Welcome to another column of Dream Matches! This one has some truly crazy “Wait, that was a thing?” cases, as the indie superstar of the 2000s meets the supposed indie superstar of the 1990s, in Bryan Danielson vs. Reckless Youth! Plus the two most bizarre “ECW guys looking out of place in WCW” cases, with the Sandman AND Mikey Whipwreck showing up, taking on Billy Kidman and a Villano, respectively! Watch on YouTube as Dusty Rhodes leads poor Scott Hudson through the most insane conversation in history to fill time. Oh, and remember that four weeks when you saw AAA luchadores on the main WWF TV shows? Well I do! And here’s the time they got sent out on RAW to die while they furthered other programs during their match!
ECWA SUPER-EIGHT TOURNAMENT (2001, second round):
BRYAN DANIELSON vs. RECKLESS YOUTH:
* Oh my god, I just wanted to find Reckless Youth stuff to snark on mid-1990s PWI’s obsession with him, and I found Baby Bryan! So at the time Bryan was just some nobody on his way up- short-haired and clean-shaven like every other Indie Dweeb at the time, but he’s now up against the GOD of the Indie Dweebs. The ECWA Super-Eight was kind of like the ultimate trophy of the indie scene at the time, which at this point was made up of wannabes to WWF & WCW, and wrestled more or less like those companies’ styles- it was either guys who were gonna make the big leagues, or guys who were too small and/or shitty for them. But the focus on Cruiserweight wrestling in WCW, Shawn Michaels, and New Japan’s Juniors, the new generation being fans of that style, and the fact that bouncers and failed football players were suddenly finding careers other than wrestling, meant that there was this massive culture shift that sort of birthed Ring of Honor and the modern style.
The ECWA was one of the top indies in the U.S. at the time, developing a lot of that “Generic Indie Style” with guys like Ace Darling, Devon Storm, etc., before more athletic guys made it a lot flippier (not that those others were bad workers, mind you). Reckless Youth here is notable for being talked about CONSTANTLY in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which went into his indie antics so often I figure he had to be feeding them info and news… yet he never managed to hit any kind of national stage, and retired in obscurity. He’s undersized for the time (billed at 5’8″) and we were about to hit the Johnny Ace Cookie-Cutter Hiring Template for WWE (soon to be the only major company in North America), so I can see why.
This is immediately the most embarrassingly indieriffic pile of nonsense ever, as Bryan is in RED SWEATPANTS, while Youth is wearing blue shorts and a black tank top, despite having been in the business for years. Like, this is just ridiculous- they’re wearing $15 of clothing between them.
They do a test of strength, Youth getting out with a headscissors and having the nerve to do the “ECW Pause For Applause” afterwards. Bryan actually does Kyoko Inoue’s “reverse bodyscissors to a seated surfboard” move, but sadly doesn’t rock-the-cradle, instead grinding Youth’s head. Youth does a crab into an STF and bites the fingers, but takes snapmares & kicks as this continues to feel very “Joshi” (or, I dunno, UWF/New Japan). Youth hits a spinning headscissors and 2nd-rope facecrusher, but misses a baseball slide. Bryan gets whipped into the railing, but hits a Northern Lights Suplex & rolls through into a Bridging Head & Arm Suplex for two back in the ring.
Youth takes a bunch of boots but goes low and slide-kicks the knee, but Bryan uses Misawa Elbows before walking into a Bodyslam-Into-Inverted-DDT thing from Youth for a double-KO spot. Bryan up with a Roaring Elbow, but Youth blocks it and rolls through into a rolling fireman’s carry w/ a bridge for two. Bryan tries a Dragon Suplex and gets rolled up, and the next gets stuffed- he settles for a Roaring Elbow to the back of the head, stunning Youth and getting the Dragon for two. Youth snaps off a Backdrop Driver and a big lariat to come back- he goes up to finish, but Bryan brings him down with a Super-Fujiwara Armbar takedown, transitioning to his old indie finisher, the Cattle Mutilation (double-hammerlock from a rear mount and flipping over for a bridge to stretch them out), for the tap-out at (8:29)- Bryan wins!
Man, Bryan was clearly watching a TON of Japan tapes and you could tell- floatover suplexes, Misawa shit, etc. In the way a lot of fresh indie guys with some know-how and a Golden Boy Tapes account would wrestle before they settle into their own “style”. It was really tight and precise, though- like AJ Styles was around this time. The match itself was fine- not overly great but this is a one-night tournament and the winner wrestled before and later, so it’s under ten minutes, y’know? Youth… I can really tell why he never made it. He’s fine enough I suppose, but has the bland aforementioned “Generic Indie Style”, and more importantly just doesn’t have the charisma- his posing and dramatic “No, I’m gonna fight through the pain!” expressions look too forced and phony.
