Now it is truly WORLD Wrestling Entertainment. Under the guidance of Triple H, not only has the company gone truly global, but between NXT, some form of working relationship with EVOLVE, and now the Cruiserweight Classic, it is becoming more and more apparent that The Game is not as much of an isolationist as his father-in-law. Not only are he and his team of talent scouts, men like William Regal, trotting around the world seeking out the best and brightest regardless of reach, creed, or style, they are also allowing them all to shine on the Network during the CWC.
Let's give a big kudos to Triple H and the company for the immensity of this undertaking. You can't even tell that the CWC is in the same arena as NXT. But we're not here to praise production values, we're here to praise and rank the competition, here are the top 15 greatest Cruiserweights taking part in the CWC.
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15 The Sihra Brothers (India)
You might think that starting out in TNA's sister-India promotion, Ring Ka King, and being the current reigning and defending Tag Team Champions of Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling, might make WWE not want to showcase the Sihra brothers, Girv and Harv, better known as The Bollywood Boyz, but that was the WWE of old. Now, under The Cerebral Assassin's leadership, the thoughts of the old guard are changing every day and The Sihra Brothers are proof of that. While the announcers are most likely not going to be mentioning their very distant competition by name while the Indian brothers compete, it is unique that they have been invited to the CWC while carrying another company's titles. With Harv specializing in offense from the skies and Girv utilizing a technical based assault, it will be interesting to see how far they progress in the tournament and, more importantly, what will happen if The Bollywood Boyz are forced to face each other.
14 Kenneth Johnson (United States)
These days, and for the better part of the past century, you need to be double-tough to withstand growing up in the Motorcity Madhouse that is Detroit, Michigan, which is exactly what Kenneth Johnson is. Being born and raised at the site of WrestleMania III has had a lasting impact on Johnson. Luckily a positive one as he seeks to motivate, inspire, and encourage an entire generation of fans watching the Cruiserweight Classic. The hard fighting man looks to be next in a long line of men from Michigan to do the mitten-shaped proud (re: Kevin Nash, The Steiners, The Machine Guns, RVD). Known mostly for his stint in Ring of Honor, Johnson grew up looking up to flashy underdogs like Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio. As someone who has spent his lifetime fighting from underneath, Johnson has got his work cut out for him in round one competition against Japan's Akira Tozawa, as he seeks to make a name for himself and follow in the footsteps of fellow ROH alum like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and, the ultimate underdog, Daniel Bryan.
13 Noam Dar (Israel/Scotland)
Noam Dar, the only Cruiserweight in the tournament representing his dual heritage of Scotland and Israel, has been a European independent sensation for several years now. Taking on one of The Bollywood Boyz, Gurv Sihra in first round competition, the youngest competitor in the CWC seeks to show the CWC Universe, along with the rest of the WWE why is The Jewdi Master. While Dar hasn't had too many prominent stints on grand stages, he was part of TNA's British Boot Camp series, that was eventually won by Mark Andrews. Dar has worked for several promotions, where he's had the privilege of taking on guys like A.J. Styles. A pro since the age of 15, the now 22-year old has always had to fight from underneath against bigger and more experienced guys to show them just how good the Israeli Icon is. Now a part of the first ever CWC, Dar hopes to go deep in the tournament and showcase his talents to the world.
12 Tajiri (Japan)
The Japanese Buzzsaw that found fame in ECW and fortune in the WWE returns to the company for one last run, no doubt thanks to his time spent at William Regal's side. No stranger to the American Cruiserweight style, which uses styles from all over the world, Tajiri spent several years in ECW working against fellow Cruiserweights like Super Crazy and Little Guido. Once in the WWE, Tajiri went through a plethora of changes to this character, but luckily and oddly enough, they were seldom that of the stereotypical Oriental heel. Tajiri got to showcase a lot of comedy in his character and even in the ring. He has been anything but complacent since leaving the company back in 2005. He's made a few cameos for the company, as well as working for both All and New Japan, and several other promotions. Now, one of most underrated and beloved Superstars of the early aughts is back for the Cruiserweight Classic, and hopefully beyond. Even if just as a coach at the Performance Center, the future of the industry will be lucky to have him.
11 Johnny Gargano (United States)
There has been an influx of Superstars hailing from the Buckeye State of Ohio in recent years: The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, the flawless Dana Brooke, and, of course, our current WWE champion, Dean Ambrose. "Johnny Wrestling," Johnny Gargano is the latest Ohioan to grace the WWE with his presence, hailing from Cleveland, while being no stranger to tag team wrestling. Gargano and, fellow CWC combatant, Rich Swann were the last Dragon Gate USA Tag Team Champions. Gargano has only recently become a tag team specialist with his first round opponent, Tommaso Ciampa. He's actually been consistently one of the top Indy singles stars for over a decade, even holding the aforementioned DGUSA singles title for almost 900 days, well over double CM Punk's 434 day run in the WWE. With his first round match with Ciampa looming, the team will have to decide how hard to go at each other. Will their match have a reverb effect on their partnership and friendship on NXT?
10 Zack Sabre Jr. (England)
From the Isle of Sheppey in England, Zack Sabre Jr. proudly wears the Union Jack on his tights and ring gear. Wrestling all over the world, he grew up mesmerized by now legendary Cruiserweights like Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, not for their aerial skills, but for their mat work and technical prowess. On CWC Bracketology, Sabre himself mentioned how his style is filled with strategy and with ways to one up opponents. Interestingly enough, Sabre competes in the Cruiserweight Classic, while still acting as the reigning and defending Pro Wrestling Guerilla World Champion. Facing Tyson Dux in the first round, Zack Sabre, Jr. no doubt looks to represent his native England proud as he tries to put both PWG and himself on the map on the grand stage of the CWC. The Technical Wizard is about to show the world that he's not just a technical powerhouse, but he's also a submission machine.
9 Ho Ho Lun (Hong Kong)
Defying his cultural office drone destiny, Ho Ho Lun is ready to show the world that Japan isn't the only wrestling stronghold in the Orient. Especially since the high flyer founded the very first wrestling promotion in Hong Kong, simply named the Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling Federation. A wrestling fan since the age of eight, his folks would bring him to Judo class instead of wrestling school and would instill the kind of entrepreneurship needed to start his own promotion. Along with experience gained by working in Singapore, Japan, Europe, and his native China, Lun is a prime candidate for someone that needs to be highlighted, especially with WWE's recent business dealings in China. Lun had to face Ariya Daivari, a man with WWE experience via his brother in the first round. Luckily for Lun, that experience didn't prove to be too difficult, as he delivered a pair of devastating kicks and a nasty looking German Suplex to get the win and move onto the Sweet 16.
8 Tony Nese (United States)
Trained by the Extreme Cruiserweight, Mikey Whipwreck, Tony Nese has had the opportunity of get bookings all over the globe, most notably and recently with TNA. Having begun his career in the mid-aughts, Nese would work plenty of Northeastern indies, alongside other Indy-darlings like The Amazing Red and Damien Dragon. He also worked several matches for Ring of Honor before joining TNA in 2011. Sadly, like several others who came across Dixie Carter's desk, he was seldom used, seldom booked, and seldom won. Nese was used mostly as a stepping stone for other Cruiserweights in their X-Division. But the experience he would gain by being a part of that locker room and working matches with the likes of Kid Kash and Austin Aries would help him in his feud with Matt Hardy for Pro Wrestling Syndicate. Nese even won the Tri-State Title. He's going to need all of that experience and more heading into first round competition, as the Premier Athlete has a lot to prove to make a huge notch in his belt. He takes on The Brian Kendrick to begin his CWC journey.
7 Tommaso Ciampa (United States)
With a pedigree that includes being trained by two of the toughest men ever in the sport, Harley Race and Killer Kowalski, the former Ring of Honor Television Champion, Tommaso Ciampa, is one of several Cruiserweights in the CWC that calls NXT his home. But if you think that means he would be complacent, you'd be wrong. Along with several other NXT talent in the Cruiserweight Classic, Ciampa is out to keep and grow his spot while defending it from many of the other men on this list. He is actually currently teaming with his first-round opponent, Johnny Gargano, and the pair are making a name for themselves, even being rumored to be challenging The Revival at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. But first, the always intense, and seemingly always cranky, Ciampa looks to stretch his friend and partner out to advance in the CWC. While he might feel the pressure of being in something of this magnitude, Ciampa has experience in these tournaments. He is the 2011 ECWA Super 8 Winner.
6 Jack Gallagher (England)
The handlebar mustache makes him look like he's the third Vaudevillain (and he talks like one too). Hailing from Manchester, England, Jack Gallagher expresses his respect for Lucha Libre, Japanese Purosou, and, of course, American wresting. Clearly though, the Extraordinary Gentleman feels his style is the best and that he will keep his sporting matches gentlemanly if his opponents do. Gallagher is looking to make his foes tapout or be pinned in a flash. Daniel Bryan picked him as an early favorite and, with his submission based style, we might see The Mat Wizard go far in the tournament while evoking memories of other submission specialists like William Regal or Bret Hart. The former Futureshock Wrestling Champion qualified for the tournament by defeating Pete Dunne at a Progress Wrestling event back in April and is set to go one on one with Fabian Aichner in the first round of the CWC.
5 Gran Metalik (Mexico)
From Guadelara, Jalisco, Mexico, the CMLL star, Gran Metalik had the distinction of being the very first Superstar to ever walk out into Full Sail for the Cruiserweight Classic. According to Mauro Renallo, he has done battle with NXT heavy hitters like Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura. It didn't take the 27-year-old Luchador long to dazzle the newly formed CWC Universe as he hit a springboard tope con giro from the second rope onto his first round opponent, Alejandro Saez. Metalik actually credits Finn Balor and their time together in New Japan as the reason he was even invited to take part in the CWC. But Metalik isn't all just flashy aerial moves either. He won his first round match with his patented Firemen's Carry Scoop Slam that he calls The Dorada Screwdriver. Clearly someone in the WWE has high hopes for Metalik. Win or lose his second round match, he got to come out first and be the first victor in the tournament, setting the stage for the rest of the field.
4 Lince Dorado (Puerto Rico)
Representing Puerto Rico is The Golden Lynx, Lince Dorado. No stranger to tournaments, Lince Dorado took part in Chikara's very first King of Trios tournament, a tourney for three man teams, alongside his trainer, El Pantera and Sicodelico Jr. But he also took place in their very own Cruiserweight tournament, Rey de Voladores (King of Flying). Dorado also has the capability to get to the mat and get nasty, as he also was trained by The Kings of Wrestling, Chris Hero and Claudio "Cesaro" Castagnoli. Despite spending most of his time in Chikara, Lince Dorado has also worked several other promotions, most notably Ultimo Dragon's Dragon Gate USA promotion. Now part of the Cruiserweight Classic, The Sultan of the Shooting Star Press has a date with Mustafa Ali in the tournament's first round of competition and looks to showcase his talents to the world, not just for himself, but for his family and for Puerto Rico.
3 T.J. Perkins (Philippines)
The Filipino sensation who has been in the game since he was thirteen and thanks to a mask, no one was the wiser. Unfortunately, early success and things coming easy to Perkins led to an immature level of cockiness as Perkins wound up having had to fight back from being homeless and had to get mentally tough in order to survive living on the streets. Proclaiming that he makes it look easy in the ring, Perkins' cockiness now comes from a place where he learned about being a character. Perkins is ready for the world to remember the Cruiserweight Classic and his performance the way he remembers the Super J Cups of yesteryear. The youngest Gaijin to have ever worked in Japan, Perkins also looks to be a hero to his people in the Philippines. Impact Wrestling fans would actually know who the Antonio Inoki-trained Perkins is very well. The former X-Division Champion also performed under the hood as Manik, enthralling crowds with a 520 corkscrew DDT, a Frog Splash, and many other gravity defying moves. Look for Perkins in the first round against German representative in the CWC, Da Mack.
2 The Brian Kendrick
One of Shawn Michaels' star pupils returns home to the WWE. Still, one half of the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Championship teams in history, Brian Kendrick fully acknowledges that he is the reason for his release almost a decade ago. But he has not been sitting at home waiting to the WWE to call. Kendrick headed to places like New Japan and Ring of Honor, as well as having a hand in training heat-seeking missile, The Red Queen herself, Eva Marie. The 37 year old acknowledges that he deserved to be released from the company and his dream, but is ready to redeem himself in the Cruiserweight Classic as one of two WWE veterans returning for this undertaking. In Bracketology, Kendrick cited Daniel Bryan as the guy who pushed him the most in his career and looks to now push himself harder than ever before. Kendrick is ready to use his experience to his advantage against his first round opponent, Mexico's Raul Mendoza. Not to mention the rest of the field, as The Brian Kendrick would love to defeat them all.
1 Kota Ibushi
He is simply the best Japanese Cruiserweight in the world right now and, to quote Enzo Amore, you can't teach that. The Golden Star is a former three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion who defeated Finn Balor for that very title. He has been to many places including Dynamic Dream Team (DDT), which stylistically is a parody of WWE (Bread on a Pole match, anyone?). He would eventually go on to become one of the most feared strikers in the world, who also has one of the highest dropkicks you'll ever see. Coming off neck surgery, Ibushi says he just wants to make the fans happy and his first round match with Anoa'i dynasty member, Sean Mulata, main evented the first episode of the CWC. A purveyor of high flying Japanese Strong Style, he would deliver a Last Ride Powerbomb to his foe to move onto the next round. As someone who has wrestled at several of New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom (their WrestleMania), he is no stranger to this kind of pressure. This combined with his skills, has made The Golden Star the early favorite to win the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic.
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