The long and winding road on our trek to find a great opponent of Chris Jericho’s sans HBK has brought us to masked visage of Rey Mysterio Jr, and with him the end of our journey. After coming close last time with Ultimo Dragon, maybe Jericho just has chemistry with guys in masks, Mysterio gets us across the finish line with a couple of awesome matches bolstered by a handful of other quality bouts. But enough with the bloviating and let’s get right down to it boppers. On to the review.
Souled Out 1998 (Hara Arena)
WCW Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio Jr vs Chris Jericho
Bash at the Beach 1998 (Cox Arena)
WCW Cruiserweight Championship/No DQ Match
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho vs Rey Mysterio Jr
Judgment Day 2009 (Allstate Arena)
WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho
Extreme Rules 2009 (New Orleans Arena)
WWE Intercontinental Championship/No Hold’s Barred
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho
The Bash 2009 (Arco Arena)
Mascara contra Campeonato
WWE Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho vs Rey Mysterio
Smackdown 7/10/09 (Rabobank Arena)
WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio vs WWE Unified Tag Team Champion Chris Jericho
This had to be by accident. Everything we know about WCW screams that it was by accident. Yet somehow the injury angle capping off the Souled Out match between Jericho and Mysterio played perfectly into the mystery opponent angle at Bash at the Beach which just so happened to be in Mysterio’s home town of San Diego, California. WCW had to have lucked into it. On their best day WCW was never known for such foresight, especially in the midcard, and 1998 was past their best day. I mean the worst was yet to come, but still. It makes as much sense as the one month build between Extreme Rules where Jericho vowed, and did, to unmask Rey and The Bash where the mask was on the line which was probably booked by Jericho himself. The matches are short and Rey is alternately injured and rusty, but you see the signs of how well Jericho can make Rey look. There are a lot of crisp exchanges with Rey doing all manner of amazing things with Jericho either selling it or reversing it in some awesome way. Like the finish to the Souled Out match where Jericho turns a top rope Hurricanrana into a Liontamer in midair. Or how they incorporated the set and No DQ stip at Bash at the Beach with a huge diving rana off the lifeguard stand, and all of the RVDesque chair work. It’s a fun watch despite the rating. There is a level of execution that leads to the conclusion that Souled Out is the better of the WCW PPV matches. The blame for the Bash at the Beach match being the worst of this bunch can be placed on ring rust. The originally scheduled match was Jericho vs Malenko, but Malenko got suspended for attacking Jericho despite contract stips. So JJ Dillon conned Jericho into taking a match with a local jabroni who hadn’t wrestled in six months. Turns out to be Rey Mysterio Jr who was kayfabe injured by Jericho after their Souled Out match. I place the blame for the sloppiness in that match on that 6 month layoff. There are several botches in the match by Rey that can be pinned on that fact which makes it fun, but not quite good.
Chris Jericho might be the best base Rey Mysterio worked with in WWE outside of maybe Kurt Angle when he first came in. Which makes sense since Jericho got his big break in EMLL. A base basically being a guy that a high flying wrestler can do all of his cool shit off of and have it look good. For instance instead of the flying sit on a guy which became a Rey staple, and was Doink the Clown’s finisher, he starts doing ranas from every which direction which allows for awesome counters like Jericho powerbombing Rey into dust. Rey was doing big dives to the floor. He was doing actually cool versions of the 619 that made sense because they came from odd angles. And if there is one carry over from the WCW matches to the WWE ones it is all the different ways Jericho turns some wacky flip into the Lion Tamer/Walls of Jericho. Jericho found all sorts of ways to make Rey’s stuff look great. However, I don’t remember Rey looking near this awesome with Eddie which is odd. That series probably needs a look back to compare and contrast with this one. With Angle you might be able to chalk it up to Rey being younger, healthier, and the WWE not neutering him yet, but with Jericho in 2009 you get more flashes of WCW Rey than you had in 7 years. Maybe Rey was working lighter. He seems more “well” than he was for the bulk of his WWE run if you catch my meaning. At any rate Jericho worked a more lucha and less WWE style and it worked for the best. Including adding a variation to the La Atlantida to his moveset and the awesome finish at Extreme Rules where Jericho rips the mask off during the 619 and school boys Rey up for the win in a finish you can see most Friday nights in Arena Mexico.
