The Best of WCW Lucha Libre! (Part 1)
If, like me, you grew up watching American wrestling and only American wrestling, your first exposure to lucha libre was through WCW. Thanks to Konnan and Eric Bischoff, luchadors were frequently seen in throughout WCW from 1996 till the company closed its doors, helping to form one of the greatest under/midcard units in the history of professional wrestling. More importantly is the effect it had on lucha libre and the luchadors themselves. Guys like Rey Misterio Jr. and Eddy Guerrero used the platform to become legends all over the world; others like Konnan, Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, La Parka, Super Calo, and Último Dragón became cult heroes (all while enhancing their legendary status in Mexico). And those are just a few of the names that helped make WCW lucha libre one of the best things to ever happen to American wrestling, as well as (along with the famous When Worlds Collide PPV) the turning point where lucha libre started to get noticed more in the United States. I mean seriously, would we have a Lucha Underground today without WCW lucha? How many luchadors and American wrestlers were inspired to enter the business because of what these guys did? As such, it feels only right to honor them the only way I know how; by counting down 25 of the best WCW lucha libre matches from the period while making a bunch of silly jokes that only I likely find funny along the way. Thanks to the help of my good friend, LOP’s mizfan, I’ve spent the last week reliving one of my favorite times in wrestling history and sorting stuff out. Some of it didn’t make the cut due to not being lucha libre enough for my tastes (i.e. Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Rey Misterio Jr.) and, while I set out to have it be matches strictly featuring stars from Mexico/dudes trained in lucha libre (Último Dragón), a few matches featuring non-Mexicans made it in. Ultimately, however, this list (which will be released in five parts over five days) is, at least in my opinion, a great guide for those who want to relive some of their fondest memories from the 90s and those who are discovering some of the greatest luchadors ever for the first time. So what the hell are we waiting for?! Let’s kick things off with an honorable mention and then get cracking. Moses, you know what time it is!
Honorable Mention: Damien, Psychosis & Silver King vs. Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo & Ultimate Dragon (Saturday Night, June 6, 1997)
I have been told that this match is exquisite. There’s just one problem; it cannot be found anywhere! Evidently it was once available on YouTube or DailyMotion but, much like Máscara Sagrada vs. Black Cat, it exists now only in the memory of those who were there live to witness it. Well that and the few that did apparently see it on YouTube, DailyMotion or wherever it was…fuck you think it was on Viemo or whatever that thing is called? In any event, the great mizfan, who helped suggest matches for this list, spoke very highly of this so even though I haven’t seen it and can’t in good conscious place it on the list, it gets an honorable mention. And now, the real list!
25. The Mexican Death Match That Wasn’t a Mexican Death Match (Konnan vs. Rey Mysterio Jr., Road Wild 1997)
It’s the greatest lucha libre match to take place in front of a bunch of disinterested bikers in South Dakota while completely ignoring its stipulation! I’m not joking either; for a Mexican Death Match the only horrifying moment is when Konnan’s boxer shorts are nearly shown to the world during a Mysterio roll up. Dead crowd and needless stipulation aside, it’s the perfect blend of lucha and the American style, with Rey flying early, Konnan grounding him by working on Rey’s injured leg leg and Rey finding the perfect balance of fighting back while still selling the leg as if his life depended on it. It’s not in the top tier of Rey’s best WCW work, but it’s an underrated match and one of Konnan’s best one on one efforts during his WCW run. At least before he joined the Wolfpac and became a cult hero to the masses. True story.
24. Throwback (Blitzkrieg, Juventud Guerrera and Psychosis vs. Super Calo, El Dandy and Hector Garza, Nitro, February 15, 1999)
The Juice, Psicosis, Super Calo and Hector Garza all make their first appearance! Of course this is 1999 WCW so their naturally there’s a few more botches, a few guys looking like they’ve been hitting the same buffet Ricky Marvin discovered at LU catering (*cough* Super Calo *cough*) and dear Grodd was there no one there to wake Hector Garza up when he fell asleep in the tanning booth? Guess that answers the question of who Niebla Roasted was trying to emulate at the CMLL Bodybuilding Contest a few weeks ago. Juvy’s near death on Air Juvy and El Dandy having nothing to do aside, this is a nice throwback to the glory days of WCW lucha; nonstop action, cool dives and a whole lot of fun. Also, Blitzkrieg does this.
Put all that together and you can do far worse. Granted you can also do better. Like so.
