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[1993-03-19-CMLL] Ultimo Dragon vs Negro Casas

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Forget MOTYC, this is a match of the decade contender.

 

It's no secret that Negro Casas is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But I thought that even before seeing this match. After this match, it's only more the case. This is a tremendous mix of styles. The matwork is spectacular from both guys, and Ultimo mostly wrestles the Mexican style, but occasionally mixes in some Japanese stuff, like when he wins the first fall with a German suplex/bridge combo.

 

The second fall is mostly Casas working over Ultimo's back to build to a scorpion deathlock submission. He does some nice stuff, and even sneaks in a low blow on Ultimo between falls.

 

The third fall is a series of close calls and some great dives and bumps from both guys.

 

The layout and offense and all of that is tremendous, but what elevates this from a great match to a classic one is Negro's performance, specifically in adding little touches to the matwork, progressing his bumps as the match goes on and creating genuine doubt over the outcome in the final fall, which Dragon finally wins with a tiger suplex.

 

A career match for Ultimo Dragon (who had a hell of a month) and not too far behind the best of Casas, if it is in fact behind at all.

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I'm not much of an Ultimo Dragon fan, but I agree with Loss - this looks like a possible career match and maybe his best performance. But this is really the Negro Casas show as he is spectacular here.

 

The matwork in the first caida is really strong; nothing necessarily tricked out, but it came across as a struggle. Casas has such charisma - and is so good - that I found myself focusing on him practically the whole time. He's pretty much a master of subtlety. Love how he'd sort of play to the crowd's cheers in the opening fall during the matwork only to clearly stop giving a shot after he goes a fall down. The low blow after he second fall was such an amazing cheapshot, and from that point on the crowd are fully behind Ultimo. The stretch run had me biting on a few of the nearfalls as well.

 

In some ways this might be the biggest surprise of the set for me so far.

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This was just an awesome bout. Both men were hitting on all cylinders. Casas is such a pro. The little cheapshots were so swank. That 3rd caida was just amazing.

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The first two falls were good quality with some nice matwork and moves. Where it shot up several levels was in the rest period between falls where Casas walked up to his recovering opponant and kicked him in the nuts! This got awesome heel heat, and man did Negro know how to milk the crowd. He had this evil smirk on his face. The hot stretch was set up perfectly and they delivered with mark out 2.9ers. Another great showing from Casas and Ultimo now looked as fluent as a native at the style.

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That was some great mat work in the first fall. Really back and forth between two. Second fall, Casas methodically works over Dragon and is so determined to make him submit. I absolutely loved him getting the win in the fall and then cheapshoting Dragon after. He plays it up like nothing happened but has a big grin on his face once the referee determines match must resume. Dragon has been part of two excellent matches this month. While I thought they delivered good matches against each other on prior yearbooks we get something that is great here.

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Definitely another standout performance from Casas, who I thought carried most of this until the big near-fall exchange towards the end. Dragon was way better here than in the Samurai match. I like Sammy but Casas is a much more fluid mat wrestler, and Dragon actually got to show some struggle and fight here, having to fight out of holds before leveling Casas with a stiff clothesline to set up his primera caida victory. Casas evens things and then knees Dragon in the balls between the 2nd and 3rd falls, a great moment with a great cat-eating-the-canary look on Casas' face afterward. Casas really ramps up the cockiness in the 3rd fall and it costs him twice, once with Dragon monkey flipping him into the turnbuckle on the apron and once when he takes his sweet time climbing the turnbuckle and pratfalls off. Great run of near-falls follows and Dragon picks up another huge singles win in Mexico. This wasn't as good as the high-end Mexican title and apuestas matches, and I've sort of turned on the idea of Dragon being any kind of a superworker. But this was very, very good and a top 10 MOTY candidate.

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The more I watch of Ultimo the more I think he just wasn't very good at all. Maybe it's just because he wrestles a style that I generally don't enjoy all that much, which would make it more of a style issue than an Ultimo Dragon issue, but...well, even wrestling that style I still don't get the sense he's very good.

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Looking back on all the praise for this I may need to give it a rewatch. Solid mat work and countering as they work holds early. The execution and grace was there which wasn't a surprise given who was involved, but I didn't see much here that grabbed my attention. That may be on me, as more often than not I don't seem to rank a lot of lucha outside of some brawls as highly as others. Not sure I can quite quite pinpoint why, but it usually feels a lot more like an exhibition and fit the profile of working light. Maybe the light bulb just hasn't gone off yet. Back to the match, as none of that is to say I didn't like this, but rather that it just didn't resonate as anything much better than good. I liked Casas working in a comedy spot taking a spill climbing the ropes and doing so without rendering the whole thing a joke, just a brief, isolated moment.

