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The Hardy Boyz: Leap of Faith

Steve Corino

Eddie 'Latino Heat' Guerrero

Slobberknockers abound
Ringside Shadows #145: The Dream Match

It's one of the most heavily debated subjects in our sport, one that has never been granted a definitive answer and one that never shall. It's an argument that's trickled in from every aspect of society itself, a dream cast for television.. a dream script for film.. a dream fight for boxing. Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good card tick, what matchups would ignite any flammable crowd and who would draw the big bucks going over. The idea of a dream card isn't new, but it's far from old... and I seriously doubt it ever will be.

I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to the possibilities when the Radicals made their big jump to the WWF. Be it Benoit / Jericho (a matchup that escaped us after both hit it big in WCW) or Guerrero / D'Lo, I could not wait to see these guys matched up with the opponents that had been denied them in the past due to political issues. Several dream matches of my own were finally about to be fulfilled. Unfortunately, this was where the reality of the situation kicked in... my expectations were way too high, as always. The Benoit / Jericho series I'd been looking forward to for years wasn't quite the five star string of matches I'd hoped it would be, and that clouded my enjoyment of the feud for what it was. It's a sad thing, but a fact, when you're speaking hypothetically, (as I thought I was when I mentioned a Jericho/Benoit feud) it's easy to make believe things would go flawlessly. In truth, they rarely ever do.

But in this case we're speaking hypothetically again, and I'm gonna let my imagination go wild. My mission for today is to line up five matches featuring athletes in different promotions, men who cannot contractually meet anywhere but a special occasion like the Pillman or Hildebrandt memorial show. I'll be nabbing my favorite stars from the WWF, WCW and ECW, explaining why I chose them, what kind of match they'll have, providing a little background information and letting them maul each other for your entertainment. There's little tact, rhyme or reason to my decision making... this is purely a self-indulgent piece of drivel. Something I should've done a long time ago. So now, before I spoil all my fun with a much longer introduction, let's get on with the show.

3 Count vs. The Hardy Boyz v. The Jung Dragons v. Kaientai

This is basically me throwing the proverbial crap against the wall and watching to see what sticks. These are four of my favorite teams, every one of them willing to almost kill themselves for a pop, every one of them deserving of much, much more. To even the sides up, Evan Karagias would be unceremoniously dumped from Three Count before the opening bell has rung (because, as everyone knows, Evan's the reason these guys aren't going anywhere) and Kaientai would enter the ring alongside a last-second addition to the match... Billy Kidman!

The Competitors: Up first, 3 Count. Lords of the WCW unknown, Shane and Shannon have "big time star" written all over them, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them handled in the same fashion as Benoit and Jericho; ignored until they head elsewhere and make Turner sorry. They're still quite green but show tremendous potential in the ring, as well as before a crowd. I'll admit I wasn't looking forward to seeing a Backstreet Boys gimmick on WCW television when rumors were first circulating of their birth, but now that it's been running for a while I can really understand what Jimmy Hart (the man behind the mouth) was thinking. Take a look at wrestling's target audience; young to middle-aged boys. Now look at the Backstreet Boys' target audience; young to teenage girls. Tell me you wouldn't like to have seen Danny or Donny taking a pounding in the ring when New Kids on the Block were the hot thing on the radio... ok, now translate it to today. With the right wheels, packaging, members and promotion, these guys could be IT.

The Hardy Boyz; bar none, the breakthrough team of the last five years. In a world that thrives on catchphrases, two minute matches and merchandising, the Hardys have done the unthinkable. They've gotten themselves over with little or no mic time, based on their physical charisma and ringwork alone. While many are calling Jeff the obvious star of the two, I find that a bit unfair. Both are worth more than many of the WWF's current singles stars on their own, and while Jeff's swanton bomb makes for one hell of a visual, it's Matt's work with pacing and psychology that gets them there in the first place. They work perfectly as a tag team, and will do fine as singles once they round their game out a bit more.

