Friday, January 20, 2017

CMLL/NJPW Fantastica Mania Night Five Review

NJPW/CMLL Fantastica Mania 2017 Night One
January 20th, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan

These joint NJPW/CMLL shows were events I skipped (outside of one match) last year. I’m doing my best to watch even more wrestling in 2017, so I’m going to try and review all three nights. I’d like to give a fair warning that I’m not too familiar with CMLL and only know of a few guys, so I’m going in blind on many.

Blue Panther Jr. and Henare def. Ephesto and Will Ospreay in 6:36
I’m unfamiliar with the two CMLL guys here, but obviously know about Will Ospreay and Henare is one of the young lions. The CMLL guys worked quickly to start and when it became Ospreay against Henare, Ospreay showed him up. He went all TJ Perkins and stopped to dab. That angered Henare but he wasn’t able to do much about it. Ephesto and Panther had some more fun together. Ospreay yelling “OH MY GOD”, “WHAT THE HELL?” and “JESUS” at Panther’s power was rather amusing. Henare finally got going with some power and the Boston crab before Ospreay nailed a sweet dive outside. With them outside, Panther pulled Ephesto into a unique submission to win. I found this to be a fun opener with everyone out to have a good time. Nothing too serious and that’s a good thing. [**½]

Jushin Thunder Liger, Soberano Jr. and Tiger Mask IV def. Gedo, Jado and Raziel in 6:40
Again, the only guys I don’t know here are the CMLL folk. We were treated to my favorite kind of Gedo here. The one who shouts English curse words in his matches. It’s always fun. The CMLL guys mostly mixed it up with each other, while the veteran NJPW juniors worked one another. This Tiger Mask continues to be bland as was Jado, but Liger and Gedo did well. I wasn’t too impressed with Raziel but Soberano Jr. was cool. He won with a sweet sequence where he tripped Raziel into a seated position on the ropes and hit a springboard moonsault. Decent fun from most guys involved. [**]

Hechicero and Okumura def. Maxino Sexy and Stuka Jr. in 6:34
Whoa, an all CMLL match. I’m intrigued. Sexy seemed out to have a good time but got dropkicked almost instantly. It broke down quickly and his team hit stereo suicide dives. They kept moving at the typical frantic lucha pace. Stuka wowed me with a ballsy dive outside before Sexy walked the top rope for a splash leading to a near fall. Despite his size, Sexy snapped off a nice diving rana and headbutt through the middle rope. Okumura was left alone with Stuka and bested him with a reverse DDT. The stuff they did was fine, I just couldn’t quite connect with it and that was probably because I didn’t know much about the guys involved. I would like to see more though. [**¼]

There was a post-match promo and beat down to build the two singles matches (Hechicero vs. Sexy and Okumura vs. Stuka) tomorrow.

Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, EVIL, Rush, SANADA and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito) def. Atlantis, David Finlay, NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA and NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion Ryusuke Taguchi in 10:35
This was apparently a memorial match for former wrestler Black Cat. The babyface team paid respect to him as his wife was in the ring holding a photo of him. A bonus here because I am familiar with all ten participants, even the CMLL guys. Rush started things by beating up Atlantis. Taguchi was in a ridiculous pharaoh mask, which was only fitting since he’s Taguchi. Naito got done with Taguchi’s comedy shit quickly, leading to a big brawl involving everyone. BUSHI and Naito worked some awesome tandem offense on KUSHIDA a bit. KUSHIDA got the hot tag to Tanahashi, who did his thing before Atlantis tagged back in. Finlay showed great fire against the larger EVIL and I was all for that. Finlay has loads of potential. He fought hard but fell to EVIL’s STO. Best thing on the show so far. Everyone worked hard and Los Ingobernables continue to deliver in these settings. [***¼]

They continued the beat down after the bell, including Rush ripping off Atlantis’ mask, setting the stage for their singles match on this tour.

Euforia, IWGH Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and Ultimo Guerrero def. Juice Robinson, Mistico and Volador Jr. in 13:21
Juice is on the road to a NEVER Openweight Title match against Okada’s stablemate, Hirooki Goto. Okada looked like he was having the time of his life out there. Volador and Guerrero kicked things off and since both guys wear masks but have been unmasked for years, they dramatically remove each other’s masks. It’s rather funny and gets more comical when they put back on the wrong masks. Mistico and Euforia traded stuff but the real treat was Okada and Juice. I’m not an Okada fan, but there’s something joyous about watching him work this style so happily. Okada and friends worked well together but had a miscommunication that turned things around. Juice, Mistico and Volador all nailed planchas at the same time. I sweat Guerrero nearly killed Volador with a powerbomb outside. Euforia then made Mistico submit for the win. Another enjoyable match that was about as good as the previous match. Wacky Okada is more likable than normal Okada. [***¼]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi def. Titan in 14:55
Titan was impressive in the Jr. Tag Tournament last year. We got a fast paced opening between the two, with Titan showing off his athleticism and flying ability. To combat that, Takahashi went after the knee. His work on it was focused and vicious. He also talked a fair amount of trash while doing it. I like this side of Takahashi. The heel in him attempted to remove Titan’s mask to loud boos. Titan shook off the leg work like nothing happened and connected on some aerial offense. Titan would limp a bit but then forgo it for his offense. He came close on a few occasions before a weak series of strikes. The final few minutes were strong with a sick looking rana and wheelbarrow driver off the middle rope. Takahashi hit a running corner DVD and time bomb to win. I wanted to like this more. Takahashi brought something good but I don’t see the point in doing early leg work just to forget it. Either have a match without that or have it matter. [***]

CMLL World Lightweight Championship: Dragon Lee (c) def. Barbaro Cavernario in 20:21
I’ve seen Dragon Lee some and heard about Cavernario. He is a wild looking caveman luchador, so that stands out. Following a standard opening sequence, Lee snapped off a rana and hit a tope suicida that looked fantastic. Cavernario retaliated with a powerbomb on the apron and a nice corner Razor’s Edge. He also nailed a splash to the outside. I like that he isn’t just a wild man in looks, but in style too. Lee busted out the tree of Joey Lawrence double stomp spot that Del Rio used for a while when he returned to the WWE. He nailed it again in the closing stretch before both guys got near falls on suplex variation (Lee) and reverse rana (Barbaro). After trading chops, Lee retained with a cradle back suplex. Another match that I wanted to like more. I think they knew they had to go twenty, so they seemed to work at a deliberately slow pace that didn’t suit them. It got sloppier down the stretch and felt repetitive at times. Still, like the previous match, it was good though it never got near a great level. [***]

After the bell, Hiromu Takahashi ran out to attack Dragon Lee but got sent packing, helping to build their upcoming title match.

Overall: 6/10. A mostly enjoyable show but it lacked things. I thought the undercard performed at a level I expected. Some solid fun from the early multi-man tags before the ones involving Los Ingobernables and Kazuchika Okada delivered the best matches on the card. The two main events were good but disappointed me overall. If they were better, the show would have ranked higher. Either way, the card produced a fun event that’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.