The progression of the WWE is sort of interesting. You’d think a random no DQ match tossed in the middle would hurt the flow of one match to another. You’d be wrong to think that. It does help that in the grand scheme of things a mask match is a stronger gimmick than no DQ so there is no feeling of going backward there, and a tv match is a tv match so it doesn’t harm the Smackdown match either. The first match is hampered by an injury. Rey gets crotched on the top, but catches more of his leg than anything and then falls to the floor. The rest of the match Rey is heavily favoring the knee yet Jericho never works on it showing that it wasn’t a work. Not to mention Rey seems a bit off time on offense afterward, the match is at its best with Jericho getting the heat, which is further proof that Rey was hurting. Thankfully this is not a problem in the rematch at Extreme Rules despite an identical spot with nearly the same bad landing. At the end you have the tv match on Smackdown with no stip that was more or less a greatest hits of their ppv matches with a few new wrinkles thrown in. Like a cool new counter to the 619 where Jericho pulls down the middle rope, and a Saito Suplex getting turned into a flying headscissor. Despite being the longest of these matches what it really felt like was more of a super high end house show match than a blow off to series of match of the year contenders.
Speaking of match of the year contenders it would be best to look at the two best matches on their own. What is amazing is how the matches together tell a cohesive story despite having two very different stipulations. At Extreme Rules you have a No Holds Barred match that starts off as a brawl, and ends with a lot of work involving a chair and a demasking. A demasking at least in Mexico is cause for a DQ. The build to the match led to this psychology where Rey was being attack by Jericho who had vowed to unmask Rey. Thus you have the perfect lead in to the mask vs title match which was not No DQ. Meaning Rey could lose the mask via DQ. Meaning he couldn’t brawl. He couldn’t use a chair to get out of the Walls of Jericho either. So he went to the air, and much like the match the month earlier he looked like a throwback to the old days. Jericho took all kinds of huge spots and turned some of it around like catching Rey off a springboard moonsault and doing a running powerslam for a great nearfall. Then an awesome finishing sequence playing off their entire series. While Rey could hit the 619 from funky positions Jericho would always dodge it in the usual fashion of the move fans in WWE came to know over the years. Usually picking up Rey for a La Atlantida backbreaker. Here Rey reverses that into the DDT, leading to an old school pinning hurricanrana, goes for the West Coast Pop which in turn is reversed into the Walls, gets out of that but is unmasked by Jericho, and then finally is shown to be wearing a second mask allowing Rey to finally get the 619 and finish Jericho off. Get all of that? If it weren’t for one spot in the Bash match I’d have really considered ***** for it, and even so it is a just a nitpick really. Mysterio sets up Jericho for a top rope Frankensteiner. Jericho catches him and performs an avalanche powerbomb. Then on the pin attempt Jericho puts his feet on the ropes and gets a two count. Now doing one or the other makes for a good nearfall, but doing both at the same time feels like overkill and kills both spots in a way. Again a minor gripe. 5 seconds in a 15 minute spot is not much of a blemish. Go out of your way to watch those two matches. The two matches that confirm Rey Mysterio Jr as a great opponent of Chris Jericho’s.
Results and Ratings
Souled Out 1998
Chris Jericho defeated WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio Jr via submission at 8:22 with the Liontamer. Chris Jericho won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. (Star Rating: ***1/4)
Bash at the Beach 1998
Rey Mysterio Jr defeated WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho via pinfall at 8:02 with a rollup. Rey Mysterio Jr won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. (Star Rating: **)
Judgment Day 2009
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio defeated Chris Jericho via pinfall at 12:38 with a springboard splash. Rey Mysterio retained the WWE Intercontinental Championship. (Star Rating: ***1/2)
Extreme Rules 2009
Chris Jericho defeated WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio via pinfall at 14:41 with a schoolboy. Chris Jericho won the WWE Intercontinental Championship. (Star Rating: ****1/2)
The Bash 2009
Rey Mysterio defeated WWE Intercontinental Champion Chris Jericho via pinfall at 15:42 with a springboard splash. Rey Mysterio won the WWE Intercontinental Championship. (Star Rating: ****3/4)
WWE Intercontinental Champion Rey Mysterio defeated WWE Unified Tag Team Champion Chris Jericho via pinfall at 22:44 with a springboard splash. Rey Mysterio retained the WWE Intercontinental Championship. (Star Rating: ***3/4)
Average Rating: ***3/4
And so the project is complete. We have found a great opponent for Chris Jericho. Now I have received multiple requests to take a look at the matches Jericho had with Dean Malenko. I promise this will happen sooner than later, but you can understand that I need a bit of a palette cleanser after devoting so much time to Chris Jericho. So next time we’ll be doing something a bit different. There are some interesting matchups out there that didn’t happen often enough to fit the format of a series review. So every so often you have to mix up the format, and next week feels like a perfect time. Next Time: Random Match Rodeo.