NJPW & CMLL
FANTASTICA MANIA 2019
JANUARY 11, 2019
EDION ARENA OSAKA #2
Watch: NJPW World
NJPW’s joint tour with CMLL kicked off in the tiny Edion Arena in Osaka with the first card looking fun but unremarkable and the highlights being SHO, YOH and El Desperado returning to their old ‘excursion’ personas. I’m intrigued by the debut of Atlantis Jr., Templario, Audaz, Flyer and Forastero in Japanese territory: we might get a breakout performance that pushes one of these guys to more bookings with New Japan.
Also, I’m always interested in the clash of these two styles and in seeing how does Japan react to one of my country’s biggest cultural exports. Usually, Fantastica Mania does a good job of translating the CMLL lucha libre experience in a Japanese ring, but that also comes with lots of random multi-man matches and disappointing use of some wrestlers.
GEDO, TAIJI ISHIMORI & TEMPLARIO DEF. TIGER MASK, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & AUDAZ
This was just ‘a match’. I have high hopes for Templario on this tour, but he looked a little nervous in his debut and understandably didn’t have the best chemistry with his tag partners. Both luchadores had a diving spot in the middle of the match and closed things out with a little exchange that ended with Templario hitting a Powerbomb on Audaz for the win. Nothing else really happened, not even Taguchi got to do his shtick in this one because he was trying to be serious in order to hype his upcoming title match with Ishimori. **
YOSHINOBU KANEMARU, TAICHI & FORASTERO DEF. JUSHIN THUNDER LIGER, FLYER & TITÁN
Forastero adjusted perfectly to Kanemaru and Taichi’s dirty style, which doesn’t surprise me since he’s a tremendous trios wrestler. We had a little brawl on the floor, Flyer got his flying spot and the little finishing stretch between Titán and Forastero was pretty good. I love Titán and I’m always happy when he gets a chance to shine: he did just that in a couple of minutes but was submitted by a great armbar by Forastero, who looked great in this match. ***
OKUMURA & SANSON DEF. ATLANTIS & ATLANTIS JR.
This has been heavily hyped as the wrestling debut of Atlantis Jr. – son of Atlantis, of course – but in reality, he’s been secretly wrestling as Tiburón for a while, therefore this would be the debut of the ‘Atlantis son’ gimmick, which is a huge deal. Die-hard CMLL fans can be very intolerant and I’ve already seen much hate towards his young man just because he is Atlantis son and “he will never be as good as his father”. Yes, that is extremely dumb especially because they’ve never seen him wrestle but that’s just typical in México.
And it was a good debut by young Atlantis Jr., who didn’t look out of place, showed agility and landed some great huracarranas, tijeras, topes and planchas. Atlantis worked hard and even hit a plancha from the top rope all the way to Okumura and Sanson on the floor. But of course, the rudos managed to get the win with Okumura hitting a twisting neckbreaker at the end. Let’s keep in mind that Okumura will be working with Atlantis Jr. throughout the entire tour. And to add more fire to this little feud, the rudos took both Atlantis’ and Atlantis Jr’s masks just to brag a little more. By the way, New Japan dubbed Atlantis’s theme with ‘La Cucaracha’. Why not? ***
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) January 11, 2019
CUATRERO, GRAN GUERRERO & ÚLTIMO GUERRERO DEF. ÁNGEL DE ORO, DRAGON LEE & MÍSTICO
Cuatrero and Ángel de Oro have been feuding over a year now: in last year’s Fantasticamania show (1/19), Cuatrero defeated Ángel de Oro to win the CMLL World Middleweight Championship. A couple of months later, Cuatrero took Angel de Oro’s mask in the main event of Homenaje a 2 Leyendas and Cuatrero continued his dominance by defending the Middleweight Championship a couple of times in 2018. Well, that rivalry is still happening and the main focus of this match was seeing those guys go at each other: they even had the exact same ending as their Apuestas match in Homenaje, with Ángel failing to maintain the grasp on his Mecedora submission move and Cuatrero immediately taking advantage by hitting his Spinning Crucifix Powerbomb for the win.
The rest of the match was fun: Místico and Dragon Lee tangled with Último and Gran Guerrero, giving us some tremendous exchanges and high-flying tag action. Probably the match of the night, but still nothing too exciting. ***¼
KUSHIDA, SOBERANO JR. & CARÍSTICO DEF. NAMAJAGUE, BÁRBARO CAVERNARIO & VOLADOR JR.
The main focus of this match was to heat up the Soberano vs. Bárbaro match on January 18 and the Carístico vs. Volador Jr. match that will close the tour on January 21st. The four men did a great job at it, particularly Soberano, who decided to put his forgettable super junior tag league participation on the rear view and outshined his partners by getting big pops with his trademark tornillo and a Fosbury flop. Well, maybe ‘outshine’ is a little too much, but he gave a good performance. Volador tapped out to Carístico’s Mística after a lazy finishing stretch between them.
El Desperado wrestled as ‘Namajague’, the old gimmick that he used during his 2012-2013 CMLL excursion. He didn’t do much, but it looked like he was having fun. Also, KUSHIDA came out with his now traditional giant clock mask that I’m going to really miss. It looked like he was working hard and managed to pop the crowd. Another ‘okay’ match with nothing unmissable in it though. **¾
TETSUYA NAITO, SHINGO TAKAGI, BUSHI & TERRIBLE DEF. FUJIN, RAIJIN, TOA HENARE & SATOSHI KOJIMA
SHO and YOH used their Fujin and Raijin excursion personas, but with a twist: this time they weared cool masks. I’m pretty sure they didn’t wear masks in México (their excursion was barely existent) so this was a good novelty for the crowd. Hey, maybe CMLL would’ve at least tried with them if they had weared those sweet masks.
This was another entertaining yet underwhelming match highlighted by Henare’s heart as well as Terrible and Kojima’s exchanges: last year, Kojima got badly injured during his singles match with Rush, so he’ll try to extract some revenge against Terrible (Rush’s pal and fellow Ingobernable) during the tour. Takagi looked strong again, I don’t remember Naito doing much and the closing stretch was good, with Fujin battling with BUSHI until the Ingobernable used a quick bridge pin to get the three count. ***
— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) January 11, 2019
This was just ‘presentation’ night. Some future single matches started to heat up, seeing El Desperado back to his Namajague outfit was fun, Forastero was great in his Japan presentation and I enjoyed Dragon Lee and Carísticos teamwork enough to get me excited for the little family tag team tournament that will run throughout the tour. The biggest thing to come out of the first night was Atlantis Jr. looking good in his debut, showing some promise and fulfilling my realistic expectations.
There’s nothing unmissable here and I would only recommend watching this show if you really love lucha, if you’re interested in the development of CMLL young stars or as background noise while you’re working on something else.