23. The American Luchador (Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Blitzkrieg, Nitro, February 8, 1999)
There’s an alternate universe out there where one Jeremiah “Jay” Ross decides not to become a computer technician and currently rules over the wrestling world under the name Blitzkrieg. As such, Ross spent only a year in WCW before a near injury experience inspired him to call it quits. What a year it was though, starting with this dandy against Mysterio right before the latter was due to lose his mask in a debacle we shall not speak of. The genius of this match is that it flips the usual Misterio formula on its head; instead of flying around with reckless abandon, Rey himself plays the base (for the most part) while Blitzkrieg essays the youngster of never say die spirit with a penchant for doing things no one has ever seen before (for example, DID YOU SEE THAT SPINGBOARD ASAI CORKSCREW MOONSAULT?!). You could argue that a full out sprint between the two would’ve been more exciting, much like Blitzkrieg’s classic battle with Juvy was just months later. But you cannot deny that this match shows the continuing evolution of Mysterio to the complete performer he’d become, while also introducing us to the first pure American luchador since Love Machine Art Barr. What a shame we never got to see him have a long run on top. Never fear though; as soon as I find a way to travel through dimensions, I’ll be returning with tapes of all the Blitzkrieg we never got to see. I have a feeling the Blitzkrieg vs. Jack Evans match will be a sure fire hot seller!
22. Los Guerreros (Eddy Guerrero vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr., Hair vs. Hair, Bash at the Beach 1998)
Remember when WWE did the Los Guerreros storyline and Chavo completely bought into Eddy’s “Lie, Cheat and Steal” gimmick? Imagine that, only if Chavo rejected Eddy’s lifestyle, followed by Eddy mistreating Chavo so bad that the poor dude snapped and went batshit insane. Oh, and that Eddy spelled his name with a “Y” instead of an “ie.” That’ll never not be weird. In any event that’s what WCW did, culminating in an Apuesta match at Bash at the Beach which featured both men trying to use clippers, Chavo trying to shoot fans with a squirt gun and a tune up match that saw Chavo tap out to Stevie Ray via, and this is true, handshake. I told you he went batshit insane. In comparison to a lot of the other matches on here, this match is on the lower end of the excitement spectrum and is mostly based around storytelling. But nothing is more lucha than an Apuesta match and good Grodd how can you not enjoy Eddy having to overcome the twisted lost soul that was Chavo Guerrero Jr.? Not traditional lucha, but super fun and well executed in what they were trying to do. And if you’re curious about what happened afterwards, fear not; Chavo would not only get more insane, he would then start carrying around a hobby horse named Pepe that would eventually would eventually become one of the most over things on Nitro before “Screamin” Norman Smiley put poor Pepe in a wood chipper. Anyone who says that the Pepe era wasn’t the best part of Chavo’s career has either never watched WCW or is really, really into Chavo’s LU run. It was good; it was not Pepe good.
21. This is Cíclope, this is Cíclope! (Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Cíclope, Nitro, November 11, 1996)
Cíclope, better known as Halloween to lucha libre fans, is well known these days for two things; being the guy Dean Malenko impersonated to win a Cruiserweight Title shot against Chris Jericho at Slamboree 98 (an all time classic moment) and the man behind the face paint scheme Finn Balor was ripping off just a few months ago during that hysterically bad Demon Balor-Sister Abigail storyline. I’d expect nothing less from a worker only over because of his entrance music and because “he worked New Japan so he must be good!”
Who Wore It Better?
What many don’t know is when he isn’t being portrayed by others or ripped off, Cíclope was/is freakin awesome, and he proves it in his first ever WCW Monday Nitro match against Rey “You think I’ve been featured heavily in this part, wait till part’s two, three, four and five!” Mysterio. The two had actually wrestled just a day earlier at a WCW Worldwide taping and I can only imagine how that match went judging from this one. Mysterio is of course his usual great self and his headscissors on Cíclope off the top and to the floor his one of those original Misterio “WOW!” moments right up there with his rana out of the crucifix against Psicosis and everything he and Dean Malenko did in their matches together (in fairness, Mysterio also has the biggest blunder in the match where he sells a Tombstone for a second and gets up like it was a mere slap. The Mysterio of later year he was not at this time). But for maybe the first time ever, it’s actually his opponent that is the star. The stuff Cíclope does in this match is off the charts; the aforementioned Tombstone spot (where he caught Mysterio going for a dive), a rope hanging DDT and best of all, THE SUNSET FLIP POWERBOMB OFF THE APRON! Naturally WCW cameramen pretty much missed the money shot of the spot, but it happened and it was glorious. If you walked in not knowing who either guy is, you’d think there was an even chance both guys could pull it out. Full marks to Mysterio for giving Cíclope as much as he did (while also still dishing it out, classic Mysterio style) and to Cíclope for taking full advantage. Let’s just say it won’t be the last time we say that about a lesser known luchador Mysterio fought during this time period.
Enjoy that sports fans? Good, because there’s more coming tomorrow with spots 20-16! The fun is only going to continue from here. Till the next one drops, let's walk off in style!