By Jordi Steel
After what was a brilliant inaugural year for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, it is no surprise that many fans are eagerly awaiting their arrival on the main roster and in NXT. But for those who weren’t able to watch the CWC, here is a list of profiles of the currently announced competitors in the RAW Cruiserweight Division.
I feel I have a strange relationship with TJ Perkins. I don’t personally know him, but when I first started watching wrestling, back in 2009, I actually didn’t start by watching WWE. I, in fact, found my love of wrestling to be conjured up by TNA iMPACT! (and I hear all of your audible gasps, but I was young and only thought that Sky was for football and Challenge was the “cool” channel – it did have Takishi’s Castle after all). And it just so happened that my favourite wrestler (as at this time I didn’t have a clue who these guys were, and I hadn’t been able to see AJ Styles do his best work yet, I was purely going off who looked the coolest) was Suicide. So when I found out years later that Perkins had once portrayed The Dark Saviour, I started to watch his indie matches, and quickly fell in love with his wrestling style. It is very much reflective of our youth’s society. We are sometimes respectful to our elders and betters, but most of the time we are cheeky, disobedient and just looking to have a good time, and I feel that’s what TJP’s wrestling style encapsulates. The man dabs for Christ’s sake. He is very colourful and versatile in his high-flying techniques and is capable of pulling off big stunts that make the crowd chant “HOLY S**T!”.
Recommended Match: TJ Perkins v Kota Ibushi (CWC Cruiserweight Classic Semi-Final)
Ibushi, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others , is one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers today and off all time. It’s a pity that he didn’t sign with WWE for a full-time contract, because there is a reason (that is quite visible when watching him compete) that he put on almost five-star matches in every round of the CWC, and his match against TJ Perkins was no exception. It was very hard to tell who was going to win this match (or at least it would have been if people hadn’t known that Ibushi hadn’t signed with WWE), you had Perkins: the young, up-and-coming, underdog versus Ibushi: The experienced legend who has enough kicking power to kick down a building. Luckily Perkins came out on top and manged to win the entire tournament and become the new Cruiserweight Champion.
(Preview: To watch the full match you’ll have to get the WWE Network)
Alexander worked in ROH from 2011 to 2016. I managed to catch the end of his run in ROH, where I was still surprised to see him go. Every week he was on, he put on amazing matches, and then suddenly after another great match the crowd started to chant “Thank you Cedric!” However, when I heard that he’d be competing in the CWC, it all made sense and I was happy that I’d see him competing in the big leagues. Since coming to the WWE he has made everyone fall in love with his athletic abilities and death-defying manoeuvres. Alexander has possibly the brightest future ahead of him, as he has the most potential to be a future star. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him become the next Cruiserweight Champion. Triple H loves him.
Recommended match: Cedric Alexander v Kota Ibushi (WWE Cruiserweight Classic)
Yes, another Ibushi match. It is pretty easy to sell this match to an Alexander fan. It is some of his finest wrestling work, and even though he didn’t win, he was brilliant in the match with his daredevil skills, and working with Ibushi won’t have been a boring task. He even managed to get the crowd chanting “Please Sign Cedric!” This resulted in Triple H coming out and shaking his hand in what turned out to be a beautifully improvised gesture by Helmsley. It is also Dave Meltzer’s highest-rated Alexander match with 4½ stars.
Let’s face it. Noam Dar is Scottish, so of course he is going to be one of my favourites in the entire division. Noam Dar is one of the youngest wrestlers in WWE right now, at age 23, only starting wrestling at age 15. But though he may be young, he is definitely not inexperienced. He has wrestled, and been a top star, for many of Britain’s top wrestling promotions, including ICW, PROGRESS, RevPro, Dragon Gate UK, WCPW (for a short while), and has even been featured in ROH’s UK shows. He also appeared on season 2 of TNA British Bootcamp and made it to the final six, but unfortunately (or luckily depending on how you look at it), he did not win: The winner being Mark Andrews (whoever that is). Dar also toured with TNA for their UK shows, but then left to continue his career in the Indies. He managed to find himself in What Culture Pro Wrestling, where he was an instant phenomenon and favourite among the crowd. And I managed to get a picture with him. Unfortunately (or, once again, luckily depending on how you look at it), Dar was soon after that signed to WWE for the Cruiserweight Classic, making it to the Quarterfinals (Round 3), but losing his match against Zack Sabre Jr.
Recommended match: Noam Dar v Jay Lethal for the ROH World Championship (WCPW: Built To Destroy)
I had the “honour” (no pun intended) to be able to see this match live in person. It was amazing. Dar proved that he was able to go toe to toe, hold for hold, kick for kick, with possible on the greatest wrestlers in the current day independents, Jay Lethal. Even though it was kind of obvious that Dar wasn’t going to win as this wasn’t a title defence on an ROH Show, they still managed to keep that atmosphere of “He could do it” throughout the entire match.
From what I have seen from Jack Gallagher, he is brilliant. The man wrestles with a gentlemanly style and an old-fashioned gimmick that would put the Vaudevillians to shame. Gallagher just has that flamboyance and charisma to be an amazingly talented and just all-around likeable character. He is a technical wrestler, so many of his wrestling holds would be complicated submissions anyway, but the way he uses different parts of the body to use fantastically complicated holds, and how he can get out of many situations while then fluently locking in his own holds, shows that he has a real talent. He very much contrasts with the rest of cruiserweights: less flippy shit, more I’m-gonna-tear-you’re-arm-of-your-elbow. The man definitely has a bright future, he was even trending on Twitter after his match with Fabien Aichner in the first round Cruiserweight Classic Match, and as Daniel Bryan asked “Is it possible for me to fall in love with a man by watching him on television”, and as always with Bryan the answer was “YES”.
