New Japan Pro Wrestling and CMLL kicked off their annual Fantasticamania tour at the Osaka Bodymaker Colosseum last night and the show was everything you could want in a tour-opening show — basketball nets, actual heavy metal ring entrance music, six-man tags where the top stars bring their B-game as well as plenty of mask ripping and face exposing. For those looking for a repeat of the hard-hitting, strong style pro wrestling that Wrestle Kingdom 9 delivered, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, this show might be the complete opposite of that event and that is what Fantasticamania should be. Nothing on this show will be discussed at the year-end awards come December but nothing was unwatchable. It was like eating fast food after indulging in a Michelin star restaurant the night before. Matches were good, nothing was great, and you would not go out of your way for any of it.
Angel de Oro vs. OKUMURA: This is the lone singles match on the show and, for me, it was one of the better matches of the night until the odd finish. One of the coolest things was hearing Motley Crue’s “Dr. Feelgood” being used for OKUMURA’s entrance music. It made me really miss actual songs being used. The match was billed as a “lightning” match with a very old school ten-minute time limit. You knew that they’d play with that for the finish — and they did — but there was zero tease. OKUMURA and de Oro were chopping each other and then the bell rings. No build. No near falls. That was it. While these “lightning” matches are a staple in CMLL and OKUMURA was celebrating a ten-year milestone with the company (he wasn’t losing here to build to a future return match on the tour), it would have been nice to have a little build for the time limit draw. That was a shame because the match, while nothing earth shattering, was a decent little match that had a chance but that finish was a let down. Oh well. **3/4
Rey Cometa & Triton vs. Mr. Niebla & El Barbaro Cavernario: For those of you unfamiliar with El Barbaro Cavernario, he is a caveman rounded off with a bone in his hair. Mr. Neibla completes the prehistoric package with a look that gave me flashbacks to a pre-extreme Tazmaniac. Not really my cup of tea. The match itself was sloppy and could not get on track. This sloppy feel continued until Cometa & Triton went to hit a double dive through the ropes to the floor. Cometa hit his, but Triton’s foot caught the middle rope and he face-planted in the floor. OUCH! It was every bit as bad as Alex Koslov’s botch from last year. That was the end of Triton’s night as the young boys and the ringside doctor all stood by him on the floor and Triton never returned to his corner. Cometa quickly went to the finish with a 360 splash and Triton was taken away on a stretcher holding an ice pack on his right knee. This really wasn’t good and, in fact, I might be generous with the snowflakes on this one. *3/4
Jushin Liger & Mistico vs. Gedo & Polvora: The feeling I got after watching this match was “I am old” because I can vividly remember Jushin Liger being able to hit his signature spots without even trying. Not tonight my friends. You know that “pump-fake” handstand all juniors do when they go to hit a dive on the floor and bail out? Liger tried his and couldn’t quite hit the landing. The landing looked more like me flopping on my couch. Gedo, working in black and grey Air Jordan’s, looked like he was in slow motion. I felt really bad but then I remembered he is Gedo and things are looking pretty good for him right now. This match began the “rip the mask” portion of the evening as Gedo tugged away at Liger’s mask and Polvora did the same on Mistico. Polvora hit a reverse sit-down slam for the pin on Mistico. The match wasn’t long, but it wasn’t good. **
Tiger Mask & Stigma & Stoka Jr. vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI & Mephisto: The cool thing about Fantasticamania is watching the New Japan guys dip their toes into the Lucha-style and that is how this match opened as YOSHI-HASHI and Stigma did their “week one Lucha school” spots. The bad thing about Fantasticamania is that, until the last show of the tour, the big names mostly take it easy in six-man tags and kick things down a couple of gears. If this year is your first taste of New Japan and you are coming off of Wrestle Kingdom expecting to see the Shinsuke Nakamura of ten days ago you are not going to have a good time. Long time viewers know the drill. New fans? Welcome to Fantasticamania!
That being said this wasn’t a bad match. It was what it was — New Japan guys getting to swim in the Lucha pool a bit and CMLL guys getting a tour of Japan. When Tiger Mask is a highlight of a match you kind of get the feel that this isn’t going to be a five star wrestling match. Just setting expectations.
Not to be outdone, Mephisto not only decided to try to unmask Stuka Jr.’s mask, he began to tug and rip away at Stuka’s tights. It was kind of odd to see in the middle of a match a guy trying to rip off someone’s tights. This wasn’t a Ric Flair / Ricky Steamboat brawl where Flair gets his suit torn to bits. This just happened in the middle of the match. My exposure of Lucha is somewhat limited but I’ve never seen this before. Strange. **3/4
Tetsuya Naito & Ryuske Taguchi & La Sombra vs. KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan & Mascara Dorada
Naito and Taguchi both came dressed to impress as Naito had a mask with an over exaggerated open eye and Taguchi came out wearing an Egyptian Pharaoh gimmick. The pharaoh mask itself was a tad bit cheesy as it kind of looked like a plastic Halloween mask with a rubber band wrapped around his head. This match had a bit of everything — Lucha spots, comedy and high flying. I think the most interesting take away for me was the interaction and work between Naito and KUSHIDA. File this into the “It’ll never happen” box but I’d love to see these two work a long program together.
When Dorada and La Sombra were in the ring things got very good but overall this match was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing was bad but it was your typical New Japan house show six-man going around 10 to 12 minutes with the added spice of Dorada and La Sombra. Go out of your way to catch the singles match between these two because it’ll be very good. This match? I wouldn’t go out of my way, but it was good. ***
Hiroshi Tanahasi & Volador Jr. & Atlantis vs. Kazuchika Okada & Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero
Let’s not ignore the fact that the two biggest feuds of 2014: Okada/Tanahashi and Atlantis/Guerrero are in the same ring together. That fact alone is very cool. Tanahashi is wearing his “facepaint a la Uso” again this year. Ultimo Guerrero is wearing his mask even though he lost it a few months ago. Volador Jr.’s ring music is Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Depeche Mode classic “Personal Jesus.” Can things get any more awesome?
Well they can, but not until the last three or minutes minutes of the match. Okada and Tanahashi took the night off aside from a Slingblade and a shoulder block or two. Things did pick up at the end as Tanahashi hit another High Fly Flow to the outside on Okada, but really these guys took a night off. Guerrero had his mask removed and Atlantis made him tap to the Atlantida setting up a one-on-one match later in the tour. It was fun and the best match of the night ***¼
Overall, the show was an easy to digest night of wrestling. There was nothing that I would recommend as a must-watch but there was nothing that made me want to put my shoe through my computer. If you missed it, it wouldn’t make a difference — look outside your window and if you see the Sun, skip the show and enjoy your day.
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