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31 Days of Wrestling (12/28/18): Viva El Rey

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2018 produced for us.

Rey Mysterio's return to the WWE is enough of an argument to go back to single-brand PPVs again. (Not the 2016-2017 twice-a-month setup, though, but the original alternating format.)

The living lucha legend's return to the company was always a matter of when, not if, but if you told a fan we were getting a revitalized Rey Mysterio who seemed to have found the fountain of youth this year, they'd probably tell you you were loco. Those of us who care to watch wrestling outside the WWE already know he could still go thanks to his run in Lucha Underground, but to look this good at this age? It seemed to be out of the question.

But we were all proven wrong. Not only did Rey come back, but he was able to pull off a banner year in 2018, working the world's two biggest promotions before coming home. There's only one other guy who could top that, and we already know all about Chris Jericho.


WWE fans saw Rey come back in nostalgia spots at the two Royal Rumbles earlier this year, but the company made the right decision by putting the legend on SmackDown Live. They didn't waste any time putting him to work and making dream matches happen for as long as he was healthy, and if there's any single match from this run that epitomizes Rey's current purpose, it's this first-time-ever match against Andrade "Cien" Almas from the November 6 episode of SmackDown. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself this favor right away.

The match is only a little under 10 minutes long and it's on free television, but who cares? It feels like a big match, it unfolded like a big match, and SmackDown benefitted from having it. This is the kind of content we're living for, and exactly the kind of thing Rey needs to be doing—while he's wrestling like he was at his second peak, if there was such a thing, they need to throw all the young guns at him. All the possible historic matchups involving him is what SmackDown is exactly supposed to be doing right now, and this Rey/Almas matchup is but a taste of that awesomeness.

A fan can only hope that we get to keep this version of Rey Mysterio for as long as possible, especially given his history with injury. Until then, ¡viva!


***


31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

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