Dial it up! The Pro Wrestling Countdown is back and this time we are in the 6-1-9.
Over the past 20 years the man behind the neon-colored masks has excited professional wrestling fans across the globe like few others physically can.
The fact of the matter is that, whether you like him or not, Mysterio has done things in the WWE ring that no one else has ever been able to pull off. That makes Mysterio far and away a once in a lifetime talent and probably one of the most overlooked performers when speaking about the most talented performs of the last two decades.
It is far too easy to seemingly cast Mysterio aside as nothing more than a wrestler who only uses spots to get through a match, and that just isn’t the case.
Rey Mysterio has been a major player in the industry for almost his entire adult life and in that time he has been apart of some of the most exhilarating matches to ever have a global viewing audience.
He is one of a kind, and it will be hard for any man to eclipse the amazing acrobatics and enthralling action that Mysterio has imposed on his opponents in his many performances.
Now, let’s take a peak behind the mask and join us as we countdown the greatest matches in the career of Rey Mysterio!
REY MYSTERIO VS. CM PUNK (EXTREME RULES 2010)
One of my favorite characters in recent WWE history was the heel incarnation of CM Punk’s straight-edge persona. Better known as, “The Straight-Edge Savior.”
The great thing about Punk becoming a heel character was that he could now tell engaging stories with wrestlers like Mysterio who has almost been a fan favorite for his entire career. the psychotic prophet was a wonderful foil for the Steamboat-esque white-meat babyface that Mysterio has been portrayed as in the WWE.
If you think about it, even John Cena has had a notable WWE run as a heel, but Mysterio has always done the right thing and been the humble role model.
But, it does make for the perfect opponent for a really villainous heel, like that of CM Punk in 2010. They had several memorable segments and matches, but this was probably the most entertaining and interesting of the lot.
I loved that both men had a mutual admiration for Eddie Guerrero and you can even see them pay respect to the fallen performer in this match when Punk locked in the Gory Special. A fitting tribute.
- Rey Mysterio vs. Jushin Thunder Liger (Starrcade 1996): The legendary Japanese wrestler, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, made off-and-on appearances for WCW during the 1990s when he was not wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Strangely, he only ever had one, now historic, meeting with the Mexican luchardor, Rey Mysterio. How appropriate is it now that it happened at WCW’s biggest event of the year? This could have, and should have been, much better than it actually was, but the two were clearly unfamiliar with one another. Still it is quite awesome to see the two legends go at it in their prime.
- Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (WrestleMania 21): This is their older and wiser sequel to their classic 1997 match. While not nearly as fast paced as its “source material,” it stands as probably Rey’s most entertaining WrestleMania performance to date. In 2005, Mysterio got to open WrestleMania 21, in Los Angeles, with one of his closest friends and most notable rivals. “Lation Heat,” his tag team partner, Eddie Guerrero. There were a few gripes I have with this match. The two men stalled just a little too much for my liking. Also, Mysterio fiddled with his interesting, but less than practical, mask far too often for it to not be noticeable. Regardless, a fun opening bout.
- Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania 22): A hugely significant victory for Mysterio’s career and just about as good of a ten minute title match as you can ever hope for. This WrestleMania card was a bit bloated which meant the WWE was a bit strapped for time, but these three men went all out giving no breaks. This made for a near ten minute highlight real of action from all three men.
10. REY MYSTERIO VS. JOHN CENA (WWE RAW, JULY 2011)
This has become a modern classic for Monday Night Raw.
It sort of sad but, as of writing, this has probably been the most recent “great” match from Mysterio’s massive catalog of matches. Since 2011 he has spent a substantial amount of time on the sidelines or teaming with Mexican wrestling superstar Mistico a.k.a Sin Cara.
CM Punk was not the only man to have a historic championship match during the summer of 2011.
During the absolute peak of the CM Punk storyline the “Best in the World” “left the WWE.” This meant we needed a “new WWE Champion.” Rey Mysterio defeated The Miz in the finals of a mini-tournament to win his first, and only, WWE Championship.
The “Biggest Little Man” was promptly challenged by John Cena, the former WWE Champion, to battle in the main event of Monday Night Raw for his newly won title.
It never occurred to me, until I re-watched this match for consideration in the Countdown, just how few times that Mysterio and Cena have had the chance to wrestle one another.
Both men have been almost exclusively babyfaces for their entire careers and have been, for almost a decade, two of the most marketable WWE personalities for children.
