Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, Russ Morgan and John Carbery
It’s Sunday Sermon time and following on from our looks at big men, baby faces, heels and tag teams, today we focus our attention on the best high flyers in the history of the business. From the innovators right through to the superstars that carry their legacy to this day.
Craig: As a WWF fan growing up, I wasn’t really exposed to much in the way of high flying action. In fact, when you consider that the ‘High Flyers’ video features Randy Savage vs Virgil, Jumping Bomb Angels vs The Glamour Girls, The Rockers vs The Conquistadors, Paul Roma & Jim Powers vs The Shadows and Blue Blazer & Koko B. Ware vs Danny Davis & Jose Estrada you know that the high flyers weren’t all that much to shout about.
Instead, Vince McMahon focussed on performers with the over the top body shapes that resembled superheroes more than the sort that could do flips off the top rope.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to ECW and WCW in the late 90s that I got to see action like nothing I was used to. The likes of Rey Mysterio, Super Crazy, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam and an assortment of others blew my mind. Instead of the occasional top rope move that I was used to, here were entire matches that seemed to take place with feet barely touching the mat.
So, as the WWE reintroduce a cruiserweight division, who are your favourite high flyers and what matches and move particularly stand out for you?
Brian: Some of the best high flyers I personally saw started out with guys like the Dynamite Kid, Tiger Mask and Rey Mysterio Jr. At one point in his career, Scott Steiner could be considered a “high flyer” because he could actually do drop kicks and hurracanranas. Antonino Rocca was before my time, but he was an acrobatic innovator of high flying wrestling.
Craig: Yeah, Dynamite Kid was probably the best it came for the WWF during the 80s. Then, maybe Randy Savage and then The Blue Blazer. You could argue a sad indictment but more accurately it further highlights the emphasis that the company put on bigger guys.
I was watching Halloween Havoc 1996 the other day and Chris Jericho was introduced as a young high flyer, or words to that affect. It caught me off guard initially but then it became clear the way that his in-ring style has changed over the course of two decades.
I was excited, at the time, at the prospect of Ultimo Dragon joining the WWE – another legend of high flying but also knew his days were somewhat numbered as soon as he slipped en route to the ring at WrestleMania…
Some of the action I’ve seen on Lucha Underground has really inspired me to go back and check out some of the late 90s WCW and, eventually, early 90s Japan to see the likes of Chris Benoit tear it up under a mask.
Jamie: This is going to sound so smarky but ‘tapes from Japan’ is how my eyes were opened to the cruiserweight style of wrestling. From watching WWF my impression of a ‘high flyer’ was either The Rockers or a random masked guy. WCW’s Flyin’ Brian probably provided me with the best representation of this style, but at that age all I saw was a guy jumping about the place. The aforementioned ‘tapes from Japan’ was just one tape; a vhs copy of the 1994 Super J Cup. I bought it from a guy on eBay after hearing it mentioned in the pages of Power Slam. To that point I honestly did not think that’s what wrestling could be like. Chris Benoit (as Wild Pegasus) and, for some reason, Super Delphin stand out in my mind from the tournament. From there I got into late 90s WCW and discovered Halloween Havoc 1997. Rey Mysterio Jr vs. Eddie Guerrero – what a fucking match that was!
Brian: Jamie, you hit the nail on the head with that comment. Rey versus Eddie at Halloween Havoc in 1997 was a breathtaking display. Two of the very best in their primes!
Russ: How can we have a conversation about high flyers without mentioning Art Barr? Eddie used the frog splash in his memory.
Craig: Due to the charges he faced that largely prevented him from wrestling in the states, I didn’t really get to see much of Art Barr until fairly recently by watching some of his matches online. By virtue of his finisher being now known as the frog splash because of him, you can’t not acknowledge his impact on high flying action, that’s for sure.
You can’t also not mention The Hardy Boyz. After all, it was in no small part to their falling and/or diving off high things during the TLC matches that made for some of the most memorable spots.
Russ: WCW did wonders for the luchadores in the US before burying them when the nWo took over. Rey Mysterio has been a constant for years. It shows that WWE value him by trying to duplicate him with Sin Cara. There is a place for these guys that’s for sure.
Jeff Hardy took some insane bumps during his time. RVD for me was absolutely amazing.
Craig: Wasn’t the attempts to replicate Rey’s success more down to marketing and merchandise sales than anything else? You go to a wrestling show sometimes and it’s tough to spot a kid that isn’t wearing a lucha mask.
There was talk for a while of Lucha Underground getting a deal with Netflix, perhaps just internet rumours, and that would have been sensational. It would certainly have helped take that type of wrestling into living rooms of those that likely wouldn’t have heard of the promotion, let alone watched it.
John: Johnny Storm and Jody Fleisch were the best flyers on the indie circuit for a number of years in the early 2000’s. Was fortunate enough to see then perform in person.
Similarly I’ll never forget the first time I saw Pac aka Adrian Neville hit the ring live. He really is an anti gravity wrestler.
I’m a huge fan of Too Cold Scorpio also. The hang time Scorpio would get on his 450’s and moonsaults was incredible. Especially when you consider his size. The first time I saw him do a moonsault only to do a full rotation and turn it into a legdrop my jaw hit the floor.
Craig: Too Cold Scorpio probably doesn’t get enough love due to his spell as Flash Funk, unfortunately. A classic case of the WWE treating as a jobber a guy that was very good elsewhere. His 450 splash was like nothing I’d seen before.
There we have it, our take on the best high flyers ever, inspired by an old coliseum video classic. Did we miss anyone? Leave your comments below.
You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.