There is no mask in the world of professional wrestling as universally recognizable as the one made famous by Rey Mysterio. The story of “The King of Mystery” typifies one of the premiere principles of lucha libre: the tradition of honoring those who preceded. In the case of the one-time WWE Champions and two-time World Heavyweight Champion, his mask design and ring name originated from his uncle and trainer, the legendary Rey Mysterio, Sr. Mysterio, however, has never allowed his appearance to grow stale: Over the course of his wresting career, the designs of Mysterio’s masks have continuously evolved. “The Master of the 619” has literally worn hundreds — if not thousands — of masks.
In 1999 at SuperBrawl IX, Mysterio was forced to remove his mask after losing a “Hair vs. Mask match” against Kevin Nash and Scott Hall with Konnan as his tag team partner. Following the event, he contacted his uncle to inform him of the loss. In a 2005 interview with The Sun, Mysterio expressed his disappointment with WCW President Eric Bischoff making him unmask.
“I was strongly against it!” Mysterio said. “I don’t think WCW understood what the mask meant to me, to my fans and to my family. It was a very bad move on their behalf. The fans wanted Rey Mysterio with the mask and losing it hurt me a lot. It was also frustrating that it didn’t come as the climax to a feud with another masked wrestler, but in a throwaway match. The same thing happened to Juventud and Psicosis and psychologically wise it was a bad move by Eric Bischoff. I think the fans understand that I was in a position where I had no option. I either had to lose my mask or lose my job.”
Mysterio joined World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in the spring of 2002 and at the insistence of WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, agreed to wear his mask again. Although this angered fans in Mexico since it violated the rich tradition of lucha libre, he received permission from lucha libre organizations to wear his mask again, as he had not lost it in a traditional mask vs. mask match. For kayfabe reasons, WWE has typically censored footage of Mysterio appearing without his mask on in World Championship Wrestling. In April 2013, WWE Classics on Demand rebroadcast WCW Sin — the event took place on January 14, 2001 — and a match featuring Mysterio unmasked was left intact.