Recap from David Arthur:
This one takes me back. I was twenty years old, and actually ordered this PPV myself. That was a long time ago…
The story and buildup to this match is quite easy. Eddie Guerrero was the WCW Cruiserweight Champion, and Rey Mysterio Jr. had defeated him on two separate non-title occasions prior to this. While Rey was having a match with Dean Malenko on Nitro, Eddie slid into the ring out of nowhere and tore Rey’s mask off in a sudden, fluent motion. costing him the match. So at the Halloween Havoc PPV, Rey would challenge Eddie for the Crusierweight Championship, and if Rey lost the match, he would be forced to let Eddie unmask him.
This match takes off right out of the gate when Eddie, following some taunting, takes a swing at Rey, who ducks, and lands a shot of his own on Eddie. Afterwards, the rest of the match was a work of art. Eddie was 30 years old at the time, and I believe Rey may have been 22, but they’d faced each other so many times all over the world that they seemed perfectly instep with one another’s timing and pace. Both men pulled out so many moves in this match that had never been seen before; one wonders if they were just innovating as they were going. Some of the high points in this match were Eddie putting Rey in a quick Canadian-style backbreaker submission hold, and abruptly dropping to his knees, turning it into a sick, actual backbreaker (a personal favorite of mine, it can be found at the 7:15 mark). Also, in one of the more breathtaking moments, Rey performs a beautiful over-the-top-rope, somersault, headscissor takeover onto Eddie outside of the ring (found at the 10:50 mark). But no move performed in this match could compare to Rey’s jaw-dropping, assisted-moonsault DDT on Eddie (a difficult thing to picture from the description alone. See for yourselves at the 4:50 mark). If you’ve seen any of the WWE released Rey Mysterio or Eddie Guerrero DVDs, they speak of this match, and this move. According to both men, it was simply a “right place, right time,” moment, and in later matches they tried to repeat this maneuver, with far less success.
Eddie Guerrero was a fabulous heel. His body language and the look in his eyes were of a man with sinister intentions. He would slow the match down when it was to his advantage and torture Rey with submission holds, all the while tearing away at Rey’s mask, which was part of a full body costume (designed to look like the 1936 Lee Falk action comic strip hero The Phantom). This may have been the beginning of a trend for Rey Mysterio to wear gear that depicted comic book characters for important matches. Sadly, this was not referenced at all by the WCW broadcast team.
Rey, being so small of a wrestler, played the underdog like he has for the majority of his career. Taking a great deal of punishment, but never dying, never giving up, always fighting back no matter how bleak things appeared to be and using his speed and aerial offense to combat Guerrero. This match ended when Eddie crotched Rey on the top turnbuckle, began to hook him for a move that would’ve been an avalanche version of the Black Tiger Bomb, only to have Rey reverse it into a hurracanrana, and score the pinfall, becoming the new WCW Cruiserweight Champion.
This match is a must see for any wrestling fan. It also may have been the only saving grace of this PPV, which also featured an atrocious match between Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Alex Wright, a botch-laden effort between Chris Jericho and FMW competitor GEDO, and a main event which featured Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper in a steel cage match, in what had to be the worst looking steel cage I had ever seen. Even worse than the Triple Dome of Terror/Tower of Doom/Three-Level, Kanyon-killing contraption from that horrible Ready to Rumble movie.
Looking back after all this time, the idea of billing Rey Mysterio as an underdog in this program seems a little off considering he had already beaten Guerrero, who was champion, twice prior cleanly. It would’ve made more sense for Guerrero to come across as an insurmountable adversary that Rey just couldn’t seem to defeat, to really make Rey as an underdog with something to prove. On the other hand, it’s also a fine idea for Rey to show that despite his disadvantages, he can beat Guerrero, forcing Eddie to do something drastic. To cross a line. That line being trying to take Rey’s mask, getting into his head and pushing him into putting something so crucial to his career and his livelihood on the line for the sake of becoming champion, and thus, Eddie takes the entire situation back in his favor on a psychological level. Tomato. To-mah-to.
Thoughts from TJ Hawke:
When you read reviews or hear people talk about this match, people make it out to be one of the greatest matches of the ninties, and it’s definitely considered one of the greatest matches ever in the Nitro era of WCW. While I understand why people write that (and it could certainly be true), I don’t think this match really holds up as the “classic” that it seems to be considered. Don’t get me wrong, this match is a ton of fun, and Mysterio connects on some absolutely awesome stuff (which was only topped by Eddie’s top notch character work that made Rey’s comeback all the more enjoyable). However, this match really doesn’t have the crowd that you come to expect from classic matches, and the somewhat out of nowhere finish also takes it down a notch. This match is an absolute must-watch, and it should be put on any DVD about either competitor. It’s just not an all time great match in my mind.
Match Rating: ****