Our first sight of the annual New Japan x CMLL tie-in came at Korakuen Hall, as a really lucha-heavy line-up graced Tokyo.
In past years there’s been more of a blend of New Japan roster members, but this year there’s just the five – the Los Ingobernables trio of Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi; along with Satoshi Kojima and the soon-to-be-headed to CMLL Hirai Kawato. Insert my usual “I don’t watch CMLL, so most of these names are new to me… so you’re in the wrong place if you’re looking for in-depth analysis on things like dives or the authenticity of air horn tones on this particular tour.
Fuego vs. OKUMURA
We’re in for a lot of audio muting since CMLL love their copyrighted music! Last year, OKUMURA’s wife, Mima Shimoda, took quite a few bumps… and she’s back here with him this year. Uh oh.
Plenty of armdrags and headscissors start us off, with Fuego full-on Matrix’ing his way away from an OKUMURA clothesline before confusing the hell out of the travelling veteran. Our first dive comes with a tope suicida, with Fuego full-on headbutting OKUMURA out of a dive.
Back inside, OKUMURA took over with a backbreaker and a lariat, before lifting Fuego onto the top rope for a pretty disjointed Ace crusher. Fuego gets his revenge by kissing OKUMURA’s wife, who he then slaps for… reasons. After he’s booed for that, they kiss and make up, as Fuego resumes the match with a nice Asai moonsault.
After some more chops, Fuego trips OKUMURA before landing a springboard splash for a solid two-count. Another moonsault misses, and gives OKUMURA the chance to properly steal things, but he too gets a two-count before he’s dragged into a rope-hung DDT as only a foot on the rope saved the match… until a reverse DDT gets the win for OKUMURA. Decent enough, but please don’t come into this tour thinking every match is going to be all flippy… because that’s not all lucha. **¾
Satoshi Kojima, Dragon Lee, Star Jr. & Hirai Kawato vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Rush, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
Ahead of this match, there’s the annual presentation in honour of the late “Black Cat”, who passed away 12 years ago.
BUSHI’s borrowed the idea of adding horns to his mask from Rush… as we get the mash-up of the regular and Japan-variety Ingobernables here. Remember when Rush was in the World Tag League and didn’t exactly set the world on fire?
Anyway, we get a jump start as everyone’s taken to the outside, with Naito making a beeline for commentator Milano Collection AT, putting the boots to the man he’s trolled for seemingly forever. At least he’s polite enough to put his headset back on… but Milano fires up before having second thought. I did not expect them to branch off this storyline here.
After Naito had another pop at Milano, we have Rush and Naito double-teaming Kojima… which doesn’t last long as they quickly bump into each other. Star Jr. tags in next and chops away at Rush… but Rush quickly puts the boots to him, only for Star to flip away and hand some nice twisting headscissors. Here come the flips, eh?
A springboard dropkick puts Rush outside for a corkscrew springboard moonsault that looked to send Star down hard… but it counts, I guess. Hiromu throws Star off the top rope as the Ingobernables, erm, rushed back into life, ripping off Star’s mask as the camera crew tried their best to not expose him. Naito, of course, found that funny… and wanted to come in so he could wrestle in a hoodie.
Naito went for the mask again, and poor Star Jr’s face is now known to all as his mask became more of a neckerchief. A four-on-one mugging from the Ingobernables led to a bit of dicking around, and it’s quite telling how little Star’s partners were rushing in to help. Finally, Kawato does… but he gets taken out with an enziguiri and a neckbreaker as it’s back to that falling Star Jr., who finally hits back with a thunderous superkick to Hiromu.
Now we get Dragon Lee… oh hey there on-off feud with Hiromu! It’s not quite as frenetic as some of their show-stealing outings, but they chop the hell out of each other, with Lee winning out, before Dragon cartwheeled out of a ‘rana attempt. It’s too quick to call, until Lee’s attempt at a wheelbarrow’s stuffed and turned into a German suplex, before he’s launched into the turnbuckles with Hiromu’s overhead belly-to-belly.
Tags get us to Kojima and Rush, with the latter mocking the machine gun chops… and yeah, he gets an instant receipt. Rush eventually comes back with some, erm, machine gun stomps, before punting Kojima in the chest ahead of some mutual tranquilo.
