Previously on the WWE Cruiserweight Classic: The opening round came to a close with four more matches. Rich Swann continued to capture the hearts and minds of Full Sail, and Noam Dar advanced despite struggling to find his identity in the ring. Jack Gallagher became an overnight star with his technical prowess, and Johnny Gargano defeated his tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa in an emotional, hard-hitting contest. On to the round of 16!
And now, the Best and Worst of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, Week 5.
Minor Worst: Getting Spoiled
Not in the “spoiler alert” sense, mind you … although that can be a pain when so much of this is taped in advance. I was saying that we, as an audience, have been spoiled rotten so far. The first four weeks of the tournament gave us so much damn good wrestling that going from four matches per episode to two feels strange. Granted, they’re now doing more with less. All the fat has been trimmed, and we’re now left with 16 global cruiserweight stars.
We’re only getting marquee matchups from here on out, don’t get me wrong. I just get a little bit of sticker shock when I see the Matches Per Episode decrease, even though the total of actual Wrestling Minutes probably remains unchanged. It’s hardly worth mentioning, but I think it might have been nice to have some of the first-round losers come back for exhibition matches. Let me see Alejandro Saez vs. Buddy Murphy or something, you know?
Also, let’s go ahead and throw a Worst to Corey Graves for having a closet full of reasonable suits and electing instead to go for the “Warped Tour Magnum P.I.” look.
Best: 1999 Called, They Want This Match Back
In between namedropping Desiigner in the most Caucasian way possible and referring to Mexico as a state, Mauro Ranallo calls to mind Tajiri’s well-received rivalry with Super Crazy in ECW. It’s more or less a layup to compare Gran Metalik to Super Crazy now — they have similar physiques, they’ve both toured Japan, and now they’ve both fought Tajiri. Although as long as WWE doesn’t make Metalik ride to the ring on a lawnmower, he’ll always have the upper hand. Never forget.
Predictably enough, this match was great. Every year, just after Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan Pro Wrestling will do a crossover tour with Mexico’s CMLL promotion called Fantastica Mania, and this looked like something you’d see on one of those shows. You’d never really guess that you’d want to see Stuka, Jr. take on YOSHI-HASHI until you’re actually watching it, you know? That’s one of the major selling points of the CWC: Unprecedented clashes of style that seem strange at first. But once you sit back and let wrestling take the wheel like the universal language it is, it all comes together.
Tajiri continues to impress. He’s still doing his best Yuji Nagata impression and being a grumpy old-timer who doesn’t take kindly to the triviality of youth. There was a point where he completely no-sold a chop from Metalik, and I basically reacted like Abraham Lincoln from that Whitest Kids U Know sketch. But in the end, Metalik stuck to his guns and got the win. I think this was absolutely the right move. He’s the most well-rounded luchador in the tournament, and it’s not like Tajiri was the final representative of Japanese strong style left. Speaking of which …
Best: Two MOTY Candidates In Two Weeks
If we start getting main events like this on a regular basis, you can go ahead and make the CWC one match per week for all I care. Hooooooooly crap.
Last week’s Gargano/Ciampa match was a complete story unto itself. It was the story of the truest form of friendship in wrestling (and perhaps in life), the kind where you don’t hold back and give everything you’ve got. You know they can take it, and anything less than your best would be an insult. But Cedric Alexander versus Kota Ibushi was a different narrative altogether. It’s the story of walking into the lion’s den with a smile and a game plan. Fear becomes irrelevant, because you know you can hang. And in case you think that’s only a wrestling thing, I know a recent Olympic gold medalist who would beg to differ.
Let’s talk about the one moment that turned this match from “great” to “awesome.” Alexander has been emptying the clip into Ibushi for a while, and finally drills him with a brainbuster. It’s only good for a two-count, but that’s when Alexander pulls out one of those wonderful Now You Die moments and kicks Ibushi in the face the instant he kicks out. It works not only because it’s vicious, but because it’s logical. “I just had that guy dead to rights, I should probably concuss him again to make sure he’s really done.” It’s the difference between yelling “Stay down” at your opponent and actually doing something to make him stay down. Cedric Alexander is a man of actions, not words.
Even after Alexander’s Herculean efforts, Ibushi gets the win because he is Not of This Earth. Again, it’s the right call. His reputation precedes him, and it’s nearly a forgone conclusion that he’ll at least go to the finals. Regardless, this was a match where it felt like both men should win. And you know, that’s kind of what happened.
Best: The Post-Credits Scene
“Triple H, Executive Vice President of Talent. I’m here to talk to you about the NXT Initiative.”