How WWE Could Save Kalisto’s Career

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With the right booking and proper presentation, Kalisto could still thrive in WWE.

Kalisto was once pegged to accomplish big things in WWE. The former Samuray del Sol was put in a position that he’d become the next Rey Mysterio, the next masked superstar that would set the WWE Universe on fire (and sell tons of masks in the process). But something somewhere went wrong…terribly wrong.

In truth, WWE shot themselves in the foot when they introduced Kalisto to WWE. What they did was they tried to mold a luchador into a WWE-wrestler. This meant that he had to be “re-conditioned” to wrestling in WWE’s style of match, which actually caused him considerable harm. WWE’s style is appropriate for a wrestler like John Cena or Randy Orton, two big guys that are comfortable doing the same moves over and over again.

It isn’t good for a luchador, whose entire style is all about being unpredictable and dynamic while in the ring. Just look at the original Sin Cara. He failed to adapt to WWE’s style, and instead of becoming the next Rey Mysterio, his name has become more synonymous with botching moves than anything else.

While Kalisto’s WWE career hasn’t reached that low of a nadir, he has struggled in WWE nonetheless. Despite being a talented cruiserweight capable of incredible things, WWE’s bookers have him on a short leash. Because of this approach to “re-conditioning” wrestlers, Kalisto hasn’t been even remotely capable of showing off everything that he’s capable of.

Contrast this with Rey Mysterio who, upon debuting on SmackDown in 2002, was given far fewer restrictions at first. Rey was given almost complete freedom to do as he pleased in the ring, which allowed him to become an enormous star in WWE. Rey only started changing his style when some moves became too taxing on his body, but the end goal was still the same: Rey was to wow the audience with his high-speed, high-flying arsenal.

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Kalisto hasn’t been able to do this, but not all hope is gone. If WWE’s bookers were to set their mind to it, they could still save Kalisto and maybe, just maybe, make him into a true lucha libre star in WWE. All that they need to do is follow a few steps.

First, Kalisto needs to be given considerably more freedom in the ring. He needs to be able to pull off as many crazy aerial moves and ‘flippy’ moves as possible, because that’s what made Rey Mysterio popular with an audience that, at first, wasn’t familiar with him. If you were to look to the cruiserweight division during the early-2000s on SmackDown, Rey was by far its biggest star and most ‘diverse’ wrestler in terms of what he could do.

In order to do this, Vince McMahon needs to loosen his control on the cruiserweight division as a whole, but especially on Kalisto. While his intention to keep them healthy and reduce the likelihood of injury is commendable, it shouldn’t be enforced by – for lack of a better term – neutering the cruiserweights.

Kalisto – and all the wrestlers remaining from last year’s Cruiserweight Classic – are forbidden from wrestling at the same level on the main roster that they did in that tournament. This is harming the division as a whole because these wrestlers aren’t given the freedom to show off what they can do.

This harms Kalisto because he gets so few opportunities to speak, and thus needs to do more in the ring in what little wrestling time he’s given on a weekly basis to convince the audience he’s worth their time.

What Vince McMahon’s doing is basically preventing them from doing something they, as cruiserweights, are completely fine with doing. Kalisto and the other cruiserweights have spent years honing their skills and mastering the specific art of cruiserweight-style wrestling.

If they’re forbidden from doing that, how are they supposed to succeed, keep fans interested, and thus make WWE more money? To use a very apt comparison, this is like clipping a bird’s wings and then expecting it to fly.

The next thing WWE needs to do is to put their entire production empire behind Kalisto. When was the last time WWE’s TV cameras showed someone wearing a Kalisto mask? It certainly hasn’t happened recently, that’s for sure.

This is the ironic thing about WWE: they have this enormous show that’s watched by millions of people each week, but they rarely plug a particular wrestler’s merchandise unless it’s their golden boy or an existing legend.

This is the wrong mentality. If one’s goal is to sell a ton of merchandise for a particular wrestler – in this case, Kalisto – then the logical plan would be to plug it whenever possible and to show their target market wearing it.

Again, one must look at what WWE did with Rey Mysterio since he’s basically the archetype for ‘successful masked wrestler in WWE’. Every week, Rey would walk down the aisle, and the camera would zoom to several fans wearing Rey masks. At other times, Rey would wear a bigger mask over his own mask and would then give that to a lucky fan ringside.

This particular act accomplished two things: not only did it lead to more Rey Mysterio merchandise being sold, but it also encouraged young fans and their parents to spend more money on ringside tickets in the hopes of receiving this special gift from their masked hero. In either case, WWE made more money off Rey.

Thirdly and most importantly, Kalisto needs to be booked like someone the WWE Universe should care about. Right now, Kalisto’s position in WWE is literally ‘that masked luchador that looks like Rey Mysterio but isn’t Rey Mysterio’.

WWE have done little-to-nothing in building Kalisto into the same kind of cruiserweight star Rey was. If they’re so desperate to find someone to fill the void that Rey left, why aren’t they booking that supposed replacement in the same way that made Rey so successful?

Kalisto has literally everything WWE needs from a top cruiserweight star. He has a cool look, is very adept in the ring, and connects with the audience. The only thing missing is a storyline that would compel the fans to care about him.

This is something WWE fails to provide on a regular basis for many wrestlers, not just Kalisto. But if WWE were truly serious about wanting to create a new lucha star, they should be serious regarding Kalisto’s booking.

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There are many directions in which the Kalisto character can go. He can become the new face (mask?) of the cruiserweight division, which has thus far failed to set the world on fire. Kalisto would be more than comfortable in this environment and would be more than capable of having great matches against that division’s stars (provided that the writers make the wrestlers care about the championship at the division’s center).

The other, and more realistic option, would be to build Kalisto up as a ‘giant-killer’, which is what they did with Mysterio. Despite Mysterio’s almost-infantile stature, he managed to overcome the greatest of odds and actually won both the Royal Rumble and the World Championship, thus earning him the nicknames ‘the Ultimate Underdog’ and ‘the Biggest Little Man’. While the booking in these circumstances was far from perfect, it did achieve its ultimate goal in making Rey into a top star.

This is the ideal storyline direction in which to take Kalisto. If booked against incredible odds, Kalisto could be presented as having to climb a mountain to reach his dream. This, in turn, would rally fans behind him, as most fans love watching an underdog story.

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By supporting him both with their cheers and their wallets, Kalisto would eventually become a big star in WWE, one that tells great in-ring stories of overcoming the odds and one that sells tons of merchandise. In both circumstances, everyone wins.