The final shows of this year's Fantastica Mania had a distinctly CMLL feel.
The clear thrust of these shows was spotlighting the visiting talent, and the last two nights in Korakuen Hall had less crossover appeal than even the first nights of the tour, which featured Kazuchika Okada working against Hiroshi Tanahashi in tag matches.
The results were a mixed bag. If you don't get to see much lucha, and I don't, the shows presented a refreshing alternative to anything that your typical North American or Japanese fans see on a regular basis. In the modern era of endless wrestling of almost any style that you enjoy available at your fingertips, it could easily be understood how these final nights could end up as less than appointment viewing, particularly with the lack of NJPW star power.
The key to the final events of the tour was the CMLL Brothers Tag Team Tournament, featuring pairs of siblings facing off for pride and prestige.
For people who are just hardcore NJPW fans, Tetsuya Naito's appearance in a multi-person tag match on the final two events would be the only match worth going out of your way to see, if you just need a Naito fix.
January 21st results --
Disturbio & Puma defeated Drone & Star Jr.
Disturbio tried to establish himself as the heel early, with him spitting on and biting Drone. Puma is quite a sight to behold. I would enjoy more men dressed as large cats in wrestling. The psychology here was weird, as the crowd loved Puma but he was partners with the dastardly Disturbio.
Star did a nice Asai moonsault. The finish saw Disturbio do a flip dive off the apron onto Star, while Puma cradled Drone with a La Magistral for the win.
Ryusuke Taguchi, Fuego & Soberano Jr. defeated Sho, Yoh & Okumura
Fuego and Okumura started off. Facially, Okumura looks every bit of his age, and I doubt that orange is his natural hair color, but he moved well. The crowd loved Fuego's dancing, and Sho served as a surprisingly good base for Soberano, in spite of Soberano being taller.
Yoh did a comedy rope-running spot with Taguchi that worked well. Soberano hit a great looking tornillo on Okumura for the pinfall victory.
Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI & Rush defeated Satoshi Kojima, Hirai Kawato, KUSHIDA & Atlantis
You would be forgiven if you thought that this was simply an extended infomercial for Los Ingobernables T-shirts. There was crowd brawling early, and an air horn that blared incessantly throughout the match. The highlight was a vicious chop battle between Kawato and Takahashi, which ended with Kawato's chest bloodied. Kawato is leaving on excursion, and it seems clear that there is stardom in his future.
Rush hit Kawato with a piledriver to earn the victory for his team. After the match, Rush and Kojima brawled until the young boys pulled them apart.
Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero defeated Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja in a CMLL Brothers Tag Team Tournament match
Angel de Oro turned a surfboard from Ultimo into an STF in a unique spot at the outset. Ultimo has been a great worker for a long time, I know, but he looked blown up almost from the opening bell, despite not doing a whole lot.
The Guerreros worked over Roja, and de Oro sold his leg well. Ultimo did a top rope dive to the outside onto the other three competitors. Gran hit the Gran Special, a lawn dart move, on Roja for the victory.
Dragon Lee & Mistico defeated Cuatrero & Sanson in a CMLL Brothers Tag Team Tournament match
Mistico and Cuatrero had some miscommunication in the early going, and Sanson quickly tagged in. Sanson went for Mistico's mask, but could not remove it. This was my first opportunity to see Cuatrero and Sanson, and I was not overly impressed with their work, but they did hit nice topes on Dragon Lee and Mistico.
Dragon Lee hit an awesome rana from inside the ring to the floor. Inside the ring, Mistico kicked out of a near fall, and hit La Mistica for the submission victory.
NWA World Historic Welterweight Champion Volador Jr. defeated Barbaro Cavernario to retain his title
The action spilled to the outside early on, as Cavernario was established as a crazed brawler. Back inside, he untied the turnbuckle pad. Volador recovered from the beating he took early, and put on a flying clinic.
