30. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. (WCW Starrcade 1996)

I never knew these two all time great high flyers had collided! This match came up on Youtube as a Recommended video (along with a few Idiots in Cars videos; I’m addicted!). AS the previous year’s Starrcade gave us WCW vs NJPW, Starrcade 1996 would give us a few more matches pitting WCW vs NJPW. Already, early on the careers of Rey Mysterio and Jushin Liger, this was considered a dream match. And while it was good, even very good, I felt disappointed by it by the end…

If you wanted to watch pure wrestling, you’d forgo the main events in WCW. The real action was happening in the Cruiserweight division, with Rey Mysterio being one of the main attractions. You put him in a ring with another legendary cruiserweight? Instant magic…or so you’d think. This isn’t the fast-paced, high-flying, blink and you’ll miss it battle you’d expect. Instead, it’s a slower paced, harder-hitting, ground-based war, with Liger being the dominant heel, building up Mysterio’s short-lived, fast-paced comebacks.

In the first half of the match, Liger suplexes Rey to the outside, then powerbombs him on the outside! He’s the experienced wrestler here, easily out-wrestling and overpowering Mysterio. But Rey still has enough wits about him to take the advantage when he can. Liger briefly works over Mysterio’s leg, something that’s quickly forgotten as Mysterio hits a springboard moonsault from the ropes to the outside. Why even focus on Mysterio’s leg when it doesn’t factor into the story of the match?

Perhaps I’m just finding stuff to pick at unnecessarily here. Tony Schiavone mentions that Liger had a brain tumour removed mere months before this match happened. I’d barely be walking after that, let alone participating in a wrestling match! Mysterio was almost, but not at, his peak, almost a year away from having his best match ever. Perhaps if I watched it at the time, or without knowledge of who the two combatants were, I’d find it much more enjoyable. And I did find it enjoyable, no doubt about that. Like I mentioned before, I expected something completely different. Instead, I got a Japanese-style wrestling match, with a few high-flying spots sprinkled in to spice things up.

Still worth a watch, just lower your expectations before pressing the play button. It’s a pity they didn’t face each other a few years down the line. But I actually preferred Liger’s encounter with Chris Benoit at the previous year’s Starrcade…

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

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