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FantasticaMania 2018, Night One (or Six) Preview!
It’s that time of year again! The time where we hear rumors about Roman Reigns and PED’s? The time where we wonder what’s wrong with the Edmonton Oilers? No, it’s time for FantasticaMania! Yes the joint CMLL/New Japan-Pro Wrestling tour is back, or at least back on New Japan World after the first few days of touring have concluded. Tomorrow’s show, the first of three that will be streamed, should be the start of what should be three really fun shows while also showcasing how different this year’s FantasticaMania. You’ll notice below that there’s a startling lack of New Japan stars on the tour, with Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi (normally FantasticaMania regulars) and the Bullet Club all missing. It appears to be because New Japan is looking to give the CMLL guys a bit more spotlight which, hey, sounds just fine to me. As such however, some of you New Japan only viewers may be lacking a bit of knowledge when it comes to the CMLL roster, which means this preview must not only do the job of breaking down the matches but giving some brief background info each luchador. Let’s hope I did a good job! So without any further gilding of the lily, and with no more ado, let’s break Night One down. Or is it Night Six? Either way, the same old Moses meme will kick it off.
Fuego vs. Okumura
What to Expect: Ah, the annual Okumura singles match during FantasticaMania. It’s a tradition unlike any other, right up there with The Masters on CBS and Blair Walsh missing a field goal. Last year Stuka Jr. got the honors; this time it’s Fuego, who for first time CMLL viewers is an orange clad luchador that loves to do a silly dance. Like Stuka, he’s also quietly a pretty good luchador and this match is likely the biggest stage he’ll have all year to do something. As such, you should expect it to be very much like the Okumura invitational from last year; brief, fast, fun and loaded with Mima Shimoda appearances. I just hope Fuego has a couple cool dives to show off in his arsenal. The next time I see him do a dive that isn’t a suicide dive/tope con hilo will be the first time.
Winner: As I expect this to differentiate little from the usual Okumura Invitational, I’m going with Fuego. Look for him to take it home at around the 6:30-7 minute mark. Sorry Ok; there’s always next year!
Dragón Lee, Hirai Kawato, Satoshi Kojima, Star Jr. vs. BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Rush, Tetsuya Naito
What to Expect: Starting with this match, expect to see the phrase “this might be the biggest match of *insert luchador’s name here* life. For example; this might be the biggest match of Star Jr.’s life. Get it? Got it? Good.
Anyways, this for real is a big deal for Star Jr. The 24 year old son of journeyman luchador Star Boy is really, REALLY good; unfortunately, as us CMLL fans know too well, he’s also really, REALLY misused, spending most of his time in throwaway matches with old and disgruntled luchadors. Now he gets to be in a match with a bonafide CMLL main eventer (Rush), one of the best juniors in the world (Takahashi), one of the best workers in the world (Naito) and BUSHI (BUSHI). As Mike Francesca would say, this is yoooge. It’s also pretty cool for the rapidly improving Kawato and especially Lee, who gets to mix it up with Takahashi once more in their never ending quest to wipe the other off the face of the earth. I expect they’ll get a lot of time to shine, I expect Rush and Kojima will have a few sequences to build to their upcoming match and, if Gedo is a smart man, hopefully Star Jr. will get to show off a lot with BUSHI or, fingers crossed, Naito. I mean sure, that seems unlikely given how Naito is a mega star and Star Jr. is…not, but hey; that didn’t stop Soberano from getting brief sequences last year with guys of Naito’s stature and look at him now. Seeing as Star Jr. is the only one in this match with anything serious to prove, let’s hope he goes in with the same attitude.
Winners: LIJ all the way. The Ingobernables take it after BUSHI pins Kawato with the MX, followed by Kojima and Rush having to be separated in order to build steam for that encounter.
