Hello everyone and welcome to the first edition of Rivalries! This series is where I review every match I can find in a certain feud or rivalry, whether it be between singles wrestlers, tag teams, promotions, etc. This first edition is focused on the rivalry between Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, with reviews of every singles match I could find. Now, I know I missed some minor matches, and if you send me links I will review them at some point soon. Also, for rivalries this long, I will now split them into multiple parts, as this took an excessive amount of time to finish. However, lets get to the reviews!
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – NJPW Explosion Tour 1993 Day 17
I mean, this is good by all means, but with wrestlers as great as this there is an (unfair) expectation of more. It was a simple structure done okay, but it lacked real pizzazz or a special something. There was back and forth action, then Eddie worked the leg, and then there was the finishing stretch. While all the moves were executed tremendously well, there wasn’t too much urgency, as this was clearly a lower card match. The heat was also unspectacular, as Eddie’s legwork was good if a bit generic. The back and forth action was good on either end of the heat, but nothing really blew me away in any capacity. I will say, though, that the pacing here never really dragged, as it was too short for these guys to stall. It was all go from bell to bell, which kept it from being drab. Overall, this is a solid, if forgettable, start to this rivalry.
Eddie Guerrero (c.) vs. Dean Malenko – ECW World Television Championship Match – ECW Hostile City Showdown 1995
While I may not be as fond of this ECW classic as some, the positives here more than supersede the negatives, making a tremendous match. To begin with positives, first, as is totally obvious with wrestlers of this caliber, the action was quite frankly phenomenal. They struck a great balance between choreographed crispness and gritty reality. While there were sequences with focus on the incredible crispness, the majority of this match had a grit and intelligence that was refreshing. There was always a battle for leverage and good positioning, and it didn’t feel as if spots were occurring for the mere sake of spots. Everything had a purpose and a place. Also, the story was subtle and never compromised the action; rather, it complimented it and added logic. Malenko seemed to be a bit bigger, so he used the marginal weight advantage well, often getting top positioning and forcing Eddie to literally and figuratively fight from underneath. While in the early going the contrast was subdued, as the action was back and forth, it played a role and planted a seed for things to come. As the match progressed, Dean used being one step ahead and being a little heavier to get the heat and work over the leg of Guerrero. While slow, this section was well executed and fun. Then, Eddie made his comeback, which allowed for the back and forth, crisp, fast paced action they are known for. However, here comes some of my major gripes. Firstly, as Eddie made his comeback, he lacked some fire to truly invest me in it. I do not need over the top antics, but his excessive stoicism did weaken the excitement of the late game of the match. Also, the crowd, in an effort to be respectful, damaged the last portion of the match as well, as they were quite quiet for most of it. This did detract from the energy of this portion. However, closer to the finish, they got more into it and added life to both the wrestlers and the atmosphere. Finally, the finish was a bit of a blunder on the match, as it came off as a cheap way out. I would have been okay with it if it was built to properly, but the way it was executed was sudden and an anticlimax. However, even with such negatives in mind, the positives so completely outweigh the negatives that they become mostly an afterthought. While they do keep this from being endlessly re-watchable, they do not prevent me from being glad that such a tremendous match exists.
Eddie Guerrero (c.) vs. Dean Malenko – ECW World Television Championship Match – ECW Hardcore TV 119
There’s not really all that much to say about this match that isn’t super obvious. To start with the obvious, the action here was crisp and tremendous. Clearly, Eddie and Dean have great chemistry and it shows tenfold at this point. The focus here was really on the crisp, fast paced sequences based in solid wrestling ability. They did some great mat work, great running the ropes spots, great reversals and more. Every type of sequence one would expect from these two was on display and it was a joy to watch. Also, all of this was done without a real heat segment, which is refreshing to see. Not every match needs a heat segment. This structure of switching control played to the story of equal ability in this match; no man got an extended advantage because they are both equals. Where the constant changes in control may seem disjointed with worse wrestlers, these two are at such a quality that every change in advantage felt fluid and natural. Finally, the finish here was also really good in playing to the focus of the match, the grappling, while also playing to the equality story established. There isn’t much else to say. It’s another match from Malenko and Guerrero, but that’s not a knock. That’s just saying it’s a great match.
