I am a huge pro wrestling fan, most notably of the Mexican lucha libre variety.
FantasticaMania 2018 ended with an epic final show of the tour, a tour that I'd call a resounding success from a match quality standpoint. Luckily the final day continued the trend, though it took a little bit to get there much like the previous day's show did. But hey, why are we wasting time on this intro when we could be discussing that, especially since the sooner we get that done the sooner I can go back to sleep. So let's talk about some lucha libre in Japan.
Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi Defeated Disturbio & Puma
The word you’re looking for to describe this match is delightful. Or at least that’s the word I would use. I had a blast watching this, especially compared to the openers of the past few days. It was quick and at times was really silly, but it was also really fun. You can imagine it was definitely in Taguchi’s element then and the only thing he didn’t do with his ass was have it get bitten by Disturbio (I was actually kind of surprised by that!). Everyone else was solid; Disturbio won’t be remembered for his great in-ring performances during this tour, but he was very good in almost every other department and I really enjoyed his DBZ attire and spot in this match. Meanwhile, Fuego capped off a really good tour for him with another solid performance. The only issue I can see people having is how Puma didn’t get a whole lot to do, and while that’s true compared to his skill set…I mean what did you think was going to happen? He was never going to get into a big-time match on this tour, and without Tiger around (a mistake compared to Disturbio’s in-ring output) there just weren’t going to be many opportunities for him to strut his excellent tag team skill. So I can’t really get disappointed when I didn’t expect them to do much with him. When he got chances, he did well with them and this match was no different, despite containing almost no opportunities for him. Good Grodd, this is now getting depressing! Let’s get back on point; this was fun and probably the best opener I saw during this tour.
Okumura, Rocky Romero, SHO, YOH defeated Jushin Liger, Kushida, Star Jr., Tiger Mask
So this match was…weird. On the one hand, it had a lot of the goofiness of the last match, which I enjoyed considering this was an undercard match that wasn’t going to get nearly the time as some of the other bouts on this show. On the other, there were two decisions made in this match that were curious at best and dumbfounding at worst; the continued spots with Mima Shimoda and Okumura actually beating Star Jr. Some of the Mima stuff was funny, like the corner spot where Okumura and Rocky all missed KUSHIDA and accidently hit her; the stuff where Tiger Mask cold cocked her and KUSHIDA suplexed her was less funny. I would’ve thought New Japan would’ve learned to read the room better with those spots after Friday when Okumura slapped her (and rightfully got booed for such stupidity), but apparently not. In contrast, the Okumura victory only makes sense if you think New Japan is throwing him a bone, which is nice…except why does Okumura need to have a bone thrown to him? Is he returning to Japan and I just don’t know about it? Would it really have been a big deal to give this victory to Star Jr., who up until tonight had been having a great tour and was only prevented from really cementing it because he was given nothing to do here (he had so little to do, he probably shouldn’t have been in the match)? Just weird, very weird. Like I said though, a lot of the stuff as fun and I’ll always remember Star Jr. getting his teammates to dance his weird dance. I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Torneo de Hermanos Third Place Match
Cuatrero & Sansón defeated Ángel de Oro & Niebla Roja
I don’t know who it was, but someone clearly went to Cuatrero and Sansón after yesterday’s disappointing romp with Dragón Lee and Mistico and told them “you know, maybe act like you’re teammates instead of two singles stars.” They were far more productive wrestling as teammates today, although it still didn’t quite feel like the classic NGD performances we’ve become used to. How do I know this; because Niebla Roja and Ángel de Oro weren’t only getting bigger cheers than them, they were outworking them! If you had told me a year ago that Cuatrero and Sansón would be in Japan getting outworked by Ángel de Oro and Niebla Roja of all people, I’d have assumed Soberano and Star Jr. would’ve been repackaged under those gimmicks respectively. Obviously it’s not that simple considered Roja’s rise and I have no idea what directions Cuatrero and Sansón were being pulled in over there, but it’s disappointing and weird to never see them reach the level we know they can together (Sansón did reach it by himself). There’s always next year I suppose. At least they were put over strongly, which shows that there should be a next year and a year after that. And it’s not like the match was bad; it was just that Oro and Roja were a bit better. I guess if you look at it from their perspective this was a really good match (despite the loss) and a good close to their FantasticaMania tour. I thought Oro looked a lot better than expected and Roja’s tour was one for the ages. If I were them, I’d be looking to stay in Japan seeing how well it went!
Cavernario & Gedo defeated Atlantis & Hirai Kawato
Much like there are two sides to every schwartz, there were two sides to this match. The upside was everything that Cavernario and Hirai Kawato did worked, both together and separately. I mentioned in yesterday’s review that it seemed to take Cavernario a moment or two to get the crowd behind him; that wasn’t the case tonight. He was one of the most over guys in Korakuen Hall by a mile, and he wasn’t taking it easy despite his excellent work with Volador just yesterday, dishing out some great kicks and basing his ass off for Kawato. Speaking of Kawato, my Grodd how exciting is it that he’ll be hanging out in CMLL for the foreseeable future?! He’s always had great fire and has been improving at a significant rate, but this was some of his best work. How about that tope con hilo? Better yet, HOW ABOUT THAT RANA OFF THE TOP?! If I were SHO and YOH, I’d be doing everything in my power to prevent this Kawato to Mexico trip cause he’s totally going to make their runs in CMLL look like Brandon Routh’s run on Chuck. And trust me; you don't want to end up like that!
