So far, into the second round of action, the first ever WWE Cruiserweight Classic has been an absolute success, as it has been the talk of the wrestling world for many reasons. Some of these reasons include the overall presentation, as the show looks and is treated like a genuine sporting competition, and the matches so far, which have been incredible, with Ciampa vs. Gargano and Ibushi vs. Alexander the two stand outs.
All this has led to the introduction of the new and improved cruiserweight division on Monday Night RAW, and while nothing else has been announced, we have now found out that there will be a WWE Cruiserweight Championship introduced, presumably to the winner of the CWC (not confirmed). Although many questions still remain about the division, there is no doubting the talent available for WWE to choose from. Here are 15 performers from the WWE Cruiserweight Classic who the company should definitely consider bringing in.
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29 Ariya Daivari
While Ariya Daivari might be easily forgotten to most fans who saw his first round loss to Hoho Lun, he showed enough heelish charisma and in ring ability to warrant a developmental contract at least, where he can develop these characteristics to become one of the biggest heels in the RAW cruiserweight division. A relative of former WWE manager and performer Shawn Daivari, he certainly has the pedigree and the look to be a stand out performer in any division in WWE, its whether or not he can control his character and tell a story in the ring which could make him a transcendent star, as he could also be more than a valuable mid card act for the company. Don’t expect to see Ariya on your TV any time soon, but if the company are indeed serious about bringing in the best talent, it would be in their interest to develop this talent, and while that may take a year or two, expect to see him sometime in the future.
27 Gran Metalik
Recently, the WWE have trademarked the name Gran Metalik, which signals they have plans in store for the Mexican sensation as he continues his run through the CWC, which will involve an encounter with Akira Tozawa in the upcoming quarterfinals. The Lucha Libre veteran has impressed through 2 rounds of the CWC, even knocking off WWE veteran, and fan favorite in Full Sail Arena, Tajiri, who was expected to go to at least the quarterfinals. He has an incredibly unique look, and would stand out on the Monday Night RAW Cruiserweight division, as well as having some of the most unique and innovative offense in the tournament, WWE management should see this guy as a popular, merchandise seller, who can work different styles and put on a good match with anyone in the ring.
25 Tony Nese
The Premier Athlete was noted for his self belief coming into the tournament, with Daniel Bryan repeatedly saying he believes he should have been in WWE a long time ago, and through 2 matches, despite a loss to Brian Kendrick, he proved he could be a star for the company, cruiserweight division or higher. He ‘flies like a cruiserweight and hits like a heavyweight’, and that was on full display against Brian Kendrick, as he hit several jaw dropping aerial maneuvers, yet struck Brian throughout with incredibly intense kicks and punches, making him one of the most dangerous men seen in the tournament. The 11 year veteran has the experience, yet exudes youthful energy and confidence, and would be a perfect fit to start off the RAW cruiserweight division, as he could either be a great baby face or heel, and is both one of the strongest yet most athletic competitors that was seen in this entire tournament.
23 Mustafa Ali
When Mustafa Ali was announced for the tournament, less than a small minority of the crowd had heard the name, let alone seen the man work, but in round 1 with a match up against Lince Dorado, he showed why he deserved his spot, with an incredible, highlight filled loss. He impressed WWE officials so much in this match however, with moves like an inverted 450 splash and a springboard Spanish fly, that he got himself a match on the latest edition of NXT, in a losing effort against Hideo Itami however. WWE officials would be wise to have a heel type character like this in the RAW cruiserweight division, as stories still need to be told during these matches, and he would offer a nice opposition to popular baby face stars like Cedric Alexander, Neville and Kota Ibushi.
21 Fabian Aichner
When fans saw Aichner step into the ring with Jack Gallagher for their first round match, you would have been forgiven for thinking he was a heavyweight who should be in the ring with the likes of John Cena or Brock Lesnar, but the Italian strong man proved he belongs as he put on a fantastic match with the Brit, showing off insane athleticism and fantastic technical, chain wrestling. Just 2lb under the 205lb weight limit to be considered a cruiserweight, Aichner showed immense versatility, as he showed brute strength against the more popular Gallagher, but also pulled off a beautiful springboard moonsault and a missed frog splash which showed he was as athletic as anyone in the tournament. With the look and athleticism like that, there is no doubt that sometime in the future we should expect to see Aichner on Monday Night RAW.
19 Akira Tozawa
The strong style of Akira Tozawa was one of the talking points heading into the tournament, as he was seen as one of the top 4 favorites to win it all, and so far he hasn’t disappointed, with hard fought wins over both Kenneth Johnson and Jack Gallagher. From his stiff elbow strikes to the best German suplex in wrestling, Tozawa has looked incredibly lethal thus far, and is heading into a quarterfinal matchup with Gran Metalik, which should be as entertaining as it is brutal. Tozawa brings a Japanese strong style flavor to WWE, which would be smart to continue onto the RAW cruiserweight division, and with vast experience all over the world would be one of the main performers in the division, as he has an innate ability to work amazing matches with any kind of performer using any style.
17 Lince Dorado
When the competitors were introduced to Full Sail, in an opening ceremony of sorts, Lince Dorado got an immediately positive reaction, perhaps due to the name he has made for himself over the past decade in Japan, Mexico and North America, or the unique look he provides fans. Whatever the case, the crowd knew they were in for something special when Dorado steps between those ropes, and in just his first match he proved them right, with a back and forth match which showcased his diverse skill set. The Golden Lynx would be perfect on Monday Night RAW to add diversity to the roster, and while he may never be the backbone of the division like guys such as Neville or Kota Ibushi may be, he would be a valuable asset none the less, who could wow the audience on a weekly basis and provide good depth to the division.
