When Triple H and the WWE announced they were going to be bringing the top 32 cruiserweights from around the world together for one tournament, many fans didn’t believe they would be getting top names, and it would be way too ‘WWE style’ to be enjoyable, but after the finals last night which saw TJ Perkins defeat Gran Metalik to become the very first winner and WWE Cruiserweight Champion, all those doubts were firmly put to bed. From the amazing competitors we got to see for the first time like Jack Gallagher or Fabian Aichner, to indy stand outs like Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi, to NXT fan favorites like Johnny Gargano and Rich Swann, this tournament catered to everything a hardcore wrestling fan could want, and makes the impending arrival of cruiserweights on RAW even more exciting.
With all the intrigue and hype around the cruiserweights appearing on RAW and how this tournament will affect change in WWE, here are my top 16 takeaways from the 2016 and first ever WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
17 Brian Kendrick And Tajiri Still Have It
Though neither made it to the final 4 (and rightfully so), both WWE veterans Brian Kendrick and Tajiri proved they haven’t lost much in their time away from WWE, with fans becoming so enamored with Kendricks story that it led to the most emotional moment of the tournament where he embraced best friend Daniel Bryan following his loss. I highly doubt that we will see either with a big spot on Monday Night RAW in the near future, but if rumors are correct that Smackdown may be seeing cruiserweight action if the RAW division sees some success, it would be silly of the company not to bring in two veterans to lead the charge and teach the younger guys how to perform on a grand stage and carry themselves as stars.
16 WWE Needs To Use CWC-Like Video Packages
Throughout WWE’s history, the one consistent thing that has always been brilliant is their video editing team, as the pre match video packages have always been amazing, and that was no different during the CWC. This was vital as we had to care about these performers that we didn’t know about for the most part, and every single package that introduced us to these performers gave us an emotional connection straight off the bat, and that’s something WWE’s main roster marketing team should learn from. With the disastrous Roman Reigns attempt at making him a baby face, and several other performers that WWE can’t manage to get over like Apollo Crews, maybe an attempt at this kind of video package to give us an insight into the past and motivations of these competitors could help fans connect with them.
15 Kota Ibushi Is Arguably The Best Wrestler Alive
Despite other wrestlers like Jack Gallagher and Cedric Alexander having stood out, star making performances, no performer throughout was more incredibly consistent than the Golden Star, Kota Ibushi, who solidified his place as quite possibly the best performer in the entire world, regardless of weight class. He is one of the stiffest strikers in the world, and has a presence around him whenever he appears, and he showed flashes of dominance that solidify him as a top 10 worker in the world. Whether Ibushi plans to stay on with WWE (though that looks unlikely at this point), return to New Japan or continue around the world as a free lancer performer, it is arguable that there is no more valuable wrestler in the entire world of pro wrestling than the Golden Star.
14 These Cruiserweights Hit Really, REALLY Hard
Coming into the tournament with several of the hardest strikers in the game like Kota Ibushi and Akira Tozawa, fans feared their stiff style would be toned down, but not only was it not toned down, many of the other performers like Tomasso Ciampa, Drew Gulak and Zack Sabre Jr. all showed off just how stiff the cruiserweights can be. From stiff forearm, kick or slap exchanges, the cruiserweights showed off strong style, and one of the most iconic shots from the entire tournament was the spit flying from Johnny Gargano’s mouth after being elbowed by Ciampa, proving that this tournament isn’t just high flying and high spots, that these so called ‘smaller guys’ can present a diverse, hard hitting style and make it entertaining.
13 Stars Could Transcend The Cruiserweight Division On RAW
While the situation regarding the cruiserweights on RAW is fairly unknown at this point, it is a guarantee that some of the already announced participants are talented enough to transcend the division, and could go on to further success in WWE. Philosophies are changing in WWE, with more of a focus on someone’s in ring ability, but the character work, promo ability and marketability are still vital to management, but there is a few stars who possess all that, and an ability to work with bigger performers. Cedric Alexander, Jack Gallagher, Johnny Gargano and TJ Perkins are all examples of this, and with time performing in front of larger crowds, they will hopefully get the opportunity to prove that they are more than just cruiserweights.
12 Cruiserweight Wrestling Isn’t All About High Flying & Spot Fests
As mentioned before, the wrestling on display in this tournament was about much more than the high spots and OMG moments, despite several of these making their way into amazing matches throughout. What we got instead of this was constant matches that told stories and built their way up to climactic finishes, rather than just non stop high spots being put in matches for no reason, and this allowed the fans to become more engaged and connected to the matches and the performers in the matches. This was something that the commentary team were eager to put over throughout the 10 week journey, as styles were the main focus of Daniel Bryan’s commentary, and how the mix of flying vs. technical or lucha libre vs. strong style etc. would lend itself to success.
10 The Cruiserweights Should Be On Smackdown With Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo On Commentary
Ever since the brand split, Smackdown has been the more wrestling focused show, and in my opinion, the much better show, which makes it a little disappointing that the cruiserweights who focus on wrestling are stuck on the ‘sports entertainment’ based show, which is losing viewers week by week. Smackdown also has the horrible JBL and David Otunga on commentary, and both injustices should be rectified, as this division would be much more suited to Smackdown with the CWC commentary team behind the desk, which would also give the shows a more unique, distinctive feel. Hopefully RAW doesn’t mess with the success of the CWC too much, as the performers are so talented that there is enough potential for them to become the highlight of the 3 hour long show.
