Musings of a Mark: Guerrero vs Mysterio
I need to be slapped…
There I was, thinking the little retrospective series on 2005 was wrapped up with Kurt Angle in the last column, only to realise I had completely forgotten about Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio! Do you guys realise how soul-crushingly embarrassing that is for ME?!
Anyway, these two put on one of the finest and sustainably entertaining sets of matches I?ve ever seen. Not a ?poor? performance in sight and three MOTYCs (Judgment Day, Smackdown 06/23 and Smackdown 09/09). Oh, and one that is a strong contender for my MOTD.
Essential viewing. Watch ?em all. And slap me for almost forgetting about them.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio ? WWE Wrestlemania 21 04.03.05
I liked this performance as it contains signs of, or rather hints at, the issues that would later erupt into a more hateful, intense rivalry. Both through the commentary and Guerrero’s body language the frustration that ultimately causes Latino Heat to transform into an obsessive, sociopathic character is present. However, not to the point where it becomes a blatant indicator of an impending heel turn. Even with hindsight, I don?t get the sense of where this match’s outcome will lead. Eddie Guerrero’s brewing frustration ? which never actually reaches any extremes here ? simply feels a naturalistic development within the contest.
Mysterio’s high-flying and agility serves as a satisfying counterpoint to Guerrero’s ?grounding presence?. It provides a nice flow to the match, whereby Eddie Guerrero dominates, but not insofar as to bore the viewer. A flashy Rey Rey fight-back is never far away, resulting in some impressive exchanges and spots. As this performance is of what I like to coin the ?grounded lucha? genre ? the largely dominated performer utilises riskier, stunt-based moves as a necessary response to being dominated, but only to the point where control has been regained ? the spots serve a logical purpose within the plot, and thus I?m a happy camper.
What I found interesting is the mixture of ?bombs? and submission holds that Guerrero deploys which don?t conform to a singular point of focus. He does (loosely) work the right arm, but overall Guerrero changes up the holds to target different areas. It refutes the ?myth? of strategically plotted ?technical? ? a term in itself that should be scrutinised for generally meaning absolutely nothing ? wrestling as a necessity when employing submissions. This is one of the reasons why I admire BATTLarts. Sometimes, as is the case for this match, there isn?t time for precise dissecting of a limb or bodily region. You just have to grab what you can and twist it hard. Here, Mysterio’s speed doesn?t allow Latino Heat enough unhindered control to develop a story of injury. He just needs to keep the blighter grounded, which is difficult enough. There’s a nice little sub-plot which sees both performers progressively get closer to successfully execute a signature move ? Three Amigos for Eddie, 619 for Rey ? only for the killer blow, the Frog Splash and West Coast Pop, to miss.
People may raise their eyebrows at Mysterio running about and gracefully performing moves / counters despite being dominated. I, however, don?t consider it a flaw. Yes, Rey is dominated but the rest-holds endured aren?t designed to wear him down. They pressure the arm, leg and torso at various points in the performance, but never the head. Beyond the slams, Rey’s equilibrium isn?t greatly rattled. Thus the ?grace?, or I guess ?freshness?, of his movements is appropriate. He does repeatedly clutch his mid-section towards the end anyway.
The only fault I perceive in what is otherwise a truly solid opening contest is Rey’s mask troubles. At the most unfortunate moments, such as when he’s dangling mid-counter off Eddie’s back, he can be seen re-aligning it. Small gripe, though still noticeable to the more attentive of viewers. It’s not significantly damaging to the performance’s quality though.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio ? WWE Judgment Day 05.22.05
As much as I love to sing praises of Eddie Guerrero, good ol? Rey Mysterio impressed me most here. In an emotionally-charged, strike-based affair (i.e. not his usual type of match), he rises to the challenge admirably. The clenching / unclenching of his fists as he walks down the entrance ramp, neither showboating nor removing his gaze from Guerrero, conveys the nervous energy that’s associated within a brawling altercation. The strikes themselves seem to contain a nice amount of sting and velocity in their movement, and the general ?mess? of flying fists serves to amplify the fight-like atmosphere as opposed to a controlled performance.