Dean Malenko (c.) vs. Eddie Guerrero – ECW World Television Championship Match – ECW Hardcore TV 120
I’m running out of new things to say for these two, because their chemistry (as noted) is unreal, their storytelling (as noted) is fantastic, and their execution (as noted) is flawless. I mean, as example of their quality, even the first collar and elbow tie up here looked tremendous. They are so good its unfair. Now, the story here was solid as per usual; Eddie was one step ahead of Dean, with Dean trying to keep up. This story was consistently in play up to the finish, as both guys would have incredible sequences, only for Guerrero to get a slight edge. Its great, especially as a way to put Guerrero over since he just lost his title. Also, there was a minor subplot of Malenko working Guerrero’s ribs, which was subtle but played into he end nicely. To me, however, I think it is noteworthy that the intensity from prior matches has increased, with this having a better sense of urgency and more focus on strikes and power moves than prior matches. Sadly, however, this didn’t get the time to be anything other than a really good match. There wasn’t a crazy finishing stretch or heightened drama. Even though it was good, I was never really on the edge of my seat. However, these two put on an excellent match in the time they were given, which was a breeze to watch.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – Two out of Three Falls Match – ECW Hardcore TV #123
With this match, both guy’s stint in ECW comes to an end, ending this rivalry in that promotion. This match was absolutely tremendous, succeeding and improving on the previous match’s strengths. The work here was the best yet in the series, with a great crispness and killer attention to details. They never botched noticeably, and even when they did, they covered it so well it was hardly noticeable. Then, the little things were so well done too. One example was when Guerrero tried for a crucifix pin, but to prevent the pin, Malenko bridges on his neck, keeping his shoulders off the mat. That was something I’ve never seen before, and stuff like that worked so effectively in elevating the already impeccable work. The story was also spot on, playing off the 50/50 booking beforehand. This is the only timed 50/50 booking has worked from what I’ve seen, as both guys were shown as equals and elites in their field. This match played the equality up, as the first fall was all back and forth action leading to a flash pin. This showed how tremendous both men were, as they wrestled so precisely that only a flash pin could finish the fall. Then, Eddie got confident and Dean got desperate, giving Dean the advantage. He worked the knee, and quickly got the cloverleaf, playing up the desperation to win the match and not lose 2-0. Then, after the match evened up, both guys were desperate to win, resorting to high impact moves to try and finish of the opponent. There was always a reason for a change in strategy, whether it be a defeat or otherwise. The only real issue here is an issue that has plagued this whole series. While it has improved, these matches always tend to feel a little disjointed, as it feels as if it is just going from spot to spot. This match did do better than the prior matches admittedly, but the disjointedness showed up in spades down the stretch. Regardless, to say a match with such good work isn’t great because of some choppy moments is exceptionally petty. This match is great, with the exceptional work of two of the best transcending any flaws.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – WCW Nitro #5
This was nowhere near the quality of their previous match, but considering its WCW and Nitro, it didn’t have to be. This was merely an introduction to the chemistry of the two, so they were more reserved and saved their cooler stuff for a bigger stage. The only real story here was the equality of the two, as neither man could get a decisive advantage or hit their big move. This allowed the match to be mostly back and forth, putting over their fluidity and showing beautiful sequences. However, aside from the briefness and banality of this being just a TV match, the worst part here is the scourge known as WCW. They did their best to kill this match, with commentators who are terrible and other storylines being advanced while this goes on. The commentary here was just the worst, with Bobby Heenan getting off topic constantly, rambling on about Hulk Hogan, and Steve McMichael being totally incoherent, at one point talking about a book of sex positions. Then, they cut away from the match for 59 seconds (!!!) to show Hulk Hogan blabbering to Jimmy Hart about friendship and the Giant and other assorted bullshit. THEN, in the last minutes of the match, they solely talked about Hogan being involved in a scuffle backstage. THAT WAS THE FINISH YOU ASSHOLES! Only Bischoff tried to stay on topic oddly enough. Otherwise, as far as matches go, this was solid. However, WCW, Eric Bischoff, Steve McMichael, Bobby Heenan, and Hulk Hogan can all go fuck themselves.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – WCW Monday Nitro #70
