New Japan Pro Wrestling & CMLL
FantasticaMania 2016: Night 4
January 22, 2016
Fuego & Stuka Jr. vs. Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu
It’s the final countdown for Tanakamatsu, who will head to Mexico with the rest of the CMLL crew at the end of the tour. Fuego is a personal favorite of mine, with his wacky prematch dancing. Komatsu got wrapped up in Fuego fever and tried to join in, but Tanaka stopped him. What a Buzz Killington. This was fast paced and a ton of fun, and it was great to watch Tanakamatsu fly around and bust out ranas & dives, which is a departure from their usual strong style fights, showing that they are very likely going to fit right in and tear shit up in Mexico. Everyone was pretty great here, but my boy Fuego was the star of the match. He pinned Komatsu with a crucifix. ***
Gedo, YOSHI-HASHI, Bobby Z, Hechicero & Okumura vs. David Finlay, Guerrero Maya Jr., Jushin Thunder Liger & Panther
The heels attacked before the bell, and the brawl was on. Once the brawl settled into a match, Hechicero and Panther kicked things off and absolutely killed it for the first few minutes. Later, Hechicero and Finlay were so great together that it made me badly made me want a singles match between the two that will likely never happen. Hechicero was the clear standout of the bout, and he picked up the win by tapping out Finlay. Post match, Bobby Z called out Panther & Maya Jr, setting up the Arena Coliseo tag title match for the next night (Bobby Z & Okumura vs Maya Jr & Panther). This was another super fun sprint. The first two bouts felt like the prelims of a big Dragon Gate show where the idea is to work a couple of fast, hot action 7-10 minute multi-man tags. ***
Atlantis & Juice Robinson vs. EVIL & Tetsuya Naito
If I would have told you a year ago that Atlantis & CJ Parker would form a tag team in New Japan, you would’ve had me committed. This was essentially a squash, with Los Ingobernables de Japan coming out of it looking very strong. Naito dominated Atlantis from the outset and did some mask ripping. Later, LIdJ tied Atlantis in the corner with a Tree of Woe and brutalized Robinson for a few minutes before pinning him. Naito tore off Atlantis’s mask and attacked an announcer. Naito & EVIL are starting to find their groove in terms of the timing and placing of their crafty heel spots. **1/2
Mexican National Welterweight Title – El Barbaro Cavernario (c) vs. Titan
They wasted no time getting right to the action. Cavernario was his usual force of nature, and Titan is a severely underrated flyer with some of the best agility in wrestling. Cavernario did his splash from the top rope to the floor, which causes people to endlessly whine about the future state of his knees, but nearly every time I see him do it his knees never even make impact with the ground (he almost always lands chest first on his opponent, with his feet hitting the floor before his knees). Titan sold for a good portion of the match, but made his big comeback and used Cavernario’s own La Cavernaria against him (while pulling on Cavernario’s hair for leverage, which looked great). Cavernario escaped, and Titan got a near fall on a gorgeous flying head scissors into a crucifix. Cavernario won moments later when he locked in the La Cavernaria. Very good match, best on the show. ***3/4
CMLL World Welterweight Title – BUSHI (c) vs. Mascara Dorada
BUSHI defeated Dorada for this title on the final NJPW show of 2015 in this same building. Dorada was all business here, delivering a dropkick to BUSHI’s back before the bell rang while he was removing his gear. Naito plopped a chair right in front of the announcer he roughed up earlier, and just starred at the guy (with his back to the ring) until Atlantis attacked him. With the seconds out of the way, Dorada won the title back clean in the middle, in a what was a good match that came up a tad short of the title change in December and the Cavernario/Titan bout that proceeded it. It’s too bad that these two guys only had a chance to feud for a month. ***1/4
Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura & Virus vs. Dragon Lee, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi
There was a palpable buzz when Nakamura made his way out. That final Nakamura appearance in Korakuen on 1/30 is going to be an incredible scene.
Dragon Lee & Virus started things off with some mat wrestling. I shouldn’t have let this bother me as much as it did, but twice Dragon Lee German suplexed Virus and both times Virus failed to kick out when his partners broke up the pin, which made the ref look like a complete goof when he stopped counting. Otherwise, the stuff between Lee & Virus was pretty solid. Taguchi is starting to get over big as a comedy act, and even though I hate myself for this, he’s starting to grow on me too. Tanahashi did the crossbody high fly flow from the top rope to the floor on Okada, which surprised me tat he would do that spot in a match like this. To set up his CMLL Lightweight title challenge the next night, Virus submitted Lee with a wacky submission that I have no prayer of knowing the name of, and then cut a post match promo on him for good measure. ***1/4
Mephisto & Ultimo Guerrero vs. Mistico & Volador Jr.
Guerrero & Mistico did dueling appeals to the crowd, which Mistico got the better of, so naturally Guerrero threatened to walk out and quit the match. Next they took turns leading the fans in mimicking their taunts, helping UG win them over. Guerrero was having the time of his life and looked like he was genuinely touched at how well the fans were responding to him. The hardcore Korakuen crowd was just the best here, playing along and treating these guys like big time stars on the level of the New Japan natives. As for the match itself, Mephisto mostly acted as a base, taking bumps and staying out of the way as UG’s charisma and the athleticism of Volador & Mistico carried things. In the best spot of the match, UG caught Volador on a flip dive to the floor and powerbombed him into the ring post. This led to a great near fall where Volador kicked out of Mephisto’s Demon Driller, but then UG hit the Guerrero Special on Mistico a few minutes later to win it for the rudos. Guerrero was the crowd favorite here, but I have a feeling he’ll heel it up a bit more when he faces Mistico on the tour closing show in two nights. ***1/4
Everything was loads of fun, and a few of the matches were bordering on great. Everybody seemed to be having a great time, and this looks like it could be the best overall top to bottom group of wrestlers that CMLL has ever sent. I highly recommend this show. Don’t skip anything.