WWE Cruiserweight Classic Round 2
Tajiri (JPN) vs Gran Metalik (MEX)
45 year old Tajiri is returning to WWE after a decade away. He's the only former Cruiserweight Champion in the tournament and defeated Australia's Damian Slater (a huge PRIDE FC fan PRIDE NEVER DIE) in the first round. Dying at Maruo managing to fit in a Pride reference in the first match. Tajiri is also by far the oldest member of the field, being 8 years older than the next oldest competitor, Brian Kendrick. There's a lot of overlap in styles here, as the Japanese Tajiri spent time in Mexico, and the Mexican Metalik spent time in Japan. INDIE RESPECK STAND OFF. In this case, it actually makes sense. It's not just a stand off for the sake of it, it is showing how despite their age and nationalities, they're both trained in the same styles. A lot of nifty submissions and roll ups in the opening minutes. Metalik is able to get off more offense due to youth and speed alone. Mauro hypes up the Tajiri/Finlay match in SMASH. I for sure believe he saw that match, because Mauro is the biggest mark in the biz. Tajiri focuses on the head and neck of Metalik, doing a DOPE ass bridging head scissors. That should be an instant death submission. He then kicks Metalik in the face, which pisses Metalik off. Metalik hits a big dive, but it isn't enough to keep Tajiri down. A rope dragon screw and rope walk elbow drop has more impact. Mauro making random pop culture references sucks, as it is SO transparent. He's so much worse on Smackdown in that regard. At least on the CWC, he typically stick with wrestling references. Haven't once heard him say something is LIT. Yet. 35 year old Daniel Bryan says he "grew up" on Tajiri doing tree of woe dropkicks to guys like Super Crazy and Jerry Lynn. I mean, Bryan debuted the same year Tajiri was doing that to Super Crazy and Jerry Lynn. Two matches in, I'm thinking Metalik is for sure the best lucha dude WWE has had outside of Rey. Metalik again hits the Samoan driver OUTTA NOWHERE to score the win. Man, Metalik is dope. Tajiri can still bring it at 45.
Kota Ibushi (JPN) vs Cedric Alexander (USA)
Cedric is yet another guy ROH dropped the ball on. He and ACH were the only guys that stood out to me in ROH as someone who clearly had the potential to move on and be molded into something great. ROH lost out on him because ROH sucks. He cut 22 pounds to make it into the tournament. I believe Saez dropped 30 pounds to make it into the tournament. I do not believe Cedric needed to cut 22 pounds to make it to 205. Not for a second. Crowd is quite split between these two. Mauro directly brings up Nakamura/Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 9, AKA the best match of the the decade. He uses it to put over Cedric for being able to keep up move for move with Ibushi. The first few minutes of this match are heavy on the "these guys did research" type spots. Much like Ciampa/Gargano, when these guys go to strikes, they lay it the fuck in. I'm going to give Daniel Bryan some slack considering he has brain damage, but he calls damn near every chop as a chop to the face regardless of where it actually hits. None of the chops he's called as being "right to the face" have hit in the face. None of them. I'm also going to ignore how everyone in this tournament is BLATANT with their leg slaps. That's just the norm now. Even Tajiri was pretty obvious with it. It is what it is. "I just got light headed watching that!" I'm not sure that is a good thing for a dude with brain damage to say. If you're into guys doing MOVEZ to kill each other, this is about as good as it gets. Brehs are throwing every crazy move they can at each other. Made extra crazy due to moves being done in a WWE ring that seem to have been banned years ago. Ibushi wins again with the golden triangle powerbomb. After the match, a "Please Sign Cedric" chant breaks out, which leads to HHH himself coming out to congratulate Cedric. Was it a great match from a psychological perspective? Of course not. But it was a great match from the perspective of two guys laying it all on the line in the the most viewed match of either's career, leading to a shot at the biggest win of their careers, in a one of a kind tournament from the biggest promotion in the world. Context matters.
