CMLL World Lightweight Title Best Two of Three Falls: Dragon Lee vs. Kamaitachi
December 4, 2015
CMLL Super Viernes
Arena Mexico in Mexico City

Reviewed by Adam Berger (VOW Author Page / @adam_bomb5150)

Gifted by Chris Sama (VOW Author Page / @thechrissamsa)

Every decade has a wrestling rivalry so innovative it feels like it was transported from the future. The first time you saw it you struggled to understand what you were watching, as athletic feats you never imagined were possible played out before your eyes. In the 80s this rivalry was Tiger Mask Vs Dynamite Kid. The 90s had Jushin Thunder Liger Vs Brian Pillman, Rey Mysterio Vs Psicosis, and various combinations of Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit. The 2000s featured AJ Styles Vs Samoa Joe Vs Christopher Daniels in TNA, and Dragon Gate exporting Do Fixer Vs Blood Generation to RoH. In the 2010s this rivalry was Dragon Lee Vs Hiromu Takahashi (aka Kamaitachi), which migrated from Mexico to Japan to the United States over a 4-year span.

I was fortunate to experience this rivalry live at RoH’s All Star Extravaganza in September 2016. My friend Jon accompanied me to the show. He was a casual fan from the Attitude Era that still watched WWE occasionally and would join me for a house show once a year, but he hadn’t followed wrestling outside WWE since 2001. Much like the RoH audience that night, he wasn’t familiar with either Dragon Lee or Kamaitachi. Undeterred by the mild reactions they received during their entrances, Dragon Lee and Kamaitachi stunned the audience with wild moves and sequences these fans never seen before. After the final bell rang, Jon turned to me while still shaking his head in amazement and said: “That was the best match I’ve ever seen.”

Receiving this match from my anonymous benefactor brought back those fond memories of that night, as well as frequently logging into New Japan World to see what insane stunts Hiromu and Dragon Lee could come up with next. While I did experience this rivalry in real time, I’d never seen a match between them in Mexico, including this Best Two out of Three Falls match for the CMLL World Lightweight Title on 12/04/2015.

These guys are so fast the cameras miss the opening spots because they’re focused on the CMLL background dancers posing after the introductions. When the camera finally cuts to the ring Dragon Lee is already on the floor outside and Hiromu is on the apron ready to attack. Hiromu misses a senton from the apron. Dragon Lee takes the opportunity to slide back in the ring and launch into a suicide dive, which results in him landing headfirst into the barricade at a terrifying angle. If you didn’t know what you were getting into watching these two, the first 30 seconds of this match sum it up perfectly. It really is miracle they didn’t kill each other with their balls to the wall insanity.

The best of three falls format is perfectly suited for this rivalry. Even early on, it’s easy to believe that any of these crazy moves could put an opponent down for a three count. The frantic pace combined with their level of speed and agility creates an unpredictable battle with the potential to transition anywhere within just a few seconds. Their fight spills from the ring to the outside, moves into the crowd, then onto the stage, then back to the ring, never remaining in one place for too long. They each score pinfalls relatively early to tie the score at one to one. Since the moves are so spectacular the early falls still feel warranted. This sets the stage for more furiously paced action to determine who wins the deciding fall and walks away the champion. While Hiromu had defeated Dragon Lee before in non-title matches, he’d come up short in several previous best of three falls title shots. Would this finally be the night he wrestled the title away from Dragon Lee?

There is a lone Japanese woman at ringside rooting for Hiromu. The camera frequently cuts to show her reactions throughout the match, which alternate between cheers of encouragement and helpless looks of concern. This adds to the drama of the match, as her expressions convey the sense of importance this opportunity carries for Hiromu.  He is absolutely desperate to finally become a champion and pulls out all the stops to dethrone his nemesis. With the rest of the crowd unanimously supporting Dragon Lee, it becomes obvious that with such high stakes the loser is going to be devastated.  I strongly encourage anyone who has never seen this match to take the time to experience it for themselves. Hiromu is at his unhinged best during the controversial finish and post-match angle, which is a roller coaster of elation and despair for everyone evolved.

The rivalry between these two went on for three more years into 2018. Unfortunately, the continued escalation of their high-speed death-defying stunts resulted in Hiromu suffering a broken neck during a match with Dragon Lee at the 2018 G1 Special in San Francisco. He would be out of action for almost a year and a half before overcoming the potential career ending injury to return to the ring. While he’s toned down his style a bit since then, Hiromu remains New Japan’s premier Junior Heavyweight and one of its most colorful, eccentric, and popular personalities. Dragon Lee’s career stalled in the years after their rivalry due to both the pandemic and the never-ending politics between AAA and CMLL. In late 2022 he made a bet on himself by joining NXT, and within a year was elevated to WWE’s main roster on Smackdown.

While both Dragon Lee and Hiromu have become more polished performers and raised their profiles considerably since 2015, matches like this easily stand the test of time. It’s rare to see two equally determined and innovative daredevils completely throw caution to the wind in an effort to create something no one had ever seen before. In doing so they not only made a name for themselves but set the standard for the next decade of high-flyers.

A sincere thank you to my Secret Santa. This was a treat!