WWE Cruiserweight Classic
July 13th, 2016 | Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL
The highly anticipated debut of WWE's global cruiserweight tournament was finally upon us. Right off the bat, the presentation of the show was top notch. The opening video was like a video game and we also got a cool highlight video with Triple H's voiceover. Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo were on commentary and did a great job for the most part. This felt like a true competition. They broke down height, weight, strengths and weaknesses, while Corey Graves led us to see some really cool video packages and match graphics in the "bracket control room".
Gran Metalik def. Alejando Saez in 4:04
This was a good way to open things. Gran Metalik represented Mexico, while Alejandro Saez was there for Chile. Metalik is notable for his time as Mascara Dorada ove in NJPW. This was a short but fun spotfest and really got the crowd going. I have to commend commentary, for discussing the fact that Saez had to quickly drop 30 pounds to make the cut and how that could be a factor. Metalik got in some really good athletic moves, while Saez had a great apron shooting star press. Metalik won with Chris Sabin's Cradle Shock in a fast paced opener that was fun. I wouldn't mind seeing Saez get another shot down the line. ***
I love the little things they added. Before matches, competitors are told instructions by the referee and are told to shake hands. After the bell, the official holds both guys' arms before raising the one of the winner, similar to what UFC does.
Ho Ho Lun def. Ariya Daivari in 5:04
Since he was representing Iran, Daivari got the generic "evil foreigner" music. Ho Ho Lun represented China. Daivari pulled a 2002 Christopher Daniels and refused to shake hands. Lun is really smal and had to wrestle as the underdog, while Daivari was the bigger, more aggressive heel. For me, neither guy really impressed. Daivari seemed a bit more polished, but Lun feels like he has a higher ceiling. He got to make the babyface rally before winning with a bridging German suplex. Fine match but nowhere near as fun as the opener. **
Cedric Alexander def. Clement Petiot in 5:59
So far, Cedric Alexander was the most popular guy. Mostly due to his name on the indies, but being American probably helped. Clement Petiot was in for France. I loved Petiot's pre-match video as he said he does no flips or moonsaults. I like a cruiserweight that works grounded. Petiot played into the heel role, shaking hands but pulling Alexander close and talking shit. They worked a really solid match with multiple counters. Petiot nearly decapitated Cedric on a lariat but got taken out with the lumbar check. I'd definitely love to see more from Petiot but it was clear that Alexander was the star. I'm really glad he's getting a chance after ROH dropped the ball with him. ***
Kota Ibushi def. Sean Maluta in 9:40
Sean Maluta is from American Samoa and is part of the never-ending Samoan wrestling family. Stop me if you've heard that story before. Kota Ibushi reps Japan and I honestly believe that he's the best Japanese wrestler under the WWE umbrella. Yes, better than Shinsuke Nakamura. Anyway, these two started out slowly and built to something bigger. Ibushi sold a leaping Codebreaker like death. Maluta also nearly killed himself on an insane somersault dive outside. Kudos to him for also coming close on a big superkick. The story was Ibushi though. He showed that, despite being a cruiserweight, he hits very hard. He got in an impressive pele kick and won with a sitout version of the Last Ride powerbomb. Best match of the night. Maluta looked good, Ibushi was what you expected and this now sets up our first second round match as Ibushi will go one on one with Alexander. ***1/4
Overall: 8/10. If I was rating this just on a presentation and coolness factor, this easily gets a perfect score. WWE presents itself as entertainment before wrestling and I understand that. This didn't feel like that. They know who this is catered towards and it was presented as a wrestling competition, which was so refreshing. Outside of the second match, all three were good and moved at a quick pace. They showcased some strong competitors and I cannot wait for more.