HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
Wrestler of the WeekL Mistico
Our resident philosopher looks outside of the US “Big Two” to find this week’s best wrestler. Mistico took the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title in Japan, which is the top Juniors title in the world.
Almost always, I find my Wrestler of the Week choice in either TNA or WWE. This week, I went to the Land of the Rising Sun to find a Mexican Luchadore who took the most prestigious Junior Heavyweight title in the industry, today. The masked Mistico is this week’s Wrestler of the Week.
Mexico’s Next Generation Super-star
The man known as Mistico is the son of wrestler Dr. Karontes. Mistico’s brothers include: Astro Boy, Astro Boy II and Argenis. Mistico was able to get his start in the business, thanks to his uncle, Tony Salazar. When Mistico began his career, Salazar worked as the matchmaker for Mexico’s CMLL promotion. Mistico’s surname is Almanza but his first name is not readily available. Mistico was trained, primarily, by his father. When Mistico debuted in CMLL, in 1998, he was only 13 years old. His first persona was “Dr. Karontes, Jr.” (a tribute to his father). He would use that character for a full two years, until tragedy brought about a change.
Mistico’s older brother, Astro Boy, tragically died in early 2000. Mistico wanted to pay tribute to his beloved brother, so he adopted the Astro Boy character for a short time. He even teamed with another brother, who wrestled as Astro Boy II, to form a short-live tag team known as Los Astro Boys. The team came to an end when Astro Boy/Mistico was sent to Japan for further training.
In Japan, Mistico took over the character of Komanchi. The role was previously played by Volador, Jr. Komanchi (Mistico) would work for Michinoki Pro for about a year, before returning to Mexico. When he returned, he got a completely new look, personality, and history.
Becoming his own masked man
In 2004, Komanchi left Japan to return to Mexico. The original plan was to have him resume his Astro Boy persona. Salazar approached his nephew with a new idea. His nephew would come out as an almost new character, known as Mistico (Spanish for The Mystic). Mistico was partnered with “wrestling priest”, Fray Tormenta (the inspiration for the main character in the Jack Black film, Nacho Libre). The storyline, which was first tried with another wrestler, El Sagrado, was that an orphan was taken in by God’s grappler to be trained. The second Mistico creation clicked with the fans, but not right away. Mistico spent quite some time working the early to mid-card spots on CMLL shows. Mistico worked in singles, tag and trios matches (often teaming with Volador, Jr and/or Misterioso II).
Mistico’s first top-level success came as past of a tag team with Mexican wrestling legend, El Hijo del Santo. The duo united to win the 2004 Gran Alternativa tournament. El Hijo del Santo started Mistico on a huge push, by claiming that Mistico was cool. The fans accepted Mistico on Hijo’s recommendation and gave him the nickname of “El Principe de Plata y Oro, which means the Prince of Silver and Gold. Silver and gold are the two main colors of Mistico’s ring outfit. Mistico was pushed as a face or technico in Mexico. He worked with most of the major technico stars to battle the heels or rudos.
By 2005, Mistico had begun to come to the attention of US fans, primarily through Lucha programming on Spanish-language channels. His name began to pop up in American wrestling magazines, often asking when he would be scouted by the WWE or TNA. In fact, Mistico was approached on more than one occasion to consider a contract with the WWE. He has, so far, declined to join the group.
Mistico took his first major singles title on February 11, 2005, when he took the NWA Middleweight title from Averno. Mistico feuded with various members of the Guerrero clan during 2005 and into 2006. Mistico’s main ally, at this time, was Dr. Wagner, Jr., who had recently changed from rudo to technico. Mistico would also feud with Perro Aguayo, Jr and his Los Perros del Mal (The Bad Dogs) clique. Mistico took the lion’s share of those battles. In one of the wildest battles of that feud, Mistico joined Negro Casas, Heavy Metal, Universo 2000 and Mascara Magica to battle Aguayo, Damian 666, and Hector Garza, inside a steel cage. Everyone in the match put up either their mask or hair (if they didn’t wear a mask). Mistico’s team lost and Mascara Magica had to unmask. Mistico ended up out of the match before the finish, so his mask was never in true jeopardy.
