New Japan Pro Wrestling & CMLL
Fantastica Mania 2017 – Night 7
January 22, 2017
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Gedo, Jado & El Barbaro Cavernario Def. Henare, Blue Panther Jr. & El Soberano Jr.

Cavernario was far and away the star of this tour. Even if he wasn’t in the best match every given night, he was the most memorable performer every night. It’s not even close. And while he was the overall star of the tour, you could argue El Soberano Jr. was the breakout star of the tour. I haven’t seen a whole lot of him as I’m only a semi-regular lucha watcher and tend to skip undercard matches, so this may have been the first time he’s really stood out to me. I’d love to see New Japan keep either him or Cavernario around this year. I don’t suspect CMLL has major plans for Soberano, so maybe keeping him in New Japan would be good for him. I mean, look what it did for Mascara Dorada (half-joke). Henare was the other standout here, a guy who is clearly on the road to becoming a great worker and is already quite good. If he was Japanese, I’d go as far as to say he’d be a huge deal. That’s not to say he won’t be, but let’s not set our expectations that high. Easily the best opener of the shows we’ve seen so far (there are a few non-Korakuen shows that haven’t aired yet). Everyone worked relatively hard, everyone looked relatively decent, even Jado’s lazy ass did a little something, which should tell you all that you need to know. ***

Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Stuka Jr. Def. Hechicero, OKUMURA & Raziel

Liger and Tiger Mask didn’t do a whole lot on the tour and were largely forgettable, but with that said, Tiger Mask did seem to be more motivated than he normally is. Take that for what you will. Okumura and Stuka Jr. had an awesome match on the previous show and while both were good here, they were less featured than I would have liked. Nevertheless, a solid undercard bout with some solid comedy spots and that’s about it. **3/4

Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) Def. Dragon Lee & Titán

A big question for me since Takahashi vs. Lee was announced for New Beginning, was whether or not they’ll be able to top themselves yet again. I often question those sort of things. Every time Okada and Tanahashi stepped into the ring together I questioned whether or not they’ll be able to outdo themselves, and they ended up doing it every time. It gets to a point where there’s no need to question anymore. After this match, I have full confidence that Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi will create something special next month. These are two great, great professional wrestlers who have had some great, great matches together in the past, and I have no doubts they’re going to do it again. BUSHI and Titán were secondaries as the focus was clearly the other two, though both were very good in their own right. A hot, fast-paced, action-packed sprint. Had they gotten a few more minutes, I could see myself bumping it up half a star or so. Hiromu ripped Lee’s mask off afterward and held the title over his body, which I thought was worth noting. ***3/4

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay) & Ephesto Def. Juice Robinson, Maximo Sexy & Ryusuke Taguchi

The above tweet is this tour in a nutshell. Everyone always has a good time and is on top of their game, but no one has more fun than Okada does. It’s the one time a year he gets to bust out the old lucha and let loose. He isn’t the best at it, some of what he tries to do is very sloppy looking, but he loves it, he doesn’t take it seriously, no one does, it’s about having fun, end of story. He and Ospreay have some great chemistry as a tag team and part of me is glad YOSHI-HASHI was over in the UK during the tour, because it’s safe to assume he’d be in Ospreay’s position had he not been booked by Revolution Pro. I was a bit let down that Ospreay wasn’t booked in a singles match at first, but it’s completely forgotten about after seeing how much fun he had with Okada. A nice little six-man here. No complaints on my end. I even enjoyed Maximo, who I’m not as high on as most people. ***1/2

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA, Rush & Tetsuya Naito) Def. Atlantis, KUSHIDA, David Finlay Jr. & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Mascara Don, Tanahashi and Taguchi should have defended their NEVER six-man titles on one of these shows. Total missed opportunity and a minor gripe of mine. Tanahashi was in nothing but multi-mans and didn’t do a whole lot in them but still looked like he enjoyed himself, obviously. Same could be said for KUSHIDA, although he did do a lot more than Tanahashi did. Another good match. If you’ve seen one LIJ multi-man, you’ve seen them all. They’re all good, rarely great, never bad, always in that ***1/4, ***1/2 range. I’m hoping Rush doesn’t come back for a while after this. I like him in Mexico, he just doesn’t translate well. The last two minutes bumped this up at least a quarter-star. ***1/2

Mistico Def. Euforia

I haven’t seen a ton of Euforia as, again, I only started watching lucha semi-regularly a few years ago and he isn’t what I would consider a featured guy in CMLL, but he impressed me both here and on the previous nights, while Mistico was second to Cavernario as the overall star of the entire tour. If you fancy the idea of a flier working around a guy like Euforia, you’ll enjoy this a good deal, because very few are better than Mistico when it comes to that style (also see his match with Ultimo Guerrero at last year’s Fantasticamania). I wholeheartedly believe he would be talked up as one of the best fliers in the world if he were given more opportunities. He should be the CMLL representative in Super Juniors this year if not Dragon Lee. A fun, compact, heated little match that I’d recommend seeking out. ****

Volador Jr. Def. Ultimo Guerrero

Exactly what a tour-ending main event should have been, a best-of spotlight for two of the biggest names CMLL had to offer. Ultimo Guerrero knows how to step it up when he needs to step it up. He has at least one match a year where I watch and say to myself “this guy is incredible,” and that’s what this was. The first half saw Guerrero serve as a base for Volador, a role he played to absolute perfection, assisting Volador in looking like a million bucks by simply taking his moves, while the second half saw Guerrero get more of the offense. It clocked in at about sixteen minutes, and in those sixteen minutes, both were able to run through their Rolodex of spots, which, again, is exactly what a tour-ending main event should be. It doesn’t have to be super emotional and dramatic, it just has to be a spotlight, something that sends the fans home with a good taste in their mouth, and hats off to these two men for doing such. By far my favorite match of the tour. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

The best of the three Korakuen shows without a doubt, with the main event being the best match of the weekend and the semi-main event being right behind it. Fantasticamania is always a good time and has progressively gotten better over the years. I don’t know if this year’s was necessarily better than last year’s, but it was certainly up there.