He was very much one of my favourites to win the CWC (my main being Tommaso Ciampia – the man could slap the horn of a rhino – as well as Brian Kendrick – he just got to be man *sobs*), and his act of playing with is opponents and always staying on top physically and psychologically made me respect him not even half way through his first match with Aichner (which was also the first match I had seen him in).
Recommended Match: Jack Gallagher v Pete Dunne (WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match)
I’ve talked about Gallagher’s skill for complicated manoeuvres in this piece, and how he generally plays with his opponents and it is very evident in his match against “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne at PROGRESS Wrestling in their WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match
Can you handle this? I don’t think you can. Rich Swann is a supernova of charisma and personality, that makes him likable and loveable, and an instant favourite among the kids and even hardcore wrestling fans such as I. His wacky antics (though not verging into just plain stupid territory, *cough* R-Truth *cough*) and his dancing skills always make for a good laugh and a good show. But don’t be fooled, this man (who, in the independents, had “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie as his theme song), is not just dancing and laughing, he can wrestle, and he’s damn good at it. Teaming with Ricochet (the man who has made international headlines with his performance against Will Ospreay at the 2016 Best of the Super Jrs tournament for NJPW), as a continuously impressive and humorous tag team in promotions such as RevPro and PWG. Rich Swann has proved that he can win serious matches, while still having fun.
Recommended Match: Rich Swann & Ricochet Vs. Will Ospreay & Paul Robinson (RPW High Stakes 2014)
With four big names like these, what other reason do you need to watch it? Ricochet and Will Ospreay have already put on great matches, add in Rich Swann and Paul Robinson, and you have an elite tag team match. Out of all the matches in this article, this is probably the best cruiserweight action here. This proves that Swann has a bright future in the cruiserweight division.
From what I’ve seen from Nese so far on WWE Television, he seems like he’ll possibly be the main heel in the division. So far, he has teamed with Drew Gulak (who isn’t officially part of the roster, WWE management want him in more of a trainer role, coming in every so often to act as enhancement talent for the main guys), as a heel team, and they have lost every match. If I was to describe Tony Nese, you would think I’m talking about Neville as they are almost the same. They are both weirdly built; they are skinny, but with massive chests and arms, and they can pull off amazing, gravity-defying moves. Honestly, if you had Nese v Neville, it would get confusing. They both have longish hair and beards. However, Nese has proven to have potential as a future main heel (in the cruiserweight division and beyond) and a future Cruiserweight champion. His 450 Splash almost always seems impossible for him to pull off due to his size, but he always successfully does it, and it looks awesome.
Recommended Match: Tony Nese v Brian Kendrick (WWE Cruiserweight Classic Match)
In this match, Nese looked like he could possibly end Kendrick’s redemption story, before it even really kicked-off. He really had to pull off his best moves here, and was able to look like a great heel, constantly fighting rough and aggressively. If this is a sign of anything to come, then the Cruiserweight division better watch out.
Tozawa is a force to be reckoned with. If you think Brock Lesnar’s German Suplexes are devastating, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Coming from Japan, this man’s size, speed and moveset, make him one of the most dangerous competitors in this division. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was pushed to be a top contender in NXT, and debuted on the main roster to a loud roar of highly anticipated fans, and left the arena to the sounds of screams which he manages to spread throughout the crowd like a virus (If you want to know what I mean, just watch his matches in the CWC).
Recommended Match: Akira Tozawa & Shingo Takagi Vs. Eita & T-Hawk (Dragon Gate 15th Anniversary Kobe)
Like many of Tozawa’s matches, this is hard-hitting, fast-paced, and a generally enjoyable showdown between two great up-and-coming tag teams in Dragon Gate. Tozawa and Takagi (known as Monster Express) were a perfect mixture of strength and power, and speed and charisma, and were the top team for a while.
He came second in the CWC, and looked very much capable of winning it, though Spanish being the only language he speaks could have something to do with the final decision (I’m just saying). He has the potential to be the next big Luchador in WWE, he has Sin Cara and Kalisto to compete with (not the most difficult task then). With an earworm catching theme song, and an eagle-soaring moveset, Gran Metalik is most likely to stand out amongst the fellow competitors with the most potential to rise up into the mid-card scene, or even do well on SmackDown Live.
Recommended Match: Mascara Dorada Vs. Kenny Omega (NJPW Invasion Attack 2015)
In WWE he will be performing as Gran Metallic, but since 2005 this Luchador legend has been performing as Mascara Dorada (Golden Mask). You just have to look at this matches title to know how good it’ll be. Omega has been making headlines around wrestling sites for years now, as he quickly rises to the top of New Japan, after winning the 2016 G1 Climax, and becoming the first ever Gaijin (Foreigner) to do so. Put his skill against Metalik’s and we have nothing but wrestling gold on our hands. You’ll have to scour the internet to find it yourself, though that should be simple enough as it was only last year. And while you’re at it just watch the rest of Invasion Attack 2015 (it’s awesome, much like everything New Japan and it included AJ Styles v Kota Ibushi for the NJPW World Heavyweight Championship).
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHO ARE YOU MOST LIKELY LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING? COMMENT DOWN BELOW OR TWEET US AT @SteelChairMag OR @Giantjordisteel USING THE HASHTAG #Cruiserweight TO GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS