5-Star Match Reviews: Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera - ECW Big Ass Extreme Bash 1996 - by Alex Podgorski

Cruiserweight wrestling, or lucha libre, is one of the most exciting forms of wrestling in the world. It originated in Mexico and was introduced to American audiences during the early to mid-1990s. And a central figure to the spread of lucha was none other than Rey Mysterio.

Mysterio is arguably the quickest, most agile wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots. His arsenal of moves was so revolutionary when he wrestled. Even in Japan, where junior heavyweight wrestling was a hot commodity, none of those wrestlers performed like Mysterio.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

Rey Mysterio had several rivals that followed him wherever he went. One of these rivals was Juventud Guerrera, a fellow lucha libre star that was taller, heavier, and stronger than Mysterio. Their rivalry walked the fine line between professional and personal. There was said to be longstanding beef between them, and they both hoped to gain a huge win over the other in this match for ECW in 1996.

The match

Mysterio goes for a handshake but Guerrera spits in his face, and then Mysterio spits back. Mysterio takes him down and they exchange leg holds. Guerrera kicks the leg and then begins a leg lock but Mysterio reverses that into a Muta lock. Excellent work with leg targeting early on as Guerrera reaches the ropes.

Guerrera hits a northern lights suplex for 2 and Mysterio carries him to the top rope and hits a top-rope hurricanrana for 2. Mysterio reverses a back body drop into a sunset flip but Mysterio bridges for another two-count. They do the test of strength and go back-and forth, before Mysterio monkey flips Guerrera while still keeping their knuckles locked together.

Mysterio whips Guerrera and tries a tile-a-whirl backbreaker, but Guerrera escapes. Guerrera then tries his own tilt-a-whirl backbreaker but Mysterio reverses that into a pin for two. Guerra starts chopping Mysterio hard, whips him and Mysterio blocks Guerrera with a crucifix head scissor that knocks Guerrera out of the ring. Mysterio skins the cat, kicks Guerrera, and hits a slingshot Asai moonsault as the fans chant ‘ECW’.

Mysterio climbs the top rope but Guerrera climbs as well, leaving Mysterio sitting on Guerrera’s shoulders on the top rope. But Mysterio reverses out of that and hits a diving sunset flip powerbomb for 2. Mysterio goes for a suplex but Guerrera reverses that into a brainbuster for 2.5. Guerrera tries to whip Mysterio but he reverses that, Guerrera ducks under Mysterio’s legs and kicks him in the gut, he charges, lands on the apron and hits a gorgeous springboard somersault kick to Mysterio. Guerrera hits a bridging dragon suplex for 3, scoring the first fall.

Guerrera 1, Rey 0

It’ explained that there’s a brief recovery period between falls, so Guerrera waits in the ring as Mysterio recovers outside. Double shoulder tackle and double kip-ups, followed by a running hurricanrana by Mysterio. Mysterio chops Guerrera and sends him into the corner, but he misses with a huge running dropkick into the corner. Guerrera is on the apron, but Mysterio ascends the turnbuckle, and hits a hurricanrana onto Guerrera that sends both of them from the apron to the floor. Mysterio gets in the ring as the ref orders Guerrera back into the ring. But Mysterio isn’t done as he hits a dive over the ref onto Guerrera who is still ringside. Damn, that was really cool. Fans cheer and whistle in approval.

Mysterio hits a kneeling powerbomb for 2 followed by a lionsault for 2.5. Guerrera reverses an Irish whip with a short-range clothesline. Guerrera kicks Mysterio, runs to the far turnbuckle, climbs it and attempts a flying crossbody, but Mysterio kicks him right in the stomach as he flies. Mysterio picks Guerrera up and hits the Dr. Death Gutwrench powerbomb for the three-count.

It’s tied 1-1

Guerrera hits a running dropkick on Mysterio and hoists him onto the top corner. Dropkick on the top turnbuckle sends Mysterio to the floor and Guerrera hits a baseball slide on Mysterio. Mysterio gets thrown into the fans as Guerrera moves the barricade before hitting an Asai moonsault onto Rey into the fans. Back in the ring, springboard spinning wheel kick by Guerrera gets 2. Guerrera goes for a springboard sommersault leg drop but Mysterio moves. Mysterio picks him up and lifts him onto another corner. He attempts a top-rope hurricanrana but Guerrera pushes him off. Guerrera attempts a diving move but Mysterio catches him and powerbombs him hard into the mat for 2.75. Bridging northern light suplex by Mysterio. Mysterio tries a springboard moonsault but lands on his feet as Guerrera rolls away. Guerrera then lifts Mysterio up and hits a bridging fallaway slam that gets 2.

Irish whip by Guerrera gets reversed into a spinning wheel kick by Mysterio. Mysterio runs, gets his legs caught by Guerrera, but reverses it into a hurricanrana. Mysterio whips Guerrera over the fan barricade and into the fans, and pulls him across the barricade. A fan hands him a chair and he hits Guerrera in the head with it. Mysterio then hits a springboard sommersault plancha onto Guerrera and into the fans once again.

They brawl into the crowd and into the backstage area, and even fight in the parking lot. Guerrera powerbombs Mysterio onto the hood of a car but Mysterio fights out and hurricanranas Guerrera onto the concrete. They brawl their way back towards the ring and Mysterio is in control. Mysterio tosses a chair that hits Guerrera hard in the head. The fans chant table and Mysterio sets it up. Mysterio charges the corner but Guerrera dodges and Mysterio almost hits his head on the steel ring post. As he tries to recover, Guerrera climbs the turnbuckle and prepares to his splash mountain. But as he launches Mysterio, Mysterio reverses it into another diving hurricanrana which gets the three-count.

Your winner at 2 falls to 1: Rey Mysterio

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3ar0uo

Review

If there was ever a reason to believe Rey Mysterio is a wrestling prodigy, this is it. By 1996, Rey was only 22 years old yet he had the technical precision and skill of a true wrestling master. His abilities were superb, his timing was perfect, his pacing unmatchable, and his execution was crisp and smooth. He and Guerrera told a great story that sold how much they hated each other and wanted to win. They kept it about the ring for the first two falls but took it to another level for the third one. They wanted to show the world how creative and innovative they were, and they succeeded.

No one had ever seen a hurricanrana off of a car, but Mysterio and Guerrera made it work. What’s more, Mysterio even showed incredible strength by hitting a Gutwrench Powerbomb at one point. Rey’s offense is almost exclusively centered on taking a bigger opponent down using speed and getting quick and sudden pins. Yet here, he showed how far he was willing to go to beat Guerrera by getting out of his comfort zone. Mysterio hit those moves perfectly despite Guerrera outweighing him, which is no small feat.

Final Rating: *****

A five-star rating means a match is, for all intents and purposes, perfect/flawless. And in reviewing this match, I couldn’t find a single flaw in it. As a wrestling match, this was fantastic entertainment. It told a great story through perfectly-executed maneuvers complemented by some of the wildest high-flying action seen up to that point. Although it featured great back-and-forth drama, this contest was really about Mysterio showcasing what he can do without limitations. He was on fire here and came off looking like a true wrestling star.

While wrestling standards have changed greatly since 1996, back then this was something special, something outstanding. Mysterio and Guerrera tore the house down in what was essentially an exhibition match on the middle of the card. That speaks volumes to how great they both were at the time, and how much of an influence they’d have on pro wrestling in the coming years.

Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.