In one sense this is saddening. As Rey Misterio Jr he was at one time numbered among the greatest high-flying wrestlers in the world. A look at pretty much any of his work in AAA and WCW bears that out. He entered dynamic performances notable for their dazzling aerial moves and breakneck speed. Before even turning up in WWE Rey had a string of classics to his name with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Ultimo Dragon, Psicosis, Blitzkrieg, and Dean Malenko.
Rey's move to WWE gave his career a shot in the arm after it had lagged in WCW’s final years. After sitting out the poorly received invasion angle (Rey was paid by Time Warner after WCW shut down, as were various other personalities) Rey moved to WWE just as they launched their separate rosters initiative. It was perfect timing for him: with SmackDown only having access to half of the promotion's top stars the twenty eight year old Rey (now going by the name Rey Mysterio) was immediately presented as a rising star.
Although he altered his style to be more compatible with WWE’s it was still unlike anything that had been presented by the company in years. Coupled with his natural charisma and marketable look Rey was a success almost instantly. His first few years with the company were characterised by memorable interactions with the likes of Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and old foe Eddie Guerrero.
Mysterio had a good run in WWE. He was consistently presented as a top act for many years and worked opposite practically every major name in the company in meaningful programmes. He took the smart approach of altering his style as his went, phasing out things such as his springboard hurricanrana and replacing them with moves like his springboard leg drop in order to preserve his body. His merchandise continued to sell well too. Even now he's amongst the top sellers in WWE, thanks mainly to his masks.
|"Come in number 619, your time is up."|
But nothing lasts forever, as alluded to in the opening paragraph. Despite taking the necessary precautions Mysterio's style started to catch up to him and he became synonymous not with being an incredible high-flying attraction and top tier all-rounder but with being massively unreliable and permanently injured. When he wasn’t taking a lengthy break for surgery, "personal situations" or a general rest Rey was entering performances that would have embarrassed him a decade earlier.
The boos Rey heard at Royal Rumble, and again in his battle royal appearance at WrestleMania XXX and the April 7 RAW, was the audience's way of saying that they're tired of Rey Mysterio. I agree with them, as I've written before. Mysterio should retire while he's still capable of getting close to the high standard he set for himself throughout much of his career. The perfect time for that would be at next year's WrestleMania XXXI. It will be held in Santa Clara, California, Mysterio's home state. A man of his standing deserves to go out with a retirement match at WrestleMania, especially if it's in an area particularly meaningful to them or their career. There's no better place for Rey to retire, and enter the Hall of Fame, than California.
But right now that's still a year away. WWE could simply keep Rey off TV until early next year, bringing him back to work a two or three month story culminating in his last outing at 'Mania opposite a rising star who'd benefit from defeating him. But I'd like to see them do something different, something I first suggested years ago when I started writing this blog (read that here).
Turn Rey Mysterio heel.
As I wrote when I first suggested this it's a move that would allow Rey to wrestle a slower, less demanding style. It would also give him something different to do and a fresh batch of opponents to work against. Obviously a heel turn would have to be negated before his retirement angle in order for him to get the send-off he deserves, but that could be achieved easily enough by having him lose a feud in autumn and disappear for a few months, ensuring he could return healthy in 2015 for a face switch and a final farewell run.
One thing's for sure: if Mysterio keeps up his current comings and goings much longer he's going to risk eroding the good memories many have of the bulk of his career, which would mean being remembered as another guy who outlived his welcome and use. Retiring in the next year preserves Rey's health and legacy. Frankly, it's the only sensible option.