Rey Mysterio Says He Has "So Much Respect" For Dean Malenko

A incomparable luchador in the sport, Rey Mysterio has cemented a legacy that has forever changed the industry as we know it. Throughout his 30-year career, Mysterio has shared the ring with the most innovative athletes to step in the square circle. One of those men happens to be the "Man of 1,000 Holds" Dean Malenko.

As a guest on this week's episode of WWE's The Bump, the panel and Mysterio looked back on two important rivals he's had during his Cruiserweight run in WCW over 20 years ago. The first one they discussed was his rivalry with Malenko back in 1996, a time when Mysterio was just starting out in the company. Mysterio mentions how he owes a lot of gratitude to Malenko for being a helpful mentor to his early rising career.

"Dean was the first guy that took me in when I went to WCW. The Great American Bash was actually my first tryout match in WCW," Mysterio mentioned. "There was definitely a connection right off the bat. Dean had already been – numerous times – to Japan and did the J-Cup. So, you know, I think the size and the weight difference and him wanting to learn and do a little more Lucha, as well as being around Eddie [Guerrero] and [Chris] Jericho, it definitely gave him a different vision of what could really happen with that Lucha Libre style.

"I tip my mask off to Dean because he was the one that kind of held me by the hand and took me along the way. I learned so much from him. I have so much respect, and I love that man very, very much."

Just two days ago, Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero celebrated their captivating Halloween Havoc match from 1997, where fans saw both men compete in a "Mask vs. Title" match for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Having only shared the ring three or four times before this said match, Mysterio says the chemistry the fans saw was nothing short of an impromptu classic between the two of them.

"It's very special! On Monday, we celebrated 23 years [since] that match; it brought back a lot of memories," he said joyfully. "I knew Eddie very well. I had the opportunity to share the ring with him three or four times. The connection was already there without a doubt because I had the opportunity to work Eddie in Mexico. We already knew our styles, but the meaning of that match and the tension going into the ring that night was on another level.

"I had the weight of having my mask taken off. The decision was changed, [but] I was nervous as hell. I asked Eddie, 'What are we going to do?' He said, 'Aw Rey, just open your ears and listen to me.' A lot of things that happened that night and the magic we created was on the fly. That's what makes it even more special."

Mysterio believes that if he and Guerrero never had their Halloween Havoc match, we may have never seen Mysterio win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship nine years later at WrestleMania 22.

"Every time they ask me what's my favorite match, I like to use the world title match at WrestleMania 22 because that was a historical moment for me. But, without this match at Halloween Havoc, there probably wouldn't have been a WrestleMania 22 for me," he implied. "So, this is the one that definitely gives me more pride and honor. I feel truly blessed to have been part of that event and to present this match to fans around the world. We tried to recreate that magic several times, but it just didn't happen. I think that's why this match is even more special."

Following their success over the years, Mysterio is proud to have been part of the rise of Lucha Libre in American wrestling. He wishes that Guerrero was still alive today to see the strides he created in this business.

"I think it definitely opened up the viewership for the fans," he replied. "They were accepting this new style that was coming in. [I also] think it opened the gateway for future generations yet to come. To say we have Santos Escobar, another Latino that is a Cruiserweight champ after 23 years– I think the direction that we put on that match definitely has been a barrier opening for younger talent.

"I wish he was still here, you know, so he can receive all this ovation from the fans and he can understand how much it meant 23 years later. I'm sure he is from the heavens."

You can watch Rey Mysterio's full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE's The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.