Wrestling is a form of entertainment, as valid as movies, theatre or video games. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Whatcha gonna do, punks? Perhaps the most important factor in entertainment is hype. A great match, like a great movie or play, is often such because of the hype that surrounds it; if something can live up to its hype, then it will forever go down in history as great, because people weren’t left disappointed. Simple, I think. However, if something doesn’t live up to its hype, well, then you’re like Bret Hart in 1997, basically – no, not Canadian, screwed. If your piece of entertainment doesn’t leave people feeling the way they expected to feel, then they will label it as bad, because they already set a measuring stick before they even saw it and, when the finished product doesn’t match up to that, then that counts as a failure. Simple, again, I think, maybe, who knows. Anyhow, the same can be said of the opposite; when people set their expectations low, a good piece of entertainment can be seen as a great piece, because it vastly surpassed people’s expectations. Hmm, that one actually was simple. Go me.
All of this is true for wrestling and 2016 saw its fair share of hyped matches falling flat and sleeper hits, so, as this year comes to a screeching, spluttering halt, we thought it would be fun to do some mental fishing and cast our minds back over the last twelve months and pick out the matches that both exceeded our expectations and left us feeling more disappointed than people who paid to see December to Dismember. Prepare to be amazed, and then let down, and then amazed again, and then let down again, and then amazed ag- alright, you get the point! Here’s the list.
15 EXCEEDED: Kalisto vs Alberto Del Rio - United States Championship (Fastlane)
Wow, I’d actually forgotten that Alberto Del Rio was in a championship picture this year. How things change.
When Del Rio returned to the WWE at Hell In A Cell 2015 and defeated John Cena for the United States Championship, everyone was kinda wondering who was next in line for a shot at the belt. When Cena went out with injury, this limited the options even further, but I don’t think anyone was expecting the United States title to be contested between two Mexicans. Kalisto won the belt in shocking fashion on Raw in January 2016, but lost it back to Del Rio later that week on Smackdown. Kalisto then won the belt for a second time at the Royal Rumble in another surprisingly good match and the feud was to be settled on the Grandest Stage of Them All – the Fastlane kickoff show.
The match was really rather good. Del Rio getting disqualified by using a chair, but gaining such an advantage from it that he won the second fall was some great ring psychology. Del Rio’s Double Stomp looked extremely effective thanks to Kalisto’s agility and seeing the former Lucha Dragon finally topple his rival and cement himself as US Champ was a fantastic sight for the six people who tuned in for the pre-show. Kalisto would then go onto have a lacklustre feud with Ryback over the next two Payback kickoff shows and would later drop the title to Rusev at Extreme Rules. Oh dear. But hey, his feud with Ryback was the catalyst for the Big Guy leaving the company, so I suppose that’s something.
14 FAILED: Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho - Asylum Match (Extreme Rules)
Oh, the Asylum Match. It was... a thing.
2016 saw Chris Jericho get into feuds over the most stupid things. He essentially feuded with AJ Styles over a T-Shirt, the List of Jericho essentially cost Raw their match at Survivor Series and Lord knows how many people got into matches with Chris because of a scarf. But his feuds with Dean Ambrose, those really took the biscuit – or rather, the potted plant.
Ambrose and Jericho had met the month before at Payback in a singles match (their feud had begun over a talk show, which isn’t an item, but it still kinda dumb), but this was not enough to contain their “intense” feud. The stipulation was set for Extreme Rules – an Asylum match, which was essentially a steel cage match but with stuff hanging from the cage. This stuff included a straightjacket, a trash can and a bag with thumb tacks in it. Ah yes, all the stuff you would find in an asylum, wait a minute... The match, in theory, sounded interesting, but it felt slow and, to be honest didn’t make much sense. The two men fought on the side of the cage to reach the same weapon; why didn’t one of them just jump down and grab another one? You didn’t need to climb the cage to win; it may as well have been just a normal weapons match. A good match on paper, but, as we all know, wrestling matches are not fought on paper. They’re fought in cages. With kendo sticks hanging from them. Apparently.
