Recap from David Arthur:
Many people couldn’t step into the ring and match skill with Eddie Guerrero. Dean Malenko would be an exception. Then again many people couldn’t step into the ring and match skill with Dean Malenko. Eddie Guerrero would also be an exception.
On this particular evening these two faced off for the WCW Crusierweight Championship. The match begins with Eddie Guerrero, the champion, taunting Dean Malenko, the challenger, possibly mocking his hairline. I possess a similar hairline, so I don’t care for Dean Malenko’s hairline at all myself. But I digress.
Malenko moves referee Charles Robinson out from between himself and Guerrero, since Eddie made sure to keep “Lil’ Naitch,” between them while trying to get under Dean’s skin, only to get hit with a cheap shot. Following a waistlock takedown and some fast, brief chain wrestling, Malenko begins to viciously pound Guerrero. If Eddie was trying to aggravate Dean, it worked. Eddie extended an offer for a handshake to Dean, but Dean would have none of it. Kicking Eddie in the gut and following it up with a leg lariat, a suplex, and some more angry fists.
Eddie then cuts Dean off and attempts to go for a combination wristlock, step up the ropes, headscissor takeover lucha libre-style maneuver (My apologies, I’m sure this move has a name that sums up all these motions, I just don’t know what it is), but Dean counters the final sequence of this glorious display of skill into a powerbomb. Later in the match, Malenko reverses another similar maneuver by Guerrero into a backbreaker. Guerrero would eventually become fed up with being slammed around by Malenko that while on his knees he began to beat at his chest angrily, as if saying “Come at me bro!” Only to scurry out of the ring once given the space to do so. Eddie would regroup and take back control of the match after forming a new strategy: attack Malenko’s knee.
Eddie would use his customary dirty tactics to try and wear down Malenko, but upon attempting a vertial suplex, Dean would block it, lift Guerrero up, and drop him abdomen first on the top rope. What would follow is one of my favorite moments in this match. Dean would boost Eddie high into the air as he came off the ropes, and casually walk away as Guerrero came crashing down to the canvas ( this happens around the 6:50 mark). Quite comedic and cartoonish. Eat your heart out Wile E. Coyote.
Eddie would once again try chill the situation out by kneeling down and kissing Malenko’s boots, then offering a handshake while still on his knees. Dean would reciprocate Guerrero’s gesture of truce with a dropkick. Eddie then takes the advantage back by once again attacking Malenko’s knee, both inside and outside the ring. The big spot in this match came when Malenko cut Eddie off while he ascended the turnbuckle. Dean climbs up and attempts the Avalanche Gutbuster but Eddie blocks the attempt, and tries to execute a Hurracanrana, only to be blocked. Then it appears that they both try to execute their intended moves simultaneously. The end result is Dean landing on his feet and Eddie crashing onto the mat. It wasn’t exceptionally pretty and may have been a botch, but covered and perpetrated smoothly enough to mostly go unnoticed.
Malenko tries to lock on the Texas Cloverleaf, only to get kicked in the knee. Eddie goes for a low dropkick to Dean’s ailing knee but Dean moves and Eddie sails through the ropes onto the floor. This does little to slow him down as he still manages to keep the attack on Dean’s knee, giving him the necessary space and time to hit a top rope missle dropkick to Malenko’s knee, putting him down long enough for Guerrero climb to the top rope and execute his trademark Frog Splash onto Malenko for the victory.
I enjoyed this match. A fan of both men I am. Eddie Guerrero was as fantastic of a heel as Dean Malenko was as underwhelming of a babyface, mostly do to his perpetual stone-faced, steely-eyed demeanor. This match told a good story, it pretty much had to. This PPV was headlined by the big Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Sting match that was nearly a year and a half in the making. The broadcast announce team gave more attention to that match during this match, than they did this match as it was happening. For those who have seen that main event and this PPV in its entirety may feel as I do, and consider this Crusierweight title match to be not only another fine page in the proverbial book of Guerrero/Malenko classics, but also one of the few things on WCW Starrcade 1997 that warranted having more than a single look at.