Current Watch List:
- New Day (Big. E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) vs. Cesaro, Tyson KIdd & Adam Rose (WWE)
- Cavernario & Mr. Niebla vs. Rey Cometa & Triton (CMLL/NJPW)
- Angel de Oro vs. Okumura in a lightning match (CMLL/NJPW)
- Jushin Liger & Mistico vs. Gedo & Polvora (CMLL/NJPW)
- Shinsuke Nakamura, Mephisto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Stigma, Stuka Jr. & Tiger Mask (CMLL/NJPW)
- La Sombra, Tetsuya Naito & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Mascara Dorada, KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan (CMLL/NJPW)
- Atlantis, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Volador Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero, Gran Guerrero & Kazuchika Okada (CMLL/NJPW)
- El Canek (c) vs. Mr. Jack for the IWL Independent Heavyweight title (IWL)
- Dragon Lee, Esfinge, Pegasso vs Puma, Tiger, Virus (CMLL)
New Day (Big. E, Kofi Kingston & Xavier Woods) vs. Cesaro, Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
United States & Canada
While not a classic WWE six-man tag match by any means – and as a C-show main event, it should not be held to those high standards – this was a fun mid-card match. A match like this one will pop up from time to time that shines light on the idea that WWE could have this cool mid-card scene with a constant flow of fun matches on the A, B & C shows if only they afforded that part of their roster the appropriate level of attention.
There was a lot of small but nonetheless positive elements in this match. The heels were rather great working as a unit, which is especially noteworthy given they have minimal experience together. For the first time since his initial debut, I could see Adam Rose being more than a one-note comedy act. He broke up pins, pulled opponents off the apron, and handled his portion of the audience in a really natural heel way. He bumped big as well. New Day pulled off a few neat double teams and the triple dive spot was phenomenal (with the always awesome spear through the ropes from Big E. highlighting it). Cesaro and Kidd gel well as a heel tag team and will likely only get better with experience. Both Kingston and Woods sold for long periods of time in the match. Kidd and Cesaro did a nice job keep those periods moving and building to the couple of high marks in the match where things broke down. Fun match with underutilized wrestlers – exactly what a Main Event main event should be.
As an aside, the heel trios entire act with the Rosebuds, Natalya, and the different personalities works well together in a way I would never have guessed. It is this motley crew of personalities that is more than the sum of its parts.
Angel de Oro vs. Okumura
Lucha in Japan
Despite serving an obvious function on the Fantasticamania tours as the only full-time Japanese wrestler in CMLL, Okamura is often relegated to insignificant spots on these cards. In honor of his 20th anniversary in wrestling and his (not exactly) 10 year anniversary as a member of the CMLL roster, however, the veteran has been trusted with a heavier role in this year’s tour. He faces Angel de Oro for the CMLL Light Heavyweight title on the fourth leg of the tour with this lightning match serving as the precursor.
As far as lightning matches go, this was fine but is well below a number of lightning matches from 2014. I liked the opening with the arm drag exchanges. Okumura takes nice rolling bumps, but he doesn’t have much in the way of offense, so the match feels more like a showcase for Oro than a celebration of the anniversary boy. Oro hits a couple of nice dives including a moonsault from the top rope to a floor (which ends up being a bit of a theme on this particular show). Okumura teases a dive at one point before stopping and kindly waiting for Oro to return to the ring. Maybe he’s saving himself for the title match.
Shinsuke Nakamura, Mephisto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Stigma, Stuka Jr. & Tiger Mask
Lucha in Japan
Like most of the opening night matches, this one exists to setup a singles match later in the tour. In this particular case, that singles is Mephisto defending his Mexican National Light Heavyweight title versus Stuka Jr. Of all the different matches built to on this tour opening show, Stuka Jr. and Mephisto did the best in hyping me for theirs. Mephisto is one of several CMLL guys who I usually enjoy when he is around, but don’t necessarily miss when he isn’t. I am a Stuka fan as I’ve already mentioned. Their work here was both smooth and aggressive, so in that sense it built well to their upcoming title bout. Stuka gets worked over the majority of the match and has his pants ripped apart. He gets the last laugh in the end by scoring a victory over the champion. Nakamura, YOSHI-HASHI and Tiger Mask all looked decent working with the luchadores and save for one dive, Stigma was just sort of there. Unforgettable but the match served its purpose in that I am not more interested in the Stuka Jr. getting his title shot than I was coming in.
La Sombra, Tetsuya Naito & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Mascara Dorada, KUSHIDA & Captain New Japan
Lucha in Japan
Things get off to a quality start before the bell rings due to the costume choices of the first team in this tecnico vs. tecnico match up. La Sombra – damper as always – had on his usual (these days at least) full suite entrance attire. Taguchi sported an Egyptian mask . . . for some reason. Figured a guy nicknamed “The Funky Dragon” would go with a Dragon motif instead. Naito one the evening though, with his mask that included one squinted eye hole in a play on his usual hand-eye gesture. The mask was definitely unique and looked good.
The match itself was not much. Sombra and Dorada were at it to build to their match at Korakuen Hall which will serve to wrap up the entire tour. There was nothing bad, but nothing overly memorable. Probably a little too much of Captain New Japan in the ring, but he did fine.
Atlantis, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Volador Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero, Gran Guerrero & Kazuchika Okada
Lucha in Japan
Either this main event match or the Stuka Jr. trios was the best of the night, but I’d probably lean towards this one. Gran Guerrero was not the dead weight he easily could have been. Atlantis and Ultimo Guerrero worked their usual stuff with each other, garnished up a bit by the story that UG was wearing his mask which angered Atlantis a lot, given that he was the one who took it from him in September. The element added some heat to the opening portions, was paid off in the middle with Atlantis finally unmasking Guerrero, and finished with the two old rivals doing their usual spots in front of a new audience. One of the highlights of the 2014 tour (that was sadly never followed up) was Okada’s strong work opposite La Sombra. This year, he looked good working opposite Volador Jr. It is probably no different from the Sombra stuff from last year in that it won’t go anywhere. However, if Okada is really going to be wandering around below the main events for most of the year NJPW could do much, much worse than a one off match at a major show against Volador. Good match, with good heat. The crowd was into the entire show but they got a particular kick out of this match.
Cavernario & Mr. Niebla vs. Rey Cometa & Triton
Lucha in Japan
The announcement of the roster of CMLL wrestlers going on this year’s FantasticaMania show led to a lot of head scratching (from me at least) when the reveal went down last November. Mr. Nielbla’s inclusion on the profitable and high profile tour was the most puzzling. This is the same Niebla who literally passed out on the ring apron while drunk during a tag match late last year. Yet for some reason he was awarded with a trip to Japan and a high profile spot on the tour. It was an obvious poor decision.
So of course, Niebla began the tour by failing to properly execute a simple splash which led to a badly bruised knee for his unfortunate victim, Titan. Titan later went for a tope but with the bum leg, couldn’t push off like normal and barely avoided catastrophe when his foot caught the middle rope. He hit with a thud on the floor and was stretchered out, but was well enough to wrestle the very next day (as fate would have, his tag partner in this match, Rey Cometa, has missed the next two shows with a knee injury).
Cometa improvised and the match ended up as good as it could but clearly taking Niebla to Japan was a mistake. Its almost as if the wrestling gods were purposely punishing CMLL for their poor choice.
Jushin Liger & Mistico vs. Polvoa & Gedo
Lucha in Japan
Mistico’s inclusion on this tour made far more sense than Mr. Niebla’s although it was not beyond question. The original Mistico was a big star in Japan and Mistico II has inherited the original’s fame in that country. So he would seem to be a shoe-in for this tour, if not for the fact that he was out of action for months and likely rushed back in order to compete in Japan. Mistico did not do a ton in this match and what he did do was sort of shaky. He looked like a wrestler who was not ready to be back in the ring. Luckily, Gedo, Liger and Polvora all have enough individual schtick to fill up a match so this was a watchable under card outing.
El Canek (c) vs. Mr. Jack
IWL Independent Heavyweight
I know guys wrestling when they are really, really old (Canek is 62) is nothing new particularly in lucha, but I sort of have a hard time wrapping myself around this one. For one, I thought Canek was much older than he actually is. For another, he was sort of forgotten in my mind. Everyone remembers Mil Mascaras and nobody is surprised when he parades around Mexico and Japanese indies every so often. Canek – who actually watched quite a bit (relatively speaking) of this summer – feels like much more a relic of bygone area.
Canek had a weird thing going in this match where when he did any move from a stationary position, he looked much younger than 62 years old. He flung himself over the ropes back into the ring, he hit a senton, and his arm drags all looked fine. As soon as he started running, he looked about 102 years old. He could barely make it halfway across the ring.
Canek did what he could but it wasn’t like Mr. Jack was in any position to carry him. They managed to burn three minutes by sticking Canek’s leg in a chair at ringside and standing around why he caught his breath. All things considered, the match probably wasn’t as bad it should have been but it was still really, really bad.
Dragon Lee, Esfinge, Pegasso vs. Puma, Tiger, Virus
From GDL, this was one of those CMLL trios that managed to poke its head out and separate itself just a bit from the rest of the throng. Not too surprising that this was an above average CMLL trios given the participants, then again a lot of CMLL trios that look good on paper end up being the same old, same old. The rudo team made this work. Virus was Virus, leading guys through effective mat work and always being at the right place at the right time. Puma & Tiger brought their usual level of quality offense and bumping as well. Dragon Lee was perhaps the standout of this match, as he tends to be more often than not these days. He contributed solid offense and a high energy that helped to lift the match above the usual GDL mediocrity. Pegasso and Esgfine were more or less along for the ride (maybe less so in Pegasso’s case) but that’s all that you ask. I think I have this a tick below the Super Fly New Year Day Cara Lucha trios as best of January so far, but its close.