Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Top Ten Matches on ROH TV in 2016

Taking a look back at some of the best matches on Ring of Honor Wrestling Television in 2016!

This is the continuation of a series I've done in the past, where I highlight the best matches from ROH TV in a given year. I previously did posts on 2014 & 2015, and now I've going over the Top Ten Matches (plus some Honorable Mentions) from 2016! With ROH's streaming service (Honor Club) recently going online, I felt like this would be a great time to continue the series!

Now I should note that, much like my 2015 list, I will not be including any matches from a TV Taping that was later released on DVD, as I've reviewed (or will be reviewing) those separately on this blog. In 2016, the TV Tapings from Las Vegas (post 14th Anniversary Show) and the TV Tapings from Toronto (part of the War Of The Worlds Tour) were later released on DVD. Thus, matches from those events will not be included as part of this list.

Also, I apologize if the dates that I use in this list don't line up with how ROH lists the episodes on their website and streaming service. I go by the date the show aired on my local CW affiliate (which, until very recently, was Saturday Nights at 11:00 PM).

Top Ten Matches on ROH TV in 2016

1.) ROH on SBG (1/16/16) - Triple Threat Philly Street Fight - The Kingdom (Adam Cole & Michael Bennett with Maria Kanellis) vs. reDRagon vs. The Young Bucks: ****¼ 

Now this might be a controversial choice as the best match on ROH TV in 2016, because technically, it didn't actually take place in 2016. It was part of the TV Tapings that took place the day after Final Battle 2015. However, since it didn't actually become available for the public to view until January, I decided to include it in this 2016 list. This was an incredibly entertaining match to watch from start to finish, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering the talents involved. These three sides were a big part of ROH's tag team division in 2015 (Cole was filling in for fellow Kingdom member Matt Taven, who suffered a serious knee injury at Final Battle 2015), but there were also a number of individual issues mixed in as well (the Adam Cole/Kyle O'Reilly feud in particular). There were plenty of awesome spots throughout, involving all six men and an assortment of weapons, including Chairs, Ladders and Tables. This also served as the write off for Michael Bennett & Maria Kanellis, who would end up going to TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, where they would spent the next year or so before showing up in WWE during the middle of 2017. AJ Styles (who had just had his last match with ROH the night prior) came out to assist The Young Bucks in absolutely destroying the couple (this included Maria getting hit with The Meltzer Driver), and they ended up scoring the win. This was an absolutely wild match that was filled with insane moments throughout. I absolutely loved it the first time I saw it, and since it did technically air in 2016, I feel it's worthy of the top spot!

2.) ROH on SBG (2/27/16) - Adam Cole vs. Matt Sydal: ****

I believe this was a first-time ever singles meeting (at least in ROH). This was easily the best match from the February TV Tapings in Nashville. There was some great back and forth action throughout, and these two seemed to work well together. This absolutely delivered as a TV main event, and I wouldn't have expected anything less from these two. At the time, I was surprised by Sydal's victory, but I guess it played into a losing streak that Adam Cole was on before he joined The Bullet Club. If you haven't seen this one, definitely give it a look

3.) ROH on SBG (12/3/16) - Jonathan Gresham vs. Lio Rush: ****
A number of new, young talents made their way to ROH in 2016, and this match from the Baltimore TV Tapings towards the end of the year featured two of them. Lio Rush made a big splash earlier in the year, winning the 2016 Top Prospect Tournament and having an incredible match against Jay Lethal for the ROH World Title at Supercard Of Honor X: Night 1. Meanwhile, Jonathan Gresham started to appear more regularly for ROH in 2016 after refining his technical style as he traveled across the globe. This was an incredibly entertaining contest that served as a rematch from their first encounter on a live event in Atlanta a few months prior. It was a very unique bout that featured a lot of clean wrestling and cool exchanges. The match went just over eleven minutes, but it was a thrill to watch from start to finish. Lio Rush ultimately got the win, but both men deserve credit for that performance. This was truly one of the hidden gems from ROH in 2016, and you should absolutely watch it, if you haven't seen it before.

