The annual Fantasticamania collaboration between New Japan and CMLL continued, with the first of three broadcast shows on Friday.

We open with the New Japan and CMLL ring announcers plugging the card in the ring – both whilst wearing sombreros to hammer home the Mexican link.

Will Ospreay & Ephesto vs. Blue Panther Jr. & Henare
The curse of copyrighted music means we get silent entrances!

A slow-paced start as Ephesto works holds over Panther as we don’t have quite your typical lucha style. We then get Henare and Ospreay – and it’s very off to see Will working against the Young Boys right now. See-saw kips ups out of a wristlock give us our first lucha-inspired spot.

After some double-teaming, Ospreay gets superkicked by Panther as the CMLL guys turn up the pace, although Panther stops short of diving. Ospreay’s shocked by a presslam into a swinging side slam from Panther (and sells it as such), before Ephesto tries to outsmart Panther by going to the outside. That just means he takes a tope though.

Ospreay and Henare work together, but a dive from Ospreay is caught and turned into a Boston crab… at least until Ephesto saunters in to try and break the hold. No rush, eh Ephesto! Finally he boots Will free, only to take a shoulder tackle and another Boston crab. Will goes flying into Henare with a Space Flying Tiger drop, then Panther lays out Ephesto with a pair of tiltawhirl backbreakers before the submission comes when he tied up Ephesto and lifted him by the wrist and ankle. Can’t say I’ve seen that one before, and Ospreay was annoyed at his partner quitting to THAT. **¼

Raziel, Gedo & Jado vs. Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask & Soberano Jr.
Well, this is my first exposure to Raziel, and Soberano too come to think of it.

Liger plays a matador early to Gedo the bull, which ends with Gedo getting sent to the outside for a faked-out dive. Jado attacks him from behind, so he gets to face Raziel, who is providing us with the flips and ranas here. Sobrano comes in and the pace really quickens with the CMLL guys… well, until the delayed Falcon arrow, anyway.

Gedo returns and goes for Tiger Mask, just because, then we get the defacto heel trio triple-teaming Liger. Jado goes old school with an eye rake to Sobrano THROUGH A MASK (I guess he has no mesh covering, so that sort-of works), but Sobrano takes down the booking duo with a double dropkick. A tope con hilo follows from Sobrano, as Tiger Mask goes back in with dropkicks to the booking pair of Gedo and Jado, only to take an atomic drop from Gedo.

Tiger takes them out with a tope, whilst back in the ring, a tornillo from the top rope gets Sobrano a near-fall, only to see a headscissor takedown to be turned into a facebuster for a two-count. The end comes quickly afterwards when Sobrano catches Raziel in the ropes, and a springboard moonsault to a held-in-the-ropes Raziel gets the win. A little contrived a finish, perhaps, but decent for what we had. **¾

Hechicero & OKUMURA vs. Maximo Sexy & Stuka Jr.
Maximo Sexy has a title belt that – on first glance – looks like it was heavily influenced by the classic Intercontinental title.

Plenty of headscissors in the early going as this more closely fits the “lucha stereotype”, especially when Sexy and Stuka landed a pair of topes onto their foes. OKUMURA takes some tiltawhirl backbreakers and a flapjack, before Stuka and OKUMURA trade strikes briefly. Double clotheslines knock them both down, so Hechicero and Sexy leap in with a big splash each for simultaneous two-counts. Sexy lands a nice springboard armdrag off the middle rope to Hechicero, before Stuka dragged him to the outside for a body press off the apron from Sexy. Stuka falls into a spinebuster from OKUMURA, who then kicks him after a neat roll-up from Hechicero for a near-fall.

Stuka recovers to slam Hechicero to the mat, but instead of diving onto him, he gets a backflip tornillo onto OKUMURA as Sexy instead connects with a ropewalk into a splash for a near-fall. Hechicero connects with a powerslam for a near-fall, before he and Sexy roll around the ring in a cradle for another two-count for the H.

Sexy walks away from a splash in the corner from Hechicero, before a flying ‘rana leads to a tope from Sexy. Stuka misses a springboard moonsault on OKUMURA, who then rips apart Stuka’s tights to expose his knee… which then leads to a reverse DDT for the win. That last bit seemed odd… Perhaps he just really disliked Stuka’s ring gear?! **¾

Before the next match, we see the wife of “Black Cat” Victor Mar in the ring, with his photo in a frame. Apparently it’s almost 11 years since his passing, and she received a t-shirt and flowers before giving a speech in his memory, urging fans to keep on supporting New Japan and CMLL.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Atlantis, Ryusuke Taguchi & David Finlay vs. Tetsuya Naito, Rush, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI
Hey, a ten-man Ingobernables tag! Oh, and Taguchi’s dressed like a pharaoh for some reason.

