Negro Casas vs. Mocho Cota, hair vs. hair, CMLL 9/23/94
This was the main event from the first weekend of Anniversary celebrations in 1994. A show which only drew 4,000 people; a shockingly poor number for a CMLL Anniversary Show. For some reason, the promotion decided to make it an una caida one fall, presumably because of the glut of apuesta matches they ran over the Anniversary Show weekends.
I may as well get my first bias out of the way and confess that, outside of tournament lucha, una caida lucha is something I'd usually turn my nose up at. And an una caida apuesta match is just wrong. It changes the entire psychology. The old Ventura talking point of being up a fall and having the leverage to drop one is thrown out the door, so you have guys refusing to give in to holds they'd ordinarily submit to, which stretches out the match and disrupts the rhythm. Luchadores are so used to working two out of three falls that an una caida match presents a unique challenge. The glass half full perspective would be that it changes the complexion of the match and that it's interesting to see how the workers adapt, but to me an apuesta should be a crowning moment and not an experiment.
Casas, playing a pure babyface this year, borrowed Dandy's old trick of being beat up while still wearing a jacket. He wore this stonewashed denim jacket with a picture of a tiger on the back, which was a strange fashion choice for Negro Casas but typified how everything about the bout was a little bit off. He bled immediately, and would have lost the primera caida straight away if this had been an ordinary apuesta bout; but instead there was a prolonged beat down which revolved around Casas injuring his leg on the apron and his ankle buckling when he did a back flip off the top turnbuckle. Cota naturally smelt blood in the water and began stomping on the leg before twisting and contorting it into all sorts of unnatural positions. Cota had been pretty good up until this point, dragging Casas about by the hair and giving him these short knees to the head. Casas was a bit patchy. His selling was okay from a distance, but up close his acting wasn't that flash and the cut didn't look so nasty. I didn't like his attempted comeback either. He was pandering to the crowd with a guillotine move to send that fuzz of Cota hair flying, but it wasn't angry enough. If a guy's beating the crap out of you, it's probably better to strike back instead of playing to the gallery. Call me picky, but it was like watching the shine in a comedy match. (I think that's the first time I've ever used the term "shine." Matt D is rubbing off on me.)
Next, Casas loosened the laces on his boot, possibly because his ankle was swelling up and he wanted the doctor to take a look at; it was hard to tell because they cut to commercial then replayed the injury. Suddenly, Casas' boot was off and he was hobbling about with one boot on and an extremely exposed sock. Cota went after it well; kicking at the exposed limb while Casas winced in the corner. He never failed to remind Casas or any of the folks watching that it was a hair match as he grabbed Casas by those greasy locks any time he transitioned from stomping on Negro's foot to putting him in a submission hold. There was a nice touch of Negro struggling to get his footing even when Cota pulled him up by the hair, and to Casas' credit he struggled well while in those holds. Casas was looking for a time out in the corner after taking another mangling in the ropes, and when he slipped out onto the floor, Cota flung his boot into the air. Thus began the mystery of what happened to Casas' shoe, which I became preoccupied with the first time I watched the bout. I liked Cota's strikes in the corner and the knees, and Casas' ineffective attempt at a lariat escape out of the corner, which Cota was able to shrug off and keep on his man. All of this was good stuff albeit utterly dominant from Cota and aching for a payoff.
Watching it a second time, I really couldn't fault anything that Cota did in the beat down phase. The issue was with how stretched out the fall was. If you're a fan of limbwork -- and they're out there those limbwork fans -- the consistency with which he targeted the leg and focused his attack on it, while still pulling Casas about by the hair, was impressive heel work. As I said, Casas' selling was good from a distance but looked too much like whining close up. There were times when it looked good and times when it didn't, but it was a difficult proposition for Casas as he was forced into prolonged selling in a situation where he should have submitted a million times over. After a while, it went from being heroic to plain stupid as the beat down wore on for far too long and became something quite unnatural in a lucha libre context. I can appreciate the quality of the work in the passage where Casas threw a punch and Cota shook it off and stomped the crap out of the leg again (and man are his boots cool -- check out the rad hand design), but even Jesus didn't suffer that much on the cross. There's just no way that Casas should have been able to withstand all that. Even if you use the rationale that luchadores usually submit because they have a fall in hand (meaning it doesn't make sense to sustain any further damage) and that in fact they're capable of enduring far more pain if the rules are different, which in this case they were, it was still too bloody long! And do you really want prolonged limbwork in your apuesta matches? Hell no! You want a babyface comeback that's just as violent as the rudo's attack. Apuesta matches are part survival, part revenge, and there simply wasn't enough vengeance in this bout.
Anybody who's ever watched a pro-wrestling match knows that Casas is going to win after taking such a beating. It wouldn't be just for him to lose or make much sense in the context of this worked sport. The key then is how satisfying it is. This is where they began to err as instead of Cota getting his comeuppance he continued to take too much of the bout. Even when Casas pulled his old rudo trick of a low blow, and smiled to himself in the ropes, Cota sold it ever so briefly and went after the leg again. There was no breathing space on that at all, and he went to the well again on the pin attempts. Cota was an excellent worker -- even the broken down version you see here. He was a weird looking dude, and that was off putting for people at the time, but the shit he does is cool, like that diving stomp from the second turnbuckle, which is the antithesis of top rope moves during the height of the mid-90s workrate phenomenon. Even so, he wore out his welcome here. The idea behind the finishing stretch appeared to be that Cota had been so utterly dominant that each of Casas' attempts at a counter were brushed aside. And Casas seemed to be playing with the idea that he was badly injured and had taken so much punishment in the bout that a flash pin or a submission out of nowhere was the only way that he was going to realistically win the bout. But Bret Hart playing possum he wasn't and the finish was shit. That's what I'm going to call it -- shit. I put some thought into that and I'm sticking with my choice -- shit. You win on back suplex (into a side slam or whatever it is you call that) when the guy was able to fight the waistlock? And he kicked out right after the three. I mean I hate to sound like Monsoon, but he didn't even hook the leg. How could Casas possibly have held Cota down for a three count on that move? It doesn't make any sense. Cota's brushing aside everything because he hasn't been worn down enough and a back suplex and lateral press is enough?
Una caida lucha -- not my thing. Sustained selling and limbwork in lucha -- not my thing. Apuesta matches that are light on blood and don't have great selling -- not my thing. Lopsided bouts that end with ridiculous pinfalls -- not my thing. Cota's limbwork was outstanding if you value that sort of thing, and his rudo performance was more than solid. Casas wasn't at his world beating best, but I don't expect people to be quite as finicky about his performance as I was. It wasn't a great bout, and suffered I thought from an unnatural psychology that greatly hindered what you'd usually expect from a lucha apuestas bout; but it was worth watching for no other reason that it's overlooked Cota, and Cota is a guy where we can basically digest everything we have on tape. The mystery of Casas' missing boot was resolved when an old guy tried to give it to him at the end of the bout. At first I thought he was a member of the public who picked it up and kept it safe until the end of the bout, but then I noticed that he took Casas' jacket from a guy in the front row who helped Negro remove it early in the bout. I guess he was the props guy. Come to think of it, I don't recall either guy having a second, which was odd.
My eternal thanks to alexoblivion for providing the bout. I'm sorry it wasn't my cup of tea. I imagine there are plenty of people who would enjoy it more than me particularly if they don't care so much about traditional conventions of lucha libre or they're not so picky about whether Negro Casas is making adequate facial expressions or not. Still, 4,000 for the show. What a disaster.