Fantastica Mania match recommendations: Two bugs walk into a ring…

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With CMLL / NJPW Fantastica Mania in the can it’s time to get to match recommendations! If you want dry results, you can check those out here, but otherwise, we’ll get on with the shows! (A quick note, I’ll only be covering the three shows at Tokyo’s legendary Korakuen Hall here, what with the other two live-streamed nights being basically just
Road to… level house shows.)

As always, I’ve got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that’s worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.

Mind you, these are not star ratings. They’re not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you’re best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.

January 18

Bullet Club (Gedo & Taiji Ishimori) & Templario vs. El Audaz, Jushin Liger, & Ryusuke Taguchi (2): Gedo with an early lead on Liger but the match breaks down, we get a bit of flying, a bit of brawling, and back in the ring Bullet Club are back in charge and beating Taguchi down. Working his Funky Weapon over, he comes back, Jushin runs interference, something of a fountain of dives, and then El Audaz gets to come in and be his hugely impressive self on our way to the finish.

This was fun enough, a little different from the usual opening match tag stuff, and while there’s not enough to it for me to really truly recommend it, it’s a good time.

Angel de Oro & Titan vs. Forastero & Okumura (3): Forastero in hot, he’s not happy with Titan but the action actually beings with Oro and Okumura. Fast-paced lucha exchanges, interspersed with Forastero and Titan pasting each other with chops, Forastero tearing at Titan’s mask, and just general hate-filled expressions. Indeed, this is a tale of two matches– Angel and Okumura having a polite lucha exhibition, while Forastero and Titan just beat the piss out of each other.

The latter is markedly more enjoyable than the former, but the whole thing comes together for a solid experience, even if it’s maybe a bit lacking in terms of gear changes or escalation. I dithered on a two vs. a three, but the finish is real cool, so I’m giving it the bump.

Fujin, Raijin, Satoshi Kojima, & Toa Henare vs. Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, El Terrible, Shingo Takagi, & Tetsuya Naito) (Black Cat Memorial Match) (1): Fujin and Raijin here are of course Roppongi 3K, reprising their gimmicks from their excursion to CMLL a few years back. Anyway, Terrible and Kojima battling it out early, Henare getting into it with Naito, and then the juniors get involved and things break down. Ingobernables isolate Toa and work him over at length, eventually we head back to the juniors, back and forth, back to Kojima/Terrible and the action intensifies on our way to the finish.

This was fine but it didn’t grab me at all. Solid NJ undercard tag stuff with only the tiniest hint of lucha flavor, and given that we’re on the lucha tour and all… pass.

Atlantis & Atlantis, Jr. over Los Guerreros Laguneros (Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero) (1): Atlantis, Jr. and Gran to start, cycling through to the legends and the Laguneros end up largely controlling the pace of the match until the undersea heroes turn the tide on the floor. Back and forth, mixing the matchups up, and eventually we hit our finish. This is honestly pretty dull aside from the neat aspect of it being a weird father/son vs. brothers mirror match of sorts. Toss it on if you’re real curious about Atlantis, Jr., but otherwise I think you can skip it.

Caristico & Namajague vs. Flyer & Volador, Jr. (2): Fast-paced cycling through early, lucha-style, Namajague (or El Desperado, as you know him most months) clawing and tearing at Flyer as he ends up isolated. Extended beatdown, tecnicos fired up and take it to the floor for a brawl. Back inside, mixing it up, the action fast-paced and exciting, but ultimately it doesn’t last long enough for a strong recommendation. Good stuff for as long as it is, though!

Barbaro Cavernario vs. Soberano, Jr. (4): Quick to get into the high flying action here, and this is more like it! A scrappy back and forth fight to a raging climax, there’s a line of thinking that says that Barbaro Cavernario is everyone’s favorite wrestler for about a week in January and this match is absolutely proof of that. Soberano more than holds his own as well, of course, and it’s just a hell of a match. Not quite mandatory, but really good.

