CMLL & NJPW FantasticaMania Mexico 2024
June 21, 2024
Arena Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico

Watch: YouTube

CMLL runs their second-ever Arena Mexico FantasticaMania on Friday night, and Mistico’s 20th Anniversary celebration headlines the night. This is sure to sell out and provide a remarkable atmosphere. It’s a show that features more unique matches than big feuds, but it’s a card that is certain to be an easy watch. It should be an enjoyable night if you’re willing to drop $35 for it.

CMLL FantasticaMania is this Friday at 8:30 pm from Mexico City’s Arena Mexico. (They’re in US Mountain Time for the summer.) The show will stream live on CMLL’s YouTube channel. It will only be available to people subscribing to their highest-level Fan Leyenda tier. The opening match will also be a sampler on CMLL’s Facebook page. Matches from the show will air on TV in Mexico (TelevisaNueve.) This show will likely become part of NJPW’s offerings, but they usually geo-block CMLL content.

The FantasticaMania shows in NJPW feature CMLL wrestlers in an NJPW ring. This FantasticaMania does have some NJPW wrestlers in a CMLL ring, but it’s also more “people we work with elsewhere coming by for a visit.” Michael Oku is the first RevPro wrestler to work CMLL since that talent exchange started, while Bad Dude Tito and Che Cabrera come from the NJPW US office. This event also doubles as a Mistico 20th Anniversary celebration, marking two decades since his first match as this character. The Mistico portion of this has gotten by far the most attention leading into the show. CMLL could’ve easily split the concepts into two separate shows, drawn well with both, and built around them more substantial. The main event ties them together.

CMLL held a FantasticaMania show in Mexico for the first time last year. That FantasticaMania event was the final Friday show before CMLL migrated to a paid YouTube model and said goodbye to free Arena Mexico uploads. That plan has seen additions, subtractions, multiple tiers, and a still missing Arena Puebla Christmas special over the last 12 months. The concept still does not feel like it’s reached a final state. The current plan has three tiers of membership. The lowest tier, the 9 USD/month Fan Campeon Mundial, is a reasonable value for people who want to dip in and out of CMLL. Fans on that tier will not get this show; however, you must subscribe to the $35 USD Fan Leyenda tier to watch this show. It will never be available for other members as a VOD, which only became apparent after the Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show wasn’t posted for other levels. Going from 9 to 35 (or 0 to 35) is a big ask. FantasticaMania will be a great atmosphere show, though it’s not one with one killer match after another. The best match on paper of the weekend is the next day, with Hechicero scheduled to wrestle Zack Sabre Jr. in Arena Coliseo. That show will also air only for those 35/Fan Leyendas tier members. 35 is a lot if you’re thinking about it for this one show, but it’s a lot more palatable if you play mental accounting tricks and spread it over Friday and Saturday.

This Friday show has a little story; CMLL built the show around the novelty of seeing these people all in one place and in one-off matches against CMLL wrestlers rather than ongoing issues. There’s nothing built up here any more than last week’s TripleMania Tijuana, but the matches all feel more special – and they’ll be a lot better.

Astro Boy Jr., Dr. Karonte I, Dr. Karonte II vs. Futuro, Max Star, Vegas

Maybe this one won’t be a lot better. Astro Boy and Dr. Karonte are all relatives of Mistico, and they are all here because this is Mistico. By here, I mean this particular show – they don’t work Fridays often – but also CMLL in general; they seem employed primarily as a gesture of goodwill to Mistico. Astro Boy Jr. is young and green, no better than a hundred other flying luchadors. He’s a deep, long-term prospect in 2024. The Dr. Karontes are awful; the worst combination of great wrestler confidence and weekend warrior skills. Dr. Karonte II especially seems to be reinventing the form of lucha libre with his particular brand of dropping his opponents in mid-move and coming up with nonsensical offense. The talent in the family was not distributed equally.

Their opposition is the exact opposite: three guys without strong lucha libre family connections who’ve instead made it through impressing the right people. They may be in mortal danger. Futuro, Max Star, and Vegas have already ascended higher on the card than these other three, but that just might not matter on Mistico’s night.