The champion worked on Cena’s legs for much of the match, which worked to his advantage later in the contest. It looked like Mysterio would retain after delivering a well placed 619, but Cena countered and when Rey went for the maneuver again, Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment to win the WWE Championship.
Unfortunately Mysterio was the awkward third wheel in the Punk/Cena story that concluded the show, but his performances on this edition of Raw where tremendous.
Even his earlier match with The Miz was way better than it looked on paper. It’s just a shame that I can hardly think of anything truly noteworthy that Mysterio has done since this.
9. REY MYSTERIO VS. ÚLTIMO DRAGÓN (SPRING STAMPEDE 1997)
I know their WCW World War 3 encounter is very popular among WCW fans, but this match really is much better all around.
This was billed as a “rubber” match after these two men had had two encounters with one another on WCW pay-per-view in 1996.
The Dragon dominated much of this match using his size advantage to overpower and ground Mysterio much like many of the other members of the division did to the smaller and swifter cruiserweight. The “Biggest Little Man,” as he came to be called, could not use many of his most notable maneuvers.
This forced Mysterio to play a lot of defense, instead of utilizing his usual array of leaps and kicks. Dragon controlled much of the pace, which meant this opener moved much slower than several of the other matches we’ve talked about on this edition of the Countdown, but it was interesting to see Mysterio play the more passive opponent and work from the ground when he is so used to being in the air and bouncing off the ropes. Mysterio broke the tie and got the victory over the Japanese sensation.
These men wrestled several wonderful matches in both WCW and WWE, and hardly ever had a bad one.
For me, this was the most interesting match of their collection and stood out among their other contests.
8. REY MYSTERIO VS. BILLY KIDMAN VS. JUVENTUD GUERRERA (STARRCADE 1998)
Three Way Dances can be one of the most repetitive and formulaic matches types if the wrong three guys are put into the mix.
Many fall into the pattern of tossing one of the competitors out of the ring so the action can stay focused on only two men, but the greatest Triple Threat matches deviate away from this formula and this is certainly one such match.
This Cruiserweight Championship match opened the WCW event, Starrcade. The cruiserweights often served as the opening performances for Pay-Per-Views as a way to pop the crowd and build up their energy.
This was a match to be contested for Kidman’s WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
This match featured several amazing sequences of action that just would not have been possible without the addition of a third man in the fray. At one point, Guerrera spring-boarded off the top rope and delivered a hurricanrana to Mysterio who was on the shoulders of Billy Kidman.
The match was filled with fun spots like this and smooth transitions. It was not a clinic, but a really fun opener that showed why Mysterio was the staple of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division.
Guerrera, a new recruit of the Latino World Order, very nearly won the match after it’s leader, Eddie Guerrero, came to the ring and assaulted Kidman, but a drop kick from Mysterio gave the champion the opening he needed to retain.
After this match Guerrero challenged “the pretty boy” Kidman to a title match, which Kidman also managed to win.
7. REY MYSTERIO VS. CHAVO GUERRERO (GREAT AMERICAN BASH 2004)
This featured everything that was great about watching a Rey Mysterio match in his early years with the WWE.
I knew I wanted to a feature one of Mysterio’s matches with the younger Guerrero cousin somewhere on this edition, but I didn’t know where to fit it. Obviously, everyone mocks Chavo as being the less talented and successful of the Guerrero clan, but he without a doubt had some of his greatest matches with Rey Mysterio.
This match, serves as probably their most overlooked encounter.
After some thought and juggling I narrowed it down to this match and one of their matches from their questionable 2006 rivalry that introduced Vickie Guerrero as a reoccurring onscreen presence for the better part of
the last decade. More specifically, their awesome I Quit match that was originally here.
I mainly opted for this encounter due to the awesome ring psychology both employed here.
Guerrero was a perfect heel for the stacked 2004 Cruiserweight division, and made a very logical foil for the extremely popular WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Rey Mysterio.
Chavo worked a much slower and methodological style than we typically see in a Mysterio match but this match safely stays away from being sluggish and mundane.
They both took the time to tell a story and use injuries to put both of their chances at victory at stake. Guerrero targeted Mysterio’s legs and Mysterio targeted Guerrero’s triceps.
Guerrero seemed to have Mysterio beat as he was preparing for the Gory Bomb but, as often happens, Mysterio pulled out the quick three count to retain his WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
The less famous Guerrero would go on to harbor much jealousy and ire for the success of Rey Mysterio over the next several years even after the passing of his beloved uncle Eddie.
