The Ballad of Mistico
In 1940, Thomas Wolfe wrote a book called You Can’t Go Home Again, a title that has become something of a figure of speech in modern culture. Clearly, Luis Ignacio Urive Alvirde (or How He Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) has never read Thomas Wolfe. The man known throughout the world as Mistico, Sin Cara and Myzteziz has indeed gone home, returning last night to Arena Mexico, CMLL's legendary arena, after nearly five years away. It was a special moment; it was also a controversial one, considering that Urive is still under contract with CMLL’s rival AAA. Yup, the man pretty much abandoned ship in a way that hasn’t been seen since the days of the Monday Night war (while Urive hasn't signed with CMLL yet, it's basically a forgone conclusion). Surprising? Perhaps; but those who have followed the career of the budding lucha legend know too well this is just another bridge burned by a man who treats controversy like a brother. How did this happen? How did we get here? Sit back and relax good friends, and let me tell you how.
As is the case with most lucha libre stars of days past and present, Urive comes from a family of wrestlers. His father was a mid level lucha star named Dr. Karonte, while his four brothers all went on to wrestle with varying degrees of success (the two most well known of his brothers are Los Psychos Circus’ Mini Psycho Clown and Lucha Underground performer Argenis). Most importantly however in the development of Urive’s wrestling ability was his uncle, a man by the name of Tony Salazar. A 30 year veteran for CMLL, Salazar would take his nephew under his wing and trained Urive while he was a teenager. To say he moved along fast was an understatement; Urive would make his debut in 1998 for CMLL (Salazar was and still is a booker for the company) at only the age of 15, and looked to be poised for a long, prosperous career. Instead, he got off to a slow start, with runs as Dr. Karonte Jr. (a tribute to his father) and Astro Boy (a tribute to his late older brother) doing little to bolster his credibility in lucha circles. Urive would flounder around in Mexico till about 2003, when he went to work for Michinoku Pro Wrestling in Japan. It was upon his return from the land of the rising sun where his fortunes would change.
One of the beautiful (and odd) things about lucha libre is how weird their stories can get. Whereas the weirdest things you’ll see in WWE is something like the Katie Vick angle or Vince McMahon performing surgery on Jim Ross (both terrible moments by the way), lucha libre goes weirder; at times, elements of fantasy, science fiction and ancient Mexican mythology can be adapted into storylines. I know, how very Robert Rodriguez of them. What’s the point? Well, Urive benefited greatly from Mexico’s love for the odd. Upon returning from Japan, CMLL decided to repackage him as Mistico, a character with a back-story Charles Foster Kane would dream of. In a semi rip off of a failed storyline CMLL had tried earlier, Mistico was presented as an orphan who had been taken in by the famous Fray Tormenta, a priest/luchador who would train Mistico to become the best luchador in the world. If that storyline seems particularly out there, the only thing that will surprise you more is that it was actually plausible. Tormenta was in fact a real life luchador who did indeed work as a priest, using the money earned from wrestling to help run an orphanage in Mexico (the Jack Black headache known as Nacho Libre is in fact inspired by Tormenta’s story). By turning the real life facts into legend, CMLL in turn made Mistico (and Urive by extension) a mythical character. And mother of puss bucket, it worked.
Bolstered by his back story, his natural ability to portray an underdog and an unbelievable set of aerial moves, Mistico quickly became not just a household name, but the man. By 2006, the then 24 year Urive was recognized as the best (and most popular) wrestler in Mexico, one of the best wrestlers in the world, and arguably the biggest draw in wrestling. That’s not a joke; in 2006, all eighteen events Urive headlined as Mistico would draw more than 10,000 fans and some of his matches were so buzz worthy that fans would throw money into the ring afterwards. Any way you want to put it, Urive was the guy, the sort of superstar wrestling promotions dream about. And it was from his success (and CMLL’s by extension) that started to get him notice from outside the world of lucha libre; notice that would eventually lead to his downfall.
Even before WWE signed Urive in 2011, the mother ship of US wrestling had been trying to sign him for years. In 2007 and 2008, after a strong pitch from wrestlers Paul London, Rey Mysterio and road agent Dean Malenko, WWE offered Urive at least two contracts to jump from Mexico to WWE. While it appears Urive wanted to, a surprisingly strong contract with CMLL prevented him from heading north, a factor that in retrospect probably hurt his chances of success with WWE more than people realize. Still, his signing in February of 2011 looked to be a great all around move; Urive would now get his chance to show the Unites States what he could do, while WWE got their heir to Rey Mysterio, a lucha libre star who could prove to be a Hispanic draw for the company. In short, it appeared to be an absolute win win for both, and in some instances I think it probably should’ve been. There’s an alternate universe somewhere (out there, beneath the pale moonlight) where Urive did indeed succeed Mysterio as their top Hispanic performer and Triple H (the man responsible for brokering the deal) is further up the totem pole of WWE’s infrastructure.
