I have been waiting for the Cruiserweight Classic for months.
Since the original announcement of the CWC some time ago, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the participants, putting together a list of people *I* wanted to see in a WWE ring. Most of the names I hoped for wound up in the tournament, but there’s always that concern that WWE will get their dirty little fingers all over things, changing what the wrestlers do best.
What WWE gave us on Wednesday night was a show that felt completely different from anything WWE is producing right now – including NXT. They presented a tournament that felt like a tournament. It felt like wins and losses mattered, that everyone was there to be the best, and that it was a big deal to even be in the ring at all. And, best of all, the wrestlers got to do what they do best.
The announcing team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan took this to the next level. They are calling the event like a sport, highlighting wrestlers that cut weight, talking about those that have literally traveled across the world to be there. Daniel Bryan has so much excitement for the event he can barely contain himself when someone does something truly amazing.
Segments before each match gave the wrestlers a chance to talk – many in their native language – about what their goals in the tournament are. And, the on-screen graphics before each match look like something straight out of Street Fighter… and I love it.
The matches themselves skew back to the days of old. The ring announcer states before each match that there is a 20-minute time limit. Referees check each wrestlers’ wrists, boots, and tights for foreign objects. They ask the wrestlers if they have any questions about the rules, and request a hand shake before each round. And, at the end of each match, they stand both wrestlers up and raise the hand of the winner as they announce their name.
All these little touches separate the CWC from everything else WWE has done.
Let’s talk about some of these matches.
First off was Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez. Immediately it’s easy to see that Saez is playing the heel in this match. His facial expressions and attitude during the hand shake spell it out. We had Metalik, a high flyer, who was facing Saez, a striker. Gran Metalik is simply amazing to watch. Very fluid, and he uses the ring in ways we rarely see, walking the ropes to position himself for his moves. This was my first time seeing both men, and in the end, Gran Metalik took the win. That said, this was not a squash match by any means (no match was), and I see a bright future for Alejandro Saez. He is extremely talented.
Next up, HoHo Lun vs. Ariya Daivari. Daivari is the younger brother of Shawn Daivari, who has been in WWE and TNA previously. Ariya has been working on the indy scene for years, so it’s wonderful to see him finally get a break in WWE. He is crisp and very talented, and naturally, playing the heel here, even denying a handshake at the start of the bout. HoHo Lun comes to us from Hong Kong and has a lot of hype, and while I didn’t really feel like he met that hype in this match, I can see a ton of potential for the young star. He connects with the crowd very quickly and often plays to the crowd, getting them pumped for the match. This match had a much slower pace to it than the first match, and that’s fine. I don’t want or expect every match to be turbo speed. When all was said and done, HoHo Lun hit Daivari with a bridged German Suplex for the win.
Clement Petiot vs. Cedric Alexander was next. I’ve been watching Alexander in Ring of Honor for years, and it’s great to finally see him get a chance in WWE. This was my first time seeing Petiot, and he was also very good, leaning more towards aggressive strikes to counter Alexander’s high-flying offense. Petiot played the heel here, pulling Alexander in close after their handshake. This was another back and forth match, with Alexander playing to the crowd a lot and showing off his style. He hit a very impressive springboard clothesline off the top rope, and after a nice counter sequence, Alexander connected with the Lumbar Check to pick up the win. A good showing for both men.
Our last match of the night was Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta. Throughout the entire show, Ranallo and Bryan hyped up this match, specifically Ibushi, who WWE is clearly very high on going into this match. That shouldn’t take anything away from Maluta however, who is part of the Samoan dynasty and nephew to WWE Hall of Famer Afa. Ibushi is a striking master, and Daniel Bryan repeatedly talked about how painful Ibushi’s kicks are, knowing from personal experience.
This was perhaps the best match of the show. Maluta hit a top rope Codebreaker, sending Ibushi out of the ring. When Maluta went to follow up, he did a somersault to the outside that looked perhaps a little clunky, but he still hit Ibushi. The announcers immediately capitalized on the awkward move, covering for the botch and speaking about how the high-risk offense has it’s downsides and can effect the stars negatively. Smart move to talk about it. Later in the match, Ibushi hit an impressive Pele kick to Maluta who was on the top rope. Ibushi lept from the inside of the ring to the outside second turnbuckle, hitting a moonsault to the outside. Back in the ring, Maluta connected with a Savate Kick that Ranallo went absolutely bonkers over, but Ibushi nailed Maluta with a Last Ride Sitout Powerbomb for the pinfall.
All in all, a great night of pro-wrestling.
If you’re keeping track of the bracket, here’s the first round so far:
I am very excited to see what happens next week, and it kills me that we record Ring Rap Audio on Wednesdays when this airs, but it’s also worth the wait.