Rating: **3/4 (solid TV-style match- Bryan’s stuff looked good, and Youth fed him stuff decently and didn’t hold things down)
This guy just had “ECW/Indie Guy” written all over him and they stuck him in a major promotion like that.
MIKEY WHIPWRECK vs. VILLANO V:
(WCW Worldwide, Aug. 21st 1999)
* Yes, this is from that period in which MIKEY WHIPWRECK was a WCW wrestler. From what I can see, his ECW push had long since subsided, but he randomly left the company for a short WCW run (Cagematch only lists about 20 matches), featuring him as a JTTS-turned-Jobber, as he debuted losing to Kidman on PPV, and thereafter was just getting squashed. Villano’s in black, and Mikey’s in a black t-shirt with a green skull on it, looking like the most Indieriffic Indie guy who ever Indied. This style was SOOOOOOOOOO freaking common back in the day- guys with terrible bodies hiding them behind t-shirts. He looks like some normal schmuck, which, because Paul Heyman was a mad genius, was part of his gimmick and got him very over for a short time.
Mikey hits a chop but misses a dropkick, then Villano chops away and hits a hiptoss & tope suicida while Dusty Rhodes & Scott Hudson have the most insane conversations where Dusty goes rambling about the Cruiserweight weight-limit, how Villano is “Big-Butted” and how you “don’t throw (Mikey) back” because he’s right at the limit, making fishing analogies to poor Hudson. Villano does a weird lifting slam then a really painful-looking chinlock, then holds Mikey in inverted DDT position while seated on the top rope, then flips forward into a Diamond Cutter! Mikey gets out at two, then fights back by going to the eyes. Slingshot legdrop over the rope garrotes Villano- two-count. Ugly slingshot clothesline gets two, and he takes a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a surfboard.
Dusty now accuses MIKEY of being “big-butted”, Hudson taking issue with this medical terminology- “Big-butted is NOT something I’m come across before” “aw, NO? I seen you in the bar the other night after the matches? You came across a couple of big-butted-” “EEEEHHHHH, ALRIGHT!” Flying Clothesline from Villano- two! He argues the point with the ref, taking too long and getting crotched on the top rope- and that’s Mikey’s finisher- Whippersnapper (Super Stone Cold Stunner)! And we’re done at (4:38)- Mikey wins! Actually not a bad little match! Both guys could work, easy as they are to mock, and they hit some pretty unique offense for the time, even if it was at a pretty slack pace (I mean it’s WCW weekend TV, who’s gonna shoot for ****?). Both guys making slack pins cost them (and was called out by the commentators), but guys tried big stuff, and there was no resting or filler.
Rating: **1/4 (perfectly fine little TV match!)
HAK (w/ Chastity) vs. BILLY KIDMAN:
(WCW Nitro, May 31, 1999)
* Here’s an odd match-up- The Sandman had entered WCW for his ill-fated mini-push as “Hak”, WCW trying to copy the WWF’s Hardcore division (given that the other guys in WCW’s included BRIAN KNOBS, you can see why it failed). And here he’s with ECW’s Chastity, who is “Raven’s sister”, before she was fired for an unfortunate bit of slut-shaming (she did a porno shoot once and someone posted it to the internet, and Bischoff was told to get rid of her). Kidman was in the middle of a big career resurgence in the waning days of WCW, having the best matches of his life while wearing an undershirt and jorts. Hak as a G-rated Sandman is… not a great look, and makes him even less able to hide his flaws- Eddie Guerrero, on commentary, straight-up talks shit about that style, calmly saying “there’s one thing I’m glad about is that I know how to wrestle, and I don’t HAVE to do this kind of wrestling”.
The bell rings and you can spot a SEA of empty seats as WCW jettisons fans at lightning speed. Hak actually tries CHAIN-WRESTLING, and they actually pull off Kidman outmatching him in a pretty realistic way, like Hak doesn’t know what he’s doing (but in a non-clumsy way). But now Tank Abbot comes down doing his weird WCW run, talking smack on the arena mic about how he’s gonna be the ref for tonight’s cage match between Sting & Rick Steiner. Hak uses the kendo stick to poke Kidman and take over, slowly brawling over this distraction. Once Tank’s sent to the back, Kidman hits a tilt-a-whirl headscissors and follows with a pescado. Chastity puts a chair into the corner while the commentators go on about that whole deal, and Hak yoinks Kidman into it. He then goes under the ring and fills it with a ladder and two huge tables, whipping Kidman HARD into the ladder. I guess… this is a Hardcore match? I dunno. Hak goes up… and cannonballs himself through the table! Kidman puts the chair on him and preps for the Shooting Star Press!!… but here’s Hugh Morrus for the DQ (6:15)- Kidman wins. Well that’s disappointing. Knobs comes in and the camera misses him blasting Hak with the chair. Two more huge shots and Knobs just LAUNCHES him through the table in the ring.