The Jung Dragons are next on the list, and are bringing up the rear in terms of both talent and exposure. Greener than Three Count, (with the exception of Kaz, who is simply stupendous) these guys need a bit more time before accepting prominent spots on any sort of program. But once they do gain that extra experience, they could be a force to be reckoned with. The name is great, and each has already developed a distinct personality both in and out of the ring, which is a must when none speak fluent English. It's a shame we aren't seeing more of these guys, but I can understand a relegation to Saturday Morning TV until they space out their work experience a bit more.

Finally, Kaientai and Billy Kidman jump into the mess. I chose Kidman because he's the only guy I could really think of that would make this match fly any higher than it already would without. The first two I considered, Shinjiro Ohtani and the Great Sasuke, were both rejected because of stylistic differences (Sasuke would only slow things down and Ohtani is more of a ground-based worker) and the visual of Kidman pulling out the shooting star press again is worth his inclusion alone. Nevermind the possibility of a double shooting star, alongside one of the only other men in the US who can perform it, Jeff Hardy. Taka and Funaki are currently playing the part Three Count fills over in WCW. Exceptionally talented, but never given the chance to prove it. Working with the others involved in this match, though, I think they'd prove why internet personalities like myself consider them such an impressive duo.

The Match: Imagine the ladder match the Hardys enjoyed against Edge and Christian several months back. Now multiply that by two, throw in a shooting star press from the twenty foot ladder and give the crowd somebody to hate. That's what I thought, too. Unlike Monday's low-hanging tag team belts, the gold for this match would be much higher... barely high enough to reach with the twenty footers. Hey, if this is a fantasy match, we don't have to worry about anyone getting hurt, right? It would be booked as a train wreck of sorts, with the more experienced, well-rounded Kaientai and Kidman team carrying a lot of the load between big spots. Think the Three Count / Dragons ladder match was inventive and original? Throw in the equally decisive minds of the Hardys. These guys would come up with spots that haven't even been imagined yet, leaving the crowd in a sort of awe throughout. When the dust clears, I've got the Hardys and Three Count fighting their way up adjacent ladders, scrambling for that first touch of gold while Kaientai and the Dragons try to collect themselves on the floor. Kidman climbs into the ring, drawing the attention of Shane and Jeff, who promptly go off balance and collapse the ladder in a heap on top of him. Matt and Shannon brawl all the way to the top of the other ladder, before Matt suddenly hits the twist of fate from the very top! He pulls himself to his feet, the only one physically able to do so, climbs the ladder and nabs the belts just as Taka takes the ladder out from underneath him. A continuing champ, Matt pays the price for retaining his glory as he falls the frightening height to the mat.

Steve Corino v. Chris Jericho

The real fun here wouldn't be the match itself, but the buildup to the event. Two of the fastest, most entertaining talkers in the business, Corino and Jericho could play off each other infinitely, and the crowd would never grow tired of it. They could make any angle work, as each proved in their earlier work with Dusty Rhodes and Dean Malenko, respectively, and when they finally got into the ring, the results would be gold. Not only can they talk the talk, but they can walk the walk like few others. Surely, if there ever were a feud born in heaven, it would be this one.

The Competitors: Steve Corino has been called "the real savior of ECW" on more than one occasion. Trying to escape the gigantic shadow cast by monster name Rob Van Dam, Corino has actually turned the tables on his competitor by accepting World Title shots and ascending to the main event scene first. Corino used his head and waited out silly gimmicks, cowardly heel runs and a feud with "Duthtay" himself before finally arriving as a legitimate force in the ECW scene. As I mentioned in the introduction, Steve can both talk the talk and walk the walk, after helming several successful heel factions of his own, acting as a mouthpiece for Yoshihiro Tajiri and putting on exceptional performances with Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible in recent weeks on ECW's televised programming. His most recent role (and, so far, most successful) is that of an "old school" grappler, meeting every challenger head on and often donning the crimson mask. He wins some, he loses some, but he never backs down. While Corino was a bitchin' heel, if this face turn is all it takes to make him a main eventer for good, then I'm all for it.

