FantasticaMania 2018 Night One (or Six) Review!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Wrestle Kingdom 12 and the first of three FantasticaMania 2018 shows to be streamed live, it’s that I’ve gotta start pulling more all nighters! Hot damn, what a fun show to kick off this run of FantasticaMania shows. We started with three fun (if slightly unmemorable) undercard matches, a very solid CMLL World Middleweight Title match with a surprise title change and then descended into awesomeness with two outstanding matches that will surely be remembered as Match of the Year contenders when us luchaholics do our ballots a year from now. There’s more to it, but I won’t spoil it because a) you have the whole review to find out and b) I’m really tired and need to go to sleep. So let’s get through this so I can do just that!
Okumura defeats Fuego
The story of this one was that Fuego is a really fun luchador who has more tricks than I thought, while Okumura…is Okumura. Well that and he’s a terrible person, as he totally attacked Mima for being groped by Fuego. Actually I guess that makes both of them bad dudes. Read the room in 2018 guys! Anyways this was fine. I wouldn’t say it was as good as the Stuka match last year because Okumura wasn’t as good this time around, and the violence against Mima was kind of off putting. But that aside it was an entertaining watch, largely because Fuego brought more to the dance than usual. Did you see that running moonsault he did over the ropes?! He needs to do that in Mexico more. A really nice change up to his good, but stagnant routine. Too bad he couldn’t get Okumura to break his, and in a match Okumura won no less! Did you see that coming? I sure as hell didn't.
BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Rush, Tetsuya Naito defeated Dragón Lee, Hirai Kawato, Satoshi Kojima, Star Jr.
There was a time earlier in the match where I thought this could be a legitimately great Atomicos bout. Unfortunately it died a bit during the Rush-Kojima sequence in the latter half, and eventually settled into being a very good match, aka the thing Arkángel de la Muerte hasn’t had in about ten years. Sorry; couldn’t resist getting a dig in at one of the grumpy old luchadors!
It is a shame that things kind of peaked early because…man that early stuff was great. Star Jr. did in fact bring it, both with his diving game and by carrying the first third of the match by selling an all out Ingobernable onslaught. It got so tough for poor Star Jr. that he ended up doing his best LA Park impression where he wrestled with barely any mask left covering his face. Somehow he made it work, and his great work transitioned into an outstanding Dragón Lee-Takahashi sequence that seemed to destined to lead this match towards greatness before the Rush-Kojima stuff. Overall though I’d say this was pretty pleasing. Star Jr. looked great, Lee and Takahashi had their moment, Rush-Kojima got advanced along and, as a bonus, we got to see Naito beat up Milano Connection A&T to kick off the match. Sure it’ll only lead to hopeless conspiracy theories about Milano making a comeback, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was still pretty cool.
Atlantis, Drone, Mistico, Volador Jr. defeated Cavernario, Disturbio, Puma, Último Guerrero
Exactly what you would expect from this kind of affair; a lot of chaos and a lot of fun, though I’m not sure it was as much fun as it could’ve been. Part of that is because Puma got nothing to do; the poor dude was primarily paired with Atlantis and, while Atlantis tried his best, it’s clear he’s still not at 100% and could only do so much. Puma’s lack of time aside, everyone else was solid. Mistico and the UG were great together, making things work at such speed it was almost inhuman. Disturbio and Drone did solid work, with Disturbio’s personality standing out the most before he seemed to injure himself in the latter stages. And as expected, Volador and Cavernario took center stage and where both very impressive despite not emptying the cartridge. I’d say it needed a little more coherence to be truly good and the disappointment of Puma not getting a ton to do does linger for me. At the same token, it was never boring and overall a fun way to spend a little more than ten minutes. In other words, better than the usual third match on a CMLL Tuesday card!
CMLL World Middleweight Championship Match
Cuatrero defeated Ángel de Oro
Remember how I said there was no chance of the title changing hands in my preview? Whoops! I don’t know if CMLL wanted to throw a curveball in or what, but who cares; it was Cuatrero’s night and not just because he won the title. This match was always going to be the wild card of the three singles matches on this show and, while I don’t think it was a great match, it was a better match than I expected. Ángel de Oro in particular was awesome; it wasn’t much different than his high end performances in Arena Mexico, but the energy and effort was way up from usual and the crowd being into everything he did really helped. In fact, I’d say he was better than Cuatrero, who while solid, didn’t show as much as I thought he would in a big singles match situation. He definitely has ability and he picked things up towards the end, but this match proved why Sansón has gotten the singles opportunities to this point while Cuatrero has stuck to tags and trios. I assume this victory is part of CMLL’s attempt to get more behind Cuatrero and hopefully the upcoming defenses of the belt allow him to grow as a performer. For now though, I’d grade him as pretty good but not great, which pretty much goes along with my thoughts for this match.