6. REY MYSTERIO VS. JOHN MORRISON (WWE SMACKDOWN!, SEPTEMBER 2009)
2009 was WWE Smackdown’s renaissance. A true revival in quality television wrestling for a show that was often deprived of such. It also happened to be a year of revival in Mysterio’s in-ring work.
Not since the days of the original Smackdown Six had so many great encounters happened on WWE’s “B Show.”
I also must admit I was such a mark for John Morrison during his time on Smackdown! in 2009. He was so much fun to watch regardless of who he had a match with.
John Morrison was having excellent television matches with the likes of Tyson Kidd, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Rey Mysterio. It was the closest the WWE Intercontinental Championship
scene had gotten to looking credible again in over a decade.
In fact, this match was for Rey Mysterio’s WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Mysterio wrestled like he was still in his early 20s opening a WCW pay-per-view event. It had such a great atmosphere. “A big fight feel-” if you will.
“The Guru of Greatness” was the perfect opponent for the luchardor to have a great match with and it helped that Mysterio seemed super motivated during this time period.
This match didn’t contain as many traditional flips and high spots as you might expect, but that might have actually helped it in the long run. It was still filled to the brim with countless “ooh” and “ahh” moments.
After hitting the 619 and failing to capitalize, John Morrison, on his third attempt, hit Starship Pain on the masked man and became the Intercontinental Champion for a third time.
5. REY MYSTERIO & EDGE VS. CHRIS BENOIT & KURT ANGLE (NO MERCY 2002)
It was a perfect storm of talent, action, and storytelling.
Mysterio, Edge, Angle, and Benoit were among the many talented men brought over to the newly created WWE Smackdown! brand and without the big names of Austin, Hogan, and The Rock looming above them they all enjoyed a grander spotlight.
This was the final match in a tournament commissioned by the Smackdown! General Manager, Stephanie McMahon, to decide who would be the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions.
This match has garnered much praise in past editions, so if you have not given yourself the time to watch it by now, you’re just robbing yourself of a good time. This is 20 minutes of some of the most interesting tag team wrestling to ever see a grand stage.
The two miss-matched tandems showed that just because they had not been teaming together for years-upon-years didn’t mean they could not exemplify what in-ring chemistry is all about.
Angle and Benoit, who had a huge amount of competitive tension against one another, would win this match and become the first ever champions, but Mysterio and Edge certainly made them earn it.
They would have their turn as champions a little over two weeks later in an equally as impressive match on WWE Smackdown!
4. REY MYSTERIO VS. DEAN MALENKO (GREAT AMERICAN BASH 1996)
It’s a rare treat anytime I can find an excuse to gush about a Dean Malenko match.
What a debut!?
This was Mysterio’s first ever match under the WCW banner and the first time the wider American audience got a chance to see what the young sensation from Tijuana Mexico was all about.
Often when a performer debuts in a new promotion it is no more than a quick affair. A few minute long promo/segment or a Squash match. This, was a more complete showcase of what Mysterio was capable of when out in the ring with one of the greatest wrestlers in WCW history.
“The Man of 1,000 Holds” quickly targeted the arms of the newcomer and dominated him in front of the Baltimore crowd. He kept the challenger from taking any control at all but the 21-year old fought out of every pin and withstood every hold and slam Malenko could dream up.
The debuting Mysterio made his comeback and showed his vast resilience, but the wear and tear from Malenko was too great for him.
Rey broke away from Malenko and began to hit all the thrilling moves that had created the buzz that which allowed Mysterio to make it into one of America’s largest professional wrestling promotions. However, his momentum was stopped dead in it’s tracks by a power bomb. With a little help from the second rope, Malenko made certain Mysterio wouldn’t become WCW Cruiserweight Champion on his first night with the company.
These two showed great chemistry with one another, but it almost seemed lost on the very underwhelming crowd who almost seemed to not know what to make of the new masked marvel.
Mysterio would strike back on WCW Nitro winning the title in another notable match with “The Iceman” later that summer.
This match did not have a thrilling story nor did it quite captivate the crowd, but it did plainly show glimpses of what Mysterio’s character would later become all about – overcoming any and all obstacles no matter what they are.
3. REY MYSTERIO VS. PCICOSIS (BASH AT THE BEACH 1996)
These two men have wrestled everywhere. AAA, ECW, WCW, and WWE.
They did battle all over the Americas.
