New Japan Pro Wrestling
NJPW & CMLL Fantastica Mania 2020 – Night One
January 10, 2020
Edion Arena Osaka
Watch: NJPW World
Ahhh…Fantastica Mania, has it been ten years already?? For anyone who might be a newer fan of New Japan, Fantastica Mania is a joint tour between NJPW and CMLL that takes every January where the cards are largely comprised of Mexican luchadores. While generally speaking the tour feels disconnected from the rest of New Japan’s storylines every year, I still find it highly enjoyable as the tour is usually infused with a sense of pure fun that is usually less present in the wrestling that I watch. Now as a word of warning, my knowledge of CMLL pretty much starts and stops with this tour every year, and consequently, this review will reflect that limited perspective. Luckily, for those of you who are interested in the thoughts of someone with a much more informed perspective on CMLL, Ricardo Gallegos will be back to review some of the Korakuen Hall shows next week.
As the show begins we are treated to Ikari no Jyushin playing over the speaks and this can only mean that Liger is making his surprise return from retirement to join the Fantastica Mania tour!!!!! Oh wait…never mind, just here as an announcer. Carry on everyone.
Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI)
Alright, now this is an awesome way to start the actual show, as there is nothing that I would rather see kickoff the tour that Fuego dancing his way to the ring. Even better is the fact that he is getting to do it with his regular NJPW tag partner Taguchi. While it would never happen, I would love it if Fuego could take up residence in Japan for a year so that he and Taguchi entertain us all on NJPW undercards throughout the year.
As the match gets underway are treated to some basic lucha grappling with comedy spots sprinkled throughout (what else would you expect with Fuego and Taguchi?). While your mileag might vary on the comedy antics, I think you must have a pretty cold heart to not smile while Fuego works his craft in the ring. After a few minutes of perfectly competent action DOUKI hits Fuego with a Gory Neckbreaker/backslide combination that earns his side a nearfall, but alas it was meant to be as moments later Fuego catches him with the La Guelaguetza cradle pin. Solid enough of a match with some fun spots to keep things interesting. **½
Audaz, Guerrero Maya Jr. & Yuya Uemura vs. Euforia, Luciferno & Namajague
Luciferno is one of three luchadores who are making their NJPW debut tonight, and is teaming with tour veteran Euforia and El Desperado (Kyosuke Mikami) under his CMLL excursion gimmick, Namajague. On the other side we have the young and talented Audaz and the veteran Guerrero Maya Jr. representing CMLL, along with New Japan young lion Yuya Uemura.
I must say the fashion game is top-notch for this match as the Namajague outfit works nicely with his team (especially Luciferno), while Audaz and Guerrero Maya Jr. both look fantastic as well. I can’t help but think that Uemura must feel pangs of jealousy when it comes to the outfits that everyone else is sporting. The rudo side ends up holding things together throughout most of the match as Euforia and Luciferno play bullying big men roles while Namajague mixes in a couple of trickster spots while and joins them for some triple-team spots. Eventually, the tide is by the tecnicos team, and the action culminates with a series of dives that leaves Uemura alone in the ring with Namajague….which probably isn’t good news for the young lion, and surely enough Namajague pins him shortly after with a German suplex. Pretty basic trios match, but everyone worked well and it left me excited to see more of everyone throughout the tour. ***
Powered by RedCircle
El Soberano Jr. & Flyer vs. La Dinastia Casas (Negro Casas & Tiger)
Hey, it’s Negro Casas! I believe that this is Casas’s first match in New Japan since 2012, and for longtime NJPW fans he is probably best remembered for his series matches with Jushin Liger back in the early 1990s (which unfortunately are not currently available on NJPW World). Tonight he is teaming up with his nephew Tiger, who is another luchador making his NJPW debut to take on the team of Flyer and El Soberano Jr, the latter of whom is starting to be given a bit more run in New Japan as he has had a couple of non-Fantastica Mania appearances as over the last two years in addition to regular participation on these tours.
This ends up being another short, but fun tag match, as Casas brought an intensity to the action that really wasn’t been seen in the previous matches…and I must say he is moving around pretty well in the ring for a wrestler with his mileage. Big spot in the match comes when Soberano missed a moonsault plancha (not sure if it was planned quite like that as Casas was just casually walking by as it happened), which leads to him getting worked over for a little bit. The finish comes after a nice little sequence between Soberano and Tiger which ends with Soberano hitting a springboard leg drop to the back of Tiger’s head for the pin. Just another short and fun match in a series of them, and while I didn’t really talk about him above I thought Flyer looked better here than what I remember him looking like on last year’s tour. **¾
Angel de Oro, Niebla Roja & Titan vs. La Sangre Dinamita (El Cuatrero, Forastero & Sanson)
After a surprise brief intermission (perhaps an opportunity for the more merch sales?) we return with a battle of families (plus Titan) that serves as a tease for next week’s family tag tournament as well as a rematch between these same two teams for La Sangre Dinamita’s Mexican National Trios titles on the final night of the tour. While all of these guys have wrestled in NJPW before, Titan is probably the most known to New Japan fans as he has been on several tours for the promotion, including putting in good performances in last year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament and Super Juniors Tag League.
