Friday, January 29, 2010

Behind the Mask

So it's early 1996. I'm a college senior and it's Monday night. I've got nowhere to be and I'm a bit bored, so I'm flipping channels when I stumble across a professional wrestling show. Much to my surprise, I see that Hulk Hogan is wrestling.

My immediate thought is, Hulk Hogan is still wrestling?!?

The show ended on a cliffhanger and it intrigued me enough to tune in the next week to see what happened. Before I knew it, I was watching WCW Monday Nitro regularly, but not because of Hulk Hogan.

No, I was watching because of Rey Mysterio, Jr.

He's called the human highlight reel for a reason. He was incredible. This was back when he was in his early twenties and in great shape, doing all sorts of crazy aerial moves. I still remember the moment I became his fan. He was wrestling someone and his opponent went for a clothesline. Rey grabbed his opponent's outstretched arm and used it almost like a trapeze, swinging himself around his opponent's body so he could get his legs around his opponent's neck, which led to a head-scissors takedown.

This whole series of events took exactly half a second, if I recall correctly, so fast that I could barely have blinked.

I've followed Rey's career off and on since then. I was thrilled when he came to the WWE. I was psyched that he won the World Heavyweight Championship. So naturally, I was stoked to read Behind the Mask, Rey's autobiography.

I'm not so excited anymore.

To put it bluntly, this was something of a boring read. I did learn a bit about lucha libre and the culture of Mexican wrestling, which was cool. I learned about how Rey trained with his uncle, the original Rey Mysterio, how he broke into the business way earlier than most would (if I recall correctly, it was when he was fourteen).

But as the book dragged on, I got more and more frustrated. I've read other wrestling autobiographies in the past and loved them, but that's only when they pull the curtain back and show us the inner workings of the profession. How are decisions made? How are matches put together? What goes on backstage at a show and what stories don't we know about?

Sadly, Rey doesn't give much in that regard. He had a few short tales to tell about his time in ECW, but that was it. He mostly gave us match recaps, who did what and when and, he did it almost in a way that made it sound like we were supposed to think the matches were "real," so to speak. In many ways, it was almost like the story was being written by the character of Rey Mysterio, the man who comes out on camera and puts on the match. It was like he didn't want to break kayfabe, which is kind of the point of a book like this. We didn't see much of what happened behind the mask, which is pretty ironic given the title.

The few times we did drift backstage, it was bland and kind of predictable. Rey apparently was a saint who never had any beefs with anybody backstage. He says many times that he heard that some people think that Wrestler X was hard to get along with, but he never had any problems with him. Uh huh. Right.

It may sound odd, but what frustrated me the most was how thin the chapter on Eddie Guerrero and Rey's run with the World Heavyweight Championship was. There was very little there.

In the end, this book wasn't all that great. But that doesn't mean I'll stop being one of Rey's fans.

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