Jack Gallagher (GBR) vs Akira Tozawa (JPN)
Fans seem to be on Gallagher's side after his impressive first round performance. Lol at Akira's HEEEEEEEEYYYYYYY when getting put in a hold. Also his howler monkey screams. Jack gets out of a headlock with a hand stand, reminiscent of Steve Grey. I wish Dusty was calling this, because Jack ties Akira into a ball (why he didn't pin him is beyond me) and kicks him right in the ass. "HE BOOTED HIM IN DA BOOTY, TONY!" Tozawa was not pleased with that ass assault. I've seen Tozawa really lay it in, which makes it weird seeing him work so light in this. After getting punched in the mouth, Jack drops his gentlemanly behavior to doggedly go after Tozawa's leg. He did say he'd keep it gentlemanly as long as his opponent keeps it gentlemanly. Although, is kicking a man in the ass all that gentlemanly? I really like Jack's headbutt spot. Despite the leg work, Tozawa wins with a deadlift German suplex. Gentleman Jack has a fan in me. He should be a blast to catch on Raw from time to time. Still can't figure out why UK indie fans aren't hyping this guy, while popping for GEEZERS and Grado and insisting that Jimmy Havoc is incredible.
Noam Dar (SCT) vs Hoho Lun (HKG)
Scotland doesn't have an IOC country code. Whatever. Hoho, much like Saez in round one, is the father of wrestling in his home of Hong Kong. He trained himself, then went back to Hong Kong to start his own promotion, the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Literally created the scene. Noam Dar is another one of the UK indie cunts that I don't give a shit about. He's the youngest guy in the tournament and had a pretty unimpressive opening round. Hoho is not very good, but he's very likable. You want to see that guy succeed. Dar's signature pose bugs the shit out of me. Dar got into wrestling when he saw Brock Lesnar on Smackdown. In 2002. Shit makes me feel old, and I'm not even that much older than him. Crowd ends up going full Full Sail, singing and chanting constantly during this pretty boring match. Dar works the leg for pretty much the whole match. It's not that interesting, but Hoho does a really good job of consistently selling it even when doing moves. Dar has a huge zit/boil where his ass cheek and leg connects. Disgusting. You ever get a saddle sore? THE WORST. Dar wins with a knee bar. I do not like this dude at all. Not interested in seeing him on Raw ever. Or anywhere else. Fuck Noam Dar.
Brian Kendrick (USA) vs Tony Nese (USA)
Nese has to be more than 205. Dude is fucking jacked. He's for sure the strongest man in the tournament. Spanky immediately runs into a knee to the head, and Nese follows that with more big strikes that might put Brian out in under a minute. Spanky has to do whatever he can to get his sea legs in this match, like fish hooking and trapping Nese's hand in the oversized turnbuckle pads. What Spanky has lost in athleticism, he makes up for in being a cunty vet who uses every part of the ring to his advantage. Spanky does a lot of weird MMA submissions, but in the kind of way that a guy who doesn't actually know how to do them would do them. Maybe that's just my rationalization as to why Nese can be in an arm bar for so long with Mauro and Bryan not calling bullshit. Fosbury Flop OUTTA NOWHERE. I saw him do that on a PWG show. Looked better here. Nese clearly has the look and athletic ability, he just needs some training on how to show more character and make his spots look a little less machine like. RAMPAGE BUCKLE BOMB! Lol. Rampage Bomb is a good powerspot, though. Not Backlund Lift level, but what is? And why does this rando in the CWC have a better looking bucklebomb than Seth Rollins, while managing to not injure anyone with it? Nese misses a 450 and immediately taps to the bully choke. Spanky's style now is really interesting, because he's literally doing the "do anything to win" stuff, which means he's not doing signature spots and nothing seems particularly neat or clean. He's just an older dude scrapping to keep his career alive. I've always wondered why more guys don't wrestle like that. I understand the value and structural importance of signature moves and spots, but most people don't get to do the same thing in every fight they're in. It's really unique and completely stands out in this tournament.
