Legendary wrestling commentator Jim Ross has revealed why it took so long for WWE to sign Rey Mysterio to a contract after WCW shut down in 2001.
Vince McMahon appeared live on both WWF Raw is War and WCW Monday Nitro in March 2001 to announce he had purchased WCW. The company had been a long-time rival of the WWE, and had beaten Vince McMahon’s show in the ratings for an incredible 83 weeks. However, they soon spiralled out of control and were shut down in 2001.
After WCW shut down, WWE purchased the company and began the “Invasion” storyline. Drawing on storylines of past in both the US and Japan, the Invasion of WCW and ECW into WWE was one of the biggest storylines in wrestling.
Well, it would have been, but Vince McMahon and co botched the storyline and ruined the chance of WCW being a success in WWE at all.
Part of the reason it failed was due to the lack of WCW stars WWE signed after 2001. The stars of WCW were still being paid huge multi-million dollar contracts by Time-Warner, and earned more sitting at home than they would have made wrestling. Huge stars like Hulk Hogan, Sting and Goldberg all sat home being paid, and signed for WWE once their deal was up.
This included Luchador legend Rey Mysterio. Mysterio took part in the last episode of WCW Monday Nitro. He and Billy Kidman defeated Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo to win the now-defunct WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles. He was a star of the Cruiserweight division in WCW for a large part of it’s run, but did not join his partner Kidman in WWE in 2001.
It took until the summer of 2002 for Rey Mysterio to join WWE. His first match was against fellow WCW Alumni Chavo Guerrero, and introduced himself to the WWE fans with a big win in his debut.
Jim Ross on Rey Mysterio signing with WWE
Jim Ross was the former head of talent relations in WWE at the time of the WCW Invasion. Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Ross revealed that he spoke to Mysterio to try and sign him in 2001, but eventually gave the luchador advice to sit out the rest of his contract, then sign with WWE once he had been paid all his money.
“Here’s my advice: I will hire you, you’re a great talent and you can become more famous than you are by being on this television. But the smart money right now for you is to stay home, train. He’d been wrestling since he was 14, why don’t you just enjoy the money you were making, get your body to the way you exactly want it, and then we’ll bring you in in January. The guys around me knew and I knew that working with Rey, the Jericho’s of the world, couldn’t say enough nice things about Rey.”
“I remember talking to Vince. I said he’s coming in January, ‘Vince he’s getting big money, more than we’re going to guarantee, and let’s let the guy get healthy.’ Heal, get better and save your damn money. Vince understood that logic. We know you’re going to get over, let’s take this approach and see if it works for us. I don’t think that’s the answer Rey was expecting.”
Rey Mysterio would have a brilliant career in WWE. He won the 2006 Royal Rumble, and became a two-time World Champion in WWE. He won the World Heavyweight Championship in 2006, and the WWE Championship in 2011.
Want to learn more about Rey Mysterio? Learn why WCW and Eric Bischoff thought it was a good idea to have Rey Mysterio without mask on or click below to keep reading!
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.