Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero, Halloween Havoc 1997
Inducted by LWO4Life
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero
There are very special matches that every wrestler should watch as they are training. I know Chris Jericho talks about how he and his friends watched Savage/Steamboat over and over and memorized the moves. As Jericho went further into his career, you could see the Ricky Steamboat influence in the way he wrestled. Jim Cornette would show the OVW trainees Austin/Rock from WrestleMania X7 as an example to WWE’s main event style, plus show that the largest drawing main event in WrestleMania history had no one coming off the top rope. I want to add another match to that list.
Many people will call Eddie Guerrero one of the best talents that’s ever step in the squared circle. With that said, many will call Rey Mysterio the greatest high flyer in wrestling history. And when they both come together, they make magic. But what exactly makes them magic? When two great wrestlers come together, you expect magic, but what does that mean? And why is this match the standard of all the matches they’ve had.
The buildup to this match might be more impressive backstage than the actual Nitros on WCW. Well Eddie and Rey had a nice rivalry, which resulted in Rey going 2-0 against Eddie. Eddie, wanting revenge, was willing to put up his belt, but he wanted something back in return, Rey’s mask. Backstage though had more twist and turns. The reason Rey got those wins was to build up to the ultimate finale in this rivalry. Eddie would beat Rey Mysterio at Halloween Havoc ’97 and unmask the King of Mystery. Rey’s account of the night:
“I remember I didn’t want to show up to the pay-per-view because, again, I was supposed to lose my mask that night… Once I was there, I’m going over my match and fans are into it and everything is pumping and going. I’m thinking, ‘Damn, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. I can’t get out of this.’ So, I had already set my mind to going out there and losing the mask. Shortly before our match, they came up to us and said, ‘The finish has been changed. Rey, you’re going over.’”
Apparently either Konnan or Eddie, or both, had lobbied Eric Bischoff all day to change the finish of the match. The belief was that once Rey lost the mask, like many luchadors, his career would never be the same. Rey himself was just doing what he was told. He thought about no showing, but Bischoff threatened that it would be a breach of contract. Bischoff had been on a surprising run of unmasking luchadors, as Juventud Guerrera was already unmasked in WCW. With Rey, it started with Scott Hall saying Rey was too good looking to hide under a mask. While Hall was right about many things creatively, this was not one of them.
Lucha Libre is very hard to translate to American audiences. To do so, you need special luchadors, and you need a skill set that doesn’t always exist in Mexico. Today, Santos Escobar might be the best example of a luchador who translates well to American audiences, while an Alberto Del Rio (pre-controversy) might be seen as boring, or Andrade who got overlooked. And even with Escobar, we have yet to see him on the main roster, so time will tell with him. With that said, the most important person in a lucha match for American audiences is the rudo wrestler, or the heel. The rudo is usually the one catching the technico, or face, high flying move. Some will call this person the base, though I’ve never heard a luchador actually say this.
Still, whatever you call the role, the rudo’s role is very important to the overall presentation of the match. If you have someone who is sloppy, then you run the risk of exposing the match as just a flip-fest, and botches will rain down from the heavens. It is very important to have great chemistry.
With Eddie and Rey, not only did these two had great chemistry, they both understood the assignment. Both being American born luchadors from border cities (El Paso, TX and San Diego, CA) they both walked that line of what is Mexican and what is American. They both were trained in the ways of lucha libre, but both had seen wrestling trends in the US. Eddie’s brothers wrestled all around the United States, with Chavo Sr. being the main star in the Los Angeles territory during the 1970’s, and Chavo, Hector, and Mando getting national TV time during the AWA’s run on ESPN. While the Guerrero name was in-line with heroes in Los Angeles and Minnesota, in the state of Florida the Guerrero name was associated with lying and cheating. By the time Eddie himself stepped foot in a ring, he already had so much wrestling background. Bobby Heenan called him, unironically, “the best wrestling talent on this planet,” many times on Nitro, and even during this match.
Rather than go blow for blow, spot for spot, I’m going to break down a few key points, and why those points make this a true 5-star classic.
Being a mask vs. title match, it starts intense. Both these wrestlers were acting like they needed to get the early advantage. Well their 2005 match is often talked about, this match was Eddie Guerrero completely in his prime. He was never this fast while also being this big. He looked like a million dollars here. And at the beginning it was clear he could keep up with Rey’s fast pace. Rey was starting at 100 mph. He was moving so fast that it was believable that Eddy was truly confused. Rey kept Eddie off balance by a number of his offensive moves. But like every great start, there has to be a turning point.
