CMLL kicks off its summer of major shows this Friday by importing in a winter tradition. Fantastica Mania comes to Mexico with the most NJPW wrestlers on a CMLL show in many years. The imports are the lure, while CMLL’s real business is to wrap up a long rivalry and kick-start a new star.

Fantastica Mania takes place Friday night, starting at 9:30 US Central Time. (You can see your time zones here.) The show streams on TicketMasterLive for about 12 USD. It is a live-only stream with no VOD. Matches from this event will debut on CMLL’s YouTube channel on July 16.

CMLL is coming into this show hot. The last two Friday shows have had big turnouts. The June 16 show with Mistico/Titan and not much else drew 10,000 fans, and the follow-up crowd this past week was nearly as strong. There’s no special magic to that feud; it’s a standard CMLL bit existing just to build to a trios match on this show. Mistico being in a classic Mistico situation (rudo-for-the-month Titan going after his mask) is all it took to get people interested. Maybe a bit of this minor producing big success is a sign of a very healthy promotion.

Some years back, CMLL announced they would switch to a model of one major show a month. It sounded exciting and ended up less so. Most of those “major shows” were the final of whatever forgettable tournament CMLL ran that month. CMLL seems to be moving away from that style for at least a few months. They’re billing the shows around wrestlers’ anniversaries, though the real draw is the stipulation matches. This show finishes off a feud that’s been running for the better portion of the feud. July will have a double hair match. August will have the annual Mexico versus the World Gran Prix, and September in CMLL takes care of itself. There’s a lot more anticipation for these shows than finding out who wins the Copa Junior this year or trying to remember who got the Leyenda de Azul trophy last year.

This card will be a six-match show. CMLL aims to finish these all in two hours and fifteen minutes, which means this undercard may wrap quickly.

Dark Silueta, Lluvia, Zeuxis vs. La Catalina, La Jarochita, Stephanie Vaquer

Dark Silueta, Lluvia, and Zeuxis are all current or former rivals. They’re also wrestlers trained by Satanico, and so are forming a Las Infernales female version of his famous group for one night only. The opposition is just their usual partners, also unlikely allies for this show. This scenario might be the start of a bigger story in another promotion, and it’s solidly “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this thing?” and no more in CMLL. 

Dark Silueta is making her return from a long-term knee injury. The women’s matches on these Friday shows have generally featured five other women and one extra. CMLL’s picked the correct people if they’re going to narrow this way, but it’s been the same people for so long without much movement that it’s starting to become stale. CMLL seems to be waiting for something for the next chapter in this feud. I’m just hoping that it’s not a wait until September.

Audaz & Capitán Suicida vs. DOUKI & Okumura

DOUKI’s talked a lot about his wrestling on the Mexican indies. The less-told part of that story is DOUKI trained in Arena Mexico for a few years, learning from Hijo del Gladiador and Arkangel de la Muerte. There are a lot of stories of CMLL trainees who never got to be CMLL wrestlers after years of waiting. DOUKI’s a little different, because he came in as a foreigner. Okumura is the guy who can get foreign wrestlers into CMLL proper, and DOUKI never got into CMLL. You can figure out how they felt about each other. DOUKI wearing an Okumura t-shirt during Japan’s Fantastica Mania tour this past February was either a great inside joke or a sign the relationship had changed. I can’t say I know which, but DOUKI finally gets to make his CMLL debut.

Capitan Suicida solidified a midcard flying/energy role following his success in Japan in February. NJPW fans may recall Audaz as Kawato/Master Wato’s excursion rival. It’s strange how similar their careers have worked out: lots of promise and excitement as a rookie, then an awkward phase where it didn’t seem like they would get it. Master Wato may be finally coming out the other side in a better spot, helped by NJPW never entirely giving up on him. CMLL seems like they’ve given up on Audaz: he just fills out midcard matches with nothing going on and seems to lose confidence at some point. He’s been a few signs of life late, but there’s also a new group of prospects on their way up that CMLL seems much more behind. Audaz’s time in making cards like this may be near its end.

Satánico vs. Tiger Mask IV

Satanico stopped wrestling in 2009. He was 60, CMLL had started to put him in the early matches, and he didn’t want to go out that way after being a star for so much of his career. CMLL offered him a spot as lead trainer at their school back in his hometown in Guadalajara, and he took it. He stuck to training for a few years until local indie promoters asked him if he’d come back out of retirement for a match or two. Satanico thought about it, agreed, and took some side work between his training. One or two matches become ten, became twenty. Satanico wrestled thirty matches in 2022. Satanico is almost to that number already in 2023. Satanico is also turning 74 years old in October.

