The Best of WCW Lucha Libre! (Part 5)
Well sports fans, as Leonardo DiCaprio once said right before the Titanic plunged into the ocean, this is it! We have reached the climatic entry in the best of WCW lucha libre series, a series that (hopefully) has brought back many fond memories of great lucha libre action, colorful characters, and much more. And though we say goodbye, we do so with the absolute best of the best that WCW and their talented crop of luchadors had to offer. Obviously mileage varies, but for my money, this top five is an outstanding top five. It features one of my favorite matches ever, arguably one of the greatest matches in wrestling history, and three other bouts that hold a special place in WCW lucha lore. It’s a top five so good that my cat came to sit next to me just to catch a glimpse of what the matches would be. Alright, maybe she just wanted pets, but I’m going with option one. And on that note, I don’t think there’s any point in wasting any more time. Let us begin. Cíclope, do us the honors one more time. Be sure to check out parts one, two, three, and four.
5. King Calo (Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Super Calo, Fall Brawl 1996)
When I started this series, it was both to introduce fans to outstanding lucha libre action they had never seen before/hadn’t seen in years, as well as give a profile to the luchadors who weren’t as lucky as Rey Mysterio, Juvy, Psicosis, La Parka and Konnan were to attain legendary/cult status in the states. Super Calo, who’ve you seen mentioned a lot, perhaps deserves it more than most because his reputation isn’t much different in Mexico than it is here. This is a luchador who, during his first run with AAA in the 90’s, was part of a legendary five star trios match, one of the most exciting young duos ever alongside the luchador Winners (who later became famous as Abismo Negro) and an excellent, underrated mask match against Winners at Triplemania III-B (if you want to go even further, Calo’s mask match with Super Fly at Triplemania XV is one of the better Apuesta matches to happen at a Triplemania over the last fifteen years). And yet even in Mexico you hear nothing about that; to many, Super Calo remains the dude who dressed like Vanilla Ice, wrestled with the consistency of a shaky starting pitcher and worked every match as if it would be his last. That’s not a bad reputation on the whole, but when you’re as great as Calo was, you deserve more…which brings us to the fourth greatest moment of Calo’s career at Fall Brawl 1996. Now that was a segue! Just another thing we can add to the list of things better than Calo’s hair in AAA.
Now you’d probably think that a Calo/Mysterio match would be a war against gravity, with Mysterio’s unbelievable ability to do something new being topped by Calo’s never ending death wish. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! While Calo does throw caution to the wind with his slingshot senton to the floor and a Missile Dropkick that inexplicably seemed to hurt himself more than Rey, at the end of the day Calo actually tries to slow the match down. That’s right; SUPER CALO WORKS SLOW! That’s like Jeremy Irons deciding to play it straight in Dungeons and Dragons. And yet it works beautifully as Calo proves to be a more complete performer than most would guess, working over Rey’s left arm, hitting some nice power moves and doing a whole lot of stuff you’d never expect him to do. All of which makes the match so much more exciting when Mysterio starts coming back and does stuff like this.
It’s amazing to think of how many Mysterio matches we’ve seen in this series and yet each time out he just continues to surprise. And he does so again not long after that spot with an ending I won’t spoil because you’d all be mad at me if I did (seriously, it’s best to discover this one on your own). In the end it was just another Sunday night for Rey in a long list of great matches that would continue to expand. As for Calo, it remains the second best singles match of his career (nothing is topping that Winners match) and a shining example that beneath that super cool/super lame (depending on your taste) outfit, there was a phenomenal performer we did not get to see enough of. Until this list, where you’ve seen a shit ton of him. Speaking of!