4.) ROH on SBG (7/9/16) - Donovan Dijak (with Prince Nana) vs. Jason Kincaid: ***¾

Speaking of hidden gems, this seemingly random matchup took place at the post-Best In The World 2016 TV Tapings in Concord, North Carolina. I had no idea what to expect going in, but these two knocked it out of the park with an incredibly fun bout. While it clocked in at just under ten minutes, it featured some great back and forth action throughout. This was far from my first time seeing Dijak, as he had been on the roster for well over a year at this point, but this was really my first exposure to Jason Kincaid. He impressed me a lot, as he showed off some of his unique offense at a number of different points in this one. Dijak would score the victory, but Kincaid definitely won me over here, and I wanted to see more of him. It sucks that ROH let him slip through their fingers, but it's cool that Kincaid went on to get better opportunities in EVOLVE. While he's become more associated with that promotion, I consider this to be his breakout match.

5.) ROH on SBG (9/3/16) - The Briscoes vs. Lio Rush & Jay White: ***¾

This took place at the TV Tapings following Death Before Dishonor XIV, and the fact that it was really freaking good shouldn't be a shock to anyone. The Briscoes looked great as always, but this proved to be a great showcase for Lio Rush & Jay White. The crowd was into it throughout, and the action was paced very well. Despite coming up short, the team of Lio Rush & Jay White looked strong in defeat, as they earned the respect of the former Eight-Time ROH World Tag Team Champions. This was another match that could be classified as a "hidden gem" from ROH in 2016.

6.) ROH on SBG (8/13/16) - Donovan Dijak (with Prince Nana) vs. Lio Rush: ***¾

I've mentioned Lio Rush a lot in this list, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that he had a number of really good matches on ROH TV in 2016. This one took place at the TV Tapings in Philadelphia from July 2016, and it featured the two men who (at the time) had won the preview two Top Prospect Tournaments. This was another match that featured some extremely entertaining action from start to finish. It only went about eleven minutes, but they packed a lot of stuff into that time frame, and the crowd in the 2300 Arena were loving it by the end. I know people remember Dijak for his matches with Keith Lee (a battle of two athletic big men) outside of ROH, but I think he can be just as good in situations where he's up against a smaller opponent. He proved that against Jason Kincaid, and he proved it here again against Lio Rush, who scored a huge upset victory here. Another match that's worth checking out, if you have the time.

7.) ROH on SBG (10/15/16) - Keith Lee & Shane Taylor vs. War Machine: ***¾

Keith Lee was arguably the breakout star of 2017 (in all of wrestling in general) after his departure from ROH, who let him slip through their fingers. While he went on to be a bigger star elsewhere, he did some really good things in ROH with his tag team partner Shane Taylor. They sent much of the year feuding with War Machine, and one of the best matches between the two teams occurred at the TV Tapings in Lowell, Massachusetts following All-Star Extravaganza VIII. If you enjoy two hoss tag teams just going after each other, then you'll love this match. This was definitely one of the best bouts in the feud between these two monstrous teams, and if you want to look back at some of Keith Lee's ROH work, this is a must-watch, in my view. War Machine would pick up the win here, but the feud was far from over.

8.) ROH on SBG (1/30/16) - ROH World Champion Jay Lethal (with Truth Martini) & Adam Cole vs. reDRagon: ***¾

This took place at the first TV Tapings of 2016 in Concord, North Carolina. It was essentially serving as a preview of sorts for the main event of the 14th Anniversary Show, where Lethal would defend his ROH World Title against Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly in a Triple Threat Match. I'm sure most don't remember this match, since it occurred so early in the year, but I thought it was really good at the time. You can never go wrong when reDRagon are involved, while Cole & Lethal were very solid in their respective roles. It was a little slow to get going, but it slowly got better, and the second half ended up being really strong. reDRagon would pick up the win after taking advantage of miscommunication between the two heels.

9.) ROH on SBG (12/17/16) - Six-Man Tag - The Bullet Club (Adam Cole & ROH World Tag Team Champions The Young Bucks) vs. Dalton Castle & reDRagon: ***3/4

While the match from the #8 spot on my list was from really early in the year, this match at #9 was from very late in the year. At the post-Final Battle 2016 TV Tapings, the newly crowned ROH World Champion Kyle O'Reilly teamed up with his regular tag team partner Bobby Fish and the eccentric Dalton Castle to take on The Bullet Club. As you would've guessed, this was a very strong six-man tag team affair. There was plenty of entertaining action throughout, and everyone involved had a chance to shine. The final few minutes were particularly good, and in the end, the team of Dalton Castle & reDRagon would emerge victories. I enjoyed this match a lot, but unfortunately, it does serve as a bit of a reminder about how criminally short Kyle O'Reilly reign as ROH World Champion was.

10.) ROH on SBG (12/3/16) - The Addiction vs. The Briscoes: ***¾

Whenever you put these two teams in a match together, they almost never disappoint, and this was certainly no exception. While the outcome of this one wasn't really in question (since The Briscoes were challenging for the ROH World Tag Team Titles at Final Battle 2016, it made a lot of sense for them to win here), the action from start to finish was still incredibly solid. You could've shaved a few minutes off, but that's really the only complaint I have. You know exactly what you're going to get with these two teams, and they delivered another really good tag team encounter.

Honorable Mentions

11.) ROH on SBG (12/10/16) - The Briscoes, Jay Lethal, & Silas Young vs. The Motor City Machine Guns, Lio Rush, & Jay White: ***¾

This was a very interesting match from the Baltimore TV Tapings that took place towards the end of 2016. What we essentially have here is a team of ROH veterans going up against the group which would soon become known as Search & Destroy (a stable where Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley teamed with a number of ROH's rising stars). Considering the talents involved, it should come as no surprise that this was a very solid match. There was plenty of entertaining action throughout, it was given a good amount of time (about thirteen minutes or so) and all eight men involved got opportunities to shine. The second half of this one was especially wild (as things always tend to break down in these big multi-man tags), but eventually, Search & Destroy would score the victory.

12.) ROH on SBG (8/6/16) - ROH World Title - Jay Lethal vs. Colt Cabana: ***¾

The final match on this list occurred under very unique circumstances. These two met at Global Wars 2016, but that bout was interrupted by The Bullet Club. Since then, Lethal had gotten his head shaved by Adam Cole & The Young Bucks. To ensure no interference in this rematch, Nigel McGuinness had a bunch of security guys around the ring. It was very....strange visual, but it great to see that these two were able to have a proper World Title encounter without any shenanigans. The Cabana/Lethal program got off to an incredibly hot start after Cabana's return to ROH, but any magic it had was completely ruined by The Bullet Club. The match they had here was very good, and the crowd in Philadelphia was into it, so that's all you can ask for in this situation. Lethal would end up retaining after hitting the Lethal Injection.

There you have it! The Top Ten ROH TV Matches of 2016! We saw some great action, and unique matches, throughout the year, and I look forward to going over some of the best ROH TV Matches from 2017!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Random Match Reviews #14 (1/31/18) - The Best Of IMPACT Wrestling: July 2017

I take a look at the best matches from IMPACT Wrestling during July 2017!

In the future, I'm going to be including more of IMPACT Wrestling in my random match reviews series. It'll basically be the same format as this particular post, where I'll look at the best bouts from the promotion in a given month. Since the number of matches that end up being featured will vary (it all depends on how many good bouts the company puts on in a certain month). I'm only looking to include matches that are *** or better, and in July 2017, there were eleven matches that met that threshold. I will include anything that's just *** as honorable mentions, and anything that I had at ***1/4 or better will be part of the actual list. Again, the way the list is put together will change depending on how many good matches are actually featured on IMPACT Wrestling every month, so future posts could feature less, or more, matches.

1.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/20/17) - Triple Threat Match - El Hijo de Fantasma vs. Low Ki vs. Matt Sydal: ***1/2

Shortly after Jeff Jarrett rebranded TNA IMPACT Wrestling to GFW IMPACT Wrestling, a number of global partnerships were announced. This alliance consisted of AAA (Mexico City, Mexico), Crash Lucha Libre (Tijuana, Mexica) , GFW, and Pro Wrestling NOAH (Japan). With this new alliance, a number of international talents started making appearances in GFW, including El Hijo de Fantasma (AAA), who most people in United States know as King Cuerno, from Lucha Underground. On this particular episode, he was involved in a random Triple Threat Match with two X-Division regulars in Low Ki and Matt Sydal. While there was no real backstory to this match, it ended up being really good. There was plenty of exciting action from start to finish, and it was given a fair amount of time (clocking in at around fourteen minutes or so). I think the time was a real factor in what led to this being as good as it was. They weren't rushed in any way, and all three competitors looked very solid throughout. Matt Sydal ultimately emerged victorious in what ended up being one of the best matches on TV for GFW during the month of July.

2.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/27/17) - Super X Cup 2017 - First Round - Davey Richards vs. Taiji Ishimori: ***1/2

The July 27th edition of IMPACT Wrestling ended up being a very strong episode for the promotion, with regards to match quality. One of the bouts that really stood out saw Taiji Ishimori (NOAH) go up against Davey Richards in a first round matchup in the 2017 Super X Cup Tournament. Not only was this easily the best match from that particular round, but it was one of the best matches in the tournament as a whole. This only went about eight or nine minutes, but these two packed a ton of action into that short timeframe. There were some really cool exchanges, and both guys worked pretty hard, despite a crowd that wasn't exactly lively. Ishimori would put Richards away with a 450 Splash.

3.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/27/17) - Unified GFW & TNA Knockouts Championships - Last Knockout Standing Match - Sienna vs. Rosemary: ***1/2

On the same episode that featured Davey Richards vs. Taiji Ishimori, we also saw a Last Knockout Standing Match that saw Rosemary challenge Sienna for the Unified GFW & TNA Knockouts Championships. These two met in a Title Unification Match at Slammiversary XV, and on that night, Sienna (the GFW Women's Championship) ended Rosemary's 266 day reign as the TNA Knockouts Champion. This was essentially the culmination of the feud between the two, and when the dust settled, they ended up having a very solid Last Knockouts Standing Match. Both worked very hard, and there were plenty of cool moments throughout this one. They brawled inside the ring, around the ring, and in the crowd. It was honestly a ton of fun to watch. All sorts of weapons were involved, including chairs, tables, and a trash can. The only downside to this was that KM interfered on Sienna's behalf, and that did play a part in the outcome (Sienna retaining), but even that can't take away the effort both Sienna and Rosemary put into this match. A very entertaining hardcore brawl from start to finish that's definitely worth checking out.

4.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/27/17) Six-Man Tag - Ethan Carter III, Eli Drake, & Chris Adonis vs. Eddie Edwards, Moose, & Naomichi Marufuji: ***1/4

While Davey Richards vs. Taiji Ishimori and Sienna vs. Rosemary were the highlights from this July 27th episode, this was another good match that also occurred on that particular show. The babyface team is pretty stacked. The heel side? Eh....not so much, but still, this was pretty solid as a whole. Not only did it kick off the show, but it actually got a fair amount of time (around sixteen minutes, from what I can remember), and that freedom allowed these guys to put on an entertaining six-man tag. Things started off a little slow, but fortunately, the action soon picked up, and the closing few minutes were particularly good. EC3 would get the win for his side after hitting a low blow on Moose (who he had attacked a few weeks prior), followed by a new finisher he called the Ethan Carter Driver. All six guys involved worked pretty hard, and their efforts resulted in a fine opening contest.

5.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/6/17) - Super X Cup 2017 - First Round - Dezmond Xavier vs. Idris Abraham: ***1/4

These two officially kicked off the Super X Cup Tournament with an entertaining match that went almost twelve minutes. While I knew Dezmond Xavier from the independent scene, I wasn't very familiar with Idris Abraham. Even though the outcome was pretty obvious here (to be completely honestly, out of all the guys in this tournament, Idris Abraham stuck out like a sore thumb), these two still managed to have a fun match filled with some solid in-ring action. It did take some time for it to get going, but that didn't hinder them too much, as the second half was particularly strong. They didn't set the world on fire here, but for the most part, I really enjoyed watching this. Dezmond Xavier would get the win after hitting Abraham with his version of Spiral Tap, which he calls Final Flash.

6.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/20/17) - Fatal Four-Way Match - Ethan Carter III vs. Eddie Edwards vs. Eli Drake vs. Moose: ***1/4

So on the same show that featured a Triple Threat Match, we also got this Fatal Four-Way Match, which ended up being pretty solid. EC3 had attacked Moose the week prior during his defense of the GFW Grand Championship. Meanwhile, I believe Eddie Edwards was involved with a brief mini-feud with Eli Drake (if I'm remembering correctly). This was actually pretty short, only going about six or seven minutes, but they still packed in some fun action in the time they were given. All four guys had opportunities to shine, and as a whole, this was an entertaining main event. While EC3 and Moose were brawling on the outside, Eli Drake managed to score the pin on Eddie Edwards in what some might call an upset. This was certainly a surprising result, but it slowly began Eli Drake's ascent up the ranks, and eventually, he would end up winning the GFW Global Title. While I don't think him becoming champion was the original plan, it was clear through this result that there were plans for Eli Drake, in some form or fashion.

7.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/13/17) - Unified GFW World Heavyweight Champion Alberto El Patron & Bobby Lashley vs. Unified GFW World Tag Team Champions LAX (Ortiz & Santana with Konnan, Homicide, & Diamante): ***1/4

This tag team match occurred after the events of the previous week. While I'm sure there are people who dislike the idea of two big singles stars like Alberto El Patron & Bobby Lashley beating the top tag team in LAX (and I don't disagree at all with those feelings), this was still a very solid matchup from start to finish. The former EYFBO are such a fun tag team, and it's great to finally see them on a (somewhat) bigger stage, associated with a group like LAX. They worked well here against Alberto El Patron & Bobby Lashley, who were doing the old "rivals coming together to take on a common enemy" story. I actually thought it was pretty cool that Lashley teamed with Patron here to get revenge on LAX for the week prior, but once he got his revenge in the match, he didn't both to help Patron after the fact when LAX starting beating him up. Again, this was by no means a thrilling tag team encounter, but it was a fun TV main event.

8.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/13/17) - Super X Cup 2017 - First Round - ACH vs. Andrew Everett: ***1/4

Of course, most people known ACH for his tenure in ROH and other independents, and even though he also made his name on the independents, Andrew Everett had already been with GFW/TNA for well over a year at this point. This first round matchup in the 2017 edition of the Super X Cup only went about six minutes or so, but they still managed to have a fun bout. Both guys are incredibly talented, and while we all know they could have a better match if they were given more time, they still managed to put on a fun TV match that featured some cool moments throughout. It was an entertaining sprint that went back and forth, but ACH ultimately emerged victorious.

9.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/6/17) - Unified GFW World Heavyweight Title - Alberto El Patron vs. Bobby Lashley: ***1/4

It's easy to forget, but Alberto El Patron was actually pretty hot during his first independent run following his first WWE release in 2014. However, his return to WWE in 2015-2016 didn't go too well, and his run on the independent scene since then has been pretty lackluster, based on what I've heard. It was only a matter of time before he ended up in TNA, and it didn't take him long to hold not one, but two titles, as at Slammiversary XV, when he (as GFW Global Champion) defeated Bobby Lashley to capture the TNA World Heavyweight Title. This was the rematch, and although it ended in a DQ after LAX attacked Lashley, this was still a relatively good match. They got a good amount of time, and seemed to be working well together until the finish. The attack by LAX was the start of an angle where LAX tried to recruit Alberto El Patron into the group, and that definitely overshadowed the fine work we saw in the match itself.

Honorable Mentions

10.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/6/17) - Non-Title Match - GFW X-Division Champion Sonjay Dutt vs. Caleb Konley: ***

I must sound like a broken record at this point (because it's not the first time I've said this), but after jumping from EVOLVE/WWN to TNA in mid-2016, Caleb Konley really fell off the face of the earth. You rarely saw him on IMPACT Wrestling for a long time, which was a damn shame, since he's a very solid in-ring talent. Fortunately, the company actually started to use him in 2017. On this particular episode, he took on GFW X-Division Champion Sonjay Dutt in a short, but entertaining, non-title bout. This clocked in at just under five minutes, so they didn't have a ton of time to work with. Fortunately, they made the most of it, and managed to have a quick, but fun, TV match that featured some solid action throughout. Of course, Sonjay Dutt got the victory, but it was a fine showing for Konley, who deserves better.

11.) IMPACT Wrestling on Pop TV (7/20/17) - Six-Man Tag - Trevor Lee, Idris Abraham, & Demus vs. Garza Jr., Laredo Kid, & Octagoncito: ***

Honestly, I don't have a ton to say about this one. It was a fun lucha showcase (featured some talent from GFW) that lasted about nine minutes. There were some definite rough patches, but even so, this was still fun to watch, for what it was. Garza Jr., Laredo Kid, & Octagoncito would ultimately get the win.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals Review

Four men battle to determine the winner of the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight Classic!!

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals
Winter Park, Florida 9/14/16

1.) Cruiserweight Classic - Semi-Finals - Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****

It’s Mexico vs. Great Britain in the first of the two Semi-Final bouts in this tournament. Gran Metalik defeated Alejandro Saez, Tajiri, & Akira Tozawa to get to this point, while Zack Sabre Jr. scored victories over Tyson Dux, Drew Gulak, & Noam Dar. These two had a great match to kick off the show, though it wasn’t without its issues. There was plenty of cool action from start to finish, but it had some sloppy moments as well (perhaps there were communication issues between the two). That definitely hurt the match a little bit, in my eyes, but it was still an awesome opener. On paper, it was certainly a clash of styles (Lucha Libre vs. British Technical Wrestling), but in the end, Gran Metalik got the win with the Metalik Driver to punch his ticket to the Finals!