Atlantis, Drone, Mistico, Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario, Disturbio, Puma, Último Guerrero
What to Expect: Guess what sports fans; this may be the biggest match of Drone’s, Puma’s and Disturbio’s life! Actually you could argue Puma’s hair match with Rey Cometa was bigger for him (and it will undoubtedly remain greater), but besides that, this is totally big time for Drone and Disturbio. The former Hombre Bala Jr. has done pretty well ever since he started dressing like an anime character, but he hasn’t quite broken out to a top level in CMLL just yet. Meanwhile Disturbio is a lower rung CMLL guy whose talent is overshadowed by his love for Slayer; if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was a roadie for the group judging by his vast amount of T-shirts he owns of the band. The point is they never get to mix it up with the big boys (Puma does occasionally), which makes their appearances in this match among the likes of legends Atlantis and UG and top stars Volador, Mistico and Cavernario kind of a big deal. It also should help them to a good match considering Volador, Cav and the UG are all at the top of the best of luchadors list at the moment. Look for those three to get a lot of time, look for Atlantis to take it easy (he’s coming off an injury that kept him out for half of 2017), look for Mistico to do one thing that makes you wonder why he’s not this consistent in Arena Mexico and of course, look for at least two of those three new guys to step up big. My guesses; it’ll be Drone and Puma. The former is capable of electrifying moments at any given moments and Puma is so criminally underrated it’s almost comical. Even without his brother Tiger (who honestly should be here with him), Puma should be able to show off what makes him such a great singles and trios worker. I can just see him and UG doing a double team together…dear Grodd, it’s beautiful!
Winners: Volador and Cavernario is the big match on the next show, so look for that to get the majority of the focus both during the middle portions of the match and the finish. In what might be the most shocking finish of the evening, I say Cav gets the win for his team by submitting Volador with La Cavernaria, establishing him as a big time threat against Volador while also leaving some doubt that Volador may win on Sunday morning. I mean he totally will, but it’ll at least make you question it for a moment.
CMLL World Middleweight Championship Match
Ángel de Oro (c) vs. Cuatrero
What to Expect: Without question, this is the biggest match of Cuatrero’s life and then some. Sure it may seem like an odd thing to say considering Cuatrero is both a CMLL tag champion (one half of the Arena Coliseo Tag Team Champions) and a CMLL Trios Champion (one third of the Mexican National Trios Champions). But that’s tag team and trios stuff; as a singles competitor, Cuatrero has been left behind while his brother Sansón has gotten all the glory. Hence why this bout, Cuatrero’s first ever major singles match that I can recall, is huge for the son of Cien Caras, which makes it kind of unfortunate that his opponent is Ángel de Oro, who spent the last year ending the longest title reign in modern day CMLL, winning Reyes del Aire for a third time and starring in a Boing! commercial where he walked around Mexico City shirtless talking about mango flavored fruit drinks. Incredibly, he remained uninteresting the entire time.
Now in fairness to Oro, he’s not a terrible worker in the slightest; on the contrary, he tends to be very, very good when he gets an opportunity to work in a place outside of CMLL. He’s just, how does one say, the type of luchador who has the same match over and over again. Sure that can be said about many luchadors, including Último Guerrero on occasion. The only difference is the UG has the charisma of David Duchovny, whereas Oro has the charisma of Hayden Christensen. That’s a big gap there sports fans. As such, this match is probably the biggest unknown amongst the singles matches CMLL and New Japan have put together. Oro is definitely going to be trying his damndest to make an impression to Gedo and co., and it goes without saying that Cuatrero will be trying his ass off too. I just wish they had given Cuatrero a more exciting, consistent performer to work with this time around, like a Soberano. That would’ve taken the pressure off him to provide the match’s sizzle; now with Oro he will have to be the most interesting performer as the most you’re getting from Oro is a Space Tiger Drop and a triangle moonsault. Is Cuatrero up for it? We’ll see.
Winner: The key with CMLL titles is they chance hands as often as new Legend of Zelda games are produced; in fact, the title these two are fighting for, the World Middleweight Title, was defended successfully by Dragón Rojo Jr. for over five years before Oro beat him for it. Seeing as that was less than a year ago and this is Cuatrero’s first big match, the only way Cuatrero is winning is if Paco and the gang are really trying to shake up CMLL something fierce. I don’t see it, at least with this match, which means Oro is retaining with his weird Billy Goat’s Curse style submission at around the fifteen minute mark. Ultimately, the result is less important than whether or not Cuatrero delivers in the ring. I’m rooting for him, and so should you.
Mexican National Welterweight Championship Match
Soberano Jr. (c) vs. Sansón
What to Expect: Our first contender for Match of FantasticaMania! If nothing else, it promises to be the most exciting. It was just a year ago Soberano was wowing Korakuen Hall with his unbelievable high flying, a set of performances that I believe ended up launching a yearlong push that turned him into one of CMLL’s most exciting young stars. His best opponent; Sansón, Cuatrero’s brother, Cien Caras’ oldest son who’s incredible in ring IQ, power and athleticism quickly made him the standout singles star over his brother and cousin Forastero. Together Sansón and Soberano produced some of the best matches in CMLL during 2017, including a singles match for the Copa Jr. trophy in May. This will be their biggest showcase since and I anticipate they’re going to get a tad crazy. Both luchadors will try anything and everything to make this match great, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both Soberano and Sansón have a spot in this match that leaves us looking to dump ice water all over ourselves. The question will be whether they can, as luchablog pointed out in his preview, keep it clean. As good as Soberano and Sansón’s encounters have been in the past year, there’s always been one spot in there they’ve just missed, keeping the match from reaching its full potential. If they do what they’re capable of and do it mistake free, this will be tough to beat as the standout match of the tour. And that’s with Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario happening on Sunday. You know you’re good when you can give that match a run for its money.
Winner: I’m going with Soberano here, but I won’t blame anyone for picking Sansón. Remember what I said about CMLL titles not changing hands often? The Mexican National Welterweight Title doesn’t subscribe to that theory; in the past three years alone the belt has changed hands four times, with the reigns all lasting less than a year. So it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Sansón overcome Soberano and win his first major singles title in his CMLL run. Ultimately though, the two belts Sansón already has, coupled with CMLL clearly seeing bigger things in his future, lead me to believe that he won’t be adding a third belt, with Soberano retaining the gold twenty minutes in after connecting with a Soberano Driver.
CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship Match
Niebla Roja (c) vs. Gran Guerrero
What to Expect: If you had told me a year ago that Niebla Roja and Gran Guerrero would be wrestling in the main event of a 2018 FantasticaMania show and I’d be excited about it, I’d have assumed everyone else in CMLL had gone to AAA and there were no other options. That’s why lucha libre is so great! Guerrero, or the GG as I call him, spent the past year finally turning the corner from solid third guy on a trios team into a legit singles wrestler. But his improvement is dwarfed by the surprising rise of Roja. The two feuded throughout 2017 after Roja was kicked out of Los Guerreros Laguneros, culminating in an unexpectedly great Aniversario main event where the GG unmasked Roja. You’re now thinking that’s where Guerrero launched himself into stardom, right? NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! Instead, an unmasked Roja sat back, watched a whole lot of Hector Garza tape and turned himself into a charismatic ladies man. As a result, he’s risen up the card while the GG has pretty much stayed where he was before. Between Roja becoming more popular than the GG and Dr. Wagner Jr. totally eclipsing Psycho Clown despite Psycho unmasking him, I dare say 2017 was a good year for dudes to lose their masks. If I were Ángel de Oro, I’d be demanding a mask match with Atlantis for the 85th Aniversario immediately!
But enough history; you want to know how good this match is going to be. Frankly, it has a chance to be excellent. As I said earlier, their Aniversario match, a match that had no hype going into it, was off the charts good and their Arena Mexico rematch just twelve days ago was just as good, maybe even better. There’s no doubt that these two have an outstanding chemistry together and, while this match isn’t as big as the Aniversario match, it’s a huge stage that both men will want to make the most of. Will it rise to the same level? That I’m not so sure. Roja and the GG work well together, but both have their deficiencies and, well, there’s a reason neither the Aniversario match nor the rematch were that hotly anticipated. Ultimately it’s hard for me to believe that this match will reach the same levels of epicness as Soberano-Sansón (especially when they have to follow that match) or Volador-Cavernario. But a lack of excitement hasn’t hurt these two before and, as long as they’re on their game, it wouldn’t be that shocking at all to see Roja and GG tear it down again to produce a match of the tour contender.
Winner: As of now the series is tied at 1-1, with Guerrero winning the Aniversario match and Roja winning the recent rematch, though it appeared the GG was going to win before he was accidentally counted out (don’t ask). Maybe I’m overconfident but I feel pretty good about saying this will be Roja’s match; he hasn’t held the Light Heavyweight Title for long, he’s owed a big win over the GG following the Aniversario loss and he is kind of the bigger name for CMLL going forward, at least based on the last few months. So look for the Red Frog to emerge victorious about twenty five minutes in, finishing things off with a Top Rope Underhook Pancake Driver. Holy shit that was a mouthful.
That’s game sports fans! I’ll be back early tomorrow morning to review this bad boy. I hope to see you on Twitter while the show is on; if you are, follow me at @CultIcon to see me make a fool of myself. Till then, THIS!