On a recent episode of the Talk is Jericho podcast, Chris Jericho chatted with his longtime friend, AEW Senior Producer and Coach Dean Malenko. During their conversation, Jericho called Rey Fenix a modern-day Rey Mysterio, and Dean agreed and talked about how Fenix has developed in AEW.
“He really understands the art of selling and letting things digest with the audience,” Malenko noted. “When he first came here, he was all over the place. Slowly but surely, he’s starting to grasp it. When you’re writing something, every sentence has a period or a comma so you can stop, digest what happened [and] then go on to the next thing. Before he was just like one long book with no periods and all the words just got jammed together.
“So he’s really improved on that. You can really see the difference. He’s probably one of the top guys we have right now in the company. Every week I watch him, I just get amazed more than the previous week I see him. He has, like Rey, the rare gift of his body motions and his body language getting sympathy from the audience.”
Mysterio has expressed his respect for Malenko in the past. Malenko recalled the first time he saw Mysterio wrestle and his reaction to seeing him.
“I saw him on a tape. He was working Psicosis in Japan,” Malenko recalled. “I’m like, ‘Holy crap! Who’s this kid?’ I know Kevin Sullivan, at the time, was looking to kind of broaden the scope of the Cruiserweight Division bringing in people from all over the world. We had guys come in from Europe and Mexico, and I think I talked to Eddie [Guerrero] or Konnan and said, ‘The kid, Rey Mysterio, any chance of him coming here? I’d love to work with him,’ because it was such a different, diverse style. I’m the mat guy, and he’s the flyer.”
WCW’s Cruiserweight Division has been universally praised by everyone. Malenko recalled being Mysterio’s first match in WCW when Mysterio challenged him for the WCW Cruiserweight Title. He revealed the reaction of the WCW locker room before and after seeing Mysterio.
“We’re in Baltimore. It was the Great American Bash,” Malenko stated. “Rey just thought he was having a tryout match and just a match. He had no clue whatsoever that he was on a PPV until after the fact, and I remember walking in the locker room and Sting, Lex [Luger] and all the big guys were almost laughing like you got to be kidding me. This kid got a driver’s license.
“He’s like 12 years old. He’s 100 pounds. In their head, he’s gonna embarrass them. [Kevin] Nash was there, and [Scott] Hall was there. They were on the stage, and when he came back through, it was probably the first and maybe only time I’ve ever seen a locker room stand up and give a guy a standing ovation. At that time in the business, there wasn’t the Rey Fenix’s. There wasn’t all those guys. Rey was the guy.”
Malenko later spoke more on Mysterio’s development. He recalls the advice Eddie Guerrero gave to Mysterio whenever he and Mysterio wrestled.
“One thing that I’ve always said and I’ve always talked about is that when the audience is clapping, cheering and screaming, you can’t tell if those cheers are for a guy that’s 5’2″, 6’2″, 7’2″. No, you’re cheering because the guy’s incredible at what he does. Rey really caught on quick, and I think a lot of it was Eddie telling him, ‘If you work with Dean, listen to Dean.’ I would hold him down. ‘Not yet.’ I kind of got him so he was selling everything and taking his time in between all the spectacular moves that he’s doing so we get the maximum benefit from the audience, and man, he just caught on like fire.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.