We start with the CMLL pair, as Rush takes Atlantis into the corner for some boot-choking, before he tries to rip off his opponent’s mask. Instead, Atlantis tags in another mask-wearer, Pharaoh Taguchi, and Naito reacts to this as you’d expect – with utter disdain. Yet he doesn’t twig as Taguchi has him run the ropes forever, before missing a Kokeshi-like headbutt.

Naito rips at the mask, and we get the usual Ingobernables bum rushing as everyone bar Rush and Atlantis end up brawling outside. Rush drills Atlantis with one of my favourite spots of his – the nonchalant kick in the corner – and he’s back to mask ripping. He actually pulls off the scalp of Atlantis’ mask, so he rolls to the floor with a towel covering his head.  The match then goes into the usual Ingobernables tag tropes whilst Atlantis put on a new mask – you know the drill: BUSHI choking KUSHIDA with a shirt, before KUSHIDA made a comeback. A hot tag to Tanahashi saw him drop almost everyone with axehandle smashes, before a newly-masked Atlantis returned to bust out a chain of tiltawhirl backbreakers. That’s gotta be a staple of CMLL, given what we’ve seen here…

Finlay gets some offence in against EVIL, scoring a near-fall with an European uppercut out of the corner, before an EVIL STO is blocked… but this then turns into a parade once again until the Ingobernables side-step a pair of planchas from Taguchi and Tanahashi. Finlay’s forced to kick out after an EVIL lariat, but the EVIL STO seconds later finishes him off for good. Decent for what it was, but nothing that would grab you. ***¼

After the match, Rush unmasks Atlantis again, so we need another towel to protect his modesty while the Ingobernables boot the mask of Atlantis into the crowd.

Juice Robinson, Volador Jr. & Mistico vs. Kazuchika Okada & Ultimo Guerrero & Euforia
This isn’t the same Mistico that went on to become the first Sin Cara (and is now known as Caristico)… instead, this is apparently the brother of Rush? Lucha politics can be confusing!

Ultimo Guerrero whips Volador with part of his ring gear before the bell, but despite that the two start us off. Volador takes a waistlock takedown before the pair work into knuckle locks and rolls that epitomise the “non flippy” lucha stereotypes. They then pull off each other’s masks, which was to be expected since they’ve both lost mask matches in the past! What wasn’t expected was them wearing the other’s…

Mistico and Euforia come in next, and this upscales into the “slightly more flippy lucha” with headscissor takedowns and the like. Finally we get Okada and… Juice Robinson? Not a pairing you’d have taken seriously a year ago. Juice gets an early near-fall from a cross body off the ropes, before running into a flapjack from Okada. Guerrero disappears with Volador as he press slams him onto a table at ringside, before Juice is left isolated against all three opponents.

Volador comes in and takes a pop-up kick to the midsection as Okada seemed to enjoy being more of a heel here. Mistico gets the same treatment, with Guerrero launching himself into the corner for a Bronco Buster on Volador. A leaping seated senton onto Volador follows from Euforia as Mistico tries to make a save, and this is quickly becoming patterned… until Mistico and Okada trade places as they tease another senton.

We finally see the leaping senton go wrong as Robinson switches places with Okada, which gives way to a barrage of Juice punches and a dropkick. A pair of springboard ‘ranas see Volador and Mistico take down their luchador foes, but Guerrero and Volador end up together for a spell… at least until Volador gets cut off on a dive by Okada.

Okada and Robinson go back together, but Okada takes the upper hand with back elbows before Juice hits a flip stunner out of the corner, then a cannonball to rock the IWGP champion. Mistico and Euforia pair off, and we get a pop-up ‘rana from Mistico for a near-fall, before Euforia returns the favour, getting a two-count out of a pump handle slam into a facebuster. Another springboard rana is caught as Mistico’s powerbombed into the corner, but he recovers and lands a springboard rana as Euforia was caught on the middle ropes.

That gets a near-fall as the ring filled up, ending with Okada taking down Juice with a dropkick and a plancha, as we went back to Volador and Guerrero. Volador leaps into Guerrero with a tope con hilo, but it’s caught on the floor and turned into a powerbomb, as Euforia came in and caught Mistico in a modified Dragon Sleeper for the win. A decent enough match, and it was nice for Okada to finally play a character that clearly fell on one side of the divide! ***½

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Titan
This time last year, Hiromu beat Dragon Lee for the CMLL World Lightweight title. Fast-forward to 2017, he’s now getting set to face Dragon Lee for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title… but first, the small matter of Titan in a non-title outing.

They start out fast-paced with armdrags and headscissor takedowns, and you can really see that Takahashi is blending in well with this – as he should, given that he was in CMLL last year! Titan lands a ‘rana on the outside before a tope takes Hiromu into the front row, but when they go back in, Hiromu goes for that staple: the tiltawhirl backbreaker!

