A few months ago, at Kennedy Airport on the outskirts of New York City, I bumped into an old friend of mine named Rey Mysterio Jr. We've known each other since his early days when he debuted at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia in late 1995. Having long been a fan of the Lucha Libre wrestling style, I was amazed at his ring work and became an ardent fan.
I was very fortunate to be able to chronicle his amazing career. Along the way, we also happened to become close friends. A friendship I still cherish today.
From international championships to cruiserweight belts, tag team championships, and a two-time WWE World championship run, the man never ceases to dazzle me through the years with his fabulous, one-of-a-kind wrestling style.
As we chatted at the airport for a few minutes catching up on our family lives, I needed to ask him why he still does what he does for a living. I see him almost weekly on WWE TV, and many times, he's against much bigger opponents and having a tough time with them. That is concerning to me, and I did mention it to him.
"Bill, my friend, my career has had a million highs and lows. Sure, some of these monsters they put me and my son Dominik against outweigh us and might be harder to take down, but the fact is it's wrestling and that's what I do. I love it no matter what the outcome. I am certain the highs will show up again. I also stay in the business mentoring my son who will have a long and excellent career and I want to be around to share it with him," Rey Mysterio told me.
What about Rey Mysterio's legacy? He could have gone out on a high note after a spectacular win, but he did not.
"Like I said Bill, I love what do and I plan to keep doing it. It's so good to see you again!" he said.
At that point, he had to board his flight. We truly enjoyed the brief chat, and I could sense his passion still burning in him for the wrestling-sports entertainment business since breaking in at the young age of 14 in 1989!
For the past few months, the more and more I see Rey in matches, mainly with son Dominik as his tag team partner, I see the same eagerness in the ring, but again he's getting beaten up quite a bit. I wonder if I am the only one who sees this, and I have concerns about his legacy. How will he be remembered whenever this WWE run ends?
I wanted to get views from other journalists, broadcasters, and wrestlers. Do they think Rey Mysterio should "hang 'em up" or keep going? Let's go to the panel I assembled, and then you make your decision.
Let's start with Jerry "The King" Lawler's comments:
"I have been around Rey a lot recently. As you may recall, he and Dominik saved me when that monstrous Veer Mahaan was ready to try and tear me apart. The fans went wild when Rey and his son came to the rescue. I would say that it's not time for Rey to hang up the boots but I will say it's time to get is son off his coattails. It's time for Rey to let Dominik become his own many and quit worryinig about his every mood. Rey has to keep his mind focused on his opponent -- not on his son In the past he was able to hold his own against anyone but now he is just too pre-occupied with his son!"
Sam Adonis (@realsamadonis) is an international star. He has wrestled all over the globe and has spent years grappling in Mexico. He is currently with AAA. He's got an interesting take on Rey Mysterio hanging up the boots -- or not. Let's read what he sent me:
"I don’t see a reason for Rey Mysterio to ever really retire. In Mexico the masks are so iconic. Rey’s mask in particular has a very inspiring back story. The mask is a Mexican symbol of hope that reminds everyone that anyone can achieve their dreams no matter their size, ethnicity, or upbringing. The novelty of seeing these masked men is far beyond watching the fight. People just want to see these larger-than-life figures in person. Like seeing Batman or the pope! I don’t think he would necessarily need or want to continue on a WWE schedule, but as far as I’m concerned, he can stay around as long as he wants and there will always be support. He's Rey Mysterio and that's all he needs to be."
Here are two people I consider Lucha Libre experts. First, let's hear from -Michael Morales Torres, Vice President of Lucha Libre Online.
“I don’t think it’s time for Rey Mysterio to hang up his boots. He’s too valuable for WWE. Rey can draw great merchandise sale numbers. He’s also in legendary status, so having him in the ring should mean something. Business-wise, retiring Rey Mysterio wouldn’t make sense at all."
"WWE can still use him on a part-time in ring career, while being an ambassador for the company. Rey has huge media impact and his following base is huge. But they should make every single Rey Mysterio appearance significant. That way his value won’t decrease and he can still help elevating other talents.”
Two young brothers, Jimmy and Corey, who run Dos Hermanos Lucha, a Lucha Libre appreciation site on Facebook and @DosLucha, put these thoughts together:
"When we look at Rey Mysterio, we can't help but think of our childhood and the man he was during the 1990s. In this moment, if utilized properly, we still firmly believe that Rey is more than capable of performing at a very high level. As many wrestlers grow older, they tend to have trouble adjusting to their inevitable aging bodies. However, Rey has proven time and time again that he is capable of not only adapting, but also innovating despite his age. Compared to guys such as Chris Jericho, who focuses more on storytelling at this point in his career, Rey has shown he’s able to get fans invested in his rivalries through emotional storytelling and not solely through wowing fans with acrobatic lucha libre style moves. This is evident when looking back at feuds with Y2J himself and Eddie Guerrero particularly in WWE."
Kevin McElvaney (@officialpwi) is the Editor-In-Chief of Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine. He was happy to contribute his views on this controversial subject:
"I don’t think Rey Mysterio has shown all he can do as a professional wrestler, even after all these years. There’s still a lot he has to give and can teach the next generation... specifically, his own son. I don’t see Rey losing to other WWE stars, even sometimes in lopsided fashion, as ruining his legacy. He’s done enough and spent enough time as an underdog that these losses won’t define him. A better question might be whether Rey feels he can keep going. He competes in a high-risk, high-impact style that is tough on the the limbs and joints. No one would blame him if he wanted to take a step back and coach Dominik from the sidelines."
Now let's hear from me -- the Senior Editor of Sportskeeda.com!
"My standpoint is that I want to see Rey stay in WWE. I fully agree with Jerry Lawler that Rey is more concerned with Dominik and he needs to get his focus back to get back to his full capacity in the ring. I don't think it's time for him to hang 'em up!"
I want to sincerely thank all the panel members for their most valuable contributions to this column, but now...
Next is the most important voice - yours! Let us know what you think. Is it time for the iconic Rey Mysterio Jr. to retire - or keep the legend active?
We asked Bret Hart what he thought of Vince McMahon retiring right here