WWE 2K22 is out now on consoles and PC. It is, based on early impressions, the most immersive, interactive wrestling experience since WWE 2K14, when 2K Games first took over the franchise. Every aspect of gameplay has been taken up a notch—including the accurate, photorealistic appearance of the wrestlers themselves, but also the underlying mechanics of the gameplay itself. The match variety is more diverse. The pin and submission mini-games are more forgiving and equitable. The reversal system has undergone a complete overhaul, to make it less punitive and more accessible to new players.
And part of that approach, to appeal to both the hardcore and new players, is the decision to put Rey Mysterio on the cover. WWE 2K22 celebrates his career with an entire showcase of playable, classic matches, which Rey narrates while you relive history and match him move for move—from his classic against Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc in 1997 to the present day.
It’s easy to take Rey for granted because he has been so iconic, so omnipresent on our televisions for the past three decades. But without Rey, lucha libre would not have its current global popularity. And it’s those millions of fans that made the Ultimate Underdog a multi-time World Champion, in an industry that once prized its giants above all others.
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
How did you find out you were going to be on the cover of WWE 2K22?
So WWE first approached me in regards to doing some promotional work for the game. And I guess I didn’t understand it right off the bat? But I swear they didn’t tell me that I was going to be on the cover of the game, or that it was going to be based around me.
But slowly, as I was shooting and doing promotions, the bomb just hit, and they were like, “You know, this is based on you. You are the cover of the game this year.” I was like, “Oh no way. Damn, that’s cool. That’s dope.”
I’ve been a part of covers with other Superstars, but I’ve never been the face of a video game. So, you know, it’s an honor, a complete honor. And it’s a blessing to be in this industry for almost 32 years and have a showcase around me.
Would you say it was unexpected that they were considering you to be the cover athlete?
I guess I didn’t really think at the time that I was going to be the image [they wanted]. The closest thing to this was when I was in the commercial for WWE 2K19. I thought that was pretty cool. But this topped it. Being the face of WWE 2K22 is the ultimate.
I’ve had a long and illustrious career, and the fans have been incredible. They’ve been the push behind each and every company that I’ve been a part of. My goal was eventually to make it to the WWE, and after all these years of hard work, the fans realize the grind I’ve been through, from the age of 14, when I kicked off my career, up until now. I’m 47 and still going hard–still loving the sport. And now there’s a shadow behind me, which is my son.
Did you have any say in which matches they were going to do where they were going to cover in the career showcase?
I don’t think I needed to have a say in it, because the matches that are showcased here are matches that are historical. There are matches against Eddie Guerrero. There’s a match against The Undertaker. These are matches that if you weren’t there to experience them live, then you’re going to have to YouTube them or check them out some other way.
I’ve been playing through your showcase mode, and you narrate the action as it’s happening in the game. And one thing that really comes out in your commentary is how much love you had for Eddie Guerrero and how much he influenced and inspired you. Do you think you could talk a little bit about the inspiration and effect he has on you today?
I remember the first time I met him, I wasn’t even in wrestling. I was just a fan and 13 years old, and he was wrestling with my uncle [Rey Misterio, Sr.]. They were teaming up, and I was just a kid. Who would have thought back then that one day I would get to step in the ring with him, and share in that Guerrero dynasty that in his bloodline? Deep down inside is a bond of brotherhood relationship that is unlike no other. I learned so much from Eddie inside the ring, outside the ring.
He taught me how to pace myself. How to give the fans what they want at a certain time, and not just throw away my entire arsenal–just waste all my bullets in one match. “Wait, let them digest a little bit and have them wanting more the next time they see you.” All those little details are very important in our industry.
I know it’s kind of putting you on the spot, but is there a match you can point to where you can say, “Yeah, that’s something that Eddie taught me how to do?”
My match versus Eddie at Halloween Havoc in 1997 was the match that put me on the map and that gave me recognition.
I remember that night, I was supposed to lose my mask, and maybe an hour before our match in the ring, [WCW] came back, they said, “You know what? Rey, you’re keeping your mask and Eddie? You’re passing the title on to Rey. And I was nervous. We needed to change so many things throughout the match. And Eddie was like, “Just relax. Just listen to me out there. Listen to me. Just don’t trip.”
In that match, a lot of things happened on the fly that night. We created a lot of moves that night that we tried to duplicate down the road, and they never happened exactly how they happened that night. The pullup top rope backflip? The 619 into the head scissors that sent Eddie over the top rope? That just happened on the spot.
When Eddie was on his A-game, all I had to do was make sure I had no wax in my ears so that I could listen to him, so he could guide me. And that night, he guided me through that match.
When Eddie left us—way, way too soon—I was heartbroken. And I truly believe within my heart that if he didn’t leave us? Who knows if I would have become world champion?