Kojima fires back with a Koji Cutter, but Rush neuters him, before Kawato gets the hot tag in. You know how this goes… the spirited Kawato fightback sees him clear the apron, before nailing BUSHI with a missile dropkick for a near-fall… but that only goes so far as LIJ overwhelm him, with BUSHI eventually scoring the fall with a single-leg crab. This was really enjoyable from start to finish, and Star Jr. looked a million bucks despite taking a pasting here. ****
Yeah, Naito and Rush went for Milano afterwards, with Rush choking the former wrestler with a chair. This cannot be “for the hell of it”, can it?
Ultimo Guerrero, El Barbaro Cavernario, Puma & Disturbio vs. Atlantis, Mistico, Volador Jr. & Drone
What’s this, just two tag matches on a Korakuen show?! I’m sure he’ll kill me for this, but Disturbio looks like the Mexican, non-union equivalent of Jimmy Havoc.
Holy crap, CMLL’s Puma is actually wearing a cat suit… at least, a body suit that looks more like a cat as opposed to, say, Giant Gonzalez.. Beat that Prince Puma… although I think he’s probably doing something bigger these days… Everyone gets individual entrances with mostly-muted music, so I’m really gonna struggle with these names!
Ultimo Guerrero whacks Mistico with his apron before the match, and we start with Drone and Disturbio, along with plenty of armdrags as we go for what some will call a typical lucha sequence. There’s mind games as Mistico taunts in, then walks away from Guerrero, before the pair go through something similar, as Ultimo Guerrero’s left on the back foot. Barbaro and Volador are next, with the funky caveman doing the worm as Volador watched on in horror. Headscissors take him outside, as Volador throws more headscissors into the mix, and since we’re under lucha rules, tags are no longer needed once you leave the ring. Poor Drone probably wished they were, as he was awkwardly flapjacked by Puma as the bodies started to fly.
Eventually things settle down into a four-way beatdown on Volador, but the tide turns as the technicos took over… sending the rudos scurrying as they teased dives of their own. Drone comes back, blasting Disturbio with knees in the corner, but then Cavernario rushes back in with a suplex to Volador as this match quickly becomes hard to track.
Mistico eats a front superplex from Guerrero for a near-fall, before he takes a top rope ‘rana in return, and we’re back to Puma and Atlantis… with the latter hitting something approximating a crossbody. He monkey flips Puma across the ring, then out of it as a set up for… Disturbio to superkick Atlantis, seemingly pulling a muscle in the process. More flying bodies eventually lead to a Mistico ‘rana and a trio of topes con giro, while Atlantis stays in the ring to make Puma tap to the Atlantida torture rack. Decent enough, but the no-tags rule meant that this looked pretty nasty in the middle as bodies came and went at will. ***¼
Disturbio looked hurt after the match, still clutching at his hamstring, while Barbero Cavernario cut a promo – in Spanish – on Volador ahead of their welterweight title match on Sunday.
CMLL World Middleweight Championship: Cuatrero vs. Angel de Oro (c)
We started with the customary armdrag exchanges, but Oro transitioned it into working the arm before we had something else that’s customary… front flips!
Oro nearly wins it with a cross-legged wheelbarrow as the pace stayed steady, but Cuatrero took over, stomping and kicking away on Oro as somehow five minutes had passed with little happening. A slow-mo Alabama slam saw the challenger follow up with a STF, and that seemed to damage Oro’s leg, as he favoured his left knee for a spell.
Cuatrero ended up being his own worst enemy as he took a spill to the outside, with Oro following up with a moonsault to the floor. Back inside, Cuatrero takes over, using a double knee strike to take Oro outside for a tope, but the champion rebounds with a springboard armdrag as we’re back outside once more for a Sasuke special!
Back inside, a Quebrada nearly sees Oro retain his belt, but a spinning powerbomb in response led to a two-count for the challenger. Oro tries to force a submission with a pendulum swing, but his knee gives out as Cuatrero hits back with a spinning crucifix bomb… and we have a new champion! After 300 days, Oro drops the belt, and Cuatrero wins his first singles title. Pretty decent match, and I liked how they played in Oro’s knee selling into the finish. Lucha selling! ***½
National Welterweight Championship: Sanson vs. Soberano Jr. (c)
Soberano came into this having held the Mexican National Welterweight title for 252 days… any chance of another reign ending here?