Chris Jericho, on the other hand, has fallen into something of a rut lately. After long, high profile feuds with both HHH and Chris Benoit garnered critical acclaim for Y2J, things really slowed down for him. While Benoit and Kurt Angle have moved up to permanent main event slots, Jericho was somehow left behind and remains a step or two behind the World Title picture. And, barring a big heel turn, I don't see that changing so long as the Rock lofts the belt above his head every Monday night. Much like Corino did early in his career, though, Jericho is taking it all in stride. He's confident, as am I, that his day is coming soon. Why push it? Chris is brilliant on the stick, able to get most anyone over with very little effort, and inventive to the end (though he's lost a bit of direction as a face.) He's the one who gave us "Bore-us Malenko," "Baby Huey" Konnan and the "Jerichoholic Ninja." Once things get physical, though, he's a changed man. Comical on the mic, Jericho is all business when we get into the ring. Despite a style alteration in the last year and a half, he's still among the stronger workers on the proud WWF roster, and retains much of what made him so explosive in WCW.

The Match: Not so short and not so sweet. By the time this one comes to blows, I'd expect both men would be ready to tear the other to pieces, driven there by the constant taunting from his opponent. By the time the second bell rings, both would be juicing something awful and only one would be left standing. I see this one in the same vein as many of the "old school" matches Corino references time and again in his promos, sort of a Flair / Rhodes for 2000. The work would be very much contained to the ring itself, with both just pounding the life out of each other through brawling, submissions and some very limited aerial maneuvers. A steel chair or chain might come into play late, resulting in the gushers spouting from both, and the big visual image would be that of two aged gladiators, exhausted and swinging at one another until Jericho pulls a diving takedown from out of nowhere. Before he knows what's hit him, Corino finds himself buried deep into the mat while Jericho tries to tear him in half at the mid-section. He's stuck in the liontamer, right in the middle of the ring. Broken, Corino passes out and the match is awarded to Jericho, with both men swearing this one isn't over yet.

Yoshihiro Tajiri v. Eddy Guerrero

An international extravaganza of style here, with Guerrero bringing his refined lucha libre / puro blend to the thick of things and Tajiri delivering the stiff-as-hell and tough-as-nails Japanese hardcore without hesitation. We wouldn't get much of a buildup here, and I wouldn't have it any other way... just another case of the irresistable force meeting the immovable object in the middle of the road and neither having the willpower to go around the other.

The Competitors: In a way, he reminds me of an amalgamated young and old Great Muta. One of the internet's favorite sons, Yoshihiro Tajiri remains a name that's whispered in corners of the wrestling world, never breaking through to the big name recognition that's been awarded to ECW mates Jerry Lynn, The Sandman and Rob Van Dam. Though he very rarely speaks, Tajiri's actions and body language speak more than enough to fill his vocabulary. Whether it's his hilarious personality, (after dizzying Super Crazy with kicks in a match, Tajiri mocked and imitated his opponent while Crazy attempted to gain his bearings) his incredible moveset (Case in point: the tarantula) or his straight up realism, (His kicks to the head are just brutal) the man knows how to convey his thoughts, and ECW fans are listening.

Eddy Guerrero made his commute to the WWF alongside Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn in the biggest news item of last year. Since that time he's gone through a period of stagnation before erupting onto the scene as Chyna's suitor, "Latino Heat" Eddy Guerrero. The two took part in some sticky sweet and overly silly moments for some time before Guerrero made that big transition from babyface lover to the role he was born to play; a heel's heel. Seriously, if I had to choose a list of three men as the top potential heels in the industry, Guerrero would top the list without question. The way he shifts his glare to the crowd, like he might spring into them at any moment to stop that "Eddy sucks" chant, the way he makes us hate him the hard way, by soundly beating our favorites, everything about him is overflowing with classic heel mannerisms. Add to that his status as one of the top talents on the planet, and you've got a big time player. It's really quite surprising that he's taken as long as he has to rise to the top, but it's like they say, the cream always finds its way up there. Guerrero's talent in the ring is undeniably good, as he delivers the meanest frog splash you'll ever see and builds his way toward it with great pacing, psychology and methods. His European uppercut is the stuff of legends. Whichever way you look at it, Eddy's a future World Champion.

