MATCHES THROUGH THE AGES: REY MYSTERIO vs. EDDIE GUERRERO
-Okay, so a couple weeks back I posted the first one of these, featuring a bunch of Rey Mysterio/Ultimo Dragon matches! But then I went on a Disney World vacation and was too busy running from Princess Security to do more, so now that I’m back I can do another one! This time I wanted to do a two-match review of Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio’s most famous encounters- the fabulous Halloween Havoc match and the infamous WrestleMania 21 bout. Now the latter is a well-known disappointment, so I kinda wanted to look into why. I believe in a shoot after the fact it was suggested that they were trying way too hard to equal the Havoc bout, and I can buy that- it’s hard to match an old classic, especially with much older wrestlers.
CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE vs. MASK MATCH:
EDDIE GUERRERO vs. REY MYSTERIO JR.:
(WCW Halloween Havoc, 1997)
* This is their famous bout, with Eddie the CW Champ in bisected gold/black tights, and Rey putting up his mask on the line, while wearing his epic purple bodysuit (the one that shows up in WCW/nWo Revenge). Eddie is RIDICULOUSLY vascular here, with steroids practically making him burst at the seams.
Eddie taunts Rey to start, but misses a punch and Rey hits a quebrada into an armdrag and a monkey flip, then cross-bodies him to the floor, but tries to follow with a dive and Eddie yanks him out of the Misawa feint and Rey splats. Eddie full-body whips him into the stairs and hits his slingshot senton in the ring, Tenay puts over Eddie’s dark side via his history of turning on tag partners & wrestling companies, while Heenan calls him one of the best of all time in terms of technique & moves, and Eddie catches Rey’s cartwheel jump with a backdrop suplex (probably supposed to be something else but he improvised when Rey came in funny). Eddie puts so much crank into a vertical suplex & backbreaker, then rests in an abdominal stretch while tearing at the mask. He turns that into a vicious pumphandle backbreaker after a full minute in the hold (hey, that’s timed just like joshi), Rey selling it like agony. Eddie works a count, but Rey uses their clenched hands to flip up and off the top rope into a DDT! He dropkicks Eddie to the floor but Eddie dodges him and does the same, smashes him into the guardrail, and stretches him some more.
Eddie slaps on the Gory Special (his father’s move), and counters Rey’s armdrag counter by dropkicking him in the neck, then hits an Argentine backbreaker drop- I’m loving the story of Eddie torturing the spine, but also being smart enough to counter Rey’s counters, neutralizing his speed advantage with his wits. A nasty back elbow leads to some strikes, and Rey’s comeback is again ruined, this time by going upside-down into the corner. Eddie dropkicks him and gets a bit too sadistic, as FINALLY his intelligence fails him- he’s just too mean and nasty, and that causes him to go to the well one too many times and dropkick his balls right into the post. Rey finally has the lead, and dives over the post to knock Eddie back. Back in, Eddie tries another backbreaker by Rey now counters him by landing on his feet, and hits his snap-rana for two. Eddie cranks him with a desperation lariat and dodges another quebrada, but when he tries to grab Rey out of his Tiger Feint, Rey headscissors him to the floor and follows up with the famous shot of an over-the-ropes dive into a swinging Hurricanrana to the floor!
Eddie gets thrown back in, and Rey hits a corkscrew bodyblock, but is too hurt to cover well and it gets two. Rey tries the Sabu moonsault, flipping off the ropes onto Eddie’s knees and Eddie DESTROYS him with a folding powerbomb, stacking him up… for two! Eddie, visibly frustrated, puts Rey into the corner but gets leapfrogged into it and wheel-kicked- Rey goes up for the Springboard Hurricanrana… but Eddie backbreakers him in mid-leap! Eddie preps the Frog Splash, but is far away and Rey moves- Eddie recovers with his forward-roll and even catches Rey taking advantage by leapfrogging HIM into the corner, then smashes him there to set up a backdrop superplex- Rey elbows free and Eddie improves to Splash Mountain- a Razor’s Edge from the top! But Rey RANAS HIM IN MID-AIR, trapping him in a pin for the famous fall and the Title at (13:51)!
Eddie repositions after Rey counters, but this rarely-done move is his unmaking.
