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Chris Deez’s WWE Elimination Chamber Predictions

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It doesn’t feel like more than 5 minutes ago that we sat through one of the greatest weekends in WWE PPV history as we were treated to the incredible NXT TakeOver Philadelphia and the history making Royal Rumble within 24 hours of eachother, yet here we are again with WWE’s next offering Elimination Chamber. With this being the last RAW exclusive PPV before WrestleMania, we should see multiple rivalries and title challenges set in stone. The match card may be small, but there is a lot of potential for this to be a real sleeper hit of a PPV. Lets take a look…

Ronda Rousey Contract Signing

Ronda Rousey joining WWE was one of the worst kept secrets in the companies history, and although I may be on my own here, I applaud WWE for the way they introduced her at the Royal Rumble. The moment was iconic and was a huge talking point but not to the point where it took anything away from Asuka’s historic moment and performance. Nobody looked weak, all 4 women stood tall in the ring and the arrival opened us up to a whole world of theories and possibilities. The announcement that Rousey would be signing her WWE contract in ring on Sunday night makes a huge deal of sense, as this is one of the most barebones match cards I have ever seen for a PPV so close to WrestleMania.

We could see any one of a number of things go down – A stare-down or confrontation between Rousey and another superstar, the introduction of a manager to help cover the cracks in her character (or lack thereof) or the more obvious (and my personal prediction) of a confrontation with Stephanie McMahon. This one makes the most sense as at this current moment in time it seems unlikely that Rousey will be going after one of the belts… these storylines have pretty much written themselves already. Consider this – Steph wants retribution for The Rock and Ronda embarrassing her and HHH at WrestleMania 31… HHH still hasn’t forgotten about Braun Strowman beating him down as the curtains dropped at Survivor Series… how about a good old-fashioned tag match?

Prediction: The contract signing goes south quickly. Stephanie and Ronda end up scrapping to set up their Wrestlemania bout.

Bold Prediction: Rousey hesitates while signing, asks for someone to come and check over the contract… “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN” …

A match so uninteresting and undeserved that it doesn’t even have an official picture 3 days before the PPV…

The Bar (c) v Titus Worldwide –RAW Tag Team Championship

If you had told me a year ago that Titus Worldwide would be challenging for the tag titles at a PPV two months before WrestleMania I would’ve spat in your face and called you a scoundrel. How on earth is this match even taking place, and how on earth do WWE expect us to care? Sure, TW have picked up a few unexpected cheap victories recently, but if Titus and Apollo come out of this as the new champs I will eat my own face. As much as I complain that the Raw tag team scene doesn’t have enough diversity and variety, this is surely not the way to go when a team as legitimately badass as The Revival are sitting around doing nothing.

Prediction: The Bar win because Vince McMahon will have truly gone mad if they don’t.

Bold Prediction: WWE realise we don’t want the same match with the same guys every damn week and call up either AOP or SAnitY.

Matt Hardy v Bray Wyatt

Hmm… does anyone even care anymore? The Woken Matt character had so much promise but has very quickly lost all steam. WWE have reduced a gimmick with such potential into ‘the guy who had a funny laugh’ and that’s about is really. The crowds have been less and less behind him with a really noticeable absence of cheers, and any remaining fans are surely only there because of the fond memories from his run with the character in TNA. That was when he was able to run with the character and was allowed to make his own creative choices, but WWE have given us such a watered-down version that it’s hard to really get invested anymore.

I was once the biggest fan of Bray Wyatt, but lacklustre feuds with Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, and the same promo every week have really done him a lot more harm than good. This is a guy who not so long ago was WWE Champion, defending the belt at WrestleMania against the legend Randy Orton… less than a year later he’s dressed up in drag pretending to be his dead sister. I’m praying we get to see Jeff returning as Brother Nero either during or after the match to generate some real interest, and if the rumours circling the internet concerning his return to health are anything to go by… the WWE Universe may become BROKEN very soon.

Prediction: Matt Hardy wins clean in an uninspiring match.