Even though this match suffered from the same lack of care of the previous one, these two still put on quite a good match. This match, structurally speaking, was the most cohesive match of the program so far, as they worked the classic heat segment formula, which helped it feel less choppy. It was a good change of pace to the prior matches and let this match feel a little fresh. As for the structure, it was back and forth both early and late game and Malenko got the heat. This is great, as Eddie has a big PPV match coming up, so they need to make him look strong, and Malenko is bigger and a stoic character, making him perfect for the heat. Also, Malenko spent a good deal of time in control of this match, with Guerrero mostly making comebacks or outsmarting him in back and forth action. Again, the story of equality between the two plays out, as it is mostly even or back and forth. The action here was also tremendous, with these two getting more comfortable together every time they wrestle. There’s not much else to say about these two’s chemistry; they do everything perfectly together. Even the finish, which was marred slightly by a distraction, was good, as it built to Guerrero’s PPV match and showed the only way a decisive finish can happen between these two is with interference, putting both guys over. It didn’t really get the time to be a classic, but it didn’t need to be; this was an awesome TV match. The only flaw to speak of is the announcers not caring, this time discussing Hogan vs. The Giant later that night, but they didn’t cut away, so that’s good! Really, these guys are so good that even their nothing TV matches rule. These are two of the best wrestlers of all time no doubt.
Eddie Guerrero (c.) vs. Dean Malenko – No DQ Match – WCW United States Championship Match – WCW Uncensored 1997
Just when you think this feud can’t get any better, these two add a new wrinkle that changes everything. The hatred here was palpable and added intensity to this match. Here, they entirely change the style of the match and add brawling aspects to it. Early on, it was a total brawl, with both guys laying in strikes and stomping the hell out of one another. While the match does get more subdued as it goes on, with Guerrero getting a heat segment, the hot start added an intensity that played throughout. Also, the No DQ stipulation perfectly adds to both the intensity and the new cheating ways of Guerrero, as it allows both to go outside the bounds of the rules. Guerrero would eye poke, low blow, and generally do things the Eddie Guerrero most people are familiar with would. This seems to be the origin of the lie, cheat, steal persona he is famous for. However, Malenko also responds with some dirty tactics, notably when they both low blow each other late into the match. While there is still the crisp wrestling these two are known for, they have deviated down the path of cheating due to hatred. Also, the structure here is great, as Guerrero gets the heat as he is slowly turning heel, then Malenko gets most of the offense in the finishing stretch, both showing these two are still equals and showing Malenko’s growing anger and cockiness. This is displayed when Malenko hits a frog splash, then picks up Guerrero before the pin ends. Small sidenote, but I also love how both guys try to taunt the other by stealing finishing moves, and the stolen finishers aren’t just kicked out of like nothing as they so often are. Finally the preservation of the story of equality is here, as both get extended control segments, both have the other beaten at one point or another, and only cheating can get a decisive win. As for flaws, they fall on the shoulders of WCW, as they cut away from the match to see Rick Steiner dead on the ground, then cut away again to show him get loaded into he ambulance, then cut away again to show the ambulance drive away. Also, while the dirty finish helps show that neither man can decisively beat the other, I would rather a clean finish over WCW’s usual bullshit. Regardless, these two are just great together, and WCW can’t ruin it, even though they try.
