I grew up being a pro-wrestling fan. It took me years to realize that professional wrestling is more entertainment than sports; that the matches are rehearsed like a stage play. But it wasn't just the body slamming, elbow dropping or head butting moves that got me hooked. It was more of the colorful characters of the wrestlers that they played out in the ring. They were, to me, like real life superheroes.
My favorite of all time is Bret "Hitman" Hart, the one they called the "Excellence of Execution" and "The Best there is, the Best there was, and the Best there ever will be." His signature finishing-move is a submission hold called the "sharp-shooter," ergo, the name of my blog (in case you're wondering if I thought of myself as a sharp-shooter in basketball, or if I were a huge fan of Allan Caidic, which I am). I liked the Hitman because he used tactics to overcome opponents twice his size. Bret introduced so many moves in pro-wrestling like the Russian leg-sweep, pendulum back-breaker, and the swinging neck-breaker. In the 1990's, Bret became the biggest star in pro-wrestling as he slowly eclipsed the bigger grapplers like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Razor Ramon and Kevin Nash a.k.a Diesel.
Then came the era of the high-flyers, in the early 2000's. From mid-sized superstars like Hart and Shawn Michaels, the trend slowly shifted to more acrobatic moves that involved amazing stunts not usually seen in traditional pro-wrestling. And these were usually executed by small-sized performers, who can easily carry themselves and summersault from the top of the ropes. Yes, smaller than Bret, who is just 6'1" as opposed to the common 6'6" and above characters. These high-flyers were common in Mexico, which is passionate about pro-wrestling. The style was called "Lucha Libre," and the performers were known as "Luchadores." And the biggest name of them all is Rey Mysterio.
When the chance to interview a legit WWE superstar came, I immediately grabbed it. Mysterio entered big-time pro-wrestling (WCW and WWF) at a time when I was slowly losing interest in it since I was getting too old for it, and Hart's popularity was slowly fading. But Mysterio became an instant star and so he was one of the last "sports entertainers" I got familiar with, before I shifted to watching the UFC.
So when I entered the Manila Peninsula room reserved for the media interviews, I got my first up-close look at a true celebrity pro-wrestler. And there he was, the mysterious masked man, known as Rey Mysterio to millions of WWE fans worldwide. Yes, he was wearing his famous mask bearing a big crucifix, as he is a devout Catholic.
The mask kept him mysterious, and he wore it everywhere he went. Part of the mystery was how he managed to subdue some giants in the ring. But I got a glimpse of the man behind the mask. And he wasn't so mysterious after all.
Oscar Gutierrez in real life, the 37-year old wrestling superstar is credited for popularizing the high-flying acrobatics in pro-wrestling, which paved the way for the creation of the cruiserweight and lightweight divisions. Today, even the larger and heavier wrestlers adopt some stunts from their lighter counterparts just to add spice to their usual routines.
But from the cruiserweight division, which he held five times, Mysterio collected numerous championships including the World Heavyweight Championship twice. In the WWE alone, he has held at least six other titles.
Mysterio followed the footsteps of his uncle, Rey Mysterio Sr. "When I was a young boy, I grew up around him. He was the first family member to start this profession. Next thing you know, I was in the ring at the age of 8 years old," said Mysterio, who entered mainstream pro-wrestling as Rey Mysterio Jr. From promotions in Mexico, he went to the United States and tried his luck in the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), then in the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) chief rival World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Soon after, the WWF acquired Ted Turner's WCW, and with it was its budding star Mysterio. A few years later, both organizations merged to form the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). In 2002, Mysterio dropped the "Junior" from his name and settled with just "Rey Mysterio."
One of his best buddies was fellow superstar Eddie Guerrero, who died of heart failure in 2005. Guerrero was one of Rey's biggest idols, whom he would team up with later in his career. "I grew up watching Eddie. Who would've known than 10, 15 years down the line we were gonna end up in the same ring." Mysterio's 1997 bout with Guerrero in Las Vegas was voted by fans as "Match of the Year."
Another close friend is six-time world champion Filipino-American Batista, or David Michael Bautista Jr. in real life. "I ended up fighting against him towards the end of his career in the WWE. But he was definitely one of the cast that I love being in the ring with."
Mysterio has two children with wife Angie — 15-year old Dominik and 11-year old Aalyah. "I really do believe that my son might want to be a wrestler eventually. He has told me in the past that he wanted to go to college in Florida and maybe join the WWE camp there. I told him that if he gets me good grades, he can do whatever he wants. Education comes first."
The multi-titled Mysterio came to Manila for a few days to promote the WWE shows on Fox channel here. He also met some kids in a workshop called the "Bully Buster," where Mysterio demonstrated some of his signature moves that contained even larger opponents. "It's been very enjoyable here. I love coming out here. I love the fans here, without a doubt. Mexicans and Filipinos have so much in common that we click very easily," said the wrestler known as the "Giant Killer," who also admitted being a fan of Manny Pacquiao.
Mysterio intends to continue with the pro-wrestling business for about five more years. "I will take anything that comes up that's thrown at me. I'm always up for anything. Whether it's acting or chasing the WWE Heavyweight title again. I just want to make things happen and move slowly, patiently, but stronger."
Without a doubt, Mysterio remains to be among the most exciting to watch in the business. His finishing move known as the 619 (tiger feint kick to the head) is one of the most loved by fans.
After the interview, Mysterio shook my hand and gladly posed for a photo shoot with me. But if he is truly 5'6" as listed in the WWE, then I must be 5'7".
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.