Before I begin, I have not watched Bracketology on the WWE Network (I’ve been on holiday) so apologies if I repeat anything said on there and if I miss anything out – again, my bad. To those who have clicked on this article wondering what the hell a Cruiserweight is or a classic, I will (like DX) break it down.
The Cruiserweight Classic is a WWE tournament made up of WWE wrestlers as well as many independent wrestlers from across the globe. It’s a 32-man competition that celebrates the great wrestling that is cruiserweight wrestling – wrestlers under 220 pounds give or take – and involves mostly high flyers, but also great grapplers and mat workers. It’s uncertain whether or not this will be an annual tournament (IT SHOULD BE) but time will tell. The Cruiserweight Classic (aka. CWC) starts tonight (13 July) and will go through until September. Here’s the brackets:
There is a lot to look at here and I will be here all night if I go into each one in a lot of detail, so I will pick some key players and what I make of the draw itself. So first, some of the key players in the tournament.
Starting with arguably the favourite to win the tournament (there’s a tough challenger who I’ll get to later), Kota Ibushi is one of the finest technical wrestlers around today. He is a three time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion whilst wrestling in New Japan Pro Wrestling with the likes of Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) and Kushida. He also won the Best of the Super Juniors in 2011 too, a prestigious competition in NJPW. His high-flying offence is brilliant to watch too.
Accolades are all well and good you say, but what makes him one of the favourites? Well, one of the biggest hints was showing Kota Ibushi on NXT prior to the announcement of CWC, so expect WWE to push him hard in this tournament.
Tozawa is also Japanese like Ibushi, but he hasn’t followed the same career path. Unlike many of the most famous Japanese wrestlers around the globe, Akira Tozawa has gained his fame outside of NJPW. He has worked most of his career in Dragon Gate (once home to Daniel Bryan) as well as Chikara and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
He is less of a household name than Ibushi, but don’t write him off based on that. For a cruiserweight, his style is based around suplexes and less flippy shit. He probably won’t make the final, but he should be expecting at least the quarter finals.
I really want him to win based on what I have seen so far from him on NXT and his great background story. Swann had a rough upbringing in Baltimore, born into poverty and spent his teenage years addicted to cocaine just years after both his parents died. After hearing news that his dealer died, he decided to get clean and turn his life around, living with his aunt and pursuing a wrestling career. Now, he’s one of the best young prospects in the business and is a delight in the ring.
His size may be his downfall, plus the way he’s been used in NXT, he’s not a realistic winner – but that does not mean he can’t go on a big run. The way he has been able to show up stars like Finn Balor and Baron Corbin in matches (even when he’s being pinned) shows exactly how much faith WWE has in him. The semi finals may seem like a pipedream, but he could well make it.
One part of a tag team with fellow CWC competitor Johnny Gargano, Tommasso Ciampa is a tough sonofabitch for a guy who may looked dwarfed in size against big men of the business. In recent months he seemed to be getting a mini push as a heel (I think? It was kind of weird) and he turned the aggression up, attacking the limbs of his opponents like Pentagon Jr or The Revival do. His submission moves and ground work is one of the best in the tournament and being part of a popular tag team will make him likely to go far – but he’s on the tougher side of the draw.
Ciampa’s scrappy tag partner is less into his submission moves and more into just kicking shit. He is a very intelligent all-round worker, complimenting his small stature by building a move set based off of that scrappy underdog persona he has. He dips and dodges around his opponents. His kicks sound like they really hurt too. Innovative in the ring, but will be interesting to see if they push him.
The last of the WWE stars on the list. Back in the early 2000s when I watched Smackdown, Tajiri was one of my favourites and I didn’t really know why. The green mist was cool, but it was only recently I really understood what was great about him. The snivelling character, who played dirty and squeezing every ounce of energy out of his opponents. He didn’t always have to do fancy tricks, but he had great ring presence. He will always be a favourite with the WWE staff so a small push could be there for him, with a future spot on the main roster there for a veteran like himself.
He’s Scotland’s finest (sorry Local Hero Joe Hendry) and eight months ago I had no idea who he was. This all changed when I went to ICW: Fear and Loathing VIII in the SECC. Teaming up with the great Kenny Williams and the aforementioned Hendry, it was a complete spectacle to watch. He was my favourite wrestler of the night and when I heard he would be competing in CWC I completely marked out.
There are rumours that Dar will sign with the WWE in the near future too, although these are just Reddit rumours for the mean time. He has managed to gain some attention amongst the 32 due to his high-flying ability, but commentators and critics are really warming to him too. He’s on the same side of the draw as the next guy though and he’ll take some beating…
Zack Sabre Jr
Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t watch a Zack Sabre Jr match in my life, but I had heard his name a million times before I had watched him in the squared circle and no wonder. The man is a fucking God. Sabre Jr is so technically skilled, he has won Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Technical Wrestler award two years running.
He is currently signed to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, facing some of the world’s best while there: Richochet, Adam Cole, Kenny Omega and Pentagon Jr. Why will he be an attraction? Well, he’s 6 ft tall (and you can’t teach that?) to start with, which for a cruiserweight is pretty big – a man who would not look out of place among the main roster in both skill and size. Let’s be cynical for a moment, WWE will want the best in their company and someone like Sabre Jr fits the bill. It’s a case of luring him with a fantastic deal in the CWC. Even if you aren’t cynical, Sabre Jr has to be among the favourites (he could easily make the final) based on talent alone.
Finally a bit of a wild card is Gran Metalik. He’s linked with Finn Balor which will only help his stock. For the past six years Metalik has been wrestling in NJPW under the name Mascara Dorada – so basically he knows the likes of Kota Ibushi inside out as well as WWE stars Shinsuke Nakamura, The Club and Finn Balor. His lucha libre style makes Kalisto look like an amateur. It’s a weird one, because at only 27, Metalik has achieved so much, but it’s difficult to see where WWE will go with this change of identity – they could either feed him to the lions or make a star out of him.
Some quick observations about the draw itself: I’m perplexed that they’ve pitted Ciampa and Gargano against each other in the first round, I was hoping for a blow off in the last 16 or quarters between them, but it will keep things interesting and will be the match to watch in the first round. Favourite Kota Ibushi seems to have a slightly more favourable draw than his fellow rivals, only facing real stiff challenges from the semis onwards. The bottom right brackets are stacked with talent as along with Ciampa and Gargano, there is also Swann and TJ Perkins.
On the other half, Noam Dar may find his time limited as a potential quarter final match with Zack Sabre Jr is on the cards, while a tasty match between Metalik and Tozawa also seems too close to call.
That’s my predictions ahead of the CWC. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below and please like share and subscribe. Get your news straight from the Journeyman’s Desk.