In this case, Rey had cross bodied Eddie over the ropes Holy cow how did he do that without injuring himself? Then he gets back into the ring really fast, throws himself to the ropes and flips over them. It looked like he took a flip too many, and that left himself wide open for an Eddie Guerrero counter. And Eddie did. He grabbed Rey’s legs and pulled him off the ring and Rey hit the ground. Ouch.
What makes this special is that many times today, if a wrestler takes an extra flip, the other wrestler would just ignore it and wait to catch the wrestler. I’m not sure if the extra flip was intentional or not, but one moment was all It took for Eddie’s advantage.
Another moment like this was when Rey did a cartwheel on his way to Eddy. Eddy looked up and saw Rey, then to caught Rey, as Rey tried a cartwheel back elbow. Eddie then side suplex Rey to the ground. Eddie was running a tight ship on this night. If Rey left an opening, Eddie was filling it in. Eddie dominated Rey most the match, which made for great drama as the babyface was constantly needing support.
As for Rey actually getting offense. Two points really stick out. One is the famous spot of Rey on the ground as Eddie is winning a test of strength. Eddie tries to get Rey in pinning situations, and when he decide to jump on Rey, Rey gets his feet up and use the momentum to kick Eddie off of him, then use the momentum to jump on the ropes, then flip backwards and catch Eddie for a DDT. I’ve seen so many try a spot like this, and even in Mexico it looks rehearsed. But Eddie and Rey were so fluid and it made sense. Rey’s special gift in wrestling is that often times he’d use his whole body as a weapon. And this was one of them. And it made sense.
Finally, the big turning point of the match was rather simple. Eddie had been sharp all match. His timing was amazing, and every movement he did made sense. There was no wasted movement at all, until…
Eddie had Rey in the tree of woe. He looked like he was enjoying punishing Rey. As he was walking back to the other corner, he seemed like he was rubbing his hands together, signaling he was enjoying himself. As he turned around, it looked like he made eye contact with Rey. He ran and did a lower drop kicked aimed at Rey’s face, but Rey did a sit up and Eddie hit the ring post in a way that could prevent him from having anymore kids. As he was out the ring trying to recover, even though he saw Rey, Eddie looked helpless as Rey jumped high in the air to dive on Eddie. It might be the most believable dive into a catch I’ve ever seen. Because if I was Eddie, I’d look up too and basically say, “well I can’t move from this.” From that point on Rey would have momentum that would eventually lead to a win.
Because I want to mention it. The finish might be one of the best I’ve seen ever. The superplex spot gets done to death, even by this period. Someone gets to the top, the other stops them. Eventually everyone gets superplexed. But in this case, Rey is fighting. It makes sense to fight. As Rey is fighting, Eddie is trying any other way to punish Rey. Eventually he gets him in a Razor’s Edge position. But as he gets Rey up, Rey using this to Frankensteiner Eddy off the top rope, grab Eddie’s leg and pin him for the cruiserweight title. It was so great. Rey had won the title.
Sadly though, Eddie would attack Rey. I think knowing what we know now, having Rey get that moment for the night would have really made that win feel special. But Eddie had to get his heat back. Eddie would win the title 2 weeks later. But on this night, these two put everything out there and made it special.
There is a reason many modern wrestlers call Eddy Guerrero their favorite wrestler. Every modern wrestler should not only watch this match and try to learn a new move, but they should watch this match and learn how Eddie kept this match tight, while having Rey fly everywhere. I know many older fans don’t like the flippy wrestling, but it has been done well. Wrestling does not need to be Austin and Rock; it can mix lucha in it, and still look and feel real.
Watch Eddie in this match, study his movement, study his reactions, study how tight he kept this match, the pace which Rey moved to make it feel believable that a man his size could pull off any offense against a man Eddie’s size. All wrestlers trying to put on a show, show off their athleticism, and also respecting the art knows as lucha libre should watch this match. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for. If you are a wrestler, just don’t watch it, watch it critically.
This match shows why of all the legends, Eddie Guerrero is still the best to ever do it.
Lords of Pain.net/Wrestling Headlines.com welcomes Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc 1997 into the Hall of Fame class of 2022.
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