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CMLL/New Japan FantasticaMania: Night Six Review
Ladies and gentlemen I have seen Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada (three times), I have been to many a live wrestling event; hell I’ve even seen a grown man satisfy a camel (just kidding. Or am I?). This morning’s FantasticaMania show…well alright it wasn’t better than Omega-Okada, but it was better than a lot of other stuff I’ve seen. Whereas yesterday’s show was fun but something I probably didn’t have to wake up early to see, this show was must see. Only the opener proved to be inconsequential, with every other match ranging from good the amazing, with the last three matches being absolutely must see. Maybe tonight’s card was simply better, maybe there’s just something about the second night of three straight shows being the best (just ask PWG); who knows and who cares? This show ruled and now it’s time for me to tell you why. Moses, get the meme before you fall back to sleep.
Ephesto, Gedo, Jado, Raziel defeated Blue Panther Jr., Henare, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask
Pretty much what I predicted; a fusion of yesterday’s opening two bouts, only with more comedy, more Tiger mask, less Junior and Ephesto going over. I’m not too sure about that last part but everything else was fine, and I absolutely loved the spot where Tiger Mask hip tossed everyone from his opponents to his partners to the referee. It was the funniest thing since xXx: The Return of Xander Cage was at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Definitely not the best match on this card but certainly a solid way to start. I just hope they allow Junior to do more on the final day than the thirty some seconds he got here.
Stuka Jr. defeated Okumura
This was the start of a three match run of highly entertaining bouts mixed in with some good comedy and great high flying. Stuka brought the high flying here; I think he did just about every dive in his arsenal short of the torpedo suicide dive, and he looked great hitting all of them. If only someone had predicted that…oh wait it was me! I figured he would be going all out here in his first attempt to impress in awhile and he did just that, taking Okumura (who more or less stuck to the basics) along for the ride. That they were able to work in some spots where Okumura’s manager fell on her face repeatedly was a bonus. Several people are going to say this was better than they expected; thankfully I don’t have to considering I thought the match would be pretty good yesterday. A good effort from both dudes.
Cavernario, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay defeated Kushida, Ryusuke Taguchi, Soberano Jr.
The first match was okay. The second match was pretty good. But this was the bout that took this show from “it looks like it’ll be fun” to “this could be special if they nail the rest.” And wouldn’t you know it, the key to this match was young Soberano Jr. Yes; the ultra talented dude who CMLL can’t put higher than third on a Super Viernes card not only mattered in this match but he was arguably the performer that mattered the most. And it all started right when the match began and he matched up with Will Ospreay.
You’ll recall in my preview that all I wanted from this match was a few minutes between Soberano and Ospreay and a few between Soberano and Okada. We got both, starting with Soberano and Ospreay. It was tremendous stuff, the kind of high octane, athletic, lucha style wrestling you’d expect from these two and would hope to see someday again if Ospreay ever makes it to Arena Mexico (or Soberano makes it back to Japan, which I assume he will). But the Okada stuff…wow. Maybe you’d disagree with me on where exactly he places, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Kazuchika Okada is one of the five best wrestlers in the world. He doesn’t have to do a damn thing for anyone if he doesn’t want to. And not only did Okada, New Japan’s ace and world champion, get in the ring with Soberano but he sold for him, took his amazing tornillo dive and made Soberano look like the second coming of Carístico. They made this young man matter in a way CMLL, by itself, never has and it was extraordinary to watch. And yeah, the rest of this match was pretty good even without that; Ospreay remains tremendous, Taguchi remains entertaining, Cavernario and Kushida made things work despite limited involvement and Okada remains as entertaining as ever having the time of his life doing lucha. But even in defeat, the thing you’re going to remember about this is that Soberano came of age here against one of the best high flyers in the world and, in my opinion, one of the two best wrestlers in the world. He was already a big winner on the tour; this match just sealed it.
Bushi, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi (Kamaitachi), Naito, Sanada defeated David Finlay, Dragón Lee, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Titán
The action was so fast in this one that I couldn’t even keep track; I only had four notes from this match when all was said and done. While this didn’t have the emotional investment that some of us had with the last match (can you tell I love Soberano?), overall this was better worked, moving from the wonderful Ingobernables beat down of the first few minutes to nonstop back and forth action towards the end. Once more I was highly impressed with David Finlay; he actually didn’t have a ton to do beyond his awesome running elbow into the corner spot, but there’s just something about everything he does that captivates me. Maybe it’s the way he sells, maybe it’s the way he carries himself; whatever it is he has something that’s going to take him places. Fellow foreigner Juice Robinson also looked great and obviously you can never go wrong with an extended Kamaitachi-Dragón Lee segment, which we got here. With those three aspects firing on all cylinders, all the others needed to do was throw in a few extra sequences and we had ourselves the fourth best match of the night. Little did we know what was coming our way next!
Euforia & Último Guerrero defeated Mistico & Volador Jr.
I knew this would be fun but I didn’t expect it to turn out as good as it did. And believe me this was good; put this match on Night Five and it may have been the best match of the show (though Dragón Lee-Cavernario would have something to say about that). I came in hoping this match would benefit from showcasing Euforia more; he’s so tremendous and often gets lost in the shuffle doing being mostly a trios worker assigned to catch people on dives. And while he did get his time to shine and looked good, the reason this match worked was because of the stars. Volador was restrained but it was the good kind of restrained; he allowed Mistico to get most of the high spots in while he focused on selling and setting up moves, such as Mistico’s awe inspiring launching hurricanrana over the turnbuckle to the floor (the spot of the tour thus far). And while he did check things off his list, Último Guerrero just seemed a lot fresher than usual tonight in ring, perhaps because he was breaking out new stuff for once. That one armed Suplex from the apron to the ring isn’t something I’ve seen him do before and UG came off like a lucha Cesaro when he did this. He was so good that I couldn’t even get mad at him winning the match with the Guerrero Special after Volador (predictably) went for a moonsault that he never should’ve gone for (somewhere Valiente was watching and shaking his head, all while quietly saying “Next time…” with a clenched fist). What else can I say? This was an excellent tag match with great flying, great building towards the climax and great work from all four guys. I’m more excited for each of the individual singles matches tomorrow than I was going into this.
Rush defeated Atlantis
I tried to tell you sports fans. I really did. I said yesterday that this was going to be the match of the tour, the best match of this show and all I got was crickets. I saw on Twitter that people were expecting Rush to squash Atlantis in around ten minutes, that this would be a okay to good match and this and that and this and that. And look what happened instead! I won’t say anything more other than I tried to tell you. Well that and I’ll post this picture.
So how did this end up being one of two best matches on the FantasticaMania tour? In the one move that did surprise me, it was the fact that these two went full blown Rush vs. L.A. Park. I figured there would be emotion and heat in this match, but I expected that to be because they’d wrestle the standard big time Atlantis match that the legend did with La Sombra back at the Anniversary Show. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND! Instead they went the Park-Rush route, with Rush as the disrespectful rudo violently taking it to Atlantis and the legend happily descending into the chaos with him. This was not for the faint of heart folks. There were some violent chair shots in this match, including one that busted open Atlantis so bad it recalled Villano V’s mask during his match with Blue Panther and Atlantis himself in that legendary Villano III match (somewhere, Villano IV is pissed he did get referenced there). It was brutal, it was amazing and it was mostly amazing because Atlantis went just as far as Rush did.
And that’s not to take anything away from Rush here. No one else in wrestling can pull off what he did this morning as well as he did and no one else can look like the unstoppable, violent brute that he is when he’s on. But we all figured he would be that going into this match; we didn’t know Atlantis would return the favor. I wouldn’t say he was on the level of Park going against Rush but he was close, thanks to the blood, thanks to his willingness to brawl and due to the fact that he’s gorram Atlantis. We forget because he doesn’t get as many opportunities as Negro Casas does, but this is the same guy who’s had two of the greatest matches in lucha libre over the past three years, all in his 50’s. He knows what he’s doing; all he needs is the opportunity. For the first time since that Anniversary Show match with La Sombra he got it and he and Rush ran with it. I loved every minute of it; it was violent, it was emotional and at times it was even moving for me, even with the Ingobernables interference at the end. I know CMLL will never consider doing this kind of violent match for an Anniversary Show main event, but if I were Paco Alonso, Rush vs. Atlantis, hair vs. mask, is the leader in the clubhouse to headline that show right now. Without question. Do it Paco and watch the money flow in.
CMLL World Heavyweight Championship Match
Máximo Sexy (c) defeated Hechicero
Just when you thought there was nothing left for this show to do, here came Máximo and Hechicero to steal the show right back from Atlantis and Rush. This match is why I was only right about Atlantis-Rush to a certain extent; I may have been right about it being great but I was wrong about it being the best on the tour because this bout was. I knew it the moment Máximo went to grind against Hechicero in the opening minutes and Hechicero pushed him away and continued wrestling, instead of pulling away in disgust. Every other rudo is shaken by that. The fact that Hechicero wasn’t forced Máximo to get serious and from that point on the match was cruising. We had amazing high spots from both men (two guys who aren’t known for high spots), Hechicero breaking out great submissions (a brutal looking ankle lock and a wonderful Romero Special), great selling; fuck it was just great overall wrestling with great drama. They even managed to turn “The Kiss” comedy spot into something meaningful, with Máximo kissing Red Shoes by accident both times (Hechicero moved) and Hechicero getting a roll up that would’ve won the match, only Red Shoes was too disoriented to count. It was tremendous and I found myself far more invested in these two than any match I’d seen on these two shows other than Atlantis-Rush and maybe the preceding tag match. Best of all this should serve as a huge launching point for both guys. Hechicero is great but has largely been unknown before FantasticaMania outside of lucha circles, while Máximo’s talents have been ignored because of his gimmick. This match should change both perceptions, and I think Máximo knew it judging by his emotional reaction after the match. I couldn’t be happier for him and Hechicero; they deserve it and even more so now after they had one hell of a main event in one of wrestling’s most legendary buildings. What a way to close a spectacular show!
That’s it folks. I’m going back to sleep, but I’ll be back later to preview Night Seven. With any luck it’ll be as good as this show! Till then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.