4. The Chairman’s Finest Hour (Chavo Guerrero Jr., Juventud Guerrera, Lizmark Jr. and Super Calo vs. El Dandy, La Parka, Psychosis and Silver King, Souled Out 1
From what some have indicated, this match was supposed to be a showcase bout for Chavo as a way to get him ready for his underrated program with Uncle Eddy Guerrero that took up a chunk of 1998. If that’s the case, WCW (or Chavo) failed miserably because while he’s completely upstaged by the seven other luchadors. And Chavo isn’t even that bad in this match; the others are just that damn good! As it’s a WCW Lucha match you get all the usual hits; a few sloppy spots, some very underrated classical lucha stuff featuring Silver King, Silver King missing a dive, Super Calo searching for death with an insane dive (this time a senton off the top and to the floor) and the awesome climactic dive train that features El Dandy hitting one of the best suicide dives ever and Lizmark Jr. becoming the tallest man to hit an Asai Moonsault. You’re probably saying that this doesn’t sound too different from most great lucha trios/atomicos matches. Here’s the difference; those other matches didn’t have a molten hot Dayton, Ohio crowd into everything these guys did and it didn’t have La Parka giving one of his greatest performances ever. He’s REALLY into this match, dancing around (with Silver King hilariously doing the same on the apron), playing to the crowd, doing great dives of his own. I don’t know what it was, but La Parka really liked Dayton and Dayton really liked La Parka, thus giving this match the extra oomph to make it a memorable classic and turn Parka into the breakout star of the match (which WCW naturally took advantage of by doing nothing with him). And if that weren’t enough, the post match was even better, with Parka laying everyone out with chair shots, dancing on the chair and then doing the greatest walk off strut in history.
It’s like a famous luchador once told me (in much stronger terms than what I’m about to use); he may not be the easiest dude to get along with but at the end of the day, he’s fucking La Parka. If you can find a quote that better fits Parka’s performance in this match than that, let me know.
3. Memorial Day (Hector Garza, Juventud Guerrera and Super Calo vs. Cíclope, Damian 666 and La Parka, Nitro, May 25, 1997)
The May 25, 1997 episode of Monday Nitro closes with Sting hitting Eric Bischoff with the Scorpion Death Drop and flying up into the rafters while Hollywood Hogan looks as though he needs a change of pants. An amazing angle…and yet it wasn’t even close to beating this match for the best thing to happen on the episode. This sports fans is right up there with KENTA vs. Ricky Marvin as one of the greatest “under ten minute” matches in history; a nonstop locomotive that somehow seems to combine all the great WCW lucha moments that came before and would come after into the perfect example of what WCW Lucha Libre is all about. I won’t go into too many details because some of the things are best left unsaid. But for once I will talk heavily about the two biggest spots in the match, starting with Super Calo finally reaching death wish nirvana with the greatest dive of all time according to Guerrero Maya Jr.
I mean did you see that?! The rotation, the crash landing, ALL THE FANS GETTING WIPED OUT AND STILL GOING NUTS AFTERWARDS! It’s even more impressive when you consider this was Calo’s first match back after being injured on a dive attempt just a few months prior. You can’t spell insanity without Super Calo sports fans. And yet amazingly this dive almost gets overshadowed a few minutes later by Hector Garza, making his Nitro debut in this match. Naturally Garza looks like a complete stud during the early portions of the match, showing off his freakish athleticism and getting the crowd ready to explode with a moonsault or two. Then, just when you think the match cannot possibly get any crazier, Garza goes up top, you remember Mike Tenay brought up earlier how Garza does this dive called the Corkscrew Plancha (a move only known to hardcore lucha fans and my buddy Joe, the only WWE fan who paid attention to Garza during his brief run there), wonder if he’d possibly try it and OH MY GRODD THERE IT IS!
