All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, the CruiserWeight Classic came to an end on Wednesday night. The CWC was by far the best thing on the WWE Network this year and one of the best productions by the WWE ever. Yes, ever! 32 global competitors were chosen for the single elimination tournament. There were big names, such as Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. There were familiar WWE names, such as Tajiri and The Brian Kendrick (and NXT wrestlers like Johnny Gargano, Tommasso Ciampa, and Rick Swann). There were unknown, vying for chance to let their name be known worldwide.
Each competitor had a small interview before their first round match. It was enough just to whet our appetite about the competitors, and some got a better introduction than many wrestlers on Raw and Smackdown! The commentary, by Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo, was incisive, inquisitive, and illuminating (better than either crew on Raw or Smackdown). Most of all, it was taken displayed as a serious competition.
But, now that it’s over, here are my top ten moments of the CWC, in chronological order (I use to term ‘moment’ loosely!):
- SEEING WORLD FAMOUS WRESTLERS COMPETING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN WWE
The first round had its fair share of dud matches, but seeing names like Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr for the first time was something special. I rarely stray away from WWE programming (for no particular reason!). Sabre Jr.’s technical expertise was unparalleled. Ibushi main evented the first episode, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. To see them wrestle in a WWE show was simply stunning. However, there was the letdown of Noam Dar…(who only showed something special in the Quarter Finals).
- RAUL MENDOZA
If there was ever an obvious elimination in the First Round, it was Raul Mendoza as he went up against The Brian Kendrick. The tournament was depicted as Kendrick’s last chance before being too old to wrestle. As an ex-WWE wrestler, Kendrick immediately had the crowd on his side. Mendoza was greeted with indifference and a few boos. However, Mendoza flipped, flew, and springboarded his way into the crowd’s heart. His Coast-to-Coast dropkick was one of the moves of the tournament! Kendrick prevailed in the end, but Mendoza left a lasting impression.
- GARGANO vs CIAMPA
This was the final match of the first found. The two tag team partners clashed in a match that was built up throughout the evening. There was an interview and a good sense of the two wrestlers’ history. The match itself was a definite Match of the Year contender. The two friends pushed each other to the limit. But the ending…the ending was an emotional highlight of the wrestling year. Gargano cinched the win with a roll-up. After the match, Gargano extended his hand to shake Ciampa’s. Ciampa stormed out of the ring, and started to walk down the ramp. But he turned around, went back into the ring. He sat down next to his best friend and raised his hand. A beautiful, yet simple and memorable, way to end the first round. Watch this match right now!
- SECOND ROUND: KOTA IBUSH vs CEDRIC ALEXANDER
One of the early matches in the Second Round, Ibushi and Alexander put on a match that was equal to, if not better than, Gargano vs Ciampa. It didn’t have the history behind it, but that didn’t matter. Ibushi looked like he was holding a little back in the First Round. However, he held nothing back against Alexander. Alexander looked like a million bucks as well. The crowd gave this one a ‘Fight Forever!’ chant. It deserved it. As one of the favourites, Ibushi’s victory was rarely in question. But Alexander gave us moments of doubt. His performance was so impressive that the crowd chanted ‘Please Sign Cedric!’ Triple H came out and seemed to agree with the crowd!
- QUARTER FINAL: KOTA IBUSHI vs THE BRIAN KENDRICK
The Brian Kendrick’s story was one of the most potent of the tournament. Behind Tajiri, he was the oldest in the CWC. This was his last chance to achieve something great before possible retirement. On commentary, Danial Bryan embellished Kendrick’s story by talking about his long friendship with Kendrick (and Kendrick was his pick to win it all). In the second round, Ibushi had a great match with Tony Nese (another wrestler to look out for). In this quarter final match, Ibushi was the favourite to win. The two put on an awesome match, probably the best of the Quarter Finals (although it’s tough to call! Sabre Jr. vs Noam Dar was something special as well). Kendrick fought hard, but ended up on the losing end.
What really topped the match off was what happened after the match. An emotional Kendrick was joined by Daniel Bryan. Both men were in tears after a long hug. Pure and simple emotion, brought on by the realisation that this could be the end of a career. That moment could make a grown man cry!
- THE TWO-HOUR SPECIAL FINALE
I could split the finale into its various parts. But as an overall presentation, it was great storytelling. It included the Semi Finals, a tag team match between Gargano and Ciampa against Dar and Alexander, and the Final. We were shown small interviews from the semi-finalists about why they wanted to win. The importance of winning the CWC (and the impressive trophy!) were emphasised again and again. Everyone was shocked at the results of the two Semi Finals. The Final managed to live up to the great matches that had gone before. All tournament matches were awesome, and the tag team match was a fun diversion before the main event. Simply put, the Finale was a great moment in itself!
These are just the tip of the iceberg. If you haven’t already, set yourself aside some time to watch the entire tournament. The First Round matches feature some awkward matches, but from the second round on, every match is good to great to Match of the Year contender! WWE have outdone themselves with the CWC. I daresay it’s been better than NXT…