13 EXCEEDED: Six Pack Elimination Challenge - Smackdown Women’s Championship (Backlash)
I know. A match with Nikki Bella in it being classed as exceptional. I’m as scared as you.
Following the brand split, Smackdown was left without a Women’s champion so, there was only one thing for it. Clump all the women on Smackdown together in one big match and let them tear each other apart to see who was left standing. As nature intended really. The six women were Naomi, Natalya, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella and Carmella and the match was made for Backlash; a Six Pack Elimination Challenge. No, that’s not a beer drinking contest. Unfortunately. Although, Becky Lynch probably still would have won; she is Irish after all.
Becky’s victory, along with other great moments like Nikki Bella and Carmella continuing their feud and Naomi’s incredible athleticism made this match a real joy to watch. Whilst all the eyes have been on Raw’s women this year, I honestly believe Smackdown’s division is better. More fleshed out, more consistent and just more balanced, Smackdown’s women’s division is a true pleasure to watch and it kicked off with this surprisingly excellent match. Also, Nikki Bella didn’t win, so that was also nice.
12 FAILED: Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins - Universal Championship (SummerSlam)
For this one the blame is entirely on the fans. And yes, that does include you. Yes, you.
As with Smackdown and their Women’s title, Raw needed a men’s World title after Smackdown took the WWE title at Battelground. The match was set for SummerSlam – Seth Rollins would take on the winner of mini tournament on Raw, which was the Demon King himself, Finn Balor. Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor. Tyler Black vs Prince Devitt. Colby vs Fergal. Ok, that last one isn’t as impressive as it sounds, but still. The winner of this match would become the first ever Universal Champion and would rule Raw as the top champion, unless they got a shoulder injury midway through the match, but what’s the likelihood of that happening, eh...
The in-ring action was very good (as you’d expect from two stellar workers like Finn and Seth), but the problem lay in the atmosphere surrounding the match. To say the fans didn’t like the design of the Universal Championship would be like saying CM Punk doesn’t like Vince McMahon – it doesn’t even begin to cover it. The fans chanted things like “that belt sucks” and “we want a new belt” throughout the match and it was extremely distracting. It was like bringing a girl home and finding the local vicar was round. You want to enjoy yourself, but you know the people watching definitely don’t approve. The chants were so bad that Finn Balor himself believed that the fans were actually chanting against him (“Balor sucks!” etc.). If the cants are putting the wrestlers off, then you know something has gone wrong. Whilst the two men in the ring were definitely on top form in this match, it was, unfortunately, the 15,974 fans inside the Barclays Centre ruined it for everyone. Shame on thee, Brooklyn, shame!
11 EXCEEDED: The Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (WrestleMania 32)
A lot of people might say they were looking forward to this match, but seriously, how many of you have ever truly looked forward to a match with Sin Cara in it?
For the second year running, the Intercontinental Championship match opened WrestleMania and that match was a ladder match. Kevin Owens was the champion and he was having to contend with Sami Zayn, The Miz, Zack Ryder, Stardust, Dolph Ziggler and, everyone’s favourite, Sin Cara. The match everyone wanted (and if you say you didn’t want this match, you’re lying to yourself, you’re lying to me and you’re lying to your grandma, and that’s just wrong) was Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn, with Zayn getting his revenge for Owens making his life hell in NXT. That would have made sense, but what happened was, basically, everyone they weren’t using that was too famous for the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal was thrown in for various stupid reasons and the whole thing looked like it was going to end up an ugly mess. And it did, but what an ugly mess it was.
