For the past ten weeks the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) has been proving itself as the best thing in wrestling today. 32 of the best competitors weighting under 205lbs showcasing the best of so many different wrestling styles from high flying lucha libre, to submission based technical to stiff striking strong style and delivering one of the best products WWE has released in years. Consistent quality and high stakes kept us all invested and blew up social media. Amoung all the reasons that kept us watching, these are the top five reasons why the CWC was awesome.
5. The Presentation
This may seem like a small point but it encompasses a lot. The look and feel of the CWC is completely different too anything else the WWE is currently producing with its unique stage set-up making it seem more like an independent show with a big budget. Essentially it was WWE presents the best of the indy’s and the lack of pyro, enormous crowds, glamourous stages and eye candy, they kept it simple and it worked. The tournament itself actually felt like a big historic event something that’ll be talked about years from now. The brackets and in depth analysis of each competitor of the worldwide roster with name drops from other promotions like CMLL in Mexico and the Hong-Kong Wrestling Federation made the event feel huge something unlike we’ve ever seen before. Commentary by Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan is simply the best WWE has had since the glory days of Jim Ross. Their knowledge of moves, styles, techniques and each competitor was extremely impressive and made each match seem more legit. Better than the main commentary teams on Raw shouting “Kick” “oh what a punch” and “Michinoku driver” (when it’s actually a blue thunder bomb, you’ve been here 17 years Cole there’s no excuse for this). Most importantly they were clearing having a blast in every match, fantastic back and forth with clear passion and excitement for the sport. They were like two best friends sitting down and enjoying something they really love and it made every piece of action far more infectious.
4. The Story-telling
While some of the earlier matches had no story build up beyond interview packages of each competitor saying why they want to win but it soon evolved beyond that. The likes of Rich Swann and TJ Perkins bringing up their tragic past and how wrestling was a big saviour for them helped them get over with crowds and when it became friend vs friends most notably in the case of tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in round 1. Two competitors who were expected to go far in the tournament forced to eliminate their best friend early on. It was brutal, it was emotional and it was phenomenal story-telling, in and out of the ring in a classic match. It even earned a massive outpour of social media praise with the common compliment being “This is wrestling”. The entire story of The Brian Kendrick was expertly done. Being a former WWE Superstar who got to full of himself and fell from grace now on his last chance to resurrect his career. His pure aggression and determination was ever present, not afraid to play dirty and cause injury if it meant he’d win, but when it all came to an end it was hard to not get at least a little emotional. Besides these cases it’s amazing how many great little stories were told in the tournament with practically no set-up and zero heat beaten opponents, it’s some of the finest examples of in ring story-telling all year and that’s a major accomplishment.
3. The Exposure
Aside from Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Brain Kendrick and Rich Swann none of the competitors are familiar to the primary WWE audience. While some names are big enough in the sport to be well known by hard core fans, the vast majority of competitors are unknowns. With that said imagine just what being associated with this tournament will do for these men’s careers, regardless of how far into the tournament they actually got. The majority of competitors looked like stars in the tournament or at the very least very good workers. I’ve certainly become a fan of most of the guys in this. If WWE aren’t interested in hiring them, everywhere else will be, these guys have just become some of the hottest free agents in sport entertainment. Some of these men have gotten so over that the crowd were chanting for WWE to sign them based on one or two matches, that’s insane (and may have worked in Cedric Alexander’s case). After this everyone wants to see more of Jack Gallagher, Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado don’t say you don’t, lies make baby Jesus cry.
2. It’s Exactly What We’ve Been Asking For
With the underutilisation of cruiserweights in WWE something like this has been dreamed of for years. The cruiserweights in WWE have had next to no opportunities on the main roster (just look at Neville) and haven’t been given their chance to shine as WWE isn’t fond of pushing ‘smaller guys’. Fans have been clamouring for them to be given the chance to showcase what they can do and this tournament did just that. Many of these men are taking the cruiserweight division to Raw and they are going in white hot, with a revived cruiserweight championship title no less, from the CWC allowing them to showcase why this division can reignite a long extinguished flame in WWE, something fans have been wanting to see for quite a few years now. We had every reason to be excited going in and still have going forward. We can only pray they’re all portrayed the same way on Raw as they were here and not like on NXT where Hideo Itami’s been crushing them for the past few weeks.
1. The Insane Match Quality
When it comes to the wrestling business there’s a lot of elements to making it a great show but at the end of the day what really matters are the matches and the CWC had more than its fair share of greatness, some of which are already being considered match of the year candidates. A consistently excellent showcase of different wrestling styles, endurance, determination, passion, sacrifice and just some really bloody fantastic wrestling. Gargano vs Ciampa, Zack Sabre Jr vs Noam Dar, any matches with Kota Ibushi and TJ Perkins in them, you really can’t go wrong with any match in the tournament. You could argue that some of the later matches had a bit too many close calls and false finishes but with the high stakes and everything on the line they felt justified. Every match ended cleanly, there was no cheating, no unsportsmanlike conduct, no unfair play giving the whole tournament a further sense of legitimacy. It’d be hard to care about say Tony Nese making it to the second round if he got there via a cheap pinfall after grabbing his opponent’s tights or hitting a low blow while the referee was knocked out. Every winner was a true winner.
Speaking of which congratulations to the winner and new cruiserweight champion TJ Perkins representing the dab dynasty with pride. It was nice to see two unexpected men in the finals, with commentary constantly billing Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr as the favourites to win the tournament, it was genuinely shocking to see them lose in the semi-final rounds and great booking by WWE. My head was saying Ibushi but my heart was saying TJP, that little scamp just swept me away and I was his from round 1.
So now that the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic is in the books the success it’s been has to open the door for further tournaments. Not just CWC 2: The Empire Elbow Strikes Back, but what about a women’s wrestling tournament that’d certainly fit in with the women’s revolution WWE is pushing or how about a Tag Team tournament I’d be down for that. So in short go watch the CWC if you haven’t already for some not-good-enough reason, it’s more than worth the WWE Network subscription on it’s own.