(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31367857/?contentId=31367857&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=superbrawl )
After two matches that weren’t worthy of being on the Best 100…List, I had high hopes for #34, Brian Pillman vs Jushin Liger. We’ve seen Pillman before on the Best 100…List (at #83, part of the War Games match…click here for my review) , but not in a singles match. This is Liger’s first and only appearance. If you’ve watched WWE NXT, then you may have seen Liger fight Tyler Breeze. Apart from that, I’ve never seen Liger wrestle before. It seems I have been missing out! Liger and Pillman steal the show, even though it’s the opening bout. They also set the tone and bar for the WCW Cruiserweight that would set WCW on fire.
Brian Pillman was the first wrestler to hold the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship, the precursor to the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Jushin Liger was the second. If you’ve seen #83, you’ll know that Pillman was a fireball of a competitor. He jumped, leapt and flew around the ring with wild abandon. If you’ve seen anything of Liger, you’ll know he was/is one of the top cruiserweight talents in the world. His kind of wrestling was anomalous in WCW/the Western wrestling world. The Japanese appreciated the art of the cruiserweights, but the West preferred the WWF wrestler model: a ‘roided up monster.
If this match blew me away, in 2017, I can only guess at what it did to the people watching back in 1992. You can tell the crowd aren’t expecting much of these two small wrestlers, and the opening minutes are slow but flashy. Both wrestlers miss a dropkick. There’s a bit of chain wrestling. Liger’s sudden moonsault off top shakes the low expectations of this bout. From that point on, Liger and Pillman fly, leap and run themselves ragged. There are the appropriate periods of holds to slow down the pace, but they add to the story of the match. Pillman sells a knee injury which only increases the drama of the match. There’s mat wrestling, submissions, reversals, counters, high-flying moves, hurricanranas…it’s a whirlwind of a match that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
If a match from nearly thirty years ago holds up today, you have to give it credit. For a match from nearly thirty years ago to better matches from today, you can’t do anything but applaud it. Pillman vs Liger feels fresh and modern. It wouldn’t have felt out of place in last year’s Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. The breakneck pace at which the match takes place is stunning. Of course, there is still adequate time for selling, something which is often missing in today’s matches. There’s one semi-botch, when Pillman tries to reverse a powerbomb with a hurricanrana. But that’s easily forgivable. To say it’s one of the greatest Western cruiserweight matches of all time is understandable (of course, there is another rightly lauded cruiserweight match that’s a lot higher up the Best 100…List).
VERDICT: 9/10 Liger and Pillman brought the cruiserweight scene to the West in explosive fashion. This opening bout blew away everything else on the card and open up our eyes to high-flying, risk-taking light heavyweight action. And it still looks great today.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s ‘ 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die’ List? Leave your thoughts/comments below!
Click here for my review of #35 Cactus Jack vs. Big Van Vader (Texas Death Match, WCW Halloween Havoc 1993)