The quest continues. Who did Chris Jericho consistently have great matches with besides Shawn Michaels. Kurt Angle failed. Eddie Guerrero came a bit closer. Hunter is just infuriating. So now we take leave of the WWF and take a look at Japan. Can a trip across the Pacific bring the quest to an end?
WAR 3/26/95 (Ryogoku Kokugikan)
Ultimo Dragon vs Lionheart
WAR 3rd Anniversary Show (Ryogoku Kokugikan)
WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship
WAR International Junior Heavyweight Champion Lionheart vs Ultimo Dragon
Bash at the Beach 1997 (Ocean Center)
WCW Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho vs Ultimo Dragon
These matches would not be out of place in old Michinoku Pro or current Dragon Gate. Makes sense. Jericho’s first career break came in EMLL, and Ultimo Dragon was trained in what is known as Lucharesu by Gran Hamada and his Toryumon system is the forefather of Dragon Gate. Lucharesu is a hybrid style of Mexican Lucha Libre style and the Jr Heavyweight Japanese style revolutionized by the likes of Tiger Mask, Black Tiger, Dynamite Kid, and Kuniaki Kobayashi. To avoid getting too deep into the weeds with it the best way I can think to describe it is as a mixture of Lucha’s flare, and Japan’s sport ethic. For instance in Mexico you are more apt to see a match start with an appeal to the fans instead of a collar and elbow. As Jericho and Dragon’s matches start. In Japan you are more apt to see a match end with hard strikes, suplexes, and many nearfalls. As Jericho and Dragon’s matches end. Also nifty dives. Like Jericho’s moonsault from the 2nd rope on the inside to the floor. Basically a combination of Mexican crowd appeal, insane dives, hard strikes, and suplexes. That is the very cliff notes explanation, but getting a whole dissertation on a wrestling style wouldn’t be much fun to read would it?
The first WAR match, Wrestle and Romance for those wondering or Wrestle Association R but that’s not as much fun, is a very fast pace affair starting off with the appeal to the crowd followed by many acrobatic sequences including the aforementioned Jericho moonsault and the ubiquitous Asai Moonsault. When the move is named after you it tends to get used in your matches. Their second WAR match reviewed here is wrestled at a slower pace with far more work on the mat. As a matter of fact outside a pretty long Figure Four spot, which Dragon did a much better job of selling than one would have suspected, there was next to no match work in the first one. Just bombs away. This makes perfect sense considering the title match is twice as long as the first match. Also strategically. Dragon lost that first match so taking it to the mat makes sense for him. Also Dragon seemed to be having issues getting caught up in the ropes when trying to do dives anyway. Very Wrestlemania XXesque. Meanwhile the bombs away style worked for Jericho so he goes back to that style. Including a vicious head drop on a Tully Blanchard style Saito Suplex, a Gonso Bomb on the floor, and a Jackhammer which got a pop from me. Then as in the first match you have both guys hitting big moves and getting near falls including a great play off the finish of the first match where Jericho reversed a Dragon Suplex into a Victory Roll. A wonderful use of the Lionsault. Several back and forth sequences that got a not so vocal crowd to react. A really good match with a botch or two by Dragon. The first match is a fun sprint and the second match is damn good too.
The Bash at the Beach match is basically a condensed version of the 7/7/95 match with weaker pacing and terrible commentary. The commentary is all about Dennis Rodman and Hulk Hogan. Tenay is the only guy who has any clue what is going on. And really there’s not much to say about this one. As a matter of fact it has taken about 2 weeks to write that much. Just watch the WAR matches. Highly recommend those.
Results and Ratings
Lionheart defeated Ultimo Dragon via pinfall at 11:19 with a rollup (Star Rating: ***1/2)
WAR 3rd Anniversary Show
WAR International Junior Heavyweight Champion Lionheart defeated Ultimo Dragon via pinfall at 19:59 with an Avalanche Butterfly Suplex. Lionheart retained the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship (Star Rating: ****1/2)
Bash at the Beach 1997
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho defeated Ultimo Dragon via pinfall at 12:55 with a rollup. Chris Jericho retained the WCW Cruiserweight Championship (Star Rating: ***)
Average Rating: ***3/4
Well we’re getting closer. While as a whole this does not cross the threshold needed to be great it would still be highly recommended to check these out. Especially the anniversary match. There is a feeling in the air though. Can you feel it? It feels like we are coming close to what we search for. Will it come out the sky? R E Y? Next Time: Chris Jericho vs Rey Mysterio Jr.