It was a no-brainer when the minds behind LGBTQ-focused pro wrestling production house Butch vs. Gore, Billy Dixon and Lo McGrath, announced last year that their next event would bare Cassandro’s name.
Cassandro is legendary within pro wrestling, but more specifically for the out LGBTQ talents fueling LGBTQ pro wrestling’s rise. For more than 30 years, the lucha libre icon has impressed international audiences and persevered in the face of prejudice to transcend the exotico stereotype. And he built that legacy while being out.
Who would be a better choice to christen Butch vs. Gore’s queer equivalent to the fabled ECWA Super 8 tournament, right?
The choice fits on a base level very easily. But viewing the Cassandro Cup event itself reveals how much every facet of Cassandro’s legacy informs what came in his wake.
Every Cassandro Cup match felt like a tableau reflecting on moments and philosophies from Cassandro’s storied career. MV Young and Devon Monroe’s clash to determine “Butch vs. Gore’s sexiest” leaned into the tongue-in-cheek billing with classic exotico spots. But those glimpses of played-up sexuality came amongst a hard-hitting, athletic contest, mirroring how Cassandro both defied and embraced his exotico label in the early days of his career.
The Britney Spears Open Invitational featuring Brooke Valentine, Russell Rogue, Eddy McQueen, Ariela Nyx and Corinne Mink channeled the camp and charisma that accompanies Cassandro every time his flowing gown graces an entryway.
Jordan Blade and Allie Kat took on the intensity and tenacity that is still present in Cassandro to this day when pushed into next gear by a significant opponent, such as their respective tag team partners, Eel O’Neal and EFFY.
Perhaps the most evocative match was Dixon’s two-out-of-three falls rubber match with Darius Carter. With Dixon’s F1ght Club Pro Wrestling Chocolate City championship on the line, Carter and Dixon exceeded the brutality of their Paris Is Bumping battle. Carter’s relentless attack on the head, neck and knee of Dixon was devoid of mercy, leaving every moment of hope from Dixon hampered by his pain.
Cassandro’s constant battles against pro wrestling’s efforts to typecast him and keep him marginalized shone through every time Carter’s jumping stomp crashed onto Dixon’s head. The anguish Cassandro felt in 1991 when the entire lucha libre world deemed him unworthy of a UWA World Middleweight title match against the son of lucha libre’s God, El Hijo de Santo, bubbled up as Carter continuously told Dixon to stay down.
The darkest depths of Cassandro’s struggles for validation while experiencing physical and mental abuse echoed off the building’s curtained walls in the form of Dixon’s discomforting, guttural responses to every blow.
And in the end, just like Cassandro, Dixon came out the other side of his trial the victor, even as Carter and his newly formed Best Business Bureau stable delivered a post-match beatdown. No attack that pro wrestling’s BBB could dish out would change the fact that Dixon persevered and triumphed.
The Cassandro Cup tournament itself encapsulated all of these elements into a glorious mission statement for the present and future of LGBTQ pro wrestling. Molly McCoy brought her trademark grit. Erica Leigh and AC Mack mixed dynamic personalities with bone-rattling fury. The fluidity showcased by Ashton Starr, Killian McMurphy and Jared Evans was rivaled only by their neverending trash talk.
Cassandro Cup winner Edith Surreal stood atop the pack, embodying these qualities en route to overcoming her own post-match attack from McMurphy and defeating Starr in the final. The lasting image of Surreal coddling the trophy while invoking LGBTQ civil rights leader Marsha P. Johnson’s name felt similar in power to Cassandro’s UWA World Lightweight title victory in 1992, the first championship win by an exotico ever in the history of lucha libre.
The entire night pieced together all of the elements that built Cassandro into a celebratory figure worthy of being immortalized on the event’s highest prize. But in completing the glamorous puzzle, the Cassandro Cup embodied what has come to define the “Liberace of Lucha Libre’s” mission in recent years: building the next generation of LGBTQ pro wrestling heroes.
Yes, many of the talents on the card have already built sizable names for themselves. But putting that on full display for one of the largest audiences ever for an IWTV premiere on an event that trended top 5 nationwide on Twitter puts the whole wrestling world on notice.
Like the inaugural Butch vs. Gore event last March, the Cassandro Cup showed that the historic presentation of LGBTQ identities in pro wrestling as caricatures and one-note “oddities” is just that: history. And the movement is overflowing with amazing LGBTQ wrestlers and upcoming talents that won’t let obstacles, real or narrative, stand in their way of glory.