Lord Steven Regal vs. Dean Malenko (and other Dream Matches!)

Billy Kidman vs Steven Regal, WCW Monday Nitro 10.06.1996 - video Dailymotion

Steve Regal- the master of the “Disgusted Sneer” look.

Welcome back to another Dream Matches column! This one is a bit different, as I take two different WCW matches that happened multiple times and compare them- the first is a Dean Malenko/Steve Regal match that blew my mind way back in 1996 when I first checked this “Nitro” show out- it was a learning experience for a whole new type of match! And then they fought later that same year. Also, I found a weird trio of matches featuring Ice Train vs. La Parka of all people, back when he was the luchadore jobber du jour. And finally we have the bizarre “Super Assassins” (The Warlord & Barbarian under masks) as they take on the infamous American Males!

(WCW Nitro, Aug. 8th 1996)
* Okay, so here’s a very big moment of my wrestling fandom right here. WWF was my “home-base” fed, especially since I was Canadian and WCW had crap for TV up here, but when I heard about this rival show forming, I decided to give them another chance. And this was one of the very first matches I saw in those first handful of shows (which included the famous “Rey Mysterio Lawn-Dart” incident. Regal at this point had some cred but mostly settled into this “Undercard Guy”, dominating as TV Champ, while Dean was the top Cruiserweight. Dean’s in black & purple trunks, while Regal, looking like he’s just absolutely DISGUSTED to be there, is in blue with red kneepads. Neither is holding a title at this point.

Dean trips up Regal, who manages to toss him using a wristlock. It’s so interesting how Regal stoops so low you forget he’s a full head taller than his opponent. Back from break with Dean doing a front flip and Regal (absolutely shiny with sweat at this point) rolling over him, then picking the leg and cartwheeling as Dean kips up, hitting an Owenzuigiri for two, then putting on a vicious twist while palm-thrusting Dean in the face. He scores a European uppercut, but Dean hits a snapmare & armdrag for two. Regal promptly clobbers him again and gets a headscissors- great little shot to Dean when he has to break in the ropes, too. Neck shots and a full nelson hit as the commentators point out Regal’s been staying on the neck all match- Zbyszko even has an insightful bit about how Dean having his hand on the mat prevents Regal from applying full pressure. Regal releases and gets tossed into the corner, Dean following with a second-rope enzuigiri! All Japan-style German! Bridging German gets two! Regal halts a whip and gets a release butterfly suplex for two, and keeps milking the count trying to get him. Dean puts his head down and gets ankle-picked for two. Regal does a floatover for a cool rollup for two, but then Dean dodges him and catches him- La Majistral-style cradle… for three (5:21 shown)! Malenko wins!

So, like, was this OUTSTANDING? No, not really- it was short and had a long commercial break in the middle. Not the stuff of a **** MOTYC or whatever. But it was DIFFERENT- in mid-1996 you did not see two guys catch-wrestling very often, going hold for counter-hold and doing all this neat stuff with such precision. Right away I was taken by the different “feel” of this one- the sharp technical styles were just NOT seen in the WWF at the time- even Bret & Owen had more “flourish” and theatricality. So the match was too short to rate super-highly, yet had outstanding bits here and there, and some truly impressive, lightning-fast technical stuff that was hard to find at the time. This was kind of the first step in me eventually prefering WCW, and that feeling didn’t leave until a year or so later as Austin took hold and the Attitude Era truly began.

Rating: *** (very, very good for a 5-minute match. Just great hold-working by Regal in particular with the neck stuff, and ended with Regal finally getting outgrappled)

(WCW Nitro, Dec. 23rd 1996)
* A rematch of the last bout! Regal at this point had some cred but mostly settled into this “Undercard Guy”, dominating as TV Champ, while Dean was the reigning Cruiserweight Champion- WCW was not afraid to mix the two divisions, though Cruisers were often clearly marked as a lower tier. Dean is notably wrestling Ultimo Dragon in one week at Starrcade for the J-Crown!

Dean does a toehold into a snapmare, but Regal gets a wristlock takedown, then releases. A nice set of kip-ups, front flips and rolls set up Regal cartwheeling into an Owenzuigiri and they pause… and of course there’s no applause because it’s 1996 and this isn’t ECW. Regal works a side facelock for pinfalls and stuff, even keeping it on after a slam. Tony & Tenay go on about Regal’s added things like fists driven into the head during holds, while Heenan brings up how great Malenko is. Dean rolls out, but Regal lays in the boots and works a crucifix, then a headscissors. Dean throws strikes and a backdrop suplex to come back, but Regal promptly hits knees and a European uppercut, working a crouching abdominal stretch. Dean gets a dropkick, but is full nelsoned and then chop-blocked. Dean flips him out of a Boston Crab, but Regal blocks the Texas Cloverleaf by grabbing the rope. Dean leapfrogs over him but gets dropkicked in the back, and a butterfly suplex gets two. Regal misses a charge, allowing Dean a release German, and a Brainbuster/suplex… gets nothing, as time expires (9:12). Well, close enough to ten minutes, I dunno.

Actually not what I expected- rather than a catch-wrestling show of counters, it’s mostly Regal wrestling a tackling dummy, doing all his stuff while Dean only gets moderate comebacks. Like, it was SOLID, but ’twas all Regal. Dead-silent crowd, too, and it’s hard to blame them- not only is it Heel/Heel but it’s a totally unique style of wrestling for them. Regal’s stuff definitely looked tight, though- you could tell Dean could run with him, as there’s no way a Power Plant schlub was gonna be able to smoothly get taken down into any of this stuff.

