The Royal Rumble is a marathon, not a sprint, and with miles under his belt and no signs of slowing down, WWE Superstar Rey Mysterio enters the 2021 Royal Rumble ready to prove that he has what it takes to go the distance once again.
His story is legendary: From global promotions in Mexico and Japan to ECW, WCW to WWE, Rey is used to doing extraordinary things. After winning the 2006 Royal Rumble [entering at number 2 and setting a record 1:02:12 in-ring time], countless career defining matches, the Triple Crown winner and man of a thousand masks is ready for more. Ahead of one of the biggest PPVs of the year, we talked to Mysterio about the Royal Rumble, life in the Thunderdome, and the creation of a one-of-a-kind Victoria mask created in collaboration with the WWE and maskmaker Masahiro Hayashi.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Royal Rumble 2006, you won and broke the record, here we are in 2021 on Royal Rumble weekend. Is it still that same kind of weird energy? What does it feel like now that you’ve got your son Dom in the mix? Is it more pressure or just a regular day?
I try not to let the pressure hit me but for some reason, it always just creeps in, you know, into my mind and then it goes all the way down to my stomach and I start getting butterflies. Overall, you know, at this stage of my life, I try to enjoy moments more than I used to. Just because you're prepared, you've been there already so you know, everything's gonna be good and I'm just trying to soak in these moments that I get to live with my son. Not a lot of parents get to say that they work together with their kids, especially in the profession that we're in. We get to travel together, get to ride on cars together, we stay at the same hotels, we have breakfast, we work out, we're like best buds and it's just such a cool feeling. [But] That nervousness, that jitteriness never goes away, even after 30 plus years.
The last show that I went to was the March 3, 2020 Raw at Barclays. I got to see you in action and it was amazing. Fast forward a week later and it’s all shut down. Can you talk through what it was like to prepare for a completely different way of performing?
It's been really crazy and very hard at the beginning, trying to adapt, trying to step into a ring when there's no fans around. Now we have the bubble or [Thunder] dome, which at least we can see the fans and they can see us and you kind of play off of [the] monitors.
I want to say I might have been the first match on Raw during the pandemic that was the first match televised. I believe we kind of kicked off the show for Raw that day and the first match on the card was me and Andrade so it just felt very weird. Very awkward. It felt like you were auditioning for a part in a wrestling movie, you know?
Overall, we've managed to get through it. As time has gone by, nine months later, we create this connection between us the Superstars and the fans. I think if this is the future for the next, I don't know, year, year and a half because we have to say “No, this is gonna get better, things are gonna get better.” Now we have a vaccine. When are we going to start having fans inside the arenas? NFL is doing it, Major League Baseball was doing it, so I think now, it's our turn, because me, personally, I feed off the energy from the fans.
There's a lot of fanfare around pay-per-views. It's a chance for performers like Johnny Gargano, Seth Rollins, Alexa Bliss, The New Day, to bust out these great superhero inspired costumes. With so many of you guys being comic book nerds, is there some kind of coordination so it doesn't look like Comic Con in the locker room?
I don’t know if I was one of the first to recreate outfits that had to do with superhero things. I was doing this back in Mexico in my AAA days. You know, I remember I would use the Batman colors and I would use the Batman logo with the question mark or a crown in the center. So you know, I’ve just been very inspired by [such] characters that you see in comics and in movies. But now you're able to bring that to life inside the ring and look like a real life superhero in a way, but something that the fans can relate to as well. The wrestling fans, the majority are comic fans or superhero fans. So there's definitely a strong connection there.
You have John Cena showing up in Suicide Squad you got Sasha over in Star Wars, is there a fandom that you want to be in?
I've never really thought about it. I'm just such a big fan that I just look at it from the outside and I never put myself in a certain position but I think if I had to pick I would probably be Robin.
Which Robin: Tim Drake or Dick Grayson?
Tim. Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I did grow up on the Batman comic series. Now if I had a pick a heel character Well, I'm a big question guy, I might even go with the Riddler.
Are you reading or watching anything now that’s getting you through your days off?
No, I've been watching a lot of documentaries like Netflix documentaries. I saw the last Wonder Woman movie that came out which I wasn't a big fan of. I like the first one much better but nothing in particular right now.