They continually teased Cavernario throwing Volador into the exposed buckles, but Volador always managed to slip out at the last moment. While Volador put forth an excellent argument for being named one of the top flyers in the world, Cavernario did his share as well, including a top rope splash to the floor.
Back in the ring, as Volador sold the devastation of that move, Cavernario went for a springboard leg drop, but Volador slid out, popped up, and hit a Canadian Destroyer for the pinfall. A fun main event.
January 22nd results --
Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Disturbio & Puma
I became a massive fan of Fuego watching these shows. The crowd loved the comedy work he did with Disturbio. I also became a massive fan of Puma, who caught Taguchi on an insane dive to the outside. Fuego rolled up Disturbio for the pin out of nowhere.
Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, Sho & Yoh) & Okumura defeated Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV, KUSHIDA & Star Jr.
KUSHIDA and Yoh got things off to a hot start. Romero and Liger tagged in, and they did some hug and handshake comedy, before Romero turned on Liger. Star Jr. got his teammates to dance with him.
Sho, Yoh, and Romero ate dives from Liger and Tiger Mask, leaving Okumura and Star Jr. to work together. It was brief. Okumura hit an STO for the victory.
Sanson & Cuatrero defeated Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja
The highlight of this bout was a tope con hilo by Roja onto Sanson. Cuatrero and Sanson appeared to be having their second consecutive off night. Roja slipped coming off the middle ropes and fell a little short off a springboard crossbody, which was his fault, but Sanson could have helped him out if he was having a better day.
Sanson hit a spin-out middle rope powerbomb on Angel de Oro to score the victory for his team.
Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo defeated Atlantis & Hirai Kawato
I don't know for sure, but I suspect Gedo booked himself against Atlantis here just for kicks. He looked like he was having the time of his life working with him.
All four brawled to the outside and through the crowd early on. The fans really got behind Kawato as he got his right leg worked over. Cavernario used his La Cavernaria submission on Kawato for the win. There wasn't much to this, and Atlantis' knees looked like they were hurting him.
Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI defeated Volador Jr., Drone & Soberano Jr.
Naito and Volador did a hot opening sequence. Soberano tagged in and did some good lucha things, and he and Takahashi chopped the heck out of each other. The CMLL team did stereo tope con hilo's onto the LIJ team, in an awesome spot.
The finish saw BUSHI hit a bridging backslide on Drone to pick up the victory. After the match, Volador taunted Naito, and tried to goad him into the ring for a confrontation, but Naito backed off.
Rush defeated Satoshi Kojima
The action spilled to the floor right away, and Rush did some great heel work, choking Kojima with a camera cable. He then hit Kojima with an unprotected chair shot to the head. It was not a particularly hard shot, as those things go, but it's difficult to justify that sort of thing in the modern era. Kojima was busted open on top of his head, possibly from the chair.
Kojima fought back with a DDT on the floor, but continued to sell the damage from the chair shot. Back inside, Kojima fired up and removed his elbow pad. Rush avoided the elbow strike, but ate a lariat.
Kojima went for another lariat, but ate the piledriver, and Rush scored the pinfall. Rush posed with Naito, BUSHI, and Takahashi after the match.
Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero defeated Dragon Lee & Mistico to win the CMLL Brothers Tag Team Tournament
Mistico and Ultimo whipped each other with their entrance gear before the opening bell. After the bell, they shook hands, agreeing that the heat of the competitive moment got to them. They had a solid exchange, before tagging in their partners.
The Guerreros took over, and worked over Mistico. Mistico made the tag to Dragon Lee, who did his awesome rana from the ring to the floor. Lee and Gran had a chop battle that may have lasted five full minutes. Lee followed up with a crazy double foot stomp on Gran, who fell from a braced position on the middle rope to the floor.
While Lee and Gran spilled outside, Ultimo hit the Guerrero Special on Mistico to earn the victory, and win the tournament. A fine match, but not an NJPW-caliber main event.