Bold Prediction: Jeff Hardy/Brother Nero returns to help Matt win.

Women’s Elimination Chamber – RAW Women’s Championship

WWE have really delivered on their promise to create history and push the women to the forefront of the company over the past year. So far we have seen the first ever Women’s Money in The Bank, which was unfortunately horribly booked, and more recently the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match which was surprisingly good even though the women of the past completely outshone the current crop of superstars. Next stop on the Women’s Revolution train is the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match. We will see Bayley, Sasha Banks, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose and Mickie James battle it out in the demonic structure attempting to dethrone the current Raw Women’s Champion and Goddess of WWE, Alexa Bliss.

The timing of this title match is a little strange and makes it far too predictable to most fans as to who will come out victorious. This is exactly why I’m going to buck that trend and go with Bliss dropping the title to Sasha Banks inside the chamber. Why? Because Asuka is going to beat Nia Jax on Sunday which means Nia is out of the title picture altogether. We were teased with cracks forming in the relationship between Bliss and Nia but that storyline just seemed to fade away into nothing, so now would be a great time to revisit the fractured friendship. With the belt on Sasha I can see a rivalry starting between her and Bayley, her long time best friend, with plenty of teases to Bayley turning heel along the way.

Prediction: Sasha Banks wins by pinning Bliss or Bayley.

Bold Prediction: Rousey or Nia somehow enter the match, laying out Banks after she wins and staking their claim for a Mania challenge.

Asuka v Nia Jax

WWE have backed themselves into a corner here. Nia is the only woman on the RAW roster who can offer a legitimate challenge to Asuka, but there is no chance in hell Asuka will be losing this match and having the streak broken. Unless WWE throw a curveball and have Jax win by count-out or DQ, meaning the title match at Mania becomes a triple threat and thus preserves Asuka’s undefeated streak. And before you say ‘but Jax winning means Asuka loses the streak’, you should probably remember that Asuka has lost a battle royal during her time in NXT… to EVA MARIE of all people, yet is still down on paper of undefeated.

The main topic of discussion in the women’s division is still focused on who Asuka will challenge at WrestleMania. I would expect us to find out straight after this match, and I’m expecting Asuka to choose Charlotte on SDLive. If the match on Sunday goes to plan there will be no-one left on RAW for Asuka to face, so switching brands makes the most sense and would give us a fantastic contest between the two most talented females in the company and finally gives Charlotte a legitimate challenger, something sorely lacking on the blue brand.

Prediction: Asuka wins a very poor match and challenges Charlotte.

Bold Prediction: Rousey (are you noticing a theme here?) interferes and takes out Asuka, causing Jax to lose by DQ and setting up a Mania match. At this point I’m pretty sure I have Rousey in about 4 matches so far!

Men’s Elimination Chamber – Winner faces Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania for the Universal Championship

Roman Reigns will win the Elimination Chamber match and you can bet your house on that. No last minute booking shift is going to change that, and it has been set in stone for nearly a year now since Lesnar defeated Goldberg for the championship and Reigns defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33. The simplest and most direct route for Roman to obtain the title opportunity is by winning the chamber match, and requires the least amount of creative booking on WWE’s part. 

This match is surely going to be an early contender for match of the year when you consider the calibre of the talent involved. All 7 men would be very legitimate champions, but one of them stands quite literally head and shoulders above the rest. Braun Strowman will undoubtedly be the star of this match and I would expect him to cause some real destruction to carry on his trend of tearing everything apart from recent months.

This match opens up a lot more opportunities than just the UC scene. Depending on who eliminates who, we could very well see the continuation of Elias v John Cena, the start of either Strowman or Finn going after The Miz’s Intercontinental Championship… and we still have Samoa Joe to return into of those scenes. At the end of the day though I’m still expecting Roman Reigns to win this one, we know he will be facing and dethroning Lesnar at Mania regardless. I sort of don’t even mind anymore.. at least Roman would be around full time, it would just be lovely to have a little less predictability all the bloody time. If I’m booking this match, I would reward Rollin’s consistently fantastic performances by having him win the chamber match, pinning Roman to do so, and over the next 2 months it somehow turns into a triple threat match at Mania.

