Previously on the WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Zack Sabre, Jr. defeated his longtime friend Noam Dar, and T.J. Perkins ended Rich Swann’s uplifting run through the tournament. With the quarterfinals complete, all that’s left is a live showdown on the WWE Network for cruiserweight bragging rights. Let’s get to it!
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And now, the Best and Worst of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, Week 10. There can be only one.
Best: Takayama/Frye, Except With Flips And Submissions
Shout-out to Gran Metalik for starting this match perfectly. He knows that the longer a match goes, the more it favors Zack Sabre, Jr. and his ground-based submission expertise. So instead, Metalik hears the opening bell, says “F*CK THIS,” and hits a series of Extremely Good Lucha Things that send Sabre flying out of the ring within the first minute of the match. Absolute perfection. That is how you scout an opponent.
The added benefit of this strategy is that it immediately sends Sabre into that pissed-off “How Dare You” mode, and as I’ve previously pointed out here, that’s his best side. I think this specific match is probably the template of what people thought the CWC could end up being. It’s one of the world’s best technicians squaring off with one of the world’s best luchadors in full-on fantasy warfare. We even got a “LUCHA LIBRE/TECH-NI-CAL” dueling chant from the crowd. This match was so good that people were cheering for different interpretations of the abstract concept of professional wrestling. We have officially transcended.
I feel like there were about 12 straight minutes of breathless dives and counter sequences before this match even dared to take a rest. This was such a great way to open the night, not to mention a pretty damn good way to bookend the entire tournament. (Remember, we started Round 1 with Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez.) I also love the somewhat surprising call for him to get the victory here. If there’s such a thing as “smart money” in this tournament, it would have been Zack Sabre, Jr. simply because this has been a year full of him winning things. I suppose it would be a bit strange for a reigning PWG champion to walk out as the winner of the Cruiserweight Classic, but there’s more at play than just that. I’ll get to that in a bit, but none of that should take away from this bout. If you like matches that leave you feeling like you’ve just done an hour of cardio on top of a mountain, seek this one out.
Best: The GIANT Fangirl Scream For Johnny Gargano
Team D.I.Y. shows up to say that their rivalry with The Revival (Revivalry?) isn’t over, and also to hype their exhibition tag-team match against Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar. Anyway, within a millisecond of Gargano showing up on-screen, there is a massive Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium scream from the crowd. I know that D.I.Y.’s schtick is that they’re indy workhorses, but I kind of want to see them repackaged as a teen heartthrob and his Sicilian manager/murder-buddy.
Best/Worst: Here’s What You Get When You Turn Down A WWE Contract
There was not a bad match this entire night. Kota Ibushi and T.J. Perkins put on a wonderful match, and unless I’m mistaken, I think it may have gotten the best crowd reaction from Full Sail so far. Am I wrong on this? It was certainly the loudest, but volume isn’t everything when it comes to pops. I look for things like people in the stands with their jaws hanging open, and there was plenty of that to go around here.
Even so, when I go back and look at this, it more or less has the same ingredients of Perkins’ other CWC matches thus far. He’s being elevated by Ibushi, of course, because Ibushi can elevate even a lifeless mannequin to at least a three-star match. This was another elite-level masterclass in the art of selling, in case you weren’t paying attention. Look at how he falls out of the ring during the 10-count, or the way he just dies on that DDT/lungblower sequence in the clip above. I want to follow Kota Ibushi around in his everyday life and see if he just randomly sells gusts of wind like he’s been stabbed.
But yeah, we get robbed of the Ibushi/Metalik match that would have absolutely overloaded the internet with GIF-worthy moments. After weeks of people predicting a Sabre/Ibushi final, it’s almost refreshing to see expectations inverted like this… that is, until you get to the reasoning behind it all. I’ve clearly telegraphed it with my choice of title for this section, but I’ll go into more detail when we get to the final. For now, just enjoy the fact that there was no dabbing to be found. Also, we got a watered-down Ganso bomb, so that’s always exciting.
Worst: Sasha Who?
Still not the best production error of the year. That goes to whoever gave Cesaro the stats of Bubba Ray Dudley during the WWE Draft.
I have a very, very minor Supplemental Worst for Cedric Alexander here: DO NOT HIT THE TROPHY WHEN YOU DIVE. For real, it’s cool to see you get enough air to show up on airport radar, but Triple H paid the American Chopper guys good money for a trophy that looks like a wang, and we’d all hate to see it get broken. Be careful.
