We’re into the second half of the first round here, as the Cruiserweight Classic continued with action from grapplers from Canada, England, India, Mexico and the United States.
#TLDR: Week three of the Cruiserweight Classic brought us some more good wrestling, with Zack Sabre Jr’s technical display perhaps being the performance of the night, whilst Raul Mendoza ultimately came out on the wrong side of a thrilling main-event against “The” Brian Kendrick.
The Full Review: We start with a video package plugging tonight’s matches: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux; Harv Sihra vs. Drew Gulak; Tony Nese vs. Anthony Bennett and Raul Mendoza vs. Brian Kendrick.
Mauro Ranallo welcomes us to the show, and throws to a video package of Tyson Dux. They show us footage of a match against Mark Jindrak on Velocity from 2004, where Dux injured his knee, and then flip to Zack Sabre Jr’s promo package. It’s mostly the same one from the Bracketology special.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux
Dux’s theme starts like a lullaby then shifts into some generic rock/metal track… like the kind you’d expect to see used on the main roster.
Sabre gets his “Seven Nation Army” chant, and they start with a lock-up, as Sabre grabs an arm before switching it into a leg takedown and a toe-hold on a grounded Dux. The hold’s reversed by Dux, and he drags Sabre into the middle of the ring, but Sabre flips over and easily reverses it back.
Dux grounds Sabre in some headscissors, but again Sabre escapes and moves into a wristlock, stepping over Dux’s arm into a cravat, which Dux counters with a Fireman’s carry. In an “easily taken out of context” moment, Bryan says that Sabre needs to “grind (Dux) a little”, which sounds just wrong!
Dux caught Sabre in a cravat of his own, but Sabre used a neck bridge counter and floats over into an hammerlock, and spins his way to try and snap Dux’s left arm. Daniel Bryan calls out Jim Breaks as Sabre manipulates Dux’s wrist, but then the Canadian quits playing nice, throwing in some kicks and chops. A back elbow in the corner stuns Dux, before a European uppercut takes Dux to the mat, as Sabre lands a Pele-style kick to the arm.
Dux’s left arm took more punishment, and out of nowhere he drops Sabre with a Fisherman’s buster for a near-fall. A Fujiwara armbar drops Sabre in the middle of the ring, but Sabre rolled him up for a near-fall from a crucifix-like pin.
The Canadian keeps the pressure up with some forearm strikes to Sabre, but Sabre confuses him by running the ropes and ties up Dux with an Octopus hold in the middle of the ring, with some extra finger manipulation for added sadism! Dux made the ropes, but Sabre swept the legs to send him back to the mat, where a penalty kick (called a running knee by Mauro Ranallo) got a near-fall.
Sabre ran into an inverted atomic drop and a DDT as the Canadian Dux nearly stole the win, but a Texas cloverleaf was countered with a bridging pin from Sabre for another two-count. Dux dropped Sabre with a lariat, who then countered a Finlay roll attempt into a Kimura with some bodyscissors, eventually dropping Dux to the mat, and then moved to the omoplata with the wrist being bent back again as Dux was forced to submit. A fine technical display from Sabre, and Dux showed his worth as well, but it seemed like the Full Sail crowd were burnt out, as they didn’t react to much of it… almost like a Japanese-style crowd. Sabre will face either Drew Gulak or Harv Sihra in the second round. ***¾
We cut to Ranallo and Bryan live in the arena, and they gush over Zack Sabre Jr.’s performance. Bryan said that he’d be stealing some of Zack’s moves if he were to return to wrestling… and they throw to Corey Graves in the CWC Control Room. Graves plugs our next match, Gulak vs. Sihra, tossing to a video package of the two men. Sihra’s package again comes straight from the Bracketology special, so if you saw that, you’ll remember a lot of this!
I just noticed, the font they’re using to list the countries that these guys represent is an awful lot like a less emboldened version of the Hulkamania font. Hmm…
Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra
Gulak’s wearing a weird red and silver pleather jacket that almost looks like a bath robe for his entrance. Either that or he’s late for a futuristic war re-enactment… Ranallo calls out the promotion that Harv wrestles for in British Columbia (without mentioning the name, hi ECCW!), and we’re underway!
