Ahead of the start of the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic next week, WWE presented a one-hour show on the Network earlier this week previewing the event. Here’s our quick run-down of their Bracketology show.
We start in the WWE Performance Centre, with Triple H giving all of the Cruiserweight Classic participants a pep talk, whilst someone stands behind him filming it for Facebook (and looking insanely bored doing so). We come “live” from the CWC Combine at the Performance Centre… and we’re joined by Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan behind a desk.
The camera incessantly pans from left to right, and left again (I’m getting seasick), and as I reach for a sick bag, Mauro asks Bryan how it feels to be involved in this after his retirement.
The brackets flash up on the screen as we cut to a package showing extremely brief clips of some of the participants in the ring by themselves. Ranallo compares this to the birth of MMA, as we’re trying to find out “which style is best”.
Gran Metalik, Alejandro Saez and Kota Ibushi are brought up by Bryan, who mentions that some of these guys have wrestled in front of tens of thousands, whilst others have only wrestled in front of a couple of hundred people at most. Bryan brings up the weight limit for the CWC, with 205lbs being the ceiling – and that gives us the chance to see some of the weigh ins, and the story of Alejandro Saez, who had to cut 25lbs to make the weight limit.
Our first profile piece is on England’s Zack Sabre Jr, and we get clips of some of Zack’s childhood favourites (Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero), before some brief footage of his time in EVOLVE. Zack mentions his time in Japan, and and mentions that “Harry Potter’s not the only wizard from Great Britain”. Alrighty then!
Throughout this show, they have an ESPN-style ticker appear at the bottom of the screen from time to time, profiling a participant’s name/weight/height/nationality as well as another ticker listing every participant. The latter would have been a nice touch to keep throughout the show in my opinion…
Ranallo touts Zack as a favourite for the tournament, and they somehow segue into an interview with Canyon Ceman, who mentions that the Cruiserweight Classic is the result of endless worldwide tryouts. Ceman says that this is a chance for guys who’d never think they’d be a part of WWE to get a shot.
Another profile piece, this time on Jack Gallagher. A ten year veteran who thinks his style is the best, and is hoping for a lordship or knighthood at the end of this. I didn’t do his delivery justice, and this brief package barely skimmed the surface of his “Extraordinary Gentleman” gimmick.
They quickly cut to another video now, featuring the Bollywood Boys Harv and Gurv Sihra. They acknowledge that they were born in Canada, but are representing India “and that Butter Chicken Beatdown”. From experience, if your butter chicken is spicy, you’ve ordered the wrong dish! We see a shot of Eddie Guerrero with one of the Sihras, and that apparently influenced the Bollywood tie-in. Unlike Messrs Sabre and Gallagher, these guys aren’t painted as favourites, rather underdogs.
Seriously, the never-ending tracking hard camera can stop now. This is getting dizzying.
Rich Swann is the next to get a video package, with Ranallo mentioning his NXT ties, even if he’s barely been on TV. Some more EVOLVE footage here, since WWE apparently has little footage of him. Swann mentions how he was orphaned as a teenager, and how wrestling saved his life in a way.
They cut to Corey Graves who runs down the left hand side of the bracket, and he’s in a 3D computer generated studio. It didn’t really work when TNA tried this, but at least it’s only in segments rather than the whole show. Graves doesn’t mention when these matches will air, but they’ve all been taped by now. Weirdly, Graves skips over the last match on that side of the bracket: Daivari vs. Hoho Lun…
An advert is shown promoting the first episode of the Cruiserweight Classic, with some footage of matches briefly injected into it. It starts next Wednesday night only on the WWE Network, in case you’ve been under a rock!
Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano are profiled next, and they’re facing each other in the first round. Ciampa’s talking head bit sounds like a really formal interview, almost like he’s being quizzed by police rather than taping a profile piece. Bryan puts over Gargano’s record as a singles champion, including an over 800-day reign as champion in Dragon Gate USA.
TJ Perkins is next, and of course, they don’t mention his run in TNA. More EVOLVE footage is used as TJP mentions being homeless as he spent his way into bankruptcy whilst chasing his dreams. Perkins joins Bryan and Ranallo in studio to recap what we just saw, with Bryan mentioning that TJP’s been working longer than he has. Bryan touts Perkins as the youngest American to ever wrestle in New Japan, with Perkins building this up perhaps a little too much, comparing it to the Super J Cup. Not yet, hotshot!
We’re back to Corey Graves to run through the right hand side of the bracket, Bennett/Nese is skipped over, as is Alexander/Petiot and Dorado/Ali.
Tajiri and The Brian Kendrick are profiled next, packaged together as the experienced picks. The Japanese Buzzsaw has aged well, as has Kendrick, who had a brief run on NXT not too long ago. We see clips of Kendrick being a tag team champion a decade ago, with Kendrick openly blaming himself for losing his chance at glory… and we’re back to the studio with Kendrick on the desk.
Daniel Bryan and Kendrick acknowledge their history together, before Kendrick says that a tournament like this has been a long time coming in WWE. Kendrick puts over Bryan as being one of his inspirations, before we see some clips of Kendrick working with William Regal and Norman Smiley in the Performance Centre.
The last profiled wrestler is Kota Ibushi – the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion. We see clips of Ibushi in the crowd at Takeover: Dallas over WrestleMania weekend, and his interview is in Japanese with dubbed translations. More EVOLVE clips as Ibushi talks about his past matches with the likes of Nakamura, Zayn and Balor, and he reckons that’ll give him an advantage.
Bryan flags up Ibushi’s recent neck injury, and how that could hold him back in this tournament.
Before we wrap up, we return with an interview with Triple H at the desk, and Mauro Ranallo immediately asks “why is this the right time?”. Hunter reckons that this was a missing piece of the puzzle, and that this marks a shift in the company’s philosophy. This sailed dangerously close to breaking the fourth wall at times, even for a show targeted as ultra-hardcore fans.
Hunter tries to counter talk of “cruiserweights being about flips” by highlighting the different styles of the competitors. During this they have a video package involving Kota Ibushi and “the one that got away” (Will Ospreay), before Hunter mentions that they’re onto something “because (Bryan) hasn’t heard of all of these guys”. Crucially, Hunter mentions that this isn’t going to be the only Cruiserweight Classic, and there’ll be more opportunities for these participants after it’s done.
And that’s all folks! Although light in content, Bracketology did what it was set out to do – outline the brackets, and the competitors for those who haven’t been following every single tidbit from this tournament. The Cruiserweight Classic stars airing on the WWE Network every Wednesday from July 13 at 9pm ET – we’ll have reviews here on BackBodyDrop after the shows have aired.