9 The CWC Alone Was Worth $9.99
With the sheer amount of content on the WWE Network, $9.99 is a bargain, given that you have access to every PPV ever put on by WWE, WCW and ECW, every live PPV in 2016 and beyond, and the developmental brand NXT and their Takeover specials, making it too good not to have for any wrestling fan. The Cruiserweight Classic however is worth $9.99 by itself, as the 10 week stretch that culminated last night was one of the most diverse and exciting tournaments in wrestling history, and will no doubt be looked back upon in decades to come as a monumental event for WWE. I may enjoy the PPVs and TakeOver specials which the Network allows me to view once (or now twice) a month, but if I was asked to pay $9.99 alone for the Cruiserweight Classic each and every year, I would pay it in a heart beat.
8 The Tournament Was Incredibly Emotional
Throughout the tournament, whether it be from the emotional video packages each star received, or the stories that were told in the ring, fans were constantly on their feet with tears in their eyes, as we didn’t want to see any of these amazing competitors go home. Whether it be Cedric Alexander’s emotional farewell (although it looked like he was signed with the chants of ‘please sign Cedric’), or Brian Kendrick’s heart breaking end to his comeback story, fans were emotionally attached to every performer who gave it their all in the tournament. Not only the fans, but the performers themselves genuinely sold the heart break of being ousted from the tournament, which, as a fan makes you see how well this entire thing was put together, and how well the competitors fit in this format.
7 The Indies Are Deep With Cruiserweight Talent
When you think of some of the big names that WWE reeled in for this tournament (Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander, Zack Sabre Jr.), it was hard not to be excited, and they definitely delivered, but what is more exciting is what is still yet to come. When you look at the independent scene and the performers in this weight class that have still yet to be used, you can’t help but get giddy with excitement and anticipation. Will Ospreay, Ricochet, Marty Scurll, Jay Lethal and Fenix are just a handful of names who are still wrestling around the world who no doubt have to be on WWE’s radar for the sequel next year, as well as exciting WWE veterans like John Morrison and PJ Black, there is no doubting that CWC #2 could be just as good.
6 TJ Perkins Was The Perfect Winner
Coming into the tournament, the undoubted favorites were Johnny Gargano, Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi, and it was a major shock when the final came down to TJ Perkins and Gran Metalik. When the shock of his victory wore off, I realized that there was no better choice to win the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic than TJP. Perkins is an 18 year veteran, has a good look, can cut a great, emotional promo and possesses an amazing mix of styles, making him perfect to head up the new cruiserweight division on Monday Night RAW. No matter what was said about the high flying exploits and emotional moments in the rest of the tournament, TJP was the most consistently brilliant performer, who put on brilliant matches against all his opponents, and will no doubt continue to improve under the bright lights of RAW.
5 WWE Nailed The Presentation of This Tournament
It’s 2016 and everyone in the world knows wrestling is scripted entertainment, yet WWE did an amazing job throughout the 10 weeks of making this tournament feel as real as possible, with official weigh ins, sponsors on the ring canvas and a handshake before each match, it’s safe to say that true wrestling fans couldn’t have asked for more from the presentation. From everything mentioned before, the authenticity of the commentary and the way the announcer would announce a winner, everything was done perfectly, and there isn’t much that I personally could think of to improve upon for the next tournament. While like NXT, the production value isn’t as great as the main roster, for what it was, a cruiserweight ‘underground’ type tournament away from the bright lights of RAW and Smackdown, it was absolutely perfect.
4 Raw Is Going To Be MUST SEE
Whether Smackdown has been the better show from a booking and enjoyment stand point so far, the cruiserweights may just keep RAW on top for good, as there has been 10 stars announced who will now all be fighting for TJ Perkins’ WWE Cruiserweight Championship. If the CWC is anything to go by, each and every match will offer something different and be must see in it’s own, unique way, and will give a chance for dream matches from CWC #1 to happen, and also huge rematches from the tournament. Some of my favorite dream matches from the CWC include Cedric Alexander vs. Rich Swann, Jack Gallagher vs. TJ Perkins and I would love to see Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano fight with something on the line again. Bottom line, when the cruiserweights arrive, you won’t want to miss anything they do.
3 Daniel Bryan Is Fantastic On Commentary
We know Mauro Ronallo is amazing on commentary, as he has been a highlight on the Smackdown brand since coming into the company in 2016, and while fans were thrilled to see Bryan, as one of the best cruiserweight wrestlers in recent WWE history back to call the action, no one truly knew what to expect. What we got however was passionate, insightful and emotional commentary which paired with the experienced Ronallo perfectly, which rounded out the entire presentation and feel of the tournament to make it one of the best things WWE have done in years. Listening to Bryan’s fantastic commentary made me think that if the brand split was done maybe just one month later, and management got to listen to more of him, we would be seeing the duo on Smackdown as announcers rather than Bryan as the GM.
2 Triple H Is The Future Of WWE
If the success of ‘developmental’ brand NXT wasn’t proof enough, the CWC was the brain child of Triple H, and it without a doubt proves that the WWE is in more than good hands when Triple H eventually takes over from Vince McMahon. The argument could be made that WWE has consistently been better when NXT/Triple H projects like Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Finn Balor have been a big part of the show, so maybe the future with Triple H is closer than we think. From the presentation to the commentary to the performers and booking decisions, the majority of that was decided by Triple H, and it has to give WWE fans world wide positive thoughts about the future, despite somewhat negative reactions to the way he was seen during his days as an active performer.
1 Another Cruiserweight Classic?
No matter what anyone thought of the tournament heading in, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, as it was presented perfectly with amazing performers, and is one of the best wrestling tournaments in the history of the business. While a follow up Classic has not been officially announced, it will be incredibly difficult to top this one. As mentioned before, there is still plenty of talent in the world of professional wrestling to be brought in, and that may be the only way that WWE can top the first one. The thought of a Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet match in the final could possibly be the only way to follow it up, but with the revolutionary brilliance of Triple H behind it, expectations will no doubt be exceeded.