Now for the bad part. I must admit sports fans that I’m starting to get a little worried about Atlantis. I knew he wasn’t going to be running on all cylinders after he came back from the injury but I thought by the end of this tour we’d at least have some glimpses of the Atlantis that, while older, was still pretty rad. I’ve seen nothing to suggest that just yet; no suicide dives, no backbreakers (the biggest sign there’s trouble), a reluctance to take certain bumps and just a lack of energy that wasn’t there before. It’s very concerning; I’m not ready for the days of a higher end Atlantis to be over, but I’m not quite sure what the answer is. I guess we’ll have to figure that out as we go. In any event, it didn’t hurt the match as Atlantis was hardly in it, and Kawato, Cavernario and Gedo all carried enough of their weight to make this watchable. It was definitely a good close for both Cav and Kawato…I just wish we had seen something to suggest Atlantis can still go at all. Very worry sports fans. Very worrying.
BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito defeated Drone, Soberano Jr., Volador Jr.
I think you could make the argument that this was the best trios/atomicos match of the tour by a wide margin. Your mileage may vary but I thought this was a significant step up from the other Ingobernables matches, partially because it featured no Kojima/Rush build up and partially because it allowed for some great combinations. Soberano-Takahashi? Volador-Naito? Those aren’t pairings you see every day and luckily I thought they delivered huge. Soberano and Takahashi didn’t need to do much to be impressive with each other and I thought the Volador-Naito sequences, though brief, were absolutely electrifying. There appears to be a chemistry there and it would be really interesting if New Japan or CMLL ever got around to exploring that (sadly, they probably won’t). Aside from those four, BUSHI was solid and Drone was substantially better than yesterday; whatever issues he had seemed to be resolved and he was back to being his usual self, though he was a step behind both Soberano and Volador. Just as well, as I’m not sure whatever he did today would wipe the bad taste of yesterday away entirely. All in all though, a very good match and a fine end to the tour for Soberano and Volador, who you could make an argument for tour MVP in both cases.
Rush defeated Satoshi Kojima
Remember how last year Rush and Atlantis had a match on FantasticaMania that no one was excited about except me, only they ended up tearing the house down and having the second-best match of the tour? Well, the yearly tradition of Rush having a better than expected singles match at FantasticaMania continued here, though it wasn’t at the same level as that Atlantis match. Honestly, I think the crowd hurt it more than anything. They just weren’t into this match much, which isn’t surprising considering there was nothing that suggested it be good in the matches leading up. But beyond that and an ill-advised unprotected chair shot to the head Kojima took (seriously dude, get your hands up), I thought this was pretty solid. Rush was motivated and when he’s motivated he’s an exceptional brawler, which he showed here by rag dolling Kojima for most of the match. For his part, Kojima did a pretty good job at rallying back and providing something different from Rush’s usual main rival LA Park. I don’t know if Kojima would’ve been wiser to go the Park route, but I wasn’t bothered by him doing his main stuff and ultimately I’d say it worked well to contrast Rush. Not a great match by any means, but very solid, and it’ll be interesting to see what this means for Rush going forward. Kojima isn’t what he used to be, but beating him is no small feat. It makes you wonder, with Okada soon to be out of LIJ members to wrestle, if Rush is going to get a title shot at one of the next few events.
Torneo de Hermanos Final
Gran Guerrero & Último Guerrero defeated Dragón Lee & Mistico
For the second straight night, a FantasticaMania show needed the main event to deliver to make it a decent show. For the second straight night, that’s exactly what happened. Then again, did you really think a match featuring Dragón Lee and Mistico doing crazy stuff while the UG and GG based for them wasn’t going to be great? The only criticism I may have is that they might’ve left a few things on the table, but that’s more a nitpick than anything. Overall these four were excellent with each other, particularly Lee and the GG, who had not one but two Kobashi/Sasaki level slap fights that probably would still be going on right now if the crowd hadn’t interrupted them with thunderous applause. There was more than that though. I thought this was the best Lee had looked in months (as well as his first opportunity in months to really stand out), finally showing off the explosiveness and athleticism that made him one of the best luchadors in the world over the past few years. Mistico fed off the crowd the whole match and put in his best work of the tour. And while the UG and GG didn’t fly around like their opponents, they did a really good job of keeping things grounded, keeping the technicos safe on their high flying moves and, most importantly, never stopped acting like a team. It would’ve been easy for big-time singles star Último Guerrero to go into checklist mode and whatnot, but instead he and Gran spent most of the match dishing out double teams; you know, like an actual tag team. I hope Cuatrero and Sansón spent this match watching those two and taking rapid-fire notes. Like so.
And with that, the tour was over, though I must say the post-match stuff was pretty great with all the luchadors saying goodbye. You got to see all the luchadors get a nice pop from the crowd, even Disturbio! You got the nice emotional send-off for Kawato, though it was more joyous than sad because a) he’ll be back in Japan at some point and b) he’s going to be so epic in CMLL it’s not even funny. Best of all we got the laughs, mostly from Soberano. I didn’t think anything would make me chuckle more than him convincing Dragón Lee not to throw his mask into the crowd, only for him to top himself a few minutes later in his attempt to drag Cavernario out of the ring. Stupendous stuff. I dare say that may have been the best part of the tour, and this was a tour that featured, in my opinion, four matches you could consider early Match of the Year contenders. Not bad at all, and I’m sad to see this whole thing come to an end. I won’t miss waking up at 4:30 to watch the shows, but I will miss everything else. Hopefully, CMLL can keep things up once these guys return to Mexico.
Now let’s bring it to a close. Hope you enjoyed everyone, but now I’m going back to sleep. Till we meet again, a final Soberano gif for the road.
© 2018 Eric Mutter