Fantastica Mania doubles as a celebration of Satanico reaching fifty years of wrestling. Satanico started ‘late’ at 23; top-line luchadors trained for much longer before debuting in the 70s. This match with Tiger Mask IV stems from a 1980 match, where Satanico dethroned the original Satoru Sayama (pre-Tiger Mask) to win the NWA World Middleweight Championship. Sayama’s run in Mexico is still the stuff of the legends, and Satanico being the one to stop him is a big bullet point on his long list of accomplishments. CMLL has tried to broaden its appeal in the last couple of years, yet they remain a promotion booked by 60-somethings for other 60-somethings at their core. CMLL would gleefully bring in Sayama himself if given the opportunity, and it’s not clear that everyone knows the difference.

It’s inspiring that Satanico can still safely get in the ring at his age. He’s good at what he does, and his matches do not have the sad/scary moments often seen with wrestlers his age. He also is careful in what he does and moves slowly. It’s better to watch this with the mindset of being a special exhibition than a regular match.

Satanico’s most significant role on this card might be sorting out his old faction. He brought back the Los Infernales group two years ago, with Hechicero, Mephisto, and Euforia as members. The team lost trios titles and splintered a few weeks ago, leaving Hechicero on one side against the other two. They only agree that this is still Satanico’s faction, and it’s up to him to decide the future of the Los Infernales concept. Satanico has yet to decide or say much about it.

El Desperado vs. Máscara Dorada 2.0

Máscara Dorada 2.0 is Panterita del Ring Jr., debuting the new gimmick as an integral part of this show. CMLL’s expectations are obvious

  • They’re giving him the Máscara Dorada gimmick, following one of the best highflyers of all time (who got the name from the greatest mini-wrestler of all time)
  • They’re putting him against one of the best juniors in the world.
  • They’re doing it on a show where they expect to have a big audience watching.

Panterita Jr. is a known quantity; he’s been hanging around the top matches since winning the Gran Alterantiva. This scenario turns that dial higher. This match exists to make “Mascara Dorada 2.0” a Star with a capital S in one night. Mistico excelled when put in this spot, and it’s a big reason he became Mistico. Almost no one else becomes Mistico, but that’s certainly the dream here. Few matches will be more critical for a wrestler’s career this year than this one.

I think Panterita is ready. He’s been impressive since debuting and turned it up since getting word of this character change. His problems are similar to many young high flyers, trying to push the limits of what they can do and finding themselves overshooting those limits. I have more confidence in him than most to put it together when he needs it. I’m not entirely sure Desperado knows what he’s walking into. He’ll figure it out.

Fans are annoyed at Panterita switching to the Mascara Dorada 2.0 gimmick. It may have helped CMLL a little bit to have a second Mistico around after the first one left, but it hurt (now) Dralistico’s progression as a wrestler. Two years in, half the people following AAA (and some of the promotions using AAA wrestlers) still can’t keep the two Sexy Stars straight. Panterita/Mascara seems permitted to evolve the character rather than just being a homage like Dralistico. The original Mascara Dorada returns to CMLL on their next big show to team with his replacement, hopefully allowing casual onlookers to understand these are two different people. Still, developing a new idea would be more painless. 

BUSHI, Naito, Titán vs. Atlantis Jr., Místico, Soberano Jr.

Mexican fans have long grumbled about CMLL not bringing in the big names. The guys on the excursion are nice, just not enough. They see those same big Japanese names working for US promotions (ROH before, AEW now), see AAA splurging for foreigners, and then end up with CMLL bringing in the Tiger Mask IVs of the world as big stars. This show helps CMLL appeal to those fans a significant amount. Desperado and especially Naito are massive names to this audience. Naito can wear his t-shirt for the entirety of this match because just getting him to the ring is the victory.

Team CMLL may be looking for a bit more. CMLL writers covet NJPW opportunities and know the best way to get one is to impress when there are NJPW wrestlers (and officials around.) Soberano Jr. and Atlantis Jr. worked on Tokyo’s All-Star Junior festival and figure to be in consideration for the Philadelphia version, if not more. Titan and Mistico have traded wins and figure to be the fulcrum of the result.

Rocky Romero © vs. Volador Jr. for the NWA Welterweight Championship

They missed their moment here. The Homenaje a Dos Leyendas ended up as a two-person match and should’ve been that way from the start. Volador Jr. shaving Rocky’s head was big but smaller than it could’ve been with a more focused build. This title match feels more like cleaning up unfinished business. Romero hasn’t been around CMLL since early April. Romero’s sent in videos, which has kept it in mind though not fresh. Volador and Rocky have great chemistry, and they should have a hot crowd to work with; it’s just going to be a challenge to get the fans to care as much as they did a few months ago.

That main event should still be pretty good. If anything, I’m underselling how good this show could be in the ring. Volador/Romero is a rematch of the best CMLL match of the year. Dorada/Desperado could still outdo it. The CMLL guys will go full bore in the semi-main, the women’s match is about the best six people CMLL could throw out there, and the guys in the second match will make some out of it. Satanico/Tiger Mask is a bit of a different match, but it won’t detract from the rest of the show. This night is a great first foot forward. It’s the right time to start following CMLL a little more often.

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