My god, what a show.
We are getting down to the wire here with the Cruiserweight Classic. As we get closer and closer to the finals, the matches have more on the line. They’re longer, more intense, and simply put, more amazing. There’s more emotion, more on the line, more left in the ring.
And never once are we reminded that this is sports entertainment. It is simply wrestling.
We had only two matches on tonight’s show – Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik, and Kota Ibushi vs. Brian Kendrick. It’s tough to pick a favorite match out of these two, because they both had their strengths. Needless to say, you should watch them both.
Our show opened with highlights from the past few weeks, and our announcers Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan introduced the show with fire and passion before kicking it to Corey Graves, who cued up some video packages for our first match.
And thus, Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik began, and it was far and away one of my favorite matches of this tournament so far. Throughout the match we saw two men, equally matched, coming to a frequent standoff. It didn’t take long for the action to spill outside, and Metalik went flying out of the ring with a tope suicida. Back in the ring, Metalik got a near far with a cross-body, and Tozawa clawed to the ropes to break Metalik’s version of a Figure Four.
Tozawa gained control after a springboard elbow, and took the action outside with his own tope suicida. He connected with a jumping back senton for a near fall. Tozawa laid into Gran Metalik with a series of chops, and then connected with a fakeout punch for a huge pop. The crowd really began getting behind Tozawa here, and the match continued with some awesome back and forth action, with Tozawa seemingly having the better of things. Tozawa hit a snap suplex and followed it up with his delayed German Suplex, and amazingly, Metalik kicked out at 2.75. Tozawa went for a variant of the deadlift German Suplex, but Metalik countered and connected with his Metalik Driver for the impressive victory.
I’ve grown to really enjoy Akira Tozawa’s work in this tournament, so I was pretty disappointed to see him lose here, but I feel like he had such an impressive showing that WWE would be missing out if they didn’t sign him for the Cruiserweight division. He got over with the crowd through hard work, determination, and awesome facial expressions. His moveset is fantastic, too. As for Gran Metalik? I personally prefer Tozawa’s style, but Metalik is no slouch either, and will be a welcome addition to the semi-finals.
After another set of highlights and videos to introduce the next match, it’s time for Kota Ibushi vs. Brian Kendrick. Another amazing match, from start to finish. Kendrick started the match trying to get under Ibushi’s skin by pushing him and jumping out of the ring, but Ibushi put an end to the games early on with a stiff kick, and a Golden Triangle Moonsault to the outside.
Ibushi kept control of things, but in a clever spot Kendrick tried to get a countout win by typing Ibushi’s foot into the barricade at ringside. Ibushi got free, and the battle continued until Kendrick hit a wicked looking neckbreaker across the top turnbuckle post. And here, the announcers began selling Ibushi’s neck, which has been surgically repaired. From here on, Kendrick would focus on the neck with strikes, and even hit a crazy Burning Hammer on Ibushi for a believable near fall.
But even Kendrick’s old finisher, Sliced Bread #2 couldn’t put Ibushi away, who also managed to counter a Bully Choke. Ibushi caught Kendrick with a roundhouse kick and immediately hit the sitout powerbomb to pick up the win.
What. A. Match. Ibushi is expected to go all the way in the tournament, but damnit I was rooting for Brian Kendrick after these past few performances. He’s a smarter worker and knows how to get over, but also knows how to get others over. I do believe he’s the MVP of the tournament in a lot of ways. But Ibushi continues to impressive, thoroughly. His kicks are precise and nasty, his offense innovative. I could easily see him winning the entire thing.
Perhaps the most touching thing so far was after the credits, so to speak. Brian Kendrick is standing in the middle of the ring, on the verge of tears as the fans chant “Thank you Brian!” His friend, Daniel Bryan comes walking down from commentary, also on the verge of tears, and hugs him in the middle of the ring. Bryan, who has been putting Kendrick over as his favorite throughout the tournament, was clearly heartbroken to see his friend lose.
And that’s what it boils down to in the CWC – and why it works. It’s the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Wins and losses matter and have consequence. It doesn’t get any better.
Next week, Noam Dar takes on Zack Sabre Jr, and Rich Swann vs. TJ Perkins. See you then!