Thursday, 22 September 2016

Some '97 Nitro

Over on Cross Arm Breaker Tim Cooke is (or was; I don't think he's written anything in about six months) watching and reviewing some short Nitro matches from '97. When I wrote up that PWF Guerreros tag last week I - perhaps foolishly - speculated that I'd seen just about every Eddie Guerrero match committed to tape. Well, that might be nonsense. Because I've gone digging and there's a bunch of '97/'98 Eddie matches from WCW TV that I'm pretty certain I've never seen before. My interest was piqued, and not just for the Eddie matches. So I watched some wrestling. These are my findings.

Rey Misterio Jr. v Juventud Guerrera (Nitro, 9/15/97)

For an abbreviated, spot-heavy version of a Rey/Juvi AAA match, this was reeeeeally fun. If you're going to judge a spotfest then I suppose you ought to be docking points for blown spots, but Juventud completely whiffing a simple dropkick only to follow it up with a brutal sunset flip powerbomb off the apron kind of throws a spanner in that theory. The blown dropkick annoyed him, so he went and did something awesome (for the viewer, anyway. Probably not for Rey) to make up for it. Do we knock him for the dropkick, or raise our thumbs to the crazy powerbomb that followed? Do we believe the capacity to forgive is in us all? Or, like sane people, do we just not give a fuck and watch the rest of the match and not bother philosophising over Juventud Guerrera missing a dropkick? I'll leave that one to you. Rey Jr. in 1997 is one of the more spectacular wrestlers ever. Some of what he does has been topped for sheer wow factor by now, almost twenty years later, but there's something about Rey hitting a somersault senton over the turnbuckle that can't quite be replicated no matter who does it. It's like the Cruyff Turn. You have Messi and Ronaldinho and Mertesacker, all capable of spellbinding brilliance, but nobody did it like Johan. And he still has the best springboard 'rana of them all.

Eddie Guerrero v Ultimo Dragon (Nitro, 9/15/97)

Man, Eddie in '97 was something else. You're probably reading this and thinking, "oh great, here he goes again," but really, he was awesome. I'd say he was an all-round better wrestler in 2005, but in '97, when he was quicker and a little less bulky, he had such SNAP to everything he did. Even a simple headlock takeover or an armdrag is done like it's intended to make the other guy hit the mat as hard as possible. I'm not one of Ultimo Dragon's biggest fans (and once more you're thinking, "oh great, here he goes again"), but he was really good in this. Match only goes about six minutes, but they throw an arm injury story into it and Ultimo deserves credit for keeping the sell job going right until the end. He hangs the arm by his side, mostly relies on stiff kicks for strikes (and some of them were STIFF), and can't hit certain moves properly because of the dodgy arm. Best example of this is towards the end where he tries for the dragon sleeper, but he can't hook it in properly so Eddie starts kneeing him in the shoulder to force the release. Eddie was also great at working over that arm. I would rather watch Eddie work a body part than almost anybody ever and my favourite part of this was his scoop slam while Ultimo's arm is hammerlocked, followed by rolling Ultimo onto his front and hitting a hilo onto the still-hammerlocked arm. Lead in to the finish was cool as well, with Eddie catching Ultimo in midair, hitting a shoulderbreaker, then putting him away with the frog splash.

Eddie Guerrero & Dean Malenko v Rey Misterio Jr. & Steven Regal (Nitro, 11/3/97)

Killer sprint. This lasted about three and a half minutes and they crammed that three and a half minutes full of cool stuff. Rey and Malenko match up to begin with and they run through a mini greatest hits of their stalemate spots. I wasn't crazy about the stand-off, for stand-offs are tripe and I will not be swayed on this, but then Eddie started applauding their athletic exploits and Malenko just glared at him with unconcealed disgust. Crowd are all over Eddie with the Eddie sucks chants, so Eddie covers his ears and everyone chants louder. The Eddie/Regal segment lasted about 45 seconds and it was awesome. Regal goes for a butterfly suplex and Eddie, just as he reaches the point where he'd usually flip over for the landing, spins to his left and reverses it into an armdrag. I honestly don't think I've ever seen that spot before and it was cool as hell. There's another great bit where Eddie gets down on his knees and begs Regal for a break, but Regal naturally isn't having any of it. He makes to throw a punch, and as the ref' tries to grab the arm Eddie dives forward and chop blocks Regal's knee (from the front, which is the nastiest kind of chop block). Finish is cool as well, with Malenko earning Eddie's disgust this time around. I'm not sure you could ask for much more out of this. 

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