Prediction: Roman Reigns wins because… Roman Reigns.

Bold Prediction: Strowman destroys the Elimination Chamber, all 4 pods, rips apart one of the walls and eats all of the steel.

Third Prediction: Roman… Reigns.


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MLW Fusion Ratings & Review: 6/22/2018

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I always feel a little bad when I miss an episode of MLW Fusion, and don’t have time to catch up, but thankfully it didn’t play into this show too much. Chris Platt does damn good work when I can’t cover it, I just need more time in a week.

Since I enjoyed the last episode I watched so much, this should be interesting to see how this episode feels.

 

The show begins recapping the $20,000 bounty that Brody King is looking to cash in, and a small plug for MLW Battle Riot in New York City

Trey Miguel vs Teddy Hart

Danny Santiago was supposed to be the opponent, but Teddy Hart jumps him before the bell and Court Bauer comes out to make the new match official.

Quick exchange, where Teddy goes for an Arabian Moonsault, hits Miguel’s knees, goes outside and a kind of short step up Cartwheel Dive from Miguel puts Teddy Hart on his heels. Action goes back into the ring, Trey strings together a few moves and lands a top rope Meteora, for a 2 count. -commercial break-

We return from the break, Teddy is on the receiving end of some forearm shivers in the corner. Counters a corner whip by standing on Trey’s back and quickly transitioning into a Code Red for a near fall. Package Hammerlock DDT from Teddy for another near fall. After a little pandering to the crowd, another big spot, Electric Chair Lung Blower, gets a near fall for Hart. A few chops in the corner, Hart attempts a Superplex, but Miguel slips off and connects with an Avalanche Cutter, only broken up by Teddy having the ropes within arm’s reach.

Sloppy exchange on the apron, Overhead Back Kick and Flatliner gets Trey a 2 count. They move to the corner, Miguel plays to the crowd, Hart makes him pay with a Side Slam across the top turnbuckle. Hart hits one more Lungblower and an Avalanche Canadian Destroyer give Teddy Hart the win.

Sloppy, but an alright re-debut for Teddy Hart.

Winner: Teddy Hart via Avalanche Canadian Destroyer

Rating: ** 1/4
 
Kotto Brazil interview about his Rich Swann match. Alright face promo regarding him trying to get some wins.

Teddy Hart interview next, comes off mostly face but saying that the locker room hates to follow him. Rich Swann, ACH and Teddy Hart have a small altercation, ends with ACH saying “These Harts are crazy”.

Another Battle Riot promo, naming a few new names and a match including Davey Boy Smith Jr, Teddy Hart w/ Brian Pillman Jr vs Rich Swann & ACH

Small interview with Col. Robert Parker hitting on interviewer Vanessa Croft, and taking her off to get coffee while Team Filthy go into their lockroom behind them.

 

Barrington Hughes vs Paris Hakeem

Caramel Colossus is a great nickname, but another squash match doesn’t really do much for me. Barrington will be a major player later, but these squash matches just look kinda bad.

Winner: Barrington Hughes Standing Elbow Drop

Rating: N/A (Squash Match)

Team Filthy say they found his hat, and gave it a good ‘Cleveland Steam Cleaning’, which Robert Parker finds out the hard way, what that means.

 

Kotto Brazil vs Vandal Ortagun

Handshake fake, into a kick from Vandal, leads into a shoulder block takedown. Kotto’s athleticism comes into play necked, leap frog move, kick, Rhodes Laying Uppercut, into a Dropkick.

A nice rolling Monkey Flip attempt gets countered into a side slam from Ortagun for 2. Another counter Neckbreader from Vandal for yet another near fall. Ortagun continues to dominate the position and flings Kotto into the corner, but counters with a Sunset Flip. Running Uppcut for Brazil, Headscissor Driver into the middle turnbuckle as Kotto transitions to a Frog Splash but gets caught. Backstabber from Ortagun for a 2 1/2. Brazil tries to fight back but gets caught in a Wrist Clutch Backstabber.

