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What Is He Thinking?! Volume 2: Ultimo Dragon
by Scrooge McSuck
- Okay, so I made it through a rocky beginning, going with the subject of the One Mang Gang's 1996 WCW run for my introduction to this series. Yes, before I finished, I declared a tap out sometime during the second or third match against Konnan, but I pushed through to complete the set, which will happen no matter how much I want to stop mid-way through. So, after suffering for the majority of that edition of "What Is He Thinking?!", I'm going to go to the vaults for something, and someone, a bit more worth watching. The subject for the day is the Cruiserweight of Cruiserweights, the next Rey Mysterio... Ultimo Dragon, WWE 2003-2004.
Oh, wait, sorry. Ultimo Dragon was honest to God brought in to be the next Rey Mysterio, because I guess he wore a mask and did "flippy-floppy" moves, and damn it, THAT is enough to justify such a label! However, last I checked, there is a major difference in their styles. Yes, both have worked all around the world, but Rey's luchadore style is far more obvious than Ultimo's, who was more of a "wrestling" luchadore, thanks to a more extensive background in Japan. Honestly, Ultimo was one of the few reasons I occasionally tuned into WCW, and was happy as a clam when the WWE brought him in to add depth to their thin roster of Cruiserweights.
Note: In the event I choose a subject where they've had a more prominent role, I will never exceed more than 10 matches, unless under special circumstances. That way we keep it to a decent length without becoming too tedious. It also depends on match length, too. The shorter the matches, the more likely I'll push the limit.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Shannon Moore:
From the June 26th, 2003 episode of Smackdown!, broadcasted from Madison Square Garden. Cute little tidbit here, as two of Ultimo's hopes out of his WWE run were working Madison Square Garden (Check) and at WrestleMania (the next also being held at MSG). This is also his debut, after several weeks of hype videos. In a "who the hell cares, push aborted" moment, Kidman is at ringside looking like a jerk with an escort, looking on. Moore with a headlock, but Ultimo counters with a head scissors. Lockup, and Moore works the arm. they work through a series of counters, until Dragon escapes with a mule kick. Ultimo counters a snapmare, and springboards off the ropes with an elbow. Ultimo teases a plancha, but does an asai moonsault (his namesake) to taunt his opponent. Back inside, Moore with a drop toe hold into the ropes for a two count. Moore with a back suplex for another two count. Moore slows things down with a cobra-cluch chinlock, then lays Ultimo out with a short clothesline. Ultimo counters a suplex with a modified victory roll, followed by a spinning heel kick from out of the corner. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo comes back with a leg sweep, followed by a spinning jump kick to the chest for a two count. Moore takes a ride to the floor, and it's Asai Moonsault time! Ultimo rolls Moore back inside, and covers for two. Whip to the corner, and Moore catches Dragon coming in with an elbow. Ultimo nails Moore for trying to take the mask off, and hits a second rope jaw buster. Ultimo with a series of knees to the chest, and the Asai DDT finishes Moore off at 4:55. Very short, considering all of the action, but enjoyable, and a pretty good debut, I would say. afterwards, Rey Mysterio (who was doing commenary) offers the handshake of aproval. Oh, and Kidman gives a mock applause... OOOOOH!
United States Title Tournament: Ultimo Dragon vs. Eddie Guerrero:
From the July 10th, 2003 episode of Smackdown, and one has to ask... why put someone in a predicament like this? Eddie was clearly a top of the card act, and Ultimo was two weeks into his tenure, and this is an opening round match. I guess WWE soured on Ultimo already, because we all know Eddie's winning the title at Vengeance after freshly turning heel. Lockup, and Guerrero grabs a headlock, then quickly goes to the arm. Ultimo escapes with an arm drag. Eddie goes back to the arm, and again Ultimo escapes, this time with a snapmare. They do a series of counters until Ultimo sweeps the legs and hits the spin kick. Eddie rolls to the outside for a breather as Cole talks about Ultimo's credentials. Back inside, and Eddie nails Ultimo coming in the corner and takes him down with a belly to belly suplex for two. Eddie with a high impact back suplex, followed by a tilt-o-whirl back breaker. Eddie charges and gets back dropped to the arena floor. Ultimo with a baseball slide, but the Asai Moonsault is countered with a yank of the ankle. Eddie misses a slingshot senton back into the ring, and Ultimo rolls him up for two. Ultimo with a back slide for another two count. Ultimo can't hit the Asai DDT and settles for a hurricanrana. Ultimo with a nasty spin kick to the knee, followed by a moonsault off the ropes, but Eddie rolls through and hooks the tights for the three count at 3:27... Wow, talk about short-changing people. Less than FOUR Minutes for these two? It was watchable, but way too rushed to be worth anything.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Jamie Noble (w/ Nidia):
From the July 17th, 2003 episode of Smackdown. Noble was doing an angle with Billy Gunn too stupid to go into detail, with even dumber results, so we'll just get to the match. Feeling out process to start, with Ultimo taking Noble down with a spinning head scissors. Ultimo with spring dropkick, followed by a rear leg sweep. Ultimo with a springboard elbow for a two count. Whip to the ropes, and Noble with a drop toe hold, followed by a drifting back suplex for a two count. Noble covers again for two, and slaps on an abdominal stretch. Charge to the corner, and Noble takes Ultimo over with a powerslam for a two count. Noble heads to the top rope, but Ultimo crotches him across the top turnbuckle, and connects with the super jaw-buster. Ultimo with kicks to the legs and chest, finishing with a spinning kick for a two count. Noble counters a whip to the ropes, then Ultimo counters a back suplex. The action spills to the floor, and Ultimo connects with the Asai Moonsault. Back in the ring, and Ultimo comes off the top, only to be greeted with a side heel kick to the chest. Noble sets up for the Tigerbomb, but he's distracted by Billy Gunn and Torrie Wilson, allowing Ultimo the chance to roll up Noble for the three count at 4:02... okay. Was Noble THAT high on the roster to need protection in a match against Ultimo Dragon? It's the lazy-man booking to keep a program going (Noble vs. Gunn) without putting actual thought behind it.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Kanyon:
From the July 27th, 2003 episode of Sunday Night Heat, acting as the pre-show for the first ever Smackdown Exclusive PPV, Vengeance. Yes, Kanyon was actually hanging around for a little bit in 2003, before leaving for good by years end. He doesn't even get an entrance, but rather the "and in this corner" jobbers would get on the Superstars or Challenge tapings of yesteryear. Lockup, and Ultimo quickly slaps on a headlock. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo with a single leg sweep, followed by his signature series of kicks for a two count. Whip to the ropes, and Kanyon slams Ultimo back with a handful of mask. Kanyon with an overhead facebuster (think weak Dominator) for a two count. Kanyon with a back breaker, and he sells the impact on his own knee in a nice touch. That only gets two. Kanyon with a scoop slam, followed by knees to the back. The crowd actually musters a "Kanyon Sucks" chant as he works a chinlock. Ultimo fights back with a series of chops, then comes off the ropes with a twisting body press. Ultimo goes for a second, but Kanyon catches and throws him over Scott Hall style for a two count. Kanyon hoists Ultimo to his shoulders and climbs the ropes, but Ultimo counters with a powerbomb. Ultimo with his axe kick in the corner, and boots to the fanny. Kanyon escapes a german suplex, but the Asai DDT does hit, and that gets the three count at 4:03. Another short, entertaining match in a long series of them so far. Again, another reason why Velocity and Heat were more enjoyable than Raw or Smackdown (usually). Just a bunch of short midcard matches without the nonsense.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Tajiri (Cruiserweight Champion):
From the October 9th, 2003 episode of Smackdown, and it's Non-Title. Tajiri won the title from Rey Mysterio fairly recently, and will defend it in a rematch at No Mercy two weeks later. Yes, we took a long jump in time for matches, but again, I'm going with fresh matches, and not trying to cover too much. They exchange kicks, then fight over a front facelock. Tajiri goes to work on the arm, then pounds away. Tajiri tries the handspring elbow, but Ultimo counters with a spinning heel kick, and quickly takes it to the floor with an Asai Moonsault. Too bad it mostly missed. Back inside, and Ultimo covers for two. Whip to the corner, and Tajiri drops Ultimo across the top rope. Tajiri with a snapmare and knee drop across the chest. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo escapes a tilt-o-whirl with one of his own, then comes off the ropes with a spinning heel kick for a two count. Tajiri with a scoop powerslam for a two count. Ultimo charges to the corner and gets trapped in the Tarantula, but Ultimo fights free and slams Tajiri face-first. Majistral cradle for a two count. Ultimo calls for the Asai DDT, and this time Tajiri escapes and drills Ultimo with a heel kick .Tajiri with the measured up kick to the face, and that gets three at 3:14. Tajiri gives Ultimo another kick, bringing Mysterio into the ring and clearing Tajiri from the ring with a 619. Another match I would love to see get 10-minutes, but it was a fun few minutes with some brutal action and fun counter sequences.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio:
From the October 30th, 2003 episode of Smackdown, and it's Face vs. Face (or should I say, Mask vs. Mask). Tajiri is on commentary, joined by his new pals, Akio and Sakoda (I hope I got that right). Lockup, and Ultimo works the arm. Whip to the ropes is countered, but Ultimo still manages to plow through Mysterio with a shoulder tackle. Criss-cross sequence, and Mysterio with a springboard from the ropes for a two count. Ultimo with a series of kicks for a two count of his own. Ultimo catches Mysterio off the ropes with a torture rack back breaker. Ultimo takes Mysterio over with a single leg crab, but Mysterio fights back to his feet. Ultimo ducks an enziguri and drops an elbow across the back. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo takes a boot to the face. Mysterio with a spinning head scissors, followed by a basement dropkick. Mysterio with a bulldog takedown for a two count. They fight over a suplex until Mysterio drops Ultimo into the ropes. The 619 doesn't happen, and Ultimo counters the West Coast Pop with a kick to the chest. Ultimo with a spinning heel kick, and he calls for the end, but we get a referee bump instead. Tajiri lays Mysterio out with a kick from the apron, and Ultimo turns around to cover for the three count at 3:52. Tajiri offers Ultimo a bow after the match, but much like a lot of things, it didn't go anywhere, and I'm pretty sure Ultimo's Smackdown appearances were few and far between after this. Even though it was short, my history of matches between these two never really did it for me, but they were never a bad chemistry.
