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201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die #13: Juventud Guerrera vs. Teddy Hart
[A long time ago in a War Rig far, far away, a young War Boy named 'Plan wrote an excellent column series called 101 WWE Matches to See Before You Die. It was perfect, so perfect that it's now a book you can buy on Amazon! There was just one problem; it only focused on WWE matches! Thus, as a fellow War Boy, I've taken it upon myself to take a look at the other stuff, compiling a list of 201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die. This right here is entry #13. Enjoy! And buy 'Plan's book!]
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I’ve been thinking a whole lot about TNA recently. If you’re a wrestling fan so have you, considering that one way or another the company will be radically changed, possibly before I’ve even completed this column. So with TNA perhaps on the verge of knocking on heaven’s door, it feels only right that the next edition of this series focus on one of their all time classic matches. Of course because I’m strange this TNA match features no one you would expect and took place more than a decade ago, long before money issues, potential ownership controversies and booking so bizarre that late 90’s WCW still can’t believe it. The event was the 2003 Super X Cup, an early competition where TNA put guys from the US, Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world into a tournament to determine who the best of the workers was in a little thing called the X-Division. The match was a semi-finals match between two foreigners. I know what you’re thinking; surely it must’ve been Petey Williams, Eric Young, Doug Williams, or one of the other famous foreigners from the X-Division glory days right? Wrong. Turns out this was a match between two of lucha libre’s most famous wild stallions; Juventud Guerrera and Teddy Hart.
Now for those of you who don’t know, neither one of these guys are people who’d be considered future TNA Hall of Famers. Both were little more than part time performers for the company, brought in primarily for competitions like this when TNA needed someone to fill out a Team Mexico or Team Canada slot. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels they weren’t, and they didn’t need to be. Still just 29 years old at the time, Guerrera was a few years away from his career being torpedoed in North America by the Mexicools gimmick in WWE and still largely considered one of the greatest luchadors alive thanks to his WCW run in the 90’s. Hart, 22 years old, had achieved his own degree of fame, largely due to his family name and his penchant for doing outrageous and controversial stunts like getting canned by WWE (after being the youngest wrestler ever signed by them) and jumping off cages after Ring of Honor matches. In many ways Hart and Juvi were kindred spirits; two highly charismatic guys with wild streaks the likes of which wrestling had never seen. It was what made them hard to handle and also what made them two of the most unique in ring workers anyone had ever seen. As such it made all the sense in the world that TNA would match these two up, for if nothing else a match between them would at least be so out there it couldn’t help but be entertaining.
If you’ve seen either of these guys wrestle before then you won’t be surprised to know that this match starts out faster than Speed Racer. The pace is frantic as both guys try to out run the other for the advantage, which The Juice eventually does when he catches Teddy with a tornado DDT out of a headscissors, much to the delight of the TNA Asylum crowd. Surprisingly the quick start leads to Teddy changing his style; instead of going with a high impact counter when Juvi goes to the top rope, Teddy instead catches him with a Fujiwara armbar. That’s right; the high flyer pulled out a submission move, a shocking thing until you consider Teddy is related to some of the greatest technical wrestlers ever (not to mentioned trained by them). He doesn’t let up either over the next few minutes, grounding the Juice with several different armbars and even pulling out a Russian Leg Sweep at one point. For a moment it makes you think that Teddy will try to keep the high flying Juvi on the mat instead of getting into an all out shootout.
It doesn’t last. The inexperienced Teddy actually allows Juvi back onto his feet for an exchange of rights, eventually leading to The Juice headscissoring the young Hart out of the ring. It’s at that point the mat wrestling goes out the door and becomes an all out air strike. It begins with Hart avoiding a 619 from Juvi, pulling him face first into the ring apron and then performing a hurricanrana off the apron. It’s all a prelude to Teddy’s grand plan, a moonsault off the guard rail that almost doesn’t happen when he briefly loses his balance. But this is Teddy Hart, and he ultimately composes himself and proceeds to hit a breathtaking moonsault that sees him get Kurt Angle esq air and rotation FROM THE GORRAM GUARDRAIL! Naturally this isn’t enough for the youngster, and he brings Juvi towards the entrance ramp with the intention of hitting an even prettier moonsault. This time however it’s Juvi’s turn to block it and send Teddy face first into the apron, setting up what turns out to be a springboard crossbody from the lucha legend. Normally that would be a highlight reel dive; here it turns out to be tamer than the basic cable cut of Basic Instinct.
