Ultimo Dragon vs. Negro Casas, UWA World Middleweight Championship, CMLL 8/28/92
This was a curious match to say the least. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that great either. The build up had been fantastic -- really vintage Casas -- but they made the cardinal mistake of not paying off the set up.
Everyone wanted to see Casas get his ass kicked, and he took a hell of a beating, but for some reason he spent the entire bout working like a sympathetic babyface. That may have worked if they'd been a Mexico vs. Japan vibe to the match, but that wasn't what the build had been about. You were supposed to view Ultimo as a tecnico and not some non-native. He did revert to a fairly standard way of working a juniors bout, including laying around in most of his holds, but that struck me as a fault in the work rather than any sort of story device. Casas spent much of the bout selling a rib injury. His selling was excellent, but the idea that we were supposed to feel sorry for him was foreign to just about every match he'd had in CMLL up to this point, and remember this wasn't a face turn. If the story was meant to be Ultimo humbling Casas somehow, they blew telling that story by not having Casas play up his arrogance in the primera caida. Let's face it, no matter how you try to justify it there's no explaining why Casas suddenly played the baby to such a degree or why the bout was so one-sided. Despite the fact that Casas was able to survive on scraps, all the highlights were of Ultimo offence, whether it was suplexes from the top or his corner post tope.
Weird bout. It was really only held together by Casas' selling and probably deserves a blasting. If it were a worker I don't like, I'm sure i'd be forthcoming with one. Loss mentioned that it may have been a case of a guy having to work someone a few times to figure out how to get a great match out of him, but I'm not sure that's an excuse for Casas doing a 180 on the character he was portraying heading into the match. It's *possible* that he was aiming for a Kandori vs. Hokuto style bout where Hokuto realised she wasn't as shit hot as she thought she was, but that narrative was expertly weaved with Hokuto being over confident to start with. Here Casas was the underdog from the very first blow. It was weird and not very lucha-esque either. It's wrong to ignore it happened, but I'll try to forget about it all the same. It was a bit disappointing actually, because if you'd told me a few months ago that Ultimo Dragon was one of Casas' career rivals, I probably would have scoffed a little. I knew that Loss liked their '93 bout, but I wouldn't have believed they were great rivals until I saw the trios matches. But even considering the '93 bout, I'm not sure they pulled off their singles bouts well enough for me to include Ultimo as a premier rival. The trios exchanges are so good it's almost like there's an unrealised potential in the singles bouts. Partially, it's because Ultimo's probably not as good as he looks in the trios bouts, but there's also a disconnect between what Casas is doing in trios and how he behaves in singles. Instead of glossing over the failures, I hope these Vintage Negro Casas of the Days also put the disappointments under the microscope. It would be easy to wish that Casas were wrestling an Atlantis or Lizmark (not that they were in the same weight classes), or fob it off on the fact that a lot of 1992 CMLL singles matches are on the disappointing side, but the fact remains that Casas fucked this up somehow.
Spilled milk and all that, but I don't want to make it seem like old school Casas was perfect. He was a genius, but he was also fallible and this is another great example. Sure, there's not another wrestler alive who hasn't had a misfire, but because lucha is under valued and under appreciated by most wrestling fans, the bad (or in this case, the disappointing) doesn't tend to be bundled with the good. But for the sake of fairness, and in an effort to rectify that, this could have been so much more. When I think of that great exchange I wrote about the other day and the flip being switched; wrestling's not easy, and structuring a match is no piece of cake, but man, what a blown opportunity.