Negro Casas vs. La Fiera, hair vs. hair, CMLL 10/1/93
This looks like it was the show-stealer on the 1993 Anniversary Show. I'm not sure how wildly available it was before, but if Lynch sold it I doubt many people bought it.
It was a fascinating match for me on a number of levels. Casas was going through his whole "is he or isn't he a tecnico?" phase, and Fiera appeals to me as a scumbag rudo and not a worn out baby face, so I wasn't sure how the heel/face dynamic would play out. There was also a significant size difference for Casas to overcome, which seemed like a fairly big hurdle given it's difficult to imagine a guy the size of Casas dominating a taller, heavier man. If there's anything the Vintage series should teach us, however, it's to never doubt the genius of vintage Negro Casas.
The primera caida was full of subtle complexity. A lot of people watching lucha for the first time tend to find the opening falls basic (crude even) to the extent they wish lucha would do without them; and in fairness, the first fall here was built around the wrestlers taking turns throwing each other into a row of chairs, but for the seasoned viewer there was a tremendous amount going on. Casas got the jump on Fiera while he was posing and went high on him; the idea being that making Fiera groggy was Casas' best bet at throwing him off. Flinging Fiera into the front row chairs is fairly standard lucha brawling, as was the posting on the outside and most of the other shots Casas got in, but I loved the intensity. Casas broke the count and threatened to pop the ref in a spot that would normally come across as comedy but felt more like nervous tension; and he used a little of the kicking game that his feud with Ultimo was built around with the obvious foreshadowing of Fiera being far more renowned for kick-based offence than Casas.
Back in the ring, Casas bit at Fiera's forehead, which is not really synonymous with the Casas apuesta matches we have, and I loved the general focused attack on the nose, face and forehead area. The pin attempt while giving Fiera a "facial," as they say in Australian rugby league, was a great touch and a brilliant catalyst for Fiera's snap back breaker. And what a great back breaker. Ostensibly, it was to buy himself some time, but like the way he walked off the headbutt to the outside, you could tell the irritation was building. The transition for Fiera on to offence proper was naturally his kicking game, and we know Casas sells kicks like a champ and goes down like a bullet. Fiera gave Casas an awesome posting, carrying him over his shoulder and throwing him into the ring post like a javelin, then did the same thing to hurl Casas a few rows back. This was a spectacular bump for the time. You see this thing a lot on indy YouTube videos these days, but back then it was risque given the commission didn't like wrestlers falling on top of the fans. If you needed any more evidence that they were trying to make this special, you had Casas bleeding in an apuesta match, which racking my brains I couldn't remember seeing before (comment below if you have), and Fiera busting out a huge Japanese influenced German suplex instead of the standard pinning maneuver or submission you'd usually associate with these bouts.
That was a big time fall and Fiera had every right to slap the turnbuckle in delight. It lay down a steep marker for the match not only because they reversed the traditional lucha logic that whoever dominates the early portions of the opening fall goes on to take it, and therefore challenged themselves to keep ahead of the usual psychology, but simply because it was so good. But the second fall was just as entertaining. Fiera brutalised Casas to begin with (to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking that Fiera was the rudo and Casas the tecnico), and Casas sold like few others can in lucha as they're simply not wired the way Negro is. Obviously, he's a big picture guy, but where he excels is in the moment-to-moment details. He's always thinking, "okay, I fell out of the ring, what can I do here?" or "I got posted, how should I sell this?" He'd probably tell you it's instinctive, like he just fell one way or the other and tried to look as out of it as possible, but it's the commitment to doing it that impresses me. He sells everything, and naturally he garnered a lot of sympathy from bleeding so much and taking such a beating. Is it right for a rudo to behave that way? It's questionable. It's easy to make exceptions because it's Casas, who always had a flamboyance and flair for the dramatic no matter which side of the fence he stood on; and there was the size difference which I talked about before, which was clearly coming into play. Originally, I was going to play off this riff that as the best wrestler in the company on the biggest show of the year, Casas was belting out the numbers like Judy Garland in A Star is Born, but despite liking the connection between Casas and Garland, it was actually a whole lot tougher than that. Casas' comeback was defiant, and he threw everything he had at Fiera despite not having the energy reserves to do so. I really liked how the turning point came after he ate those jumping knees from Fiera. He collapsed backwards into the corner and had to wave off the ref with a finger wag, and you knew it was now or never if he was going to fight his way back into the match, but it took massive amounts of energy for him to mount that comeback and he didn't spring into life so much as he bit the bullet and went for it. It paid off but he was in no condition for a third caida. He used the ropes to pull himself over to his corner and sucked in the big ones while he collapsed in a heap; the ref continuing to check his cut. Moment-to-moment selling.
He came out the blocks in the tercera caida with a swank running dropkick to the corner that was a little too peppy for the state he was in; but when he missed a second time, Fiera kicked him in the head and it produced an iconic looking image of Casas with a crimson mask, slightly darkened by the grainy, deteriorated video footage, that was honestly, without a hint of hyperbole, one of the best images in any lucha match I've watched in the seven or so years I've been doing this blog. I always think of Casas as this cocky, flamboyant, gender-bending, tongue-in-cheek showman, but this was as violent an apuesta match as any from the early 90s and there was plenty of fight in those curly black locks. Fiera hit a snap suplex and dropped an elbow the equivalent of your favourite territory worker's elbow drop, and then they just unloaded: kicks from underneath; slapping exchanges with both guys kneeling; Fiera kicking Casas in the wrist while he was in the action of guarding his face; there was even a takedown that was predicated from a strike to the face rather than the usual shove to the chest. And I want to point out that only 15 minutes had elapsed on the video. This was not a long fight, though they clipped out the rest time between rounds. In probably the greatest moment in the match, Casas went for an STF attempt and fish hooked Fiera. As Fiera powered out of it, Casas kept him hooked, and you could see Fiera glaring at the ref in disbelief like, "are you gonna do something about this?" Being a lucha ref, he was busy with some ineffective count, and Casas practically had his finger in Fiera's eye socket before he was able to turn and punch his way out.
Casas went for the selling jugular in the stretch run -- selling the kicks he struck as though they were shin splitting; stumbling as he tried to go up top; treating every blow from Fiera as though it were 3 seconds to midnight. Fiera monstered Casas like he belonged in Japan, honestly. I don't say that as though Japanese offence is innately better than lucha work; rather to stress that it's unusual to see this level of offence in a lucha libre match. There were some potential knockout blows that could have left Wakabayashi shrieking in a shrill voice. It's not what I normally like in my lucha, but for show stealing content it's hard to top. You could maybe argue that the only false note in the match was when Casas tried to get the crowd fired up before he went up to the top for his frog splash attempt. It wasn't in keeping with how badly out of it he'd been only moments before but he wanted the adulation. He went a little overboard with it, and Fiera had to lie there a mighty long time off a missed frog splash attempt of his own, but the crowd loved it and it didn't kill the finish. There was a wonderful pan of Arena Mexico on their feet while Casas danced for joy. Casas and Fiera seemed pumped, as though they were thrilled with the match and how it was received. Fiera insisted that Casas be the first to shave his hair, but Casas was too gracious. In a way it broke kayfabe, but it was a huge match for Casas on his biggest night in CMLL to date. If there had been any doubt about who the best wrestler in Mexico was, Casas shot straight to the stars. It will take a while to digest, but this feels like a top 10 lucha match for the 90s, or at the very least, the greatest match that no-one ever talked about until dataintcash uploaded it.