The Date: 26 October 1997
The Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena; Paradise, Nevada
The Commentary: Tony Schiavone, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
The Referee: Billy Silverman
The Stakes: Singles match for the WCW Crusierweight Championship with Mysterio Jr.’s mask also on the line
One of the many aspects that helped propel World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to the top of the wrestling ratings war back in the day was their exhilarating cruiserweight division. Although the company sold itself as being “where the big boys play” and featured a who’s who of heavyweight talent, both in and out of their super-popular New World Order (nWo) stable, WCW also separated itself from the competition by snapping up and showcasing smaller, more agile and physically talented cruiserweights on a weekly basis. Spearheaded by WCW figurehead Eric Bischoff, the cruiserweight division introduced lucha libre wrestling to mainstream audiences and gave stars like “Lionheart” Chris Jericho, Juventud Guerrera, Ultimo Dragon, and Psicosis a platform to shine with their fast-paced, high-risk offense. Two of WCW’s biggest cruiserweight stars were future World Champions Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr.; both had cut their teeth in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) prior to being snapped up by WCW and both had their roots in Mexican wrestling, with Eddie coming from the prestigious Guerrero family and Rey being the nephew of the legendary luchadore Rey Misterio. After losing the WCW United States Championship, Eddie Guerrero turned heel and set his sights on the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, a belt he captured the previous month from Chris Jericho, crossing paths with Rey Mysterio Jr. for the first time on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro in the process. Since Mysterio won that match, he had a legitimate claim to challenging for the Cruiserweight Championship, something that Guerrero attempted to proactively get ahead of by taunting Mysterio and attacking him while in the guise of a masked luchador. After Mysterio pinned Guerrero again and unmasked him, Guerrero was humiliated and incensed and demanded that Rey unmask (the greatest dishonour to befall a luchador) if he failed to win the title at Halloween Havoc, going so far as to steal Rey’s mask during a match against Dean Malenko on Nitro and costing him that match. The initial plan was for Rey to lose this match as Bischoff believed that he would have a better time getting over and selling if his face were exposed; Rey, however, fought against this decision and emphasised the importance of a mask in lucha libre. Although he managed to convince Bischoff, Rey would eventually be unmasked a couple of years later, a decision Bischoff later admitted to regretting since he underestimated how important the mask’s iconography was to Mysterio, his fanbase, and his heritage.
Since I didn’t grow up being able to watch WCW, I’m not massively familiar with much of their product, especially the peak of their cruiserweight division. I first encountered stars like Jericho, Dean Malenko, Guerrero, and Billy Kidman while watching the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programming, where many of these smaller performers were already mid-card talents if not flirting with the main event. When the WWE first resurrected the cruiserweight division, officially adopting the term and making their inferior light-heavyweight division defunct, in the early-2000s, I was an avid watcher of SmackDown! and delighted in the high-flying action, which greatly contributed to separating the Blue Brand from the more over-the-top Raw. This was also my first introduction to Rey Mysterio, who returned to his masked persona after stupidly being stripped of it in 1999, and I was right there for his initial feuds and his efforts as part of the fabled “SmackDown! Six”. All this is to say that it’s always a delight to go back and revisit early matches in both wrestler’s careers, especially in WCW, and it’s fascinating to see the longevity Rey Mysterio has had in the industry and the consistent popularity of the late, great Eddie Guerrero. In a precursor to his later elaborate superhero-themed attires, Mysterio wrestled this match garbed in what is clearly a homage to pulp hero Kit Walker/The Phantom, an iconic, purple-themed body suit that really helped him stand out amongst his peers. Playing the part of the arrogant, sneering heel, Guerrero sauntered to the ring, bombarded by boos and chants of “Eddie Sucks!”, and carrying the belt that was Mysterio’s goal; the commentators, however, raised the question of how important winning the belt is for Mysterio compared to retaining his mask and his honour and made no bones about hyping this contest as the most important match of Mysterio’s career.
Things got off to a fast-paced, action-packed start right after the bell rang and Guerrero spat taunts in Mysterio’s masked face; Rey bounced off the ropes into a flipping arm drag, flipped Guerrero clear across the ring with his feet, and took the champion to the outside with a running crossbody attack. Mysterio looked to follow up with a somersault manoeuvre over the ropes, but Guerrero had it scouted and tripped Rey on the apron, sending him spilling to the outside, where Guerrero quickly pressed his advantage by running Mysterio shoulder-first into the steel steps at ringside. Eddie’s trademark somersault over the top rope delivered more pain to his challenger, with the champion’s early focus squarely on Mysterio’s back and ribs, which he followed up with a hard knife-edge chop and a European uppercut to Mysterio, who was little more than a ragdoll at this point in the match. Although Mysterio tried to build some momentum with an Irish whip reversal and a dropkick, Guerrero beautifully countered a handspring attack into a back body drop, which he followed with a vertical suplex and the first pin attempt of the match. After Mysterio kicked out at two, Guerrero planted him with his trademark tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to deliver more damage to Mysterio’s back, but the champion became visibly frustrated when he failed to score a three count on the following pin attempt. So annoyed was Guerrero that he started to pull at Rey’s mask, earning him the referee’s admonishment, and then locked in an abdominal stretch to further punish Mysterio’s back while also clawing at his mask. Guerrero then delivered another big backbreaker for another two count before trying to force Mysterio’s shoulders to the mat, to no avail. To make matters worse for the hot-headed champion, Mysterio was able to hop to his feet, springboard of the ropes, and hit a gorgeously smooth DDT to buy himself some much-needed time to recuperate. Both competitors showcased their speed following this; Mysterio dropkicked Guerrero to the outside and managed to adjust his momentum in mid-air when he saw Eddie slide back into the ring as he (as in Rey) was going for another high-flying manoeuvre before Guerrero returned the favour and sent Rey to the outside with a dropkick through the ropes.
