Lucha Tributes: Heavy Metal
With all the talk of defections from AAA, both past and present recently, it’s made me think more about Lucha libre in the '90s. You know, that golden period of When Worlds Collide, three Triplemania shows, El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, Promo Azteca, and so much more? So today I’ve decided to focus a Lucha Tribute on one of those stars of the 90s. The twist is that this is one of the few guys who didn’t bounce from AAA during 1996, a luchador with some of the biggest family ties in Lucha libre history, some of the wackiest stories in Lucha libre history, and even a story that connects to the 1997 Royal Rumble in San Antonio. Who could this be? You’re about to find out, but only if you’re ready to rock and roll. Gentlemen and ladies, I give you the Lucha Tribute to the rock star of the Casas family, the luchador known as Heavy Metal.
What You Already Know
These days, I’m pretty sure most people couldn’t tell you any more about Heavy Metal than they could the members of Warrant. If you’ve been watching lucha libre for more than a minute though, then you’ll at least know that Metal is the son of former luchador/referee Pepe Casas and youngest brother of CMLL’s Felino and Negro Casas. There’s the disadvantage of being Heavy Metal right there; all the people in the world who can be your siblings and you get one of the most underrated luchadors of all time and quite possibly one of the five greatest wrestlers to ever walk this mortal coil? That’s cold, and I say that preparing to tell you that Heavy Metal is no slouch himself. I think if anything this just goes to show you that we need to find Pepe Casas, get some DNA off him via a cheek swab and safeguard that bad boy till the end of days. Clearly the man has the goods if he ended up producing three sons this good.
What You Didn’t Know
Born Erick Francisco Casas Ruiz (great name, though I’d get rid of the K in Eric. Just saying), Heavy Metal was exposed to the wrestling business the same way his older brothers were; by attending shows Pepe worked and acting distraught in the front row every time Pepe was selling in order to generate sympathy. Have I mentioned Pepe Casas is the man? As he was younger than Felino and Negro (there’s a ten year age gap between Metal and Casas), Metal started later, debuting in 1988 under the name Canelo Casas. You may recognize this name as a lucha libre viewer, mainly because it’s the name used today by a CMLL luchador that’s supposedly the nephew of Negro, Felino and Metal (though some rumors persist that current day Canelo Casas is Heavy Metal’s son). So yes, current day Canelo Casas got the name from Heavy Metal. It’s a damn shame he also didn’t get a lick of his star power and ability but hey, there’s at least got to be one Cooper Manning in the family right?
Metal would work under the Canelo Casas name for several years between CMLL, the UWA (Universal Wrestling Association), and the WWA (World Wrestling Association) and actually had decent success, winning the Mexican National Welterweight Championship from Ciclón Ramirez in 1991. At the same token, he never received a decent push and, like fellow young luchadors such as Konnan, Máscara Sagrada, Octagon and countless others, was fighting an uphill battle against the established Paco Alonso/Juan Rivera regime. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that Metal jumped from CMLL to AAA when Antonio Peña formed it in 1992, and Metal is recorded as appearing as early as the third AAA show ever. Not only did the jump end up changing Metal’s life but it also led to the creation of his legendary gimmick. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Erick Casas from back in the day the first thing you’d think was that he was a roadie for either Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, or Def Leopard. He looked as though he was born to be a rock star. So Peña, who is said to have always been fond of Metal, decided to simply play off his look and dubbed him Heavy Metal. He has used the name ever since.
Now here’s the thing a lot of folks lose sight on in regards to Heavy Metal’s career. It’s widely assumed he became one of AAA’s biggest stars after most of the luchadors left AAA for WCW and Promo Azteca in 1996. This isn’t true. The reality is that Heavy Metal was one of the key cogs for AAA from the very beginning, starting as a rudo. He was an early opponent (and later occasional partner) for a young Rey Mysterio Jr. and feuded with El Hijo del Santo if only so Santo could say he feuded (and bested) all three Casas brothers once in his life. Eventually, however, the rock star look (which got Vampiro overly like crazy just a few years earlier) was too popular to ignore and Heavy Metal became a wildly beloved Tecnico by 1994. That year, by the way, has to be one of the best and wildest years of Metal’s career. Many will argue his biggest highlight was when he and longtime partner Latin Lover won the Mexican National Tag Team Championships in a three-way tag match on September 11th. I’d say it was Triplemania II-A, the first of three wildly hailed Triplemania shows that year, where Metal headlined with Jerry Estrada in a hair vs. hair match.
