At this past Friday’s WWE Greatest Royal Rumble Ever in Saudi Arabia, Rey Mysterio once again made a one-night appearance for WWE and did so in style. Like every time he graces the ring, but especially for his rare WWE appearances, Rey always comes custom dressed. And, since the mid-90s, Japan’s Masahiro Hayashi has been hand creating all of Rey’s most mind blowing designs.
This summer, at Masked Republic’s Expo Lucha in Las Vegas, Hayashi will be bringing a museum display called “Mysterio Couture” to be seen outside of Japan for the very first time. For a look at some of the various outfits Hayashi has designed for Rey, check out this video he released in 2015.
With all the buzz around Rey’s custom outfit from Friday, we thought it would be a good time to bring you an exclusive interview that originally ran in issue 16 of Rudo Can’t Fail.
Interview with Japan’s Most Famous Mask Masker – Hayashi
with Rick Mandell
Rick Mandell: You are probably most famous for being the official mask maker for Rey Mysterio. How did you even become a mask maker in the first place and then how did you end up as the official mask maker for Rey?
Hayashi: I met Rey Mysterio for the first time in December of 1995 during his first trip to Japan for the second Super J Cup tournament. I did not know much about Rey until then. I knew his name, but did not know much about him. But, I watched the match against Psicosis and I was very surprised. Very happy and surprised. So, I started to think that I would like to work with him. At that time, I had already had a career for 10 years making masks and outfits. So, the next time Rey came to Japan, in April of 1996, I brought my style of mask and costume to his hotel and gave them to him. It was a silver color outfit. He was very happy because I used a very special material and fabric and it was from there that our deal started, and it continues to today. Also, our ages are almost the same. I was born in 1973 and Rey in 1974, so we became good friends.
RM: You had a company called Soluna that was known for bringing wrestling products from outside of Japan to the country for fans to purchase. You always had a focus on lucha libre and eventually just became Solucha. What was it that made you want to focus on lucha libre?
H: I opened Soluna retail store in ’97 in Osaka, Japan. I didn’t have my own brand name for making costumes and masks. So, Soluna became the name of the retail store and the brand name. I named it Soluna because the first time I went to Tijuana and San Diego, I saw the sign of a sun and moon everywhere and so I named my company Soluna. The retail store only had items from the U.S. and Mexico. This was during the wrestling boom. NWO, Stone Cold and The Rock sold a lot of merchandise here. It was the first time there was an American pro wrestling boom in Japan. Then, I closed the retail store 2005. For almost 10 years I was not doing wrestling merchandise. I only made masks and costumes. But in 2015, I opened the Solucha website – it means “many wrestling” or “mucha luchas.” Now, I feel that, in Japan, not only do the lucha libre fans want to buy the lucha libre stuff, but I think it’s a popular item for tourists. Here’s a funny story. While Mil Mascaras may be the more famous wrestler, the best-selling shirt I have is El Matematico. People just like lucha libre. Lucha is an easy first step to becoming a wrestling fan.
RM: There is a big respect for lucha libre in Japan. NJPW has their Fantasticamania events every year. Dragon Gate was born out of a hybrid of Mexican and Japanese wrestling. Why do you think there is so much love and respect for lucha libre in Japan?
H: I think they are almost the same thing. My first time watching wrestling matches was Tiger Mask on the TV. I was 10 years old. But, I wasn’t so interested in other wrestling matches. Tiger Mask matches were very special. I think that’s why Dragon Gate and Fantasticamania shows are an easy first step into wrestling. The other thing is, luchadores are real. Mil Mascaras is very famous. Mil Mascaras is real. Ultraman (Editor note: the very popular TV character, not the wrestler) is not real. This is why Mexican wrestling and masks and high flying does very well here.
RM: Tell us about how this book came to be. You published some smaller magazines before right? What made you want to publish books about Mexican mask makers?
H: Around my teenage years, I was a mask collector. I had a lot of masks from my own collection, but when I turned 20, I finished my collection and then I went ahead to just making and not collecting. But, I really loved vintage Mexican masks. Now there are new mask collectors in Mexico and in Japan. I think they don’t know about vintage Mexican masks made in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I want to teach them. I think in Mexico now there are so many fake vintage masks. I want to be able to help people understand what is fake and what is real. I want it to be a guidebook. I worked with about 10 of the largest collectors in the world to complete these books. Two years ago, we published five small books on vintage mask makers. Now, we are putting these five books together with two unpublished ones to make this collector’s book. Each mask is introduced by Shimizu “Dr. Lucha” Tsutomu, but in Japanese only. The profiles of each mask maker are in English and Spanish. The name of the wrestler and the name of the fabric is in English and in Japanese. I am very proud of this book and would put it up there with the greatest mask books in the world.
RM: Thank you for your time today Hayashi and I personally look forward to purchasing a copy of the book for my home.
While they can be quite expensive, if you are looking for an authentic Rey Mysterio mask, the luchador does not sell them himself, but, you can find authentic Hayashi masks on his website Solucha.com (but note, you have to pay for shipping from Japan).