 

***1/4

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Watched this match two nights ago and thought it was fine but well short of the high praise of Loss and Shoe. Watched it again this morning and it grabbed me as fantastic. The struggle in the opening caida is something to pay attention to but really magnificent and better than all but a few lucha matches of the 90's. The mixture of styles was also great to see as the slight contrasts only enhanced the overall output. Casas continually doing little rudo things and that culminating in the low blow in the second fall set the scene for Ultimo to become incredibly sympathetic in enemy territory. His babyface performance is the only thing that falters this from being one of the best matches I have ever seen. As it stands, it is damn great with a ton of attention to detail. ****1/2

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This was like three different matches in one. The first fall was a mat classic, with Dragon eventually prevailing but both men looking excellent. The second fall was all about Casas getting serious in an effort to tie things up, repeatedly using the scorpion deathlock in an effort to get Dragon to tap and finally doing so. Then he hit the low blow between falls and it all broke loose.

 

I thought Dragon's performance in the third fall made the match, as he not only overcame the low blow, but two missed dives to the floor where he clearly (and perhaps legitimately) turned his ankle. His perseverance paid off in the end with a victory, and a spectacular one at that. The fans were going wild for him at the end, as well they should have been.

 

The only false note was the handshake afterward. I know it's traditional and all that, but would anyone who'd just gotten kneed in the privates turn around and shake the hand of the man who did it not even ten minutes before in a real-life situation? Tradition has its place, but it shouldn't be allowed to override logic and common sense this blatantly.

 

Why did the referee count Casas' shoulders after he slipped off the turnbuckle early in the third fall? I thought I recalled reading somewhere that it was permissible in certain situations, but I'm not sure when or why a referee can choose to do it.

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What a fantastic match full of beautiful struggle and breath-taking action. Casas slaps on a scorpion deathlock faster than I thought humanly possible at one point. For my tastes this match had everything I could want out of a title match. Casas' shit eating grin after the low blow was such an amazing moment. This entire match was structured to make Ultimo look like a million bucks, and say what you want about him, he delivered. 

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I'm not sure there's anything left to say about Casas at this point. I mean I'm about to rattle off many, many words about him right here anyway, but I don't know. It's hard to articulate just how good he was in this. How can you really do justice to his performance? As a match I thought this was amazing when I first watched it 10 years ago, and after seeing the lead-in trios a while back it feels even richer taken in context. In those trios Ultimo ran circles around him and Casas had no answer, but he did everything in his power not to let it show. He'll also never lack for confidence, so with a new day comes new opportunity and he was in high spirits to begin. Then he asked for a handshake and promptly got put on his backside. The first caida was an exceptional matwork fall and the most impressive thing was the struggle. I'm not arsed about arguing with anybody who thinks there's no struggle in lucha or that everything is rehearsed; if you like it you like it and if you don't you don't, but there was a clear sense of struggle in this and Casas was incredible during all of it. Ultimo certainly held up his end as well, and I think the way he leaned into some of the matwork you'd see more in New Japan than CMLL gave it an almost hybrid feel. It had elements of their feud up to this point, with Casas never being able to crack the code nor manage to avoid Ultimo's kicks (this time it was a spin kick that caught him flush in the face).

In the segunda there's a clear shift in Casas' mentality. He's dropped falls to Ultimo in trios matches and now he's 1-0 down in a title match, so even if he doesn't lose any confidence - he's Casas and he never will - he absolutely does ramp up the surliness. He starts throwing strikes, looking Ultimo in the face before he does it, even rolling out one of his own roundhouse kicks that was just gorgeous. When he has Ultimo in a sharpshooter and Ultimo grabs the ropes, Casas shakes his head and looks at him like "will you just give up already?" He's at the end of his tether and he needs some sort of victory soon. The return to the sharpshooter made for a great build to Ultimo giving up and there was almost a sense of relief from Casas when he did. The low blow between the second and third falls was amazing and Casas' dismissiveness when questioned was perfect. He was petty and spiteful and it only fuelled his competitiveness. The tercera was truly befitting of a deciding fall in a title match and of course Casas was absolutely sensational. He turned up the nastiness even more (loved him biting Ultimo's mask while he had him in the camel clutch to pull his head back further), then bumped like a maniac for Ultimo's comeback. The dives weren't just great in isolation, they were great because they continued the theme of their feud. Casas could avoid the first attempt, but Ultimo had that scouted in turn and in the end Casas wound up in the second row...and then up the ramp...and there was nothing he could do in either instance. All of his insecurities manifesting themselves when he falls off the top rope is one of the all-time great Casas moments. You can see him contemplating it, sheepish at first before buying into his own bullshit. Then he faceplants spectacularly and there's never been anybody quite like him. A minor quibble might be the ease with which transitions were come by in the last minute or so, but it's hard to ding them too much. I don't think this a carry job by any stretch because Ultimo absolutely held up his end, but it is one of the best performances of Casas' career, in a year where he may have been at the very peak of his power, where he took a great match and elevated it to one of the best of the decade. The greatest to ever do it. 
 

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