By early 2006, Mistico was elevated to the top position in CMLL. He feuded with every top rudo star to pass through the company. He headlined 18 shows in a row, a near-record. He challenged twice for the tag belts with partner, Black Warrior. He ended up feuding with Black Warrior, when Warrior turned on Mistico after their second loss. The program was a short one, with Mistico taking almost every match. On September 29, 2006, Mistico ended their feud by taking Black Warrior’s mask. Mistico then set his sights on more gold. He began to pursue the World Welterweight title, which was held by Mephisto. After a few failed attempts, Mistiico took the gold from Mephisto on April 10, 2007. That match was watched by several WWE stars, including Dean Malenko and Rey Mysterio.
Rey and Dean again tried to talk the WWE into signing the top CMLL star. While Mistico was honored to be considered, his commitments to CMLL made it impossible for him to accept the offer. It has been rumored that Mistico has an open invitation to join the WWE at any time. Whether he will ever choose to accept is anyone’s guess.
Stepping up to the next level
In addition to the open WWE offer, TNA began to scout Mistico by late 2007/early 2008. Again, Mistico’s dedication to his CMLL commitments (and his family) kept him from taking a position with TNA. One plan would have seen Mistico pushed as TNA’s answer to Rey Mysterio. There was talk of a name change to Rey Mystico (Mystic King).
Mistico teamed with Hector Garza to take the CMLL World tag titles from Averno and Mephisto. The titles would be held up after a rematch, only to have Mistico and Garza reclaim them during a third match. They would finally drop them back to Averno and Mephisto before splitting as a team. (Teams are short-lived, at best, in the Mexican promotions). The fued with Averno and Mephisto ran about nine months, ending in December.
In early 2009, Mistico began a one-man war against the rudo trio known as La Peste Negra (The Black Plague). That group was composed of Negro Casas, El Felino (Casas’ brother) and Mr. Niebla. Casas would take Mistico’s Middleweight title on March 20, 2009. Mistico is still involved in feuds with the triad of evil characters, but he has also expanded beyond the Mexican borders.
Back to the Far East
In July of 2008, Mistico was invited to China to train in martial arts. The classes were led by famed Belgium fighter, Mike Martello. In addition to the standard martial arts forms, Mistico also learned the Chinese style of amateur wrestling known as shuaijiao and submission locks, called Qinna. Mistico has since begun to incorporate those moves in his arsenal as he came back home to Mexico and, later, began to tour Japan.
Mistico worked his first New Japan show on January 4, 2009, as part of a six-man or trios match. After his team won, Mistico said, through an interpretor, that he not only wished to return to New Japan, but he would like the chance to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship, one of the top junior titles in the world. It would take nearly 8 months before Mistico would get the opportunity. Mistico would work several shows in January and February, before injuring his knee. While he did work through the injury, he did cut his Japanese tour short to return home to heal.
In the summer of 2009, Mistico returned to Japan. Mistico was scheduled to do a third tour in May, but the Swine Flu epidemic closed the Japanese borders to most travel. Mistico and Okamura went together from Mexico to Japan. On August 13, 2009, Mistico would team with Japanese legend (and then-IWGP Jr. Champion) Tiger Mask IV to battle (and defeat) Okamura and Tomohiro Ishii. 2 days later, on August 15th, Mistico would finally challenge Tiger Mask IV. Mistico used his submission finisher, La Mistica, to force Tiger Mask IV to submit. Mistico became the second most powerful man in Japanese wrestling and the most powerful Junior/Cruiserweight in the world.
With TNA having a working relationship with New Japan (at least for the moment), it is quite possible that Mistico may come to Orlando, Florida. Nothing has been signed, just yet. Many critics feel that Mistico (likely respelled as Mystico) would be a natural fit for the X-Division. Mistico’s dedication to CMLL and New Japan could still prevent him from taking bookings in either major US federation. Regardless, Mistico is considered the greatest current Luchadore in the CMLL system. He is already being compared to Rey Mysterio, Mil Mascaras, El Santo and Blue Demon. Whether he will equal their legendary status or not is yet to be seen. To see more of Mistico, be sure to check out his video clips over at ClickWrestle.com. Just search for Mistico. He’s this week’s Wrestler of the Week.
– Jay Shannon