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Kevin’s NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania Reviews

January 24, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
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Kevin’s NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania Reviews  

NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania
January 18th, 2019 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,526

With Larry currently on the shelf (get well soon, brother), many of us are attempting to fill his shoes. The man covers a TON of wrestling, so we’re doing our best. Dude’s more of a machine than Brian Cage. Anyway, I’m picking this up midway through the FantasticaMania tour as they make their first stop in Korakuen Hall.

Audaz, Jushin Thunder Liger and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Gedo, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori and Templario
This tour has marked my first look at Audaz and Templario. Taguchi was out in his traditional FantasticaMania pharaoh mask. I miss Liger being part of the BOTSJ and doing important stuff. Anyway, this served more of a purpose than your usual opening tag on these shows. Taguchi/Ishimori is the upcoming Jr. Title match, so we got build there. I laughed when Taguchi got unmasked and everyone, including the crowd, sold it like a big deal. The heels did dirty tactics and the faces brought fire. Throw in some comedy and these guys gave me an enjoyable opener. Audaz won by making Templario submit to an armbar in 6:31. [**¾]

Angel de Oro and Titan vs. Forastero and OKUMURA
Forastero is the guy I hadn’t seen before this tour. That will probably be a trend. I really like Angel de Oro and Titan. They’ve made several appearances for NJPW and are always fun. Lots of fast paced stuff in this one. Just what I want from my Lucha Libre. Oro and Titan were everywhere, hitting dives and flying around the ring. To be honest, I could take or leave OKUMURA and Forastero. However, Oro and Titan did enough to make this one fun. Forastero got too aggressive late and Titan used it against him to pull him into a cool looking cradle that sealed the win in 8:41. Like the last match, this was fun Lucha tag things. [**¾]

Black Cat Memorial Match: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions BUSHI and Shingo, Terrible and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Fujin, Raijin, Satoshi Kojima and Toa Henare
They ran this same match, minus the Black Cat Memorial stuff, earlier in the tour. Also, Fujin and Raijin (Roppongi 3K in masks but don’t tell anybody) beat BUSHI and Shingo in non-title action. Terrible is the one I don’t believe I’ve seen before this tour, by the way. For a tribute match, this was quite intense. Terrible and Kojima just beat the hell out of each other as soon as the bell rang. Henare seemed to have it out for Naito. That sounds like a MUCH better IC Title feud than Naito/Taichi. Their interactions and the stuff involving the junior tag teams were the highlight here. Kojima got the feel good win for his team following a lariat to Terrible at 11:43. Good stuff. Give me Naito/Henare and Shingo/SHO at some point in singles matches, please. [***]

Atlantis and Atlantis Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero and Ultimo Guerrero
This tour has featured a Family Tournament and surprisingly, the Guerreros aren’t involved. Also, imagine the Los Guerreros gimmick, but for Ultimo and Gran. Anyway, the two teams seemed pretty motivated. Even the older guys got in on the dives and brought energy. The Guerreros simply had the experience edge, being a team for far longer. It came through late as their ability to work together was evident. They cut off a rana attempt from Atlantis Jr. and countered it into a powerbomb to pick up the win in 11:44. I found this to be solid enough, but still a step below the rest of the show.[**¼]

Caristico and Namajague vs. Flyer and Volador Jr.
I came in familiar with Volador Jr. and Caristico, formerly known as Mistico. Haircut Volador is still weird. Of the guys I didn’t know, Namajague felt like the more polished wrestler. There were points where Flyer’s timing was a bit off. That made for something of a sluggish match. Volador did his best to keep me engaged, showing the skills that have made him a solid BOTSJ addition in the past. His super rana was great. Following an awkward Code Red, Flyer fell to La Mistica in 9:49. Flyer needs a lot of work, but he’s apparently very young, so I get it. Still, this was pretty sluggish. [**]

Barbaro Cavernario vs. Soberano Jr.
A rare singles match on the tour. The crowd was way into Cavernario. They raised giant bones up and down during his entrance. This had a heightened sense of intensity. It clearly wasn’t just a singles match for the sake of it. There was something to all this. Of course, this is Lucha. They picked up the pace down the stretch and gave us some huge aerial stuff. Soberano’s Tornillo to the outside was awesome, as was Cavernario responding with a long distance splash out there. Dangerous stuff. The closing stretch saw Tombstones, moonsaults, and other wild moves. Barbaro caught Soberano with Cavernario to earn the victory in 15:40. One of the best matches on the tour so far. Great action from two guys emptying their arsenals on one another. [***½]

CMLL Family Tag Team Tournament Final: Cuatrero and Sanson vs. Dragon Lee and Mistico
Surprisingly, this opened up with a pre-match attack. Cuatrero and Sanson connected on dives before the opening bell. That set the tone for a match that had more heat to it than expected. Lots of crowd brawling and even some chairs being used. Once this got to the ring, they quickened the pace. I liked how nobody seemed willing to tag out, instead wanting to go to war to win this tournament. Lee and Mistico took to the skies quite often, allowing the crowd to stay in this, while Cuatrero and Sanson tried keeping this more grounded. It made for a solid match. Lee, one of the more consistent guys on this show in terms of NJPW appearances, won with Desnucadora in 14:05. A good main event to cap a solid tournament. I liked the aggression early on and the dynamic between the teams worked.[***¼] 

Post-match, the Guerreros came out for a faceoff with the winners. The two teams will meet on the 20th.

NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania
January 20th, 2019 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,560

We’re back for another installment of FantasticaMania at Korakuen Hall. Of note, this was the first show to feature English commentary, by the team of Mavs Gillis and Chris Charlton.

Flyer and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Gedo and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori
More time to build the Taguchi/Ishimori match for New Beginning. Gedo carried Jay White’s necklace to the ring. Does he love Jay more than he ever loved Okada? This was your expected opener featuring these guys. Gedo and Ishimori were the dastardly heels, while Taguchi was fun and busted out his ass based offense. Unfortunately, Flyer still had a handful of awkward spots. There’s raw talent there, but his timing has been way off. I assume if he returns for next year’s set of shows, he’ll be more comfortable. He made the most sense as the guy to take the loss, which he did following an Ishimori ankle lock at 8:20. I like Ishimori using Taguchi’s finisher and posing with his mask after the match. A fine little opener. [**½]

Angel de Oro and Titan vs. Cuatrero and Templario
Seriously, can Angel de Oro and Titan just join the Jr. Heavyweight tag division for good? They’d spice up a division that is in desperate need of it. Lots of high flying action as you’d expect here. There was way too much stuff going on to write about it all, which is exactly what I hope for in a Lucha Libre tag. The Lucha Libra I saw as a kid was nuts. A lot of this was that. There was a series of dives near the end that ruled. We got a twist on the traditional hot tag. Instead of the babyface coming in and wrecking shit, he got into a strike exchange. I appreciated that. It showed the other team was just as capable as they were. This wild match came to an end when used his Oro La Mecedora submission on Cuatrero in 11:31. One hell of a tag. The kind of excitement I want from FantasticaMania. My favorite match of the tournament. [***¾]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions BUSHI and Shingo and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Fujin, Raijin and Toa Henare
Looking forward to this because the Jr. teams are really good and Henare/Naito was a blast last time out. For the most part, these guys put on another solid showing. The chemistry is clearly there with the tag teams, while I like Naito teaching Henare a lesson or two. Henare brought his raw power and heart to get free of tough situations. Shingo and Raijin (SHO) need to have a singles match soon. Their interactions are dope. BUSHI picked up the win after he and Shingo hit Rebellion on Fujin in 11:17. Some good stuff from guys who fully understand how to work together. I dig it. [***¼]

After the match, Shingo and BUSHI unmasked Fujin and Raijin. The Young Lions covered their faces to protect their identity, which I appreciated.

Atlantis, Atlantis Jr. and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Forastero, OKUMURA and Sanson
I haven’t been too impressed with OKUMURA on this tour so far. The guys in this match put in quite a good effort, but most of what they did came off sloppy. There’s literally a moment where Forastero whiffs on a springboard senton. Like, he doesn’t even really come close. There were plenty of spots that felt too contrived and set up. Liger stole the show with a suplex on OKUMURA’s manager. However, OKUMURA was ultimately the winner after using a DDT to beat Atlantis Jr. at 10:12. Too many issues to be a good match. [*¾]

Audaz, Soberano Jr. and Volador Jr. vs. Barbaro Cavernario, Caristico and Namajague
This is more up my alley as it features guy who have done well during this tour. Despite some awkward moments, it was an uptick in quality. We got plenty of fast moving offense, several dives, and the obligatory Tower of Doom spot. I liked how that spot was immediately followed by a Volador dive. Shortly after, Volador went Destroyer crazy and even unmasked Caristico at one point with it. HEY MAN, THAT’S NOT COOL! I usually think that’s a finish but he just got his mask back and it kept going. Caristico got a measure of revenge by beating Volador with La Mistica in 11:11. Solid, high octane stuff. There were a few moments that didn’t work and some strange stuff at points, but all in all, it was fun. [***]

Satoshi Kojima vs. Terrible
There’s just something about a Satoshi Kojima singles match that warms my heart. I miss them. Give that man one final G1 Climax run. He was awesome in the G1 27. This felt like a heavyweight fight, with two guys just wailing on each other with chops and strikes. Terrible learned the hard way that Kojima’s chop game is strong. Kojima even busted out a plancha. I love it. Terrible took control and cut off the Kojima comeback on a few occasions. The legend never truly threatened and suffered the loss after getting hit by La Terriblina in 11:28. A solid enough match. It felt way out of place on this show, though. It lacked any kind of drama to make it stand out and once Kojima wasn’t on offense, it dragged. [**¾]

Dragon Lee and Mistico vs. Gran Guerrero and Ultimo Guerrero
The 2019 CMLL Family Tournament winners against the 2018 winners. It was also the finals last year. Apparently, the Guerreros were upset they weren’t included this year. To be fair, if you’re the defending champions, you should be in. Big spots early in this one, highlighted by Mistico diving off the stage for a sweet rana on Ultimo. I was interested in how the Guerreros attempted to match their counterparts in speed. It wasn’t the way I expected the match to go and I appreciate going against the grain. Once they realized that wasn’t the best path, they opted to use their strength and took control. Almost every rana was turned into a powerbomb and Mistico learned from it. He countered a powerbomb back into a rana and won with La Mistica on Gran in 17:11. Good stuff again. They told a good story, worked a smart match, and gave us fine action. [***¼]

NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania
January 21st, 2019 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,582

It’s time for FantasticaMania to wrap up. It has been a fun little tour, as always. Today’s show features a CMLL Trios Title match, a special singles bout, and one of the wackiest tag matches you’ll probably find anywhere.

Audaz and Flyer vs. Barbaro Cavernario and Templario
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the horns blaring in the arena make it almost impossible to listen to these shows at a normal volume. Interesting to see Barbaro so early on the card. He’s usually a high ranking guy on these FantasticaMania events. It took until the end of the tour, but Flyer had his best outing. He seemed less nervous and had stronger timing this go around. All four guys brought the dives and high impact offense, giving me just what I want from an opener. Something fun. The dropkick Cavernario hit was nuts. He used Cavernaria on Audaz to win via submission in a hot 9:35. Best opener on the tour by a fair amount. [***¼]

Atlantis Jr. vs. OKUMURA
Oh, boy. OKUMURA isn’t someone I have enjoyed at all. Atlantis Jr. did his best to make this one interesting, including a dropkick before the bell and some early dives. That got the crowd invested and they stayed hot. The intensity level was higher than expected. The guys brawled into the Korakuen crowd. OKUMURA slowed the pace in the ring. He was the veteran heel you’d expect. There was a fun spot with the referee, counting OKUMURA down quickly after he yelled at him for counting slowly. Atlantis caught OKUMURA with Atlantida, after three tries, for the win in 7;39. Better than I expected. The fight atmosphere early and shenanigans near the end made it enjoyable. [**½]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions BUSHI and Shingo, Terrible and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Roppongi 3K, Satoshi Kojima and Toa Henare
The return of Roppongi 3K over Fujin and Raijin here. Even with that change, this was more of the same that these guys have run on the tour. They made sure to inject several changes, but the core stuff stayed the same. Henare/Naito was a blast, Kojima/Terrible was physically, and SHO/Shingo continued to be outstanding. It got more time than I thought it would, but these guys have all worked together enough to ensure this was a well crafted match. Just as it was getting really good, Suzuki-Gun ran in to cause a DQ in 12:15. Taichi beat on Naito, while El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru went after BUSHI, Shingo, and RPG 3K. Good match, with a finish that built towards the upcoming shows. [***]

