The first night of WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic begins with a video package where Triple H talks about the awesomeness of cruiserweight wrestling and how cruiserweights have achieved greatness and how the Cruiserweight Classic will be the next chapter in that great tradition.
For me its a chance to see wrestlers, some of whom I’d never thought to see in a WWE ring, compete and hopefully give me chance to relive the excitement I felt in watching the first hour WCW Nitro circa 1996.
First Match: Gran Metalik (Mexico) vs. Alejandro Saez (Chile)
Metalik and Saez shake hands before the bell rings. Seems like WWE is jacking Ring of Honor’s Code of Honor thing here with the handshaking before the bout, but it’s kind of cool since it gives the match an air of legitimacy.
Metalik seems to be the more polished of the two in the early going of the match with Saez seeming to be confused about what to do between spots. He makes some goofy faces and argues with the ref about an early pin attempt being a three count rather than barely a one count which causes me to wonder if maybe he has some kind of “slow on the uptake” gimmick a la Santino, latter day “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, or Eugene that he’s working.
Eventurally Metalik sends Saez crashing to the outside of the ring and then hits him with a springboard somersault plancha using the middle ring rope. The two head back into the ring and a short while later a roundhouse kick from Saez sends Metalik to the outside. Saez capitalizes on this with a shooting star press off the ring apron causing Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo to go fucking apeshit.
Back in the ring Saez goes for a spinning corkscrew splash, but Metalik rolls out of the way. Metalik hits a corner clothesline and then picks up the victory with the Dorada Screwdriver.
Winner: Gran Metalik (Mexico)
I thought this was a pretty good match to kick off the entire thing. It was a pretty fast paced match and I thought that after some initial awkwardness Metalik and Saez worked together pretty well. I think the highlight for me was honestly Bryan and Ranallo on commentary losing their shit over the shooting star press.
Second Match: Ariya Daivari (Iran) vs. Ho Ho Lun (Hong Kong)
Daivari, playing the heel, refuses to shake Lun’s hand. After a brief flurry of offense from Lun in the early moments of the match Daivari takes control of the match. Daivari dominates Lun for awhile, bouncing his head of the turnbuckle pad and stomping on his chest.
After dropping Lun with a 360º kick, Daivari begins to slap Lun in the face and taunt him, shouting, “Do you know who I am?” This apparently fires up Lun who hits a spinning heel kick and a missile dropkick.
Daivari briefly gets in control again, after countering a German suplex attempt with a discus forearm. Daivari goes for a frog splash, but Lun rolls out of the way. Lun hits Daivari with a running knee to the back of the head and follows through with a superkick and a pin attempt but Daivari kicks out at two. Lun then plants Daivari with a German suplex to pick up the win.
Winner: Ho Ho Lun (Hong Kong)
This was probably the weakest match of the batch tonight. Neither guy was really bad, but they just didn’t seem to click. I thought that Daivari was a little boring but did a good job as a heel with little touches like refusing to shake hands and slapping a downed Lun around and yelling “Do you know who I am?” Lun looked kind of nervous and less polished than Daivari but had some nice dropkicks and was likable in a 1980s Ricky Morton kind of way. To me Lun is the kind of guy you want to see hit a desperation move and then make a hot tag or win a match with a schoolboy out of nowhere.
Third Match: Clement Petiot (France) vs. Cedric Alexander (USA)
In his pre-match video package Petiot talks about being trained by Lance Storm and how he doesn’t do flippy shit. During the handshake he gets all up in Alexander’s face. Petiot has got his arrogant heel game going on.
This match is a pretty great power vs. speed match with Alexander hitting some nice armdrags. They aren’t Ricky Steamboat nice, but they’re still pretty nice. Alexander gets a two count after a really good dropkick, but after that Petiot starts to dominate. Lots of shoulders to the midsection and clubbering from Petiot. The crowd starts getting behind Alexander and a chant of “USA! USA!” begins.
Alexander has a comeback and hits Petiot with a series of running forearms, but Petiot plants Alexander with a discus lariat for a two count. Petiot goes for a discus forearm, but Alexander counters with the Lumbar Check to pick up the victory and head over to the pay window.
Winner: Cedric Alexander (USA)
I dig that they didn’t get all flippy guys for this. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some flippy guys, but having dudes like Petiot who are more power based or more mat based guys like Daivari from the previous match is great since it reminds me more of the cruiserweight division from WCW’s heyday. Back then you had your Rey Mysterios and Juventud Guerreras but you’d also have your Alex Wrights and Dean “Stinko” Malenkos.
Fourth Match: Kota Ibushi (Japan) vs. Sean Maluta (American Samoa)
I assumed this would be a quick squash since Ibushi is pretty heavily favored to win this entire thing and Sean Maluta was, to me at least, an unknown, but it turned out to be the longest match of the night. Though nowhere near Ibushi’s level Maluta put on a pretty decent match. Early on Maluta nearly ate it when he clipped the top rope during at attempt at a somersault plancha but he was able to roll through and avoid a near disaster.
Both men get some offense in with Maluta focusing on Ibushi’s neck. Over the course of the match Bryan and Ranallo really play up injuries to Ibushi’s neck doing there best to make Maluta seem like a possible threat, though save for a brief instance at towards the end of the match where Maluta hit a savate kick and went for the pin, the outcome was never in question and Ibushi gets the win with the Last Ride Powerbomb.
Winner: Kota Ibushi (Japan)
Of all tonight’s competitors Ibushi was the only one I’d seen compete before seeing a bunch of his DDT matches and some of his stuff from New Japan, so beside the weirdness of seeing Kota Ibushi compete in a WWE ring there wasn’t anything too incredible going on. He did his second turnbuckle moonsault thing and kicked a dude hard like he usually does.
Maluta on the other hand was kind of a surprise. He had some good looking offense and was able to hang with one of the best wrestlers (of any weightclass) wrestling today. He’s got the Anoa’i lineage going on too so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of him in the near future.
I thought this was a pretty decent card of wrestling and liked how different it felt from anything else WWE is doing. It was like watching something from another dimension. I mean how weird is it that announcers were namedropping Chris Hero and Low-Ki during a WWE event? Or that video packages had footage from what appeared to be a Chikara match? This entire thing was really well done. The pre-fight video packages were good, especially since, like a lot of people I’m sure, I’d never heard of a bunch of these guys. Kudos must be given the commentary team of Bryan and Ranallo did a fantastic job of calling the action, seeming genuinely surprised by big moves. I cannot wait to watch the rest of this.