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Ultimo Dragon vs Dean Malenko (WCW Starrcade 12/29/96)

WCW Starrcade December 29 1996 Ultimo Dragon Dean Malenko Nashville TN Title Changes

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#1 Loss

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 10:32 PM

Talk about it here.

#2 Loss

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Posted 20 February 2011 - 12:47 PM

Malenko does the leg hook early on way too many times. The crowd wants to be involved in this match, and pops anytime they do something else, but Malenko keeps going back to that same hold. When he gets past all that, this does get really good. I love how devastated the crowd seems every time Malenko gets a nearfall. The Rey match the previous month was so much better, as Ultimo has so much exciting stuff and got to do very little of it. Rey has underdog qualities, and you can build a match around selling and it works. With Ultimo, a match laid out like that with Malenko in control the whole time doesn't have the same excitement. Very good match, but not a great one. I would recommend watching Rey/Malenko at the GAB, Ultimo/Rey at WW3 and this match back to back to see a good comp of all three guys.

#3 Tim Evans

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:53 AM

I got this higher than the GAB match but lower than the WW3 match. Thought Malenko looked better here than he has on the set. This didn't have as much down time as the GAB match did and Ultimo did some good stuff here.

#4 El-P



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Posted 28 April 2014 - 04:23 PM

Excellent match thanks to the great end stretch, but Malenko is a tone deaf worker with absolutely no notion of what the crowd wants. Ultimo was awesome at this time, so much quickness and intensity, and so much great offense to bring to the table. Despite the cliché Iceman gimmick which basically was an excuse for a lack of charisma, Malenko was much better as a fiery babyface as showed here during the run to the finish, since he was a great mechanic and had a lot of cool spots under his belt. 

#5 Zenjo


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Posted 07 July 2014 - 09:45 AM

Certainly a good match, but there were a few minor errors that held it back. The structure was pretty good with a mixture of ground and aerial work. They both concentrated on body part attacks, Dragon should've sold the leg better. The fans got hot for the near falls yet the finish wasn't well done. Frustrating.

#6 Superstar Sleeze

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Posted 21 March 2015 - 12:43 PM

WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko vs J-Crown Champion Ultimo Dragon

Starrcade December 29, 1996 


These wrestlers sure did a great job reinforcing each other’s worst behavior. It was a like a vicious feedback loop where the problems just got compounded as the match progressed. Malenko gave one of his tone-deaf performances where he was committed to wrestling HIS match rather than the match the fans wanted. Dragon was in full one-up manship mode and totally focused on getting his offense over rather than getting the match over. Together these two presented an incredibly disjointed performance. It was not horrible, just really weird and not the classic that I was expecting.


During the entrances, Malenko was surprisingly over with fans especially given he was playing a heel in October against Rey. Though, I think was more due to Dragon playing the evil foreigner archetype than Malenko tweaking his character. The problem with Malenko’s performance was that he would do a big move to pop the crowd and then immediately grab a hold in such a way to kill the excitement of the fans, who just wanted to see him let loose. Malenko clearly wanted to work a mat-based style in order to set up the exciting finishing stretch. Dragon can go on the mat with best of them. His matches with Liger and Ohtani prove that. However, Dragon did not seem to get the memo in this match. I think Dragon was under the impression that American crowds were dumb and they just wanted highspots. So he set out to deliver highspots rather working with Malenko. Ergo the transitions were non-existent and each segment felt artificial and in vacuum.


At the beginning of the match Malenko hit a back drop driver to a big pop only to slap on a chinlock and then have Dragon take over is a perfect example of bringing the crowd up only to let them down. This was another problem with the match it felt too back and forth with not real strong stretch to build heat. Dragon runs through his offense until another Malenko back drop driver wakes up the crowd. Surprisingly, Malenko is selling better than Dragon. In a weird moment, Mike Tenay, resident cruiserweight expert analyst says that Dragon should really be pronounced Dragone for some stupid reason. Dusty thinks this is hilarious and proceeds to call him Dragone the rest of the match. I love Dusty Rhodes and I don’t care who knows it.

The finish is definitely the best part of this match as they just say “Fuck the rest of the match, LETS FUCKIN GO!” Dragon busts out a powerbomb to kick things off and the reverse tombstone spot with Malenko executing is always a crowd-pleaser and a great false finish. Malenko hits a Tiger Driver for 2, which was a killer false finish with Dragon timing his kick-out for maximum effect. Dragon adds the Asai Moonsault and Malenko busts out the Texas Cloverleaf before Dragon is able to garner the victory with a Tiger Suplex.


The finish was fun in the same way a Michael Bay action movie is fun because it is just a bunch of big moves strung together. The body of the match was basically non-existent and did not factor into the finish at all. This match is a perfect case for the detractors of both men as Malenko delivered a rather tepid performance until the end and Dragon focused more getting himself over at the expense of the match. ***


#7 PeteF3

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 11:06 PM

Dean has his issues and I generally hate Dragon, but I loved this. Fuck, that GAB '96 was about ten times more tone-deaf than this one was--this wasn't perfect but it certainly did a better job of involving the crowd and incorporating some limb-based psychology. And the build to the big highspots was done really well, which isn't always the case with a Dragon match. I think this is probably the #4 cruiserweight bout of the year, and the best one not involving Rey.

#8 drew wardlaw

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Posted 12 November 2015 - 12:37 AM

Malenko's tone-deafness generally doesn't bother me, and actually adds to some of his matches for me, but this is one where it really kills the momentum in a bad way. I thought he sold pretty well in the match, and showed some rare fire towards the end which was great, but what killed it for me was after he'd hit a big move there was a lot of downtime where he'd just walk around expressionless. Again, I like that a lot of the time, but I think with the crowd wanting to cheer for him so bad, that's where the hang up was.

#9 soup23

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Posted 18 December 2017 - 12:46 PM

Im with Pete and El-P here. I thought Malenko did enough to build the crowd up in the nearfalls to keep the match going. ULtimo was spotty but didn't egregiously botch anything so that is a plus. The ending felt deflating to the crowd but helped in putting over Ultimo as a threat. One of the better cruiserweight  matches of 1996 in my eyes. **** 

#10 tim

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 06:50 PM

Pretty good match, didn't impress me too much. Honestly, if anything in the match stood out for me it was that short dropkick Malenko hit on Dragon's leg when he was on the ground. Good finishing stretch and the crowd was really into it at times. Fine opener.

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: WCW, Starrcade, December 29, 1996, Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko, Nashville TN, Title Changes

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