FantasticaMania 2018 Night Two (or Seven) Review!
If there's one downside to an excellent show like Friday's entry in the FantasticaMania tour, it's that it can set your expectations for the next one a little too high. And with that we segue to this morning's FantasticaMania show, one I went in expecting to be like 2001: A Space Odyssey and one that left me feeling like I had instead watched 2010: The Year We Made Contact. Like 2010, the show wasn't terrible; in fact, watched a good distance away from its predecessor, it could perhaps be argued that it was really good. But aside from an outstanding main event, I can't help but feel a bit let down by this show, which featured certain luchadors squandering chances, a wildly disappointing tag match between two talented teams, and a card that overall was just kind of there compared to the other day. And with that, it's now time to start the review! What a positive way to begin huh? Don't worry, there will be some praise along the way.
Disturbio & Puma Defeated Drone & Star Jr.
This was simultaneously really fun to watch and really hard to watch. Basically that episode of That 70’s Show when Eric runs over Donna’s cat, if that helps. On the one hand, Star Jr. and Puma were terrific, especially with each other. Much like old friend Soberano at last year’s FantasticaMania, Star Jr. has taken to Japan easily and looks far more electrifying than he does in Arena Mexico against the grumpy old luchadors. Puma meanwhile looked far more comfortable against someone not named Atlantis, and his top rope powerbomb spot was an absolute standout on a show that featured quite a few standouts. Overall they were both great, which makes it all the more disappointing their partners were not. Disturbio gets a little bit of a pass; there’s only so much he can do anyway, and he’s done a great job at getting over by just being really charismatic. He still didn’t offer much and Drone…good Grodd he was awful. I don’t know if he partied too hard in Roppongi or if the nerves got to him, but he didn’t look anything like the really good luchador we see in Arena Mexico. This was one of those performances that could really hurt in the long run, and he’s going to need to do something really good tomorrow in order to give himself any hope of a return trip to Japan. It didn’t torpedo the match, but that’s only because Puma and Star Jr. were as good as they were. Otherwise this was an okay, disappointing tag thanks to Drone that he’s probably going to be replaying for quite awhile.
Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi, Soberano Jr. Defeated Okumura, SHO, YOH
The Okumura, Fujin, and Raijin reunion you always wanted (but never knew you needed) was exactly the course correction needed after the bizarre opener. These six didn’t reinvent the wheel, but they did have a really fun match with some cool moments. Fuego continued his really fun run by once again looking far more energetic than he does back at home; perhaps New Japan should take this as a sign that he and Taguchi belong together as permanent tag team partners (just a thought!). I thought maybe SHO and YOH could’ve done a bit more than they did (they do have experience working these guys after all), but overall they made fun whipping boys for the technicos, and even Rocky Romero took the time to take some bumps in this one! But naturally the star was Soberano. He didn’t even really do a whole lot, which didn’t matter because the dude is so good that at this point he could probably go through the motions and still be great. He’s like Meryl Streep if Meryl Streep could do 900 spins like Tony Hawk. The fact that he’s looked so good the past two days and got the pin on Okumura here (two days after Okumura was victorious in a singles match mind you) makes it feel like we’re going to be seeing Soberano doing tornillos on Will Ospreay in a couple months. Sign me up for that world please! Anyways, fun match overall and it’ll be made even better if this contributes to the Soberano break out we’re all asking for. Or at least the one I’m asking for.
BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Rush, Tetsuya Naito Defeated Atlantis, Hirai Kawato, Kushida, Satoshi Kojima
This was beginning to take on the look of yesterday’s Ingobernables Atomicos; a match that started out strong before climaxing in disappointment. Then Kawato and Takahashi got into the ring together, Kawato’s chest began to resemble a meatball and this match ultimately ended up delivering the goods. Unless you’re squeamish I suppose, which I almost was looking at his bloody chest. I don’t feel like finding a picture of it or going through slab of meat pics on Google, so let’s find another photo that best sums up what Kawato’s chest looked like. Ah, here we go!
That near closing exchange aside, the match was once again really strong at the start that entered a lull right before the Takahashi-Kawato slap extravaganza. I liked the switcharoo with the technicos beating down the Ingobernables to start the match, and the Ingobernables turning the tide was a fun little segue too; it’s amazing how much better those things work when Rush has dudes other than Pierroth and La Máscara to do it with. It doesn’t hurt either that Rush is actually working with a purpose too; he was far more motivated here than in any of his non Crash appearances recently, which is if nothing else a good sign for his match with Kojima tomorrow (and for what it’s worth, I thought they worked far better today than they did two days ago). The match then did calm down before the Kawato-Takahashi bit, and I think that calm (and the lack of guys like KUSHIDA, Atlantis and BUSHI doing anything of substance) ultimately kept this from quite getting to the next level. But the start was well done, the ending was really well done (both in making Rush look like a monster and Kawato as the never say die babyface) and I thought it was a slightly better version of what we got a few days ago. A good way to end the first half of the show.
Torneo de Hermanos Semi-Finals: Gran Guerrero & Último Guerrero Defeated Ángel de Oro & Niebla Roja
If not for the opening stretch of this match, I felt this could’ve topped out at potentially great. Unfortunately these guys made the mistake of starting things at a snail’s pace. I get that mat work is the backbone of lucha libre and the UG is very good at it…but come on, extended mat sequences between the UG and Ángel de Oro? That’s not the latter’s strong suit and it kept the crowd silent for about the first five minutes or so of the match. Luckily things did pick up after that and overall this turned into a good match. I thought both teams worked really well together, with the Guerrero’s showing off the impressive teamwork you’d expect and Oro and Roja really surprising. Alright mostly Oro surprising; Niebla Roja has proven he’s the real deal and he looked every bit of it once again as he fed off the Korakuen Hall crowd. That Oro was able to keep up with him and do some pretty cool (albeit predictable) stuff on his own really went a long way it getting this match over the finish line. I think it could’ve been better if they tightened it up and come out of the gate faster, but overall a really good match and the best of the night to this point. Thank Grodd; if this had been the best overall, I would’ve immediately gotten to work on my time machine so I could go back and forgo this show in favor of watching Friday’s again!
Torneo de Hermanos Semi-Finals: Dragón Lee & Mistico Defeated Cuatrero & Sansón
Just when you thought Drone was going to be the most disappointing part of this show, along came this match. I don’t want to come off as too hard on it because overall it wasn’t bad, and I’m sure someone could even make the argument it was quite good. But man…this just didn’t do it for me at all. It was less of a well structured, well worked match and more a collection of moments in between a lot of forgettable action. Mistico was pretty much a ghost. Dragón Lee had the most wow moments of the group, but even he never seemed to reach a higher gear like he did the other day in the Ingobernables match. And wow, Cuatrero and Sansón were disappointing. Gone were the great double teams and high energy of their Arena Mexico performances, replaced instead by two guys who seemed a little nervous and at times lost. It didn’t help either that they seemed to have no chemistry with Lee or Mistico, two luchadors you’d expect them to tear the house down with. I don’t know if it was nerves, a lack of familiarity between the two teams or what, but this match was the definition of just kind of there to me. Not a bad match, but a really disappointing match. I expect better, and I know they can do better.
NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship Match: Volador Jr. (c) Defeated Cavernario
This wasn’t just a great match; this was a show saving great match. I can’t believe it actually got to that point considering how solid the rest of the card looked, and yet here we are. And even this had me worried for a bit! I don’t know what it is about Cavernario, but the New Japan audience seems to have a bit of trouble warming up to him. I recall they were a little cold towards him and his match with Dragón Lee last year and this match started off the same, no matter how much Cavernario played to them. They weren’t cold to him by the end, which I would guess had something to do with Cav pulling out awe inspiring moves like his knee killing splash to the floor (not seen in eons), triangle dropkicks, triangle splashes, a pitch perfect Swanton Bomb and the greatest through the turnbuckle suicide dive he has ever done. This was done so smoothly that I can’t even do the Rob Thomas/Carlos Santana joke. It was on another level of smoothness that only Ernie Hudson can pull off.
But while I thought this was definitely Cavernario’s showcase, he couldn’t have asked for a better dance partner. By this point I know pretty much everything Volador is going to dish out in a match, but it doesn’t matter much because he’s so good at pulling them off and knowing exactly the right moment to do so. For example, I initially thought he was going to do his Asai Moonsault spot right after his suicide dive/tope con hilo combo; instead he held it back until about five minutes later when I was pretty sure the dives were done. Stuff like that and him breaking up the twenty count, only to then slink back to the floor to by some more time, is exactly the kind of little stuff that turns good luchadors into great luchadors. Well that and being able to get an extra five feet of length on your top rope Spanish Fly (like Volador did) while also perfectly nailing your Canadian Destroyer (like Volador did). In the end, he was brilliant, Cavernario was just an extra shade of brilliant and this match was another brilliant showcase of the chemistry these two display. I’m not quite sure if this bested the Niebla Roja-Gran Guerrero/Soberano-Sansón combo from two mornings ago, but it’s definitely in the conversation, especially since it saved this show from being an average dud. I’d like to say I have no idea how Volador and Cav could top themselves going forward, except I’ve now just remembered they still haven’t done an Apuesta match against each other. My Grodd, that’ll be legendary if CMLL ever gets around to it. Hey Paco, get around to it!
And scene. I’m off to…actually I’m not sure, because I actually did get decent sleep before this show. Guess I’ll eat breakfast and watch YouTube videos. Rest assured though I’ll see you tomorrow at the same time and place to cover the final day on the FantasticaMania tour. Till then, this!