They again end up outside as Takahashi stands on the knee of a wounded Titan, which meant that he struggled to run as he was whipped into the corner. Takahashi targeted the knee from there, including holding onto the ropes to block a dropkick as Titan drove his own knees into the mat. We get another unmasking tease as Takahashi unlaces the back of Titan’s hood, before the luchador counters with a headscissor takedown from the top rope to send Hiromu to the floor.

A springboard moonsault off the apron keeps the IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion down, as does a tope con hilo, and that helps turn the tide in Titan’s favour. Takahashi takes a Burning Hammer before a springboard frog splash ensures that Titan has to take his time for a cover as he continued to sell the knee.

Titan chops away at Takahashi on the top rope, before connecting with an overhead kick… only to be shoved down to the floor as he went for a step-up rana off the top rope. Another ‘rana off the top rope followed, but it goes a little wonky as Titan drops Takahashi across the top rope before they fall to the floor… a little like that ‘rana in the match with KUSHIDA.

Back in the ring, Takahashi gets a near-fall from an inside cradle, before he turns around into a superkick and a La Mistica for a near-fall. A backslide almost gets Titan the win, but Takahashi switches things around and catches him with a wheelbarrow driver off the top rope for another near-fall. Takahashi follows up by driving Titan into the turnbuckle with a death valley driver, before the Time Bomb (swinging Samoan Driver) gets the win. Easily the best thing on this card so far! ***¾

CMLL World Lightweight Championship: El Cavernario Barbaro vs. Dragon Lee (c)
Dragon Lee’s held this belt for almost a year, having regained the title from Kamaitachi (Hiromu Takahashi) in Mexico after losing it on the Fantasticamania tour last year. To think, in a few weeks, they could be having an impromptu champion vs. champion match!

A tentative start feature both men going into the ropes from a tie-up, before they start teeing off on each other. Armdrags and leg sweeps keep the match even, and we end with a square-off! Barbaro knocks down Lee with a shoulder tackle, before avoiding a clothesline as he rocked the champion with a slap. Lee hits back with a headscissor takedown and a tope that nearly saw him complete a “con hilo” part after he crashed into Barbaro.

Barbaro does the worm for some reason as he made a brief comeback, before untying the turnbuckle padding as if he were Toru Yano. A whip into the corner sees Barbaro leap onto the ropes to avoid the exposed steel, before connecting with a tope from the apron and through the corner to Lee on the floor. A powerbomb onto the apron follows from the caveman, as does a Vader-bomb off the ropes for a near-fall.

Dragon Lee comes back with a ‘rana to take Barbaro off the apron to the floor, and it looks like Barbaro landed badly as ringside attendants shoved something under his lower back, but he was able to get back up unaided. Back inside, Lee gets a suplex for a near-fall, but Barbaro stays on top with a crucifix buckle bomb to almost win the match. Lee is placed on the floor by Barbaro, who goes up top and lands a big splash onto the floor, before both men manage to return to the ring.

Barbaro tries for a chicken wing, but Lee backs up into the corner, only to be met with a shotgun dropkick as Barbaro came back out at him. Dragon Lee returns the favour by suplexing Barbaro into the corner, but the back-and-forth continued when a dropkick knocked Lee off the apron and back to the outside. The Caveman teased another big splash, but Dragon Lee stopped him and connected with a double stomp to the outside as both men ended up on the floor.

Lee again rolls Barbaro back inside as he looks to finish him off with another double stomp out of the corner, but this time the Caveman sits up and throws him to the mat before getting a stomp of his own for a near-fall. Barbaro then goes for a rear chinlock, but Lee’s too close to the ropes, so the hold’s released as they go back to kicks. Lee catches one and turns it into a knee breaker, then gets a Fujiwara armbar… and holds onto it! The armbar’s turned into a crossface before Barbaro makes the ropes.

Lee goes up top again but this time he gets caught as Barbaro goes up with him, only for a series of headbutts to knock him back into position for a Del Rio-esque double stomp as the champion collected another near-fall. After scoring with a lariat to cut off the champion’s momentum, Barbaro went for a suplex, but it was caught and turned into a sit-out powerbomb for another near-fall.

That was followed up by a successful reverse ‘rana by Barbaro, but he appeared to hurt his shoulder on landing as he held his right arm close by. He then became a one-armed man in a chopping contest, before Lee scored the win out of nowhere with a Regalplex. A decent match, but the shoulder injury clearly forced an early end just as things were about to kick into a higher gear. ***½

After the match, Hiromu Takahashi ran down and tried to attack Dragon Lee, but it failed as Lee hit his suplex into a powerbomb before he ended the show standing over Hiromu with two title belts in hand.

Whether it was myself or the show, I massively struggled to get into this card – the undercard felt like it was completely disposable, so if you’re catching this on-demand, pick up from the interval and save yourself the time!