That sense of normative sequencing is consistently dismissed throughout the match, and not simply in the organisation of straight-up striking. First I?ll explain this though: From my experience, striking in pro-wrestling (including performances that mimic a ?brawl?) tend to operate along clear, organised structuring in the trading of punches. One performer throws a strike, and the recipient either retaliates or endures more. Here fists fly at the same time on more than one occasion. Moreover instead of running through in-line with our expectations of what Mysterio does in the ring, Rey chooses mid-way through a run to the ropes (usually leading to a flashy move) to simply turn around and boot Guerrero in the ribs. Awesome! Another example? Rather than adhering to the expected 10 punches in the corner, Rey continues for longer and loses a sense of equal spacing out between each punch.
A pacing dynamic occurs, not unlike in their previous match, but this time upturns and downturns have emotional significance as opposed to being a basic reflection of styles. Rey injects pace due to anger, Guerrero slows down to frustrate, choosing his moves based on targeted impact. Eddie’s manner of carrying himself contributes to this sense of pacing: His non-urgent walk, the demeaning kicks and slaps, the verbal spouts etc. It contributes to the pacing dynamic, and exemplifies character development. Unlike ?Mania, Guerrero exhibits a connecting ?logic? in his move choice this time (and rightly so, as it’s a significant plot point) focusing on the back that he injured during the notable Brainbuster / Suplex Steel Step spot that occurred in the build (which actually gets teased in the match itself too).
Other cool aspects: Rey has a strike-oriented theme in mind when implementing the high-flying moves, such as enziguiris and head-butts, which goes back to the pacing having layers of emotional significance beyond that applied from the ?grounded lucha? genre. In other words, the moves aren?t simply about taking risks to overcome being dominated but have weighted emotionality also. Eddie throws in some neat re-interpreted / modified submissions, as well as some holds that progressively develop as Mysterio struggles against them. For example, the Liontamer / Modified Boston Crab which moves into a conventional Boston Crab and is then turned into the STF when Rey nears the ropes. Rey’s selling was of a high standard too, especially in the patience he shows in not immediately following-up the 619 in the finish. And, of course, the beat-down afterwards is also enjoyable.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio ? WWE Smackdown 06.23.05
This performance is far more deserving than the size of this review indicates.
It’s quite obvious from the get go that this is something special. Observe the quivering spasm on the right side of Eddie’s face as he walks down the entrance ramp; the subtle tremble that shakes Guerrero’s head as he glares out at the crowd from the turnbuckle; the weariness displayed by Rey Mysterio as he acknowledges the crowd, unable to keep his gaze from the deadened expression of his former friend for too long… There’s no doubt that this match has a wealth of material to read into and admire. I would love to spend an entire night commenting on all the minute touches made to the match as it progresses, how every move (offensive or expressive) has purpose, how Guerrero and Mysterio both exhibit magnificent character-acting, how there’s never a dull moment or a question of no-selling…
But I can?t. I can?t because for the first time ever I became so utterly mesmerised by a pro-wrestling match, so utterly consumed by the tale it tells (of brewing obsession and how that boils to the surface), that I completely forgot to review it. I became lost in the match. Engrossed. Those opening moments above were the only things I explicitly singled out before my mind slipped from the pages of my notebook and became fixed, with amazement and thrill, on the television screen.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my MOTY for 2005. I don?t even know whether technically speaking it’s the best match of the year. It’s up there, but no doubt there are a slew of others that are up there too. But that doesn?t matter… There’s something that’s intangibly arresting about this match, something that I can?t reducibly break down into a list of ingredients. I don?t think I even want to try. Hell, I don?t think even the fact that it features Eddie Guerrero has anything to do with it. Its enthralling experience makes it a stand-out; to deconstruct it could ultimately destroy it.
I will never forget the day I watched Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio from Smackdown 06.23.05. Do yourselves a favour and watch it (it’s on Rey’s more recent DVD set). Currently it stands tippy-top of my MOTD list, edging ahead of Austin / Rock, Cena / Umaga and Eddie / JBL.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio ? WWE The Great American bash 07.24.05
A significant step down from the previous two encounters, but still quite a good showing. This one witnesses the injection of external drama in the form of Rey’s son Dominick, which correlates with Guerrero’s so-called new ?addiction? being manipulation. Knowledge of his presence is interweaved throughout the performance, from Eddie’s early pretensions of friendship with Rey (directed at his son) to physical altercations as a result of Guerrero hiding behind the kid to general taunting. He’s very much the core of the match’s story, and although Dominick never deviates from the same blank face, his father, Eddie and the commentary team (adjusting between sombre and outraged) build and sustain a strong sense of surreal tension.