What occurred instead was a train wreck. During his three years wrestling for WWE as Sin Cara, Urive proved to be the biggest bust since Sam Bowie; his tenure is largely remembered for his numerous botches (for which he’s still mocked for today) and a Wrestlemania match with Mysterio that never happened for numerous reasons. All in all, Urive entered WWE as one of the top stars in the world and ended up leaving a laughing stock, a failed talent largely viewed as a joke. Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate; certainly, Urive’s unwillingness to learn the English language and adapt somewhat to WWE’s style cannot be ignored. At the same time, WWE’s handling of him was questionable; they never allowed him a chance to try and adapt to their style (Urive debuted as Sin Cara on the main roster immediately, as opposed to going to developmental), never gave him leeway to be a fusion of what they wanted and what he was, and ultimately seemed to be more interested in him as a merch mover than an actual talent. The truth certainly lies somewhere in the middle, but regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, there’s no doubt that Urive came out on the losing end. The divorce between Sin Cara and WWE was one sided; the wrestling metropolis moved on without him, even re-casting the role of Sin Cara just to keep the merchandise moving. Urive meanwhile has never been the same since.
That isn’t to say he didn't try to get back on the horse. Soon after his acrimonious split with WWE, he arrived in AAA as Myzteziz (WWE owned the rights to the Sin Cara name and CMLL held the Mistico rights), looking to be another coup for the #1 promotion in Mexico. Unfortunately, Urive’s run as new top dog lasted all but a few months; not long after, Alberto El Patron (fresh off a controversial firing by WWE) returned to Mexico like a conquering hero, completely overshadowing Urive. After Patron came Mysterio, returning to Mexico for the first time since the mid 90s, leading to Urive being the third wheel out of the former WWE stars. And I’m not joking; Myzteziz regularly was a teammate of Patron and Mysterio during numerous six man tags during the spring/early summer, and ALWAYS seemed like the odd man out. He’d eventually receive a renewed push in the wake of his mega match with Mysterio at Triplemania, but despite a rudo turn and arguably his best performance in years, he was once again overshadowed by an overall poor event and numerous technical problems AAA experienced. All that has led to last night, where Urive, still feuding with Mysterio and seemingly destined for a huge mask vs. mask match with him, suddenly fled to Arena Mexico, to the place where it all began, to the place where he wasn’t a failure or an afterthought, but a prince.
That’s the story, or at least the first several chapters. What fills the rest of the book on Urive is now the great mystery. I have no idea why he bolted AAA for CMLL, especially considering a) a mask vs. mask match between him and Mysterio would’ve made him massive cash and b) AAA (the same promotion that successfully prevented La Parka from being La Parka) will probably file a lawsuit that could potentially keep Urive off CMLL TV for awhile. Did he just want to go back to the place that made him? Did he find out he was going to lose his mask to Mysterio and moved on as a preemptive strike? Those could be plausible to me, and in some regards I can’t blame him; Urive was passed over by AAA despite his stature, CMLL did make him and losing his mask could be damaging (not to mention it makes no sense. Wouldn’t a better move for the future be Urive as Myzteziz unmasking Mysterio to cement him as the top bad guy?). But man, this is a dangerous game he’s playing, and he’s almost out of options. Looking at Urive’s situation right now, it’s hard to believe that it was just five years ago that he, as Mistico, was one of the most respected wrestlers around. Now, he’s one step away from becoming a wrestler with no country, no promotion, and no place to wrestle. And make no mistake; this run in CMLL is his last chance. AAA will never forgive him for jumping to their rival, especially in the manner he just has. Lucha Underground is now not an option because of the AAA ties. WWE likely has no interest in him returning, especially after Urive nuked that relationship by pulling a CM Punk and walking out. The demand for Urive in ROH or TNA just doesn’t seem to be there (not to mention TNA’s uncertain future). There is nowhere else to go.
And that’s a shame. For all of the issues and the jokes and the mockery Urive has endured in recent years, the fact of the matter is that he’s still a talented performer with many years left of good wrestling to give (would you believe he’s only 33 years old?). Not only that, but I can’t help but admire the pride he takes in himself; while surely he appears to be his own biggest fan (never a great thing), it’s pretty clear he stands up for himself as opposed to just lying down and taking shit (something many wrestlers these days do). Wrestling needs more people like Urive; more importantly, CMLL needs more people like Urive, which is why I think this can be a great move for both in the long run. For CMLL, they have another top talent that can provide big money matches against Atlantis, Rush, La Sombra and even the second Mistico (who probably isn’t going to be using that name much longer). For Urive, it allows him to once again become El Principe de Plata y Oro (the Prince of Silver and Gold), to see if maybe he can be the same man that once broke records, wowed crowds and brought Mexico to its knees. He can do it, as long as he doesn’t burn any more bridges along the way. And therein lies the rub; for the first time since he walked out on stage as Sin Cara for WWE, Luis Ignacio Urive Alvirde matters again in wrestling. He has restarted the bad blood between CMLL and AAA, he has put the focus back on himself, he has stopped the jokes. He has become what every wrestler strives to be; interesting.
Indeed, the man known as Mistico, Sin Cara and Myzteziz has indeed gone home again. Whether he’s the man of botched moves, the passed over has been or the former orphan turned hero is something only he can decide.
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