Ortagun takes a second to complain about the two count, eats two Superkicks and a Running Shiranui from Brazil, as Kotto picks up the win.

Winner: Kotto Brazil via Running Shiranui

Rating: **

 

Recap of Fenix and Pentagon winning the tag titles, going into a Salina de la Renta interview. Very good promo about not being happy with only tag titles, wishing Brody King good luck and running down the interviewer.

 

$20,000 Bounty Match: Brody King vs Shane Strickland

Starts off with Sawyer Fulton and Leon Scott trying to jump Strickland early, but Barrington Hughes intercepts them and tells Shane to go to the ring.

Brody starts off quickly, and the two men begin striking back and forth. Strickland Dropkicks King to the outside, and then starts laying in multiple jumping front kicks from the apron. Swerve attempts a Frankensteiner but Brody catches him and Powerbombs him into the apron. King gets a 2, and continues to put on the pressure, hitting a senton, getting another 2 afterwards. Strickland shows a lot of fighting spirit by landing occasional strikes, but Brody keeps the advantage and hitting more impactful moves.

Repeated knee lifts from Shane, King returns with a Big Boot, German Suplex is no sold by Brody, Shane gets caught in a Fireman’s Carry, but before King can pull off his move, Strickland counters with a Dropkick. The pace picks up pretty nicely here and there’s a lot of exchanges. Shane hits a multitude of moves including a Tiger Feint to King’s stomach, but nothing puts the big man down. Two Pump Kicks, a standing high kick, nothing takes down King. When Shane goes for another move, King hits a big lariat and does a Big Swing, causing Shane to roll out of the ring. -commercial break-

King stalks Strickland on the outside, but a chair to the knee and a stepup Enzuigiri send Brody to a seated position. Shane stares down King and nails him with a Swerve Stomp from the apron, through the chair. Eventually gets big Brody King in the ring, but only for 2 by the time the pin happens.

Swerve kicks and stomps Brody’s head but he powers up and through the moves. Lariat while maintaining wrist control and Brody hits the All Seeing Eye, for a near fall. King then goes under the ring for powder, but Shane kicks it into King’s face, lowers his knee pad and lands a High Knee Strike and picks up the win.

Winner: Strickland via Knee Strike

Rating: ***

 

Low Ki attacks Strickland, as Salina de la Renta comes out with him. She smiles at Low Ki as he continues to beat down the damaged champion.

 

Thoughts:

Not a terrible show, definitely felt and looked a little more low budget than some of their other shows. Some of the interview segments just looked bad, but everyone gottheir characters over well. Even at the end, Salina de la Renta’s facial expressions and body language were fantastic. So it still has those moments where it looks Indy and others when it looks more legit. But hey, if production value is all I’m gonna complain about, that’s pretty damn solid.

Plus, Teddy Hart is back, so what’s to dislike about that?


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The Book Club: Kofi Kingston as WWE Champion

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This is an idea I’ve had on my mind for awhile now.  Last Sunday, Money in the Bank confirmed what I already felt: Kofi Kingston should get a shot at the WWE Championship.

He’s been stuck in the tag title scene for the past several years so you may forget everything he’s accomplished in his career.  His resume speaks for itself.  Kofi is a 4x Intercontinental Champion, 3x United States Champion, and 7x Tag Team Champion (longest reigning).  He has also participated in 3 Elimination Chambers, 7 Money in the Bank ladder matches (tied for most all-time), and 11 Royal Rumbles (tied for fourth most).  Also, not many guys can claim they’ve hosted a Wrestlemania.

Out of those 21 marquee matches I just mentioned, his only victory came in an Elimination Chamber match for the tag belts in 2015.  He’s been with WWE for over a decade but has never had a one-on-one world title match or feud.  His only two WWE Championship opportunities came in Elimination Chamber matches.

