“Mean” Gene Okerlund opens the show by reminding the views of what we’ve been seeing in the previous shows, the best in cruiserweight wrestling. And in this episode, we will be seeing the demise of WCW’s cruiserweight division (and belt), and one of the greatest matches in the history of WCW.
Our first match will be between the first superstar in the WWF/Eâ€™s new light heavyweight division Taka Mishinoku, who faces off against a Japanese star, Sasuke on July 9, 1997.
The match gets off to a slow start; Sasuke gets in a few striking kicks, and they lock together and stay locked up until the ref pulls off Taka as they were on the ropes. When they lock up again, Taka ends up with his arm twisted and has to hit the ground to forward roll out of the hold. Taka immediately gets Sasuke down onto the ground and delivers an elbow drop, but somehow Sasuke reverses this and he goes for the first pin of the night. Failing it, both men keep going back and forth between who has shoulders on the ground. When they break, Sasuke gets in a great looking kick, and goes into a headlock, followed by head scissors. Which stay locked on probably a bit long in terms of keeping the match moving. And Taka manages to escape out of the hold and returns the favour by putting Sasuke into another hold. They come out of this to do a few moves, and a spectacular spinning kick from Sasuke is the highlight, but then Sasuke puts on yet another submission hold with a version of a half boston crab. That one was broken up by Taka grabbing onto the ropes and the ref breaking the hold.
And Taka gains control of the match. Delivering punches and some deadly looking dropkicks. Until he ends up being sent to the outside of the ring by Sasuke. Who regains control again, but also delivers a martial arts themed kick from the top rope. And once they’re both back inside the ring Sasuke delivers some beautiful roundhouse kicks to Taka. Eventually Taka manages to catch one of Sasuke’s legs and pull off a leg whip. And Sasuke appears to have injured his knee. So as Sasuke slides out of the ring, and walks back, Taka is preparing, and he runs to the ropes, jumps onto the top rope and springboards off towards Sasuke.
And with that spectacular leap, we take a leap into some commercials.
Hitting the action again, we see Taka standing in the ring, and Sasuke outside the ring attempting to get back in to stop the count. But Taka has and keeps control. We see another hurricanrana and pinfall attempt. And as they both stand up again, Great Sasuke gets back on the offence and delivers a blow that pushes taka out of the ring again, and follows it up with a springboard moonsault off the middle rope to the floor. They hop back into the ring, start moving quickly again, and taka hits a belly to belly suplex and goes for the pinfall. These two just keep going, with a flying dropkick seen from Taka. He also hits the Michinoku Driver which Sasuke also is able to kick out of. And the blows fly both ways until Sasuke hits a bridge pin and takes out the win.
The beginning of the next section begins with gene Okerlund talks about how cruiserweight in WCW was never any better than in the following match. The two men involved “personified” the lucha libre style in North America. The match is at Halloween Havoc, 1997. And our stars for this one are Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero. Gene quotes them as being a “piece of art painted by two masters of their craft”. And it is a title match for the WCW cruiserweight championship belt.
Mysterio enters in a crazy purple bodysuit with the usual mask. And Guerrero looks the same as I remember. The match begins with the two men circling each other, and Guerrero mocking Mysterio about not having the belt. This is a crazy fast paced match. Both men literally are throwing each other around across the ring, with no one having control of the match at any stage here, and the throwing of each other ends with Guerrero hitting the mats and the guardrail outside the ring. Unfortunately Mysterio seems to misjudge a leap off the top ropes and Guerrero takes the opportunity to grab Mysterio and throw him into the steel stairs outside the ring.
Guerrero takes the early lead in the match, but Mysterio attempts to equal the score, until Guerrero catches him and throws him in a belly to back suplex. Guerrero pulls off some beautiful wrestling moves in this section of the match, finishing the fast moving section off with a tiltawhirl backbreaker. The wrestlers both slow down in the next section as Guerrero locks in some submission moves, and also starts to pull at the mask of Mysterio. From the commentary we can work out that Guerrero wants to unmask Mysterio and has wanted to for a while. There are some pinfall attempts made, with all of them being escaped from after the two count.
Mysterio takes the upper in this match with an unexpected springboard back flip DDT from the top rope. And Mysterio continues his dominance with a dropkick, until Guerrero gets one step ahead and kicks through the ropes to knock Mysterio off onto the floor.
And as we see this, we also see the beginning of an commercial break.
Straight back into the action, as Mysterio is being thrown back into the ring by Guerrero. They slow the match down again with Guerrero getting a camel clutch locked in, and he also manages to rip off a large chunk of the mask off Mysterio’s face. We also see Guerrero pull off a Gory Special, which is a move that pays homage to Eddie Guerrero’s father. And again, they do a series of high flying moves, only to follow up with a submission move, which Guerrero is delivering to Mysterio.
