Can you believe it? They finally did it… the WWE’s long-rumoured wrestling show dedicated to cruiserweight wrestling (a term that, granted, is dated now, but let’s go with it) debuted this week. It’s no longer vaporware! So… what did we think of it?
#TLDR: WWE took a huge step away from their usual product with the Cruiserweight Classic, and they pulled off a fantastic debut show, with four good matches, with the expected stars shining… and some good performances from those whom you’d have thought were just there to round out the numbers. Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander, Hoho Lun and Gran Metalik all secured their place in the second round with impressive wins.
The Full Review: We started with a video package narrated by Triple H highlighting prior cruiserweights such as Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan, and spotlighting the current contenders either training or in action. Everyone points to the Cruiserweight Classic logo as if it were WrestleMania season, and we’ve got a wacky CGI intro before crashing into Full Sail University!
It’s the tweaked NXT set with a couple of extra video screens, custom turnbuckles and canvas, and of course, we have Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo on commentary. Hopefully this turns out better than Bryan’s last project here!
Ranallo puts over Bryan as having wrestled some of these guys, which shows how young he had to retire… and we cut to Corey Graves in the Cruiserweight Classic Control Centre – the same 3D studio we saw during Bracketology. There’s four matches tonight: Hoho Lun vs. Ariya Daivari, Clement Petiot vs. Cedric Alexander, Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta… and first, Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez!
We get a subtitled video package of Metalik (aka Mascara Dorada from Mexico), and he wants to win this for Mexico. Alejandro Saez is also subtitled, and he wants to represent Chile in as good a possible light. Brief, but to the point.
Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez
Pseudo-generic music for Metalik here, but at least it’s not the old music they gave El Hijo del Santo back in the day. They show a profile graphic for Metalik, before we go to Saez’s intro. All of these guys entrances are just their names on a video screen, with a flag on the other titantrons. Nothing overly flashy.
Ranallo says that Saez is a web designer who trained by watching YouTube videos. We’ve got UFC-style referee announcements, and we’re underway!
Saez grabs Metalik in a headlock, and gets taken down with a shoulder block, before taking a diving dropkick from Saez as the Chilean gets a two count. This crowd really loves Metalik! Saez flips over to the outside and springboards back in with a dropkick to Metalik for a two-count.
Metalik starts a comeback by springing off the ropes then walking the middle ropes for a springboard dropkick to send Saez to the outside. A tope con hilo takes the Chilean out on the floor, before following with a top rope walk into a big splash for a near-fall. Undertaker may file for gimmick infringement there!
Saez takes a chop in the ropes, but backdrops Metalik to the apron, then sends him to the floor and nails a shooting star press off the apron – a move that Bryan and Ranallo call in unison! Saez goes for a spiral tap to try and finish off Metalik, but misses, and the Mexican lands a Michinoku driver for the win. Saez looked really good here, as did Metalik… Short, but oh so sweet! ***¼
They do the boxing-style winner announcements, just to set this apart from normal WWE fare. I’m really digging this… and Metalik goes through to face the winner of Tajiri and Damien Slater in the second round.
We see a profile piece on Ariya Daivari, who tells us that his brother used to be in WWE before – as Daivari. No kidding! Hoho Lun doesn’t need a translator for his piece, and his English is actually pretty good.
Hoho Lun vs. Ariya Daivari
This announcer for the Cruiserweight Classic really reminds me of the old WCW announcer Dave Penzer.
Lun gets a good response from the crowd, but Daivari refuses to shake hands and he’s instantly the heel. Headlock from Daivari, and the usual shoulder tackle takedown on Lun. Lun ducks the clothesline and dropkicks Daivari before landing a running forearm, then a dropkick to a sitting Daivari for a two-count.
Daivari reverses an Irish whip and drops Lun with a neckbreaker, but only gets a one-count for him. Lun’s taken to the corner where he takes a few kicks, before Daivari misses an avalanche, but is successful with a knee to take down Lun for a two-count. A rear chinlock grounds Lun, but he’s pulled to the mat by the hair after fighting free.
If you watched Tough Enough last year, you’ll remember the smiling selling of Sara Lee – and Lun has that same problem. Daivari lands a spinning roundhouse (Darrell Allen’s Razzle Dazzle kick) for a near-fall, and Daivari starts slapping around Lun, before he’s taken down with a spinning heel kick for a near-fall.
Lun gets whipped into the corner and takes down Daivari with a missile dropkick, but he fails on a German suplex attempt, and gets whipped into the ropes for a Daivari roaring elbow. Daivari misses a frog splash, and promptly takes a knee to the back of the head, then a superkick to the head for a near-fall. Undeterred, Lun nails a bridging German suplex and that’s all. Lun will face the winner of Noam Dar and Gurv Sihra in the next round.