They lock-up, and Gulak grabs a waistlock, but it’s easily reversed… as Daniel Bryan makes his second “sounds bad taken out of context” effect of the night. Gulak grabs a knuckle-lock, but gets tripped by Sihra who gets a one-count, before Gulak gets back to his feet… and is taken down with a monkey flip. Gulak replies with some bodyscissors, but Sihra moves Gulak’s ankles on top of each other, which added pressure to Gulak’s own ankles, forcing him to break the hold. Thank God for Daniel Bryan on commentary, because I don’t think anyone in the crowd got that…
Gulak snaps into a headlock takedown on Sihra, with a shoulder tackle taking down the Indian for a one-count… with a cross body then caught by Gulak and hoisted into a Fireman’s carry, but Sihra rolls up a Fireman’s carry for a one-count. Then a crucifix pin and a small package, again for one-counts.
Gulak comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline to get a two-count on Sihra, before sending Harv chest-first into the turnbuckles, and then slamming him into the ropes for the spot that would have had PROGRESS call back to Rick Martel!
Sihra backdrops Gulak to the outside, where he follows up with a springboard cross body from the middle rope into the aisle, then throwing Gulak back in for just a count of one. Harv mounts Gulak with some punches on the ground, then scores a spinning neckbreaker for a two-count.
Gulak gets caught on the top rope, and is brought down with a superplex, but he escapes a leglock and ties down Sihra in a Dragon sleeper, which forces Harv to tap-out. A pretty fun match, but again suffered from a burnt-out crowd… and I liked how that finish came out of nowhere, as it showed Gulak as something of a threat. Drew faces Zack Sabre Jr. in the second round. ***¼
They show us a video package of Tony Nese, and of course, no mention of his cup-of-coffee in TNA. Anthony Bennett gets his turn, and he says that he’s 5’5”… except the pre-match graphic listed him as 5’6”. Likewise, Tony Nese grew two inches during his video package, as the tale-of-the-tape had him as 5’7”, but the pre-match graphic listed him as 5’9”. Don’t inflate and contradict yourselves guys! I’m sure the 19,000 inside Full Sail will agree!
Anthony Bennett vs. Tony Nese
Bennett’s got such a high top, his gimmick is that he wears sunglasses over his eyes and over his hair as well. Nothing against it, but it screams “indy gimmick”.
Nese gets a few chants, as he starts by taking down Bennett with a waistlock, but it’s quickly reverse… and back again as Bennett grabs a hammerlock, which Nese releases by just lifting up Bennett. A clothesline and a couple of roundhouse kicks gets Nese an early two-count, before they try to use some forearm strikes, ending with Nese tossing Bennett to the outside.
Bennett pops up on the apron, but gets kicked to the floor, as Nese cartwheels across the apron, then drops to the floor for a superkick. For a guy build like him, he sure is athletic. Nese follows up with an attempted powerbomb on the apron, but Bennett grabs the ropes before launching himself onto Nese.
Instead of taking the countout win, Bennett rolls Nese in… for a one-count. Bennett grabs a double underhook, but Nese reverses and drops him on the top rope with a hotshot, then springboards his way into the ring for a quebrada for another two-count. Another Nese chop sends Bennett into the ropes, but the youngster tries to knee his way out of a suplex… but Nese drops him anyway for a near-fall.
Nese locks in some body scissors, and Bennett clearly wasn’t watching Harv Sihra earlier, but he manages to roll free, and eventually armdrag Nese into the corner. Bennett lands a series of leaping clotheslines that looked like they needed some work, before sending Nese to the mat with a crisp pop-up dropkick.
Bennett went up top, but his tornado DDT was caught and Nese sent him back to the top… where another tornado DDT was successful as Bennett almost took the win. Nese blocked a kick and takes down Bennett, before losing a waistlock and then sliding through into a pumphandle powerslam. Nese jumps up top, but the referee stopped him… before releasing the pause, as Nese landed a 450 Splash for the win.
