Generic Pre-Review Wrestling Disclaimer: Long before my affinity for globetrotting documentaries, Martin Scorsese films and The Criterion Collection, I found a soft spot for professional wrestling. Don't ask me how this happened; it just did. Despite this declaration, I shower daily, all my teeth are accounted for, I have a college degree...and believe it or not, I have a wife with the same merits. I'm not alone, of course. The wrestling fans I know aren't slack-jawed yokels; they simply appreciate the spectacle and illusion that this genuine sport creates, in the same way movie lovers enjoy fast-paced fights and thrilling chase sequences. Long story short: we know this stuff is "fake", but we like it anyway. Give us a break.
It's been a long-standing tradition in WWE that the big, hulking guys usually hog the spotlight, leaving the smaller guys to start the show or fill time in-between championship matches. But these smaller high-flyers will always have their fair share of fans, whether they're wrestling each other or attempting to take down one of the bigger guys, David and Goliath style. And perhaps the most well-known of the "little guys" is Rey Mysterio (born Óscar Gutiérrez), a luchador known for his lightning-fast speed and spectacular skills on the top rope. Mysterio got his start in Mexico's AAA wrestling promotion before his 20th birthday and was introduced to American audiences in Extreme Championship Wrestling just a few years later. He was later employed by WCW, but went back to the independent circuit in 2001 after his former employer was bought by WWF. A year later, he finally signed with WWF and he's been there ever since. He's still a top competitor, even as his 40th birthday looms closer.
Rey Mysterio: The Life of a Masked Man isn't WWE's first compilation of his matches, but it does span the greatest number of years. Though it begins after his tenure with AAA, we're treated to 15 years of high-flying action...and surprisingly, a lot of it hasn't been on DVD before. This is both good and bad news: while fans will get to see a handful of matches they haven't seen in years, it's nowhere near a "best of" compilation. The Life of a Masked Man is as close to a career-spanning tribute as we're likely to get (for now), but it's definitely not meant to stand on its own. This three-disc set runs for well over 8 hours and includes candid, quasi-personal interview segments with Mysterio...as well as the following matches, of course:
Rey Misterio Jr. & Konnan vs. La Parka & Psicosis (ECW Hardcore TV - 10/28/95)
Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera ECW Extreme Bash - 3/9/96)
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera (WCW Pro Wrestling - 11/3/96)
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (WCW Saturday Night - 1/11/97)
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero (Nitro - 11/8/97)
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Chris Jericho (Nitro - 11/17/97)
Rey Mysterio Jr., Super Calo & Hector Garza vs. Psychosis, La Parka & Silver King (WCW Saturday Night - 1/17/98)
Rey Mysterio Jr. & Billy Kidman vs. Eddie Guerrero & Juventud Guerrera (Nitro - 12/28/98)
Rey Mysterio & Edge vs. Eddie & Chavo Guerrero (Smackdown - 10/24/02)
Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman vs. The World's Greatest Tag Team (Vengeance - 7/27/03)
Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle (Smackdown - 10/28/04)
Eddie Guerrero & Booker T. vs. Rey Mysterio & Rob Van Dam (Smackdown - 12/30/04)
Rey Mysterio & Batista vs. MNM (Smackdown - 12/16/05)
Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton (No Way Out - 2/19/06 )
Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero (Summerslam - 8/26/07)
Rey Mysterio vs. Finlay (Cyber Sunday - 10/27/07)
Rey Mysterio vs. Kane (No Mercy - 10/5/08)
Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (Judgment Day - 5/17/09)
Rey Mysterio vs. John Morrison (Smackdown - 9/4/09)
Rey Mysterio vs. Shawn Michaels (Smackdown - 10/29/10)
The Undertaker vs. Rey Mysterio (Royal Rumble - 1/31/10)
Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (SmackDown - 2/5/10)
Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk (Over the Limit - 5/23/10)
Jack Swagger vs. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk vs. The Big Show (Fatal 4-Way - 6/20/10)
Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio (Smackdown - 10/18/10)
Rey Mysterio vs. Cody Rhodes (Wrestlemania XXVII - 4/3/11)
WWE's ever-changing compilation format can be quite confusing, but Life of a Masked Man is about as straightforward as it gets. Mysterio sits down with WWE commentator Matt Striker for the career-spanning interview; like the matches themselves, his comments are pretty much in chronological order. With that said, there's only a small amount of overlap as far at matches go: aside from pay-per-view releases, most of what's here is fairly new to DVD...and Mysterio has participated in more above-average matches than just about anyone else in the WWE locker room. Along with earlier compilations like 619 and The Biggest Little Man, there's no shortage of Mysterio's career highlights on DVD. Yet Life of a Masked Man doesn't dig especially deep: the superstar seems guarded and almost nervous during the bulk of this interview, and he doesn't particularly come across as a strong speaker. Striker does a fine job tossing out some decent questions, but most die-hard fans won't learn much that they don't already know.
Likewise, the matches are entertaining enough but we don't get a lot of genuine highlights. Both previous releases had a match from his early years in AAA; here, we only get what WWE owns. His first years as a wrestler---as well as his time spent on the independent circuit in 2001---would've made a perfect addition to this career-spanning collection. It's also weighed down with too much recent material: in fact, roughly 1/3 of the matches on this set took place within the last two years. Combine this with a number of "false finishes" (DQs, run-ins, etc., which have no business being on a compilation like this), and you've got a half-baked lineup with only a handful of genuine career highlights. Just for the record, these include Juventud & Rey's ECW brawl, the 2004 tag team match from Smackdown, Rey vs. Chris Jericho from Judgment Day 2009 and his IC match with John Morrison from the same year. Any way you slice it, this collection can't (and shouldn't) stand on its own.
On the technical side of things, this five-disc set is generally on par with modern WWE releases: production values are decent and most of the original content is still intact. Not surprisingly, all instances of the phrase "WWF" have been removed (though "World Wrestling Federation" is apparently fine), as well as mentions of the infamous Chris Benoit's name and at least one profane ECW crowd chant. In any case, if you've got a soft spot for fast-paced action and a few evenings to spare---or one, if you're an insomniac---The Life of a Masked Man is a flawed but watchable effort. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, The Life of a Masked Man isn't quite on par with other career-spanning WWE releases...even taking the age of certain matches into account. While the most recent matches (2008-current) look good and utilize the maximum resolution of the frame, everything else suffers a bit more than usual. These 1.33:1 matches are thankfully not cropped, but they are windowboxed; vintage WCW and ECW matches suffer from edge enhancement, and there's a noticeable layer of compression artifacts from start to finish. With that said, these digital issues have affected all WWE DVDs, so fans should be used to what's on display here. Just don't set your expectations too high.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround and 2.0 depending on the match; likewise, it's roughly on par with recent WWE releases. Crowd noise and regular play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. Again, newer matches obviously sound a bit cleaner and more well-defined, but this is strictly a source material issue. Optional subtitles, Spanish commentary or Closed Captions are not offered during these matches, unfortunately.
There's no doubt that The Life of a Masked Man isn't WWE's best attempt at a career-spanning collection...but that's probably because Rey has been so well-represented on DVD thus far. Die-hard fans of Mysterio, especially those who already own 619 and The Biggest Little Man, will find that this three-disc set serves as a lesser complement to what's come before...and with a few years of good matches still in him, it's odd that WWE didn't just wait a few years to release something like this. In any case, The Life of a Masked Man is still worth a look, though more casual fans should probably give this a rental first. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.