The inaugural Cruiserweight Classic is over, with a five-star, two-hour live finale that was full of surprises – and stellar matches.
Triple H opens the show by narrating a video package that would have been done by Corey Graves had this been a normal episode. Four competitors, four nations, and one prize – a really phallic-looking trophy!
Mauro Ranallo does his best to squeeze in Japanese wrestling references from the start – Satoru Sayama to name just one – and we see the final set of brackets, as our semi-finals feature Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins!
Another video package chock-full of CWC highlights – personally, almost all of this entire tournament has been a highlight for me.
Cruiserweight Classic Semi-Final: Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre got a few boos on his entrance, which eventually gave way to a more even crowd. Metalik blasts Sabre with a dropkick, then a tope con hilo straight out of the gate, as Sabre got rocked from the bell. A springboard senton gets a near-fall for the Mexican, before Sabre countered another springboard with a European uppercut.
Sabre twists the neck of Metalik between his feet, before he cranks Metalik with a grounded cravat and then a raised headscissors. That’s turned into a single-leg crab whilst the headscissors were on, and Metalik crawls to the ropes to force a break.
Metalik drops Sabre with some flying headscissors, then a dropkick, before Sabre blasts the Mexican with some more uppercuts, only for a kick from Sabre to get blocked and turned into a modified abdominal stretch. Sabre takes a stiff slap into the ropes, before Metalik just about pulls off a handspring elbow and springboards off the rope into a move that looked like a Dragon Sleeper mixed with a Stump Puller.
Sabre grinds his elbow into Metalik, then steps forward into a double armbar, which Metalik flips out of, before taking a big boot from Sabre. Another European uppercut follows, but Metalik gets a boot of his own, then a Slingblade and a running shooting star press for a near-fall. A La Magistral cradle gets reversed back and forth for some near falls, before Metalik locks Sabre in an Octopus hold, and then rolls him into a sunset flip pin for another two-count.
Sabre gets a guillotine from a tiltawhirl, but Metalik slips out and turns it into a Boston crab, and then rolls through some more for another pinfall attempt. Metalik levels Sabre with a lariat, then a superkick, before a springboard back elbow gets him a near-fall.
A rope-walk from Metalik is met with an European uppercut from Sabre, then a PK for a near-fall. From their knees, the pairs traded forearms, then headbutts, which gets Sabre a near-fall after Metalik slumped to his back. Metalik reverses out of a half nelson slam, but he gets caught in an Octopus from Sabre, and finally slumps into the ropes to break the hold.
Sabre rocks Metalik with some forearms, before he places him on the top rope, where Sabre locks in a cravat for some reason. He relinquishes the hold and tries for a superplex, but Metalik crotches him and follows up with a hurricanrana off the top rope! A springboard from Metalik is caught as Sabre locks in a triangle, but Metalik jack-knives over into a pin for a near-fall! Out of nowhere, Metalik picks up Sabre and lands the Metalik Driver for the win! A frenetic match from start to finish, maybe a touch sloppy, but a fantastic advert for this style of wrestling. ****¼
Zack Sabre Jr. looked suitably dejected in defeat, as William Regal gives Metalik an absolutely massive finalist medal. We have a translator in the ring for Metalik as Andrea D’Marco gets the scoop: surprise surprise, Metalik wants to win! The translator only translated questions, not the answers for some reason, so we don’t know for sure if Metalik wants to trade in that XL medal for a trophy.
Mauro and Daniel plug the arrival of the cruiserweights to Raw, and Bryan looks dejected as hell that “his show” isn’t getting them. A heavily-filtered video is shown to plug the cruiserweights.
Charlie Caruso’s backstage with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa… or #DIY as they’re known. Only Gargano is wearing the “team shirt”, but will they pull the trigger on the heel turn tonight?
Cruiserweight Classic Semi-Final: Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins
Like Sabre before him, Perkins gets some healthy booing from this pro-Kota crowd.
A much more measured start here, as Ibushi takes Perkins into the ropes from the bell, before he tries for a cheapshot from the break. Perkins takes down Ibushi, and tries for a knee-bar early on before Kota makes a quick escape. Ibushi works a wristlock, but it’s switched into a headscissor takedown from Perkins for a near-fall, before a flying kick to the chest takes down TJP.
Perkins hangs himself into the ropes, but ends up taking a missile dropkick to the outside as his plan to avoid a dive went awry. Ibushi takes a nasty spill to the floor via the turnbuckles as Perkins cut off the Golden Triangle DDT, and he barely breaks the ten-count back into the ring. A snapmare and a dropkick gets Perkins a near-fall, but Kota replies with a kick, before a second one is countered with a Dragon Screw.