Dragon Lee & Mistico II vs. Nuevo Generacion Dinamitas (Cuatrero & Sanson) (CMLL Family Tag Team Tournament Finals) (5): Dinamitas with the early attack and brawling on the floor before taking Mistico in the ring to dominate him a while. Lee eats a beating as well, but he’s able to snap off a German suplex and earn a comeback for his team and really set the action into gear. And that’s the story of the match here, the Dinamitas beat Dragon and Mistico down until one of them gets an opening, and then they bring the pyrotechnics to rally until one of them gets cut off.

As the match goes on, the focus shifts away from spectacular lucha libre action and into the sort of grudgy hate-filled brawling that is the other hallmark of lucha and it’s a swell, swell time. Worth watching!

January 20

Bullet Club (Gedo & Taiji Ishimori) vs. Flyer & Ryusuke Taguchi (1): Bullet Club on the offensive early, keeping Flyer isolated, and a trip to the floor further leads Taguchi to take his own partner out attempting the save. Funky Weapon tags in on Gedo, but doing his Pharaoh schtick costs him and he eats a further beatdown until his butt leads the comeback. Flyer back in, and he and Ishimori turn the heat up as we head towards a finish, but nothing can save this from being a very by-the-numbers opening tag match that you can safely pass on, folks.

Angel de Oro & Titan vs. Cuatrero & Templario (3): Titan and Templario early with some slick lucha mat grappling, followed by Cuatrero and Oro turning the heat up and taking things to the floor for some high flying. Back and forth between the pairings, a little bit of everything in the action, this escalates nicely and is just a solid fun little match that’s worth tossing on the pile if you’ve got the time.

Fujin, Raijin, & Toa Henare vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Shingo Takagi, & Tetsuya Naito) (2): LIJ attacking from the jump, then starting with the juniors, Shingo finds himself isolated but LIJ are able to turn the tide for him and we end up in a Henare vs. Naito segment before long. The match breaks down, we head onto the finish, and this is a pass for all but diehard fans of these six guys.

Atlantis, Atlantis, Jr., & Jushin Liger vs. Nuevo Generacion Dinamitas (Forastero & Sanson) & Okumura (3): NGDs running hot early, Atlantis fends them off first and then Liger, who fends off an attempt from the rudos to overwhelm him and ends up suplexing Mima Shimoda when she gets involved. Cycling through to Jr. and Okumura, the action goes outside and the Dinamitas come in to attack Atlantis. The match breaks down, wild dive from Jr., 54-year-old Liger dives from the top to the floor, and Atlantis, Jr. gets a nice little showcase on our way to the finish.

This is pretty standard undercard tag stuff, nothing too special (and it’s a bummer that Atlantis has finally lost a step in a way where you can see it), some nice exchanges here and there, watch accordingly.

Barbaro Cavernario, Caristico, & Namajague vs. El Audaz, Soberano, Jr., & Volador, Jr. (5): Namajague and Audaz to start, fast-paced and pyrotechnic, then to Soberano and Caristico briefly before Volador and Cavernario get into it briefly before the match breaks down. Dives ahoy! And so it goes, this match is just mile-a-minute lucha trios action and it is a FANTASTIC time. Watch it!

El Terrible vs. Satoshi Kojima (4): A slugfest early on, with El Terrible gaining the early advantage and taking the action to the floor to punish Kojima further. Back inside, Satoshi comes back out of a chop battle, Terrible cuts him off, back and forth like that, more brawling on the floor. Kojima chaining moves together, nearfalls but he can’t put El away like that and we move into a final stretch of brawling on our way to the finish.

This isn’t the most essential match in the world, but it’s good clean fun between two vets that’s worth your time if you’ve got it. And don’t worry, because El Terrible, despite his name, is actually quite good! (Nyuk nyuk nyuk!)

Dragon Lee & Mistico II vs. Los Guerreros Laguneros (Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero) (5): Lot of stalling and playing to the crowd early, because whenever Mistico and Ultimo meet in Korakuen, the crowd is VERY invested in Ultimo and hates Mistico’s guts for some reason and boy do they love playing it up. Anyway, once they get going the Laguneros are in charge, Mistico with the hot tag and the high flying, then some REALLY slick 2000s indies style double team sequences from Lee and Mistico until the Laguneros use their strength advantage and the match settles into a nice little back and forth groove.