After the match, William Regal presented a medal to Gran Metalik, who then cut a promo in Spanish.

2.) Cruiserweight Classic - Semi-Finals - Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins: ****1/2

Kota Ibushi defeated Sean Maluta, Cedric Alexander, & Brian Kendrick to get to this point, while TJ Perkins scored victories over Da Mack, Johnny Gargano, & Rich Swann. This was easily one of the best matches in the entire tournament. I’m not sure if this topped the match Ibushi had with Cedric Alexander in the second round, but at the very least, it equaled it. There was incredible action from start to finish in this one, and the fans were into it every step of the way. Ibushi is such an exciting wrestler to watch in the ring (in any situation, obviously, but particularly in these big matches), and TJ Perkins certainly held his own against the Japanese sensation. Perkins is someone who can adapt how he wrestles based on his opponent, and this was a perfect example of that, as responded to Ibushi’s high-flying and hard striking with high-flying and hard strikes of his own. This had almost everything you would want in a great wrestling match, from amazing action, to raw emotion, to good storytelling. It delivered in every way imaginable. Perkins would ultimately get the submission victory over Ibushi to advance to the Finals. This was simply amazing.

TJ Perkins also got a medal from William Regal, and he cut a brief promo saying that he’s one step away from completing his goal.

I just have a quick note on the two men who lost in the Semi-Finals before moving on. A lot of people thought that we were going to see Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in the Finals of the Cruiserweight Classic. That didn’t happen, primarily because neither man wanted to sign a deal with WWE (who wanted to have the winner of the tournament under contract). In hindsight, not signing a contract with WWE proved to be a smart decision, given how the Cruiserweight Division and 205 Live turned out.

Interesting enough, that Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. match would end up taking place….but in the 2017 G1 Climax in New Japan.

3.) DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) vs. Cedric Alexander & Noam Dar: ***3/4

Of course, you always need a buffer match before the Finals of the tournament (to give the competitors in the tournament some rest), and on this show, it ended up being a DIY showcase, as they took on the odd couple team of Cedric Alexander & Noam Dar. This was a sprint that clocked in at just under ten minutes, and it was incredibly entertaining to watch. They packed a ton of action into this one, and it proved to be the perfect buffer match on this small card. Despite their best efforts, Cedric Alexander & Noam Dar just couldn’t overcome the established team of DIY, who scored the victory.

Before the Finals, William Regal joined Mauro Ranallo & Daniel Bryan to talk about how the CWC came together and its importance. Corey Graves also made an appearance to give his thoughts on the tournament (he had been doing the bracketology stuff for the whole thing).

4.) Cruiserweight Classic - Finals - Gran Metalik vs. TJ Perkins: ****

Well, just as the finals were about to begin (both men were in the ring and referee was about to ring the bell), Triple H made his way out to the ring. He talked about how they were “making history” with this tournament. Then, Triple H announced that, in addition to the winner of the Cruiserweight Classic getting a trophy, they will also be crowned a WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He then showed off the purple title belt. I would’ve preferred Triple H making this announcement before the participants in the Finals came out, but whatever.

Anyway, I don’t think a lot of people would’ve predicted that Gran Metalik vs. TJ Perkins would be in the Finals. As a whole, it was a great match that featured a lot of cool action and exciting exchanges throughout. It wasn’t the best bout in the tournament, but it was certainly close to the top. The fans were on fire for this one, particularly down the closing stretch. Both men gave it everything they had to come out on top. It wasn’t perfect (this did get off to a bit of slow start), but it was still an enjoyable match to watch, even if it didn’t end up being the best match in the tournament. Eventually, TJ Perkins locked in knee bar and got Gran Metalik to tap out to win the WWE Cruiserweight Classic!!

Afterwards, Triple H & William Regal came out to congratulate TJ Perkins who was soon presented with the trophy and the new WWE Cruiserweight Title. Then we got a very inspirational promo from TJ Perkins before the show came to a close with him celebrating as confetti came down from their ceiling.