The match begins with everyone pairing off for a turn in the ring, and each pair increasing the pace a little bit more, with Cuatrero and Oro the last two to square off. We then transition into a cool extended control sequence for Dinamita, which is filled with smooth looking teamwork and triple-team spots. Eventually, Titan is able to create some space for himself, and then starts flying around the ring to take advantage back for the tecnicos. Oro and Cuatrero then have a really good back-and-forth finishing sequence where Oro earns a submission victory over the champs with La Mecedora (a rocking chair surfboard). Best match of the night so far as they had a little more time, and I really enjoyed the Dinamita control portion of the match. Thought Cautrero was the standout performer for his team as he had some really crisp looking offense, while Titan and Oro both brought the crowd alive with fast pace and high flying moves. ***½
Dulce Gardenia, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yota Tsuji vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
While Dulce Gardenia is the only CMLL wrestler in this match, all three LIJ members spent their excursions in Mexico (with Naito and Hiromu in CMLL, and BUSHI with IWRG). This match also marks the only taped match for either Tana or Naito on the tour, and I find it interesting that they are on the small arena whos and then missing the larger Korakuen Hall ones. Finally, Gardenia is the other debuting CMLL wrestler, and is an exotico who just defeated Hirai Kawata (Kawata-San) in a hair vs. hair match on January 1st. On the LIJ side of things, Naito comes out in his Wrestle Kingdom dark outfit and both belts, while Hiromu is sporting his old Kamaitachi mask to the ring. While waiting for the match to start it seems like Gardenia might be displaying some nerves as he seems a little extra fidgety, but that could also just be my imagination or my lack of familiarity with him showing.
We begin with Gardenia wanting to show his affection to a wary BUSHI to the delight of the crowd and then the match then proceeds in a relatively straightforward fashion with Naito and Tana largely taking a backseat to the other competitors. Tsuji is able to get a Boston Crab on Hiromu, which then leads to the babyfaces putting all three LIJ members in submissions. However, once Hiromu is able to get Tsuji alone in the ring he gets his revenge with a big lariat and then his own Boston Crab for the submission. So this definitely felt like the most run of the mill match of the night so far as while the work was fine, outside of Gardenia working to get his character over and Tsuji doing typical good young lion things, not much interesting happened. In fact, the most entertaining moment of the match might have been Naito and Hiromu taking turns making different displays out of their belts for their post-match celebration while BUSHI looked on, hoping that no one realized that he had already lost his NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag belt. **½
OKUMURA 25th Anniversary Match
Caristico, Satoshi Kojima & Stuka Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero, El Barbaro Cavernario & OKUMURA
Our main event is a celebration of OKUMURA, who is not exactly the most exciting in-ring wrestler, but he does serve as the liaison between CMLL and NJPW, and consequently, is the only CMLL wrestler to appear on every Fantastica Mania tour so far. Luckily he is teaming with two of the most popular and best working luchadores on the tour in Ultimo Guerrero and El Barbaro Cavernario. Tonight they are taking on the fun team of Kojima, Caristico (formerly Sin Cara, formerly Mistico) and Stuka Jr., who has some of the most damn entertaining “stocky man dives” in the business. In addition to honoring OKUMURA, the match is also a part of the build to a couple of title matches later on the tour as Kojima will be challenging Guerrero for his CMLL World Heavyweight title on night seven, and Caristico will defend his NWA World Historic Middleweight title against Cavernario on night eight.
OKUMURA is the first to make his way to the ring, and is accompanied by Mima Shimoda and then awarded a plaque to honor his twenty-five years as a wrestler. As an extra bonus, a poor dubbing job means we get to hear Van Halen’s Jump play in the background during Stuka Jr.’s entrance. While the match is in honor of OKUMURA, Guerrero and Cavernario carry most of the match for their team, which is probably for the best. The match structure ends up seeming to give more of a spotlight to the upcoming Guerrero/Kojima title match over the Caristico/Cavernario, as they have multiple sequences where both wrestlers get to hit a number of their signature spots. As the match builds we get a number of fun dives, including Stuka’s wonderful Torpedo Plancha and a plancha from Kojima that might have been a tribute to the retiring Nakanishi with how scary it looked! I was really enjoying the way the match was developing, but then it seemed to come to a relatively abrupt end when OKUMURA caught Stuka with a rope-assisted cutter for the victory. That finish just felt out of nowhere, and not in a good way…but oh well. Still, a good finale for the show that did its job of building to the later big title matches. ***
This was an absolute breeze of a show, as even with the intermission the bell-to-bell time was essentially two hours. While there is nothing must watch on the show, it was still fun (there I go using that word again, perhaps I should consult a thesaurus) and ended up serving as an effective preview for next week’s Korakuen Hall shows. Solid enough that I would recommend watching if you are planning on viewing any of the other Fantastica Mania shows, even if you just have it on in the background.