Magnus & Rugido vs. Bad Dude Tito & Che Cabrera

CMLL – and Mexican wrestling in general – has a history of booking tough foreigners against the heroic babyfaces and the typically evil rudos. The idea is to prove that “our” bad dudes are just as capable as “their” bad dudes. The surprising part is that Magnus and Rugido are now CMLL’s tough guys; this has long been the Los Guerreros corner, and I didn’t see the Depreadores replacing them. Everything about Magnus’ year continues to be surprising – from getting on the Japan FantatsticaMania shows for the first time to appearing on AEW TV to actually feuding with his cousin Mistico. Tito & Cabrera have fit in well in their CMLL run, but Depredadors will probably stay the top team here.

Stephanie Vaquer © vs La Catalina for the NJPW Strong Women’s Championship

La Catalina has fought Stephanie Vaquer three times in singles matches since coming to CMLL. Catalina lost in July 2023, lost again in September 2023, and won in February 2024 – when Vaquer so destroyed Catalina’s arm that the referee called for an excessive violence disqualification. Catalina switched to the tecnica side after that one, but stood little realistic chance of winning even before AEW announced the Vaquer/Mone match. Mercedes Mone is likely to be in the building for this one, which makes how it will go even more apparent. Catalina can take a moral victory by finishing this match with four working limbs.

There’s a good chance this will be the final ever successful defense of the NJPW Strong Women’s Championship, so take a moment to give it a fond farewell. Yes, NJPW does not need two women’s championships, but this title wasn’t the problem. This championship was a success despite the entire plan for it going to pieces in the initial title match. The point of title belts is to make people more prominent stars and to create money matches. The (unplanned) title win helped Willow become a star and set up a big match. The title tournament, the lead-up matches, and the title win made Vaquer a star and set up a big match. Guilia didn’t benefit from it as much – and got clonked in the head with it – but two out of three is pretty good. Forbidden Door is a natural and suitable end to this championship if that’s the plan, but history should remember it as a successful booking tool.

Máscara Dorada & Templario vs. Rocky Romero & Taiji Ishimori 

The key plot point from February’s FantasticaMania shows in Japan was Rocky Romero, Templario, and Soberano Jr. forming the new trio Los Principes. The group is a fun idea that has yet to get off the ground. Romero has been in Mexico a little in 2024 after being a regular part of the last 18 months; this will be the first time he’s appeared since March. Perhaps taking on work with AEW or the visa issues that have prevented Soberano and Templario from working in the US have thrown off plans. Templario’s been his usual self in the meantime, contributing well to trios matches and having strong singles matches when called upon (including last Friday with Oku.)

On the other hand, Soberano has entirely disappeared for stretches of time and has been a background player when he is around. He’s a background character who steals the spotlight with his charisma, for sure, but he’s not done much – he’s not even on this show. There’s potential being wasted there for one reason or another.

This match itself has lots of potential. Dorada & Templario is great, Romero’s great, and I am still trying to figure out what to expect with Ishimori here. He wrestled a lot in Mexico as a Toryumon wrestler and trained with the CMLL wrestlers in Arena Mexico but never got to wrestle there. If finally getting there means as much as it has to some other NJPW wrestlers, maybe this is the night’s best match.

Averno & Volador Jr. vs. Michael Oku & Zack Sabre Jr.

Arena Mexico fans are only getting Oku and Sabre from the UK; they will get the impression that everyone there is tall and lanky. I’ve seen too many of your videos on YouTube, and I know that’s not true. Averno & Volador was an unexpected duo that popped up as Oku & Sabre’s opponents. Oku subsequently cheated to beat Volador in a singles match, so there’s more built to it now. Plus, he’s Volador; CMLL will always find a way to put him on the big shows. Averno is only sometimes on these big shows. CMLL took a lot of social media grief for leaving Hechicero out of this one. CMLL announced Saturday’s ZSJ/Hechicero a week after this card, turning the temperature down on that heat. Still, Angel de Oro would’ve made sense as Oku’s title opponent from Tuesday, or Ultimo Guerrero or Soberano as more prominent stars. Averno is capable and should do well here, but perhaps there’s more to it.

