NJPW Fantastica Mania 22/1/18 Review

That’s some damn good synchronised diving. Credit: NJPW

The final night of Fantastica Mania madness. I’m sad to see it go. Sure it means we’re closer to The New Beginning tour which has loads of great matches booked but does it have a caveman? No, it does not!

If you’ve even glanced at my other Fantastica Mania reviews, then you’ll know I’m not exactly taking this seriously. Please don’t expect that to change here. Let’s dish out some stars.

Ryusuke Taguchi and Fuego defeated Disturbio and Puma

Taguchi presents himself. Credit: NJPW

I watched this on catch-up, and New Japan has raised their game with the dubbed music. They’ve given the CMLL talent their own themes, they’re all awful but not as awful as that one they used on Sunday. Which, to be honest, I’m kind of sad about.

I’m going to catch you all off guard and tell you that a match involving Taguchi and Fuego facing a puma and Hannibal Lecter wasn’t serious wrassling. Despite that, Fuego did impress. He reminds me of Taguchi in that he can go, which is easy to forget because he’s playing the goofball.

The one big surprise in this match was that with Disturbio getting his teeth into some nips Taguchi didn’t get some ass biting action in. I would have thought he’d have lept at the chance. Anyway, this was fun with Taguchi and Fuego picking up the win and having a boogie. Perfectly acceptable stuff.

Verdict: Three Stars

Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH and Rocky Romero) and OKUMURA defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Star Jr, Tiger Mask and KUSHIDA

Look at them go. Credit: NJPW

I might do an article where I review New Japan’s music choices. Star Jr’s would need a thousand words just to describe it.

The early portion of this match was built around Rocky trying to get Liger to shake his hand. This then escalated into a hug before Rocky raised Liger’s hand. In a shocking twist, he then went for the cheap shot. That old Thunder God’s been around for a while, though and he saw it coming.

Yup, this was another one that didn’t get taken seriously. At one point Star Jr invited his fellow babyfaces to come in and get down with him which led to Tiger Hitori doing some of the worst dancing I have ever seen. I know he’s old, but the lack of flexibility was astounding.

In fact, Tiger wasn’t having a great day. There were long periods of this match where Mima Shimoda was in the ring getting involved, and he apparently had no issue with that. He stood back and let her get on with it.

Silliness aside, the action was at its best when it involved SHO and YOH. Those two are ridiculously talented and their interactions with KUSHIDA were great. I know they’ve taken a while to settle into their characters, but in-ring they’re nailing it.

OKUMURA pinned Star Jr to put an end to another decent match. It was another case of everyone enjoying themselves and not taking it too seriously which I was A-okay with.

Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars

Sanson and El Cuatrero defeated Angel De Oro and Niebla Roja

The Luchadores seem to love these moves. Credit: NJPW

This is the third-placed play-off in the Brother Tag Tournament. I still don’t know what that tournament is for so I have no idea what finishing third means. I mean, there were only four teams.

These two teams went at each other in a way that suggested they have a history. Everyone was leaning into their strikes. It wasn’t quite Ishii vs Shibata, but for Lucha, it was stiff.

You also shouldn’t take that to mean that this suddenly turned into NOAH. These were still plenty of flips and more than one dive to the outside. Roja and De Oro were quite happy to provide the thrills.

Sanson and El Cuatrero were then able to slip into the rudo role, looking to ground the tumbling tecnicos (see, I’m getting down with the lingo). It was the same tactic that they used against Mistico and Dragon Lee but executed better. They were working well as a team, and that allowed the match to flow more naturally.

In the end, it would lead to them picking up the win. This was another strong outing from Roja and De Oro and a substantial improvement from Sanson and Cuatrero. In other words, nothing to complain about.

Verdict: Three Stars

Gedo and Barbaro Cavenario defeated Atlantis and Hirai Kawato

My poor sweet boy. Credit: NJPW

Nice to see Gedo donning the gear to see off Kawato personally. Even better to see him dancing around the ring with Cavernario. Teaming with a caveman is his level in 2018.

This quickly dissolved into a brawl. Gedo and Fred (can’t believe it’s taken me three reviews to make a Flintstone’s joke) attacked before the bell and we were soon off around the arena. This is no example to set Young Kawato. He should be kept pure!

We might be able to keep him pure, but New Japan apparently isn’t worried about keeping him in one piece. The early portion of this match was beat-up Kawato time. He’ll be sitting a bit uncomfortably on his plane to Mexico. It was all worth it, though, for the moment he took flight over the top rope. He’ll do just fine in CMLL.

Of course, he couldn’t go without eating one last defeat, and Cavenario would force him to tap. Next time he’s in a New Japan ring there’s a decent chance he’ll be the one picking up the victories.

Verdict: Three Stars

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi) defeated Volador Jr, Soberano Jr and Drone

Bad Naito! Credit: NJPW

LIJ has taken the Suzuki-gun role on this tour; sneak attacks for everyone.

This match saw them employ that gang-like mentality of theirs to pick off their foes. I can’t think of a team (throughout wrestling history) that’s been better than them at that. It’s the way they move in and out of the ring, taking every advantage they can get.

A fun part of this tour is that the CMLL guys seem to pull the slappy side out of Takahashi. While he saves the particularly manic version of it for Dragon Lee, he was still willing to dish them out with Volador and Soberano. When he is the ring with the luchadores you can see how influenced he is by their style and in some ways, it brings the best out of him.

Sadly, this one ended a bit suddenly, and I would have liked another few minutes. Still, there was enough to ensure it wasn’t a total waste of time.

Verdict: Two And A Half Stars

Rush defeated Satoshi Kojima

Lariato! Credit: NJPW

These two were swinging at each other before the ring announcer had even finished talking. If you were looking for pretty wrestling than you’ll probably want to go elsewhere, this one was a fight.

It was a good fight, though. Despite Kojima’s years, he still excels in this environment. You believe every blow he strikes and against someone like Rush that brawling style hides the deficiencies that age naturally brings.

Interestingly, it would be Rush who picked up the win in the only straight-up match between NJPW and CMLL. It makes you wonder whether they have plans to bring him over again in the future. You could imagine him challenging for the NEVER Title the same way Dragon Lee did the Junior belt last year. Judging by this, I’d be happy to watch him and Goto slug it out.

Verdict: Three Stars

Ultimo and Gran Guerrero defeated Dragon Lee and Mistico

Let’s fight! Credit: NJPW

The final match of the tour and (minus Volador Jr) CMLL probably threw their most recognisable faces out there. I’m still not entirely sure what the point of this tournament is, but delivering a good final would make up for that.

And for the most part, it succeeded. The match started slowly, as the Guerreros took control and looked to grind down their opponents. However, just as that was beginning to wear on the patience Mistico was let loose, and he started flying around the ring. When this guy is on form, there are few smoother. It’s a shame that despite having nothing to do with the guy, his name has been ruined to a lot of the American audience by the botch prone former inhabitant of his mask.

This then descended into Dragon Lee and Gran slapping the shit out of each other. I thought that was a treatment that Lee saved for Hiromu, but apparently not. He and Gran had an excellent running battle in this match. Lee trying to combat Guerrero’s power with his speed was a joy to watch, and I imagine both of their chests will be stinging for weeks.

Their second slap battle would end with Lee taking Gran out with a Warrior’s Way style stomp but to the outside. That move is stupid because it requires the opponent to hold themselves in place, but that was still very cool. Unfortunately, it opened the door for Ultimo to hit the reverse suplex on Mistico from the second rope for the win.

This was a solid ending to a tour that I have enjoyed a lot. No-one will remember it in a few months, but it is further proof that these CMLL guys can go into a New Japan ring, wrestle a combination of their style and the Japanese style and get over. Although I still have no idea what they won.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Overall Show

He learnt to fly! Credit: NJPW

Another fun show. I’ve heard some people whine about Fantastica Mania and how it doesn’t really mean much, but that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s fun wrestling, what more do you want? There wasn’t a stinker on these shows, and I don’t understand how anyone can complain.

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