Match honestly wasn’t as bad as you might expect- Kidman outwrestling Hak was actually kinda funny and looked “legit” (like Hak didn’t have counters and just kinda lurched himself all ugly-like to the ropes to break a headscissors- stuff like that) and the spots with weapons were interspersed and not spammed out. Too bad about the finish- the SSP into a chair would have been sweet. And would have killed Kidman, I guess. Most of this just sets up other stuff. And holy crap was Eddie a non-entity on commentary, just casually chatting about things with the least charisma possible. Boy did THAT dude improve his talking game over the years.
Rating: ** (fine little TV bout, interspersed with nonsense)
What?! I did a Google Image Search for Latin Lover and this is what came up!
HEAVY METAL, PENTAGON & PIERROTH vs. HECTOR GARZA, LATIN LOVER & OCTAGON:
(WWF RAW, March 10th, 1997)
* Okay, so this is from the VERY random era in which LUCHADORES appeared on WWF television in early 1997. This is something so out of nowhere and so rapidly ignored that I’ve thought for years that Vince just saw that WCW’s luchadores were popular, and did this to discredit the very style itself, by dumping random names out there to die on TV (including a big, fat, washed-up Preggo Aguayo) in matches guaranteed to fail. BOD member kbjone, who did more research, has indicated that this was a “pseudo-partnership” with AAA, which predictably ended up falling apart. Vince never had creative control over it, so obviously he lost interest immediately. But yeah… “If I crush these luchadores and make the style look dumb, people will realize Rey Mysterio is dumb, too!” I can 100% believe he thought that.
In any case, I don’t follow Lucha, so I’m very unfamiliar with these guys. Garza & Lover (in black & white trunks, respectively) were a tag team at this point, according to JR- Garza was in WWF, WCW and TNA, which is pretty nuts, but never got over in any of them, despite the hype for his Corkscrew Dive to the outside. Octagon was mega-popular in Mexico (he’s in that ***** Hair vs. Masks match against Los Gringos Locos, alongside El Hijo del Santo), and his Mirror Image Villain (I love how lucha does that, just like comics- like your Reverse Flashes and Venoms and shit) is the black & white Pentagon (whose successor is currently in AEW). Heavy Metal is the brother of Negro Casas and a former partner of Lover’s. I mostly remember him for his weird brown tights. Pierroth was brought in with Cibernetic, and was kind of an older vet even by this point, in the “broad-chested guy sucking in his gut” genre of lucha.
Garza & Heavy Metal do a pretty cool armbar sequence, but tag out to Lover & Pierroth, who do chops. Pierroth clotheslines him down, but Lover hits a cross-body out of the corner and a snappy superkick, just like the Young Bucks do today. Octagon wins a flippy battle with Pentagon, then Metal hits a cool flippy elbow on Garza. Garza does a great Moonsault dodge, then Metal goes FLYING over the top on a missed charge, Garza gives chase… and they both tag out. See, I always have this issue with lucha, lol- you get some good momentum and then it halts so other guys can start over again. And now the still-unnamed Chyna is seen at ringside, escorted out aggressively by security so the luchadores have to do meandering bullshit for a couple minutes while they recap the angle where she shook the living hell out of Marlena (still one of the great all-time debuts, though).
Lover hits Pierroth with two release spinebusters and they slug it out while we’re interrupted AGAIN, this time by Brian Pillman’s inset promo, regarding Shotgun Saturday Night (WWF’s new “edgy” late-night show) letting him be uncensored. Lover dives out, and Metal follows out onto him with a Tope Con Hilo! Then it’s Octagon’s tope and Pentagon’s Quebrada as this is impressive, but not built up at all and mostly shoved on one side of the screen. At least we get the big cap-off as Garza climbs up and dives onto the pile- Corkscrew Plancha! The crowd liked that, but then everyone just kinda moves about and we end up in the ring, where Latin Lover scores the single most mis-aimed thing I’ve ever seen, Frog-Slashing onto nothing while Heavy Metal just stands there. La Majistral gets the pin (7:42)- Metal’s team wins! oh, AAA- all that high-flying stuff and you win matches with cradles. What is this- last week’s Dynamite?
Rating: ** (I mean, they started okay, turned to shit while they had to wrestle through interruptions, and then they all did a big Car Crash… and then ended with a cradle off a bad missed move. WCW’s luchadores did this type of thing SO much better- the Car Crash was set up after several minutes, guys flew around a lot more, and the finish was usually a big move)