Tuesday, June 25, 2024

WWE’s Rey Mysterio gets candid about early fan hatred for son Dominik Mysterio

Dominik Mysterio’s evolution to a faux-hardened convict and despicable estranged son is one of WWE’s biggest success stories in 2023. But before that, Dominik’s run as Rey Mysterio’s plucky son had viewers begging to get him off their screens.

Dominik’s first WWE match was a street fight against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam in 2020. It was a remarkably high-profile spot for a debut match. Most professional wrestlers spend their entire careers wrestling on small independent stages. Dominik debuted against a multi-time world champion on a “Big Four” pay-per-view for the industry leader. Nine months later, Dominik and Rey captured the SmackDown tag team championships. It was too much too soon for young Dominik as fan and critic sentiments turned against him.

“There will be a lot of comparisons made between you and your father,” Rey and trainer Lance Storm told Dominik early into his training, something Rey reiterated to CBS Sports while discussing A&E’s “Biography WWE Legends – Eddie Guerrero” premiering Sunday. “You let them come in one ear and out the other. You stick to your path and you stick to your goals. You do what you believe is the best thing for you. Take advice, at the end of the day, you dissect the advice and figure it out.”

Rey’s aura extends far beyond his five-foot-six frame. The WWE Hall of Famer succeeded at the highest levels of WWE in an era still prioritizing muscly giants. Rey advised his son to navigate negativity like Rey did en route to becoming pro wrestling’s ultimate underdog.

“I’ve never paid attention to negativity in my career or life,” Rey said. “I’ve always pushed that aside or shaken it off. I remember telling Dom a few times, ‘Hey, keep going and doing what you feel is right.'”

Dominik was nosediving as a high-flying third-generation superstar until The Judgement Day faction took him under its wicked wings. Dominik was able to shape a distinct new gimmick once he distanced himself from his dad. “Dirty” Dom is a bratty deadbeat son whose comically brief jail stint turned him into a laughably hardened criminal. Dominik flourished under the supervision of world-traveled teammates Damian Priest, Finn Balor and Rhea Ripley. He was soon drawing the loudest boos of any WWE superstar. This time it was intentional.

“A lot of the advice was no longer coming from me,” Rey said. “We were separate and he was doing his thing. I think that was probably the best thing that could have happened. He didn’t have his dad yapping in his ear telling him ‘Try this’ or ‘Try that.’ He was figuring it out on his own, which is what should be done. When you let your kids off the leash and they’re taking off, you expect them to find growth and figure it out.”

Rey and Dominik’s careers remain closely tethered despite their storyline split. The father-son duo wrestled against each other in a singles match at WrestleMania 39 and a tag team match at WrestleMania 40. The elder Mysterio had his hand raised both times. Rey has no immediate timeline for retirement but has the perfect scenario prepared for his send-off. Rey wants to stake what’s most important to him against the person most important to him.

“The perfect scenario is that Dom would be the right person,” Rey said. “And not necessarily to retire me but put what matters most to me on the line and that’s my mask. It’s something I’d be willing to do.”

Dominik might be Rey’s son but he’s sometimes the spitting image of Eddie Guerrero, from their storyline relationships with Ripley and Chyna, respectively, to their questionable mullets. It spawned countless jokes about Rey and Guerrero’s “Custody of Dominik” ladder match at SummerSlam in 2005 after Guerrero claimed to be Dominik’s biological father.

“I have to say this and my wife is going to kill me,” Mysterio teased. “But I’ve told her several times, ‘Did you cheat on me with Eddie? Because Dom — I don’t know.’ And she says, ‘Yeah, and I never told me!’ I yell, ‘No!’ 

“I truly believe that Eddie is getting a kick out of this and, to a certain degree, Eddie has been in Dominik’s corner from the beginning. It’s very special and sentimental to see my son’s growth and to see every now and then a little Eddie-ish in his character and his development and the way he carries himself. To a large degree, there is a lot of pride when I see him and it reminds me so much of moments I lived with Eddie… Sometimes when I see pictures of them, it’s just scary.”

Rey and Guerrero were dear friends who wrestled with and against each other globally before and during their WWE careers. Guerrero, 38, died of acute heart failure on Nov. 13, 2005. His unexpected passing rocked everyone but hit Rey particularly hard. Rey famously defeated Shawn Michaels the next evening on WWE Raw in a main event dedicated to Guerrero. Rey gave a speech in Guerrero’s honor to the live audience. Rey discreetly removed his mask afterward, something he rarely does publicly.

“The mask in lucha libre is very sacred. It’s something that we protect and we cherish,” Rey explained. “Especially when it’s within generations of a family. When it’s generational and you’re carrying the name of your father or someone who came before you — in my case Rey Misterio Sr. and Rey Mysterio Jr. — you even protect it with your life pretty much. 

“I remember during that incident, I wanted the fans to hear Rey Mysterio but I also wanted them, in a way, to know who was behind the mask and the feelings I felt. Because the connection that I felt with Eddie in the ring was beautiful and incredible. But the connection we had outside of the ring was even deeper.”

Check out the full interview with Rey Mysterio below.

Fans interested in hearing Rey and Dominik share more about Guerrero can watch Guerrero’s episode of “Biography: WWE Legends” premiering Sunday on A&E.

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