Rey Mysterio had plans to retire at 50.
The World Wrestling Entertainment star is now 47 and has enjoyed a career spanning more than three decades. He is known for his high-flying lucha libre wrestling style, which he helped popularise in the US.
However, the high-calibre level of this acrobatic technique can be difficult on the body and he always feared he wouldn't have a long career, especially given the number of injuries he's sustained. Now, it seems all thoughts of hanging up his mask have been pushed aside — at least for the moment.
“Obviously, times change and your train of thought changes as you get older. Having my son Dominik become a part of WWE changed my outcome and the number that I was looking at," he tells The National. "Since the beginning, I've never enjoyed things as much as I am during this phase of my career."
He is speaking during a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the Gamers8 festival, which gives him a chance to connect with the sport's global fanbase. And, despite the taxing round-the-world promotional work, as well as the stunts in the ring, Mysterio has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.
“My body feels great. My mind feels great. Right now, I'm not even thinking of a number," he says. "I'm just enjoying every day as it happens and getting the most out of it. I'm sure that eventually my body is going to say: ‘Okay, now's the time, don't go any further.' And, that's when I'm going to decide to push everything behind. But I'm enjoying the moment right now.”
Mysterio made his wrestling debut in Mexico in 1989, at the age of 14, before joining the now defunct World Championship Wrestling in the mid-1990s where he made a name for himself in the cruiserweight division. After WCW was sold in 2001, he competed as an independent wrestler, working for different promotions in Mexico.
In 2002, he signed with the WWE and later made his debut on SmackDown in a match against Chavo Guerrero. His first tenure with the company would last until 2015 when his contract expired.
“I left because I was just tired physically, mentally and I just wanted to reconnect with my family. But I always knew that I wanted to come back and I wanted to retire in the WWE,” he says. “My career was definitely going to end in WWE, no matter what.”
He shocked many with a return at the 2018 Royal Rumble as a surprise entrant. Although there are other wrestling promotions he could have gone to, Mysterio says that there was never any doubt he’d eventually return one day, especially considering that his son Dominik now wrestles alongside him.
“I never really had any desire to go anywhere else. It has always been the WWE," he says. "Now I know the WWE has always been my home.
"And, not only for me, but for my son as well and for my family. You know, we've been part of the WWE brand for 20 years. And, it's once you get to know family, you just don't turn away from them.”
However, despite the longevity he’s had with the WWE, Mysterio is now also experiencing something new with the company: a change in leadership.
In July, long-time chairman and chief executive Vince McMahon retired amid an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct. His daughter Stephanie McMahon is now the chairwoman and shares chief executive duties with Nick Khan. Meanwhile her husband Paul Levesque, the retired wrestler better known as Triple H, has taken over as executive vice president for talent relations and head of creative — a change many fans are keen on.
“The one thing I can say and I can answer it straight from my heart, and from the changes that I've seen in the past two weeks, is the position that Triple H has, and the rest of their crew including Stephanie McMahon, Bruce Prichard, Nick Khan, is a very, very difficult position to overcome,” he says.
“But I think it's in the hands of the right people without a doubt. And if there's anyone that's willing to make a change for the better is the guys that are in charge right now. So I truly believe we are in good hands.
“Triple H wants nothing but the best for this business, in this industry and for this company. Now, it's going to be up to us to put in the work to help them take it to the next level.”
For his trip to Riyadh, Mysterio has brought along his wife Angie, who is experiencing the kingdom for the first time. While the wrestler is no stranger to the Middle East, having come to the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the past, he says he’s always in awe of the fans he gets to meet in the region.
“Through WWE, I was given the opportunity to demonstrate Lucha Libre around the world. But I would have never thought that in Saudi Arabia, fans were going to enjoy watching Lucha Libre and Ray Mysterio, in particular, so that has really blown my mind,” he says.
“And, not only me, when I talked to my wife, when I talk to my son and my daughter, we put those things into perspective and go: ‘Wow, that was really incredible and unbelievable to be able to reach an audience, all the way on the other side of the world’.
"I'm very thankful for not only the support that the fans give me, but the support that they now give my son, because now there's a legacy that will continue with the Mysterios. I'm very thankful from the heart and I hope to get to see you all soon."