"Ladies and gentleman," Michael Cole joyously announced, "dreams do come true!" The crowd roared with jubilation as underdog Rey Mysterio overcame all obstacles to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 22.
Despite the massive support from fans, it wasn’t originally in the plans for Mysterio to win the title. To understand how things fell into place, we look back at how the events unfolded and the people involved.
Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and the Fight for Dominik
Dating back to his days in WCW, Rey Mysterio put on instant classics with Chris Jericho, Psicosis, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero. Mysterio and Guerrero, in particular, put on a barnburner at Halloween Havoc ’96, where they had a unique match stipulation: either Mysterio is unmasked, or Guerrero loses his title.
The original plan was for Mysterio to lose, but he wasn’t going to lose a part of his legacy, so the result got flipped in his favor.
Fast forward to 2002, the setting was changed, and Rey Mysterio was now ascending from the ground in his WWE debut on SmackDown.
With his original "619" theme in tow, his athleticism was on full display as he defeated Eddie’s nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr. with a springboard to obtain his first victory in the company.
Outside of the ring, Mysterio had a strong relationship with the Guerrero family. However, storyline-wise, things would take a bitter turn between Eddie and Rey in 2003. Mysterio’s family would get involved, and Eddie Guerrero would claim Dominik was his son and not Rey’s.
Eddie played his role well as he showed up on the titantron reading to Dominik, including a controversial segment on a playground.
As seen in the clip above, Eddie took Rey’s son and began playing with him, telling him that he was his real daddy. This provoked Rey enough to agree on a ladder match with Eddie where the custody of Dominik was on the line.
Although the match missed a cue early on, Eddie’s wife Vickie would eventually come down to the ring, ensuring that Eddie didn’t get the victory.
The intensity between all participants resembled rivalries to come, where family is intertwined, and the envelope is pushed.
Winning the 2006 Royal Rumble
On November 5th, 2005, shockwaves of grief swept throughout the wrestling world after Eddie Guerrero passed away due to heart failure.
Heading into the Royal Rumble a few months later, Rey Mysterio’s heart was heavy as he chose his entry number for the Royal Rumble as the crowd chanted out, "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie."
Looking at his fortune and then to the heavens, Rey responded, "Eddie, you got me, man."
The WWE Universe wouldn’t find out what number he pulled until the Royal Rumble pay-pay-view.
Following an entry from Triple H as entrant number 1, Rey Mysterio came out with a tribute to Eddie Guerrero at number 2.
Driving a convertible and pumping the hydraulics down the aisle to roaring applause, Mysterio held a shirt with his friend’s face on it.
To avenge Eddie’s passing and win the Royal Rumble, the cruiserweight had to outlast twenty-nine other competitors.
The final three standing would be Rey Mysterio, Triple H, and Randy Orton.
The luchador eliminated Triple H first after getting spinebustered into the ring post. He was now alone with the Legend Killer.
In a record-breaking (at the time) 1 hour and 2 minutes, Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble after eliminating Randy Orton.
"Latino Heat is alive and well," proclaimed commentator Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler as Mysterio pointed to the heavens in the ring following his victory.
The Controversial Eddie Guerrero Promo by Randy Orton
On the following SmackDown on February 3rd, 2006, Randy Orton interrupted Rey Mysterio’s Royal Rumble victory celebration by cutting a slimy promo on Eddie Guerrero.
"You’re looking up towards the heavens like you’re looking at Eddie; like you’re looking for Eddie," raged Orton. "Let me tell you something, bro. Eddie ain’t in Heaven. Eddie’s down there in Hell."
In response, Rey gave him a cheap shot, and refs needed to get involved.
Speaking to Kurt Angle and Conrad Thompson in episode 14 of The Kurt Angle Show, Orton explained he was not at all comfortable with using the tragic passing of Eddie Guerrero as part of the storyline.
"100% was not comfortable with [using Eddie’s death in the promo]," Orton explained.
"Rey assured me that it’s something that Eddie would have wanted, and even still, Rey and I went to Vickie [Guerrero].
