Rey Mysterio Jr.’s return to action in World Wrestling Entertainment has been most welcome: TV ratings are up on Smackdown among Latino viewers, his “I Quit” bout with Chavo Guerrero Jr. last week was a wild thrill ride, and on Saturday, his appearance at a Toronto toy store drew 2,000 people. Welcome back, indeed.

Before his meet and greet at the new Toys R Us at the Vaughan Mills plaza in Vaughan, just north of Toronto, Mysterio took a few minutes to talk with SLAM! Wrestling about all the things going on in his life.

Rey Mysterio poses at the opening of a toy store in Vaughan, ON on Saturday, September 8, 2007. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

Having been off for three-quarters of a year, it was a joy to return to action at the last pay-per-view, SummerSlam, at the end of August, he said.

“It was definitely emotional and exciting, especially being that SummerSlam was my first big pay-per-view five years ago against Kurt Angle. Coming back brings back memories. I’ve never really been out an injury as long as this one; it put me out almost nine months,” Mysterio said.

He admits that he could have stayed off longer, spending more time with his wife, his 10-year-old son and his six-year-old daughter. But it was time to come back. “With my surgery, this being my fifth surgery, I wasn’t ready to come back at an early stage, so I waited and I waited and I waited until the thing got better,” he said. “And still, to this day, I don’t feel that my knee is at 100 per cent. I can’t sit around all the time and just wait until it gets to 100, because it’s not going to get to a 100. Once you get cut, and this being the fifth time, it’s never going to be the same. So I have to learn how to suck it up and do what I do best, do what I love to do — wrestle, perform.”

Some may say that he was rushed back, and even then, his return was overshadowed by the homecoming of another world champion — Triple H. Mysterio dismisses the thought that his return was dimmed by the return of “The King of Kings.”

“No, I mean, there’s fans for Triple H and fans for Rey Mysterio. And again, there’s fans that like both of us. I think it was put in the right place, the way they advertised me, me representing Smackdown and Triple H representing Raw, was good — totally different brands, overall part of the same company.”

The consummate team player, Mysterio challenges for the World Heavyweight title this Sunday at Unforgiven, facing the champion Great Khali and Batista in a three-way bout. The company is once again playing Mysterio as the giant killer, a small man surrounded by giants.

With the recent suspension of 10 or more WWE superstars for violations of the promotion’s wellness policy, there is an opportunity for overlooked grapplers to shine, said Mysterio. “I think there is, definitely. Not necessarily smaller, but you have the Jeff Hardys, the Matt Hardys, that have never gotten the opportunity to be the heavyweight champion. There’s opportunity. And I’m not saying that there’s opportunity right now because there’s a bunch of guys that are suspended. No. I just see the talent in the roster right now that have been around for years who I believe deserve an opportunity to take that next step up the ladder.”

His return in August meant that he was away for a lot of the recent shakeups in WWE-land, including the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide at the end of June. “I would have to say that the loss of Benoit really did hurt, I would have to say, the whole locker room. Firstly to me, a lot, because he was one of my road buddies. We used to travel together, work out together, so that’s what hit really hard.”

Morale is pretty well what it was before he left. “As far as the atmosphere in the locker room, we’re up, we’re up and going, man. There is nothing that can stop us from doing what we love to do. There’s a couple that are suspended right now. They’ll be back. Meanwhile, we keep the spirit up. We make the locker room fun.”