Fantasticamania wrapped up for another year – as New Japan waved farewell (for now) to Hirai Kawato.
Korakuen Hall’s the venue once again for the last night of the New Japan and CMLL mash-up, so there’s only a few more hours left of *that* looping theme song. Oh, and air horns too…
Ryusuke Taguchi & Fuego vs. Puma & Disturbio
Actually, it’s not “that” looping song – the dubbers found a new CD, featuring some more Mariachi-ish music to loop instead as we watch in awe at Taguchi’s inflatable. Yeah. I thought it was something worse…
Today, the Mexican Jimmy Havoc looks like he’s in airbrushed scrubs, which really keeps the whole faux “I hope you suffer” thing going. We start with Fuego and Disturbio’s feeling out process, with the latter claiming a hair pull during an armdrag… before Disturbio started to do some biting. Nevermind, a lucha armdrag takes him outside instead as Fuego stood aside as we got Taguchi and Puma. It’s a good job we don’t have the Masked Horse here, otherwise there’d be blood…
Taguchi tries to lucha-it-up with an armdrag, but Puma quickly heads outside as those revolving doors continue… with Puma weirdly tagging Disturbio from the floor. Fuego psyches out Disturbio like he was a matador going for a bull… with the offer of a handshake being the red rag, before Fuego flipped his way into a sneak-attack from Puma.
Fuego’s antics annoy Disturbio, as does another armdrag to the outside, as it’s… time to run into a superkick! Taguchi’s able to turn things around as he tricks Puma into exhausting himself running the ropes… and into taking some hip attacks too as he sought a breather. Another hip attack wedges Taguchi in the ropes, eventually falling to the outside, as Disturbio and Fuego reversed Victory rolls for near-falls.
Eventually Taguchi returns for another hip attack and a tope con giro to Puma, leaving Fuego in the ring to block a clothesline and trip Disturbio, as a wacky lucha roll-up gets the win! Entertaining stuff, and a good opener too as Taguchi with pretty much any CMLL technico is good times. **¾
Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH & Rocky Romero) & OKUMURA vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask, Star Jr. & KUSHIDA
KUSHIDA was back in his, erm, lucha-inspired gear, causing him trouble getting into the ropes as ever. When we finally got going, it was YOH and KUSHIDA who shared the early exchanges, with a dropkick from KUSHIDA briefly taking the former junior tag champ outside, before we ended that flourish with the missed dropkicks spot.
Tags out bring us to Liger and Romero, with “Thunder” not wanting to take on Rocky just yet… but Liger’s wise to Rocky’s handshakes and hugs, as he expected a cheap shot and eventually pulled Rocky into a Romero special. Missing tags get us to Star Jr. and OKUMURA, with the former hitting a nice springboard ‘rana, before Tiger Hattori’s forced to… Erm. Dance? I think that’s what that was.
SHO and Tiger Mask are next, but a trip from Mima Shimoda on the outside distracts Tiger Mask into a superkick as she then hits the ring to join in on the beating… only to accidentally nail SHO with a forearm. Oops. Yeah, she gets a tiltawhirl backbreaker as the crowd boo Tiger Mask, with OKUMURA saving his other half from a Tiger Driver to end that particular spree.
Shimoda’s back in the ring as everyone stomps on Liger, but she doesn’t really do much as the beating shifts to KUSHIDA, featuring some Forever lariats from Rocky, which eventually cause some arguments as everyone’s fed up of Rocky having all the fun. Of course, Shimoda gets involved and takes some corner clotheslines as I think she’s cramming her usual bumps into one show… including a suplex as KUSHIDA was held in a submission. Tiger Hattori had to cover his eyes as Shimoda’s dress revealed a lot more than he wanted to see…
It took the New Japan veterans of Liger and Tiger to threaten to turn things around, as they caught SHO and YOH on the hop before throwing some dives in of their own. In the ring, Star Jr’s flipping around, and nearly wins with a ‘rana to OKUMURA, only for a scooping reverse DDT from OKUMURA to get the job done. This was fine, but more shtick-y than some would like. Mima Shimoda slaps a few of them afterwards as I guess they dug up an old photo of her? ***¼
CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament – Third-Place: Sanson & Cuatrero vs. Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja
Holy crap at the dubbed music for Sanson and Cuatrero – it’s like some rejected theme from an 80s TV soap. Niebla Roja was noticeably limping as he had his knee taped up ahead of this battle to find out which brother team was the worst of them all. Yep, it’s the third-place play-off!
Oro and Cuatrero start out fast, with chops to the chest, but a missed charge into the corner forces Cuatrero out and Sanson in as the pace quickens. Niebla stops himself from a roll-through as he decides to kick Sanson, and we’re getting that revolving door effect as bodies come and go.
