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Lucha Tributes: Negro Casas
I have no idea how to begin this. When I initially wrote this column over a year ago it was easy; I was pressed for time and just needed a brief introduction before I got into the meat of it all. But now, as I sit here trying to come up with a way to introduce the Lucha Tribute of Negro Casas, on his 57th birthday no less, I can't find the right words. And maybe that's only right considering the legend Casas has turned out to be in both lucha libre and pro wrestling in general. Alas I cant say more than that because you've got nearly 2,000 words coming up that explain to you how that all happens. So I guess we won't waste anymore time coming up with an intro I just walked into by accident. Wrestling fans of all shapes and sizes, I give you the lucha tribute to one of the greatest of all time, the wonderful Negro Casas.
What You Already Know
For American fans, you know absolutely nothing about Negro Casas, beyond what you may have read or heard about him from Chris Jericho or Eddie Guerrero in their books (Jericho and Norman Smiley also spoke at length about Casas in their recent podcast together). For lucha libre fans however, not knowing of Casas is almost criminal. He is known throughout the lucha community as a true lucha legend and long time stalwart of CMLL, spending over 35 years wrestling for the oldest wrestling promotion in North America. Whereas most luchadors are known for their high flying ability and colorful masks, Casas has instead parlayed a technical/submission based style (though he was capable of great dives in his prime) and a no mask look into becoming one of the greatest and most successful luchadors in the modern era. Think of him as a smaller, feistier, more charismatic version of Bret Hart, all the way down to the fact that they both used the Sharpshooter as a Finisher at various points.
What You Didn't Know
Get ready for the most breathtaking, didn't see it coming revelation of all time; Negro Casas comes from a family of luchadors. I DON'T BELIEVE IT!
Yes, like almost every other luchador ever born, Negro Casas' family is pretty much all over the business. His father, Pepe Casas, is a lucha lifer who has worked both as a wrestler and (most recently) a referee, while Casas' brothers (Heavy Metal and El Felino) have both gone on to have highly successful careers in their own right. It was almost destiny in a way; as children, Casas and his brothers frequently attended their father's matches, where they sat in the front row and would get emotional whenever their father was on the verge of losing. That's right, Pepe taught Negro, Felino and Heavy Metal to fake being sad as kids in order to boost his career. It be the funniest story of Casas' origins if not for the fact that his first match (in 1979) was part of a practical joke played by his father. Told by a promoter that his father had no showed an event and that he needed to replace him or else his father was banned for life, Casas would come out in street clothes and win his first ever match. Upon returning to the back, Casas found his father and the promoter waiting, who revealed the joke and explained they had set it up to see how well Casas worked in the ring. There's tough love, there's wrestling logic, and then there's whatever the hell possessed Pepe Casas to do that. I'm not sure whether to call him a genius or declare him the weirdest teacher since the faculty from The Faculty.
The Casas wrestling family doesn't end with those four however. In total Casas has around nine relatives working in lucha libre right now, most of whom for CMLL. His wife, Dalys la Caribeña, is the current CMLL World Women's Champion and, other than Zeuxis, is probably the best luchadora CMLL has to offer. His nephews Puma, Tiger, Canelo Casas and Rocky Casas all worked for CMLL last year; both Canelo and Rocky are considered somewhat green (defensible for Rocky, less so for the 34 year old Canelo) while Puma and Tiger are considered two of the most underrated luchadors in CMLL. Casas often teams with them and should be teaming with them soon for a shot at the NWA World Trios Championships. Outside of CMLL his nephews Danny Casas and Destroyer work the lucha indie circuit, his niece Nanyzh Rock has served as a valet at times (including Heavy Metal during his last AAA run) and his brother-in-law, Venemo, has frequently worked for IWRG the past several years. Casas' family runs so deep that even top AAA star Psycho Clown is related to him, having wed Casas' daughter in the past year (Casas has two daughters, both of whom are trained in Olympic style wrestling and are training to be luchadoras. You may even see them eventually!). I'm pretty sure there's no other way to describe the Casas family besides saying they're (Mike Francesca voice) YOOOOOGE! And that's without taking into account them and the Alvarado Family now being linked due to Casas' daughter and Psycho Clown getting hitched. To be at that family dinner with Super Porky stealing all the good food!
Back to the wrestling. A natural athlete who excelled at every sport not named hockey, Casas quickly transitioned into becoming an excellent all around wrestler and would keep it up all the way to the present day. In his long trek through Mexico, Casas has collected eighteen championships (and is currently one half of the CMLL World Tag Team Champions with Shocker), won five tournaments (including CMLL's biggest tournament, the Leyendas de Plata, three times), competed in over twenty five Lucha de Apuesta matches (holding a solid record of 16-9-1, though he's lost four of his last five) and become, alongside Atlantis, one of CMLL's most profitable and dependable stars of the last three decades. Thanks to that longevity, Casas has also had the pleasure of wrestling with almost every major lucha star to come around since 1980. Atlantis? Feuded with him. Mistico/Sin Cara/Myzteziz/Whatever his name is now? They've crossed paths (and will again on an upcoming episode of CMLL Puebla). Perro Aguayo Jr.? Ditto. Rush? Yup. Anyone you can think of, Casas has feuded with them.