So what’s the problem?  We never hear about Kofi having backstage heat or creating problems with management.   He’s been one of the most consistently popular babyfaces in this generation of wrestling and is apart of one of the most successful factions in the company’s history.  Kofi has a Hall of Fame caliber body of work as a singles wrestler but might even end up being inducted with The New Day.  How many other talents can say that besides Ric Flair and the Hardy’s?  His body type can’t be used as an excuse.  Guys like CM Punk, Rey Mysterio, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan, and Jeff Hardy have held the top prize.  The New Day’s feud with the Uso’s was the hottest thing on Smackdown last year and Kingston consistently provides the highlight of every Royal Rumble match.

wwe.com

Last Sunday made me even more excited to write this article.  I was almost certain Big E was going to be the New Day’s mystery entrant.  When Kofi was revealed as the guy, I thought the Chicago crowd was going to turn on him since it would be his 7th appearance in the match.  To my surprise, the opposite happened.  The snarkiest fans in wrestling known for their beach balls and “CM Punk” chants vocalized their support for Kingston multiple times during the match.  When I saw him standing in the ring with seven of the company’s elite, it just looked like he belonged.

Even outside of the venue, I saw the collective support throughout the wrestling community.  The conversation of Kofi sparked on Twitter and the guys over at Cultaholic agreed that he deserved the briefcase.  Now we’re left to hope those chants resonated with Vince.

Let’s Book It

Since the Money in the Bank briefcase is living on Raw, AJ Styles might be WWE Champion for the foreseeable future unless the plans are to strap the rocket to Rusev.  That being said, my ideas revolve around Kofi and AJ.

Some parts of wrestling world still aren’t convinced with Kingston at the top spot so the first step would be to establish him as a credible threat.  I’ve heard that Vince isn’t a big fan of tournaments so a gauntlet match would be more ideal.  Unfortunately, that just occurred in this Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown Live.  The silver lining is that Big E was the New Day member that failed to win so Kofi was spared a critical loss.  Whether it’s a tournament, gauntlet match, or six-pack challenge, Kofi Kingston winning a big #1 Contender’s opportunity against Smackdown’s best needs to happen in the next 12 months.

Kofi is enjoyed by casual and hardcore fans alike.  The silliness of the pancakes and cereal entertains all ages and the older fans have been watching him for over 10 years.  New Day has been active for almost 4 years now and the fans still yell Big E’s intro before the music hits.  The support and babyface appeal is there.  My next step would be to give AJ Styles some heel-ish tendencies.  The longer AJ’s reign continues, the more confident he should get.  He should start to possess some of that likable cockiness that Kenny Omega and Braun Strowman share.  The chemistry of the feud will determine how much of a heel AJ becomes.

Cageside Seats

Another element to the feud could be the addition of Gallows and Anderson, AJ’s old Bullet Club mates.  Gallows and Anderson are coming off their second failed attempt at the tag titles as newly-christened babyfaces so they could use some revamping.  Allowing them to wear face paint again and giving them more violent tendencies could give them their edge back.  Pairing them

back with AJ couldn’t possibly hurt.  We’ve already seen The New Day have matches of the night on several pay-per-views with The Usos in 2017.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them recreate that magic with The Club’s three veterans.  Whether it’s in 6-man matches or bouts over the Smackdown tag belts, those series of matches could be special if given the right amount of time.

I genuinely think Kofi Kingston and AJ Styles would work really well together.  Imagine them headlining PPV’s with 20+ minutes of time.  They’re two of the best athletes in the company and they’ve done it all.  In the promos leading up, AJ could mock Kofi by saying it only took him a year with the company to win the WWE Title, whereas Kofi has been there for a decade without winning it.  When AJ says Smackdown Live is the house that he built, Kofi could retort by bringing up all the money New Day has brought the company with their merch and television appearances.  There would be no SD Live if Kofi didn’t help man the ship for his whole career.