Rating: **3/4 (one-sided, but very technically sound. Regal was great at this kind of stuff)

Steve's Graps: The Super Assassins in WCW-(1995-1996)

When you want to hire old WWF talent as part of your company’s identity, but also… don’t want to do that? I don’t know what this is about.

THE SUPER ASSASSINS (Assassin #1 & Assassin #2, w/ Col. Robert Parker) vs. THE AMERICAN MALES (Marcus Bagwell & Scotty Riggs):
(WCW Saturday Night, 1995-11-27)
* Oh man, AMAZING. The goofiest of WCW’s mid-90s tag teams goes up against the “Super Assassins”, who are just the old Powers of Pain (Warlord & Barbarian) with their identities obscured to guarantee they couldn’t even get any credibility from their original identities, so they’re just a pair of generic masked guys. Except they have the physiques of the Powers of Pain. The Males have boy-band vests on and wrestle in blue jeans, while the Assassins are in mostly black with yellow writing and yellow masks. And yes, they took guys with THOSE PHYSIQUES and put shirts on them. Because WCW.

Barbarian scores some knees on Riggs to start, but Riggs leaps up into frankensteiner position and Bagwell dropkicks Barbarian over to complete the move. Barbarian easily shoves him off the pin, but gets his arm worked over until he can chop out of it- Warlord comes in, but gets double-teamed down with shoulderblocks. Double-hiptoss has him in trouble, but Barbarian smacks Riggs from the apron and they double-team him. Barbarian hits his repeating backbreakers, and we’re back from break with a Suplex/Flying Tackle getting two- Bagwell saves Riggs. But the Assassins stop the ref from seeing a hot tag and so go to work again, Dusty explaining the difference between this beat-down and proper clubbering (which, he elaborates, requires TWO fists from both guys- this is merely clubbering-adjacent). They slowly beat Riggs down with basics, but Barbarian crotches himself on the top rope and so Bagwell comes in with a flurry, punching Barbarian down for two. Barbarian chops him down to stop that, but misses a Flying Headbutt- splash gets two- Warlord saves. Rockers Lite offense has the Assassins in trouble, but Bagwell leaps onto Barbarian’s shoulders in a weird spot, leading to Warlord jumping on the apron and headbutting him (Dusty theorizes he’s got his mask loaded up) and that gets the pin at (7:02).

A pretty weak match- too long while also portraying these absolute monsters as cheating heels instead of brutal powerhouses. You should have the Males bumping all over for them before a cheat-y ending, but nope.

Rating: *1/2 (a bit too long and slow- the heels are plodding and the Males are green)

ICE TRAIN (w/ Teddy Long) vs. LA PARKA:
(WCW Nitro, Feb. 3rd 1997)
* This is one of like three times these two fought on TV within a couple months. Train’s in his red & white gear, with Long as his manager again. La Parka hadn’t yet become a dark horse “Chairman”- he was just some guy.

Ice Train dominates handily off of a criss-cross with an armdrag, then does a pounce and chinlock, somehow outwrestling La Parka instead of just powering him around. Parka comes back with a roundhouse kick, then a flying one, then follows him outside with a great corkscrew plancha! Train actually recovers first, but takes some shots- he gets his boot up in the corner and hits a jumping clothesline. La Parka actually turns a whip into a run-up reverse cross-body, but Train catches him about knee-high off the ground and deadlifts him into a falling front powerslam- crazy power! He follows with a suplex and headscissors as they meander around so we can go to the back, where the Outsiders have taken somebody (Lex Luger, probably) out in anticipation of his teaming with the Giant against them. Back from that with Train handily wrapping things up- bearhug to belly-to-belly to front powerslam to the Train Wreck (leaping splash) ends it at (5:15).

Alas, it was a pretty dull match aside from a couple of good spots, as they killed time so Tony & Larry could go on about the nWo. Nice plancha from the luchadore and power from Train, but this was just “show filler”.

Rating: ** (okay enough TV bout)

ICE TRAIN (w/ Teddy Long) vs. LA PARKA:
(WCW Saturday Night, March 8th 1997)
* Curiously, only a month later these two fill TV time on a C-show.

Train hits a big chop, clothesline and avalanche to start, but misses another one in the corner, and La Parka hits an enzuigiri into a flying roundhouse kick for two. He goes up, but misses a corkscrew dive and splatters on the mat (Train had his hands up like he was making a catch, but was sidestepping, too). Suplex and Train Wreck and that’s it at (1:53). Good christ, that’s it? How do you even fill TV with that?

Rating: DUD (Goldberg has longer matches than this!)

ICE TRAIN (w/ Teddy Long) vs. LA PARKA:
(WCW Pro, April 27th 1997)
* Man, what is it with this pairing? I don’t recall ever seen a trio of bouts like that without some kind of angle going on. Larry Z actually calls out how big Train’s mouth is, so it’s not just me who notices that, haha.

Train ignores some punches and immediately hits a Vader Attack, falling front powerslam & avalanche, but misses a charge and takes an enzuigiri. Corkscrew cross-body (oh, so that’s what he was trying last time) knocks him down, and a flying roundhouse kick gets two. Train handily launches him off, Hulks Up, and hits the Train Wreck after a headbutt at (2:11).

Rating: 1/4* (actually a little more competitive than the last match! Kind of!)