Five-Star Match of the Week: Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko - Cruiserweight Championship Match, The Great American Bash 1996
Every Wednesday, WWE Classics and Greatest Matches team up with your favorite Superstars to bring you the Five-Star Match of the Week, presented by Wrangler. We ask a Superstar in the WWE locker room to select one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time, and WWE.com brings you that full-length match, uncut.
When discussing the most underrated competitors in the history of the squared circle, Dean Malenko’s name is always mentioned in the conversation. The mere fact that Malenko is underrated has become a major facet of his persona. Still, despite his stature as an underappreciated Superstar, there are so many of The Iceman’s encounters that could be tallied for a featured Five-Star Match of the Week. When WWE Classics spoke to Malenko backstage at a recent WWE event, he chose one of his best: the night he defended his Cruiserweight Championship against Rey Mysterio in the luchador’s astounding WCW debut.
“That was a special night for me because Rey was an opponent I always wanted to work against in the ring,” Malenko revealed to WWE Classics. “I asked the offices of WCW if we could bring him in for a shot at my Cruiserweight Championship, because it was a match that I anticipated having a lot of fun with. I love when two styles clash — Rey being a lucha libre style performer and a very impactful, aerially talented guy, and myself being more of a mat technician.”
The two innovative lightweights just missed each other in ECW. Malenko departed the Philadelphia-based organization in August 1995 and Mysterio arrived there the following month. In WCW, the Cruiserweight Championship had recently been revived and “The Man of 1,000 Holds” was emerging as the division’s star.
“What really stands out about that night was the guys in the back being really disappointed seeing Rey,” Malenko recalled. “They thought he was really small and very young-looking, which we kind of laugh at now. But it ended up being one of the only times in 20-some odd years of being in the business that I walked back in the dressing room and my peers stood on their feet applauding this guy’s ability and what he did that night. It was a really neat scene for me to see and it definitely welcomed Rey into the fold of WCW. It was a great moment and one that I cherish very highly.”
The match was so well-received that Mysterio received another opportunity for the title the following night on Nitro. Although he was unsuccessful again, Rey defeated Dean to win the Cruiserweight Championship less than a month later.
“Of course, you want to go out every night and have the best match possible — for the show and for yourself,” Malenko explained. “But that match definitely went way over my expectations. It was a great night for myself, a great night for Rey and a great night for fans out there that never got to see a guy like Rey Mysterio. He’s very special. There’s nobody like him and never will be.”
And for that matter, there will never be another Dean Malenko.