At #71, we have another great example of how brilliant the Cruiserweight scene was in the mid to late ‘90s era of WCW. And we also see more of Ultimo Dragon (click here for my review of #81 Dean Malenko vs Ultimo Dragon)! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: watch this match, and then watch any of his WWE matches. WWE completely dropped the ball with him, as they did with many ex-WCW wrestlers. This opening match for WCW’s World War 3 is dominated by Dragon, with Rey Mysterio playing the resilient babyface. What we receive is an array on aerial, ground and wrestling moves that never seems to slow down or repeat a manoeuvre!For at least two-thirds of the bout, Mysterio barely gets a move in. Dragon attacks him with move after move in an almost unbroken stint of offence. Dragon starts off simple, with a body slam and an elbow drop. But soon enough, he’s leaping off the ropes into dropkicks and hitting Mysterio with brainbusters and perfectplexes! At the five minute mark, Dragon executes a beautiful Tilt-a-Whirl into a Torture Rack Backbreaker, just one example of Dragon’s innovation.
Of course, there are leaps to the outside, which are par for the course in cruiserweight bouts. Dragon leaps over the ropes and splashes a prone Mysterio on the outside in a highlight. Mysterio, in his last minute comeback at the end of the bout, executes a springboard tope over the top rope onto Dragon. High flying action is mixed with great wrestling moves. There’s nary a foible in the non-stop action we see on the screen.
It’s a clash of two cruiserweights at the peak of their careers. Mysterio takes a hefty beating here, but plays the resilient babyface perfectly; the crowd are ready to explode when he makes his inevitable comeback. Dragon may not be great at crowd interaction, but the variety of his offence keeps the audience enthralled. There’s a reason why the cruiserweight bouts often opened WCW PPVs: they guaranteed a great match to kick off the event. Mysterio vs Dragon is no exception to the rule; in fact, it is the epitome of that rule. An excellent bout that isn’t just about the high flying antics (also, the finishing sequence is astonishing!)!
VERDICT: 9/10. One of the great cruiserweights matches of WCW. Dragon was peerless in the division, and Mysterio was his perfect foil. They combine various styles of wrestling to produce a classic.
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Click here for my review of #72 Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes (Starrcade 1985, NWA World Heavyweight Championship)
Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die