Before I dive into the review of this last stop on the NJPW & CMLL FantasticaMania Tour, here’s a quick look at the results from the other Korakuen Hall shows a few days prior. Of course, the Korakuen Hall events are usually the only events from the FantasticaMania Tour to show up on NJPWWorld:
Night 6 (January 19th)
– Okumura (with Mima Shimoda) def. Fuego
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, & BUSHI) & Rush def. Dragon Lee, Hirai Kawato, Satoshi Kojima, & Star Jr.
– Barbaro Cavernario, Disturbio, Puma, & Ultimo Guerrero def. Atlantis, Drone, Mistico, & Volador Jr.
– CMLL World Middleweight Title – Cuatrero def. Angel de Oro (c)
– Mexican National Welterweight Title – Soberano Jr. (c) def. Sanson
– CMLL World Light Heavyweight Title – Niebla Roja (c) def. Gran Guerrero
Night 7 (January 21st)
– Disturbio & Puma def. Drone & Star Jr.
– Soberano Jr., Fuego, & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Roppongi 3K & Okumura (with Mima Shimoda)
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, & BUSHI) & Rush def. Atlantis, Hirai Kawato, KUSHIDA, & Satoshi Kojima
– CMLL Brothers Tournament – First Round – Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero def. Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja
– CMLL Brothers Tournament – First Round – Dragon Lee & Mistico def. Cuatrero & Sanson
– NWA World Historic Welterweight Title – Volador Jr. (c) def. Barbaro Cavernario
While I didn’t watch either show in full, I did make sure to check out the important matches from both cards, particularly the title defenses and the first round of the brothers tournament. I had the main events from those two shows (Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero and Volador Jr. vs. Barbaro Cavernario) at ****1/4, and I would definitely recommend checking out both of them. I would also recommend Soberano Jr. vs. Sanson from January 19th, which I went **** on. As for the two opening round matches from the Brothers Tournament, both bouts were really good (I went ***1/2 on both), but they weren’t quite at the same level as the title matches.
One more quick note before the review. The opening video package on all three shows features a very cool bit where the CMLL roster members on this tour, as they’re listed off, are depicted as children’s drawings.
New Japan Pro Wrestling & CMLL
FantasticaMania 2018: Night 8
January 22nd, 2018
Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Disturbio & Puma
I’m sure others that’ve seen this show already would say the same thing, but Fuego & Taguchi dancing together during their entrance was better than 90% of what we saw on RAW 25. They took on Disturbio & Puma (I was seeing both of them for the first time) in what was a fun opening contest. This was a fair amount of comedy mixed in with some fine lucha action. In particular, we got to see some Dragon Ball Z inspired comedy spots, such as Disturbio & Puma doing the fusion pose, and Disturbio (who was wearing a shirt that looked like the armor that Vegeta would wear) sending Taguchi out of the ring with a Kamehameha. Eventually, Fuego caught Disturbio in a cradle to score the win for his team. This wasn’t the greatest match in the world by any means, but it was perfect for it’s spot on the card. **3/4
CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) & Okumura def. KUSHIDA, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Star Jr., & Tiger Mask
KUSHIDA broke out his giant silver clock mask like he does every year on the FantasticaMania Tour. While this was billed as an eight-man tag, it quickly turned into a five-on-four handicap match as Mima Shimoda, Okamura’s valet and a wrestler for almost three decades (according to cagematch, she was a big part of the All Japan Women’s promotion in the early-mid 1990’s), constantly got involved. There was decent action throughout this one, but the interference definitely hurt it. At the same time, this was only the second match on the card, so seeing a ton of shenanigans wasn’t a total surprise. Okumura ultimately pinned Star Jr. to win the match for his side. Honestly, there’s not much else to say beyond that. It was fine for what it was, but it easily could’ve been a little better (given who was involved) if Mima Shimoda didn’t get involved so often. **1/2
CMLL Brothers Tournament – 3rd Place Match – Cuatrero & Sanson def. Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja
One of the big selling points for the final two nights of the tour was a special mini-tournament that featured four brother teams. While the winning teams from the first round advanced to the finals (which take place later on in the show), the two sides that lost squared off in this 3rd Place Match. This was a pretty entertaining tag team encounter that was wrestled at a quick pace right from the start. Angel de Oro had a strike exchange with Cuatrero as soon as the bell rang, and from that point, there was a lot of really fun back and forth action between both sides. Before seeing events from this tour, the only one of these four that I was aware of previously was Angel de Oro (who worked some ROH shows in 2016). After seeing some of the other Korakuen Hall shows on this tour, the other three have definitely won me over, particularly Niebla Roja and Sanson, who both had great title matches on the first of the three Korakuen Hall events on January 19th (against Gran Guerrero and Soberano Jr. respectively). This match also had a little extra wrinkle with Cuatrero and Angel de Oro, as the former captured the CMLL Middleweight Title from the latter on that aforementioned January 19th event. There were a few sloppy points in this tag team match, but for the most part, it was a good bout that fit some very solid action in the nine-and-a-half minutes it was given. Sanson would score the winning fall (and 3rd Place in this mini-tournament) after hitting a crazy rack bomb on Angel de Oro from the second rope. ***1/4
Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo def. Atlantis & Hirai Kawato
This was billed as Hirai Kawato’s final match in New Japan before he leaves on his excursion to CMLL. It’s crazy to think that, at only twenty years old, Kawato has already reached this point in his career. His final bout as a young lion saw him team up with CMLL legend Atlantis in what ended up being a losing effort against Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo. There was a fair amount of brawling on the outside in the opening minutes, and for the most part, Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo dominated the tecnico side. Atlantis didn’t do much, but Kawato (who, as always, played a great underdog) managed to fight back with some high-flying lucha offense in the form of a big springboard dive to the floor and a springboard hurricanrana. However, shortly thereafter, he got trapped in Cavernario’s submission finisher, La Cavernaria, and was forced to tap. Despite coming up short, this was a solid performance from Kawato in his farewell match. **3/4
— John.gif (@DK1105) January 22, 2018
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, & BUSHI) def. Drone, Soberano Jr., & Volador Jr.