CMLL officially announced their Aniversario show for September 13 on last week’s show. There’s yet to be an apparent main event. CMLL followed the announcement with a match where Esfinge and Euforia were suddenly mortal enemies, a move I believe the Super J-Cast would refer to as “terrorism booking.” (Euforia’s a long-time favorite. Esfinge is not, though others seem to like them. They’re entirely not at the level of stardom that should be headlining the biggest CMLL show of the year. CMLL is fully capable of doing that anyway.)

I’ve been eyeing this team of Averno & Volador Jr. as maybe something that could be set up for September, too. That’s no main event, but it is a pairing they could do as a secondary apuesta match (like Angel de Oro/Volador last year) or as a team for an apuesta tournament (like Averno/Ultimo Guerrero two years ago.) The counterpoint is that I always expect CMLL to run a vital angle whenever they have a big show, and they usually just run a big show by the numbers.

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Místico

This week is the 20th Anniversary of Mistico’s debut, but of course, he hasn’t been wrestling as “Mistico” all that time. He spent time as Sin Cara, Myzteziz, Caristico, and even Mistic 2.0 for one strange press conference. That time away may have benefited Mistico, as strange as some as it was. The boom was dying down in the last couple of years of his original run – it likely motivated his decision to go to WWE – and he got to go away before he became passe. Caristico returning to Mexico but not getting the name back organically created the sort of long-term story that Mexican wrestling – and maybe all of wrestling – has a hard time achieving. The fans wanted something for Caristico; they had to wait and wait and wait, and then he finally got it; he got to be Mistico in CMLL, and everyone was pretty happy for him. Mistico’s return to the name was part of CMLL’s upward momentum, and the excitement around both was helped by how long the fans had waited and wanted. No one would’ve ever considered the idea of taking Mistico’s name away for seven years to make him a shinier star when he finally got it back, but the accidental way it all happened had that effect.

(Dralistico, CMLL’s second Mistico, has largely been written out of CMLL history, and his international work seems to have dried up. He understandably seems to be having trouble with all of this on social media this week.)

Takahashi seems to be on a long-term character of his own, though probably a bit more planned. He failed in last year’s BOSJ. Hiromu lost the junior title when everyone, including him, assumed Takahashi would break the defense record. He did interviews about how people may be sick of him or how he wins all these titles and tournaments, but he’s going to keep winning anyway – and then he fails even to make the BOSJ final when almost everyone was sure he was going to the final. (I believed in DOUKI.) The part about a lot of being tired of Takahashis seems to be grounded in some reality based on dipping my toe in NJPW fandom. The work Hiromu has already done guarantees that he’ll one day be regarded as a legend and as one of the more revered names in the history of Japanese junior heavyweight wrestling, but he’s right now in that same awkward period Mistico was in before his WWE jump – he’s good, everyone still knows Takashi is still good, but not as special as he once was. There’s a craving for something different. I don’t think Takahashi is about to head out for a WWE run – it’d likely be as disastrous as Sin Cara – but it does feel like a re-invention is both coming and needed. It’s not here yet, so NJPW will have no issue with Mistico getting the same clean win over Takahashi that Mustafa Ali got in Chicago. That change is probably coming soon enough, though, and perhaps being back in the place where Takahashi first found himself as Kamaitachi will spark some ideas for whatever’s next.

Final Thoughts

Arena Mexico has had an incredible atmosphere for big shows this year. The crowd’s feelings lifted both the Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show and the follow-up Danielson/Panther singles match. This week of Mistico’s 20th Anniversary show has been the same in Puebla and Guadalajara. Friday night will be another of what we’ve seen in CMLL in this two-year hot period, where the matches do not look like the best in the world on paper, but the feeling of watching them makes them can’t miss. Fantasticamania is a show where people will be squeamish about dropping $35 USD to see it and then be happy they did at the end of the night.