Wrestling fans can spend a heavy amount of time seeking hidden gems, which is great because it leads us to matches like this. However, sometimes, what we would benefit from seeing most has been right in front of us all along.
July 3, 1992
Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre
Mexico City, Mexico
CMLL World Middleweight Championship Tournament Final
In pro wrestling, basics can go a long way. Sometimes we think about wrestling through the lens that we have to temper our expectations on smaller shows because wrestlers can't go "all out" every night and have sustainable careers. This is true, but it's also narrow thinking, as if the only way to have a great match in the first place is to go all out. In some ways, what's most remarkable about El Dandy vs Negro Casas is how much of it is unremarkable. Most of the holds are pretty basic, to the point that any wrestler with semi-competent training could execute them. That could be why they're overlooked so much of the time. We tell ourselves that greatness should never come easy, but maybe the real secret to greatness is the inner wherewithal to embrace the obvious.
El Dandy and Negro Casas proved on this night that what happens in a match is far less important than how it happens. Casas forcing Dandy to do the splits from a sitting position looked legitimately painful, had low difficulty in execution, was sold believably, and looked great. The gorgeous spinning toehold and bridge combo that Dandy used to take the second fall is a more common move, but it's hardly a staple move in any style. This match is filled with the type of grappling that would ideally be a staple of all pro wrestling. It's logical. It's easy. However, for some reason, it's hard.
It's possible, even probable, that this match would not have looked at home on a UWF, PWFG, or RINGS card during the era of worked shoots, more because it's a different style than because it's something less sophisticated. Beyond that, I struggle to come up with any environment where this match would be woefully out of place. It's just easy to imagine this match, hold-for-hold, showing up on an episode of All Japan Classics as it is to picture it as an NWA World Title defense from any decade. It would easily engage a crowd at virtually any U.S. indie show during the last twenty years.
Plenty of great pro wrestling requires you to accept or ignore some things about the style, the promotion, or the culture of which it's a product. The beauty of this is that no such viewer shift is required. This is wrestled in a great tradition with both men at their zenith, and it's elevated by its universal appeal. There aren't many matches you'll see that are more true to what classic lucha libre is, but it's also not as hard to grasp for those who are born and bred on American or Japanese wrestling as some argue that lucha can be. The crowd pops when you expect them to pop. The pacing is similar to what you've seen in classic world title matches. The referee's pin counts are slow indeed, but not so slow that they require a parameters shift.
For many years, the only known copy of this match was grainy as hell and existed from one source. While Dave Meltzer gave the match four stars in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter when his lucha coverage was still in its infancy, this was never really talked up much prior to the last decade or so. In itself, it serves as a reminder that there are boatloads of great CMLL matches, both that aired on television and that never did, that we know are collecting dust at Televisa headquarters when they could be influencing a generation of fans and performers in much the same way that the World of Sport revival of the 2000s that highlighted ITV matches from 1970s and 1980s Joint Promotions and All Star Wrestling had a lasting impact on independent wrestling. In the meantime, I long for the day when most of us care more about such masterpieces as this inspiring more great wrestling than about who has locker room heat or what this week's television ratings were. However, as Casas and Dandy proved nearly three decades ago, just because something is obvious does not mean that it's apparent.