Perkins grabs a heel hold, then works it into a Sugar hold, but Ibushi again works free and takes down TJP with a dropkick. A hurricanrana sends Perkins to the outside, and Ibushi finally follows up with the Golden Triangle Moonsault from the top rope to the floor. Back inside, a missile dropkick connects to the head of Perkins for a near-fall, before an Ibushi powerslam ends with him trying for a moonsault and meeting the knees of Perkins, who immediately goes for another kneebar, forcing Kota to the ropes.
Ibushi takes a kick to the face, but responds quickly with a snap bridging German suplex for a near-fall. More kicks from Ibushi send Perkins into the ropes, where he’s left prone for a flurry of kicks to the chest as the referee is forced to separate the pair. From the apron, Ibushi sets up for a deadlift German suplex from the outside in, but Perkins grabs onto the ropes and forces a break.
An inside-out dropkick knocks Ibushi loopy, but he counters with an overhead kick as Perkins was on the top rope, before a Golden Star powerbomb is turned into a DDT, as Perkins lands a double-knee gutbuster for a near-fall. Perkins catches a Pele kick and turns Ibushi into the knee-bar in the middle of the ring, but Kota rolls out as the pair level each other with punches and kicks, before the Golden Star Powerbomb gets yet another near-fall!
Ibushi sets up Perkins as he goes up top, but a Phoenix Splash misses, and Perkins crawls over to Kota… before laying into him with more forearms. They’re eagerly returned, before a missed kick from Kota is turned into a fireman’s carry with an overhead kick. Perkins grabs another knee bar, but Ibushi falls into the middle of the ring as he tries to escape, and Perkins yanks back with a crossface on top of the kneebar, and that forces a submission! A completely different style of match to the opener, but my word, TJ Perkins put on the performance of a lifetime here – this is going up there with the best matches of this year. ****½
Well, we’re an hour into the finals, and we’re going to need some considerable down-time matches to get the crowd calmed down for the finale!
William Regal gives Perkins a bloody great big medal, and he gets some boos during his post-match promo with Charlie Caruso. Curiously, that medal has “2016 Finalist” on there… sewing the seeds for next year, perhaps?
Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar are backstage with Andrea D’Marco… and Bryan Alvarez is hating this.
Sasha Banks is shown in the crowd, alongside Kalisto, who’s doing his Lucha Thing. Kofi Kingston and Jack Gallagher are there too! Ditto Bayley, who’s back at Full Sail.
Noam Dar & Cedric Alexander vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa)
Cedric gets the “welcome back” chants, whilst Gargano and Ciampa are forced to share Johnny’s titantron. More seeds for the future!
Alexander rolls over Ciampa to begin with, then flips over his back, and takes him down with a headscissor takedown, before a dropkick knocks Tommaso to the outside. Gargano tags in, as does Noam Dar, who grabs a wristlock only to be knocked down with a palm strike. Dar tries for the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar, but instead rolls up Gargano as they go back and forth for pinfall attempts.
A knee to the jaw of Dar allows Gargano to tag back out, and in comes Alexander to boot Gargano off the apron. Alexander hits a tope con hilo to the floor, then slingshots back in with a DDT before Ciampa dropkicks him in the head as he went for a handspring off the ropes.
Gargano tags back in to clean house, and sends Alexander onto the apron with an overhead belly to belly. Ciampa grabs Dar in an electric chair position for a superkick from Gargano, who slingshots into the ring with a spear on Alexander for a near-fall as the match had a frenetic spell.
Alexander sends Gargano flying before dragging him down for a Michinoku driver, before Ciampa is forced to kick out from a Dar roll-up. A springboard lariat from Alexander takes down Ciampa, as everyone trades high impact moves, ending with a lariat from Ciampa that turns Cedric inside out. Dar and Gargano trade kicks, before a rolling forearm knocks Dar.
Dar surprises Gargano with an ankle lock, but Ciampa runs in to break up the hold, as Gargano tags back out – selling the right leg in the process. Ciampa sets up Dar for a superplex, but instead tries for an Air Raid Crash off the top rope. Dar escape, and sets up Ciampa for a Cheeky Nando’s dropkick from Alexander, who followed up with a brainbuster for a near-fall – all after Dar had taken out Gargano with a tope.
Ciampa kicks out after a spinning heel kick from Cedric, before superkicks from Gargano and Ciampa take down both of their opponents. Gargano lawn-darts Dar into the turnbuckles, as DIY levels him with a double-team superkick for the win. And that was meant to be a cool-down match?! How!? We’re three-for-three on outstanding graps tonight. ****
William Regal’s brought on with Mauro and Daniel to go over the work that went into bringing the Cruiserweight Classic to life, as Mauro positively beamed at Regal’s Sammy Lee reference. Corey Graves tags in to give his two cents now he’s been released from the 3D Studio…
They replay highlights from the two semi-finals – set to the Raw theme music – and now it’s time!