Ultimo Dragon & Jamie Noble vs. The World's Greatest Tag Team:
From the November 15th, 2003 episode of Velocity. For those with a short memory or unfamiliar, TWGTT consists of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. Funaki is the definition of scrub at this point, so I don't like the chances of the Japanese representatives here. Funaki and Haas start. Haas quickly nails Funaki with a knee to the face, and chokes him across the middle rope. Funaki responds with chops and enziguri. Ultimo comes in and takes Benjamin over with a sloppy head scissors, clearing the ring. Funaki with a baseball slide to Haas, and Ultimo with a pescado to Benajmin. Back inside, Funaki hammers away on Haas, but is taken out by a kick to the knee courtesy of Shelton Benajmin, allowing Haas to take control. They take turns working the knee, and DAMN, Funaki has some tiny legs. Benjamin turns Funaki over with a single-leg crab, but I don't recall anyone ever tapping to that. Funaki crawls between the legs to escape and pounds away with rights until Benjamin slams him down with a Samoan Drop... I think. It was an ugly spot, and Funaki seems to be better off. Ulyimo gets the hot tag, leg sweeps Haas, and hits Benjamin with a spinning heel kick. Spinning head scissors on Haas gets a two count. Benjamin misses a charge, and Ultimo back slides Haas for two after a long, unncessary sequence of nothing. Funaki interrupts the leap frog splash, and Ultimo with an Asai moonsault (inside version) for two. Funaki gets taken out again, leaving Ultimo to fight off both men. Benjamin nails Ultimo with a super-kick, and Haas finishes him off with the Haas of Pain (Indian Deathlock?) at 5:08, even though Ultimo technically didn't tap. Fun for a change, but Funaki's status really just meant "fill time until Haas and Benjamin finish them off." Surprisingly, it wasn't Funaki who took the fall/defeat. Feh.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Sean O'Haire:
From the November 22nd, 2003 episode of Velocity, and talk about "aborted push", it's Sean O'Haire. Remember his "I'm Not Telling You Anything You Didn't Already Know" promos? He got saddled with a mouthpiece in an even more aged Roddy Piper, and jobbed out. Did he not shake Undertaker or Droz's hand again, or something? Ultimo uses his speed to avoid O'Haire and goes for a headlock. Ultimo comes off the ropes with a shoulder, but O'Haire no-sells and taunts him for it. Ultimo with a leg sweep, but only gets a one count for it. O'Haire misses a charge, and takes kicks to the leg. O'Haire shoves Ultimo away, then lays him out with a clothesline on a follow up charge. O'Haire with choking in the corner, followed by some mask clawing. O'Haire scoops Ultimo up with ease and carelessly throws him across the ring. O'Haire with a kick to the back, followed by more choking for a two count. O'Haire with another failed pin attempt, so he settles for a modified surfboard. Whip to the corner, and O'Haire eats boot on a pair of charges. Ultimo takes him down with a head scissors, then goes to work on the body with kicks for a two count. Dragon whip by the Ultimo Dragon, followed by a Majistral cradle for a two count. O'Haire with a knee to the midsection, but a powerbomb is countered. O'Haire picks up Ultimo for a choke, but it's counteed with a dropkick. Ultimo sends O'Haire to the floor, but the Asai Moonsault misses! O'Haire throws Ultimo back inside, and the Widow Maker (reverse F-U) finishes it off at 4:48. Pretty solid Big Man/Little Man match for the time allowed, and honestly, I'm surprised O'Haire went over, but it was done in a way where it doesn't make the other guy look terrible, either.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion; Cruiserweight Open:
(Participants: Jamie Noble, Nunzio, Akio, Tajiri, Funaki, Shannon Moore, Ultimo Dragon, Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio, Chavo Guerrero)
From WrestleMania XX on March 14th, 2004, held at Madison Square Garden. Chavo Guerrero is the reigning Champion (accompanied by Chavo Classic), and faces the last man standing at the end of this. Shannon Moore and Ultimo Dragon start it off, and well, Ultimo's "dream" of competing at WrestleMania and MSG is tarnished by not only slipping on the entrance on his way to the ring, but almost falling off the ropes posing for the crowd towards the end of it. Poor guy.... they fight over a waistlock, until they trade wristlocks. Ultimo escapes and counters into an armbar. Whip to the ropes, and Moore with a shoulder for two. They trade near falls until Moore puts the boots to Ultimo and takes him down with a back suplex. Ultimo avoids a corkscrew moonsault, hits a spinning heel kick, and finishes Moore with the Asai DDT at 1:17. Noble comes in next and nails Ultimo with a short-arm clothesline for two. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo comes back with a heel kick for a two count. Ultimo with a front back breaker, but a moonsault misses. Ultimo goes for the DDT again, but Noble counters and KO's Ultimo with a seated dragon sleeper at 2:09. Funaki comes in from the top rope with a body press, and Noble rolls through for three at 2:17. Nunzio comes in next, and offers a handshake, but Noble says "screw you" and lays into him. Nunzio nails Noble with a top rope dropkick for a two count. Noble to the top with a senton to the floor on Nunzio. They fight over getting back inside, and Nunzio is counted out at 4:18 to boos. Kidman comes in and hits a shooting star press on Noble and Nunzio! Oh well, the interesting part is over... Kidman with a sit-out powerbomb to pin Noble at 6:10, Mysterio eliminates Kidman at 7:28 with a sunset powerbomb, Tajiri at 8:37, and Akio is out of commission from a misting, so Chavo is next... and Chavo retains at 10:30. A total slap in the face of the Cruiserweights, that a FIVE HOUR PPV was still not enough time to allow 9 guys more than a handful of 60-second matches. The sad thing was, I remember thinking "you know, I have a feeling the Cruiserweights will get screwed over" and then it happend.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Chavo Guerrero © (w/ Chavo Classic) vs. Ultimo Dragon:
From the March 20th, 2004 episode of Velocity, and one of Ultimo's last appearances (his last being a job to Nunzio, which I don't have, so this will do). I forgot how annoying Bill DeMott was on commentary. Ultimo with a quick waistlock and snapmare, and Chavo quickly counters with an armbar. Ultimo does the escape sequence, and counters with an arm drag. The crowd chants "Eddie", which is always a good sign for the opposing babyface here. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo comes back with a head scissors. Chavo with a sunset flip, but Ultimo rolls through and a well placed kick to the chest gets two. Ultimo stomps away on Chavo in the corner, but gets slammed onto his chest going for another head scissors. Chavo chokes Ultimo across the middle rope as we get a WCW reference. Chavo Classic gets a cheap shot in, but Chavo only gets a two count. Chavo settles into a seated abdominal stretch, and the canned heat is a little too obvious, at times. Ultimo comes back, but quickly misses a spinning heel kick, and Chavo with a dropkick to the back of the head for a two count. Chavo with a back suplex for another two count. Chavo pounds away across the back and taunts the crowd about Eddie. Whip to the ropes, and Ultimo with a springboard moonsault for a two count. Ultimo counters Chavo's attacks with kicks to the sternum for another two count. They exchange counters until Ultimo takes Chavo over with a majistral cradle for two. Chavo with elbows to the midsection, but he takes a back drop to the floor for his aggression. Ultimo to the top rope, and he comes down on Chavo with a plancha! Ultimo rolls Chavo back in the ring, and covers for two. Ultimo with a spinning heel kick, and he slaps on the Dragon Sleeper! Chavo counters with a knee to the chest and a brain buster for a two count. Ultimo escapes a back suplex and hits a heel kick to the chest. Chavo Sr. interrupts the Asai DDT attempt, allowing Chavo to hit the Gory Bomb for the three count at 8:42. Sad to say, but this might have been the longest televised match of Ultimo's entire WWE run. Pretty good, and having that extra few minutes at least allows a match to build momentum to a hot finish. I never really cared for the Chavo Sr/Classic involvement at the time, though. Remember when he won the title? And Jacqueline? And people say Hornswoggle was the nail in the coffin for the belt.
Final Thoughts: I'm not entirely sure, but I recall there being speculation Ultimo wouldn't perform at his prior level due to so much time away from the ring following a potential career ending surgery. Judging by what I've seen here, he could still go, but the hampering "WWE Style" (it does exist) and a lack of direction/push is kind of a bitch, all things considered. If his push was taken away because of the fact he didn't wrestle or act like Rey Mysterio, then that's just sad. He was a breath of fresh air to a mostly boring division, like Tajiri to the WWF in 2001, and never really getting anywhere because of it. In fact, one of the last ditch efforts for WWE to push Ultimo was to TAKE AWAY HIS MASK. I know the hooplah about owning someone's name and likeness, but damn. I'm glad he walked away from the company shortly after those stories surfaced. As always, suggestions, comments, and threats can be sent to ScroogeMcSuck85@yahoo.com I'm always open to new ideas.
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