Mysterio has a lucky save in there when he grabs onto the ring ropes during a count. But Guerrero is in control. It gets interesting when it appears that Mysterio is stuck dangling from the top ropes in the corner, and it looks like Guerrero is going to baseball slide into Mysterios head, but he moves quickly out of the way, and Guerrero ends up crotching himself on the ring pole. And Mysterio takes control of the match with a jump from the top rope out of the ring to squash Guerrero into the guardrails. Mysterio pulls off a lot of fast paced moves, including a hurricanrana, all of which are performed beautifully. Mysterio also attempts a move that the announcers donâ€™t name, that we know as the ‘619’ that he uses nowdays. These two are able to catch each other and reverse moves faster and more fluidly than most ever could. The power in the match changes continually. And we cut to an ad break as Mysterio performs a sunset flip into flying head scissors over the top ropes to take out Guererro and we see both men on the ground.
We come back to see Mysterio throwing himself into a corkscrew moonsault off the top rope. Weâ€™re getting to the point of the match where all both men seem to be doing is taking single moves and attempting to get the pinfall. The high flying moves seem to have all but disappeared. But neither of these guys slows down. And after a little bit, they do go back to the high flying moves. We see Guerrero miss a frog splash attempt. And we’re witness to a massive reversal from Mysterio on the top rope, because it looks like itâ€™s all over for him. But as they’re falling, Mysterio stops the spinning, and lands on Guerrero in a small package to take out the win on this one.
And of course, we see Guerrero get in a cheap shot from behind and watch Mysterio leave the ring area.
Gene Okerlund quoted this as one of the best matches in WCW, and its easy to see why. Both men have a similar style and flow beautifully together. And with the end of a match comes another commercial break.
After the commercial break, we open with Vince standing in front of a raw is war sign, talking about being on a WCW set. And we hear Vince announce that he now has bought his competition, and that he now owns WCW. (The airdate of this promo is WCW Nitro: March 26, 2001).
And Mean Gene hypes our final match. This is all about the end of the era of WCW, and the integration of the two companies. Weâ€™re now being introduced to the unification of the cruiserweight belts. This match takes place at summerslam 2001. The current light heavyweight champ (WCW) Tajiri faces off against the cruiserweight champ (WWF) X-Pac to see who comes out the winner of the new unified belt.
Tajiri appears to cheers, and X-Pac appears to a large boo from the audience. Both men are wearing the belts of the separate companies in a “championship vs. championship” match. And both men are given a chance to parade around the ring with both sets of belts before the match begins.
The match gets off to a quick start, with both men squaring off and X-Pac almost ending up in a headlock before they start to get into more interesting reversals. X-Pac slows the match down a little with an attempt at a submission hold, and Tajiri is left to get out of it and slam X-Pac down onto the ground to perform a standing moonsault over. X-Pac manages to get Tajiri down onto the ground, and throws some slaps to the back of the head in, which is completed by Tajiri grabbing the legs of X-Pac as he is celebrating and throwing him forward onto his face to get in some head slaps of his own. These two then hit the ropes where X-Pac is able to get the upper hand by sending Tajiri down with a move that looks like a clothesline. They throw each other around a little, which ends in Tajiri getting in a hurricanrana takeover sending X-Pac almost under the bottom ropes, and hits a baseball slide to get him right out of the ring. This is followed up with what the commentary team refer to as the first major move of the match, when Tajiri performs a springboard moonsault off the ring ropes onto X-Pac on the ground. Unfortunately X-Pac follows this up by crotching Tajiri into the edge of the ring posts.
And again, we are thrown into another commercial break.
But the action continues with X-Pac stretching out Tajiri in what they’re calling a surfboard like manoeuvre. But both men seem to be evenly matched even at this point in the match. There is no clear stronger person in there. They do slow down the match briefly, but we’re treated to X-Pac getting caught in the top ropes in the corner, to receive a baseball slide into the face. This starts them off again into some fast and flying moves in the ring. We see an attempt at a pinfall from Tajiri. Straight after the pinfall attempt, Tajiri somehow gets X-Pac into a submission move situation where they are both hanging off the ring ropes. But as they were on the ropes it was broken up fast by the ref. Tajiri hits a cross body which is taken advantage of by X-Pac as he rolls into another pin attempt. Both men end up on the top ropes, but Tajiri backflips off the ropes and comes back in to grab X-Pac and slam him into the ground face first. Tajiri keeps attempting to get pinfalls but keeps getting two counts. The high flyers keep delivering with X-Pac flying over the top ropes again to hit Tajiri who was outside the ring. The athletic moves they deliver are also great. However X-Pac does deliver an “x factor”, which is apparently his finisher, but however, he doesnâ€™t get to the pin fast enough for a three count.
As the commentary team announce as the screen cuts to someone else walking down the entrance ramp, we hear, “here comes the muscle”. As Albert is walking towards the ring. And he is there to be on the side of X-Pac in this match. After a little while, Albert does get closer to the ring, up onto the apron, and Tajiri spits something into Albertâ€™s face. While Albert distracts Tajiri, X-Pac goes in to hit his finisher again, the x factor, and he picks up the pinfall and therefore the victory.
The show ends with Gene Okerlund reminding us that X-Pac was the final WCW cruiserweight championship ever, and also to keep watching Vintage Collection as they are going to be featuring old Summerslam matches in the lead up to Summerslam 2009.