Despite all his famous battles though, his most memorable feud is to this day considered to be his twenty plus year rivalry with El Hijo del Santo. Over the years the two have had some of the best matches in lucha libre, initially with Casas as the rudo and Santo as the technico. Those matches did big business, but it was in fact a revived version of their rivalry in the mid 90's that is best remembered. In that feud the roles were reversed; Casas was the technico and Santo was the rudo, a role reversal for the ages that is credited with reviving CMLL and lucha libre as a whole after the rise of AAA and the Mexican peso crisis a few years earlier. Unbelievably the two (good friends in real life) would eventually go on to form one of the most successful tag teams in CMLL history, winning the CMLL World Tag Team Championships three times. Turns out they made just as good of friends as they did rivals!
While Casas is closely tied with CMLL however, it's been far from the only place he's worked. In Mexico Casas has pretty much worked everywhere; the UWA, WWA (where he and Santo had many of their early classics), IWRG; hell I just saw Casas work a DTU show last month. AAA remains the only promotion Casas has never worked for, though he did compete at a AAA/CMLL cross promoted show in 2000 that's famously remembered for degenerating into a shoot fight. Apparently Casas notably targeted Octagon during this brawl; considering we've now learned that Octagon is a cowardly ponce, I'd say this makes Casas even more a hero than he was before! Ultimately though the bulk of Casas' most famous non CMLL exploits have been in Japan. From 1990-2012 Casas made numerous tours to the Far East, primarily working for New Japan (though he occasionally did work for FMW, UWF and WAR). By all accounts he's highly regarded over there too, though his greatest accomplishment in Japan is arguably taking part in the legendary 1994 Super J-Cup (where he was eliminated in the first round). Perhaps his most noteworthy connection to Japan is that Eddie Guerrero credited Casas for motivating, inspiring and encouraging Eddie to go to Japan. I'd say that decision worked out huh?
Sadly Casas never quite crossed over in the United States. Remember that Chris Jericho/Norman Smiley podcast I brought up earlier? Well Jericho revealed that both men had actually tried to get Casas a job in WCW during the Monday Night War, only Eric Bischof rejected it due to the large amount of luchadors on the roster. I think that puts the number of stupid decisions WCW made over 9,000 right? While WCW passed on Casas however, WWE did actually give him a look. Yes, Casas has competed on several occasions for Vince McMahon, first in 1992 (as part of a cross promotion between WWE and the Japanese promotion WAR) and against from 1998 to 1999 during the height of the Attitude Era. The problem; Casas never appeared on RAW, Smackdown, any of the PPV's or even Sunday Night Heat. Instead WWE kept him strictly on their Super Astros show (think the Spanish version of Sunday Night Heat), where he, Santo and other AAA/CMLL stars competed. When the show was canceled only after two years of running, Casas went back down to Mexico full time (he had split time between CMLL and WWE during the Super Astros run) and never ventured up North again. Considering WWE has only now started to take smaller wrestlers more seriously (though they've still yet to prove they can book a luchador well aside from Eddie and Rey) I think it was for the best that Casas ended up going back to Mexico. It's just a shame that's his only bit of experience he has in the U.S. considering how good he truly is.
You'll see a ton of Casas' classic work online and in my second column today, so let's highlight some of his more recent work here to show how good Casas remains even at 57. First we have his Leyenda de Plata finals match with Dragón Lee from about a year and a half ago. Need I say more than Negro Casas vs. Dragón Lee? Seriously? Check it out and you'll see what I mean. The second and final match will be a very recent Lightning Match he had with Ángel de Oro. Even more so than the Lee match or the near classic he had with Volador Jr. at Homenaje a Dos Leyendas last spring, this match gives you the clearest look at the majesty that is Negro Casas. The ability, the charisma, the cool, the pace; you will believe you're watching a man fifteen years younger than he is when you see this match.
We're going to soon reach the point where we're talking about Negro Casas as not just one of the best luchadors ever, but one of the best in ring wrestlers ever. In some ways that goes without saying, considering his track record of success and his numerous great feuds. The fact that Casas not only has had a great thirty five plus years but is still wrestling at a high level RIGHT NOW just puts it over the top. Seriously, if you watch CMLL on the regular, you'll not only see that he still has it, but he's still doing things better than kids half his age (a few weeks ago, I watched Casas take a super hurricanrana bump like it was nothing. No offense to Undertaker, but I'm pretty sure he would've shattered on impact). Just goes to show you how skilled Casas is, how athletic he is, and how good a job he's done taking care of himself. Combine his longevity and skill with his drawing power in Mexico, he excellent feuds, his ability to both be an amazing rudo or technico (as much credit as Santo gets for revitalizing lucha in the mid 90s, it wouldn't have worked if Casas hadn't been the babyface), and you've got an all time great in my eyes. And the best part of it all is that Casas appears to be one of the coolest dudes in lucha libre. He loves putting over young guys; look no further than his reactions to facing Hechicero, Flamita and Ronnie Mendoza and Máscara Dorada's farewell in 2016. He's considered one of the easiest dudes to work with; Chris Jericho has raved about Casas as one of his best opponents during his Mexico stay. Hell, in his book Eddie Guerrero credits Casas for inspiring him to try Japan and that without Casas' encouragement Eddie wouldn't have ever made the attempt. Negro Casas is a generous, super decent luchador folks and he's a treasure to have. Thankfully I think he's got a long as time left in him. Why not, right? As long as Casas is destroying Father Time, he might as well to keep adding moments to the scrap book.
That's a wrap folks! I'll be dropping one more revised column on Casas within the hour, so stay tuned to learn more about the man, the myth, the legend. Till then, how about some DUCHOVNY?!
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