It settles down somewhat as Niebla gets isolated by the NGD pairing, with referee Kenta Sato not exactly enforcing the legal man as the bodies continued to fly around again. Oro leaps off his brothers’ back to a body press on Cuatrero, as Niebla followed with a tope con giro to Sanson on the other side.
Back inside, Cuatrero booted Oro square in the face, before Sanson’s brought back in for some more double-teaming, which Oro neatly evades, scoring with some headscissors before faking out a dive… as he’d rather pose and make a tag out. Cuatrero just about takes a crossbody from Niebla, who ducks away from an attempted double-team, before taking the NGD brothers outside… only for their dives to be cut-off.
A handspring lariat into the corner catches Oro for a near-fall, before the NGD brothers start to target Niebla some more, to the point where his taped-up knee looked to give out on him. Some switcheroos and counters eventually take Oro and Niebla into the cradling Boston crab, but Oro can’t hold his as Cuatrero broke free and broke up the other hold. Cuatrero takes a chicken wing facebuster off the middle rope, but Sanson continues that parade of moves with a spin-out side slam, before Oro took Sanson into the ropes… only for that to be countered with an avalanche spin-out slam as NGD took home the win. Pretty decent stuff, although tag team purists will loathe the frequent “everyone’s in the ring!” moments. ***¼
Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo vs. Atlantis & Hirai Kawato
Almost two years on from when the duo now known as Roppongi 3K left for an excursion in Mexico, this was Hirai Kawato’s swansong for now… and he got to see Dancing Gedo as well!
Hey, it’s just as well La Cucaracha is royalty free!
There’s a jump start as Gedo went straight for Atlantis, who ambled into a double big boot from Gedo and his caveman pal. They try to unmask him, but Kawato hits the ring to save the hood, before all four men headed outside for the obligatory tour of the ringside area.
Gedo’s beard becomes an easy way to exit another attempt at a de-masking, as we’re back into the crowd. Literally, in Kawato’s case, as he’s thrown into some seats by Gedo, before Cavernario took some shots at the departing Young Lion as well. Back in the ring again, Kawato’s isolated as Cavernario tried to kick his leg away, and it seemed that Cavernario was looking to pull his leg out, as he wrenched away while Gedo tied Kawato in a chinlock on the mat.
The hammerlock suplex keeps Kawato down for a two-count, as Atlantis can only watch on from the floor. Eventually Kawato gets the tag out to the veteran, but a springboard dropkick gets him back in, as another dive saw Kawato wipe out the caveman with a tope con giro! In the ring again, somehow Gedo rakes Atlantis’ eyes through his mask, before some snappy armdrags left Gedo on the outside again… but yeah, Atlantis isn’t diving! He does, however, monkey flip Cavernario as Kawato flies again with a springboard ‘rana, then a back elbow before watching in confusion as the caveman did the worm.
A missed headkick left Kawato open for a takedown as the Caveman pulls him down into La Cavernaria (seated surfboard) as Kawato quickly gave up. Well, Kawato wasn’t winning on his way out, but this match felt rather flat compared to a lot of his other losing efforts. Then again, when your tag partner is Atlantis, you’re going to be really hampered! There was no ceremony either, as Kawato was promptly carted to the back… **¼
Volador Jr., Soberano Jr. & Drone vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)
Once Naito had his name announced, we had the jump start as he went straight for Volador, choking him with his hoodie. At least he took it off today!
A lot of the early focus was on Volador and Naito, with the former landing a nice ‘rana before BUSHI came in to jump him… and that was the cue for Drone to appear as well, landing a dropkick of his own before Hiromu Takahashi rushed the ring. This concept of tagging clearly is a novel one, I see!
Naito again goes after a mask, as Soberano Jr’s hood was under threat, and it’s the Ingobernables who seemed to have things firmly under control, with all Drone getting worn down by BUSHI and Naito for a spell. A tornillo from Soberano helps him get back in the game as he’s able to take Naito to the outside with a ‘rana, before a springboard moonsault almost gets the pin over Takahashi.
Drone’s back in to start a chop battle with BUSHI as the revolving door effect returns en route to a trio of dives from the technicos! For some reason they seem to go to the finish pretty quickly afterwards, as BUSHI stomped on Drone for a while, before landing a bridging backslide pin for the win. That felt a little rushed, but what we got between the bells was decent at least. ***
Rush vs. Satoshi Kojima
This is a bit of a weird one – when Kojima toured Mexico last year, he actually teamed with Rush… so now Rush is over in Japan, that friendship is long gone.
