On this date in 1998, my professional wrestling fandom reached new heights. Chris Jericho was in the midst of one of my favorite title runs of all time, his reign as WCW Cruiserweight Champion. The whiny Jericho had prevailed against every challenger who came his way for months. During this stretch, he began collecting souvenirs from his fallen foes and assigning his opponents an array of humorous nicknames. He wrecked Rey Mysterio’s knee around a ring post, forced Juventud Guerrera (Quasi Juice) to unmask, pushed Dean Malenko (Stinko Malenko, Deano Machino) into retirement, and started wearing traditional Hawaiian entrance attire of Prince Iaukea (Prince Nakimaki) to the ring. It was one of the greatest runs I’ve ever witnessed. And at Slamboree ’98, it climaxed in glorious fashion.
A Cruiserweight Battle Royal was scheduled for the show, with the winner immediately challenging Jericho for the division’s strap. When the dust had settled, it came down to two men: Juventud Guerrera and the masked Ciclope. After a brief moment of conversation between the two, Juventud jumped over the top rope to the floor, eliminating himself. The crowd began to rumble with excitement as it became evident that the winner of the match was not Ciclope at all. The luchador removed his mask, revealing the returning Dean Malenko. After Malenko lost to Chris Jericho two months earlier, he took an extended leave from the company, and Jericho had continued to insult him for the duration of his absence, even making fun of his recently deceased father (the late, great Bore-Us Malenko). Needless to say, when Jericho realized that he’d have to face the Man of 1,000 Holds at Slamboree, he was none too happy. Malenko promptly defeated a devastated Jericho, who would later claim to be the victim of a massive conspiracy. Jericho blamed the whole WCW locker room, JJ Dillon, and Ted Turner for calculating the end of his Title run, and even marched on Washington in protest.
Ciclope unmasking to reveal Dean Malenko remains one of my favorite wrestling memories to this day. I remember watching the event with a few friends and absolutely going nuts during the payoff. It occurred during the period in my life when my enjoyment of wrestling was at its most feverish, and the memory of flying out of my seat in excitement will always remain with me. Jericho later recalled the event fondly in A Lion’s Tale, citing it as one of the biggest pops in WCW history. “It was unreal. Loudest I had ever heard a crowd at the time, not just in Atlanta, but in my entire tenure as a wrestler,” Jericho said. “Even my debut on Raw wasn’t too far ahead of the (Slamboree) pop”.
Editor’s Note: My apologies, but this is a little inaccurate. Slamboree ’98 actually took place on yesterday’s date, 5/17. However, due to my own carelessness, I scheduled this for today. That being said, it’s one of my favorite moments ever and I already had this written, so I decided to run it anyway. I promise that this mistake will never…eeeeeever…happen…a-gain.