We’ve seen recently that Vince has been rewarding his veterans with grand-slam championships.  Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, and Jeff Hardy have all completed the feat in the last year.  Kofi Kingston should definitely be next.  Even Christian was given the World Heavyweight Championship at the end of his career.  Hopefully before Kofi decides to hang up the boots, the company he’s given his life to gives him the main event storyline that’s alluded him.  At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that Kofi definitely deserves it.


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How the WCW Cruiserweight Division Changed Wrestling

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Hi, my name is Ite Lemalu, I am from Auckland, New Zealand, and I grew up watching wrestling from the late 1980s. My favourite wrestlers growing up were Greg Valentine, Bret Hart and Jake Roberts. When I first started watching wrestling (WWF Superstars of Wrestling); I was drawn to the gimmicks and the interviews where the wrestlers would drop their iconic catch phrases, and I enjoyed watching wrestlers like Randy Savage and Jimmy Snuka fly off the top rope.

But then I began to notice how certain wrestlers took pleasure in making their moves painful for their opponents which is why I liked watching Greg Valentine ‘break’ his opponents legs. Anyway, I watched wrestling through primary school, high school and even at university when I would go back to my flat regardless of time of day to watch WCW. I don’t watch WWF/WWE as intensely as I used to. I still keep tabs on what’s happening, my wrestling viewing is now devoted to Impact Wrestling and MLW Fusion. I have all of my wrestling from the 20th century backed up, and as long as I have that, I’m good.

Every so often (like Monday just gone, Queen’s Birthday weekend for NZ) I would watch WWF or WCW, and although I grew up watching the WWF, there is still a lot of material that I have still yet to see. In this case, I was in the mood to watch something that I’ve seen before: WCW’s Halloween Havoc 1997. The usual WCW per-per-view in the middle of the 90s featured an A list of names that headlined the events, the A listers were supported by a youthful and talented group of wrestlers, most of whom were smaller in size to their established ‘elders’ and had wrestled extensively outside of the States prior to being lured to WCW for lucrative deals. These young lions of the 90s never failed to deliver a fantastic undercard. These pre-main event matches produced wrestling styles that were rarely seen by the mainstream audience.

My favourite match from Halloween Havoc ’97 (and a favourite of many other fans) is the Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero: Mask vs. (Cruiserweight) Title match. Usually when I watch my favourite matches I’d pick up a detail that I probably hadn’t noticed before, and I did find something new and significant regarding this classic match. When I first saw Rey/Eddie 20 years ago, the Lucha libre genre was still fresh to mainstream wrestling, and although the WCW Cruiserweight Division was over a year in existence, only a top few Lucha Libre stars were slotted in one featured singles match at every pay-per-view. As more Lucha libre stars were brought into WCW, the fans’ awareness of the culture grew as they learned about the traditions and the extravagant theatrics. To ensure that the viewers watching at home understood the Lucha libre culture, WCW announcer Mike Tenay – an enthusiast in Lucha libre (and Japanese “Puroresu” wrestling) would sit in during the Cruiserweight matches and supply the viewers with stories about the wrestlers, the Lucha customs, Spanish or Japanese translation of holds, and the family lineage of the wrestlers – most of whom had fathers, uncles or grand fathers who wrestled. The use of Tenay’s valuable commentary gave the fans a backstory to each Lucha star and this helped to integrate the Lucha wrestlers into the WCW product.

