With Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the rear view, New Japan Pro Wrestling took a few days off but have officially announced the cards for their next month of shows.
First up, their annual Fantastica Mania tour with Mexican lucha libre giant Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. The tour as a whole is eight shows starting on Friday, but we’re going to focus on the three that will be broadcast live from Korakuen Hall on NJPW World.
Fantastica Mania 2018 Night Six (January 19, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30 AM Pacific)
- Fuego vs. Okumura
- Dragon Lee, Hirai Kawato, Satoshi Kojima, & Star, Jr. vs. Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Rush, & Tetsuya Naito)
- Atlantis, Drone, Mistico, & Volador, Jr. vs. Barbaro Cavernario, Disturbio, Puma, & Ultimo Guerrero
- Angel de Oro (c) vs. Cuatrero (CMLL World Middleweight Championship)
- Sanson vs. Soberano, Jr. (c) (Mexican National Welterweight Championship)
- Gran Guerrero vs. Niebla Roja (c) (CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship)
Fantastica Mania 2018 Night Seven (January 21, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30 AM Pacific)
- Disturbio & Puma vs. Drone & Star, Jr.
- Fuego, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Soberano, Jr. vs. Okumura & Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH)
- Atlantis, Hirai Kawato, KUSHIDA, & Satoshi Kojima vs. Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Rush, & Tetsuya Naito)
- Angel de Oro & Niebla Roja vs. Los Guerreros Laguneros (Gran Guerrero & Ultimo Guerrero) (CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament First Round Match)
- Cuatrero & Sanson vs. Dragon Lee & Mistico (CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament First Round Match)
- Barbaro Cavernario vs. Volador, Jr. (c) (NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship)
Fantastica Mania 2018 Night Six (January 22, 4:30AM Eastern / 1:30 AM Pacific)
- Disturbio & Puma vs. Fuego & Ryusuke Taguchi
- Chaos (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) & Okumura vs. Jushin Liger, KUSHIDA, Star, Jr. & Tiger Mask IV
- CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament Loser’s Bracket Match
- Atlantis & Hirai Kawato vs. Barbaro Cavernario & Gedo (Hirai Kawato Sendoff Match)
- Drone, Soberano, Jr., & Volador, Jr. vs. Los Ingobernables (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, & Tetsuya Naito)
- Rush vs. Satoshi Kojima
- CMLL Brother Tag Team Tournament Finals
This year’s shows are a little light on the interpromotional aspect, keeping largely to CMLL vs. CMLL matchups in the main events, but there’s still some exciting stuff like Rush/Kojima, RPG3K & Okumura vs. Soberano, Fuego, and Taguchi and all the Los Ingobernables stuff. Plus Hirai Kawato’s last match as a young lion before he goes on excursion to CMLL, teaming with the legendary Atlantis against Gedo and Cavernario, that should be a hoot.
And if nothing else, Fantastic Mania is a fantastic launching point for any of you who would like to watch more lucha libre but aren’t sure where to start.
But that’s not all, as the next set of “proper” New Japan shows have been announced as well, New Beginning. Traditionally taking place in February, this year’s shows have been kicked up to begin in the end of January as well as expanded to a full-on triple shot. Let’s dig in!
New Beginning in Sapporo Night One (January 27, 4AM Eastern / 1AM Pacific)
- Katsuya Kitamura vs. Michael Elgin (Kitamura Challenge Series Match 2)
- Jushin Liger, KUSHIDA, TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima), & Tiger Mask IV vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
- Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)
- Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Roa) (c) vs. Taguchi Japan (Henare, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Togi Makabe) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship)
- Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes, Hangman Page, & Marty Scurll) vs. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, & Kota Ibushi
- Chaos (Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito)
- Chaos (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, & Kazuchika Okada) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, & SANADA)
- Chaos (Jay White, SHO, & YOH) vs. the Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, & Nick Jackson)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
New Beginning in Sapporo Night Two (January 27, 1AM Eastern / 10PM Pacific)
- Juice Robinson vs. Katsuya Kitamura (Kitamura Challenge Series Match 3)
- Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino, & Tiger Mask IV vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
- Bullet Club (Leo Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)
- Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, & Tanga Roa) vs. Henare, TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima), & Togi Makabe
- Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka)
- Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes, Hangman Page, & Marty Scurll) vs. David Finlay, Kota Ibushi, & KUSHIDA
- Chaos (Gedo, Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito)
- Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
- “Switchblade” Jay White vs. Kenny Omega (c) (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship)
New Beginning in Osaka (February 10, 3AM Eastern / 12AM Pacific)
- Katsuya Kitamura vs. Yuji Nagata (Kitamura Challenge Series Match 6)
- Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
- Chaos (“Switchblade” Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) vs. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, & Michael Elgin
- Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, & Takashi Iizuka) vs. Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Togi Makabe)
- BUSHI vs. Gedo
- Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI
- Hiromu Takahashi vs. Will Ospreay (c) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship)
- EVIL vs. Hirooki Goto (c) (NEVER Openweight Championship)
- Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. SANADA (IWGP Heavyweight Championship)
Okay, so what do we have here? The first thing that leaps out at me as it almost always does is that there’s no reason for these to be three shows, but New Japan’s business is booming and I’m not about to be King Canute trying to hold back the tides. I just wish we could get a few more singles challenge matches like BUSHI/Gedo and Naito/Tacos in Osaka there instead of just endlessly shuffling tag matches.
That complaining gotten out of the way, there’s a lot to like about these shows. Suzuki/Tanahashi started hot at New Year Dash!! and they always work really well together, RPG3K and the Bucks are poised to have a rematch of a match that got slightly overshadowed at Wrestle Kingdom but would have been one of the best matches on almost any card in the past year, those two six-mans continuing Cody’s feud with Ibushi, the Kitamura challenge series, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on at Sapporo.
But the crown jewel is Osaka, which, while it’s totally lacking any Bullet Club representation, seems to me to be the strongest of the bunch. Not just because the number of singles challenge matches cuts down significantly on the undercard tags, but also RPG3K vs. two of Suzuki-gun’s better juniors has a shocking amount of potential, the Chaos six-man against Finlay, Juice, and Big Mike should be a lot of fun and then of course that triple shot of title matches on top should all deliver hard.
(And lest you wonder “Hey, what happened to the IWGP Tag Team Championship match Okada insisted on for him and Goto as a condition of accepting SANADA’s challenge for the main event here?”, that match will be happening on the Road to New Beginning show in Korakuen Hall on February 6. The “missing” Kitamura Challenge Series matches will also be taking place on Road to shows.)
The only thing from New Year Dash!! that isn’t being followed up on here, really, is Chris Jericho’s attack on Tetsuya Naito. He’s beginning a tour with Fozzy the weekend of New Beginning in Sapporo, so it’s not surprising, but it’s worth noting that he has Osaka’s date as a day off, and Y2J sure seems to like his surprise attacks of late... Just maybe keep one eye open, eh Naito?
There you have it, folks
Excited to wake up at butt o’clock for any of this, Cagesiders?