But otherwise, how cool was this? If you’re going to kill time before the finals, there’s not really a better way to do it. WWE’s been uploading some extra matches to their YouTube channel featuring the likes of Drew Gulak and Tony Nese, and they probably knew well beforehand to save this one for the live show. Gargano and Ciampa are still on the same page, despite their loss in Brooklyn and their assorted injuries at the hands of Wilder and Dawson. If anything, it makes them more motivated.
In a weird twist, I kind of liked the dynamic between Noam Dar and Cedric Alexander here. They seem thrown together, but it provides amazing contrast… because once upon a time, Gargano and Ciampa were just “thrown together” too. Remember when they first debuted on NXT and we all thought, “They clearly just threw these two together for the heck of it, right?” And now they’re practically full-timers, fighting guys that could very well mirror their trajectory.
It all makes for a fun match. Did you see when Dar went for one of his Oasis taunts and just got clobbered from behind? I’m telling you, cocky heel bullsh*t is the way to go for him. There was a weird “three” count that kind of threw things off (I think Gargano was supposed to break up the pin), but it hardly mattered. Great use of cooldown time for our finalists.
Best: Dad’s Home, And He’s Got Presents!
Here’s another thing the rumor mill got right: The Cruiserweight Classic tournament culminates in a brand new WWE Cruiserweight Championship. I’m not crazy about the belt’s design, though. It’s not quite Divas’ butterfly bad, but it still looks like a toy. The Universal Championship can breathe a bit easier, that’s all I’m saying. But yeah, I like that my running joke about the CWC being Triple H’s personal Street Fighter tournament actually ends with him showing up to award the grand prize. Maybe in future years this will work like Best of the Super Juniors, where the winner gets a cruiserweight title shot. But for right now, we’re rebooting a championship that previously retired around the waist of Hornswoggle, so I’m calling this a plus.
Worst: The Journey Vs. The Destination
Oh, but that reboot starts with T.J. Perkins as Cruiserweight Champion, which now means that he’ll be a feature player on Raw. Hey, Brandon. I’m really sorry, but I need to borrow your gimmick for a second.
Upon further examination, I think I found a parallel to my post-CWC feeling from earlier this year. Remember how you felt when Zack Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania? Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens was the featured rivalry going in, but Ryder was just “hey, guys… hope you don’t mind” and suddenly he was the champion. Personally, I wasn’t angry, I was just legitimately confused. It’s not like Ryder hadn’t worked for years and earned a spot, but who in the world was clamoring for a Zack Ryder win at WrestleMania? Likewise, it’s not like T.J. Perkins didn’t take a long road and make sacrifices for his shot, but in a tournament full of international sensations and cult favorites finding new audiences, who was insisting that TJP needed to carry the cruiserweight flag into the new era?
Unfortunately, I think a lot of it comes down to business. Late in the tournament, both Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre, Jr. declined to sign contracts with WWE. I think we were all so blown away by the inclusiveness of the CWC that we thought this wouldn’t be an issue. We’ve got people from Dragon Gate and CMLL under the same roof, after all. But ultimately, this is a WWE product, and you’re expected to play ball once you step inside. That left us with Gran Metalik and Perkins. And while Metalik is the more impressive wrestler, I think they preferred a face they could promote, not to mention someone who can give interviews without a translator. Way to follow through with that whole push to find a new Latino star, especially now that Alberto Del Rio is on his way out.
Who knows for sure, though? We all joke that Vince McMahon is at least 12 months behind current pop culture, maybe he saw T.J. dabbing and said “HUNTER, THIS GUY IS GOLDEN.” In any event, it’s over. I’ve enjoyed the ride, but I’m not sure I like where I’m being dropped off. Honestly, I should have written this segment like “Watchmaker.”
It is February. The Global Cruiserweight series is announced, and I am excited.
It is May. They have changed the name to the Cruiserweight Classic.
It is September. My bracket falls to the Martian soil, thoroughly busted.
Thanks for reading! There’s been a lot of great feedback from you guys during the CWC, and I’m always happy to write stuff that you enjoy. Whether it’s this or Tough Enough, I like having a weekly space where I can really break something down in aggravating detail. So, in the spirit of keeping that going, keep your eyes on the site around this time next week for my next project. Trust me, I’ve got more than enough material to work with.