One week on from WrestleKingdom, and New Japan’s back in action for their annual tie-in with CMLL.

Yes, it’s my annual blind spot coming to the fore: lucha! During the pre-stream, New Japan rolled out a new video featuring Togi Makabe explaining the rules of wrestling. Complete with examples. I always approve of stuff like this, so good job!

We’re coming from the Edion Arena in Osaka for the start of the tour, with only Japanese commentary…

Tiger Mask, Ryusuke Taguchi, Audaz vs. Gedo, Taiji Ishimori & Templario
We’ve got Egyptian Taguchi, since he always brings out the wackiness on these tours. Even more so.

Gedo looks like a lost Jay White fan, wearing his merch and carrying the towel when his charge was over in England for Rev Pro. Aww. We look to be getting split entrances too, with the recognised New Japan guys coming out separately to the CMLL folks when they’re on mixed teams.

A simple teased leg lariat from Tiger Mask makes Gedo powder to the outside, before he returned to work over Tiger Mask’s arm. The simple wristlock’s reversed as Tiger Mask wrung the arm, before hitting a reverse spin kick to take Gedo outside – allowing Templario to come in as we worked lucha tag rules. Holy crap, Audaz’s Sasuke special caught everyone on the hop, as the match briefly spilled outside.

The CMLL folks stayed in the ring, with Templario taking the upper hand, before Ishimori came in to try and remove Tiger Mask’s mask. Taguchi comes in and gets the same treatment, with Ishimori settling for a neck twist as the mask quickly came off. Who knew Egyptian Taguchi looked like the Masked Horse?

Templario and Ishimori work together to elbow down Audaz, before Taguchi got some revenge for his mask as he took down Ishimori with headscissors. Some rolling suplexes follow, with Ishimori trying in vain for a crossface in the middle of it all, as Taguchi picked up a two-count from it all.

A wheelbarrow roll-up from Ishimori nearly snatches the win, but Taguchi’s right back with a Bummer-ye diving hip attack as the ring filled… then cleared as Taguchi went into Ishimori with a step-up plancha! Templario’s back in to block a Quebrada from Audaz, who succeeds with a roll-through Code Red for a near-fall. Another roll-through from Audaz gets a near-fall, before Templario blocks some headscissors and turns it into a sit-out powerbomb for the win. A solid opener with Audaz’s early dive providing the spectacular moment here. ***

Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) & Forastero vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Flyer & Titan
We’ve got a LOT of overdubs here, and of course we have a Suzuki-gun jumpstart!

Taichi tries to unmask Liger, while Forastero did the same with Flyer as we have the Suzuki-gun shenanigans. In the ring, Forastero throws Flyer to the mat as things eventually settled down with Liger being stomped on by the regular Suzuki-gun pair, while Titan’s attempt to make a save ended with him being sent to the outside courtesy of Forastero’s sliding dropkick.

Flyer’s back in and chopped to pieces in the corner, before Liger returned as the referee was doing nothing to keep it one-on-one. Forastero’s sent to the outside by Liger, as his comeback culminated in a Shotei for Kanemaru – but Taichi stops one that was headed his way, and rips off his trousers to celebrate.

Nevermind, Taichi takes a Shotei anyway as Liger followed him outside for a cannonball off the apron as it was time to turn it up a notch. Flyer’s in with headscissors for Kanemaru, who then lifted him into the apron, only to end up outside for an Asai moonsault as a baseball slide put the former junior tag champ in harms’ way. Titan comes in too with a dropkick on Forastero for a near-fall… but he has to change tack as he had to fight out of a powerbomb on the top rope to hit his ‘rana for a near-fall.

A spinning side slam followed as Forastero tries to fight back, quickly trapping Titan with a combo armbar/headscissor submission as the modified stump puller got the win. This was a little too “all over the place” for me – but that’s likely down to me not watching lucha and “getting” the style. **½

OKUMURA & Sanson vs. Atlantis & Atlantis Jr.
This was apparently the debut of Atlantis Jr., who of course came out to La Cucaracha alongside his father.

OKUMURA starts out with Atlantis, grabbing a headlock that’s quickly reversed as the pair went to the mat for a brief pinning attempt. Those early exchanges are solid, but not spectacular, so in tag Sanson and Atlantis Jr., with Junior’s first taste of action being slipping out of a full nelson before he’s taken to the mat and caught in a knuckle lock, as those two quickly reached stalemate as my feed froze.

