Thursday, November 30, 2017

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episodes 1-4 Review

I take a look at the first four episodes of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, featuring the entire first round!!

In early 2016, it was announced by Triple H that WWE would be hosting a special cruiserweight tournament, featured some of the best talents from around the world. The Cruiserweight Classic (originally called the Global Cruiserweight Series) eventually took place over a series of tapings in the summer of 2016, with the semi-finals and finals taking place on a live special in September (all of this, of course, aired on the WWE Network). With the weight limit being set a 205 pounds, talents from different promotions from all over the world flocked to Full Sail University to take part in this tournament (with Mauro Ranallo & Daniel Bryan on commentary), and when the dust settled, it proved to be one of the highlights of WWE's 2016.

My reviews of the Cruiserweight Classic are going to be similar to the reviews I've done for DVD compilations, or other special reviews I've done on this blog. I'll give my star ratings for the matches on a particular episode, before discussing my thoughts on the episode as a whole. I'll start with the first four episodes (featuring all of the first round matches), while Part 2 will feature reviews of the episodes that had the second round and the quarter finals. Of course, all of these episodes features the bracketology, along with the video packages that went with all of the wrestlers, but I won't be talking about those here. These reviews will just be covering the action in the ring. Without further ado, let's get started!!

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 1 (Original Air Date - 7/13/16)

1.) Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez: ***1/4

2.) Ariya Daivari vs. Ho Ho Lun: **

3.) Cedric Alexander vs. Clement Petiot: ***1/4

4.) Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta: ***1/2

Overall: 7.5/10

This first episode was a very solid start to the Cruiserweight Classic. Obviously, the majority of these opening round matches were meant to establish some of the favorites early on with strong wins, and on this particular episode, we got some of those big names right out of the gate. Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, and Kota Ibushi all punched their ticket to the second round with wins here. The best match on the episodes was easily Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta. It shouldn't come as a shock that a bout involving Ibushi was the best on a given wrestling show. Even though he ultimately came up short, Sean Maluta looked impressive, especially to someone like me, who hadn't seen him before this tournament. In a way, that was kind of the theme for this first episode. While people like Cedric Alexander and Gran Metalik earned solid victories, relative unknowns like Alejandro Saez & Clement Petiot had good showings which, again, is important for those of us who hadn't seen them prior to this tournament. The only match on this show that stood out (in a bad way) was Ariya Daivari vs. Ho Ho Lun. It was pretty obvious that Ho Ho Lun was near the bottom of the barrel when it came to the in-ring ability of the participants, and fortunately, Ariya Daivari (the brother of Shawn Daivari) managed to carry to a somewhat decent match. Aside from that hiccup, this was a very good start to the CWC.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 2 (Original Air Date - 7/20/16)

1.) Tajiri vs. Damien Slater: ***

2.) TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack: ***1/2

3.) Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali: ***3/4

4.) Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson: **

Overall: 8.0/10

The second episode of the Cruiserweight Classic was a step up compared to the first episode, but at the same time, it followed a similar pattern. There were three matches that ranged from good to very good, with the best being Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali. Honestly, that was one of the best bouts of the first round, in my view. I thought it was really good. There was a ton of great action throughout, and both guys looked very impressive. It's one of the hidden gems of the Cruiserweight Classic that needs to be seen. Another really good bout on this episode saw TJ Perkins (who won a qualifying match in EVOLVE) pick up a win over Da Mack (from wXw in Germany). I know this particular contest didn't get a ton of attention at the time, but I really enjoyed it. Da Mack worked pretty well with TJ Perkins, and in general, it was a fun showcase for both guys. The first match on this episode featured the return of Tajiri, who got a victory over Damien Slater from Australia. This didn't set the world on fire (It's pretty clear that Tajiri had lost a step in the later stages of his career), but he still got over with a fans, and had a fun little match with Slater. The worst match on this episode was actually the main event. Akira Tozawa (in a result that shocked nobody) easily defeated Kenneth Johnson (who made a few sporadic appearances in ROH as Weazy Woo). It was an incredibly average affair, but that didn't matter too much, as the whole point was to get Tozawa over. As a whole, this was a very good second episode, aside from the main event.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 3 (Original Air Date - 7/27/16)

1.) Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux: ***1/2

2.) Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra: **1/2

3.) Tony Nese vs. Anthony Bennett: **1/4

4.) Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza: ***1/2

Overall: 7.0/10

While it did feature some good matches, this was easily the weakest episode from the first round. The  two bouts that are worth checking out were Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux and Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza, and out of those two, I would say the former was slightly better. Even though it wasn't overly amazing, Zack Sabre Jr. & Tyson Dux had a very good technical contest. With those two, it was pretty much guaranteed that it was going to be really solid, and they certainly delivered. Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza was actually very similar to Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez from the first episode. The established name got the win (as expected), while the relative unknown had a very impressive outing. Those two matches, which bookended this episode, were the ones that really lifted this show up, while the bouts in the middle were the ones that dragged it down. Based on who they were put against, it was pretty obvious that Drew Gulak & Tony Nese (both EVOLVE regulars before this tournament) were going to win. It wasn't the predictability that hurt this one, but the match quality. Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra (one half of The Bollywood Boyz) was decent enough, but not even close to memorable. Tony Nese vs. Anthony Bennett was just....there. That match featured some rough patches (I would guess this miscues were mainly caused by the inexperienced Bennett), but it accomplished it's goal of making Nese look good. Again, this was the weakest of the first round episodes, but it still had some good stuff on it.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic: Episode 4 (Original Air Date - 8/3/16)

1.) Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee: **3/4

2.) Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra: **

3.) Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner: ***1/2

4.) Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa: ****1/4

Overall: 8.0/10

This final episode was a real mixed bag, as the match quality was all over the place. We kicked things off with Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee, in what ended up being a relatively solid bout. Swann got the win (as expected) in this very short contest (clocking in at just under four minutes), but Lee proved that he does have potential to grow. After that, we got Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra (the other half of The Bollywood Boyz) in a match that wasn't very good at all. Parts of it felt disjointed, and it didn't come off well as a whole. This was one of the weakest matches of the tournament, up to this point. Then, things finally started to pick up. Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner had a really good bout that featured some cool stuff from start to finish. This was my first time seeing Gallagher, and he impressed me a lot on his way to victory. Meanwhile, Aichner is another guy who I didn't know coming into the tournament, but he certainly made a lasting impression on me after his first round matchup. In fact, I'd say that Aichner might've been one of the best out of the "unknowns". It was a very fun bout to watch. Finally, Johnny Gargano defeated his DIY tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa in the final match of the first round. This was the most anticipated encounter out of this first bunch of episodes, and it certainly delivered in spades. There was incredible action throughout (while also telling a solid story, both during the match and in the post-match), and the crowd in Full Sail was invested in it from beginning to end. It was easily one of the best matches of the entire tournament, no doubt about it. With that, the first round of the CWC came to close. The final episode of the first round had a bunch of ups and downs, but it ended on an awesome high note.

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