Holy crap the precision in this bout- Eddie was OUSTANDING, hitting everything with this vicious “snap” to it, looking like he’s absolutely killing Rey out there. It had a ton of stretching moves, but it never looked wasteful or pointless, as Rey sold it like his back was being wrenched apart and it focused on one point of the body. And you had Rey’s trademark “how’d he do THAT?” counters, but Eddie was just too crafty and was on him after every one. And it’s Eddie’s own sadistic mania that screws him, as Rey finally takes the lead because Eddie got a little too vicious in pouring on the offense. And they Rey gets unleashed and just hits big move after big move- this coiled spring finally releasing its stored energy. And Eddie’s great even here- Rey’s good and a flippy guy, but was “off” on a few moves, so Eddie had to stabilize him (the seguing of whatever Rey’s cartwheel was supposed to be- probably his “leap onto the shoulders” spot- into a backbreaker; then holding him for the Rana to the floor). One of those matches where all the moving parts come together, and there’s even a story to use amidist all the crazy stuff Rey was doing, because Eddie’s strategy was so focused.
Rating: ***** (not every five-star classic has to be 20 minutes- all it has to be is perfect!)
“Hey Eddie, does my mask look like it’s fitting alright?”
“I dunno- fiddle with it a bit and we’ll see.”
EDDIE GUERRERO vs. REY MYSTERIO JR.:
(WWF WrestleMania 21, 2005)
* So with both guys now Main Event-level talent in the WWF, it was decided to try and capture the energy of the first match with a big WrestleMania one. However, it’s now eight years later and both guys are different (Rey in particular has at least 20-30 lbs. of steroid muscle added to him). Eddie’s got short hair and black tights with blue fire, while Rey’s got white flared pants & a shirt, and a distinctive mask that only covers the front of his face. This is an immediate issue with the match as it’s legendarily fidgety, causing Rey to f*ck around with it constantly for the entire duration of this bout.
They do a good, fast armdrag sequence, Rey hitting a sunset flip leaping onto Eddie’s shoulders while their hands are clenched, then Eddie slingshots him to the floor, but Rey dodges a baseball slide and Tiger Feints him. Eddie works a keylock but gets shoulderblocked & leapfrogged, and Rey has begun touching his mask after every single move to see if it’s still on right. Eddie catches him with a simple punch and pescados him, then starts stretching him out via a surfboard and STF. Rey armdrags Eddie out of an armlock and hits a corkscrew plancha, then a springboard whoopie cushion, but Eddie just elbows him down. Eddie goes for the Three Amigos, but Rey counters after the first suplex into a rollup. Rey kinda stumbles in, so Eddie does an awkward spin into a backdrop-to-backbreaker with a huge “OOHHHHHHH!” from the crowd. That gets two, and Eddie kinda stands their building his cardio- Three Amigos again, but Rey counters after the second, ending up hanging over Eddie’s back, fiddles with his mask, and finally headscissors him into the ropes, but misses the 619 and Eddie hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two.
Eddie, huffing and puffing, FINALLY gets all Three Amigos, but misses a Frog Splash! Rey’s bleeding from the mouth and of course f-ing around with his mask, and hits La Majistral but Eddie counters him by stacking him up for two. Rey does a Manami Roll and kinda awkwardly sits in Eddie’s face up there, being flipped off onto his feet and trips Eddie into the 619! Rey goes up for the West Coast Pop (springboard rana) but Eddie hits a Folding Powerbomb for a good near-fall. The crowd does an “Eddie!” chant as he argues with the ref, but runs into a shot and Rey counters another tilt-a-whirl into a rana and steals a win at (12:22).
Good match! Like… not outstanding or a Match of the Year Contender or whatever, but good! So… why’s it not as good as the prior one? Well, this is two much older men (Eddie was 30 in 1997; 38 in 2005 and not long for this world) with beaten-down bodies doing a match, and not backing up their falling physical bodies with greater psychology or timing. It’s just two guys doing stuff (Eddie mostly in the lead) and taking their time between moves now, partially because restholds were now passe (albeit we still had the “Headlocks/Armbars as Time-Wasters” thing going on in TV matches) and the 2005 style involved a lot more “standing around and taunting/thinking about the next move”. And so the match features Eddie repeatedly going for the Amigos and missing a finisher, countering Rey’s, and then getting caught with a basic reversal for the pin. Hardly a comparison to their prior match, despite being only about 1:50 shorter. And THAT DAMN MASK- who puts on weird new gear on the biggest show of the year? It exposes kayfabe badly every time Rey fiddles with it when he’s supposed to be selling or reversing moves!
Rating: ***1/2 (a standard good “Rey vs. Eddie” match, as they could probably never have a bad one)
So there we have it- a legendary, perfectly-applied match (Eddie countering any of Rey’s potential botches), then a merely “quite good” WrestleMania bout that fails to live up to it. Both guys were bulkier, older and slower, and didn’t counteract that with better storytelling- hell, the first match even had a better story!