The Match: Do I really need to do any booking here? These two are the kind that should be let go, free to do what they're paid for without the extra hassle of unnecessary spots and unusual bookings. Just letting these guys go for about twenty minutes should be enough to satisfy any fan's appetite, with many coming back for more. Tajiri would hit the kicks, Guerrero would reverse the tarantula in a way nobody's really considered before. They'd work a little submissions, a little extreme, a lot of the good stuff. I see Eddy just dismantling the leg, which would eliminate Tajiri's strong kick offense, as well as his leaping moves. From there it would be purely elementary. When the younger star's leg won't support his own weight, Guerrero dizzies him with that European uppercut, heads to the top and lands a beautiful frog splash, cradling Tajiri's good leg for the one, two, three. Experience wins out this time.

Jeff Jarrett v. Triple H

Two men that found themselves in virtually the same position one year ago, yet ended up with completely different outcomes as their roles progressed. Much of that is due to their booking and handling with the company, but some of it has to be attributed to the workers as well. I mean, exactly how much can one blame on Vince Russo? How much credit does McMahon deserve? These were two good workers, on the verge of great runs for the main event scene and months away from their first World Title reigns. So, angles and gimmicks aside, how did these two turn out? Let's take a peek.

The Competitors: Jeff Jarrett's jump to WCW last year came as something of a surprise to me, something that's difficult to do in this information age. Apparently, through all the rumors of Shawn Michaels's return, D'Lo Brown's jump to WCW or whatever big surprise Russo was promising us then, somebody overlooked the fact that Jeff Jarrett's contract had expired. Thus, his appearance wielding the guitar that made him famous was quite a shock. Since then he's been pushed right to the top, losing multiple character-building title shots against Sid before suddenly being handed the belt on a silver platter weeks later. Booked as a lame duck champion, Jarrett had no choice but to drop the belt and then regain it again... four times. The man had about two clean title defenses throughout those reigns, and is paying the price for that now as fans still won't accept him at any level above US Heavyweight. Not surprisingly, that's the last belt he was in contention for before his breakneck jolt to the main event. Jarrett is now building his foundations before making another move for the World Title, something that should've been done long ago. In the ring, he's amazing if allowed to be. He relies on his guitar too heavily for interference, but when it all comes down to it, he knows what he's doing and knows how to make it look good. He'd make a great champion, if only he'd arrive on the right path.

Meanwhile, Triple H has been leading a straight up banner year for the WWF. He's participated in one of the most memorable string of important and superb matchups in all of history, and has built a name that's likely to end up in bold face in the history books. A less than adequate worker and character with DX, it was when he embraced his new run as a heel that HHH really found his wings. To be honest, I had more doubts about Triple H than I did about Jarrett in the main event. He relied much too heavily on a knee-based offense, rarely gave it his all and often relied on his opponent or stablemates to make him look good. When he got his chance, though, he really grabbed the ball and ran with it. He developed a personality that was more concerned with being a heel (read: doing his job) than being cool, and a ring style that was much more diverse and entertaining to watch. He's more sculpted. He's his own man now, no longer hiding behind the shadow of Shawn Michaels. HHH is here to stay.

The Match: If anywhere, you're likely to see your heavy duty chair-shotting, table-breaking, guitar-smashing action right here, as both have been known to use props more than sparingly in the past. This is also where you're most likely to see the men leave the ring and use the crowd, ramp and entryway to their advantage. Basically, we'd see a somewhat technical brawl here. No garbage fare, mind you, as I haven't included New Jack or Brian Knobs in this lineup, (nor do I intend to) but strictly "smart" street fighting. They'd swing chairs with a predetermined aim and precision, not randomly. They'd attack a different part of the body (Jarrett likely the knee, HHH the neck, to set up for their respective finishers, the figure four and the pedigree.) When the action made its way back into the ring, these two would pick up the technical assault. They'd continue their punishment on the body part of choice, landing us some nice reversals and counters in sequence. If nothing else, this would be a quiet, beautiful wrestling clinic between the ropes and a dirty, ugly brawl on the floor. In the end, we've got Jarrett up top with the guitar and a stumbling HHH. He leaps, but Helmsley was waiting for him. HHH goes for a Rock Bottom / Book End, but Jarrett's too quick and turns it into "the stroke". Helmsley ducks his head and Jarrett goes off balance, nearly to the floor, and Triple H scoops up his arms, puts his head in the position and nails the pedigree. A three count is all that's left.