When I say novels could be written about this match I mean it, and I don’t necessarily mean it in a good way. You see, Heavy Metal had long been scheduled to win the match over the underrated but aging Estrada in order to further cement Metal as a top star. Then things went haywire, only no one knows which story is true. According to Dave Meltzer, Metal ended up no showing a couple of shows prior to Triplemania, infuriating Peña. Other stories suggest Metal was involved in a night club incident the night before Triplemania that Peña witnessed. Whether one or both are true, something ultimately led to Peña changing his mind and booking Metal to lose the match to Estrada the day of. And so that came to pass…until it didn’t! Estrada would indeed seem to win the match after an apparent Heavy Metal low blow, bringing the technico to tears. Not fake tears either, legit tears. I don’t know if it just hit him that he’d really messed up or what but he lay there in the ring, sobbing uncontrollably into both the ring ropes and Mysterio, his second. Remember how I said Antonio Peña had a soft spot for Metal? Well Peña saw all of this, came out from the back and, apparently feeling bad for Metal, on the spot called for the match to be restarted! That’s right folks; in the span of the day Heavy Metal went from winning a hair vs. hair match to losing a hair vs. hair match to winning it again AFTER he had lost it, all on the emotional whims of the normally brilliant Peña. This was understandably all a little too much for Estrada, who ended up only having some of his hair cut before refusing to shave the rest off. Ultimately Peña would suspend him for three months for this offense (this too didn’t last as Estrada was back a month later) and Metal fifteen days for his incident(s). As for the match itself, it’s sadly unavailable to seen anywhere, but it’s been described as both “the best match from that show” and “so bad that it will never be seen again” by wrestling critics. I guess this makes it the Megalopolis or Songs From the Black Hole of lucha libre if you look at it that way.
Metal would headline one more Triplemania (Triplemania IV-B) before the fall of 1996, when Konnan spearheaded a talent exodus from AAA to WCW and Promo Azteca. Of the big stars AAA had developed since its formation, Metal, Estrada and Latin Lover were the biggest to remain loyal to Peña, and as such was rewarded by becoming AAA’s main attractions. Metal would prove to be a decent draw for AAA as they managed to keep afloat. He would headline Triplemania VI in a hair of Pepe Casas vs. hair of Tirantes (yes, that Tirantes) match against Kick Boxer, served as a co-headliner for Triplemania’s VII, VIII and XI and pretty much served as a AAA icon from 1996-2004. His loyalty was rewarded with a few trips to the US with AAA friendly promotions. WWE fans may remember Metal as one of the AAA stars who appeared on WWE programming during the short-lived WWE/AAA alliance in 1997, including an appearance at the 1997 Royal Rumble. He also had a brief run in TNA during 2004, teaming with fellow AAA loyalists Abismo Negro, Mr. Águila and Hector Garza to win something called the American X-Cup. I have no idea what that was but hey it’s something right? Because of the limited amount of work Negro Casas and Felino have gotten in the US, Heavy Metal’s short WWE and TNA stints arguably gives him the most exposure to the American audience of anyone in his family. That’s nearly crazier than the Jerry Estrada match. Note that I said nearly.
