November 13th 2005 is a date that holds a lot of meaning to the word of professional wrestling. One of the greatest technical wrestlers to ever step foot in the squared circle, Eddie Guerrero, passed away due to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease at The Marriott City Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on this date.
Remembered by most of the wrestling world as “Latino Heat” the Mexican-American won twenty-three titles in his illustrious career. The man with the tag phrase, “Viva La Raza” did not always go by the “Latino Heat” title. He was once known as Black Tiger II, a masked character in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Guerrero was the second incarnation of the Black Tiger character, with Mark “Rollerball” Rocco playing the part of the original character.
Black Tiger II, a popular character amongst fans of the NJPW brand, won the 1996 “Best of the Super Junior” tournament and shared the NJPW Junior Heavyweight Super Grade Tag League titles with the Great Sasuke before Guerrero handed off the Black Tiger character to fellow Mexican Silver King. Winning the “Super Junior” tournament in ’96 was quite an accomplishment for Black Tiger II, as he joined legends such as Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Koji Kanemoto and others as tournament champion.
In 1996, Black Tiger II met another foreigner to the “Land of the Rising Sun” by the name of Wild Pegasus aka Pegasus Kid, more commonly known in the North American wrestling world as “The Canadian Crippler” Chris Benoit, in an outstanding technical contest.
The match featured two competitors who would come to know each other well in stints with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
The two men worked in front of a respectful Japanese crowd, who praised them with appropriate ovations. The ovations usually followed a devastating manoeuver such as a frog splash courtesy of Black Tiger II or an extreme power bomb or tombstone pile driver from Wild Pegasus. Pegasus brilliantly incorporated a sleeper hold at numerous points in the match, slowing down the speedy Black Tiger II, but he did not slow him down enough, as Tiger II rebounded with his crucifix sit-down power bomb even after taking a back suplex off of the top rope from Pegasus. With the crowd on his side, Tiger II could not put the resilient and tough Pegasus away with devastating moves such as a springboard hurricanrana off the top rope, but he managed to finish the job with an exhilarating brain buster from the top rope that put Pegasus down for the 1-2-3.
Some other highlights from the contest included an upbeat and fast-paced Japanese commentary staff, who added to the excitement of this match, as well as Black Tiger II escaping the grasp of Pegasus’ numerous sleeper attempts and the fact that he got up from the flying head butt finishing move. The ferocity of Pegasus cinching in submission holds was outstanding and Black Tiger II played the role of punished opponent well throughout the bout. All of these highlights, mixed with some outstanding spots featuring more devastating moves, culminated in an excellent match that stood out long before Benoit and Guerrero made serious names for themselves in North America, at times in matches against one another.
Guerrero and Benoit had multiple matches in their careers against one another that left crowds all across the world awe-struck, but this outstanding contest between Black Tiger II and Wild Pegasus in Japan came before the two individuals became prominent wrestling names on the biggest stages in the business.