Roberto Castillo’s wrestling career began most unconventionally. In Tijuana to shop for his mother and pick up a few lucha masks for a friend, he met Javier Inogosa, who produced most of the local wrestling attire. Then Inogosa introduced Castillo to Rey Mysterio Sr., who would become his mentor.
“Rey Mysterio Sr. invited me to train that day. I told him that I didn’t have any gear, but he had some spare attire available,” recalled Castillo for SLAM! Wrestling. “We went to the Tijuana Auditorio gym to train. We trained for at least three hours and Rey told me that I had a future as a wrestler.”
Born May 28, 1966 in Los Angeles, Castillo was a keen athlete growing up, competing in boxing, gymnastics and amateur wrestling. He was a wrestling from an early age and watched the movies of El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras.
The fateful trip over the border to Tijuana would result in a 15-plus-year career in the ring, under such storied names as Rey Mysterio II and Misterioso.
Having won the respect of 30-year veteran Rey Mysterio Sr. (Miguel Ángel López Díaz), who was one of the most-respected trainers in lucha libre history, Castillo began a strict training regime. Joining Castillo as students under the watchful eyes of Mysterio Sr. were Konnan, Gacela and Caballero 2000 (Psicosis’ brother). Castillo’s dedication was clear, as only three months after his first training session he was deemed ready to make his professional debut.
On June 18, 1988, Castillo was presented with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. With great honour came great expectations as Miguel Lopez gave Castillo the “Rey Mysterio II” gimmick. (Mysterio Sr.’s nephew, Rey Jr., was only just entering his teens at that point.)
“Some wrestlers were mad at me and talked trash. In Tijuana, Rey Mysterio was an idol and the chances for me to fill those shoes were slim and none,” explained Castillo. “But Rey had faith in me and I did my best to prove the doubters wrong.”
In May 1990, Misterioso left for Mexico City and Arena Mexico, the true home of lucha libre. With the influence of promoter Antonio Pena, Rey Mysterio II became the flamboyant, colourful “Misterioso.” After training with Hijo Del Gladiator for two months, Castillo made his debut as Misterioso. However his initial run as Misterioso would be cut short when, in February 1991, he was recalled to the Royal Marines.
After three months out of the ring, Misterioso returned and was placed in a high-profile feud against Fuerza Guerrera, a true sign of the potential Antonio Pena saw in “The Mysterious One.”
“When I came back people were still wondering what had happened to Misterioso,” said Castillo. “Antonio Pena noticed that and gave me a big chance. Once again, luck was on my side and I did my best to thank them.” (Castillo’s loyalty to Pena was further proven in 1992 when Pena, who was booker of EMLL at the time, left to form the AAA promotion. Misterioso was one of the major stars that jumped with him.)
Misterioso captured his first title in incredible fashion defeating Fuerza Guerrera (father of Juventud Guerrera) in front of a capacity crowd at Arena Mexico to become NWA Welterweight champion. Now Misterioso really began to develop as an in-ring performer, attracting a loyal following on the way.
In 1992, Misterioso’s push continued as he formed a partnership with another rising star — Volador. Few could have predicted the young duo would go on to become one of lucha libre’s hottest tag teams.
“I was training with Volador and Hijo Del Gladiator at the Pista Revolcion when Tono Pena came in and saw us working as a team,” said Castillo. “Soon he started to work us together and people loved it. We had the same daredevil style and were considered the best tag team around.”
In March 1994, Misterioso turned on Volador during a trios match. His rudo turn set the wheels in motion for their famous mask versus mask match in front of 16,000 fans at El Toreo de Tijuana. In a classic, emotional match, Misterioso saved Volador from a piledriver by Blue Panther; Volador repaid him by letting Misterioso pick up the victory after placing his former partner on top of him.
After a short reformation of the Misterioso and Volador team, Castillo left AAA in 1997 and become an independent wrestler. “We got back together as a team, but where there once was fire was ashes, so it wasn’t the same,” he said. “I felt I wasn’t getting the push I merited and work was low at the time so I decided to go back to L.A.”
In December 1997, Misterioso faced Rey Mysterio Jr. at the Tijuana Auditorio, where he had his very first training session with Rey’s uncle some 10 years previous. Misterioso lost his mask to Rey in a match where many believe the throne was passed onto the next generation of tecnicos (faces) in Rey Jr.
Castillo mused over memories of Rey. Jr. “Rey Mysterio Jr., the son of Tijuana, the idol of Tijuana, the best wrestler of Tijuana; my friend who I’ve known since he was 12. I used to take him to see me wrestle at Rosarito, Mexicali, all over Tijuana, and to have to wrestle him in a match of this significance was very memorable for the both of us.”
Having a great look and natural talent many speculate Misterioso could have achieved success working for the “big three” in America during wrestling’s heights of the late 1990s. With close friends such as Rey Jr., Juventud Guerrero and Psicosis, as well as Misterioso’s own colourful, flamboyant style to his daredevil offence, it is a mystery why Castillo wasn’t given an American stage for his skills.
“There was I time I could have joined WCW. My godfather who was the Spanish narrator called me and said he’d help me join. But I trusted a ‘friend’ who was going to pull me in but never did. Why not, who knows?” wondered Castillo.
As an underrated talent, Misterioso’s innovative tecnico style is often overlooked but few can doubt his influence.
“I can be proud and feel proud for everything I’ve done as a luchador,” Castillo concluded. “My outfits made a new wave in Mexico and there were a lot of wrestlers making their outfits just like mine. Wherever I go I know people will still remember me.”
These days, Misterioso can be found promoting shows in California under the Real Mexican Wrestling banner. Despite being in semi-retirement he’s still in popular demand and is a regular on Lucha Va Voom and AWS cards.
Mark Pickering is a freelance sports journalist from South Wales, UK. He currently writes for MaxFighting.com, Fighters Only Magazine and the Total MMA newsletter (Total-MMA.com). Any feedback, queries, can be sent to [email protected].