Growing up, Dominik Gutierrez, like many wrestling fans during the 1990s and 2000s, idolized Rey Mysterio. Mysterio, a bonafide legend in the industry, has been one of the most captivating, energizing and — because of his relatively small stature — inspiring figures over his 32-year career.
For Gutierrez however, things were quite different growing up because Mysterio — real name Oscar Gutierrez — is his father.
“I’m very proud to be able to call him my dad,” the younger Gutierrez told Yahoo Sports. “I remember growing up that I always wanted every new Rey Mysterio action figure that came out, I always stole his outfits and put them on. It was basically growing up with a dad as a superhero.”
Dominik Gutierrez’s first appearance in WWE came in 2003, when he was six years old as he joined his father in celebrating a cruiserweight championship win. Gutierrez also appeared ringside for a match between his father and Brock Lesnar later that year.
Two years later, Gutierrez played a pivotal role in an ongoing feud between his father and the late Eddie Guerrero. In the storyline, Mysterio and Guerrero feuded over who Gutierrez’s biological father truly was. The angle culminated in a ladder match between Mysterio and Guerrero — close friends in real life — at SummerSlam that same year.
Despite growing up making sporadic appearances in WWE and being surrounded by a who’s who of Hispanic and lucha libre wrestling icons, Dominik showed little interest in getting into the family business. It wasn’t until 2016, more than a decade after the “Who’s your papi?” story, that Gutierrez approached his father about giving professional wrestling a shot.
“You have to remember that, at one point, there was no interest in this from him,” Mysterio said. “I kind of lost that hope. When he asked me if I could train him and if I could see if he had the talent to break into this business, that hope came back. He was only 19 years old then, he’s 23 now, and I’m probably the proudest father there is on the planet.”
‘A gift that was passed down through the bloodline’
Although historically it has been rare for a father and son to play alongside each other in the world of sports, the world of professional wrestling has allowed for several duos to share the same ring. In fact, it’s not uncommon for pro wrestlers to often be the second or third generation to enter the business.
While it was impossible for Ken Griffey Jr. to hide or shy away from his baseball lineage — much in the same way it would for Bronny James should he one day share the court with his father — the business of sports entertainment allows its stars to don different personas. For legacy talent like Gutierrez, there is a conversation to be had about how closely to play up those iconic roots.
“That’s something that we discussed a lot in his early training days,” Mysterio said. “The fact that all eyes were going to be on him when he had his first match and they were going to compare his style and what he brought to the ring to what I have for the past 32 years. When I saw him jump in the ring for the very first time, Konnan was with me and we were the first to tell him that if he needed to work much, much harder, we would be the first to let him know.
“The first few rolls and bumps that he took, it was so natural. It’s something that a lot of guys take time to perfect and to do, but with Dominik it all happened organically. There was definitely a gift that was passed down through the bloodline and he was born to do this in WWE. It’s a true blessing to mentor him, guide him.”
Gutierrez, who simply from a physical standpoint is much taller than his father, has managed to toe the line between paying homage to his roots.
Guiterrez has adopted his father’s in-ring name, Mysterio, borrowed from his moveset by utilizing the “619,” but is not wrestling in a traditional lucha mask and his signature move, the frog splash, is a tribute to Guerrero, not his father.
“It’s a bit harder for me to do those acrobatic and high-flying moves,” Gutierrez said. “My style has yet to fully come out, but in time it will and it will get better. I definitely feel that the lucha libre style is part of my wrestling.”
How Rey Mysterio helped change wrestling in the U.S.
Even if Gutierrez isn’t fully adopting his father’s style, Mysterio’s effect on the current generation of WWE stars cannot be understated. Mysterio, who’s billed height is 5-foot-6, was one of the pioneering lucha stars in WCW in the 1990s.
Mysterio, alongside Guerrero, Juventud Guerrera, and La Parka brought an innovative, fast-paced, high-flying style of wrestling to the ring and helped introduce U.S. fans to the culture of lucha libre. The stark contrast to many of the stars and styles American pro wrestling fans were used to at the time proved to be a hit for Ted Turner’s company during the “Monday Night Wars.”
“Those are my roots,” Mysterio said. “The lucha libre style that I grew up watching, that I first practiced, it’s something that I never would have thought that I would be one of the ones to bring this style to the U.S. and worldwide and have it be as influential as it is. To inspire young talent that are in WWE now, these guys that one day saw me wrestle and said ‘If Rey can do it, I can do it.’ It’s all from those roots. Now it’s dominating the sport. It’s being asked for by the fans.”
More than two decades later, the ripple effect can be seen throughout WWE in stars such as Cedric Alexander, Ricochet, Mustafa Ali, Sasha Banks, Lince Dorado and Kalisto.
“I’ve definitely taken notice [of how influential he really was], especially now being in the business with him, seeing how other guys are around him and the respect that is shown to him,” Guiterrez said. “It’s crazy to realize and see what he has done for this business.”
A stunning debut, followed by a father and son’s dream, fulfilled
Four years after he first approached his father about wrestling, it was time for Gutierrez to make his in-ring debut.
Ironically, 18 years after his father made his WWE pay-per-view debut and 15 years after he watched his father and Guerrero take part in a ladder match, Gutierrez’s first major opportunity also came at SummerSlam, in a street fight against Seth Rollins.
Oftentimes, WWE matches with stipulations such as a street fight or no disqualifications can be used to hide some of the potential shortcomings of the talent involved in them. For Rollins, one of the top in-ring performers WWE has on its roster, this was certainly not the case.
For Gutierrez however, this would be his first true in-ring test, and it wound up being one the 23-year-old aced.
“We’ve had a great connection working with Seth,” Mysterio said. “I tip my mask off to him for being able to step in there with my son and be able to do what he has been doing. I would have loved for Eddie to have been around and for him to have given Dominik his first match, but I don’t think I could have picked a better guy than Seth to kickstart Dominik’s career and take this along as long as it has gone.”
Although he lost his debut match, Gutierrez was on “cloud nine” after he received almost universal praise from fans and his new WWE colleagues. The emotions from that night would be short-lived however as the very next day on “Monday Night Raw,” Gutierrez and and his father would work in a tag-team match together against Rollins and Buddy Murphy.
“We had no idea that we were going to tag,” Mysterio said. “Normally, there’s a buildup for things like that so you can absorb and handle your emotions. We talked about this for quite some time and when it happened it was surreal.”
Although the Mysterio family drama remains one of the major storylines on WWE programming, more than three months since it began, there remains the possibility that Gutierrez and his father will be separated on different brands in the upcoming WWE draft.
Regardless of what the future holds for either star, they’ll always have a shared dream fulfilled.
“I believe that a lot of kids who have had their fathers in this business would have loved to have the moment that we had,” Mysterio said.
“If my retirement came tomorrow, I’d be happy that we accomplished this.”
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