We all know of the success that Rey Mysterio has enjoyed in the WWE, revolutionizing the business and going down as one of the most popular wrestlers to ever step foot in a ring. WWE had a similar opportunity with another masked wrestler in the early 2000s though in Ultimo Dragon. He had a style that would attract the attention of the fans and had enjoyed success wherever he had been, including WCW. Unfortunately, the company would completely drop the ball with Ultimo Dragon, and he would spend less than a year there, before leaving.
Ultimo Dragon Was A Champion In WCW
Ultimo Dragon has one of the most fascinating origin stories in wrestling. Born in Japan, he was trained in the NJPW Dojo but did not get a shot in the promotion due to his lack of size. He would then move to Mexico, where he got his big break and adopted the ‘Ultimo Dragon’ name. Initially, the gimmick was that he was the last student taught by Bruce Lee, although that would be dropped.
Ultimo Dragon would enjoy success in both Japan and Mexico, and in 1996, he made his United States debut in WCW. He won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship and World Television Championship during his time in the company.
His run in WCW cut short though when a botched operation caused him nerve damage. It looked like that had ended his career and he was forced to announce his retirement. Later in 2002 though, he would make a return to the ring and found himself in the WWE the following year.
WWE Appeared To Have High Hopes For Ultimo Dragon But His Push Faded Quickly
When Ultimo Dragon arrived in WWE in 2003, Mysterio had already established himself as a major star in the company and showed that that style could be a success in the WWE, so there were high hopes surrounding Ultimo Dragon as well.
The company would hype up his arrival, and he would make his debut on SmackDown at Madison Square Garden by beating Shannon Moore. Mysterio was on commentary for Ultimo Dragon’s debut and the company was already teasing a dream match between the two. It was pretty clear that the WWE had big plans for him.
Unfortunately, it did not take long for Ultimo Dragon’s push to fade away. He would lose his very next match against Eddie Guerrero. It was a confusing decision and there was no real need for it. Ultimo Dragon’s downhill slide in the WWE had started.
WWE Just Gave Away The Rey Mysterio Vs Ultimo Dragon Dream Match
It might have been early in his run, but it already looked like WWE creative had lost interest in Ultimo Dragon. He would win a match over Jamie Noble on SmackDown to bounce back from his defeat against Guerrero but would go on to spend a long time on Velocity, Heat, and live shows, and did not appear on SmackDown for a while.
He would crop back up on SmackDown about three months later, in a losing effort to Tajiri. It is safe to say that Ultimo Dragon’s run in the WWE was not going as he or the fans would have expected. Three weeks later, the company did the unthinkable, giving away the Mysterio vs Ultimo Dragon match on a random episode of SmackDown, and that too to advance Mysterio’s storyline with Tajiri.
Ultimo Dragon would surprisingly win the match against Mysterio, thanks to interference from Tajiri, but it meant absolutely nothing. The die was cast, Ultimo Dragon’s WWE run was doomed for failure. He would become mostly a Velocity wrestler after this and never had another singles match on SmackDown or Raw. At least, he would get to make an appearance on WrestleMania 20, before asking for and getting his release. He returned to Japan after that and continues to wrestler to this day.
Why Ultimo Dragon Did Not Work Out In WWE
The easy thing would be to say that WWE creative failed Ultimo Dragon and gave up on him way too early. While that might have played a factor, there were several other reasons for his struggles.
Firstly, Ultimo Dragon’s style in the ring had become slower after his injury and almost four years away from the ring during his retirement. WWE fans had already seen Mysterio at his best and as a result, a slower and less explosive version masked wrestler just did not impress them.
Secondly, it had been five years since his run in WCW, and naturally, his star power had dwindled during his time away from the ring. One has to wonder if things would have gone differently if WWE had got their hands on Ultimo Dragon during his prime.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)