Super Crazy vs Yoshihiro Tajiri
taped 01/15/2000, aired 01/21/2000
ECW Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
(reviewed 09/01/2018) Every once in a while a wrestler hits their stride so fully, so completely that it almost defies belief. ‘89 Ric Flair, early 90s Jumbo Tsuruta, peak Sabu, early aughts Low Ki, 2005 Samoa Joe, the list goes on. These people are so compelling that even their smallest, simplest matches are worth watching, and whenever they mix it up with another world class talent it turns into magic. That’s what 2000/2001 Tajiri was like and that’s what this match in particular is like. To this point I’ve seen probably eight or ten Tajiri/Crazy matches and none of them caught my eye on anything more than a “well that was a lot of fun” level. Things get better with Tajiri’s transition from a fresh-faced youngster to a full-on heel but even then it only got so far. Then came this match, exploding onto the scene like a goddamn car bomb. Tajiri is dominant here, though not in the way that, like, the Steiners would be dominant in wrecking some jobbers. He’s dominant in that he’s just chewing up the scenery so much on top of beating the shit out of Crazy. He has his way with the man early on, using his signature roundhouse kicks to daze him before ripping open his forehead and mocking his reeling, bloody opponent in this terribly charistmatic way, in this way that just screams “best in the world”. Once they make their way to the floor Super Crazy’s able to mount a comeback, starting with a moonsault off the bleachers and somehow managing to keep that same level of energy up throughout the rest of the match. And really that’s what this one is all about: energy. This whole series has been energetic but it kicks it into a much higher gear here with both men busting out new stuff and giving more spirited performances. Tajiri is a hateful, hilarious prick and Crazy is as compelling as he’ll ever be as this vengeful man looking for his pound of flesh from a long-time rival. In the pursuit of either of these ends they’re going all out with whatever’s at hand, flinging chairs across tables to decapitate each other and using wrenches to try to pluck out teeth or rip open cheeks, things that aren’t necessarily brand new but feel so groundbreaking here. Part of it’s a perspective thing, as late stage ECW has mostly turned into an uninteresting slog, especially as far as hardcore stuff is concerned, so this stands out in a huge, exciting way, the way that the best of early CZW also felt. They also manage to sell really well and give this match a hook (Crazy wanting revenge) that makes this stand out from a whole bevy of other wild, violent spotfests from this era of wrestling. Part of me wishes it built to something a little bigger in the end than just a standing powerbomb through a table, but I’ll take that over a longer match that loses its momentum completely. The more I write about this match, the more I like it. It’s head and shoulders above everything ECW’s been doing for years, all the way back to RVD/Bigelow if not Barely Legal.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: Usually I err on the side of quality performances over something as tenuous as innovation, as the latter leads to diminishing returns over time and rewards stupidity over everything else. Here, though, I think we have a match that actually fits both roles. Shawn/Taker manages to hit some good emotional highs in the middle but is real inconsistent toward the end, whereas Tajiri and Crazy are both worlds better as motivated characters in this match than they ever have been before on top of pulling out these chaotic new spots, some of which would become regular deathmatch spots for years to come. That two fold quality is hard to beat and I don’t think Shawn/Taker can do it.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania