Current Watch List:
- Angel de Oro, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Gedo, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI (CMLL/NJPW)
- KUSHIDA & Triton vs. Cavernario & Okumura (CMLL/NJPW)
- Mascara Dorada, Mascara Don & Captain New Japan vs. La Sombra, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tetsuya Naito (CMLL/NJPW)
- Volador Jr. (c) vs. Gran Guerrero for the NWA World Historic Middleweight title (CMLL/NJPW)
- Mephisto (c) vs. Stuka Jr. for the Mexican National Light Heavyweight championship (CMLL/NJPW)
- CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Shinsuke Nakamura) & Polvora vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mistico & Stigma (CMLL/NJPW)
- Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL/NJPW)
- Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hitoshi Kumano, Yoshinari Ogawa & Zack Sabre Jr. (NOAH)
- Shelton Benjamin vs. Quiet Storm (NOAH)
- Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Naomichi Marufuji, Mohammed Yone, Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls (NOAH)
- Pegasso vs. Cancerbero in a lightning match (CMLL)
- Los Tortugas Ninja (Leo , Mike, Rafy & Teelo) defeat Arana de Plata, Douki, Hip Hop Man & Imposible (IWRG)
Angel de Oro, Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Gedo, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Liger & Tiger Mask wore “matching” masks – Liger’s usual mask has some white fur on the side, while Tiger Mask only has one side of fur on his usual mask plus a couple of Liger-like horns. Cute. Liger & Gedo start out. They had fun interaction on the first show of the tour and this was similar with Gedo escaping out of a few holds much to Liger and his own surprise. TM IV & Ishii work a quick segment (Ishii hasn’t yet gotten over his hair loss to TM IV from 2011) before YOSHI-HASHI and Oro get in. After those two run through a quick sequence and the match temporarily breaks down, Gedo goes full-on Michael Hayes, instructing his team to slow it down and isolate Oro which Ishii does. Oro hits a pair of dives starting with a plancha and culminating with a Sasauke special. Gedo and Tiger Mask go back forth with TM landing a crucifix pin for the win after a wild Gedo punch misses. Short but reasonably fun opener.
KUSHIDA & Triton vs. Cavernario & Okumura
Rey Cometa’s knee apparently is still bothering him after testing it out on the last show so he’s out of this match. Mr. Niebla is also a no-go, presumably for the usual Mr. Niebla reasons. As a result, the scheduled trios turns into this tag and is possibly used to give Cavernario a new singles opponent for tomorrow’s show
KUSHIDA and Canvernario ran through a smooth sequence together. KUSHIDA arm dragging everyone down was also good Hoping for him as Canverario’s opponent tomorrow. This crowd was endlessly amused with Cavernario and his caveman ways. Triton with a big impressive dive. Cavnerario did the worm and then his usual splash to the floor. Okumura submits (!) Triton for the victory. Cavernario beats up Cometa on the floor before the new non-Cody Hall young lion break them up. Fun match! Cometa says he is still good for tomorrow. Cavernario tries his best to remedy that by attacking him yet again.
Mascara Dorada, Mascara Don & Captain New Japan vs. La Sombra, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tetsuya Naito
Naito and Taguchi are in their same masks they have been wearing all tour. La Sombra and Dorada begin by checking kicks. Sombra quickly tires of that and they go into their more usual routine. Taguchi gets his masked ripped off by Nakanishi. Nobody but Taguchi seems all that concerned. Don does his usual Fantasticamania routine of comedically executing lucha rolls in the most unnatural ways possible. This all builds to the patented Mascara Don plancha which actually didn’t look too bad this year even though nobody really caught him and he just landed on his feet. Sombra pinned the good Captain to take the match. Fine for what it was. There is only so much good non-comedy stuff you can do in a match where 2/3’s of the tecnico team are Mascara Don and Captain New Japan. Psyched for Dorada/Sombra tomorrow. Hard to believe that is a first time ever meeting.
Volador Jr. (c) vs. Gran Guerrero
NWA World Historic Middleweight championship
Putting Gran Guerrero in this position was questionable given that, well, given that he is Gran Guerrero. He has only had a handful of singles matches in CMLL and has in no way given the impression that he can handle a long, featured singles match on a big show. But yet, here we are. Volador seemed a little off early but that was partially because of Guerrero being tentative or just completely out of position. Gran Guerrero did manage to save one near blown spot on a multi-rotation head scissors spot. Match picked up with Volador hitting three dives. The first – a straight tope – was probably the best. Volador was very over and that helped. They got a good near fall reaction on the top rope slam (and the move looked good to boot!). Another near fall on a top rope hurricanrana from Volador. It wasn’t pretty, but they also pulled off the top rope Spanish fly without anyone getting hurt. Small victories. Better than expected but in terms of big move-heavy CMLL title matches from the past couple of years, this match doesn’t stand out in any way.
Mephisto (c) vs. Stuka Jr.
Mexico National Light Heavyweight
Yujiro accompanied Mephisto and intro’d him as a new Bullet Club member. Hopefully that works out better for Mephisto than it has so far for Yujiro. Stuka wrestled this one in his t-shirt which I only mention because his stockiness is part of his appeal. In a t-shirt, he just looks like a generic t-shirt wearing luchador and there already too many of those as is.
Stuka hit a tope and quebrada within the first five minutes. The opening minutes were technically better than the opening portion of Volador/Guerrero but without much in the way of of heat. Stuka later on added his awesome turn around top rope to the floor dive with arms tucked (of course). As said, I can’t get enough of the tucked arm Stuka/Stuka Jr./Stukita torpedo dives. I liked the decision to hit consecutive torpedo splashes as a near fall. When Stuka went up for the second one, it got a big “Oooohhh!” from the crowd. The near fall itself also got a better reaction by doubling up on the splash. Stuka kicked out of the super devil’s wings. Second super devil’s wings finishes it. A by the numbers match from both guys. Lack of crowd heat hurt a bit. Stuka looked tentative at a few points.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Shinsuke Nakamura) & Polvora vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mistico & Stigma
Small sample size warning, but Stigma certainly comes off like a nervous little guy. He appeared shaky and tentative in his title shot against Virus from last summer in what was his biggest singles match to date. In this match, he came off even more apprehensive. He didn’t blow anything out right but he was a bit sloppy and tentative. He’s not always like that but in two recent big matches, you can see signs of nerves.
The rudos were a lot of fun here and Polvora looked the best of the CMLL guys, so that should tell you something about the overall match. One of the draws of this tour is seeing the New Japan guys mix it up with the luchadores. We got that here but it would have been nice to see Tanahashi, Nakamura, and Okada in there with guys like Sombra, Cavernario, Cometa & Atlantis or even guys like Titan or Dragon Lee who are inexplicably absent from the tour. I thought a couple of the mixed trios from the 2014 tour were better than this. Fell apart at the end when Mistico hurt himself again and Stigma’s nerves for the best of him. Mistico apparently hurting himself yet again would be funny if it weren’t so sad. The guy is made of glass.
Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero
Atlantis & Guerrero ended the penultimate show of the 2015 FantiasticaMania tour with a very solid all-around match. It doesn’t need to be said probably, but this wasn’t their anniversary show match in terms of drama or big match feel. On its own merits, the match was a quality one. Guerrero tends to work harder in Japan than he does in Mexico. There is no better proof for that than the running, over the railing dive he hit on Atlantis during this match. You are not going to see that kind of move from UG in Arena Mexico. Atlantis has the misfortune of working for the same promotion that also employs Negro Casas, so he will never get the due he rightfully deserves as one of the better “older” workers currently going. Atlantis’ quickness and effortless wrestling style in his prime was at another level so even in his post-prime, he has a smoothness and quickness to his game that rivals many. The rolling monkey flip, tope, and plancha he used in this match were all really well-executed.
They delivered on some strong near falls down the stretch. Atlantis kicked out of most of UG’s normal big moves. Guerrero kicked out of two tilt-a-whirl backbreakers. I loved the Atlantida/crucifix reversal spot. The inverted top rope suplex put Atlantis down for good. Good match. The best on the show.
Shelton Benjamin vs. Quiet Storm
I have to hand it to Quiet Storm. If someone had come up to me in 2002 at the Murphy Rec. Center and asked me to rank the ROH wrestlers performing on those shows in terms of most to least likely to have a long career working in Japan, Quiet Storm would have been near the bottom of that list. I might have him ahead of Chris Divine, Brian XL, or Buff-E, but that’s about it. Yet here we are in 2015 with Storm having spent significant time in K-Dojo, Osaka Pro, and NOAH over the past decade. He has not gotten any better in the ring and he is as short as he ever was (although now with a huge gut to go with it) yet somehow he’s made a nice little career for himself.
The match itself was about as bad as one would imagine 2015 Quiet Storm vs. 2015 Shelton Benjamin would be. They kept it somewhat short (6 minutes) but not short enough. Felt like two guys without any plan at all trying to improvise and it didn’t work one bit.
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) vs. Hitoshi Kumano, Yoshinari Ogawa & Zack Sabre Jr.
A solid undercard trios match to continue the Suzuki-gun invasion arc. At the same time, I was left with the feeling that it should have been better. The heels did some good heel work but it also felt half-assed in a way. I am not looking for a Kaientai level juniors trios match in terms of work and heat, but this didn’t even scratch that surface. The face team did not have the right make up for this to turn into a heated, fun junior trios with an exciting all-out finish. Ogawa and Sabre are good, but not right for that particular role. This match needed a native junior that the fans cared a lot about. A juniors trios of invaders versus the home team is hard to mess up so this was fine. Just felt like it could have been more with a better suited face team.
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Naomichi Marufuji, Mohammed Yone, Shane Haste & Mikey Nicholls
This match had the same inherent issues that the junior match did. In a better world, the Suzuki-gun team would be taking on an over group of NOAH mid-card natives this earlier in the angle. Instead, they not only are thrown right into the mix with the defacto face of the promotion (Marufuji) but the rest of the good guy side is made of an un-over midcarder and two foreigners. Work wise, Smith Jr. and Suzuki both looked good. Suzuki was working extra hard even on a smaller show. Maraufuji didn’t look good and threw a truly terrible drop kick that barely made it above the knee. There was no sense of urgency to the match which is what you probably would like to have from this particular storyline. It felt like a normal, throw away eight man tag on a smaller TV show.
Pegasso vs. Cancerbero (CMLL)
Fun lightning match that started off slow but picked up a few minutes in. By slow, I mean uninspired, going nowhere mat work. The middle minutes were really fun with a couple of Pesgasso dives back to back surrounded by other quick work. The match peaked about six minutes in but went on a couple longer. Not that best lightning match by far, but a fine way to kill 10 minutes.
Los Tortugas Ninja (Leo , Mike, Rafy & Teelo) defeat Arana de Plata, Douki, Hip Hop Man & Imposible
It is indisputable. Watching IWRG wrestlers do fun lucha arm drags while wearing Ninja Turtle costumes is much more entertaining than watching IWRG wrestlers do fun lucha arm drags without Ninja Turtle costumes. I’m partially joking and partially serious. In the first fall, the Turtles did a lot of neat stuff that was made better by the fact that Ninja Turtles were doing the moves. It it aesthetically surreal, particularly for someone who grew up a Ninja Turtles fan. (When I was like six, a woman in the seat behind me on a 20-hour train ride from Florida to Maryland vomited on my Michaelangelo toy figure and totally ruined it. I am still not quite over it).
All that aside, the first fall was really fun with the prior mentioned arm drags and smooth work, but it fell apart in the 2nd fall. I like Impossible and Hip Hop Man has his moments but the technico team just didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The Ninja Turtles were also exposed when they had to do higher impact offense (never thought I’d write that sentence . . .)