The two, without a doubt, had their best encounters during their days in WCW’s fledgling Cruiserweight division.
By 1996, Mysterio and Psicosis knew one another inside-and-out when it came to putting together a match and it showed during every second of this match.
This match had some of the most beautiful luchador-like acrobatics of any match to ever take place during the duration of WCW’s Cruiserweight division, but it also had extremely smart submission holds, and exiting sequences that did not involve huge breathe taking spots.
But, it had all of that too. It was a “complete experience.” It had all the things you would expect from a match from a 21 year old Rey Mysterio, but then it had even more.
Pcicosis was very much to Rey Mysterio what Jerry Lynn was to Rob Van Dam. A really talented guy that never really “made it” and wrestled many of his best matches with a more notable name.
Mysterio, in this case, would go on to become one of the most recognizable and marketable talents under the WWE banner due to his distinctive style, apperance, and message of never giving up. Let that take nothing away from all the tremendously entertaining encounters Pcicosis had with him. The older luchador knew exactly how to make Rey Mysterio look that much better than he already was.
After a thrilling opening contest for WCW’s Bash at the Beach, Mysterio performed a Hurricanrana on Psicosis from the top turnbuckle for the victory.
2. REY MYSTERIO VS. CHRIS JERICHO (THE BASH 2009)
Rey Mysterio had been floating in an injury ridden rut, off-and-on, ever since his lackluster reign as World Heavyweight Champion in 2006.
However, in 2009, Mysterio was on top of his game again. He seemed motivated, limber, and exciting again after a couple of “down” years. I have to give some of the credit to his program with Chris Jericho that took place in the summer of that year.
If you needed proof that Chris Jericho is probably one of the most dynamic heels the WWE has seen in the last decade his 2008 feud with Shawn Michaels would, overwhelmingly, be “Example A.” However, Jericho’s 2009 feud with Rey Mysterio is a very close “Example B.”
As I said earlier in the Countdown, 2009 was a great year for WWE Smackdown! and this feud was surely the crown jewel of that.
Jericho was on a mission to expose Mysterio as a fraud and believe his mask symbolized the lie that he thought Mysterio stood for. The two then had several very entertaining midcard matches on both WWE Smackdown! and the early summer pay-per-view events of the year. Jericho was, at this time, one of the most entertaining and talented performers on the WWE roster.
The two had traded victories and defeats until the met for one final match at The Bash in which Chris Jericho’s Intercontinental Championship was on the line against Rey Mysterio’s mask.
This match was their final big encounter and the one in which “The Ultimate Underdog” used “Y2J’s” obsession with his mask to defeat him and secure his second ever WWE Intercontinental Championship.
After this Mysterio went on to have excellent matches with many of the rosters bright up-and-comers.
1. REY MYSTERIO VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1997)
“Eddie could always sense what the crowd was feeling. He knew what they were reacting to. With Eddie, you didn’t talk out the match beforehand. He would tell me, ‘just listen to me in the ring.’ That’s all I would do. I would go into the ring and have my ears open. I’d follow his lead.” -Rey Mysterio
Not only is this Rey Mysterio’s greatest match, but it could be said to be one of the greatest matches in the illustrious history of Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling.
Often in the Pro Wrestling Countdown, a majority of the matches tend towards being 30-40 minute marathons.
However, with Rey Mysterio, the matches are shorter, more action packed, and move so much quicker. Does that make his matches any less worthy of being considered for the Countdown?
Run times do not define how great a match is. The story, pacing, and the mastery of movement do. This match encapsulates everything that is great about Rey Mysterio and his talent.
This was a foregone conclusion. Mysterio and Eddie had the greatest Cruiserweight Championship match of all time, and won multiple awards for this fantastic contest.
Guerrero was at the peak of his run as a smug heel Cruiserweight Champion after defeating Chris Jericho for the title months earlier. Like many men, before and after him, Guerrero had more fueling his fire during his match with the young Mysterio.
The man that would grow to become a close friend only wanted deeply to unmask and embarrass Rey Mysterio during their match. For a luchador, the mask is their true identity, and tearing a mask off is the ultimate form of dishonor.
Mysterio won what would go on to be the definitive match of his career, and one of the most meaningful ones as well.
They two performers would continue to work together for the next decade in both WCW and WWE until Guerrero’s shocking death in November of 2005.
The following year, Mysterio helped induct his greatest opponent into the WWE Hall of Fame and would then win his first ever World Heavyweight Championship. He dedicated his victory to his fallen friend.