By Kiko Martinez
At 5’6 and 160 lbs., Rey Mysterio isn’t what you would consider your typical professional wrestler.
Still, Mysterio, who was raised in San Diego, is doing for the WWE what 5’7 NBA dunk champion Spud Webb did for professional basketball and 5’8 NFL Hall-of-Fame running back Barry Sanders did for professional football standing up for the little guy and relying on his heart, dedication and determination to succeed. He’s proven this by winning the competitive Royal Rumble in 2002 and becoming the WWE Heavyweight Champion in 2006 at WrestleMania XXII.
Although he will not be able to compete at this year’s WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, which will broadcast live on Pay-Per-View March 30, Mysterio is still a major part of the event. Over the last month, he has been training undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his first wrestling match. Reminiscent of David and Goliath, Mayweather, who is about the same size as Mysterio, will fight against the 7’0, 450 giant know as the Big Show.
During a phone interview, Mysterio, 33, talked about when he plans on returning to the ring, what he thinks Mayweather’s chances are to win the fight, and what message he like to give kids who might think they are too little to play a sport they love.
How is your health? I know you had surgery a few weeks ago to repair a torn bicep.
Yeah, it was going well until last week. Unfortunately the incision got infected so we had to go back in there and do another surgery and clean out and disinfect it. As of now, it’s looking a lot better than it was.
So, with the setback, has the timetable changed to when you want to be able to get back into the ring?
I’ve been through several surgeries on my left knee, which, to me, is one of the worst surgeries. I think the bicep tear and my rehab for this is going to be a lot sooner. I want to push it up to about three or four months. I’ll be happy with that.
Now that you’re out of commission for a while, you’ve had an opportunity to train Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his first wrestling match. What has the experience been like taking a professional boxer and turning him into a professional wrestler?
Ah, man it was great. Boxing has a lot of physical contact but it’s only with your gloves. Wrestling is totally different. You have to move, run, and hit the ropes. I hope that he picks it up. He’s a smart individual and will use what I taught him in his match against the Big Show. I told him I had wrestled against Big Show many times, so I think Mayweather has a very good chance.
Do you think it’s easy for athletes to jump from sport to sport like this? We’re watching Mayweather do it now. A few months ago we saw wrestler Brock Lesner fight in the first Mixed Martial Arts match of his career.
I think its natural for people that want to take that risk. Is it easy? No, it’s definitely not. You saw the results of Brock’s first match in the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. We’ve seen it in football players try to jump over to wrestling. I think it’s definitely a difficult transition. I can’t even imagine going from wrestling to boxing.
You’ve made it clear that you are very disappointed you’re not going to be competing at WrestleMania XXIV because of your injury. How do you get through the next week knowing this and then having to walk into the Citrus Bowl in Orlando as only a spectator?
It really hurt me especially when they told me I needed surgery. It was a very hard decision but I opted to get surgery. I wasn’t part of WresteMania last year either because of my knee surgery so it was really hard to accept. At this point I just put myself in God’s hands and learn how to suck it up and be a man and worry about next year’s WrestleMania.
What do you bring into the ring that is unique as a Latino wrestler?
What I bring into the ring is definitely something that no one else can bring, and that’s being Rey Mysterio. There’s going to be imitators out there but there’s never going to be duplicators. The beautiful thing is when guys want to be like me. That, to me, is an honor.
And I’m sure kids look up to you, too, because you have accomplished so much and are smaller than your average wrestler.
Yeah, they see my size and my weight and see I’m not one of those big guys. I always get someone saying, “Hey, Rey, I got much respect for you because of what you do and because you’re a little dude.” That makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m crossing barriers that haven’t been crossed before. It happens to kids all the time. They don’t want you to play because you are too fat or too skinny. Forget all that. It’s about what you have inside.