The match was a magnificent muddle of mayhem with ladders and bodies flying everywhere. Everyone got their stuff in; Ziggler sold like a madman, Owens and Zayn put on their own mini-match in the middle of this one, Stardust had his Dusty Rhodes tribute ladder and even Sin Cara did a cool flip. And Zack Ryder. Zack Ryder. Zack. Ryder. Zack freakin’ Ryder won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania! What? WHAT?! I’m still in shock now. It was crazy, it was brutal and it was brilliant and made even better by the fact that no one was expecting it to be one of the best matches on the card. Small message, though; this is the last time you will hear me say something positive about this year’s WrestleMania. Just thought I’d let you know.
10 FAILED: Dean Ambrose vs Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns - WWE Championship (Battleground)
There are two matches on this list that I think people will be upset about. This is one of them.
The build-up to this match was spectacular, let’s not deny it that. Seth Rollins returned at Extreme Rules to attack Roman Reigns, the WWE Champion, setting up a match against The Big Dog at Money In The Bank. Meanwhile, Dean Ambrose, fresh off his aforementioned victory against Y2J, entered the Money In The Bank ladder match. The pieces were slowly being put into place. Ambrose won the briefcase and everyone was on the edge of their seats. Surely, he isn’t. Surely, he isn’t going to do the thing he said he’d do. Surely. Spoilers – he did. Rollins and Reigns put on a great match (they did, come on now) that ended in shocking fashion when, out of nowhere, Rollins pinned WWE’s golden boy to win his second WWE title. Then the music hit. Ambrose rushed down to the ring, attacked Rollins and cashed in the briefcase, crowning him the WWE Champion and ensuring the title passed between all three former members of The Shield in a matter of minutes. It was amazing. Then it kinda fell apart.
The match was made the next night on Raw; the long-awaited Shield triple threat for the WWE title would happen at Battleground. Oh. Are you sure? Sure you don’t wanna wait until WrestleMania or something? No? Alright then. This match had been a kinda dream match ever since The Shield broke up in June 2014, but to have it on, let’s face it, a B show, felt kinda wrong. Obviously, this was done because of the brand split; WWE knew the three men were heading for separate brands and that this was their last chance to put this match, but that’s what this match felt like; a last minute, last ditch effort sort of thing. It felt rush and, therefore, not very special. Things got worse when Roman Reigns got suspended for 30 days, meaning he was absent for the entire build up to this match. Now, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose had a fine feud on their own, but that’s the thing; I was excited Seth vs Dean, not Seth vs Dean vs Roman. WWE were totally right to suspend Roman and I’m not, in any way, suggesting that they shouldn’t have, but it definitely hurt the build up to this match, especially when Roman, the supposed face, got huge boos upon his return. The match itself was fine and, under different circumstances, would have probably satisfied, but it just got lost in the shuffle of other things – Reigns’ suspension, the brand split etc. – and, as a result, fell flat. I now open the floor to a torrent of abuse in the comments. Do your worst.
9 EXCEEDED: Men’s Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Tag Team Match (Survivor Series)
Not the Survivor Series match you thought I was going to put on here, was it? Well, you know what, I loved every second of Brock vs Goldberg, even if there were only 86 of them.
By the time the third Survivor Series elimination match came along, it sort of felt a bit pointless. The rumoured trades for the winning brand seemed to have just been rumours and, even if they weren’t, Raw had already won both of the other matches anyway, leaving Smackdown with an unassailable mountain. So, when the two teams lined up – Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns for Raw and AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Shane McMahon for Smackdown – it didn’t feel like a big deal. The match that followed, however, was a true epic.
I’ve always enjoyed a good Survivor Series match – I maintain that the one in 2014 is one of my favourite matches ever – and this only reinforced my view. The intricate blend of stories, both interbrand and the ongoing stories from each show, the vast array of participants, the chaos of ten main event players in the same ring, it all came together beautifully. The match was 52 minutes and 48 seconds long, but, honestly, it just flew by. I didn’t even realise that the first elimination only came 16 minutes in; if the match had ended there it would have still been the third longest on the card. Seeing big names do battle after being kept apart for long displayed the true effectiveness of the brand split and made Survivor Series feel like a Big Four show again; I hate to use the term, but seeing these old enemies do battle was like a dream match. Jeez, I sound like I work for WWE. I wish. The match ended with Smackdown going over and with Bray Wyatt getting the winning pin. Need I say more. A great match that I would happily watch again, and one that truly came out of left field on a show that was all about hype for a very different match. Also, Shane literally got cut in half by a Spear. He is mental.