Guerrero then viciously whipped Mysterio sternum-first into the barricade before dumping him into the ring and locking in first a Camel Clutch and then the Gory Special. Guerrero shut down Rey’s attempts at a comeback with an elevated backbreaker (that I recognise as A-Train’s Train Wreck) and another submission designed to punish his back and ribs before putting a beating on Mysterio in the ring corner. Mysterio valiantly fought back and caused Guerrero to slide crotch-first into the ring post before taking him down with a huge top-rope crossbod, flipping out of another tilt-a-whirl attempt, and surprising the champion with a hurricanrana pin for a close near fall. Guerrero attempted to regain his momentum and ended up being flung outside with a 619-like headscissor takedown from Mysterio, which Rey followed with a somersault headscissor takedown over the ropes. Eddie again kicked out from a corkscrew attack thanks to Mysterio’s exhausted, lackadaisical cover and then absolutely planted Mysterio with a massive powerbomb. Incensed that Rey again kicked out at two, Guerrero ran him into the corner but ended up eating a flapjack and a spinning heel kick. Mysterio went for his signature springboard hurricanrana pin and ate a somewhat sloppy backbreaker for his troubles and landed in prime position for Guerrero’s patented Frog Splash. Although Mysterio rolled out of the way, Guerrero adjusted his trajectory to roll through; Guerrero then attempted to hit an avalanche Crucifix Powerbomb but Mysterio countered into his hurricanrana pin to finally score the three count, with Guerrero briefly jumping him during his celebration. Overall, an intense and fast-paced match with both men delivering some slick manoeuvres; Guerrero played the wily heel, targeting Mysterio’s back and putting him in the underdog position so the fans could rally behind him and Mysterio shined with his innovative and high-risk high-flying offense. It’s only a short match, clocking in at around fifteen minutes, but they crammed a lot into it, and the commentators did a great job of selling Eddie’s mean streak and Rey’s never-say-die attitude.
This was far from the last time Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero crossed paths; in fact, they had a rematch about fifteen days later on an episode of WCW Monday Nitro that saw Guerrero regain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. They also fought at World War 3 at the end of November 1997, with Guerrero coming out on top, though both men moved on to separate storylines by the time Starrcade came around. Rey Mysterio Jr. wouldn’t recapture the WCW Cruiserweight Championship until early 1998 in another disappointingly short reign, and he fought with Guerrero again later in 1998 when Eddie attempted to induct Rey into his stable, the Latino World Order (lWo), before they joined forces for the first time as part of the Filthy Animals. They wouldn’t interact again until Mysterio was signed by the WWE in 2002 and they were involved in a series of tag team matches as part of the aforementioned SmackDown! Six; although Rey Mysterio and Edge feuded with Eddie and his nephew, Chavo, during this time, he and Eddie would come together as a tag team in 2005, culminating in an opening match at WWE WrestleMania 21 that pitted the two against each other while they were the WWE Tag Team Champions. After losing the belts the following month, Guerrero turned on Mysterio and the two reignited their feud, which eventually grew to encompass ridiculous soap opera aspects such as battling in a ladder match for custody of Rey’s son, Dominik. Following Guerrero’s tragic and untimely passing on 13 November 2005, Rey Mysterio was given a massive push towards the main event, capturing his first World Championship; though his championship reign was soured by poor booking decisions, Mysterio continued to honour the memory and legacy of one of his best friends and greatest rivals and Guerrero’s impact on the business was not only revered in his WWE Hall of Fame induction but continued tributes and celebrations decades after his passing. Additionally, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero’s Halloween Havoc match is widely regarded as one of their finest matches, one of WCW’s greatest cruiserweight bouts, and one of the best cruiserweight matches on American soil; it was such a memorable contest between them that it was recreated in the Showcase mode of WWE 2K22 (Visual Concepts, 2022) to allow fans to play it for themselves.
Are you a fan of Rey Mysterio Jr.’s match against Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc? Do you agree that it’s one of their best matches, and the best cruiserweight matches, or do you perhaps think it’s over-rated and prefer a different bout of theirs? Were you a fan of either man during their WCW days? Which of their matches and moments was your favourite and were you a fan of the WCW cruiserweight division back in the day? What’s your favourite Halloween Havoc match or event? Whatever your thoughts on Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, the cruiserweights, and Halloween Havoc, I’d love to see them in the comments or on my social media.