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Caristico: the return of a Mexican legend

Courtesy CMLL / Miguel Reducindo

This story originally ran on ESPN Deportes.

He made Místico an idol. In his first few months, he turned the character into the young star of Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre -- a silver- and gold-armored gladiator that produced every reaction you could hope for from a wrestling crowd. He was a warrior engaged in epic battles, and a beloved character.

And when he was shining brighter than ever upon that pedestal, he decided to abandon it all for a shot on the biggest stage of wrestling.

"It was a very difficult decision, it was complicated, I elevated the Místico name to the highest level. At the beginning, the fans didn't believe in the character nor that Místico would turn into a boom, and neither did I, honestly."

The journey from the start of his career to a chance in the WWE was a long one.

"I made my debut on June 18, 2004, in an event that was called 'Infierno en el Ring' (Hell in the Ring), I was in the second fight against Averno, Mephisto and Olímpico and it was a wonderful debut. The name Místico began to be heard out there, people were asking who was that short, skinny boy that was doing wonderful things in the ring, things entirely different than those done by other luchadores at Arena México. Místico was a revolution in wrestling," said Luis Ignacio Urive, the man behind the mask.

After his debut as Místico in the CMLL, the character went on to wrestle the following 12 straight Fridays in the Arena México ring. The fans wanted to see him, not only due to his spectacular way of diving through the air, but of flying -- literally -- over the ropes to hit topes on his opponents. As he was introduced as the Príncipe de Plata y Oro' (silver and gold prince), he immediately seduced them with an unexpected charisma.

His wins continued as he faced some of the greatest luchadores Mexico had to offer. Místico defeated Hijo del Santo at La Gran Alternativa in a major CMLL main event, and was again victorious against Averno, when he won the NWA middleweight world championship. He took the mask off of Black Warrior, and the hair off of Negro Casas, and he fought epic matches with Perro Aguayo Jr.. Every night he was in the ring, Urive continued to add to the legacy of the character.

"I have a very particular style, I can suspend myself in the air for one or two seconds and that is very difficult to achieve, it took me very long to improve it and the people like it a lot. What Místico did was to show his style and prove the fans that he wanted to achieve success, and that he did not give a damn if he was fighting against a legend. What Místico did was to get on top of those legends, and I achieved it and it was a very big boom," Urive remembers.

"The mask does not make the wrestler; it is the wrestler who makes the mask. That helped me a lot as the fame of Místico continued to grow, everything happened very quickly, but I had prepared myself for that and I still do, I still train, because you can't stop learning, your opponents keep teaching you new things."

The original Místico's history was written in gold letters between 2004 and 2011. And then, when he was seemingly at the peak his career, the silver-and-gold idol decided -- maybe without thinking too much about it -- that it was time to renew himself with a new challenge.

"It was very difficult for me to leave that character behind, because in that role I did soap operas, music videos, ads -- the name of Místico was everywhere. I have always prepared myself to give the best on the ring, in order to send the fans happy of paying to see us. Either in Arena México or in a small town, I always did my best," he said.

"I felt that I had done everything in Mexico and I wanted to take a chance in the U.S. The character is not mine, it belongs to the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, and I have always respected that fact. Something that makes me different is that I never wrestled as a junior, my father is Doctor Karonte and my uncle is Tony Salazar and I never used one of their characters, because I wanted to have a different history, I wanted to do something else, not to be 'the son of,' I did not want to be in anyone's shadow.

"It was very difficult for me to leave my character behind, because it had become part of my life, I was him all day long, with the white eyes, with the mask on, but I wanted to try other companies and not do as other wrestlers, that are afraid of going outside the country. Quite the contrary, I wanted to be someone else and become one of the best in the world."

It was very difficult to start from scratch

Without thinking twice about what he was leaving behind, Urive left the CMLL to start a new phase in his professional career with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he made his debut under the name of Sin Cara. With the new role came the challenge of proving to the world, and himself, what he believes more than anything -- that "the mask does not make the wrestler; it is the wrestler that makes the mask."

"It was very difficult to start from scratch, because nobody knew the name Sin Cara and I performed at the highest level, both in Mexico and in the United States. I believe that I have proved to the fans and to some big-name wrestlers, that I have been a star not only with a single character; I have performed as many as four characters, and all of them have been accepted as great wrestling stars."

Sin Cara was featured as this American wrestling character for almost four years, which to Urive proves that that experience was, all in all, positive.

"Those three years and seven months, I liked everything I did. It was a very important experience and a particularly exciting one for me -- it made me mature as a person, and also as a professional wrestler, and now I am quite focused in the wrestling world," Urive said. "It is very difficult to start from scratch, but the fans know that I give my all when I make my characters live in the wrestling ring; they know that I offer them the best of my work, because wrestling is not only a sport, it is part of Mexican culture and we have taken it everywhere."

So why does he think it came to an end?

"[It's hard] when you are not given opportunities, when you are limited and they do not want you to look better than the American wrestlers," he said. "People loved me a lot, they wanted to see my work, just as I was doing it in Arena Mexico as Místico, but when I noticed that I didn't get the opportunities and that they were putting roadblocks and obstacles in my career, I made the call not to renew my contract and returned to Mexico, to give it another try and to start from scratch with a new character."

