Eddie Guerrero was one of my favorite wrestlers that I never really saw enough of. I caught him sporadically in WCW and tuned out the WWF very shortly after the Radicalz stuff. I always wanted to see his ECW and Japan work. Even more appealing about his time in Japan was that he wrestled in costume as Black Tiger! I was and still am a big fan of the NJ Jr. Style. It really was comparable in match quality to what the AJ guys were doing at the time albeit shorter in duration. It doesn't get the love too much anymore but, Eddie was one of the masters. Here I take a look at 1996 versus his fellow masters.
vs Jushin Liger - 2/3/96 **** innovative holds & moves but should have been longer with more of a build. Eddy used his finishers and Liger busts out a few moves including the fisherman buster & a top rope move. But the end felt flat. At least one more sequence would have warranted a win. I think Yamada's tumor kept it limited perhaps? (Note: I think finish sets up their Best of the Super Jr. Finals match & the Benoit match)
vs Shinjiro Ohtani - 6/5/96 ****1/4 strong psychology focusing on Ohtani's leg w/ Eddy getting creative & heelish and a nice build. Similar ending as above in that it was a bit quick to get the win. The intensity was good so the extra 1/4 star was awarded...
vs Chris Benoit - 6/11/96 ****3/4 Need to rewatch this one but, it was pretty good but Benoit locked that sleeper on way too many times. Also after having seen many Black Tiger/Eddie matches, the moves that caught my attention at first glanced seemed to have been standard spots for Eddie at the time like the slingshot somersault senton & alley-oop frankensteiner whip...which diminishes the value really. Rewatch: I'd give it ****1/4 because Eddie uses the ramp to his advantage and there are some good counters but, still Benoit (who I think was in full WCW mode) locked the sleeper on 4 or 5 times and I can never remember him or anyone winning with a sleeper...the other problem being it's difficult to counter or parry. So we had to watch Eddie crawl to the ropes each time and to be honest it loses it effect and diminishes believability. Re-re-watch: I totally get the greatness of this match. If you're watching too much of one style or one person, your standards start getting way too high. Stuff that took place over years, one will place side by side and make unfair comparisons. The reason that doesn't happen w/ my AJPW watching is that I have quite a bit that tells the story.(Note: Oh no it happens there too!) Alot of other promotions don't tell the long story but, it helps to break up your veiwing to compensate...to simulate the passage of time.
Saying that I "get" this one was due to reading the 1996 yearbook on PWO.com. Benoit slaps the sleeper hold on because anytime he lets Eddy get loose he'll counter his offense. It's almost like Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid. Eddy does a fantastic job selling here...in the league of Kawada or Liger. Staggering, waiting to catch his breath, losing balance etc. Also the genius of this match was the fake-out pacing. I mean this match was always memorable but, I thought in a bad way. I realize now that this pacing and inclusion of sleepers that killed the exceitement & momentum of the match were what makes it stand out. They provided a false build, a dive sequence that usually shows the start of the finish was killed here. It was really something fresh & different. Everything else was perfect too- execution, stiffness (what few chops there were), etc. I have a hard-time giving 5 stars to the junior style matches when compared to other men's matches like AJPW or Jr. style like AJW...I'm gonna get real close here though. Eddy was probably never better than here.
vs Jushin Liger - 6/12/96 ****1/2 This match had solid psychology with the opening mat wrestling. The holds locked on not only led way to interesting spots early on but also provided depth to the match later. Nothing spectacular but certainly enriching to the match overall. The most surprising moment was when in towards the end when Liger went after Black Tiger's arm with a flying knee and followed up with a jujuigatame. Nice touch. I was also impressed that top shelf finishers were brought out. The match showed their equality, versitility, & tenacity. I must say that the first "Ooh!" of the match came from a very stiff Liger shotei. It's nice to see sitffness in the Jr. matches...and all of those things made this a must see match. Maybe one of Eddie's most solid matches with the help of Liger to keep him from getting into a routine that he can slip into with Benoit & Malenko. Re-Watch: Just a flawless bit of wrestling & everything stated earlier is true. The only thing keeping this from being perfect is the story wasn't that compelling & Eddy didn't necessarily sell the arm as well as he should of until the end where Liger gave a last ditch shot after it. He was like, "Oh right, the arm's hurtin'." Otherwise pretty killer stuff.
vs Great Sasuke - 6/17/96 ***1/4: I've seen this given 2 stars and in light of Eddie & Sasuke's body of work this would be understandable. However, after seeing 10 Black Tiger matches, I found this one to be a breath of fresh air as it relied little on Eddie's spots and sequences. Due to illness, he wasn't going to be doing any flying or in honestly any bumps so they had to compensate with matwork and the notion of him dominating (ala Super J-Cup Liger v. Sasuke). In fact, the ratio of offensive moves was 3 to 1 in terms of Eddie. He did a good job on the ground as did Sasuke but, there was little follow-up later in the match & Sasuke probably isn't familiar with the concept of selling an injury other than shaking the limb after he gets up. All that said, it was an interesting change of pace but not required viewing.
vs Shinjiro Ohtani - 9/16/96 ***1/2 Pretty good for while it lasted. Ohtani came blasting out of the gate like he was Stan Hansen. Unfortunately he injured his shoulder as if he'd been fighting against Hansen. The match had it's cool spots and Ohtani kicked as much ass as he could and Eddie was pretty good as well. But they had to go home early...it may have been for the IWGP Jr. belt too but, Shinjiro didn't stick around to find out. He scored the win and headed toward the back to get checked out. Their 1st meeting on this tape was pretty great and this one was looking to be just as good or better but, thems the breaks.