One of the most notable items in the new Wrestling Observer Newsletter (F4WOnline.com subscribers-only link, h/t WrestlingInc.com) is that Rey Mysterio's contract is expiring in about two months. Where it gets really interesting is that WWE isn't trying that hard to get him to sign a new deal.
Mysterio has always had an odd relationship with WWE. According to the new Observer, just last weekend, he was on the house show tour that ran through northern California, instead of the one that included a show in his hometown of San Diego.
Apparently, the reason was that WWE thinks he could be overexposed in the market. This, in spite of WWE only running shows in San Diego twice a year, and Mysterio being injured fairly often. In 2013, he wrestled at the January 29 SmackDown taping and at the August 24 house show, he made an appearance while injured. That's far from what most people would consider "overexposure."
The injuries have always been an issue. In the last four years, he's wrestled under 100 matches each year except for 2010, where he came in at an even 100 matches. In 2013, he had just 18 matches—the same as JTG—who's become a punchline to jokes about wrestlers who fall off the face of the Earth.
Even though he's one of the biggest stars and biggest merchandise sellers in the company, especially to kids and the Latino demographic, he's never been reliable enough to run within a bigger role. His defenders will say that hasn't hurt The Undertaker and, to a lesser extent, Triple H, and there's some legitimacy to that argument.
Mysterio has also been suspended twice for violating WWE's Talent Wellness Program. He also told Patrick Lennon of the Daily Star that he went to rehab for painkiller addiction in 2008. Whether it's right or wrong, you can understand why his reliability would be questioned for those reasons, too. In addition, as we noted before his return last year, it's been reported in the Wrestling Observer in the past, that WWE had concerns about how well his personal doctor cared for his injuries.
However, even if he can't wrestle, he's too valuable to lose right now. He's too expensive for TNA to pick up, but AAA is moving into the U.S. with the muscle of film director Robert Rodriguez and reality TV producer Mark Burnett behind them.
If WWE doesn't re-sign him, it's inevitable that he ends up with AAA in some form. AAA's American TV show will be on the brand-new El Rey network, which doesn't have great reach, but lucha libre shows have drawn well in the past without TV, as long as they're well-promoted. In AAA, as an active top star, an attraction hidden in tag matches, or even an important non-wrestler character, having him on the poster could make a big difference.
Will WWE see it that way? I don't know. They've always undervalued Mysterio—he was signed to a contract with a $75,000 downside guarantee for his first several years in the company—basically the lowest starting salary on the main roster.
As a major star who was always on pay-per-view events and sold tons of merchandise, he actually made a lot more (as in millions), but that's not really the best sign. More infamously and visibly, he was booked to go on a losing streak while World Heavyweight Champion.
Regardless, until they develop some kind of "replacement" Hispanic star, though, he's too valuable to let someone else pick him up, especially right now with AAA ready to pounce.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader since 2011 and also writes for Figure 4 Weekly, available to F4WOnline.com subscribers along with other content, including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and a variety of audio shows. His brand new article about the 20th anniversary ECW's "Night the Line Was Crossed" show is featured in issue No. 103 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available online internationally and at newsagents in the UK.