They open out hot, trading chops to the chest, before heading outside as Rush grabs some camera cabling to choke Kojima with on the floor. A chairshot follows, and it ALL goes to Kojima’s head as the seat didn’t budge an inch. There’s more choking as Rush continues to take Kojima round ringside, before he’s rolled in for the trolling kick to the mush in the corner.
More slaps seem to leave Kojima on jelly legs… but he rebounds with Machine gun chops, only to get taken outside as Rush… trolls us again with a faked out dive. The omnipresent New Japan doctor’s on hand, which makes me think that chair from earlier was meant to pop out, but Kojima’s able to muster up a DDT on the floor as he continued to look dazed.
Back inside, Kojima’s able to land an elbow off the top, but Rush hits back with a belly-to-belly and a Northern Lights suplex, nearly snatching the win there, but the back-and-forth continues when Rush was sent flying with a Cozy lariat as he came off the ropes. Another lariat misses as Rush counters into a Praying Mantis Bomb, and that last head drop is enough for Rush to get the win. A solid outing, but I wonder how much it’d have been different had that chair popped out… Kojima definitely looked cut (and rattled) very early on from it. ***
After the match, the rest of Los Ingobernables de Japon came to the ring to celebrate… by which I mean trading off Tranquilos and fist bumps.
CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament – Final: Ultimo Guerrero & Gran Guerrero vs. Mistico & Dragon Lee
Fantasticamania closed out with the finals of the brothers tag team tournament, with the Guerreros taking on Mistico (who used to be called Dragon Lee in a past life) and Dragon Lee (who of course, has the name now).
After running the ropes, Ultimo Guerrero unmasks before taking down Mistico into a Fujiwara-ish armbar. That’s escaped, so we get a good old-fashioned Test of Strength, which led to Ultimo flipping over Mistico as he went for a leg grapevine, before an armdrag led to a… pose-off.
Mistico turns up the tempo with a headscissor takedown as Ultimo’s sent to the outside, before a tag brings in Dragon Lee for the next go around, as Gran Guerrero also entered the fray. We’re back to armdrags and escapes, with Gran resisting a flip-over into a pin as we get more stalemate, before Gran pancakes Dragon Lee to put the Guerrero clan in charge.
Dragon Lee’s cornered as he’s plastered with chops, then pancaked again as Gran throws in a cheeky kick on the way down. Eventually we get a comeback as Mistico and Lee land a pair of picture perfect topes con giro, but when they return to the ring it’s business as usual as Gran Guerrero continued to chop Mistico.
Mistico’s able to break free with headscissors to Gran, then to Ultimo, who’s then whipped into the ring post as Mistisco goes flying off of the seating decks with a ‘rana! Well, you may as well make use of the entire venue if you can! Back in the ring again, Dragon Lee coaxes Gran Guerrero to strip off his t-shirt as we get a barrage of chops, before a flying Dragonrana to the floor left Gran Guerrero laying.
Dragon Lee keeps up with a tornado DDT to Ultimo, but when Mistico returned, he almost took the fall with a front superplex from Ultimo. A Frankensteiner from Mistico nearly gets the pin out of nowhere, as does a top rope ‘rana… but a second try ends with a top rope powerbomb as the momentum shifts once again. A standing Spanish Fly from Mistico looked to affect him more, but Dragon Lee is able to rebound with a suplex into the corner on Gran, as another long battle of back-and-forth chops broke out between the two… stopping only to absorb the cheers from the crowd. Dragon Lee tries to take things up top, but Gran blocks a superplex, before he’s knocked down for a double stomp that took both men to the outside!
Ultimo tries to capitalise there on Mistico, landing a reversed superplex, and that’s all! Another out-of-nowhere finish, but a pretty fun main event as the Fantasticamania tour wrapped up with the Guerreros pretty much stealing one in the end. ***½
The show ends with the locker room emptying… and now Hirai Kawato gets his farewell speech! It was brief, as Ultimo Guerrero continues the speeches, thanking the crowd before the obligatory photos to cap it all off.
For the end-of-tour show, this Fantasticamania card was a bit “meh” at times – the Hirai Kawato farewell match was a damp squib, all told, while the built-up Kojima/Rush match ended up being cut short thanks to the ugly chair shot early on. Perhaps it’s my lack of lucha knowledge, but these cards felt a little lacking compared to last year’s, which involved more New Japan roster members as opposed to this, which felt more like a CMLL show in Japan.
Still, it’s an evolving concept, and I’d rather see this than the intimidating-to-newbies best-of-three-falls trios matches! The trio of shows that made New Japan World weren’t a wash out, and are worth checking for the variety alone… but if you’re on the hunt for matches for your “best of 2018” polls, then you’ll be getting slim pickings here.