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By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Ultimo Dragon © vs Lord Steven Regal
WCW Television Title Match
When looking at secondary titles in the big promotions, many wrestling fans would point to the WCW Television Title as a favourite. For a significant majority of those, this will be primarily due to the title reigns of Lord Steven Regal. The time limit that allowed for shenanigans and the easy building of tension helped, as did the consistently competitive matches on free television, but it was Regal’s name that became almost synonymous with the gold in the mid to late 90s.
By Slamboree 1997, Regal had won the title three times, with his last run with the belt lasting almost half a year after defeating Lex Luger on an episode of Saturday Night. Unfortunately, that reign would be sacrificed in a bid to help the push of Prince Iaukea, a booking idea that never really took off. By the time Regal was back in the title picture, Ultimo Dragon had put Iaukea out of his misery and was riding high in the promotion since his arrival in 1996.
Both men were among the best technical wrestlers in WCW at the time and the early feeling out process saw them work over each other’s arms with locks and takedowns, before they traded reversals of a straitjacket chinlock. The size advantage was clearly with Regal and he would use it to plant Dragon with a gutwrench slam, though both men picked up quick nearfalls with neither getting any real momentum.
An awkward Irish whip attempt saw Regal stumble towards the corner and could have taken the crowd out of the match, but a Dragon corner headstand and combination kicks had the fans wincing at the ferocity of the assault; three kicks to a downed Regal rang out like gunshots. A half Boston crab and a headscissors choke aimed to neutralise Regal’s size advantage, but Regal’s submission expertise almost allowed him to slap on the Regal Stretch after slipping out the back. As a receipt for the earlier kicks, Dragon’s breaking of the hold by grabbing the ropes was greeted with several hard stomps to the back.
A suplex into the ring was followed by both men trading full nelson attempts without any real success. Dragon would land a sunset flip for a one count, though it once again almost led to a Regal Stretch as Regal showcased a killer instinct and desire to capitalise on any mistake by Dragon. A third attempt followed a cross armbreaker by Dragon, but this time the block would force Regal to instead work the bow and arrow, a move that still worked to target the back, softening it up for the Stretch.
Instead of Dragon’s speed, it was his strikes that were causing Regal the most problem and a couple of stiff kicks allowed the champ to lock in an Indian deathlock and bridge. Dragon’s involvement with Sonny Onoo brought about a rarity for the time: the fan’s chanting Regal’s name. An elbow to the knee broke the camel clutch that followed, before Dragon would send Regal to the outside with a dropkick after landing on a back body drop attempt. As if Regal wasn’t struggling sufficiently already, Onoo blasted him with two kicks of his own.
Surprisingly, Dragon appeared to tell Onoo off for his unwarranted interference, though a backspring elbow and top rope huracanrana showed that he was by no means distracted. A missed moonsault allowed Regal to go once more for the Stretch, but again, Dragon was able to reach the bottom rope before the move was fully applied. Dragon had effectively nullified the hold from start to finish. A huracanrana reversal of a double underhook suplex got a two count, whilst a La Majistral attempt saw both men into the ropes. Dragon was fully in control by this point.
However, Onoo raised his head again, much to the chagrin of Dragon. After Regal avoided a slingshot press, Dragon would eventually land a second rope moonsault to the floor. With Dragon in the ring, Onoo would aim several kicks at Regal again, even clocking Dragon with one when the champion exited the ring to stop the attack. This allowed Regal to land an inverted suplex and finally lock in the Regal Stretch for the submission to a huge ovation.
An Onoo-less Dragon would retain the belt two months later, ending Regal’s time with the Television Title as a whole. In winning it for the fourth time, Regal (with help from Dragon, naturally) showcased the skill and technical nous that you were guaranteed every time he stepped in the ring with that belt on the line. Pure wrestling magic.