We’re back with Junior springboarding into some headscissors on Sanson, who then eats a dropkick before a head-first tope saw the debutant crash into his foe. Atlantis (Senior) and OKUMURA take over in the ring, with the latter landing a rope hung DDT before sending Senior to the outside.

Junior’s back after seemingly taking a bad dive into the announce table, and he’s quickly double-teamed as OKUMURA hits a wheelbarrow/DDT for a near-fall. The focus goes back on senior as the double-teaming continued, with Sanson lands a step-up enziguiri into the corner before Junior leapt over his father with a missile dropkick, following up with a nice tope con giro on the outside.

Hell, Atlantis Senior’s also up for the dives, leaping in with a crossbody to the floor, before another one in the ring was shrugged off by Sanson. OKUMURA tries to make a save, but he bumbles and runs into Sanson, as tiltawhirl backbreakers from Senior took them both out. Atlantis Jr. comes in and gets chopped by Sanson, before he’s lifted onto the apron… which ends up turning into a springboard double armdrag instead.

Another tiltawhirl backbreaker looked to set up Junior for the Atlantida backbreaker, which is quickly broken up as OKUMURA looked to win it with a cutter out of the corner. Senior broke that up, as Junior then lands a ‘rana for a near-fall, before OKUMURA ended it with a Roll the Dice on Junior. A solid debut for Atlantis Jr, who showed experience beyond his zero years… to the point where his dad was almost smiling at him after the match. ***

Three matches in, we’re having a rare treat: an intermission!

Cuatrero, Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero vs. Angel de Oro, Dragon Lee & Mistico
We’re onto our last “all CMLL match” of the day, so there’s a whole lotta dubbing with a little bit of Queen sneaking underneath the Guerreros.

This was Dragon Lee’s first match in New Japan since last July, when a screwed up Phoenix-plex ended up breaking Hiromu Takahashi’s neck… There’s a cheapshot before the bell when Angel de Oro was whacked by one of the Guerrero’s smocks, but it’s Ultimo Guerrero and Mistico who start us off, but not before Ultimo removed his mask.

Mistico’s forced back in a knuckle lock, before Ultimo pulled him into a Romero special… but Mistico manages to escape and catch him in an Indian deathlock instead in a nice sequence. Gran Guerrero’s in next against Dragon Lee, with the latter avoiding a suplex before landing eventually landing a ‘rana, taking Gran outside for a faked out dive.

Cuatrero and Angel de Oro come in next, with Oro pulling off his mask (since he’s lost his since the last tour here), but he’s quickly triple-teamed as the Guerreros sent him outside with a drop toe hold and a low dropkick. Mistico has similar treatment, being lifted up top as the Guerreros combined for a double-team press slam off the top, as Dragon Lee was next up, held in the ropes for an elevated sit-out splash into him.

They repeat the trick on Angel de Oro, but the good guys turn it around while my feed buffered. Seriously, it held out for WrestleKingdom but falls for this?! A clothesline from Gran Guerrero leaves Mistico down, only for him to reply with a pop up dropkick as the Dragon Lee helped with a low dropkick. Ultimo Guerrero quickly barges the two of them down, but only watches as Gran Guerrero took a sweet flying ‘rana from Dragon Lee that the production crew barely caught. In the ring, Angel de Oro flips over the ropes so he can catch Cuatrero with a superkick, then a Quebrada for a near-fall.

More buffering means I just catch the end of a Sasuke special from Angel de Oro, before Mistico’s pop-up rana helps clear the Guerreros to the outside ahead of duelling tope con giro! Oro briefly has Cuatrero in a pendulum swing, but it’s escaped and turned into a Codebreaker before a spinning powerbomb got Cuatrero the win. This was fun in places, aside from the buffering, but nothing much to write home about sadly. ***

Caristico, Barbaro Cavernario & Namajague vs. KUSHIDA, Soberano Jr. & Volador Jr.
There’s something about the way Namajague moves, it’s almost like a Desperado…

My God, Caristico’s music is very much like a 90s soap opera theme, while KUSHIDA’s imminent departure means this’ll be one of the last times we’ll get to see him struggling to get in the ring wearing the massive watch head.

Soberano Jr. and Barbaro start us off with a fast-paced lucha sequence, trading arm drags, roll throughs, leap frogs and the like. Volador and Caristico do the same, but at a faster clip with Caristico hitting a lucha armdrag, taking Volador outside for a faked-out dive that Milano Collection AT on commentary almost sounded disappointed with.

KUSHIDA and Namajague complete the set, with the latter working a wristlock early, only for KUSHIDA to reverse it and take him down to the mat. Namajague escapes into headlocks as they work takedowns and escapes, before Namajague hits a twisting leapfrog and… gets kicked in the head. Eventually Namajague used the rope “belt” he’d been wearing to choke KUSHIDA with, as lucha rules meant that we switched to Caristico and Barbaro double-teaming Volador in the ring. A wishbone leg-splitter and a pair of kicks leave Volador down and out, with Soberano not having much better luck either… nor did KUSHIDA, as his attempt to make a save ended with him having the boots put to him. KUSHIDA eventually mounts a comeback with hiptosses, almost taking down Red Shoes in the process, before Namajague and Barbaro ate a handspring back elbow.

In comes Soberano with a plancha off the top as we entered dive territory, with Volador catching Caristico with a springboard ‘rana, then a tope con giro to the outside. Soberano’s got a Tornillo for Barbaro, who does the Worm to get free… only to take a dropkick to the outside instead. KUSHIDA catches Namajague with a cartwheel dropkick, then held some bodies for a Sasuke special from Soberano as we were still in “blink and you’ll miss it” territory, quickly ending as a La Mistica forced Volador to tag instantly. This was enjoyable, but again if I had a better knowledge of CMLL I’d probably have gotten into it more. ***¼

Satoshi Kojima, Toa Henare, Fujin & Raijin vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & El Terrible)
Yoh: Fujin and Raijin look very similar. Fo’ Sho…

Terrible and Kojima start us off, trading chops until a sucker punch knocked Kojima down. Shoulder blocks follow, with Kojima edging out there before they trade off missed legdrops and elbow drops en route to a stand-off. BUSHI’s in against Fujin, and of course he tries to unmask him, but Raijin comes in to turn it around, as a ‘rana and a dropkick from the familiar pair takes Shingo to the outside.

Toa Henare’s in next to work over BUSHI, slamming him before prepping a Haka, then instead landing a standing moonsault for a two-count. Lucha Henare, eh?! Problem was, Henare misses a shoulder tackle off the middle rope and quickly gets put on the mat, with Terrible punching him out not long afterwards as BUSHI returned with some t-shirt choking. Naito wanders in to put the boots in as LIJ found their whipping boy and made the most of him.

Shingo comes in to keep up the motif, charging through Henare with a shoulder block for a two-count. Henare tries to fight back with chops, but Shingo puts up a fight and corners him with a corner clothesline, before Henare lands a nice pop-up Samoan drop to keep him down. Naito tags back in, but runs into Henare’s spear takedown as LIJ were starting to stutter a little.

Fujin and Raijin again double-team Shingo, but they’re quickly dealt with as Terrible cornered them with some chop/slap combos. In comes Kojima, who sidesteps Terrible in the corner and launches in with Machine Gun chops, following through into the other corner only for Terrible to press slam him off the top. A dropkick keeps Kojima down too, but he’s quickly back with a Koji Cutter as Fujin and BUSHI come into play, with the latter taking a diving corkscrew forearm.

Fujin and Raijin again focus on BUSHI, but their assisted Dominator is avoided as they instead prepared for what looked awfully like a 3K. That doesn’t come off as we get a Parade of Moves instead, with Naito eating a nasty thrust kick in the midst of it. Terrible breaks up a pinning attempt before BUSHI slips out of a full nelson and gets the win with a bridging backslide to close out the show. This was decent, but much like the rest of the show, it felt very much like an exhibition unless you knew/got the CMLL stuff. ***

The Fantasticamania shows are always a good post-WrestleKingdom palate cleanser as we wait for New Japan to enter their New Beginning tour. This year’s tour is again very heavy with CMLL names, and is also saving the “Family Tag” tournament and title matches until the back end of the tour – which is where things should pick up. The tour streams again on Wednesday from Chiba as the Family Tag tournament gets underway.