8 FAILED: Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose (WrestleMania)
This is the third match on the “disappointment” side of the list to feature Dean Ambrose. This makes me sound like I hate Dean Ambrose. I really don’t. I’m sorry Dean, if you’re reading this. Please love me back.
When Dean Ambrose was the final man eliminated in the Royal Rumble 2016, people realised something they didn’t know they wanted, but, once they realised it, it was all they wanted – they wanted Dean Ambrose to main event WrestleMania. He was talented. He was professional. Most of all, he was likeable, something that clearly didn’t rub off on best bud, Roman Reigns. When Ambrose didn’t win the triple threat at Fastlane between Reigns and Brock Lesnar, fans were furious. They wanted Ambrose to take on Triple H and win the WWE title. Instead, they got Roman Reigns. Again. Ugh. However, this anger was dissipated slightly when it was announced that Dean would, instead, be taking on The Beast Incarnate at WrestleMania, in a Street Fight. Once again, didn’t know I wanted that, but now you mention it, I want it, right now, please.
Throw in a few cameos from Mick Foley and Terry Funk and a backstage bit where Brock murdered Dean with a car windshield and people were pretty excited for this match. However, if you’ve ever heard Dean Ambrose on the Stone Cold podcast, you’ll know that things didn’t quite go to plan. The match felt stale; there was no danger element and in a Street Fight, that’s pretty much a fatal blow straight away. Lesnar looked like he’d rather be doing anything else but having this match and the whole thing was over in 13 minutes. 13 minutes. That’s pitiful. Any chance Dean had of getting some exposure from Brock’s star power was gone as soon as The Beast half-heartedly jumped onto the apron and the match felt like a throwaway bout on Raw more than a WrestleMania match. Luckily, Dean managed to survive this boring battle and would have one hell of a year, but this match could have dealt The Lunatic Fringe a career death blow. That is the last time you’ll see Dean Ambrose on this last. Not Brock Lesnar, however. Not by a long shot.
7 EXCEEDED: Cesaro vs Sheamus (Clash Of Champions)
I saw one of the Best of Seven Series matches these two had earlier in the year. What an underwhelming part of wrestling history to be a part of.
When it was announced that “The Celtic Superman” Sheamus and “The Swiss Warrior” Cesaro were to do battle over seven matches in the build up to Clash of Champions, people’s reactions ranged from “meh” to “oh Jesus, please kill me now”. The series was tied at three a piece by the time this show rolled around and, on a card that was sort of interesting because we hadn’t seen the matches repeated a billion times yet, this one was not grabbing anyone’s attention and if it was, it was for all the wrong reasons. Still, because they knew they could pull off the upset (or, more likely, they’d have been fired if they didn’t) Sheamaro and Cesarmus laced up their very European boots and went to work.
The two put on one hell of a bout. These two men really sold the crowd on the idea that absolutely hated one another and pasted each other around the ring like a careless decorator. “The Swiss Celtic” Sheamus continued to work his opponent’s back, as he had been doing through the series, whilst “The Super Warriorman” Cesaro put on some of his best work as the plucky underdog, delivering incredible move after incrdible, including probably the worst 619 ever. But I loved it nonetheless. Oh, and he legit almost died. He landed right on his head. It was horrible. The match ended abruptly when the two men were counted and, whilst this may have seemed a poor decision at the time, it did lead to the birth of one of the more popular acts on Raw and would eventually land both men a reign with the WWE Tag Team Championships. The match was hard hitting, emotional and was worth sitting through six prior matches to get through; plus, we got a great team out of it. And the name of that team. “The SuperSwiss Warrior Celtics Who Are Men”. I’ll stop messing around with the names now.
6 FAILED: Brock Lesnar vs Randy Orton (SummerSlam)
Brock’s back! I told you so.
SummerSlam 2016 will be remembered for a few things. It saw AJ Styles beat John Cena clean. The first ever Universal Champion was crowned. Jon Stewart was there, for some reason. However, what the show might be best remembered for was the absolute mess of a main event. And when I say mess, I mean mess. As this was the first Pay-Per-View following the brand split, WWE set the main event as an interbrand match between Raw’s Brock Lesnar and Smackdown’s Randy Orton. Despite starting at the same time and having similarly successful careers, the two men had never really fought before, certainly not on such a high stage, so the anticipation for this match was pretty high, especially considering it was fresh off of Lesnar’s victory at UFC 200. This was before the whole drugs thing. Oh, Brock.
When the match finally came around, however, it was almost an exact re-run of Lesnar’s destruction of John Cena two years earlier. Orton got in one cool RKO on the announce table and another in the ring, but that was the extent of it. The rest of the match was Brock murdering him, almost quite literally for the finish; Brock delivered vicious bare elbow strikes to Randy’s forehead, giving him a legit concussion and cutting him open so bad that the ring was covered in blood. Good thing it was the younger Orton that bled everywhere, otherwise we might have had a very different story on our hands. The match ended by a “technical knockout” which left everyone disappointed and confused and the post match segment that saw Brock F5 Shane McMahon was done to set up a match that now won’t happen. The match ran to just 41 seconds longer than the six women tag match earlier in the night and left many fans wondering why they’d just sat through four hours of Pay-Per-View to be confused and angered. They could have just watched any Hulk Hogan movie for that. It was a horrible match to sit through and a massive let down for this match that could have delivered so much. Wow, Brock’s only had three singles matches this year and two of them have been on this list. I’m a lot braver than I thought I was.
5 EXCEEDED: Asuka vs Mickie James - NXT Women’s Championship (NXT TakeOver: Toronto)
It seems a shame to put this match on here, but, let’s be honest, you had your concerns, didn’t you?
If the Diva’s Revolution hadn’t decimated the NXT Women’s division, then the brand split certainly finished the job. Within a year and half, established named like Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella all left NXT to join the main roster, leaving NXT with a serious shortage of credible female names. Whilst there were strong workers like Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, as well as up and comers Ember Moon and Nikki Storm, there were no big names left to take on the seemingly invincible Women’s Champion, Asuka. So, Triple H took a page from his father’s book and desperately rang up every former female competitor going and, when he found one that wasn’t pregnant, the match was made. Former five time Women’s Champion and one time Diva’s Champion, Mickie James, was selected as Asuka’s opponent in her first match in the WWE in six years. Now, James hadn’t exactly been idle during her time off, but the WWE style is so different to anything else and Asuka is unlike any female competitor in the West, so to ask James to come back and put on such a high-profile match was taking a huge risk. Still, it was this, or put her against Mandy Rose. I know which one I’d prefer.
The match, despite initial concerns, was very good. Asuka was her usual destructive self and James hadn’t lost a step in the ring. The result was obvious from the start – there was no way they were gonna job Asuka out to someone they weren’t sure was going to stick around – but it was still entertaining and, despite tapping out, the real winner was definitely James, who won over a whole new generation of fans and landed herself a new WWE contract. No one was terrified at the thought of this match, but it’s safe to say no one was 100% convinced this one was gonna be as good as it was. And at least Mickie didn’t just hit Asuka with two Spears and a Jackhammer and win the match. I don’t think people would have liked that.
4 FAILED: Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker (WrestleMania 32)
You know I mentioned there were two matches I was afraid to put on here. This was the other. Even I was upset with me for putting this on here.
WrestleMania 32 could have been one of the greatest Manias ever. Then everyone’s shoulders exploded. And I mean everyone’s. No John Cena. No Randy Orton. No Cesaro. No Daniel Bryan. Ok, his shoulder didn’t explode, but I’m pretty sure bits of his brain did. This left WWE with very few options regarding big money matches. The Women’s Triple Threat appealed to the hardcore fans, as did AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho, but there were no real showstopping matches, nothing to catch the eye of the casual fan. This is where this match comes in. After going through everyone in his phone contacts – Vader, Savio Vega, the guy who sells merchandise in the areans –, Vince did the unthinkable and called up his son, Shane, to fight The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Shane returned on Monday Night Raw to a huge pop and, when it was announced that he would be taking on Taker inside Hell in a Cell and that, if he won, he’d control Monday Night Raw, everyone was intrigued to see where WWE were going with this. Which was ironic in a way, because even WWE had no idea where they were going with this.
The match was as good as you could expect from a 51-year-old and a 46-year-old father of three and Shane leaping from the Cell will probably be the defining moment of WrestleMania 32 (alongside Linda McMahon marking out to Stone Cold’s entrance), but the match wasn’t quite the marquee occasion everyone hoped for. I wanted chaos. I wanted run-ins. I wanted the Mean Street Posse! Instead, we got no explanation as to why Undertaker fought for Vince, no resolution of the lockbox storyline (remember that?) and a flat end to the match; at the time, people thought Shane wasn’t going to run Raw, because, ya know, he lost. Obviously, that didn’t matter, because he was in charge the next night. Why you ask? Because wrestling, of course. It was one of my favourite matches of this year’s Mania, but it wasn’t what it could have been. It was cool when Shane made it rain money, though. Not so cool when it looked like he’d killed himself in front of his kids. Poor boys.
3 EXCEEDED: Baron Corbin vs Kalisto - Chairs Match (TLC)
No one was excited for this match. Even typing it out left me a bit tired.
The TLC Pay-Per-View, in principal, is lots of fun. TLC matches are fantastic, ladder matches often produce some exciting moments and tables matches are fun for the whole family. Then there’s the chairs matches. Ugh. Over the years some of WWE’s finest and Jack Swagger have done battle in chairs matches and even Undertaker vs Batista wasn’t amazing. So, you can understand why no was particularly pleased when it was announced that Mr. Tummy-Face, Baron Corbin, and “not Rey Mysterio but he’s doing his best” were booked to face one another in one of these matches. However, if this list has taught us one thing, it’s that Brock Lesnar matches haven’t lived up to their hype. Oh, and expect the unexpected and all that.
The match was, in all honesty, very good. The mix of styles of Kalisto’s high-flying, Lucha Libre offence and Corbin’s hard-hitting power moves left a multitude of options open for these two workers and they provided us with some pretty memorable spots. Kalisto sending Corbin through a pile of chairs with a Seated Senton, the closest thing to an unprotected chair shot to the head (which was kinda horrible to be honest) and a vicious End of Days onto a chair pile for Corbin to pick up the win. It was hard-hitting, it was fast-paced and genuinely enjoyable to watch; easily the best chairs match ever. Although, that is like saying the first Jurassic Park movie was the best. Pretty damn obvious.
2 FAILED: Triple H vs Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship (WrestleMania 32)
Oooh, it’s never good when the main event of WrestleMania is on a list like this, is it?
As mentioned earlier, WWE were left scrambling to put together their biggest show of the year this year, however, you do have to believe that this main event, or at least the end result, was always the plan. WWE were dead set on making Roman Reigns their next top guy. Ever since The Shield split up, he was earmarked for success and the fans saw straight threw it. As a result, they turned on Roman faster than you can say “quick, we need a way out of this mess!”. At WrestleMania 31, the WWE saved themselves with a Money In The Bank cash-in, so, when it looked like they were making the same mistake again, fans were eager (and terrified) to see how WWE would get themselves out of this mess this time. Rumours were abundant; everything from Seth Rollins’ interference to a Reigns heel turn to Goldberg. I think. Goldberg was rumoured a lot during this year.