"Vickie gave us her blessing and she said the same thing: ‘Eddie would have wanted to help you guys in this manner.’"
Randy continued, "If [Eddie] could have used his death in some way to help the business, as morbid as that sounds, he would have wanted us to do it. Especially with Rey being involved.
"So although it was a horrible tragedy and we lost a friend, it was something that helped me along my way in my career, and a lot of people, as a bad guy talking about that, that’s heat. It worked, and it helped with the angle between Rey and me.
"Looking back, it will always be something that was a little – there were a lot of things I’ve done in my career that have made me uncomfortable, I think we can all agree on that. That, in particular, was something that I put at the top of that list."
Rey Mysterio and His Unlikely Journey to Become WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 22
As Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio were the last two competitors standing in the Royal Rumble, the battle for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship became a triple threat match at WrestleMania 22. Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle vs. "Legend Killer" Randy Orton vs. the "Master of 619" Rey Mysterio.
In an 18-minute battle, Rey Mysterio walked away victorious, and his emotional journey to becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion was complete.
A 5’6″ cruiserweight grabbed the brass ring Vince McMahon always covets but had Eddie not passed away, the fate of Mysterio would have played out differently.
Instead, according to Bruce Prichard, it was planned for Latino Heat to face Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 22.
“It was kicked around as a possibility because [Shawn Michaels and Eddie Guerrero] never worked together. That was, at least in my head, a dream match,” Prichard admitted. “That was one of those that I definitely would love to have seen.”
Michaels had just had a classic match with Kurt Angle at the prior WrestleMania. With Guerrero sadly gone, WWE wound up putting Michaels in a religious storyline with Vince McMahon culminating in their No Holds Barred Match at WrestleMania 22.
As for Rey, he likely would have ended up competing in the Money in the Bank match, and a win was unlikely.
Had things played out this way, where would this put the title picture, and what ripple effect would it have had on the rest of the roster?
Kurt Angle, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, may have faced the Undertaker. In his revealing Reddit “Ask Me Anything” Session, Angle opened up about how Undertaker recommended to Vince McMahon that Angle should be the one to break his WrestleMania streak. Could this have happened at WrestleMania 22? One can only speculate.
Instead, the dominoes fell into place for Rey Mysterio to get his time in the spotlight.
A tragedy turned into a title celebration, as real-life events caused the powers that be to have the WWE World Heavyweight Champion put on Rey Mysterio.
Organic pushes are rarely like WWE bookings, and since Mysterio’s championship win in 2006, only a few have grabbed that brass ring. From Zack Ryder, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, and Becky Lynch, superstars can change the company’s direction when given a proper push from the crowd.
Redemption stories happen throughout WWE history, and some even begin at the Royal Rumble like Rey Mysterio. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2011/2021, and despite not winning originally, Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 30.
When WWE intertwines reality with their storyline, organic plans take shape rather than a forced appetite of one or two superstars.
Dominik and Rey Mysterio Today, and Beyond
Having accomplished his dream of becoming WWE World Heavyweight Champion in 2006, he would capture the title again in 2010, followed by the WWE Championship the following year in July 2011.
Years later, Rey Mysterio achieved another dream.
In 2019, Rey’s son Dominik made his WWE debut against Seth Rollins.
Aside from a rather forgettable rivalry with Rollins, the Mysterio’s got the opportunity to make history again.
On May 16th, 2021, the father and son duo became WWE Tag Team Champions after defeating Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler.
The legacy of the Guerrero and Mysterio family continues, as Dominik is set to be a big piece of the company moving forward. And Despite injury setbacks in recent years, Rey Mysterio is expected to continue wrestling as he passes the torch to Dominik.
Whatever the future holds for Rey, whether it be another run at the gold or a WWE Hall of Fame induction, his impact will be felt for decades to come.
These stories may also interest you:
- 14 Rey Mysterio Costume Tributes You May Not Have Noticed!
- Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psicosis | Stealing the Show in ECW
- Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar – An Unlikely Hero Conquers
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