Best 2 out of 3 Falls
Psicosis def. Rey Misterio Jr.
October 17, 1995
ECW Hardcore TV #130

“And that, I think was the handle–that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting–on our side or theirs. We all had the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark–that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

It had been years since I last watched this match, and honestly, I can’t even remember how long it actually was. Probably well over 10, perhaps even 15 years or more. And before I started watching, I have to admit, there was hesitation. The nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something might get ruined rewatching this match with the eyes of a reviewer, far removed from the fan that was first exposed to the exhibition of two of lucha libre’s living legends in the hallowed halls of the ECW Arena. Far too often, as I watch professional wrestling, there’s a cynicism there. Decades and decades of fandom compounding upon each other – as well as now, a few years of writing my thoughts critiquing that which is pro-wrestling makes it difficult to watch even the newest events at the highest level as a fan just enjoying the artform. There’s always the critical eye, the critical thought, constantly evaluating and assessing what I see in the ring, around the ring, what happens in the moments before the bell rings, and after the final count of three. But that constant appraisal of what it is I watch in pro wrestling can be a double-edged sword, especially when looking back to matches I’d only previously viewed as a fan. The risk is the critical assessment dims the brighter memories of the past, with a more harsh, grounded view from the present. And while this is a truth with most things juxtaposed against the passage of time, it isn’t always a welcome realization that something once placed on a pedestal has been brought back down to earth.

As I started watching the match, and the grainy video playback began rolling, what I was concerned about – watching this match with a critical eye somehow diminishing it, began to fade. Instead, I found myself being transported to a far different time, with a far different sensibility when it came to wrestling. As I saw Psicosis come to the ring, adorned in white, pink, and black – sporting two championship belts, as well as Rey Misterio Jr. wearing Batman-inspired ring gear in purple and gold, surrounded by the raucous fans of Extreme Championship Wrestling, it was almost my long-and-many memories of these competitors started to playback in reverse. It amazed me for more than a lingering moment, that this match took place long before either man would have a career in WWE. It was before either would have a career in WCW. Before either of them had to compromise their art for the sake of injury, age, or a chance to perform for the mainstream. And this helped break away my cynicism, as in the moment that Psicosis and Misterio were announced in their ring introductions, you could feel the crowd reactions to them had a fresh and raw quality to them, with very little fueled by reputation, or a tremendous catalog of matches on U.S. soil. Instead the reactions were completely reactive, based on what each competitor performed in that precise moment. There was a sort of innocence in the mystique of the match itself that made it so much easier to watch it as a fan from a different time and place.

The first fall came quickly, in the match’s opening minutes. It was clear that the fans of the ECW Arena weren’t quite accustomed to the lucha libre style as of yet. While they certainly had acrobatic talents at the time, such as Sabu, this particular exhibition had all the hallmarks of the Mexican style, which had not yet made significant inroads into U.S. wrestling. And yet, Psicosis and Misterio didn’t waste their opportunity to mesmerize the audience with a breakneck pace and the sort of agility that simply wasn’t on display in major American wrestling companies. But also, this was Psicosis and Misterio at their peak – without the litany of years of injuries and the tolls they have taken on their bodies. Instead, this was two of the best luchadores perhaps to ever live, taking any chance they dared with a confidence of invincibility. Moreover, the first fall came as a shock and surprise – as it was Misterio as the tecnico that scored the first victory.

The match really got into its depth though in the second fall. In the first fall, Misterio got the better of Psicosis in a contest of speed and skill – the essence of lucha libre’. But as the match got back underway, it also evolved. Action began to migrate to the outside, and this is when the bout became something beyond an example of lucha. Psicosis and Misterio, at this point in the contest, became a fusion of lucha libre’ with bingo-hall Extreme. As Psichosis put Misterio through tables with a leg drop, and Misterio pelted Psichosis with chairs or sent him flying to the concrete with a hurricanrana (or a flying reverse victory roll, as correctly explained by Joey Styles on the call) – the fans were entirely bought in. And this is what truly elevates the match to another level. There’s a visceral quality during the second fall – the chants of the ECW faithful with its loud, chaotic quality, the non-gimmicked tables and chairs that just sound different when they hit, the grime accumulating on the primarily white costume of Psicosis… it made one realize that there was a certain energy this match created… and it’s been an energy that we see far too infrequently in modern wrestling. Even absent the pandemic, where crowds were tamed by necessity – thus diminishing the impact wrestling can have on a viewer, one is hard-pressed to find the sheer voracity of the ECW crowd’s reaction to an exhibition like this one – where for many the death-defying acrobatics of lucha were on display for the first time. There was magic there, and even through the screen, removed by a period just shy of 30 years, you could feel it as you watched.

Of course, the most spectacular moments, in my eyes, came in the final fall. While not as swift in coming as the first fall, the third fall was truncated by necessity: both Psicosis and Misterio had put their bodies through more than what any typical lucha libre’ match would demand, with a level of intensity and violence demanded by extreme greater than normal. But also, we’d already seen feats that stand up to the best high-flyer spots of today, such as when Psicosis caught Misterio mid-springboard backflip into a tombstone piledriver to earn the second fall. If the first fall was almost purely lucha in style, and the second fall a synthesis between lucha libre’ and extreme, then the final fall was a transition into hardcore. While Misterio was valiant in this fight until the end, Psicosis had been too brutally effective in the second fall, and he wasn’t letting up on utilizing the punishing environment of the ECW Arena to his advantage a greater benefit to his rudo approach. It would all come to a close as Psicosis came off the top rope onto Misterio with a stardust press onto a chair (which Joey Styles called incorrectly – a rare thing unto itself). As the match came to a close, the ECW made their bingo hall into a nearly inaudible din of reaction – not chants as so common today, but just a noise – something guttural and indecipherable, that gave it a legitimacy of genuineness.

Coming away – I feel like this match is at once imperfect, yet perfect as well. Not everything was executed to pristine perfection. Sometimes, aspects of the match, like selling, are inconsistent. But that isn’t the point. This match illustrates the sort of madhouse wrestling can create, especially when something is new and shatters one’s perspectives of the medium. What the crowd can contribute to the match when they’re not only hot, but when they’re giving reaction to something that is at once astonishing, but increases their passion for the sport in real time. It reminds us that as much as the bar has been raised in terms of technical classics that can and will stand the test of time – that the true apex of professional wrestling is when you can make people – both in the arena, and at home, that they’re watching the thing that they love being elevated right before their eyes.

RATING: **** 1/2

(Guess: Lee Malone)