15 Jack Gallagher
Though some performers have increased their stock in the wrestling world through 2 rounds of the CWC, none opened more eyes than the ‘extraordinary gentleman’, Jack Gallagher, who unfortunately fell to Akira Tozawa in round 2. Without the name recognition of British stars like Marty Scurll, Zack Sabre Jr. or Will Ospreay, many fans weren’t aware of the mans talents, but immediately recognized him as something different due to his appearance. All that changed in 2 classic matches, where he showcased amazing showmanship, technical abilities as well as some exciting exchanges that you have come to expect from cruiserweights. The Brit won over the Full Sail crowd, and brings something completely different to others like Rich Swann or Neville, and with some work on promo ability, would be a major baby face in the RAW cruiserweight division, if he is given the opportunity to flesh out his character further.
13 Brian Kendrick
The Brian Kendrick has been all around the world since his debut (against Daniel Bryan in 1999, if he didn’t tell you enough during the CWC), and has been a main stay on both WWE and TNA, improving and adapting even at the age of 36. He has developed from a young, cocky high flier, into one of the more believable and fascinating characters in the CWC, becoming a crafty veteran who knew how to win matches at all costs, which would be perfect for the Cruiserweight division as he could give a much needed diversity to it. At the age of 36, Kendrick would bring a fantastic wealth of experience, and give the division the necessary star power to make it a phenomenal part of Monday Night RAW, and on top of that can still go in the ring with a fantastic ability to tell a story.
Another crowd favorite, Tajiri came to prominence during the late part of the Attitude Era, and was a huge part of the WWE’s light heavyweight division, as well as being a Hardcore and Tag Team Champion throughout his career. The Japanese Buzzsaw, despite being 46 years of age can still go in the ring, which he proved in 2 matches during the CWC with Damian Slater and Gran Metalik, and would definitely bring star power to the division, which is much needed in its infancy for success. While the long term future of the Cruiserweight division wouldn’t involve Tajiri, the Japanese star has stated that he has 2 more years in him, and in that time he could no doubt have some fantastic matches, as well as giving younger stars valuable experience heading into the future.
9 Johnny Gargano
‘Johnny Wrestling’ is already a fan favorite in NXT, due to his extensive independent experience and his amazing in ring style, and while he may be the future of NXT, Triple H recently revealed he wants some cruiserweights to work both RAW and NXT, opening the door for stars like Gargano who are used to working multiple shows a week. While most casual NXT fans who didn’t know of his indy work haven’t seen the full ability of the popular star, as he has been in a tag team with Tomasso Ciampa, his talents were on full display in round 1 of the CWC with his tag team partner, as they put on a hard hitting, technical affair which was the talk of the wrestling world. Whether he appears on RAW now or continues a rise through NXT which will culminate with a main roster call up, Gargano is one who needs to be considered the future of the cruiserweight division.
7 Cedric Alexander
Cedric Alexander was once dubbed the ‘future of ROH’ by none other than Kevin Steen, but in this past 4 years there, he was never used correctly, and eventually left the company. Then he made his way into the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, and after an impressive showing in round 1 where he started to win over the Full Sail fans, he had a star making performance in round 2 against tournament favorite Kota Ibushi. This performance won over the crowd like nobody could have expected, and led to a post match standing ovation, “please sign Cedric” chant, and was punctuated with an appearance from Triple H, who gave a thumbs up to agree with the crowds assessment of the Charlotte native. For the RAW cruiserweight division to succeed, they need performers who will week after week give the crowd something to get invested in and to drop their jaws, and Alexander would be the perfect candidate.
5 Rich Swann
Rich Swann is the only competitor in the CWC who actively trains at the Performance Center, and fans who didn’t know him already, he sure put on a show in his short 4 minute first round bout. For those who haven’t seen Swann, he is quite possibly the most naturally gifted athlete in wrestling, with the ability to make moves like a standing ‘rana from the top rope or a standing 450 splash look easy (which, even though I’ve never tried one can tell you is not easy). Swann may have a future in NXT, especially with stars like Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura leaving for the main roster (reportedly) in the near future, but there is no doubting he could become the star of the WWE Cruiserweight division, as not only is he the best high flier in WWE, he is one of the most charismatic and entertaining too.
3 Zack Sabre Jr.
The British technical wizard is a perfect example of the differing styles that cruiserweight wrestling now has, as he can trade holds with the best of them, and while this may not pop the crowd, especially when against an opponent of similar taste, if he goes up against an agile opponent he will absolutely tear the house down with ring psychology, story telling and pure wrestling skill. Sabre has been honing his craft all around the world for the last decade, and although he didn’t pull out all the tricks in his opening round match, fans will come to love him when he brings out his more exciting moves, escapes and exchanges. While the rumor has been that Sabre wasn’t committing to WWE at this time, it is vital that either now or early 2017 they ink a technical master like Sabre to keep the cruiserweight matches from becoming mindless flips and high flying acrobatics.
1 Kota Ibushi
Many speculated that Kota Ibushi would never work for WWE, as he had claimed he wanted to stay a free lance competitor with ‘unfinished business’ in Japan, but as of this writing, Ibushi has had 2 fantastic matches in the CWC, signed a WWE contract and made a debut appearance on NXT. He was a favorite heading into the tournament, and rightfully so as he is one of the best competitors on the planet (just ask Daniel Bryan on commentary), and he should be picked to spear head the Cruiserweight division when it comes to RAW in the following months. The Golden Star has connected with the NXT Universe, and if he is given an opportunity to showcase his talents on Monday Night Raw with the likes of Neville and Sami Zayn, he could very well become one of the most important cruiserweights in the history of the WWE.
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