Lance Storm v. Chris Benoit

Hell yeah. This is the match I wrote the column about, the one I'd give just about anything to see. Technical brilliance, pure and simple. The minute I saw Lance Storm's first WCW match, I thought "these guys just found their Benoit replacement." He's got that much potential. Both are ECW grads, both hail from Canadian roots, both rely on submission holds for their finishers. They're among the very best in the world today, and I don't think they'd have any problem with cutting into each other and giving us a match for all ages.

The Competitors: I suppose we should start this one with Lance Storm, as one year ago I wouldn't have included him on this list. That's not because he's improved that much as a worker, it's especially not because he's become superb on the mic. Exposure and a good gimmick can go a long way, and never has it been so obvious as with Lance Storm. In ECW he was "the guy who said Calgary... Alberta, Canada." In WCW he's very nearly their top heel, adopting a rampagingly successful gimmick that never hit its possible heights in the WWF. He's had to adjust his style for the condensed matches over at Turner, but seems to be really getting the swing of it after a stellar match against Mike Awesome several weeks back to win the US title and another great match against Sting this past Monday night. If Lance Storm is the future, you can count me in for the whole ride.

Finally, we come to Chris Benoit. And you didn't think it would happen any other way, did you? Benoit is it. The go-to guy of the entire industry, blending just about every style under the sun into one massive collection of grappling knowledge. Watching Chris Benoit in Japan or Mexico is like watching a completely different person, he just delivers his snap suplex similarly. Like Storm, Benoit is lacking when it comes to mic skills, but lets his body language shout for him. He's been trying with the stick lately, and seems to be improving, but I would not build this feud around that aspect of either of their characters. The Crippler built his career in Japan and Stampede, coming to the United States to work in ECW for a short while before finding his place at WCW during their great rise to popularity. He was almost instantly initiated into the Four Horsemen, wrestling's most elite stable, and ran with three incarnations of the group before defecting for the WWF alongside Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn. Once there, he hit off a big feud with Chris Jericho and stepped right into the limelight, accepting multiple title shots against the Rock. Benoit has arrived, and the audience is aware of it. His pops and recognition have been steadily growing, making him among the top three or four heels in the federation. He's almost there, and he's done it all with his hands and not his mouth.

The Match: If you'd like to see the best technical wizardry in the world, I don't think you'd need to look much farther. The sheer number of combinations, reversals, strings and series these two could produce simply boggles the mind. I'd likely dry my mouth out, sitting with it open for so long. Given a week's rest and time to build this match, these two would be well conditioned, prepared and healthy, and the match would most certainly reach five stars. The rolling Germans would hit, as would Storm's superkick and the diving headbutt. We'd get suplexes upon suplexes, reversed out of suplexes. We'd see what psychology is all about. We'd see history, and I can't begin to imagine what sort of combo they'd find to finish this thing off. It would, naturally, have to include a reversal of both men's finishers, but I wouldn't want to see either end in submission right away. Both would fight their way out of their opponent's finisher in a unique way. Benoit might whup out the top-rope tombstone or powerbomb, and Storm would most definately hit that nasty springboard missle dropkick. This would be power wrestling, style, technique and execution to the Nth degree... and this would see Chris Benoit staggering out of the dust with his hand raised in victory.

So there you have it, my dream lineup. Sure, there are several faces missing from this picture; no card would be complete without Booker T, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Raven or multiple others, but I wasn't out to write a book here. I wanted to prove a point. Predictable or no, this booking, this lineup and these outcomes are what would make a PPV absolutely unmissable (is that even a word? yikes.) Do your opinions differ from mine? I'd bet anything on it... and that's what makes this concept so very cool to me. No matter who you talk to, who you choose as your target audience, you're always gonna end up with another lineup of five.

until next time, i remain


Copyright © Q 2006. If you want to link me or repackage my words somewhere else, it's cool... just let me know.
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