I popped for the CMLL ring announcer introducing referee Red Shoes in Spanish. Zapatos Rojos Unno!
Soberano launched into action first with a tope con giro to Sanson as the two seconds – Volador and Barbero Cavernario – had a terse showdown. Perhaps the caveman thought Volador was going to whip him with the towel. Back inside, Sanson dumped Soberano with an over-the-knee powerbomb, but the champ rebounds with a Quebrada as they exchanged highlight moves.
A missed boot from Sanson eventually saw him taken to the outside, with Soberano hitting a sweet tornillo… but he couldn’t even get a pinning attempt from it as he crashes and burns on a springboard dropkick back into the ring. Still, Soberano’s able to hit a gamengiri in the corner, before he’s caught with a powerbomb out of the corner as Sanson almost caused the upset. Another gamengiri took Sanson outside, but Soberano’s forced to abort his dive as he’s met with an enziguiri… and it’s Sanson’s turn to fly with a springboard plancha into the crowd! Soberano goes flying again with another tornillo off the top rope, and there’s plenty of towel wafting since I guess that works?
Back inside, Soberano goes another tornillo into a crossbody that almost gets the win, but the challenger tries to hit back… and eats another gamengiri on the top rope before Soberano tried to hit back with a springboard rana. He took too long and gets met with what was meant to be an avalanche Blue Thunder Bomb, but Soberano kicks out before dropping Sanson in a sit-out tombstone for the win. This was fine, perhaps a little off in places – those tornillos almost went a little wrong by the end – but a solid outing for both guys. ***½
CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship: Gran Guerrero vs. Niebla Roja (c)
Guerrero’s channelling Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania with this freaking head dress… meanwhile, Niebla Roja has a massive sword, like he’s retaining this title through the Power of Grayskull. He-Man!
Roja offers a handshake at the bell, with Guerrero surprisingly accepting it, and we’re underway with… armdrags! Guerrero tries to stop it by holding onto the arm, and that works as he stops some backflips out and a headscissor attempt as he frustrated the champion.
Roja responds with a springboard crossbody and some headscissors, before a tope con giro to the outside is caught just before he hits the ground… since Gran Guerrero wanted to add a little more force with a powerbomb! C’mon, raise the roof with him now… Back in the ring, Guerrero keeps the upper hand with some chops, before pancaking the champion ahead of a low dropkick. Roja gets placed on the apron again, this time sent flying with a baseball slide as Guerrero crashes into him with a tope con giro, before stomping a mudhole in him.
A missed charge from Guerrero sees him sail outside as Roja goes airborne again with a picturesque tope con giro, before a springboard crossbody back into the ring almost got countered, with Roja eventually picking up the near-fall. Roja keeps up with a Code Red, then a pop-up into a knee strike as the champion looked to be in control. Roja comes back with a swandive splash, but the Quebrada almost costs him as Gran gets his knees up. A chokeslam nearly forces the title change, but Niebla kicked out at two, before a pumphandle driver-ish move produced a similar result. Another dropkick from Roja took Guerrero outside for a springboard body press.
Back inside again, the pair exchange avalanche strikes in the corner, with Roja edging ahead with a spinning elbow that almost ended the match. Roja almost got caught with a top rope powerbomb after a ‘rana fails, but he’s able to counter the counter back into the ‘rana for a near-fall… only to get lawn-darted off the top rope as another ‘rana attempt backfired.
Eventually, Roja slingshots Guerrero, and rolls through into a Boston crab as the challenger scrambled into the ropes, before recovering to hit an avalanche Samoan driver… but again, Roja kicks out! In the end, Roja gets the win with another move off the top – a chicken wing facebuster – as Gran Guerrero fell short of victory. Another fun match, with the “red frog” Niebla perhaps going to that tope con giro well a little too often… but it didn’t cost him in the end, so meh. ***¾
If you’ve skipped this show thinking it’s a throwaway.. I implore you to go back and watch this. The LIJ tag was a marvel, as were the title matches… a fun couple of hours that will be even more special if you’re not a regular lucha viewer.