Lince Dorado (PUR) vs Rich Swann (USA)
No idea why WWE signed Rich Swann. I mean, I guess I could see them bringing him in for this as a random flippy shit, but he's been signed to NXT for like a year. Lince breaks out the ALEX WRIGHT DANCE! That popped me more than Swann constantly doing the choreography to Beat It. Rich is 5'4". Him getting pissy and doing Vader style attack combos is the dumbest shit. Oh wow, Lince does the stupid ass lucha "lightly bump into you while I go running" thing, but then takes a step back to elbow Swann in the face instead. Reminded me of Shibata throwing a back uppercut after taking a step forward for his corner dropkick after people were getting up to counter it to often. Swann wins with a phoenix splash that actually DID land RIGHT ON THE FACE.
Drew Gulak (USA) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (GBR)
Besides Ibushi, ZSJ is the most hyped guy in the tournament, and the brackets could come out to them meeting in the finals. Gulak is probably the least interesting of all the grapple guys on the indies. Not sure why he made it in, but Biff Busick has been working house shows with some terrible werewolf name. Also, his entrance coat is dumb as fuck. These guys immediately go into an intense scramble, with ZSJ trying to score an armbar right away. Shit is heated. ZSJ's opening round match kind of sucked, and then he was blown out of the water by Jack Gallagher doing the same style but with a lot more character. Lmao at Zack getting cocky and immediately getting slapped in the mouth. Some really nifty mat stuff in this, which is more of a competition than showy bullshit. Or "gay", as certain villainous kings might say. You know, I think everyone understood what that meant, if it was ever said at all. They eventually just start slapping the shit out of each other, and Bryan misses his chance to say IN THE FACE repeatedly despite guys actually hitting each other in the face. ZSJ wins with a wacky UK roll up OUTTA NOWHERE after getting out of Drew Gulak's instadeath dragon sleeper. This was a great showcase for Gulak. Probably more so for him than ZSJ. ZSJ is capable of greatness, but god damn is he SKINNY. You can see his fucking bones. I also am not sure how great his style is for weekly TV matches. He definitely needs to put on some mass before being on Raw, because he looks ludicrously scrawny even at Full Sail with other tiny dudes. Still, this was a fun match.
TJ Perkins (PHI) vs Johnny Gargano (USA)
I actually watched an EVOLVE show because a qualifier was on it. And I came away liking the guy TJP beat more than him. Gargano is coming in after having the most physical match of the first round and with a leg injury coming from Takeover Brooklyn II. TJP can get fucked. This guy is dabbing in the middle of moves. Nothing says wrestling more than picking up and sticking with outdated pop culture fads. I also don't like dudes wrestling in basketball shoes. Johnny does a cannon ball off the apron, mostly over shoots, and ends up with his legs smashing into the time keeper's table. Getting real sick of dudes who think dancing means you have charisma. Boy, the lawn dart sure does not seem like a safe move. Bryan marking out for moves that look like they'd give you brain and neck damage is a bit awkward. TJP wins with a knee bar, which sucks, because TJP is a boring little shit.
Pretty good grapples in round 2. Some choices of winners I don't care for, though. Pretty much everyone in this round should be signed except for that cunt Noam Dar. I have a reputation for shitting on indie guys and indie style, but the truth is I do enjoy flippy flops and big moves like anyone else. But I care about them when they make sense in context. The opening match of an indie show in front of 150 in a gym having guys do 100 spots and kick out of finishers is stupid and meaningless. Guys kicking out of finishers and doing the craziest shit they are capable of while wrestling in a one of a kind global tournament put on by WWE, with millions of viewers and a chance to get signed and be on Raw every week even if you lose is a pretty good place to be kicking out of crazy shit. Every match in this tournament is the most important match any of these guys have ever had. In that context, crazy moves and flippy shit work for me and I have enjoyed this tournament quite a bit outside of some dud matches and Noam Dar being a little cunt.