Lun’s got some potential – he wasn’t as bad as some had suggested from YouTube clips, but he’s certainly very rough around the edges. **½
Promo for Tuesday’s live WWE Draft. I wonder which of these two will have more of a lasting effect? I’m wagering the CWC…
We get promo packages for Clement Petiot and Cedric Alexander, with Petiot putting over his trainer, Lance Storm. Petiot says that he’s not a high flyer, whilst his opponent, Alexander, sure is. Cedric’s goal is to be considered in the “same breath” as Ric Flair when it comes to famous wrestlers from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clement Petiot vs. Cedric Alexander
During Alexander’s entrance, Daniel Bryan mentions how he’d cut 25lbs for this tournament. Yet that’s not going to be an issue (but it was for Saez earlier?)…
Petiot immediately takes down Alexander with a waistlock, but he gets reversed on the ground as they work on holds in the early going. After a roll through, Alexander hits a pair of armdrags that send Petiot to the outside, before faking a dive in the ring.
Alexander backflips into Petiot and takes him down with some headscissors, then lands a dropkick, but the tide turns when Petiot knees him as Alexander went for a shoulder block on the apron. Shoulder charges in the corner leave Alexander reeling, and Petiot eventually gets a one count after a few strikes. A vertical suplex gets another one count, as the Frenchman follows up with a gutwrench suplex for a two-count.
Petiot keeps Alexander grounded with a rear chinlock as Chris Hero of all people gets a name drop, but Alexander ends up missing an avalanche charge on Petiot and gets pounced into the corner where he takes a knee to the face for a near-fall. It’s been all Petiot for almost the entire bout, and he continues with a bunch of forearms to the seated Alexander.
The referee separates Petiot in the ropes, and that lets Alexander pull Petiot to the mat from the apron, and he comes in with a springboard clothesline – with massive hangtime – but Cedric didn’t go for a cover. Instead, he launches into the corner with an avalanche forearm, but Petiot counters several suplexes and lands a discus clothesline for a near-fall.
Alexander ducks another clothesline, then finally lands a back suplex into a back cracker on Petiot for the win. That was an impressive looking finisher, and I’d have to say, Petiot looked a lot better here than I’d given him credit for – initially having logged him as just a bracket filler. ***½
Alexander’ll face the winner of our main event in the next round: Kota Ibushi or Sean Maluta.
Bryan and Ranallo are at the commentary table, and we go to Kota Ibushi backstage warming up. A subtitled video package from Kota Ibushi follows, with plenty of EVOLVE clips, and Ibushi tells us he only wants to make the crowd happy. Sean Maluta gets a package too, and the first thing he brings up is his Samoan heritage and his wrestling background.
Sean Maluta vs. Kota Ibushi
Ibushi got a good roar when his name came up, and Ranallo of course lists off his record in New Japan.
Ibushi kicks at Maluta to start us off with, and Maluta goes to the corner immediately. Maluta goes for a waistlock, but he’s reversed into a wristlock, before Ibushi turns it into a hammerlock. Good wrestling in the opening stages here from both men, with Maluta sending Ibushi to the mat with a shoulder tackle… before another kick downs the American Samoan.
Maluta leaps over Ibushi in the corner and lands a forearm, with Ibushi going to the mat, and then moving away from a top rope splash. A missile dropkick from Ibushi catches Maluta, before Ibushi lands a T-bone suplex after ducking a clothesline.
Maluta landed the MX (top rope codebreaker) to Ibushi, but couldn’t follow up as Ibushi went to the outside, where he was met with a tope from Maluta. Okay, it was meant to be a somersault into a tope, but Maluta clipped the rope and saved it… giving us a 630 tope.. Which has to be an accidental innovation. Nice save Sean!
Back inside, Maluta kicks away at a grounded Ibushi, then locks in an armbar, then a chinlock before a neckbreaker gets Sean a two-count as he again took too long to make a cover. Daniel Bryan on commentary put over Ibushi’s recent neck surgery, as the Japanese star tool several kicks before downing Maluta with a picture perfect dropkick (that gets shout outs to Lance Storm and Kazuchika Okada… what the hell?!)
Ibushi lights up Maluta with a series of kicks, ending with a stiff kick to the chest, then a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Ibushi tries a superplex, standing on the top rope, but Kota gets shoved to the mat hard, before recovering to land a handstand kick to knock Maluta to the floor. That was insane!
Kota follows up with a springboard moonsault to the outside, as he continued to grab the back of his neck, before getting a two-count after rolling Maluta back inside. Ibushi went for a half-nelson suplex, but Maluta elbowed free, and dropped him with a superkick as Ibushi just about kicked out in time.
Maluta brushes Ibushi with rapid fire kicks, but takes a roundhouse kick to the head, then a sit-out powerbomb for the win. Maluta more than held his own here, and we’re 4-for-4 in good matches in this tournament. ***¾
So we have our first second-round match: Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi. That should be great!
Next week: Tajiri vs. Damien Slater; TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack; Mustafa Ali vs. Lince Dorado; Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson. Yep, next week’s shaping up to be another good episode!
I was surprised that they put both Ibushi and Metalik on the debut episode of this, but having two big names was probably the right call to bookend the first ever CWC show. This was a really good debut show, with solid wrestling and eye-opening performances throughout, in spite of the TV time limits and the restrictions that puts in.
This was presented as something a million miles away from your standard WWE – and even NXT – television. The sports-like entrances and exits, the early-ROH-like handshakes, the general lack of “ballyhoo”. All of that made this refreshing and a breeze to watch. Bring on the rest of the tournament!