Overall: 9.75/10

It’s weird to rate a show that only had four matches on it, but even with a smaller card, the Cruiserweight Classic Finals delivered in a huge way. The two Semi-Final matchups were both awesome (particularly Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins), and even though the Finals itself wasn’t the absolute best match in the entire tournament, it was still a great encounter between two incredibly talented performers. Throw in a very entertaining tag team sprint, and you have the makings of an excellent show, and a wonderful conclusion to this amazing tournament.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episodes 5-9 Review

I take a look at this second batch of episodes from the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, which feature the Second Round and the Quarter-Finals!!

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 5 (Original Air Date - 8/10/16)

1.) Gran Metalik vs. Tajiri: ***3/4

2.) Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi: ****1/2

Overall: 9.0/10

We all knew that the matches in this tournament would get better once we got past the first round, but I don't think any of us expected the second round to get off to such a hot start. Of course, the main event of this particular episode, Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi, was one of the best bouts of the entire tournament. It featured incredible action from start to finish, and the fans in Full Sail were going wild for it throughout. Both guys worked very well together, and while this match took place in the confines of a tournament for cruiserweights, you could've put it in the G1 Climax and it wouldn't have felt out of place. Kota Ibushi ultimately emerged victorious (not much of a surprise), but Cedric Alexander certainly had a star-making performance here. As he was about to exit, all of the fans in attendance at Full Sail loudly chanted "Please Sign Cedric", and Alexander was greeted by Triple H (who gave a thumbs up to the fans) before he went to the back. Elsewhere on this episode, Gran Metalik defeated Tajiri in a really good match that got overshadowed by the main event. While it was definitely a unique match, I wasn't expecting much from it. In the end, it exceeded my expectations, as it featured some good back and forth action throughout. The amount of time it got was perfect, and it was fun to watch. Gran Metalik got the win (again, another result that wasn't much of a shock) to advance to the Quarter-Finals.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 6 (Original Air Date - 8/17/16)

1.) Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher: ****

2.) Noam Dar vs. Ho Ho Lun: **1/2

3.) Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese: ***3/4

Overall: 7.75/10

As a whole, this was probably the weakest episode of the second round, but it was still had some really good stuff on it. The only match that was a disappointment was Noam Dar vs. Ho Ho Lun. To be fair, however, to call something disappointing would suggest that you were expecting that thing to be good. Average was probably the ceiling for that particular bout. Ho Ho Lun is not a good wrestler, and while I'm don't dislike Noam Dar, he's better off when he's in there with a better worker. The best match on the show was easily Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher. It's encounters like this (featuring a Dragon Gate talent vs. a guy from the prospering British Independents) that made the Cruiserweight Classic such a cool tournament to watch. These two guys had a great back and forth battle, and it was really entertaining to watch from beginning to end. Tozawa would get the win to advance to the next round, but Gallagher looked very solid in defeat. The main event of this episode, Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese, wasn't the exactly the most appealing (on paper), but it ended up being pretty good. There was solid action throughout. This was a fine outing for Nese, and he nearly had the match won on a few occasions, but ultimately, Kendrick managed to score the victory. Again, while this wasn't quite as good as Gallagher/Tozawa, it was still a quality main event. It was also another step in Kendrick's story, as the veteran who saw this tournament as his last shot at glory in the WWE. He was going to do everything he could to get closer to the finals.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 7 (Original Air Date - 8/24/16)

1.) Rich Swann vs. Lince Dorado: ****1/4

2.) Drew Gulak vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****

3.) Johnny Gargano vs. TJ Perkins: ****1/4

Overall: 9.0

After a slight dip in quality with Episode 6, the action picked up again in a big way with Episode 7 with three great matches. None of them reached the awesomeness that was Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi (easily the best match of the second round), but they were all incredible in their own unique ways. Rich Swann vs. Lince Dorado had an incredibly fun match to kick off the episode. I probably liked it a little bit more than others did, but regardless, it was very entertaining to watch. Both guys are so talented that it would've been next to impossible for them to have anything less than a good match. Swann would pick up the win after hitting a Phoenix Splash. Then, we went from a bout that featured a ton of fast-paced action to a more technical bout in the form of Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Gulak. This was essentially an EVOLVE showcase match, and if you really enjoyed that kind of style which (up until very recently) was very prevalent in EVOLVE, then you'll love this one. What was interesting about it was that it only went eight minutes or so (almost the same length as Dorado vs. Swann), but honestly, I didn't mind that. While that technical style was a big part of EVOLVE's identity, sometimes the matches can drag a bit if they go too long. Well, at just over eight minutes, this didn't have that problem. There was plenty of great exchanges throughout this one, but in the end, Zack Sabre Jr. got the victory after catching Gulak in the European Clutch. Finally, TJ Perkins scored a huge victory over Johnny Gargano in the main event to be the final participant to advance to the Quarter-Finals. I would call this the best bout on Episode 7. Both guys are just so awesome, so it's no surprise that they had an amazing match. As you would've expected, there was a ton of great action in this one, but at the same time, they also told a good story, as Gargano hurt his knee during the match. He fought through the pain the best he could, but eventually, TJ Perkins locked in a knee bar and forced Gargano to tap out. This result was somewhat of a surprise, since I feel like most expected Gargano to go pretty far, but ultimately, it was the end of the road for him in this tournament. Again, the match was great, and it was a perfect way to cap off this episode.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 8 (Original Air Date - 8/31/16)

