Felino vs. Ciclon Ramirez (CMLL – 05/21/1993)

Felino vs. Ciclon Ramirez
May 21, 1993
CMLL World Welterweight
*** 3/4

As a prelude to their mask match, Ciclon Ramirez and Felino work a title match that plays around with the conventions and expectations of that match type in a brilliantly effective manner.

Felino and Ramirez spent almost all of 1993 up until this point wrestling one another in trios matches. Before the match, a video airs of Felino interrupting Ciclon Ramirez’s weightlifting session and then roughing him up some for good measure. We also get footage of the boardroom contract signing for this match so you know it is serious business. CMLL was hurting in 1993 talent wise from all the recent departures to AAA. Building up matches between the talented wrestlers that were left through those sorts of means was a really good way of dealing with the lack of roster depth. They did not have the deep roster that AAA had so they needed to make these kinds of matches count.

CMLL World Welterweight champion Felino is seconded by his brother, Negro Casas. The first fall kicks off in the expected manner as they exchange holds. Both wrestlers are very good on the mat – somewhere between competent and the great mat wrestling you would get from someone like El Dandy or El Hijo del Santo. I like the way they worked in suplexes during this hold heavy period to break up any potential monotony. Felino does his trademark belly to belly suplex and that works well as a takedown to set up other holds. The more surprising suplex was Ciclon’s straight belly to back. He dumped Felino on his upper back or lower neck which was a higher impact move than you often get at that point in a title match. Felino sold it like it broke his neck. The early big move worked mainly because there was more animosity behind this match than the average title match. Felino attacked Ramirez away from the arena as part of the set up so there was some bad blood there. The idea that Ramirez would go a little more high impact than usual early on to extract revenge but still keeping the action on the up was very appropriate.

The expectation in a lucha title match is that the action will not stray too far from the mat before the first fall wraps up. Felino and Ramirez paid no mind to that. They pick up the pace after a healthy dose of quality submission wrestling and pinning combos and you can sense the finish is imminent because that is often the case when the pace quickens in the first fall. Mat work leads to a quick one minute exchange before the finish.  Not so here. Rather than quickly wrapping things up as soon as they pick up the pace, the fall heads in an entirely unexpected direction.  Ramirez lands a top rope plancha to the outside. Felino follows up with a senton off of the apron. They briefly make it back to the ring but only so Ramirez can set up a tope to the outside. Ramirez has a beautiful tope and always has. It has the all of the distance and velocity you want and this one rockets Felino backwards into the crowd.

I loved the decision to go dive-heavy at the end of the first fall. It was unexpected but also highly entertaining. The dives built off of one another and led nicely into Ramirez funky submission that earned him the first fall. One of the big advantages of there being an established template for working title matches, is that it allows the wrestlers to occasionally mix things up and play with the expectations. That is what happened here and it was hugely effective. The match still feels like a title bout – it is worked clean – but the level of offense Ramirez utilizes in the first fall clearly demonstrates that this is not some friendly title bout.

During the first fall, the champion Felino and his second (Casas) chirp back and forth a little. It is noticeable but at the same time I never felt like it had to lead somewhere. They are rudos and sometimes rudos do not get along. In between falls, it becomes clear that the bickering is more than just rudos being rudos. Felino physically attacks Casas by pushing him and knocking him to the ground. Casas appears to take the abuse in stride, although he obviously does not seem thrilled about it.

Because the action escalated so quickly in the first fall, by the time the second fall starts both guys are selling as if they are midway through the third. This fall is back-and-forth with Felino getting to show off some of his impressive speed. They exchange near falls. A couple of minutes in Felino discovers an opening and locks on an octopus hold. This feels like the ending to the fall. Second falls tend to be brief and Felino needs to go over to set up a decisive final fall.

Just like the first fall had a fake ending based, do did the second. Before Ramirez submits – assuming he would have – Negro Casas calmly climbs up on the ring apron and tosses his towel into the ring. The referee sees the towel and knows what it signifies but is stunned because there is no reason for Casas to quit on behalf of Felino when Felino is in full control. The ref looks at Casas, as if giving him a chance to take it back. Still clam and composed, Casas points at his own neck and then at Felino. He moves his neck awkwardly and points at it again, signally that Felino has an injured neck. He then gives the universal “waving the match off” signal to confirm that he is indeed invoking his right as Felino’s second to quit on his behalf. That is all the evidence the ref needs. He ends the match, awarding the title to Ramirez in two straight falls.

Felino is stunned. Casas calmly leaps off the apron and walks to the back having extracted his revenge in the smoothest and cleanest – yet most vicious – manner possible. Felino should have known better. You don’t fuck with Negro Casas.

The fact that the match ended in two straight falls makes it obvious why they did the dives in at the end of the first. It was their way of fitting a match’s worth of offense into two falls. That was the right choice but I can easily see feeling ripped off had the first fall not had the dive segment and the second fall played out as it did. We got a complete two-fall match rather than a three-fall match that happened to cut off after the second fall.

I could go on and on about how much I liked the structure so I’ll stop before I start to ramble. In a year with a half a dozen or more very good title matches, this one is one of the best. The work is solid, the structure is fresh and entertaining, and the booking is excellent.

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