There were already some high profiled bouts for the Cruiserweight Titles shown on pay-per-view before the Rey/Eddie of Havoc ’97: Rey Mysterio .Jr/Dean Malenko from Halloween Havoc ’96, Dean Malenko/Ultimo Cruiserweight/J Crown Unification from Starrcade ’96, Chris Jericho/Ultimo from Bash at the Beach ’97. I believe that Rey/Eddie – Havoc ‘97 is what made the Cruiserweight Division an influential part of the US wrestling scene, and even if it were by accident, WCW found the perfect hero and villain to sell the genre to the mainstream fans. Rey/Eddie was the first major storyline of this division that gave the fans a reason to invest in the Cruiserweights: As the match is taking place, Eddie Guerrero’s change of attitude is supported by Mike Tenay’s endorsement when he speaks in detail about Eddie’s past as one half of the notorious Los Gringos Locos tag team. Tenay adds fuel to the fire; highlighting previous accounts of Eddie desecrating the Lucha libre tradition of the mask while in the match Eddie is pulling away at Rey’s mask. Rey Mysterio .Jr is given an equally glowing backstory as Tenay explains that Rey had wrestled under a different name for three years before earning the Rey Mysterio identity that was handed down to him by his uncle Rey Mysterio .Sr. Tenay adds that Rey has successfully defended his mask in nine other matches, making this defence against Eddie, his tenth. Rey’s gear and mask have been altered for this specific event; he appears in a full body suit with his mask is attached to it. The suit is inspired to resemble the Phantom superhero, and before he starts the match, Rey gives a replica like mask to a fan sitting at ringside. This indicates the Americanising of Rey and other Lucha stars and WCW beginning to capitalise off the popularity of Rey and his Lucha peers through marketing and merchandise. Of the overall Halloween Havoc event, Rey/Eddie were of three Cruiserweight matches on the card (matches were slotted, one after the other with Rey/Eddie going third); this again supports that WCW were taking the necessary steps to push the Cruiserweights.

It’s from these details that I find that Rey/Eddie from Halloween Havoc ’97 elevated the Cruiserweight Division and changed the American wrestling scene. This match also surpassed the reputable Ultimo/Malenko unification. Although Ultimo/Malenko gave the Cruiserweights some credibility, it did not accomplish near to Rey/Eddie for the reason that Ultimo/Malenko lacked a definitive hero or villain, or that Malenko wasn’t a strong enough hero; this led to a lack of emotion from the crowd. By default Malenko being American had the home crowd, unfortunately the audience were confused as to who they should fully support. That atmosphere felt like very competitive and interesting exhibition. Malenko/Ultimo contributed a respectable international flavour, however the placing of this match seemed like a “cut and paste”, as if Malenko/Ultimo was not a WCW match but – but an import from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Basically, the match was out of place and didn’t belong to WCW. Rey/Eddie – Havoc was blended in as part of the WCW presentation. It had a genuine hero and villain and it supported Eddie’s actions; his malicious efforts end Rey Mysterio Jr.’s career and desecrate the sacredness of the mask, thank you Mike Tenay.

Two month before Starrcade ’96, the first Cruiserweight Title defence on pay-per-view was at Halloween Havoc ’96, the challenging antagonist Malenko against the heroic champion, Rey Mysterio .Jr. This, a brilliant story explored Reys perspective where he faced the difficult task of fending off Malenko who was a well-schooled mat based technician and a superior wrestler to Rey. Even with Malenko disrespecting Rey’s mask and winning the Cruiserweight belt, their matches together weren’t as memorable. Dean and Rey were an odd pair and for the good of the division it was probably best that they wrestle opponents that would complement their respective methods. Dean was a tremendous wrestler, though he did not possess the charisma to match his impeccable grappling skills. Dean was also regarded as a ‘must’ for the Cruiserweight gold, as well as Eddie and Chris Jericho, however it didn’t help the Cruiserweight Division when these three began floating in between the United States, Television and Cruiserweight belts.

In some weird analogy; I see parallels between Rey and Malenko to Hulk Hogan and Bob Backlund. Backlund was a magnificent wrestler and champion while Hogan gave the WWF the charisma and the electricity to go nationwide and mainstream. Respectfully, Malenko paved a necessary path for the Cruiserweight Division, and Rey Mysterio … more specifically the Rey Mysterio Jr/Eddie Guerrero classic from Halloween Havoc 1997 was what elevated the Cruiserweight Division. I would even suggest that this match may have turned the Cruiserweight Division into a sought after genre with fans and wrestlers who have competed in similar styles throughout the last 20 years.

That’s me for now, will see you again.

https://twitter.com/Ite_Lemalu


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