Mexican National Welterweight Championship Match
Soberano Jr. defeated Sansón
Poor Euforia; his run of having the best match of the week in the family lasted only two days. Such is life when you’re son is Soberano Jr.! I knew it probably would as it had the best odds of being Match of the Tour going in, but this was beyond what I even expected. And I expected a great, crazy, balls to the wall match. It was that and more; not only did Soberano and Sansón show off the great chemistry they developed of the past year, they managed to do so while keeping the match clean. That had been the one flaw they had in previous encounters, and they weren’t going to let it hold them back here. This was smooth as smooth can be; if it was any smoother, Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana would’ve been involved.
Of course, even if it hadn’t been smooth it still would’ve been impressive because the stuff these guys tried and hit was the type of quality you only see in David Lean epics. Sansón won’t get as much praise as Soberano because his stuff wasn’t as flashy, but he was just as impressive in this match, both as a base (he caught everything Soberano threw at him) and dishing out. It’s amazing how far along he is compared to his brother and cousin, and I expect this is just the first of many huge matches Sansón will have in Japan over the next twenty years. May he find opponents to work with as great as Soberano. I love this kid; you know that if you read me often enough. Even I thought he outdid himself with this match. He threw everything, and I mean everything, he had in his arsenal out there and hit it effortlessly; it should not look as easy to hit that Hector Garza style tornillo splash over the ropes and to the floor, yet somehow Soberano did just that. I’d still argue Sam Adonis’ 450 Splash was the dive of the year, but that may have topped it (and you could even argue it was topped itself by Soberano’s amazing walk rope tornillo a few minutes later). I can go on and on and on about Soberano and Sansón’s brilliance, but the best course is for you to get on up and watch the match yourself. A wonderful lucha libre masterpiece this was, and amazingly, it may have been topped just a few minutes later.
CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship Match
Niebla Roja (c) defeated Gran Guerrero
Ladies, gentlemen, Red Shoes, if you are still doubting Gran Guerrero or especially Niebla Roja after this performance, I ask you to kindly exit stage left and get out of my life. It cannot be done, not after this epic that somehow topped their previous two encounters and may have been better than Soberano-Sansón. I’m not sure anyone had either of those two things happening. Some will probably argue this match was similar to the Aniversario match and the rematch nearly two weeks ago, but I’d dare say that was borderline irrelevant; the fire was stronger than in those two matches, the energy level from both guys was on par with the Aniversario performance and I dare say the Korakuen Hall crowd topped the Arena Mexico crowd. That might be the most amazing thing of all this; the crowd for this match was off the charts, into everything Guerrero and Roja did after the GG somehow caught Roja early in the match on a tope con hilo attempt (and it was close; another inch and Roja is in a Tokyo hospital as we speak). They were as big a part of what made this match great as Roja and GG were, which by no means takes away from what those two did. I don’t think anyone expected much from Roja or Guerrero when they were paired together for the Aniversario; as it turns out, they’re wrestling soul mates with chemistry just as great as Sansón and Soberano. It’s truly something special to behold, and I’m proud to say I have now been wrong about their matches on three different occasions. Like I said; stop doubting these two. At this point it’s like trying to deny the M. Night Shyamalan comeback; it can’t be done.
Before we wrap things up here though, I’d like to take a moment to say something about Niebla Roja. I don’t want it to seem like I’m signaling him out over Gran Guerrero, but you almost kind of have to considering his journey. It was not even a year ago when I and many others weren’t just wondering if Roja could be an effective technico, we were wondering if he could be even an average technico. That’s how poor his turn was to start off. We doubted him then, we doubted him when the buildup for his match with the GG at the Aniversario was so poor and we doubted him when he lost his mask (I seem to recall luchablog even thinking he might be out of CMLL). Instead, he managed to get over in Mexico by turning himself into Hector Garza without the tornillo, showed to be better off without the mask and closed tonight by getting a standing ovation in Korakuen Hall. I hope we can all appreciate how great of a story this. I wouldn’t have given Niebla Roja a second thought a year ago; now he’s had an outstanding match in one of the most famous wrestling arenas in the world after totally re-inventing himself. Well done Roja; I’m proud to say I was wrong and I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what he does next.
And with that, I’m off to pass out. Till next time!