CMLL Mexican National Trios Championship: Cuatrero, Forastero and Sanson [c] vs. Angel de Oro, Atlantis and Titan
The champions have apparently held the titles for about a year and a half. That’s a crazy long reign. These are the kinds of matches that Lucha Libre is known for. Fast paced, multi-man tags filled with aerial stuff. Some guys looked more impressive than others. To me, it felt clear that the challengers were more enjoyable. Their offense looked more crisp, they had more energy, and they got the cooler spots. I can’t stress enough how much more Angel de Oro and Titan I want. Oro eventually ate the pin after a monkey flip and the Cuatrero Bomb in 14:28. A good match but one I wanted more from. There were a handful of awkward moments that kept it from being as good as it could have been. [***]

Dragon Lee, Mistico and Soberano Jr. vs. Gran Guerrero, Namajague and Ultimo Guerrero
There’s a reason Gran Guerrero seems to work in these kinds of matches. He makes for a really good base. Guys can use him for some of their best offensive moves. There was a fun spot here when they attempted to unmask Mistico, only for him to have another one on underneath. SNEAKY! Basically, this match was a lot of one team flying around and the other team playing the brutes. It’s a role the Guerreros excel at. I appreciated Lee and Namajague having a chop battle reminiscent of Lee’s wars with Hiromu Takahashi. The finish as among the best on the tour, as the Ultimo Guerrero Special on Soberano looked absolutely vicious. This went 13:25. Another fine match, but one that featured a bit too much stalling in parts. [**¾]

My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler Match: Dragon George and Sweet Gorilla Maruyama vs. Ginbae Mask and Gokiburi Mask
This was here to promote the upcoming DVD release of “My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler,” starring Hiroshi Tanahashi. He plays the villainous Gokiburi Mask. Here, Ryusuke Taguchi was his son Ginbae Mask, while Kazuchika Okada played Dragon George and Togi Makabe portrayed Sweet Gorilla Maruyama. I love random shit like this. So, there was obviously some jokes and antics in this that I wouldn’t fully understand since I haven’t seen the movie. Still, it featured fun moments that made for good time, even if it wasn’t something to take seriously. Tanahashi seemed to have the most fun of anyone. Ginbae got hit with Dragon Maker to lose in 13:05. [**¾]

Caristico vs. Volador Jr.
We’ve gotten decent build for this during the tour. The story of this match was about one upping each other. Think Ricochet/Velveteen Dream last year, but on a much smaller and less impressive scale. That’s not to say this wasn’t good, because it was. Caristico seemed to be doing everything in his power to match up to Volador. This was something of a home game for Volador after all his BOTSJ runs. If you paid attention on the tour, Caristico won many tags over Volador, but one on one, he couldn’t quite get it done. It came down to it and Volador hit a top rope Spanish Fly to win in 17:56. A very good way to cap a fun tour. They told a good story and worked a smooth match. [***½]

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
1/18 - This is about what I expect from FantasticaMania. Several solid little undercard tags and one or two matches near the end that stand out as being quite good. I could’ve used a better middle as the Guerreros tag and the Volador match didn’t deliver, but everything else is solid. Check out Barbaro/Soberano. 1/20 - An improvement on the previous show. There were several good matches and a standout tag. The show did get held back by the rough OKUMURA six man tag, though. 1/21 - Again, an improvement. While none of these shows blew me away, these last two were fun to watch. The CMLL guys mostly worked hard and brought the energy.