Take a moment to consider that both the Garza dive (a dive which WCW wisely built the whole match around) and the Super Calo dive happened within minutes of each other IN THE EXACT SAME MATCH! That’s unbelievable, and while they’re definitely the best spots, there’s still plenty more excellent action to gobble up courtesy of Parka, Juvy, Cíclope and yes, even you Damian (who somehow looks even older in 1997 then he does in 2017). What else can I say other than state this match is out of this world, is without question my favorite WCW Lucha trios match (and one of my favorite matches ever) and, for my money, the second greatest thing Damian 666 was ever involved in producing. The first you ask; future Lucha Underground legend and owner of Jack Evans’ hair Bestia 666. You know you’ve accomplished something amazing when you come close to producing something as dope as Bestia.
2. All In (Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psychosis, Bash at the Beach 1996)
This is arguably the greatest opening match in the history of wrestling, and without question is the best match on what turned out to be one of the most legendary pay per views of all time (HULK HOGAN HAS BETRAYED WCW!). It’s also not nearly as fast as I remembered it being when I went back to watch it; Psicosis in fact does everything in his power to keep things slow and steady, only going to the top to hit a Guillotine Leg Drop and an amazing Senton Splash on the floor. That’s quite alright by me because Mysterio does all the high flying necessary, nailing some of the most innovative moves ever seen (at the time) while doing so with the same devil may care attitude Super Calo would use till the end of his lucha days. For example!
It’s kind of amazing that this would turn out to be the last, without a doubt great match these two had together considering they had been burning the forest down in AAA, ECW and Japan just a year prior. Even still, this match is a whopper of a showcase that unveiled Rey and Psicosis to the wide world of wrestling in a way their ECW bouts didn’t and I’d argue is the match that convinced WCW to bring the rest of the luchadors in, thus opening the door for WCW Lucha Libre to be possible. It’s without question a match that paid immediate dividends for Mysterio; just a night later he defeated Dean Malenko (another great Rey opponent) to win his first of many WCW Cruiserweight Championships. It’s no coincidence that happened right after this classic.
1. Mask vs. Title (Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddy Guerrero, Halloween Havoc 1997)
I mean, what else could it be other than, arguably, one of the three greatest matches in WCW history, the best match these two ever had by a comfortable margin and a match that to this day is still influencing wrestlers across the world. It’s so good that you could argue, in the last twenty five years of lucha libre, this is the greatest Apuesta match; you’d be wrong (the When Worlds Collide tag match that also featured Guerrero and Atlantis-Villano III are both better), but I won’t be laughing you out of the room for saying it. Everything about it is remarkable. The kayfabe story of an angry Guerrero betraying his Mexican heritage to try and unmask Rey (while spending the buildup unmasking every luchador on the WCW roster) was brilliant. The career long story of Guerrero, a luchador overshadowed by his father, then by his AAA partner El Hijo del Santo (which led to Eddy’s other famous Apuesta match) and now Mysterio adds significant layers. And of course there’s the action itself which is so good that the match would probably as memorable even without the story arcs. Obviously most fans will remember the famous spots like the springboard DDT and Mysterio’s Dragonrana to the floor, but there’s also the fact that the match never truly slows down. It begins with a fast Mysterio flurry, only relents slightly as Eddy takes control for a long while and then progressively gets more exciting by the second, right until they conclude the match with an ending straight out of Rey and Psicosis’ epic from Bash at the Beach 1996. It’s really a match that could’ve only been pulled off by all time great high flyer at his athletic peak and one of the greatest workers ever at the height of his confidence. What more needs to be said; it’s the best match in the history of WCW Lucha Libre. Was there ever any doubt?
And with that, our trek through the history of WCW Lucha has ended. Thank you all for reading, special thanks to mizfan for helping with this list (even if some of his picks were left on the cutting room floor) and most importantly, a special thanks to all the luchadors featured in this for their amazing work. Without seeing all of them all those years ago, I would not be here writing about lucha libre right now and I’ll forever be grateful to them for that. I shall now disappear into a puff of smoke, only to return tomorrow to continue my other WCW series, a trek through the history of the DDP-Randy Savage feud. Until then, one last lucha libre gif for the road, courtesy of the late great Hector Garza (featuring Villano’s IV and V).