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By Buck Woodward on 2004-01-29 10:15:00

The Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero match from Halloween Havoc 1997, Mask vs. Cruiserweight Title, is regularly held up (alongside the Bret Hart-Chris Benoit Owen Hart tribute match) as one of the best bouts to be produced by latter-day WCW.  In what is a common irony when it comes to truly great matches, it was far from being the focus of the promotion at the time.  It was the third bout on a nine match card, held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 26, 1997.  The feud of the day was NWO vs. WCW, and dominated all the headline bouts (Piper vs. Hogan, Page vs. Savage, Flair vs. Hennig, Luger vs. Hall).  Hell, even the horrid Jacquelyn vs. Disco Inferno feud was given more attention in the weeks preceding Havoc than Rey vs. Guerrero.  Still, there was a storyline behind the match, and when given the chance, it stole the show out from under everyone else.


Eddie Guerrero was a babyface in WCW, floating in the mid-card/semi main event slots, until he lost the WCW United States Title to Dean Malenko.  Guerrero then began a slow heel turn, eventually feuding with nephew Chavo to cement his position by "alienating his family".  WCW even brought in Hector Guerrero for an angle where he had to pull Eddie off of Chavo as he beat him unmercifully.  During this time, Eddie was moved into the Cruiserweight division, and defeated Chris Jericho for the title at Fall Brawl on September 14, 1997.  With Eddie as heel champion, it was only logical that Rey Mysterio Jr., the darling of the division, would challenge him.

The night after Guerrero won the title, he successfully defended it against Ultimo Dragon with a frog splash.  Earlier on the same show, Mysterio defeated longtime rival Juventud Guerrera with a hurricanrana. The following week, on the September 22nd edition of Nitro, the Mysterio-Guerrero feud would officially begin, as Eddie Guerrero came to ringside as Mysterio was facing Silver King (presumably to "scout" future challengers).  Mysterio won the match, and also knocked Guerrero off the ring apron when he tried to sneak attack Rey. The following week, Mysterio was again featured on Nitro, against a new masked opponent ... El Caliente.

Caliente, of course, was Guerrero in disguise, which was obvious to everyone but the announcers, as the crowd chanted "Eddie Sucks" at him. Mysterio scored the win with a springboard into a hurricanrana (later to be called the "West Coast Pop") and then unmasked Caliente, revealing that Mysterio had just pinned the Cruiserweight Champion. Guerrero was enraged and embarrassed, and now had to defend the title against someone who had proven he could beat him in the ring. On the October 6th edition of Nitro, Guerrero would get another win over Ultimo Dragon with the frog splash, while WCW would begin a series of segments that would end up adding emphasis to the Halloween Havoc match.

WCW produced a series of vignettes, hosted by Mike Tenay, to explain Lucha Libre and the tradition of the mask in Mexican wrestling to the Nitro audience.  These vignettes would tell WCW fans how important the mask was, and help in creating the stipulation of Mysterio-Guerrero.  On the October 13th Nitro, Eddie Guerrero defeated Psychosis after a frog splash, then tried to pull off his mask, showing disrespect to the tradition of the mask. Later that night, as Mysterio was wrestling Dean Malenko and was set to pin him following a hurricanrana, when Guerrero interfered, pulling the mask off of Mysterio.  As Rey tried to cover his face, Malenko put Rey in the Texas Cloverleaf, forcing him to tap out.  As Guerrero walked out, he held the mask up to the camera and mocked Rey, asking "Did you lose this?"

October 20, 1997 was the final Nitro before Halloween Havoc, with Eddie Guerrero pinning Chris Benoit with a frog splash to retain the WCW World Cruiserweight title. Another piece on Lucha Libre and the importance of the mask was shown, this time concentrating on Rey Mysterio Jr. and how the mask had been handed down to him from his uncle.  Rey wrestled Disco Inferno for the Television title, but Guerrero ran in and attacked Mysterio, giving him the disqualification win, but not the title.  The two slugged it out, as the stage was now set for their Pay-per-view match.  WCW Cruiserweight Champion Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio Jr., with the added stipulation that if Rey were to lose, he would have to unmask in the ring.

The Match

Halloween Havoc announcers Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes and Bobby Heenan were joined for this match by Mike Tenay, who tossed out tons of relevant biographical information, like the fact that Rey had wrestled eight times in matches with his mask on the line, and had won them all.  He also mentioned that Guerrero had voluntarily unmasked when he was Mascara Magica, showing no respect for the "tradition" of the mask.  Mysterio came to the ring wearing a full body outfit with his mask attached to it that was styled after comic character The Phantom.  He also had the mask Guerrero had ripped off him on October 13th hanging around his neck. 

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