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Charles (Loss)

[1996-06-16-WCW-Great American Bash] Rey Misterio Jr vs Dean Malenko

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There is so much to love about this match before even getting to the match itself. This is Rey's WCW debut, guys were laughing at him in the locker room having not ever seen him wrestle and he ended up blowing them away. The crowd is DEAD early on here and is really into the match by the end. Dusty Rhodes is comparing Malenko to Danny Hodge on commentary! I also love Dusty taking offense to Schiavone saying these are great wrestlers who can definitely compete in the cruiserweight division, and saying they can compete with anyone because they're that good. Tenay is actually announcing in a way where he contributes something useful to the match, explaining the background of both guys really well. The announcing for this whole match is really spectacular.

 

I know the whole talking point about how Dean works with Rey, but I can't tell you how much I disagree with that thought process. This feels like an actual, honest-to-God wrestling match where both guys have real strategies. Dean wants to ground Rey and lucks into an arm injury early on and spends several minutes systematically destroying his arm. Rey finally comes back, gets him with his own strength, which is his aerial moves. It's truly mat wrestler vs high flyer. The primary goal seemed to be to convince the crowd of how good these guys are more than just to throw something out there and have them throw bombs for 20 minutes. The match works really well in that regard because Rey's selling is top notch, so Dean gains something from this too. When he runs the ropes, he is still holding his arm and selling it. Rey is really a world-class wrestler here.

 

I think the slower pace in the middle helps because it gives some of the big highspots time to sink in and be memorable. There's no reason for Rey to show everything he can do in his debut match when the whole idea is to make people want to see him again so they can see what else he can do. This match accomplished that in spades. Not only does this match hold up as a great match, but it was also very well-booked (which is rare for a division that didn't have much thought put into the details and hierarchy over time) and it's a perfect match for the time in terms of doing what it set out to do, which was expose Rey to a WCW audience and put him over in losing by having Malenko, who has been pushed as an emotionless wrestling machine for the past few months, made so vulnerable that he's forced into a situation where he has to actually cheat to win a match.

 

This match really illustrates the magic WCW was able to create for a very brief period of time.

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I love this match. it had a real story to it. Malenko destroying Misterio's arm. Misterio making comebacks through his aerial moves. Plus we get to see Misterio sell his ass off. Misterio is one of the all time great babyface sellers in the Steamboat, Morton ilk. Their is nothing better than having a crowd treating a match as filler in the beginning, and then being hooked into it through great work. Which shows you how smart these guys laid out the match. WCW could have done so much more with Misterio. He has a unique way of getting over and WCW dropped the ball with him for the most part. What most people remember of the NWO backstage destruction of WCW was the Misterio lawn dart spot. He for the most part got great reaction coming out for his matches. To get back to the match both men worked hard. Malenko's work on Misterio's arm was just tremendous. Overall, just excellent stuff.

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I also like how they bring Tenay out for the Luchadores and other foreign talent. It helps by making the talent come across more special. I also love Tenay's line about if Misterio wins the Cruiserweight title that the AAA promotion will have 1/2 of the WCW single belts. Dusty and Tony's reaction to the line is great. What a political mess.

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I remember when I first watched this on the WWE Rey set hating it. Thought it was too slow and just boring. Watching it now, I love it. Good introduction to Rey and Malenko's mat work is awesome. Agree that Dusty, Tenay and Tony are good putting over this match.

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What Loss said. In there Dean truly was wrestling at his best, and he looked like a great worker. Mysterio got himself over and already looked like the best worker in the company next to Benoit. And all of a sudden the cruiserweight title is becoming something important to the WCW alchemy, and something absolutely new and fresh in the US wrestling realm. WCW was truly going forward in spectacular ways at this point.

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I'm still not as enamored with this as everyone else--the work is good to great and maybe it's a **** level match in a vacuum, but I still didn't come away convinced that this was the right match to work at this exact point. Even a quick showcase of Rey offense at the start could have improved the mood considerably, instead of Dean more or less guzzling him from the start.. That all said, the Cruiserweight title has bounced back from a mess of a tournament and guys like Brad Armstrong being pushed as contenders, as all 3 announcers rattle off all the foreign talent gunning for the belt. Tenay is easy to make fun of now but he was DESPERATELY needed at this point, just to identify moves that were invented after 1989. WCW is starting to put together a smart blend of intense, star-driven drama at the top of the cards and high workrate underneath, meshing all kinds of working and booking styles together.

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I fucking love this match. This is Malenko's career match in my opinion, he has never looked so good working a body part. The armwork and all the different holds and slams were incredible. Rey's verbal selling was off the charts great especially that first snap on the arm. They went just a little long there without a hope spot and the crowd got a bit restless. I see the argument to flip flop the Psicosis Bash At The Beach match and this, but I think allowing Rey to sell and show a lot of heart in his comeback ultimately won the crowd more over than just doing the showcase match with Psicosis. I think the solution is to splice the Malenko/Mysterio shine from the July Nitro match in the beginning with this and then run this match as is. I really think if that was the case they would have had a match that could compete with the best of All Japan in 1996 for match of the year. This was great to rewatch as is.

 

 

WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko vs Rey Misterio Jr.

Great American Bash 1996

 

This match simultaneously salvaged the fledging cruiserweight division and made it into a sensation over night. This match is the best exhibition of Malenko’s chain wrestling being entertaining and working well within the confines of the layout. Malenko knows he cannot let Rey create space between them or otherwise face the damage of Rey’s vaunted aerial attack. If he can ground Rey, he eliminates that threat. That is the crux of the match Rey trying to squirm away from Malenko and Malenko trying to wrangle Rey.

 

From the outset, Malenko is one who is able to strike first with a cool looking Greco-Roman knucklelock arm snapping-thingy. It looked sweet trust me. He works over that arm relentlessly and convincingly with a great variety of moves. It always feels like he is trying to gain a new advantage or add a different degree of pain to Rey’s arm to keep him off-balance. My favorite moment is a flying hammerlock into a kimura that just looks so fuckin sweet. The key in this control segment is that Rey still has hope spots. This was Rey’s debut and it was critical to have these hope spots especially when he did not get an opening shine or you run the risk of jobberizing him.

 

As the match progresses and Dean is still struggling to put Rey away, you come to see a recurring theme with Malenko he does show emotion. Dean is not more relatable wrestler or the best seller, but he is really good at selling frustration at the inability to put an opponent away. This combined with Rey’s resilience and sympathetic underdog selling creates a very powerful story for the audience that is rooting for the underdog in this debut match against the champion.

 

When Dean finally does lose control, Rey unleashes that arsenal of aerial maneuvers, which both wow the fans and does a good job displaying why Dean was working so hard to ground Rey. The finish is thrilling with Rey’s quick pinfall attempts and all his quick counters. However, he finally succumbs to a massive powerbomb by Dean, who puts his feet on the ropes for three. The finish is a satisfying climax to this cat and mouse game. Rey looks like a champ with hot finish and Dean is able to retain due to one big move.

 

Most of what I have read has been in favor of declaring this match a classic, but it feels that many feel the need to defend it against a vocal minority that believes Dean gobbled up Rey for too long. Now, if Dean just sat in an armbar for the entirety of his lengthy heat segment, I would agree. Dean was really active with a lot of gnarly submissions and high-impact blows into pinfalls. It truly felt like he was trying to win a match and I can appreciate that. I think where these critics have a point is that Dean should not have immediately entered into a heat segment. In their subsequent Nitro match in July, Rey has a really cool babyface shine to open it. In that match, it really sets up the idea of what Dean has to fear. If Dean can not ground him, Rey will have him going in circles and Dean really sells that frustration in that match well. In this match, you don’t really get the feeling that Dean has anything to worry about in the context of the match because Rey did not open with anything. The drama in the Great American Bash would have been greatly enhanced by allowing Rey to hit a couple big moves off the bat to demonstrate how he lethal he could be. Since I brought up the Nitro match, the big problem with that match is that Malenko’s heat segment really meanders and is not really as good as this one. The Great American Bash match is a better complete match.

 

In sum, I think if you tack the babyface shine segment from the Nitro match and splice it into the Great American Bash match you have a Match of the Year Candidate for 1996. As is, it is one of three best matches from 1996 in WCW (Mysterio/Psychosis), but just cant compete with the All Japan and othere matches of 1996. This heat segment definitively proves in my mind that Dean Malenko is not boring. Can he be boring? Yes and we will see that! But he definitely can be a fuckin fantastic offensive wrestler. I think Dean’s strong suit is as a heel. Malenko is one of the few American wrestlers to always be straddling the face/heel line. I think if the booking team just went full bore with Dean as a sadistic, ground-based heel he would have had more entertaining matches consistently. This match showed how effective he could be as a yin to Mysterio’s yang. Mysterio for his part continued his campaign to be best wrestler in North America. I agree that Mysterio should have worked the majority of the match from underneath. His selling endeared him to the fans, his hope spots were well-timed to keep the audience engaged, and the match was structured to give his aerial spots time to breathe and seem more important to the audience. In the Dragon match, he will not be so lucky.

 

One thing I want to debunk is that at least initially the commentary team (sans the Brain) did a very good job trying to get over the cruiserweights. You could feel how excited Dusty was to watch them and how much he enjoyed their work. As time progressed, of course like with all things in the mid-card, the WCW commentary team would just ignore it and talk about the Hogan-related item of the night.

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I think this match is great and feels like a great way to show off Rey's aerial ability while also providing some of his storytelling and other babyface aspects that put him a level above as an overall worker. Dean for his part also showed some great attributes during this match by remaining focused and grounding Rey when he could. I love seeing strategy battles play off and this match displayed how great junior wrestling could be in WCW with the company now on a clear upswing. ****

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http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-400-351/

 

#378

 

I agree this was great ****. I loved Dean picking apart the arm (in a variety of ways) and Rey's selling during that. That's a cool story of him being made fun of, then coming out and blowing them away. Makes this seem a little more special. The only downside to me was Rey abandoning selling the arm once he got on top and started hitting his high impact moves. I felt like Dean had worked on it so long that I would've preferred some long-term selling.

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I watched this last week and was surprised at how good Dusty was on commentary, deferring to Tenay's expertise on the cruiserweights when necessary but still throwing his own 2 cents in as well at times.

 

The series of matches these two had were some of the highlights of this time in wrestling. Not having been exposed to such a high-risk style before, what those two did kind of blew my mind.

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Really interesting and significant match. Hard to argue this wasn't an effective introduction of Rey since he did go on to incredible success and was very over. Maybe I'd have started the match giving the crowd more a taste of the extent of Rey's abilities up-front, but the way they worked this really succeeded. You got some flashes of Rey's athleticism at the beginning, but a real flurry of it was saved for the end after Dean spent a lot of time in control. And the crowd really does react big to Rey's offense. This is a really effective match with a well-executed story that makes it feel like a legit strategic competition. I do come out of this feeling like they have a better match in them.

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