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.