Triple H comes out after the introductions for the finals, and reminds us that we’re only looking for “the one” best cruiserweight in the world. The winner’s going to get the trophy, and the brand new Cruiserweight title belt… which is purple?!
Cruiserweight Classic Final and WWE Cruiserweight Championship: TJ Perkins vs. Gran Metalik
Both men start in search of an early pin-fall attempt, and get one-counts. A knuckle-lock forces Perkins to the mat for a couple of two-counts, before he uses headscissors to take down Metalik.
Metalik reverses the headscissors, and slaps away at Perkins’ back, who then counters with a reverse pendulum submission, and then rolls him up for a near-fall. A headlock takedown keeps the advantage with Perkins, who switches a crucifix pin into a drop toehold and a bridging Indian Deathlock. Metalik catches Perkins with a dropkick on the apron, and rolls back into the ring for a tope suicida as he crashed head-first into Perkins, then the floor.
A rope-walk springboard senton gets Metalik a near-fall, as the Mexican catches Perkins in a surfboard stretch near the corner of the ring, but Perkins shuffles towards the ropes and forces the break. Perkins pulls of a headscissors out of a headstand in the corner, before another set of headscissors takes Metalik flying to the outside.
Perkins connects with a slingshot senton, again for a near-fall, before an armbar forces Metalik into a rope break. A hammerlock met with a rear chinlock keeps Metalik down, as Perkins follows with a suplex, before Metalik flips out of a back suplex. Again, Perkins gets knocked off the apron with a flying headscissors as Metalik flew over the top rope to the floor… that was insane! As was the follow-up tope con hilo as Metalik did not get caught at all, as he crashed and burned to the mats.
Metalik flies in with a springboard elbow for a near-fall, before he counters an irish whip into the corner by leaping up and walking across the ropes, but a running shooting star press misses as Perkins grabs a kneebar. A rope break saves Metalik, as Perkins chops away at the legs of the Mexican, who really fires back with an overhand chop to TJ’s chest.
A spinning back kick from Perkins is returned as Metalik hits a superkick, only for a low dropkick to the knee to send him crashing to the canvas. Another superkick in the corner dazes Perkins, but he’s able to avoid the Metalik Driver, as Metalik counters a Fireman’s carry into a DDT for a near-fall.
Perkins hits a double-knee gutbuster after Metalik missed a top rope moonsault, then trapped Metalik in a knee-bar after a near-fall. Metalik gets dragged into the middle of the ring as he’d gotten close to the ropes, but he shocks Perkins with a roll-up for a near-fall. This is getting great!
Another attempt at the Metalik Driver’s successful, but the Mexican’s tweaked his knee, and takes a while to make the cover, allowing Perkins to kick out at two. Perkins is dropped by another overhand chop, as his chest tries to match the purple of the new Cruiserweight title belt, but Perkins is still able to counter a Metalik driver.
Perkins takes Metalik into the ropes and lands an inside-out dropkick, before Metalik replies with a Pele kick on the top rope. Metalik climbs the turnbuckles, and sets up for an avalanche Metalik Driver… Perkins tries to elbow out, but he drops down and catches Metalik in the knee-bar… and that’s it! Gran Metalik taps! TJ Perkins and his bloody chest wins the trophy and the title! A phenomenal way to cap off the entire tournament! ****½
TJ Perkins is your first “new” Cruiserweight champion… William Regal and Triple H pose in the ring with TJ, the title and the trophy, as we see Gran Metalik stumble to the back.
Hey, didn’t TNA have this guy? And wasted him?!
Perkins’ post-match interview tells us about his necklace having the key to the house he was evicted from, and how he keeps that as a memory of a part of his life that he never wants to go back to.
What a night – four matches, and all of them at the top end of the scale when it comes to the subjective world of match ratings. This more than lived up to the hype. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best WWE-labelled show of the year, with the only argument being the fact that there was only four matches on this card.
So, Raw, now you have the cruiserweights, and a champion. DON’T MESS THIS UP.
- Reproduced from BackBodyDrop.com, where a day of work was used to good effect to watch this Cruiserweight Classic final live!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hamilton has been a wrestling fan since 1992, and when he’s not watching WWE, New Japan or his latest wrestling love, PROGRESS, he’s usually suffering through Sunderland AFC and the New York Jets. He’s got a couple of books out on Amazon – “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship” and “Gone Too Soon”, and can be reached via his website, BackBodyDrop.com, or on Twitter @theianhamilton