posted by Sam DiMascio & Billy Carpenter
CMLL & NJPW put on their annual ‘Fantastica Mania’ card in January. For three days, fans were treated at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo to stars from one of Mexico’s premiere wrestling organizations. Sam DiMascio and myself decided to look at the card that intrigued us the most, which was the 1/19 show. Now, we offer up our view of the show and let you know if it’s something you should go out of your way to see.
Tama Tonga/Maximo vs. Suzukigun (TAKA Michinoku/Taichi)
Sam: Tonga needs to be signed by WWE. The man is charismatic and has oodles and oodles of athleticism. Maximo is supposed to be a homosexual lucha guy and that plays a role. Taichi never wants to be in the ring with Maximo for fear he is going to be harassed. Michinoku is awesome. Delivering eye pokes and pushing his foot into Maximo’s nether regions. Fun match, with Michinoku and Taichi willing to play around with Maximo’s gimmick making this match. (Rating: **3/4)
Billy: I said earlier this year-multiple times—that I would not be surprised in the least if Tama Tonga is not in WWE or at the very least, TNA, by year’s end. He’s a very gifted athlete, and while not the best in the ring, he’s pretty good. Like Sam said, he’s got that ‘it’ factor that draws you to him. As for the match, I thought it was ok—a standard opener. The story centered on the heels being uncomfortable being in the ring with Maximo, who plays his character well. Faces won after Maximo used the Horizontal Cradle on Taichi for the win.
Jushin Liger/Tiger Mask IV/Titan vs. Jado/Gedo/Misterioso Jr.
Billy: Came off as just another exhibition match, but a pretty good one at that. Titan is one of my favorite luchadores currently and his skills were on full display in this contest. Throw in the ageless wonder Jushin Liger, along with a game Misterioso Jr, Tiger Mask and Jado (who did some Ric Flair spots) & Gedo and we got a fun contest. Certainly not anything that’s gonna blow you away, but good for what it was. Misterioso gets the win for the heels following La Rosa Driver on Titan.
(Rating: ** ½)
Sam: I have no familiarity with Misterioso Jr. but after this match that’s fine. I’m not saying he was bad but he just didn’t bring to the table that I really enjoyed. Titan on the other hand is a talent that is bound to be BOOMING! Either Jado or Gedo was doing a Ric Flair impersonation and it was golden, wooing on his chops and doing the flop. It was done in a mocking way more than anything which I assume was due to Flair coming in for AJPW. You have four solid veterans plus a talented young luchadore so this match was fun.
Mascara Dorada/Diamante vs. Mephisto/OKUMURA
Sam:I didn’t think this match was good but I didn’t think this match was bad. Dorada is stupidly fluid and any match with him is at the very least entertaining when he’s on offense. Everyone else? They were in the match.
Billy: In much the same vein as Titan, Mascara Dorada is one of my favorite CMLL guys to watch. He’s so crisp with the stuff he does here and Dorada is the highlight in this match. The other 3 guys held their own as well and this was another fun bout. Ending saw Mephisto hit Mascara Dorada with the Demon Driller for a victory for “los rudos”.
(Rating: ** ¾)
Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi/BUSHI vs. Dragon Rojo Jr./Tomohiro Ishii/YOSHI-HASHI
Sam: With a lot of the lucha guys on this show, I am unfamiliar for the most part. Dragon Rojo Jr. is one of those luchadores and that makes me sad comes I dug him in this match. I would have no issues with him being brought in for Best of the Super Juniors. This match has a team with the present Junior leaders in Devitt and Taguchi and an eventual player in the Jr. scene in BUSHI. BUSHI works a “lucharesu” that made him seem a notch below what he truly is in this match. Doesn’t work the Junior style like Devitt or near to being good as Dragon at the lucha aspect. The guys good though and doesn’t really hurt the match. Guess what? Ishii is in this match simply to add his presence among the littler guys and I like it.
(Rating: ** ½)
Billy: A good blend with the Junior style of the NJPW guys and the lucha style of Dragon Rojo, Jr & BUSHI. I should preface that by saying that I’ve seen better stuff from BUSHI but I enjoyed the match. Dragon is, to me, one of the best juniors in the world and we got some samplings of that here. I haven’t checked out the match with he and Prince from the night before this match as of this writing; but I would assume that with the names involved, it was as awesome as it sounds. Anyway, fun Trios style match that ended following a slingshot sitout powerbomb from Dragon Rojo, Jr. to BUSHI.
Atlantis vs. Euforia
Billy: This match is the one that I didn’t watch, and from the sounds of Sam’s report on it, I don’t think I missed much.
Sam: Atlantis wasn’t good here. I haven’t seen recent Atlantis so I don’t know if this is the norm with him at 50 or if he just decided to mail it in here in Japan but yeah… Don’t know Euforia (surprising right?) but him booting Atlantis in the face was totally cool with me. This match happened and that’s all I can really say.
(Rating: * ½)
Hiroshi Tanahashi/La Mascara/Rush vs. Kazuchika Okada/Volador Jr. /Rey Escorpion
Sam: I was really looking forward to this match. I had way too high of expectations which was completely my fault given the nature of these shows but what I got was still fun. When I see Volador Jr. on Rudo teams I always question why he is there and then he does something heel like kicking Mascara in the head when Mascara hits the ropes. First time seeing Escorpion and he didn’t impress. Rush is great and it’d be pretty cool if he had a real showcase match in NJPW. Probably has happened and I haven’t seen it but whatever. Okada is a star and he’s only getting bigger. He’s on the heel team and he is getting mad cheers. The match was doing poor until Mascara got the hot tag and brought some fanciness to the table. That’s when it peaked. There were some fun moments but there wasn’t really enough time to get more of them.
(Rating: ** ¼)
Billy: I have to say first off that Kazuchika Okada is a STAR. If you’re not familiar with him yet, shame on you. He’s got such a presence and it’s hard to even remember how badly TNA treated him. With that out of the way, I rather liked this match too. La Mascara brought some good stuff to the table, and I laughed out loud for some reason when Volador kicked him in the head as he ran the ropes. This was worked as a Trios match as well and the action was pretty fast, which is typical in these types of matches. Rush is fun to watch and Rey Escorpion still bores me for the most part. Match ended when Escorpion nails the package piledriver on Rush for the win.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. La Sombra (IWGP Intercontinental Title)
Sam: Main event and it was the best match on the show. I had slightly higher hopes for this match but I’m not going to gripe too much. Nakamura is Nakamura and La Sombra is La Sombra. This either tells you everything you need to know or tells you absolutely nothing. La Sombra seems to be void of showing emotion unless it is that slight revving up kind. Even that was pretty bad. Nakamura has uber amounts of charisma to the point where he can pretty much carry the load on both fronts. At the beginning Nakamura looked like he wanted to be fan friendly and even clapped after an exchange with La Sombra. Then La Sombra gets the better of Nakamura one more time and he couldn’t give less shits about that. He would go end to deliver KILLER knees and attempt to take off La Sombra’s mask at another point. This match wasn’t spectacular but not even close to being a waste of time.
(Rating: *** ½)
Billy: I was a big fan of this match, more so than Sam. Nakamura is one of my favorites on the planet right now, and he has charisma that is off the charts. I need to say that I still hate La Sombra for coming out to Nelly’s “#1”, such a heel move in my book. I hate that song…anyway, I have to give La Sombra his just dues because he looked real crisp in this match. He pulled his moves off very nicely and I thought his style meshed well with Shinsuke’s. Of course, Nakamura brought the vicious knee strikes, starting with some while Sombra was draped on the apron. Nice finishing sequence that saw Nakamura win after nailing La Sombra with the Boma Ye.
Sam: I had my hopes a little too high for some of the stuff on this show. I forgot that what these Fantastica Mania is about and that isn’t about amazing matches but showing off a mix of CMLL’s lucha and NJPW’s puro and for that it was a success. Almost all the matches outside of Atlantis against Euforia were at least a little fun. La Sombra against Nakamura was the best match on the card and gave this show a match that saves it from being full of just moderately fun matches. None of the matches are that long so all in all if you add in the briefness of the matches and the fun it is an easy watch and not what I would consider a bad card just not the sort of card you show people to get them interested in NJPW.
Billy: If you’re a fan looking for something new and different from the normal WWE show, I would say there’s worse ways to spend the 2-2 ½ hours it took to watch this. Almost every match is fun to watch, and there’s one really good match in the NJPW IC title main event. Going off of what Sam stated, this is probably not what you would show someone who’s looking to get into NJPW but this was a good showcase for some of the CMLL stars. Find and watch the Nakamura/La Sombra match; the rest is probably skippable.