Negro Casas/El Felino/Javier Cruz vs. Atlantis/Ultimo Dragon/Ciclon Ramirez, CMLL 6/25/93
This began with Javier Cruz pacing back and forth in the ring cutting a promo in front of an empty arena. He was wearing a black (leather?) trench coat and doing what I took to be his best Bobby De Niro impersonation. At one point a valet appeared and gave him the thumbs up, then she disappeared again... was she real or just a figment of his imagination? It's like Twin Peaks.
On paper this should have been a good trios match. We all know how hot trios matches can be in the lead up to a singles match, and this had all the ingredients. You had Cruz as the next challenger for Ultimo's middleweight crown, Felino and Ramirez building towards their mask vs. mask match, and simmering tensions between the Casas brothers. The rudo side wasn't that great, but the technico side was flashy, and everyone involved was at minimum a pretty good worker. The trouble was they couldn't decide whether it was a match about Cruz vs. Ultimo, Felino vs. Ramirez, or the Casas brothers squabbling.
The secret to these lead in trios is that you have one match-up that's the central story line and then another match-up or two that serve as subplots, and as with a good screenplay those subplots either contrast or complement the central theme. Since they aired the Cruz vignette beforehand, ideally his title shot should have provided the main thrust to the bout, especially given they were a week out from it. Instead, the Cruz/Dragon issue was swallowed up by the Casas brothers' antics. The reason for this was two-fold: firstly, Cruz was such a passive personality that he was hardly going to stop the Casas brothers from overshadowing him, and secondly, apuesta matches tend to provide more interesting builds than a run-of-the-mill title match. In the case of the former, Casas was such an alpha male that he brought what should have been a third string story thread too far to the fore. In the case of the latter, if the focus was meant to be on Cruz vs. Dragon, they should have worked an up tempo workrate bout and saved the mask ripping and other apuesta motifs for a different bout.
From memory there were a couple of neat moments in this, but sticking to my wider point about the narrative structure, there were two common lucha tropes on display here. The first was mask ripping and the second was infighting among rudos. I hate both of them. I really do. After hundreds upon hundreds of lucha matches and years watching the stuff, I detest those spots. They have to be done absolutely brilliantly to sway me otherwise they're just egregious time wasting. They're not done well here and in the case of the infighting, the bout literally stopped to accommodate it. I mentioned to new lucha scribe Matt D the other day that I don't think lucha does 'story' well. Obviously, it would make a difference if I could understand Spanish. That way I wouldn't be struggling to make heads or tails of the Casas vs. Felino soap opera or mysterious valets. But the language barrier doesn't explain away everything. You learn pretty quickly that lucha isn't episodic TV in the way that say Portland was. If you get a singles match with three weeks of good trios you're happy as Larry, but when it comes to angles, especially face turns, the promoters are about as committal as the apuesta challenges thrown out after every brawl. The mask ripping here was uninspired, though it did lead to some comical moments where Casas was tying Felino's mask back together. The squabbling between them was a distraction, to be honest. If it were American wrestling, you'd expect them to turn on each other and build to a hair vs. mask match. And while I don't expect what I'm watching to be Americanised, I don't think we should excuse or overlook bad booking because the wrestling's foreign.
Lucha would be much better if there weren't so many loose threads. The booking at times is the epitome of throwing shit against the wall. Watching 1993 CMLL there are so many ways it could have been better. Too many ways, really. You don't feel like you're in safe hands. And it doesn't make sense from a business point of view. Surely, if they'd pulled the trigger on Casas turning face it would have done business. Perhaps those are the frustrations Pena had with Herrera and his faction. In any event, this failed to get me excited for either Cruz/Dragon or Felino/Ramirez, and made me wary of any other 1993 match involving both Negro Casas and Felino. So that's not vintage.