WWE released Urive from his contract in March 2014.

"Perhaps they will criticize me for saying this, but I am a person that has created characters that other people profited from, and I believe that those characters were big for them," Urive said. "I don't want to criticize them, quite the contrary -- I say it hoping they value what they were given. I worked very hard, fighting against great wrestlers like Dinamita, Dr. Wagner Jr., Pierroth, I fought against very strong people to put the name of Místico in a high standard. I always gave more than a hundred percent, I suffered with blood, pain and tears because they were respected wrestlers against whom I had to earn my own spot, and now I can enjoy it."

"I will never break my bond with Mistico"

With nothing else left for him to do in the U.S., Sin Cara returned to Mexico with no remorse, looking for a new chance with the CMLL. It was hard for him to knock on the door of the company with which he had his start as a professional wrestler, but it was harder to face one of the most complicated battles of his career, and a new reality -- Místico, the character he had made great, had been already assigned to another wrestler.

"It was not easy. First thing I did after coming back from the United States was look to arrange my return to Arena Mexic. Thank God, it was achieved and it was moving to see the people recognizing me by my way I walked, just seeing me walk, the fans knew," he said. "They told me when they heard my voice, 'You are Místico!' My comeback was excellent, I was waiting for it anxiously and I believe that, until now, I have not disappointed anyone. Quite the contrary, I have given a hundred percent in the ring to deserve the audience's approval." It's an unusual thing to have to interact and perform alongside a character you created and portrayed, but for the man now known as Caristico it is an honor.

"I am moved by being next to Místico, the new version, because I know it is part of my past and I am getting over it. If I gave my life to put Místico at the highest place, I can do the same with Carístico; to have Místico at my side and hear the people calling me Místico, is something quite moving, that gives me additional energy to excel above anyone.

"Now that I have this character and I am back at the house that saw my start as a professional wrestler, I am happy, because it comes from the hand of Místico. With this character I am headlining a lot of posters and I will be honored to go on wrestling to achieve my dream, that is to become a legend like El Santo, Blue Demon, Perro Aguayo, Negro Casas. I want to achieve that goal, and I am sure that with the love of the people and my hard work, I am going to succeed."

Returning to CMLL after leaving for the United States was not easy, but eventually the fans understood why he did it.

"Yes, it was difficult, but the fans heard what I had to say and they are beginning to understand that I wanted to excel and I couldn't do it here," Urive said. "I wanted to take a chance abroad and do something different. I could not take the character with me, but they realized that I went north in search of new horizons, new rivalries, to wrestle against the best from other companies, and I just did it. Some people wanted to reproach me, but I have convinced them with my work, with my performance on the ring, with my behavior towards them, I am humbler than before."

Even though he no longer portrays Mistico, it's something, good or bad, that Urive will carry with him for the rest of his life.

"I will never cut my bonds with it, I gave it my life. It will be very difficult, because the people continue calling me Místico, whatever name I use, the people will still call me Místico," he said. "It happened in the United States; people asked me why and I explained to them that it was the character that made me achieve world fame, I can't take it off me, and I will always be honored when the people call me Místico, because they remember very well it was me that I was the one that gave life to that character and the one that turned it into a star."

"Mistico should not have me as an opponent"

As Carístico, the already experienced wrestler has shared a tag team with the new version of Místico. Companionship was clear in the tecnico (good guy) corner, especially from Carístico, who insists that he can see his past reflected in the mask of the Príncipe de Plata y Oro. Nevertheless, after the public statements that the young wrestler now portraying Mistico made a couple of weeks ago to ESPN Digital, a rivalry between them might be in their future.

"Even though I have Místico by my side, I have always proved that I am not envious, and that I just want the fans to leave the Arena happy after paying their tickets," Urive said. "I would be honored to have him as my partner, though I don't think he should have me as an opponent, because I have more experience, though I understand that it would be attractive for the fans, to see the original Místico fight the new version. I would be happy to have him either as an opponent or as a partner.

"It would be very good for the fans. I insist, if he wants to be my opponent, I don't think it will be good for him, I am more experienced than he is, though I'm not overconfident; if he prefers a rivalry, it is OK with me, I am not against it, because it is to fight against my past, and if wrestling against him will take away all my past, I'll accept it. It would be a great honor to wrestle in Arena México against him and, if he wants it, he will have me as an opponent. I'll take his word, let him be prepared, now I might even look for him as an opponent."

Whether it is as a friend or a foe, it is a strange experience to try to differentiate his act from that of the new Mistico, but that would likely add to the fire of a future conflict.

"It was rather difficult at the beginning, but the fans know us well, we have similar styles, but I have something you are born with ... an angel," Urive said. "People know it, and I'll always appreciate their support. There had been times when things went wrong and I never reproached him, quite the contrary, but if he ever wants to be my opponent and tries to win 100 percent of the name, the fans will have the last word. If he wants to start a rivalry with me, I would be delighted."

With a spectacular flying style and a loyalty to his philosophy of risking his skin in every move, both inside and outside the ring, Carístico continues to innovate -- no matter which mask covers his face -- as one of the main stars of the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre.