New Japan Pro Wrestling/CMLL’s FantasticaMania 2015 is in its fifth year and has become a standard part of NJPW’s year over the half decade. This year’s tour has the most shows yet, but is arguably less exciting than previous years. The talent roster isn’t as good as other shows — Rush is lost due to injury and CMLL’s desire to spread out the opportunities as well as reward political favorites has meant a lot of standouts from past shows haven’t been included this time. Some of the best matches on previous tours have been big matches between CMLL and NJPW wrestlers, and there’s none of that this year. Still, for both CMLL diehards and NJPW casuals familiar with these names, there are good matches and intriguing matches.
As with past years, the tour has a lot of tag matches building to singles matches. Any fan of this site is likely aware of the NJPW representatives on the tour but I’m here to clue you in on the CMLL participants!
Angel de Oro vs. Okumura
This matchup is the only singles match taking place prior to the NJPW World airings. That works out fine, as it’s the least interesting rivalry on the tour. Okumura remains a regular presence on these tours, both as a wrestler and as the CMLL liaison to NJPW, and will be honored in his hometown of Osaka for twenty years of wrestling and ten years in CMLL. That first match between these two is a “lightning” match, CMLL’s name for one fall matches with a ten-minute time limit.
The two rematch on the 17th for Angel de Oro’s CMLL Light Heavyweight Championship. Angel de Oro lost most of 2014 to knee surgery, coming back late in the year and defeating Rey Escorpion to win this championship. Angel last appeared in NJPW as part of the 2012 Best of Super Juniors and is exactly the same luchador now. Angel has wrestled the same exact match every time out for about four years. He flashes the ability to do much more, but doesn’t appear interested in improving and has been passed up by many of his generational peers.
He’s a wrestler who seems desperately in need of a kick to the backside to try harder, but has instead received a championship and a foreign tour. The rest of the show is a one night tag team tournament. One night tournaments in CMLL are notorious for short, awful matches. There will probably be more time to go around at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring, but the lineup is a nightmarish for CMLL fans.
Polvora vs. Mistico
Polvora is a midcard rudo, a frequent challenger for welterweight championships and mostly besides the point. Mistico is the mystery man on this tour. He hasn’t wrestled since May, when a car collided with his motorcycle and left with him a badly broken leg and numerous other injuries. CMLL’s shown footage of Mistico’s surgery, aired a vignette of him bedridden with a hole his leg from where a metal pile was placed in to stabilize the bone and interviewed him a few times where he said he’d be back but always refused to give a date. (CMLL’s still advertised a Mexico return date even after these shows.) The implication is Mistico’s not actually read to return but NJPW wanted Mistico on this tour so they got Mistico on this tour. Mistico’s career was hampered by in-ring injuries, even prior to the accident, due to his style and this just makes it tougher. The best strategy for him would be simple, short matches, but there’s going to be pressure to do a lot more.
Mexican Light Heavyweight Championship – Mephisto (c) vs. Stuka Jr.
Mephisto is now a regular on the FantasticaMania tours, a part of all but the first. He’s also arguably the most important masked rudo in the promotion after Ultimo Guerrero’s unmasking last year. Mephisto’s not been treated as that level of star in the past, but he’s been protected more since his long time partner Averno left for AAA earlier this year. Mephisto’s spent the last several months defending this championship against Valiente in good-to-great matches and should do the same here. The match itself is an odd one. Mephisto’s normal rivals are Valiente (not here), Mascara Dorada (better things to do) and Mistico, who’s facing Polvora instead. Stuka’s faced Mephisto in trios matches, but Polvora is a more normal rival for him. It appears as if these two rivalries were swapped, maybe to put Mistico in a lesser pressure match on his return, maybe because they didn’t want Mistico to challenge and lose to Mephisto again (they matched up in 2014) and also didn’t think it was credible for him to win in his return. This match should be good fun, as Mephisto has a sort of formula for his title matches and Stuka fits right into it, but there’s little chance of a title change.
NWA Historic Welterweight Championship – Volador vs. Gran Guerrero
Volador faced Mascara Dorada on the final Fantasticamania show of 2014 — they had a crazy spotfest — this will not be that. Gran Guerrero being on the tour is a clear sign CMLL’s intercircle has a big hand in picking this roster, because no one else outside or inside the promotion would’ve picked him. Gran Guerrero, billed as the much younger brother of Ultimo Guerrero, is not completely untalented but was elevated to a high position in the promotion at least two or three years before he was ready for it. He struggles most at working with high-flying tecnicos, which is a particular problem in CMLL in general and in this particular match. CMLL itself would not trust him in a three-fall title match right now, so it’s a bit amazing to see him in a spotlight match on a NJPW tour.
Volador had just switched back over to the tecnico side on last year’s tournament, and it took him many months to get comfortable with that change. He had been a cheered rudo, but lost a lot of his edge with the turn and came off as a dated smiley babyface at first. Putting him against some strongly hated rudos helped fix things, and Volador’s evolved into a sympathetic and cheered character. CMLL intentionally does not have a lead tecnico or a central title, but Volador’s been more or less treated as the top full-time hero. Since this is the title Sombra and Volador went back and forth with, it’s the closest thing to the top championship. Gran Guerrero should not be competing for a top championship; he’s really competing here to show he can work Volador’s big spot style match and that it wasn’t a poor idea to put him here.