After Naito seemingly lost his patience with the ring announcer’s long introduction, LIJ jumped the tecnico team to kick off this six-man tag. While this ended up being the shortest bout of the night (which was a slight surprise), it was pretty entertaining from start to finish. Hiromu had some hard chop exchanges with both Volador Jr. and Soberano Jr., and the tecnico side got to showcase of their high-flying offense. I really don’t have much to add here, since this one was so short. BUSHI caught Drone with a bridging backslide to secure the victory for LIJ. The finish was a tad underwhelming, but it’s nice to see BUSHI pick up a win every so often. ***
Afterwards, Volador Jr. and Soberano Jr. seemed to call out Naito, but he backed off and exited with the rest of his LIJ stablemates.
Rush def. Satoshi Kojima
This was the only New Japan vs. CMLL singles bout that had been built up on the entire tour. As a whole, it was relatively solid. After an initial strike exchange, Rush dominated the early part of this one. At one point, while they were on the outside, Rush took a chair and just nailed Kojima in the head with it, busting him open. Kojima managed to mount a comeback in the second half of the match, and there was some good back and forth between the two, but in the end, his best efforts weren’t enough. Rush picked up the win after hitting Kojima with a Rush Driver. Again, I would classify this as good, but I was expecting it to be a little better. ***
Unfortunately, this might be the last time we’ll see Satoshi Kojima for the foreseeable future. It was recently revealed that he ruptured his left ACL. During his match with Rush, there were a number of points where Kojima was seen clutching/feeling out his left knee, and in general, he seemed to be a bit off (which could explain the slight dip in quality). I’m not sure if it was the result of wear & tear, or if the actual injury occurred during his bout with Rush, but at the very least, the issues with his knee were greatly exacerbated. Hopefully he’s able to make a full recovery.
— chris charlton (@reasonjp) January 24, 2018
CMLL Brothers Tournament – Finals – Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero def. Dragon Lee & Mistico
The main event of this last night of the tour was the Finals of the CMLL Brothers Tournament, and it was easily the best match on this particular show. These two teams had a great bout that was packed with some really cool action throughout. This did get off to a bit of a slow start, but once the pace started to pick up, the match got more exciting. Of course, we saw some incredible offense from both Dragon Lee & Mistico. Both are phenomenal talents, and they never cease to amaze crowds with their awesome displays of athleticism. In a particularly cool moment, Mistico ran off an elevated platform near the ring to hit a hurricanrana on Ultimo Guerrero. The standout moments of this main event, however, were a pair of brutal chop exchanges between Dragon Lee and Gran Guerrero, both of which lasted at least a minute. The only complaint I have about this one is that the finish seemed to come out of nowhere, as after Dragon Lee hit Gran Guerrero with a double stomp to the outside, Ultimo Guerrero just hit his reverse superplex on Mistico for the victory. Again, it seemed to be a very sudden ending, and I would’ve like it better if those two at least had a brief exchange beforehand. Regardless, this was still a great main event that was a ton of fun to watch. ****
Afterwards, the entire CMLL contingent (plus people from New Japan like Liger, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask, and Taguchi) came out to the ring. Hirai Kawato and Ultimo Guerrero gave brief speeches to the crowd, and then they all posed in the ring for the end-of-the-tour group photo.
Aside from the main event, which was pretty great, nothing much else on this event stood out. At the same time, I wouldn’t say anything on the undercard was bad. Every match besides the main event clocked in at eleven minutes or less, so in that regard, the show was very easy to sit through. If you’re a regular New Japan viewer, the only other things you might be interested in from this event are the Kojima/Rush bout and Kawato’s farewell. This wasn’t the greatest FantasticaMania show (even though I didn’t see the other two Korakuen Hall shows in full, I feel confident in saying that this was the worst of the three), but it certainly had its bright spots.