing ovation from the boys. It’s still one of the greatest moments of my life. That was the moment I felt I’d made it.”

Now 48, Mysterio’s love for pro wrestling remains vibrant. He is particularly passionate about his ongoing program with Dominik, which now includes Bad Bunny as WWE builds to next month’s Backlash card in Puerto Rico.

Mysterio still has more to accomplish, but he is very proud of his career. Wrestling was his dream as a child, and he instantly became enamored as soon as he saw his uncle (the famous luchador Rey Misterio) step between the ropes.

“With me, it was all about my uncle, my mom’s younger brother,” says Mysterio. “At a very young age, four or five, I would help him pack his bag when he wrestled every Friday at the Auditorio in Tijuana. Being in the car with him as he pulled up to the arena, and seeing him transform into this idolized persona, it meant everything to me.

“For me, it’s always been about the mask and its significance. It can turn you into a real-life superhero. No one recognized my uncle without the mask, but as soon as it was on, he would be stormed by fans. That’s what I wanted to do, that’s who I wanted to be. Now here I am.”

Mysterio is in the twilight of his career, but his age and toll on his body have yet to alter his style. He still wrestles compelling matches, which he did with his son at WrestleMania 39, and he is honored to continue contributing to the industry at its highest level.

“The moment I saw my uncle wrestle, I fell in love with it,” says Mysterio. “That’s what I wanted for the rest of my life. I always expected, one day, to be the son of Rey Misterio because he didn’t have kids at the time, or Rey Misterio Jr. That passion, that love, stuck with me, and I still have it today.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.