The match was kind of a mess to begin with. First, it was advertised as a no DQ match, which it wasn’t. Then, no one was actually sure whether it was going to main event; some people believed that Shane vs Taker was going to go on last. When the match finally came around after Triple H had finished his terrifying entrance, the action was ok, mostly marred by the boos for Roman. There were few memorable moments, bar Reigns “accidentally” spearing Stephanie McMahon, and fans were on the edge of their seats throughout, waiting for the moment that something awesome would happen to save the day. Then Reigns speared Triple H. Then Reigns covered Triple H. Then Reigns won. Then everyone cried. It was the flattest ending to a WrestleMania I can think of in a long, long time and, instead of feeling like they’d seen the biggest wrestling show of the year, the supposed 101,763 fans in attendance probably felt like WWE had taken them out back and shot them directly in their wallets. It was a rubbish end to an otherwise passable Mania and proof that the company had no idea what the fans wanted. I’m still angry now, if you couldn’t already tell. Ah well, can’t end the list on a low note. Let’s finish with one of the greatest pieces of wrestling of the year, shall we?
1 EXCEEDED: Kota Ibushi vs Cedric Alexander (Cruiserweight Classic Round 2)
Ah, much better. To be honest, they could have put this one on last at Mania and people would have liked it better than Reigns vs Triple H. And the CWC hadn’t even happened by then.
The Cruiserweight Classic was a thing of beauty. Over the summer, fans of pure wrestling were treated to just that; 16 of the world’s finest performers under 205 pounds putting on amazing spectacles in the ring. Some of the finest indie talent from across the globe were brought together under one roof; Akira Tozawa from Japan, Zach Sabre Jr. from England, TJ Perkins representing the Philippines, as well as some of WWE’s own talent in the form of Gargano and Ciampa and some returning legends, Tajiri and Brian Kendrick. There were a whole host of amazing matches in this tournament to crown the first ever Cruiserweight Classic winner, however, one of them stood out far above the rest and it featured probably the biggest name in the tournament going toe to toe with a little-known guy from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Kota Ibushi defeated Sean Maluta to advance to the second round of the CWC. The Golden Star of New Japan, Ibushi was heading into the tournament with a whole load of momentum and was one of the few indie stars most of the fans already knew. His opponent was one Cedric Alexander, who defeated Clement Petoit in the first round. Alexander had spent time in Ring Of Honour before this appearance, but was nowhere on the same level of Ibushi, so not many were expecting much from him against The Golden Star. Oh, how wrong they were. The match was spectacular. Both men left their hearts and souls in the ring, looking just as determined as one another to advance in the tournament. Incredible technical showcases, insane highflying moves and a passion that radiated throughout Full Sail. When the match was over and Cedric was beaten, the fans filled the arena with chants of “please sign Cedric” and someone must have heard them, because who should come out but Triple H, who Pedigreed Cedric and pinned him to win the entire tournament. Oh no, wait, this isn’t 2002. No, what he actually did was give him his personal endorsement and ensure that, when the Cruiserweights did get called up to Raw, Cedric Alexander was one of the men advertised. An incredible display of wrestling at its finest; a simple, yet effective story told over the course of 15 minutes with amazing moves and a hot crowd. Dave Meltzer gave it 4.5 stars and he was completely justified, and all for the second round of a tournament on the WWE Network. Shame the Cruiserweights turned into a hot mess afterwards. Dammit, I said I was going to end things on a positive note! Think, think. Umm, remember that time Brian Kendrick did a Burning Hammer on Kota Ibushi? That was freakin’ awesome. No? not good enough? I’m sorry, I’ve let you all down. I’ll just go home now...