Good escalation, good spots, this is a hoot, folks. Watch it!

January 21

Barbaro Cavernario & Templario vs. El Audaz & Flyer (3): Audaz and Templario to start, right into the action, cycling to Flyer and Cavernario and the hits keep coming from there. This doesn’t quite get into high enough gear to be worth a strong recommendation, but it’s a good time for sure.

Atlantis, Jr. vs. Okumura (3): Jr. hot out the gates with a series of dives but Okumura’s able to cut him off and they end up brawling into the crowd. Atlantis snaps off a headscissors in the crowd but the veteran regains control back inside and takes it to him, untying his mask and tearing at it. Jr. rallies, Okumura plays the wiely vet and cuts him off and the match becomes a question of if Atlantis can put him down before beginner’s luck runs out.

Good solid stuff, not essential but worth watching to see Atlantis, Jr.’s first singles match.

Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH), Satoshi Kojima, & Toa Henare vs. Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, El Terrible, Shingo Takagi, & Tetsuya Naito) (2): All-out brawling to start before settling into a routine, RPG3K running doubleteams, but Kojima comes in and ends up isolated while LIJ work him over. back and forth, and I’m gonna be honest folks, these LIJ tags have prettymuch universally failed to keep my interest. I thought at first maybe it was RPG3K working under the hoods again that was the culprit, but here they are as themselves and it’s not really any better.

They’re not bad matches, as such, so this may work out better for y’all than it did for me, and this does actually heat up pretty well late despite having a somewhat iffy finish, but all the same, I can’t in good faith recommend this one.

Angel de Oro, Atlantis, & Titan vs. Nuevo Generacion Dinamitas (Cuatrero, Forastero, & Sanson) (c) (Mexican National Trios Championship) (4): Sanson and Titan to start, bit of mat grappling, cycling to Forastero and Atlantis trading chops, and then Oro comes in and turns the heat up on all three Dinamitas with some high flying action! NGD take control, three-on-one beatdowns, babyfaces back with dives, including 56-year-old Atlantis going from the top to the floor! Titan and Cuatrero slugging it out, action carries on hot as we trundle towards a finish and this is a good match, worth tossing on the pile for sure.

Dragon Lee, Mistico II, & Soberano, Jr. vs. Los Guerreros Laguneros (Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero) & Namajague (5): Soberano and Ultimo starting off, Korakuen still hot for Guerrero as ever as Jr. takes everything the big man can dish out and they stalemate. Moving on to Gran and Mistico, the man of faith soaking in the hate before shifting to Namajague and Lee for a CHOP WAR. Great feats of strength from the Laguneros, dives from the babyface team, just all-out action, and overally this is very similar to the excellent main event of the Jan. 20 show. Watch it!

Dragon George & Sweet Gorilla Maruyama vs. Ginbae Mask & Gokiburi Mask (My Dad Is a Heel Wrestler Special Tag Match) (5): So, a note on gimmicks here– Ginbae Mask is Ryusuke Taguchi, Gokiburi Mask is Hiroshi Tanahashi, Dragon George is Kazuchika Okada, and Sweet Gorilla Maruyama is, of course, Togi Makabe.

So anyway, this match is exactly what you expect when you realize you’re watching an alternate reality where the 1/100 Ace is actually a man in a bug mask with “Cock Roach” emblazoned all over his gear. The two bugmen are ridiculous, the other two guys are basically just playing themselves, it’s not REALLY essential, but it’s a hoot and you should watch it.

Caristico vs. Volador, Jr. (5): Turning the heat up right away, Caristico taking flight and wiping Volador out on the floor! Volador returns the favor, they head back inside to trade headscissors and then, shocker, more dives! Thus in the early goings it’s a very “anything you can do, I can do better” type action before shifting to more of an ebb and tide as the advantage goes back and forth.

I gotta admit, when this was announced I was kinda like “really, Caristico vs. Volador, that’s your last match for the tour? I mean I guess…”, but this turned out really damn good, with a visceral energy to it, some hard strikes, some wild counters, and oh yes, the dives! Good stuff, watch it!

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.




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