1.) Gran Metalik vs. Akira Tozawa: ****1/4

2.) Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi: ****1/4

Overall: 9.0

This episode featured the first two matches of the Quarter-Finals, and both of them were pretty fantastic. In the first bout, Gran Metalik defeated Akira Tozawa in a rare CMLL vs. Dragon Gate clash (again, another example of why this tournament was awesome). Of course, this was an awesome encounter. There was plenty of exciting action throughout this one, and it got a good amount of time (about sixteen minutes or so). That's the one thing I enjoyed about these bouts in the Quarter-Finals. Now that we're deeper into the tournament, the matches are getting more time, and that was good to see. Anyway, towards the end of the match, Tozawa went to hit his Straight-Jacket German Suplex (which he won his first two tournament bouts with), but Metalik was able to get out of it, and hit his Metalik Driver for the win to advance to the Semi-Finals. That was a pretty cool moment, because they built up that move by Tozawa as his finisher, so it was a big moment when Metalik countered it. Then, Kota Ibushi punched his ticket to the Semi-Finals with a victory over Brian Kendrick, which ended his "road to redemption" of sorts. It was a very good bout, but the story they had been telling with Kendrick added a lot to the tournament (and Daniel Bryan added a lot to that story as well through his commentary). In Kendrick's mind, this was his last chance at stardom, and he was going to do everything in his power to win. He worked over the neck of Ibushi, and tried to pull out every trick he had, but in the end, Ibushi got the win (though apparently, at the actual taping, he got counted out by accident, and of course, the restarted the match and edited that moment out). Personally, I liked Metalik/Tozawa a little bit more, but Ibushi/Kendrick was still great in it's own way.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 9 (Original Air Date - 9/7/16)

1.) Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Noam Dar: ***3/4

2.) Rich Swann vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4

Overall: 8.0

The ninth episode of the Cruiserweight Classic wasn't quite as amazing as some of the episodes that came before it, but it still featured some very solid matches that set the stage for the Semi-Finals. In the first bout of the episode, Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Noam Dar in a pretty good bout. I'm not totally sure, but I feel like these guys must've crossed paths on the UK independent scene at some point (but I could be wrong). It was easily Dar's best match of the tournament, which goes to show just how awesome Zack Sabre Jr. is (though to be fair to Dar, he didn't exactly have the best opponents in the prior rounds). This match was far from perfect, but I enjoyed it as a whole. It was, for the most part, entertaining to watch, even though it's not one of those bouts that you'll remember when the tournament comes to a conclusion. Then, we had our final match of the Quarter-Finals as TJ Perkins got the win after forcing Swann to tap out to a knee bar. This was another encounter that was very good, but didn't quite reach the heights that the matches from Episode 8 did. There was good action throughout, with Perkins focusing on the knee while Swann (like Gargano before him) tried to fight through it. Of course, since Swann is a high-flyer, this strategy from Perkins was going to hurt him more than it did Gargano, even though the outcome was the same in both cases. With those two victories, Perkins established that his knee bar would be his submission of choice as the tournament headed towards the Semi-Finals. Additionally, this was actually another EVOLVE showcase (even though they really weren't in the promotion together at the same time), so that was cool as well. Much like Episode 8, these Quarter-Finals matches got more time than bouts in the previous rounds, which was nice to see. In a way, it makes sense in the context of a single-elimination tournament as well, since you would expect that matches would be harder to win the deeper into the bracket you go. Again, the second half of the Quarter-Finals wasn't as a good as that first-half in Episode 8, but the matches were still pretty solid from start to finish.