We were talking a little bit about Dominik before, and how he’s on his own journey to become a WWE Superstar. How does it feel for you to have followed in your uncle’s footsteps, to now see Dominik following in yours?
Incredible. You know, I’ve always seen my uncle as a second father. It’s been an honor for me to be able to carry on my lineage. But really, you can’t really compare the love a nephew has for his uncle, to the love a son has for his father, or for me to see my oldest son, my own blood, now following my footsteps.
Dominik loved the sport, but I never really saw a passion or a spark that would make me believe that one day, my son is going to be a wrestler. That didn’t happen until he was 19, five years ago. So to see the progress—to see how much work he’s put in and such a short amount of time—has been incredible. I’m really excited to see his growth. I love the opportunity that he’s getting, and I love him taking advantage of these opportunities.
A lot of people might think that because he’s my son, he’s been given this opportunity. Yeah, maybe he was. But at the same time, you know, I’m not holding him by the hand. He’s doing his own work, and he has to stand out on his own. I can’t do that for him.
It may have gotten his foot in the door, but now he has a name to live up to.
There’s way, way more pressure. I never felt that pressure, because my uncle was big. He did high-flying moves, but when I was given his name, my style was different. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for him. But I push him and I stay on top of him. And I tell him he has to make this better, and he has to make this look good. So there’s a lot of pressure on my end with my son. Sometimes I hate to be that father. But that’s the only way he’s going to succeed, and that’s the only way he’s going to get better.
You and Dominik are preparing for a match against The Miz and Logan Paul at Wrestlemania this year. How is that going?
It’s always been cool for WWE to bring in other athletes or celebrities into the mix and collaborate on a different scale by combining mixed matchups. Muhammad Ali, Alice Cooper, Cindy Lauper, Mike Tyson, and now Logan Paul. And when other athletes, celebrities, or influencers like Logan step into our world, they leave respecting what we do. It’s a certain appreciation that only the ones who step into that squared circle will understand. Logan will definitely appreciate. I can’t wait to enforce some 619 L.A.W on the 216!
Aside from your son, is there anyone backstage who’s up and coming that you see potential in?
Well, the locker room is stacked right now with talent. And most of the younger talent are on NXT, waiting to get an opportunity and Raw or Smackdown. But anyone that is seeking advice can always get it. They come up to me or to the Randy Ortons or to the Edges. We’re the last of our breed. Every now and then we get an Undertaker that’ll cruise by at a WrestleMania or a pay-per-view, or a Booker T.
Me personally? I don’t mind walking up and asking for advice, because you always have something new to learn. It’s always good to seek advice from those that have been around. Even if you’ve been around for years.
You’ve had eight knee surgeries over the course of your career. How do your knees feel currently?
They’ve been feeling really good. I started this treatment, which I’ve been doing since roughly around 2012, with stem cells. I did a very large treatment on my full body in 2019 in Colombia. And that has been my fountain of youth. It’s been helping me tremendously.
Obviously, my knee has been my worst problem throughout my career. Thank God and knock on wood, my back and my neck have always been stable. I’ve had two torn biceps, one on each arm. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. But this stem cell treatment has given me more years of longevity, more years to be able to do what I love and share special moments with my son in the ring. It’s given me the opportunity to keep doing what I do best.
The high flying style that you use can’t help but wear and tear on your body. You’re 47 years old now. As you get older, is there pressure to keep doing moves that might be taxing on your body, because you feel like it’s what people expect of you? Or do you adjust the way that you wrestle to maintain your health?
I’ve learned throughout the years how to adapt and make things exciting for my fans, so I can still be Rey Mysterio but not putting so much pressure on my body. I go back and watch a lot of old videos just trying to study how I ended up with so many knee surgeries, especially on the left one, because my right one is surgery-free. But I’ve learned to adjust, how to make things exciting. I don’t do things that I know are going to hurt me, but I can still do things that keep fans up on their feet.
Is it a matter of bumping flat, or studying a move to consider its long term effects?
Yeah, “bumping flat” is actually a good way to put it. Anything that I do where I land on my knees, or use a springboard motion to jump or hop, will eventually wear on me. Any move where I have to push off or land flat on my feet will affect my knees eventually. I’ve gotten away from all of those things and keep it exciting in my own way.
Do you have any additional goals in WWE? Any more mountains to climb, any more obstacles that you want to surmount?
I’ve been very happy with the career that I’ve had, and it came with so many luxuries, so many blessings, so many friends, so many moments of traveling around the world. I never thought I would be able to share my culture, my lifestyle, my family around the world, and have fans in Europe, in Istanbul, in Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. To do Tribute to the Troops. Really, there’s not much I can ask for now. You know, I just want to ride into the sunset. I’m making the best out of these last couple of years. And then I just want to watch my son’s career flourish.