I'm always fascinated by wrestling documentaries, would you ever want to do something around American Lucha and the culture and how Lucha has transformed the way we see wrestling?
I think that would be an awesome documentary. It would explain the roots of lucha libre, which taps into the early 1930’s [even] the culture behind the masks, you know how, who the first masked wrestler was in Mexico in the 1930’s. How El Santo became El Santo and [became] so cinematic all the way up until now in 2021. You know, Rey Mysterio, who was my inspiration and tapping into who I've inspired and what the future looks like in the next 20 to 30 years. That would be incredible.
Obviously, the Royal Rumble is a big chance to make a statement. You’re always making huge statements with your masks. So I noticed you're wearing something special. Can you tell me a little bit about what you got going on there.
So today we ‘unmasked’ the connection [and] partnership with Victoria, an iconic and legendary beer has been around for so long where we tie connections with WWE and Rey Mysterio. [We’re] tapping into the roots of the Hispanic heritage and decided to come up with a custom mask, one of one, so you will not see another one out there anywhere.
What we did is we used the Victoria colors on the mask. We picked yellow as the base material, which is velvet and we put the yellow on top of the Falcon. It's almost like this mustard-y yellow, like between a red and a burgundy which [is like] the logo on a bottle. It’s like you're seeing the colors here on the mask.On the front we just had to throw on the Victoria logo, which represents, obviously, an iconic beer. I think I'd like to consider myself as an iconic wrestler and I think I've left my trademark in the wrestling industry. So it's all right here. The mask speaks for itself.
The Mohawk is the best part. What’s the secret to maintaining that?
The mohawk was a design that my uncle used to rock back in the mid 80’s. I’ve always been a big fan of it even when I started to wrestle, back in ‘91, I would put mohawks on my mask. For some reason, when I came back to WWE I said, “I’ve got to change up my gear again. I can't come back and be the same Rey Mysterio” so I decided to bring back the mohawk. Now that everything that was cool back in the day is being brought back, I thought the mohawk was part of it. It definitely puts a stamp on the Rey Mysterio mask.
Travis Scott had the Cactus Jack capsule, The Undertaker had the Snoop Dogg collab. Everything seems to come back to wrestling, no matter what.
I could be mistaken, but I think Ric Flair opened up that channel for us. You know, he was talking about the bling, that jet flying, the limousines. Most hip-hop rap lyrics relate to a certain lifestyle, you know, to what you like to represent, how tough your life was and how good you're living now. So with that connection, I think that definitely it just became very mainstream. A lot of rappers over the years who grew up watching wrestling as well, you know, have thrown bars in there where they talk about their favorite wrestlers. Still to this day, even with the new generation Lil Uzi [Vert] throws in that Rey Mysterio shout out, which, you know, is that connection. It is definitely like superheroes and wrestling.
You got Bad Bunny performing "Booker T" at the Royal Rumble.
Yeah. it's incredible.
I grew up in the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras. When you look at what Latino Heat did, what you've been doing with the family dynasty, seeing the diversity in the locker room and in the ring, what’s that feeling like? Do you feel like you're kind of changing the world a little bit?
I definitely feel like we were part of the pioneers or a big piece of pioneers that revolutionized the sport in general [alongside] Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera and Eddie Guerrero. I can even throw in Chris Jericho because he was in Mexico back in the early 90’s, so he even picked up that lucha libre vibe and brought it back to the U.S. So the fact that we revolutionized the sport and we were doing something at the time that we never thought would be the future of wrestling. We spoke about it. They said, ‘eventually that's what the fans are going to ask for’ and here we are in 2021.
I see the style that goes down in the ring. Oh My God. Now to me, it seems like it's so fast paced, it's hard for me to keep up, so I try my best but I see [Johnny] Gargano...Ricochet, I see the future of this industry, right there, you know, including my son. My son is still learning as he grows and he still has a lot to learn. There is a very bright future for these young Superstars.
Does anybody run up to you the first time they see you walk into the locker room?
I think they try to contain themselves but I take that as a huge compliment. For some reason it doesn't hit me or I don't walk around like, I am the shit or I think that that I did this I did that I just peers coming up to me, it humbles me, and it makes me realize how much this has changed and how cool it is to now work with young talent that grew up watching at some point.