Rey Cometa vs. Barbaro Cavernario
One of two rematches from CMLL’s Anniversary show. These two had a hair versus hair match, won by the young Cavernario. Lucha libre magazines, back when there were many of them, had year-end awards for the best rookie of the year and for the best “new star” of the year. The latter went to former rookies who had made major strides and were suddenly having major matches. Barbaro Cavenrario would be the run away winner for that award in 2014, starting as a guy people knew and enjoyed in trios but never got to see a lot of, to a full-timer having great important matches. Cavernario officially won a spot on this tour by winning CMLL’s En Busca de un Idolo tournament, but he really got here by just being great. He’s an exciting wrestler who’s also completely dedicated to his crazed caveman character. This is Cavernario’s first trip to Japan, but it may not be his only one of the year. Like Fuego last year, Cavernario seems like a gimmick that’ll get over well with NJPW audiences and cause NJPW to bring him back again in 2015. Rey Cometa returns from last year’s tour, still a strong high flyer with a very near springboard tornillo. He matches up well with Cavernario, and they could steal the night.
Atlantis vs Ultimo Guerrero
The other rematch from the Anniversary show, the best match in Mexico in 2014. NJPW likes to bring in last year’s big match to give the Japanese fans a little bit of what that felt like. It’ll be hard to carry the same emotion of that night, but these two have faced plenty of times before and after that mask match so they should be able to give a good approximation. Both men will show their trademark spots, and maybe there will be a different outcome this time. Atlantis apparently stopped aging a while ago and hasn’t thought of retiring, but the Anniversary main event is why he’s on this tour. It’s not a sure thing Atlantis will be on another one, so it’s possible these will be his final Japanese matches. Ultimo Guerrero should return in future years and this tour he’ll be returning to his normal rudo role after a failed attempt to turn the sympathy for his mask loss into a fan favorite run. It did not take with the crowd and it didn’t produce good matches, so returning to this traditional rivalry is a relief.
Mascara Dorada vs. La Sombra
This is a first-time singles match between the two most frequent CMLL visitors to NJPW in recent years. Sombra’s become a tweener in CMLL, but continued to wrestle as a face on the World Tag League tour and looks scheduled to do the same on these shows. Sombra’s bulked up into a heavyweight, so he should be the favorite, but Mascara Dorada is here more often so maybe he’ll be favored. Mascara Dorada was criminally underused in 2014, on both sides of the Pacific, but already started 2015 with a championship win over Negro Casas and could continue roll. Sombra’s talked about advancing on NJPW in a bigger way every year, and maybe this is the win that starts that happening.
The winner is important because all the big match wins in NJPW seem important, but this one may be remembered more for the action before the finish. Sombra and Dorada are spectacular luchadors who’ve had highly exciting matches with common opponents, and it’s intriguing to see how it’ll go with them in together. Sombra’s toned down his acrobatics as he’s increased his size in the last few years, but it’s likely break out moves we haven’t seen much of for the occasion, and Dorada’s still among the best flyers of the year. This is going to be a highlight show of a match, and should blow everything else away.
Mr. Niebla is the biggest name of the CMLL crew not to get a singles match. Niebla, long ago positioned to be Atlantis’ heir as the masked face of the promotion before self-destructing, is now a heavyweight comedy act affiliated with Cavernario. Niebla’s act will get over with the crowd and it seems like NJPW specifically picked him for these shows for that reason, but he’s also just coming off a CMLL suspension for showing up for a match in no condition to wrestle. With nothing else to do in Japan for a week, you’ve just got to cross your fingers and hope someone assigns a good babysitter.
Triton (pronounced treeTON) is a spectacular young high flyer. He’s the ex-partner of Titan; they never officially split, but Triton got left behind when Titan rocketed up the cards in 2012. Triton was seen as the flashier wrestler of the pair before they came to Mexico, but he struggled with his timing and consistency for his first couple of years on the roster. Triton looked better this past year, gaining some confidence and steadily landing his springboard moves. Mascara Dorada had a similar learning curve, and they’re comparable wrestlers. Triton would be a good fit for NJPW if they need a CMLL guy to do some flips while going 2-7 in the BOSJ, and he may get that spot if he can keep it together here.
Stigma is the newest CMLL luchador on this tour, and probably the least experienced luchador to be invited. He’s a Puebla native who’s been built into the local star for that arena, and he’s also the son of the long time promoter of that building. Stigma’s also the second-cousin of Black Cat/Kuroneko, who’s honored on this tour every year. It’s a nice story, but Stigma’s also probably a couple of years away from being ready for a tour like this, and would have had a much tougher time making it as far as he has without his family heritage. Stigma’s a good flyer who should look fine if used in small bursts in tag matches.