Eddie Guerrero (c.) vs. Dean Malenko – WCW Cruiserweight Championship Mach – WCW Nitro #114
Sadly, this seems to be the worst match these two have had so far in the series. There is a lot of good here, but bad booking and rather blasé action hampered this match. For the good, Guerrero had by this point gone full heel, so the relationship between these two was entirely different than it was before. All sportsmanship was gone, with Guerrero cheating and playing dirty, and Malenko trying to beat the hell out of Eddie. I loved when Eddie tried to trick Dean, but Dean wouldn’t have any of his shit. As for the action, of course it was good, but many spots were too similar to spots in prior matches and some were motion for motion the same. That gives a feeling that these two were going through the motions instead of putting together a novel match. Also, the finish was a double ten count where neither man could get to their feet. Again, the theme of equality is played up, but the lack of a clean finish feels cheap and, much like the rest of the match, procedural. There wasn’t a ton of intensity or importance here, and that hurt the math greatly. Even with all that, though, this match is still solid, as the story is good and the action is well executed. When two guy’s worst match so far is this good, its hard not to appreciate the chemistry.
Eddie Guerrero (c.) vs. Dean Malenko – WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match – WCW Starrcade 1997
This match, in front of the biggest crowd they’ve wrested in front of, was a huge change of pace when compared to the prior matches. The story here was simple, Malenko is the better wrestler, yet Eddie uses dirty tactics and legwork to take the advantage. This was very smart, as it allowed for the cleanest finish this feud has seen and broke from the story of equality. Also, Eddie was allowed to go full heel, jawing off with the crowd, running from Malenko, begging for mercy in an attempt to outsmart him, and more. He is just one of the best at being a heel and it was a joy to watch. Also, like last match, Malenko knew Guerrero so well that he didn’t put up with any of his shenanigans, not letting in when Guerrero offered a handshake. Malenko, as the wrestler on top for most of the match, had a strength and a snappiness that allowed him to dominate convincingly. This forced Eddie to outsmart Malenko to get the advantage, often cheating but also using something else. Guerrero worked the leg, which allowed him an easy opening with Malenko. It was brilliant to add this wrinkle as well, as Eddie had a way out of a beating if he could get the leg. While it wasn’t always sold great, the leg was a constant part of the match and was utilized exactly when it needed to be. This was more of the same awesomeness from these two, as they keep adding and building on their epic matches.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – WWF Sunday Night Heat #98
Sadly, this feud ends with a whimper in a rather poor Heat match. The work here was good, as these two are the best, but it was super rushed, as the match was under 4 minutes. The action itself was generally good and impactful, but there were some botches and sloppy moments, which bring the match down a notch. Also, there was this odd focus on Malenko’s pervy infatuation with Chyna at ringside, which sucked. It even played into the finish. This is by far these guy’s worst match; I’m sad it was out of their control.
(Quick sidenote: To quantify the overall rivalry, I have 6 ratings I will use: LEGENDARY, GREAT, GOOD, AVERAGE, BAD, INSULTING.)
Overall Rivalry Rating: GREAT
The chemistry here from day one was there and they produced countless great matches together. The consistancy here is also spectacular, as day in and day out they had good to great matches against eachother. However, this rivalry, to me, lacks one or two real classic matches that would bring it to the next level. Regardless, almost all these matches are worth a watch!
Best Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – Two out of Three Falls Match – ECW Hardcore TV #123
Worst Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko – WWF Sunday Night Heat #98
So that was the first ever edition of Rivalries! I’m very happy you took the time to check this review out. Now, with that out of the way and the format worked out, I feel like I can be a lot more productive. I’ve reviewed many matches for RMR and have a ton of rivalries picked out, so stay tuned for some exciting content. Check out new updates and such here, and check out some of my other writings at freeprowrestling.com. If you want to contact me, check here. Otherwise, like, comment, share, or do whatever else you want to do. Thank you for reading and see you next time!