Blue Panther vs. Negro Casas, CMLL 4/24/11
Neither of these guys rank among my favourite lucha libre vets but this was an excellent mano a mano bout. I think it's fair to say that mano a mano bouts don't have the grandest of traditions in lucha libre. Historically, they remind me of studio matches from the territories system where the purpose was to further an angle or tease an arena match. For the most part, they were an excuse for both guys to spill a little blood before a wager match while holding back their big moves and doing the sort of fluff you see in the first two falls of any hair or mask match. Things don't really work like that anymore, but to be honest the classic mano a mano probably works best in a dark, dingy arena with a promoter who's teasing a wager match that will never, ever happen in his territory.
What made this Casas/Panther match so good was that it was more or less worked like a straight-up singles match between the two. They also kept it really tight. I still don't like maskless Panther and I hate the way he waddles around the ring, but his work was snug in this match and I felt like he was keeping everything close quarters like in an old school mano a mano bout. I've mentioned many times in this blog that I think Panther's brawling is suspect, while acknowledging the times when it's been very, very good, but he managed to pull off what I'd describe as "technically minded brawling" in this particular bout; something that Negro Navarro and the Villanos are very good at. He's nowhere near as vicious at it as those examples, but then he's not a prime candidate for a hair match either. Nevertheless, he was looking to exploit Casas' injuries through submission and the finish was a ridiculously good shoot move.
As for Casas' performance, I'm a big Casas fan without being a huge Casas fan. I agree with people who claim that Casas is one of the greatest workers of all-time, but for my mind it's a very old-school Casas that's one of the greatest workers ever. Casas was a guy who could generate massive amounts of heat through his magnetism and flamboyance, his sheer ability to get under people's skins, and many other things that didn't involve ring work. As times changed and wrestling became more and more offense driven, Casas had to move with the times, but offense was never Casas' biggest strength. Others may praise him for adapting to a changing wrestling environment and staying at the top or thereabouts for so many years, but for me the appeal of Casas begins to wear thin from about 1998 onwards. This match had pared down offense and a very dogged focus, but there was a long submission struggle that didn't really work for me where I thought it was clear that Casas came off second best in terms of pure technique. Mind you, even in the work from his prime I think he's been overrated as a mat wrestler.
Sluggish matwork was really the only fault in what was otherwise an enjoyable mano a mano bout, however. Considering how forgettable most mano a mano bouts are even when they have blood and mask ripping and pillar to post brawling, this was a really decent match.