The two are slowly making their way back into the ring when Teddy starts putting the boots to Juvi in preparation for what I’m sure would’ve been an awesome springboard move to the outside. The Juice is quick to crotch Hart though and proceeds to unleash some magic of his own with a CMLL style hurricanrana into the ring while Teddy is still crotched on the ropes. The only thing more amazing than that move is how close the near fall is when Juvi goes to the cover; watching it back I’m almost certain the ref at least somewhat touched the mat when his hand was coming down for three. The match continues though, with Juvi planting Teddy with a Pumphandle Driver (a decade before Pentagon Jr. started using that) for a near fall, followed by Teddy nearly stealing it with a quick cover. The youngster counters a moment later, breaking out of a Juvi Powerbomb attempt to nail a weird Piledriver hybrid. Does Teddy go for the cover here? Of course not. Instead he pulls The Juice close to the ropes, climbs up the turnbuckle, taunts the fans for a moment and then proceeds to turn into a trick from Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
I’m still not sure what this dive was that Teddy hit? Was it a Spiral Tap? A Corkscrew 450? The Greatest Swanton Bomb that ever lived? The best I can tell you is that the move is called Open Heart Surgery and it puts everything aside from maybe Adrian Neville’s Corkscrew Shooting Star Press to shame. Not only is it a sight to behold but Teddy hits it flush too, which makes it all the more surprising that The Juice manages to kick out. Teddy doesn’t allow Juvi to catch his breath though, sending him to the outside to once again try that Asai Moonsault he had planned earlier. This time Juvi is too dazed to stop him and Teddy proceeds to top his earlier Moonsault off the rails with a third rope Asai Moonsault. Let’s do a brief recap here shall we? Things can definitely get crazy in a wrestling ring these days and that third rope Asai Moonsault is almost a common move in many promotions (look no further than CMLL star Titán breaking one out in spectacular fashion at least once a week). That sort of thing wasn’t happening back in 2003 though; hell the Open Heart Surgery isn’t even happening today it’s so crazy. The point is, in less than a two minute stretch, Teddy Hart performed two death defying moves few people had ever seen before and did them as perfectly as you possibly could. In many ways this might’ve been his magna opus, which is saying something considering how great Hart is as a worker.
There are two problems here however for the young Hart. First, Juvi kicked out of the Open Heart Surgery and couldn’t get pinned from the third rope moonsault because they were on the floor, keeping this match alive. Two, it becomes apparent seconds after hitting the move that Teddy has tweaked his knee, a moment that would prove pivotal not long after this. The injury allows Juvi to recover and reverse a sunset flip into an Alabama Slam when Teddy gets into the ring. The Juice then reverses another sunset flip into a basement dropkick for a near fall and then starts to channel The Rock, missing a “Juicy Elbow” and then hitting a “Juice Bottom” on Teddy for another near fall. Feeling he’s close Juvi stays on the offense and hits an awesome Blue Thunder Bomb out of a Torture Rack position, only to once again get a two count. At this point The Juice has hit everything but the Juvi Driver and the 450; luckily he knows this and attempts to plant Teddy with the former. Unfortunately Teddy is too close to the ropes, allowing him to get out of the move and then hit an outstanding DDT from the top. That’s got to be it right Dr. Cox?
Yes, even that great DDT only led to a near fall and a silently seething Teddy decides to go to his final trick in the bag; the Shooting Star Press. Teddy makes his way up to the top and initially appears to land the move completely flush. Except he didn’t; as it turns out Teddy absorbed the brunt of the fall on his right knee. You know, the same one he injured earlier on that moonsault to the floor. The pain is so much that he’s not able to capitalize, nor does it appear he hit the move as flush as he would’ve wanted. Thus Juvi, both lucky and running on adrenaline, is able to recover quickly and plants Teddy with the Juvi Driver. This time Juvi makes a mistake however and goes to the top instead of trying for the pin, allowing Teddy to get one last rush of adrenaline as well to counter the 450. Both men are on the top now fighting for what seems like will be the move that wins the match. The winner is The Juice, who decides to top his previous Juvi Driver with one all the way from the top. This time Juvi makes the right choice and goes for the cover; three seconds (and a near kick out from Teddy) later The Juice is Super X Cup finals bound, and an instant classic has been solidified (Juvi would go on to lose to Chris Sabin in another fantastic match. It was a damn good night for The Juice, minus the finals loss).
Ultimately this turned out to be the defining moment in TNA for both guys. Both would be gone from the company a year later and this match would eventually be overshadowed by the numerous great X-Division matches that followed, featuring some of the biggest superstars of the mid 2000’s all the way to today. So why choose this match when there are so many others featuring more notable TNA stars? Three reasons. Number one this is a great match whichever way you slice it, a high flying masterpiece between a wild youngster and a wild veteran that managed to cram more action in eleven minutes than some matches do in twenty. Number two it’s an opportunity to take a look at two talents who, flaws and all, were (and are) two of the most gifted individuals to ever step foot in a wrestling ring. Finally, even though Teddy Hart and Juventud Guerrera aren’t the prototypical TNA stars, their match still showcases just what made the early days of the company, and the X-Division in particular, so compelling and revolutionary. You see things in this match that you’re only now starting to see on a widespread basis these days, a full thirteen years after the match. And Teddy Hart and The Juice weren’t the only guys doing this in TNA, I can promise you that. If nothing else, this is worth a watch just to see a time when TNA didn’t try to be something they weren’t and just put two great performers together, allowing gravity to take care of the rest.