This tension and emotion spills over into the match itself. Signifying desperation, Rey kicks off with, and sticks with more, fast-paced aerial stunts than the past two clashes against Latino Heat. Even before the contest is halfway through, Mysterio hits the 619 / West Coast Pop combination. He wants to end the match in a quick urgent fashion. Move choice isn?t the only fine indicator of intent; Mysterio’s body language visibly portrays near-teary anguish after a number of near-falls. It’s wonderful acting by Rey Rey. Guerrero’s of a typically superb quality here too, integrating remnants of his old fun-loving charisma (with unnatural signs, like a slight snarl or deadened gaze, simultaneously intermingled to ominously twist their previously positive meaning) to play mind games with Rey Mysterio and Dominick.
Without the kid present, I have a feeling this match would?ve suffered from d?j? vu. As such, I see the dramatic focus as benefiting the overall performance. The finish (or at least the lead-up to it) was awesome too, beginning with the first of two Three Amigos. Rey’s prone body and Eddie’s deliberate, dominate movements create a foreboding, perhaps even heart-wrenching sensation; the flash roll-up following the connecting Frog Splash jolting those into disbelief a la Guerrero, though the empathy isn?t meant to then turn into sympathy. I wish Rey’s selling post-victory were more indicative of the damage sustained, especially from the finishing stretch, but alas … Still a very solid match nonetheless.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio, Ladder Match ? WWE Summerslam 08.21.05
I love ladder matches. Here’s three reasons why:
1) They are simple, just dangle a championship like a carrot and let the bunnies scramble over each other to get it (the same applies to TNA’s Ultimate X; the same does NOT apply to TNA’s King of the Mountain),
2) There’s a legit reason for all these nutty spots, either occurring as a result of having a snatch attempt foiled or as a means to create some distance / time for the other to attempt retrieval,
3) All that’s needed is selling. Just make it look like you have endured a decent amount of punishment. This is why I?ve always preferred the ladder match stipulation to any other gimmick, and I think you?ll find that its success rate in quality matches supports that.
Guerrero and Rey Rey deliver an entertaining showcase, whilst incorporating some fresh spots amidst the typical ones. One or two of the stunts actually caused me to cringe too. What’s used as the ?carrot? is incredibly stupid (Dominick’s custody contract for the unaware), but it does provide some fun moments of drama that see family members run-in to influence to decision. Guerrero almost punching the kid was awesome. We need to see more of that in pro-wrestling. Michaels kicking that girl is a good start. Mwahahahaha!!!
This one is less entertaining over the long haul than the other contests in the feud, but it’s a freaking ladder match. Chuck in the disc and laugh your arse off at the spots. Laugh your arse off at Eddie taking a swing at Dominick. Laugh your arse off at Eddie’s reactions to Vickie making an appearance. Laugh your arse off because that is what good ladder matches do. This wasn?t ever meant to be a masterpiece of pro-wrestling, so simply sit back and take in the insanity that’s connected with some decent selling of pain, emotion and circumstance.
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There was a final performance, within a steel cage no less, which took place after Summerslam. Don?t take its absence from this column as a sign of poor quality, as it would make my MOTY list easily. I?ve reviewed it in a previous ?Musings? column, so it’s somewhere on this site as you read. Track it down, if you aren?t as lazy as me…
Well, NOW I have finished my semi-long sojourn into the year that was 2005. What a year to miss! There’s a ridiculous amount of good quality pro-wrestling to be enjoyed, more than any other year from the WWE I can think of to be honest. And that includes the precious Attitude Era. Hopefully you guys equally savoured the opportunity to relive the past.
But don?t worry! I?ll be back in a fortnight with the beginnings of a new series, taking a look at the year that was 2006. The year where ECW was re-born, DX returned, Edge actually became good, RVD smoked away a long anticipated run as WWE Champ, Angle left, Orton regressed, Finlay returned, Chavo actually had credibility, King BOOKAH was born and Mysterio somehow walked around as World HEAVYWEIGHT Champion! Oh my god I can?t wait!