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Grimmas

Dean Malenko

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Digging back through my ratings, I found Dean. Here it is:

 

Dean Malenko

 

Basic (offense, selling, psychology) 2/3 2/3 2/3 (+1 for being "the man of a 1,000 holds") = 7

Intangibles 0

Great matches 4

Length of Peak 1989-2000 = 11 years = 7

 

+1 ability to work babyface

+1 ability to work tags

+1 ability to work gimmick matches

+1 ability to get over in multiple markets (Japan, ECW, WCW, WWF)

 

Ability to work different styles / roles = 4

 

Variety = 7

 

29

 

I agree that he had a wide variety of good TV matches and that he should get some credit for it, even if you accept that he had "zero" charisma, which is what I've given him.

 

With that score he MIGHT just squeak in, but there are a lot of guys with stronger cases out there.

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Generous score for Dean there Parv. Great matches as a 4 strikes me as odd where most of the "good" tv matches wouldn't rank as I don't think a lot of them reach the 3.5 star rating threshold. It may seem like I am beating a dead horse but I fail to see how Dean gets +1 for working as a babyface and someone like Misawa doesn't. What gimmick matches did Dean excel in? I also don't understand the peak because 1991-1994 is a pretty big wasteland of Dean footage so just giving him those three years by fiat seems odd. The stuff on the yearbook from 1990 wasn't all that impressive.

 

I think my issue with Dean is that something praised like the Dean vs. Scotty Too Hotty match from Backlash is a good match and nothing more. It was so odd to see a 10+ cruiser match on WWE PPV at the time that it got way overstated and still gets remembered and called upon as a reminder when Dean gets brought up. I would wager that almost every ROH house show this past year had a match just as good as that one.

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Dean falls into a category of guys with me like Lance Storm, Christopher Daniels, and Alex Shelley, where what they do comes across as WAY too smooth. I often get the feeling watching them that they're doing a rehearsal of a particular routine (almost like a dance) and once they get to the actual performance they'll add in the "acting". Problem is this IS the actual performance, so I'm left cold because there's no sense of struggle. I think that's why I always enjoyed Benoit and nowadays I'm super into Timothy Thatcher, because they make every little move feel like a battle with their opponent to just be able to pull it off. I can appreciate the athletecism of what Dean and his ilk are doing, but as storytellers they leave me cold even when the match structure is on point.

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Dean falls into a category of guys with me like Lance Storm, Christopher Daniels, and Alex Shelley, where what they do comes across as WAY too smooth. I often get the feeling watching them that they're doing a rehearsal of a particular routine (almost like a dance) and once they get to the actual performance they'll add in the "acting". Problem is this IS the actual performance, so I'm left cold because there's no sense of struggle. I think that's why I always enjoyed Benoit and nowadays I'm super into Timothy Thatcher, because they make every little move feel like a battle with their opponent to just be able to pull it off. I can appreciate the athletecism of what Dean and his ilk are doing, but as storytellers they leave me cold even when the match structure is on point.

Without wishing to derail, this is my problem with so much Lucha.

 

And I do think it is a legit criticism of Dean too.

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I also think a lot of the "Malenko is overrated" narrative springs from him netting the #1 spot on the PWI 500 for 1997. I know it's a kayfabe mag and all that, and most fans don't take it to be all that meaningful, but it still stands as a barrometer of the time and people look back on it now as such a monumental head scratcher given that he never really springs to anyone's mind as the "best" of his era.

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I also think a lot of the "Malenko is overrated" narrative springs from him netting the #1 spot on the PWI 500 for 1997. I know it's a kayfabe mag and all that, and most fans don't take it to be all that meaningful, but it still stands as a barrometer of the time and people look back on it now as such a monumental head scratcher given that he never really springs to anyone's mind as the "best" of his era.

I remember lots of people at that time calling him the most underrated and under-utilised guy around. Equivalent to how fans think about Cesaro now I'd say. Smart fans have always had "their" guys to harp on.

 

People wanted WCW to sideline Hogan and co to push the likes of Dean on top.

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Dean falls into a category of guys with me like Lance Storm, Christopher Daniels, and Alex Shelley, where what they do comes across as WAY too smooth. I often get the feeling watching them that they're doing a rehearsal of a particular routine (almost like a dance) and once they get to the actual performance they'll add in the "acting". Problem is this IS the actual performance, so I'm left cold because there's no sense of struggle. I think that's why I always enjoyed Benoit and nowadays I'm super into Timothy Thatcher, because they make every little move feel like a battle with their opponent to just be able to pull it off. I can appreciate the athletecism of what Dean and his ilk are doing, but as storytellers they leave me cold even when the match structure is on point.

Without wishing to derail, this is my problem with so much Lucha.

 

And I do think it is a legit criticism of Dean too.

 

I think a better derail than Lucha would be a comparison to modern American wrestling, which I feel like Malenko has unduly influenced, for better or worse. Even in the moments when Lucha feels overly choreographed from a physical standpoint -- and, in my experiences so far, I would consider those moments to be more rare than what is posited here -- I still find, more often than not, that the competitors are able to express and perform conflict on a more emotional level through selling, playing to the crowd, etc. There's still real heat and friction that provides an emotional undercurrent to all that slick choreography.

 

With Malenko, though, I rarely see him even trying to present that aspect in his work and it ends up creating a machine-like quality to so much of his work as a result.

 

And I don't think it's an accident that a lot of contemporary WWE work (and, just for the sake of stirring the post, a lot of contemporary ROH work) shares this quality as well, considering the pervasive influence of the Malenko/Guerrero series and Dean's current employment as a WWE road agent. It shouldn't be surprising that the most basic ROH house show match works as effectively as Malenko's greatest hits; an alarming amount of the spots are taking their cue from those matches.

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I also think a lot of the "Malenko is overrated" narrative springs from him netting the #1 spot on the PWI 500 for 1997. I know it's a kayfabe mag and all that, and most fans don't take it to be all that meaningful, but it still stands as a barrometer of the time and people look back on it now as such a monumental head scratcher given that he never really springs to anyone's mind as the "best" of his era.

I remember lots of people at that time calling him the most underrated and under-utilised guy around. Equivalent to how fans think about Cesaro now I'd say. Smart fans have always had "their" guys to harp on.

 

People wanted WCW to sideline Hogan and co to push the likes of Dean on top.

I'm not saying you are wrong because you aren't, but he was also criticized much more heavily online after the initial Cruiserweight run than his peers.

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It is really interesting to me that Malenko is living & dying on his 90s US run when he was already 33 in 1994. What was he is doing from 1986-1993? I saw him pop in All Japan, where else?

I thought the discussion was pretty fair and I won’t rehash it but I did come across a new insight recently. It was only from one match and extrapolating from one match is very dangerous but I have zero desire to watch 90s Malenko to prove myself right or wrong. It was glaring how awful Dean was in the 1989 Fantastics match. He was doing these atrocious groggy stand on your feet sells that made it really difficult to transition to the next spot organically. He reminded me of a mini-Brody. He was trying to protect himself by not bumping and not really selling. It was NOT a badass no sell. It was just this lame groggy sell. He would drunken walk into the next spot and it looked terrible. Maybe somebody who has watched more Malenko recently can confirm or deny this.

Is the problem with Malenko his Brody-Esque selling and consequently the shitty transitions that happen during his matches? Jetlag seemed to allude to this. Like I said it is dangerous to extrapolate from one match but I thought I’d toss this out here and see what people think. 

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