Been watching a bunch of Eddy Guerrero matches on Goodhelmet's Eddy set over the last few days, and I'm thinking the guy was the best in the world in '97. His first half of the year was pretty quiet, but once he turns heel he just goes on a fuggin' tear and has one of my absolute favourite six month stretches of any wrestler in history. Btw, if I bring up any talking points about lists or ballots, it's because I'm watching all of this for a Greatest WCW Match Ever poll that I mentioned at some point over the last couple months.
Eddy Guerrero v Chris Jericho (Fall Brawl, 9/14/97)
Pretty masterful performance from Eddy here. Jericho does his thing and is perfectly good in his role, but I get the sense Eddy could've had this match with anybody that can hit their spots -- I doubt it would've been much different if you replace Jericho with Brad Armstrong for example. Absolutely love Eddy's twist on an early stand-off. Those "we're equals" stand-off spots burst my fucking head, but Eddy getting in the ref's face and bitching and complaining about phantom hair pulls turned it into one of my favourite spots of the match. All of his early heel shtick is great, but you've also got him bumping around like crazy and adding these awesome little touches like selling his THROAT while Jericho's got him in an armbar (he took a nasty hotshot across the top rope beforehand). Once he takes over (with a nice payback spot for the hotshot) he works the back like a total king. I remember his control segment being awesome and it really is... probably one of my favourites. He lets Jericho get his licks in at the right time, cuts him off at the right time, and above all else everything he's doing on offence looks really nasty - the high angle back suplex, that inverted Gory Special, the modified surfboard stretch where Jericho's head is almost brought back to his fucking heels - and the whole time he's got this look of pure disgust for everybody in the entire arena. Finishing run has some transitions that could've been better, but that's really a small quibble. Tremendous match and I could honestly see this landing in my top 10.
Eddy Guerrero v Dean Malenko (Handheld, Spokane, WA, 9/18/97)
Wel shit, this feels like their best match. I really wish it happened on TV or PPV, because I can't imagine it not getting a ton of pimping. Eddy is at his absolute weasly scum best here; cowering; begging off; looking for handshakes; practically dry humping the referee's leg like a kid clinging to his mother; complaining about hair pulls and his tights being grabbed, neither of which ever happened; riling up the crowd... just a phenomenal performance. Malenko brings enough to the table here that it feels like you couldn't swap him out of the match and stick someone else in his place as easily as you could with Jericho, primarily because he is over like a total motherfucker, but for the most part this is just Eddy ruling it with an opponent that's along for the ride. What I found especially great about this is that they work a completely different match from all of the other handheld matches I've seen between them. They bring some of the same spots (there's a sequence that finishes up with Eddy getting armdragged off the top rope which is one they seem to like using, although it's a great sequence so it's not like I'm complaining), but the body of the match is almost nothing like any of the others. Eddy works the leg here and just heels it to the fucking moon. It's probably because of the camera angle here, but I've never noticed quite how good he is at getting guys into a position from where he can cheat. From where the guy filming this is sitting you can see the way he goes about it, and it's really subtle and great. Finishing run is hot and keeps Malenko looking strong in defeat. I've said it enough in the past that I generally don't like the Eddy/Dean match-up, but the handheld stuff from '97 is by far the most I've enjoyed a run of matches between the two.
El Caliente v Rey Misterio Jr. (Nitro, 9/29/97)
El Caliente is Eddy under a hood. This is another Eddy/Rey match from September '97 that goes around 8 minutes, and while it isn't as good as their first match earlier in the month, you really can't go wrong with this match-up. The 9/8 match had a few spots I had never seen before, but the most spectacular of the bunch didn't quite come off dead on. It wasn't a botch and they still hit it in the end, but with a spot of such difficulty, you recognise even the smallest of slips. They don't just do the exact same spot here; they actually make it even more difficult, only this time they hit it perfectly and it makes for a totally spectacular finish. Post-match Eddy gets unmasked and Misterio wants a title shot, which of course leads to...
Eddy Guerrero v Rey Misterio Jr. (Halloween Havoc, 10/26/97)
Feels like a pretty good shot at #1. Unless I watch the Flair/Steamboat Clash VI match again and have a pretty big change of heart, this won't be *my* #1, but it's still the kind of match that will likely do very well on every ballot and could definitely challenge for the overall top spot at the end. I definitely wouldn't be upset if it took the overall #1. I mean, this might've been my #1 in the WWF/E poll, although I suspect watching this and Austin/Angle back to back I still would've given the nod to the Summerslam match. Enough has been said about this over the last 13 years that it doesn't require any further pimping, but Eddy and Rey really are the perfect rudo and technico combination here. I could see the Jericho and Malenko matches being as good with a number of different guys slotted in as the babyface, but I watch this and I can't think of anybody you could replace Misterio with in 1997 and still have this good a match. Unlike the Ultimo match, this really felt like a match where the heel knew exactly when to let the babyface get his hope spots in. Of course this is 1997 Rey Jr. so the hope spots are incredible, and they still hold up as being visually spectacular even today (that springboard moonsault DDT... thing is still one of the most impressive spots I've ever seen). Eddy eschewing the shtick for a far more business-like approach goes a long way in making something like the mask ripping as effective as it is -- you really buy him as hating this kid, wanting to torture him and take his livelihood. Just an amazing match.
Eddy Guerrero v Rey Misterio Jr. (Nitro, 11/10/97)
I could say this is one of the "weaker" Eddy/Rey matches, but that shouldn't imply that it isn't good. They don't necessarily do anything that you won't have seen from them already, but it's still *these* two going 10 minutes and putting on "their" match, so again, you can't go wrong. This probably had the nastiest of set-up spots for the finish, though. Rey really takes a fucking monster of a throat-first bump across the top rope, to the point where I would've bought it as a finish even without the frog splash.
Eddy Guerrero v Rey Misterio Jr. (World War 3, 11/23/97)
I had remembered feeling like this was an attempt at topping their Havoc match and it coming off as them trying *too* hard, and I suppose that's still what it is, but Eddy's acting more like a Fuerza Guerrera here than the Satanico he was in the Havoc match. He's back to bitching and complaining about phantom hair pulls and stuff and the opening spell feels a little like the Jericho match and not the Havoc. For the most part I thought this was very good, but they botch a few spots pretty badly. They recover well enough because it's these two, but it does hurt the match and I'm generally not one that's all that bothered about spots being fucked up. The big spots they do hit cleanly are great highspots, though, some of which I don't think they've used before or after. Rey was pretty much your king of innovation anyway, but you get the sense these two had a field day coming up with spots and sequences, and for the degree of difficulty a lot of them were, their percentage of hitting them clean is pretty staggering.
Eddy Guerrero v Fit Finlay (Nitro, 12/22/97)
I've always loved this. It's not a "great match", but Eddy is my all-time favourite wrestler and Finlay is somewhere around my top 10, so just seeing them get 7 minutes to have a match is something I can definitely get behind. You get a couple nifty spots and Eddy is acting like a douchebag, so Fit hauling off and kicking him right in the nose or whatever is all good fun. I'm actually a fan of Eddy walking out at the finish, he's the Cruiserweight champ with a title defence at the biggest PPV of the year less than a week later; fuck getting smacked around by Fit Finlay on Nitro. "I don't need this... nah, man, I don't need this."