That finish looked weird – I get that the referee was worried that Bennett was hurt or knocked out, but if you’re gonna stop it, stop the match – don’t press pause and undo it seconds later. That aside, this was a good match, but I’d put Bennett into the same bracket as Kenneth Johnson from last week as “needs a lot of work”. Nese will face the winner of our main event in the next round: either Raul Mendoza or Brian Kendrick. ***½
Corey Graves is back in the Control Room, and he quickly pitches to a video package for the main event. The 5’5” Raul Mendoza, and the 5’9” Brian Kendrick (who seems to get “The” added and removed from his name at will). Mendoza’s got a subtitled video package, again calling out Eddie Guerrero as inspiration, whilst Brian Kendrick’s package is again from Bracketology. But hey, it means we got to hear a brief soundbyte from JR!
Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza
Hey, they dug up Kendrick’s old “Man with a Plan” theme! Shame they couldn’t find Ezekiel Jackson to keep the nostalgia going. The Dave Penzer-like announcer (still without a name) calls Kendrick “The Brian Kendrick”, just for the sake of inconsistency! Mauro Ranallo oddly doesn’t list Kendrick’s past as a “current WWE champion” from that scramble match at Unforgiven 2008.
Kendrick is the crowd favourite, and starts with an armwringer as he takes Mendoza to the mat, but Mendoza works free and takes down Kendrick with a snapmare into a rear chinlock. Kendrick reverses into a headlock, then gets shot into the ropes and takes down Mendoza with a shoulder tackle… before a leapfrog exchange ends with Mendoza sending Kendrick to the outside with some headscissors.
After faking out a dive, Mendoza waits for Kendrick to return to the ring, where he stuns Kendrick with a series of Road Dogg-like jabs, then a chop, before Kendrick misses a dropkick. Mendoza then picks up Kendrick in an ankle lock with a Giant swing mixed in, as he downed Kendrick with some body scissors to end the most impressive submission move in this tournament so far!
A big boot from Kendrick sends the Mexican to the mat, and Mendoza gets the ring rope kicked into his mouth for the hell of it. Kendrick works in a double chickenwing, forcing into the ropes, but the bloodied Mendoza nearly got a shock win with a roll-up.
Charles Robinson puts on some gloves to check on Mendoza, who says he’s willing to continue… so Kendrick charges in with a clothesline. Mendoza avoids being thrown into the turnbuckle by leaping through the ropes and (thankfully) landing on the apron to avoid a Chris Hamrick moment, before springboarding in with a dropkick to send Kendrick out to the floor.
Mendoza goes aerial with a corkscrew plancha to Kendrick on the floor. Kendrick kicks out back in the ring, before kicking Mendoza in the head again, and going back to the top rope. Mendoza kicks Kendrick on the top rope and he drops into the tree of woe… and Mendoza climbs the other turnbuckles, looking for a Coast to Coast dropkick, and nails it!
Mendoza follows up with a suplex into a double-knee back cracker as Kendrick narrowly avoided defeat by getting his feet on the ropes. Mendoza launched into some kicks, but was caught by Kendrick who feigned injury and suckered in Mendoza into a bully choke (an inverted facelock takedown into a chokehold) for the quick tap-out. That was a really good main event, but I can’t help but feel that the wrong man won here, as Mendoza was easily the more impressive of the two men. Kendrick will face Tony Nese in the second round. ***½
Daniel Bryan throughout the match wasn’t exactly impartial, but by the end he was admitting that he wasn’t a fan of how Kendrick won. Without signing-off, we go to a voiceover from Corey Graves plugging the final four first-round matches: Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee, Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra, Jack Gallagher vs. Fabien Aichner and Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa. Next week is going to be Brit-heavy and will have an impressive main-event, I’m sure!
With four matches left, as much as I’ve enjoyed the tournament so far, I can’t help but feel that the booking has been a little on the safe side. So far, all of the “favourites” have won, with no underdog shocks… one of those would have been nice, if only to be a reminder that “anything can happen”, as WWE loves to remind us!