It’s around the end of that TNA trip by the way that Metal’s relationship with AAA fell apart. I can’t find any definitive information on this but it’s well known that 2004 is around the same time Konnan and other luchadors returned to AAA for the first time in years and supposedly guys like Metal, who had remained loyal while other guys defected, weren’t too pleased. Whether that’s true or not, Metal would indeed leave AAA for CMLL in 2005, inexplicably getting to keep his Heavy Metal name (even in defecting Peña still had a soft spot for Metal). While he didn’t receive nearly the same push he did in AAA, Metal’s time in CMLL was still decent with a couple of Anniversary Show appearances, a couple big feuds (including one with current AAA Mega Champion/Lucha Underground star Texano) and most importantly was reunited with his brothers, who he teamed with as an initial member of La Peste Negra. Eventually, Metal would jump back to AAA in 2010 and would work on and off for a few years, most notably feuding with Electroshock, La Legión Extranjera, Chessman and Texano while splitting his time between AAA and IWRG. By 2013 Metal was gone from both promotions and . . . aside from a few indie appearances, has yet to resurface since. Why the disappearance? Unfortunately, it appears that Heavy Metal isn’t always the most dependable dude. Not only did he inherit the rock star gimmick all those years ago but he also got the lifestyle; it’s been rumored for years that Metal has struggled with drug and alcohol issues and luchablog actually has a post from 2011 talking about Metal being arrested for a DUI. Thus, if you’re looking for a reason to explain why Heavy Metal has fallen off the face of the earth and why he’s no longer mentioned as much as his brother’s, this is why.
I’m going with two here, though I recommend scouring the internet yourself because there’s a lot of good Heavy Metal matches out there. The first is a trios match from January of 1993 that features Metal, a very young Psicosis and some dude named Picudo taking on future WCW star Super Calo, Abismo Negro (under the name Winners) and a then 18-year-old Rey Mysterio Jr. These six would combine to create one of the only two five star matches in the history of AAA. Sadly, there is no footage of the match, so you'll have to settle for the four and a half star match these six had a few days later, which is still great (poor video quality not withstanding) gives you a taste of what a really young Heavy Metal could do and just how great Mysterio was even at just 18.
The second match oddly enough brings Metal, Mysterio, and Psicosis back together again and throws in Último Dragon. The result is a tag team match from the World Wrestling Peace Festival 1996 in Los Angeles. This match, taking place right before Mysterio, Psicosis and Dragon all exploded onto the scene in WCW, is an absolute delight. It’s at times a little too out of control for its own good and Metal at one point nearly kills himself when he doesn’t rotate enough on a moonsault attempt. Those moments are acceptable however when everything else in this match is so sublime. A must watch for anyone who appreciates well-shot fan videos and great cruiserweight action
Heavy Metal is a curious case. Some would want to argue he’s the black sheep of the Casas family. Others may suggest he’s quietly right there with his older brother Negro Casas as the best. The reality is, as per usual, to be found somewhere in the middle. Heavy Metal is no black sheep; he was in his day one of the biggest stars in Lucha libre, a charismatic worker and a capable technician and a substantially better high flyer than both his brothers ever were (at one point, Heavy Metal’s moonsault was one of the best things around. I shit you not). The problem Heavy Metal has is a) his American runs took place when WWE was at its low point and TNA was, well, TNA, b) his biggest runs in Mexico were when AAA had bigger stars ahead of him or when AAA wasn’t running as hot and c) his struggles outside of the ring left him with the inability to be as reliable as his older brothers. Sometimes the breaks don’t go your way sports fans. That’s the case with Heavy Metal, and even still he can at least say he’s had quite the run at the end of the day. I guess the next question to ask is whether or not the run is over? At 46 years old (he’ll turn 47 in October) he’s still young enough to have a few more good years if he wants to and based on what I’ve seen from him recently he’s more than capable. Yes, he was involved in a ton of overbooked hardcore matches during his last AAA run (which also was a few years ago), but he was in good shape, he moved very well (much better than his opponents most of the time) and has the added advantage of being a Casas in that they seem to never, ever age. Provided he’s clean, in shape and focused, it wouldn’t shock me to see Heavy Metal back sometime soon and doing good work (or if nothing else it wouldn’t shock me to see AAA bring him back just because they need so many people). I hope so. Like fellow AAA star turned forgotten legend Máscara Sagrada, Heavy Metal is too interesting a luchador to be forgotten by luchadors and fans alike.