Week 4 of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic starts with a short video package recapping who advanced last week and then introduces the remaining 8 competitors. After the opening graphics Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo hype the tournament and then throw to Corey Graves to discuss the first match.
ROUND 1 MATCHES
Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee
Bigfreaky: Richard Swann is one of the favorites and the only signed #NXT talent (as of taping) in the #CWC tournament. Jason Lee an 8 year vet out of Hong Kong brings his Kung-Fu stylings to the match. Swann always enjoying his time and thrilling the fans with his electric entrance and dancing. Swann known for his quickness, and Lee is impressive with his own lighting fast strikes. A bit of a back and forth affair until Rich turns the tide with the sanding top rope head scissors, and shortly followed up with a standing 450 splash for the pin.
Greg: Rich Swann is a name familiar to those who watch NXT on a regular basis. Jason Lee however, is not. He is the second of the 2 Chinese competitors in this tournament and he works for the same promotion Hoho Lun is from. He arrives to ring first displaying some flashy martial arts skills. Rich Swann follows with his full dancing entrance, the camera shows Lee in the background looking unimpressed.
Once the bell rings there is early crowd support for Swann and Lionel Ritchie since the crowd starts chanting “All Night Long”. It’s noted that Swann is coming off major shoulder surgery and that may affect his in ring performance. Quick paced start to the match with Swann showing no ring rust. He eventually gets grounded by Lee who backs him into the corner and hits him with some very quick strikes followed up by an enziguri for a 2 count.
Swann gets back on to his feet and forces Lee into the corner where he hits a hurancurana and a rolling frog spash which leads to another near fall. Lee counters back with his speed and use of some lucha libre moves but gets caught with a roundhouse kick from Swann to break his momentum. After that a standing 450 splash for the cover and come dancing from Swann in celebration. He will face Lince Dorado in round 2.
After watching this match it looks like Jason Lee is the more polished of the 2 competitors from China.
Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra
BigFraky: Noam Dar has also spent a bit of time with TNA during British Boot Camp 2 where he advanced to the final six of that contest. Gurv Shira, the other half of the Bollywood Boys and part of the “Butter Chicken Beatdown”. Noam very methodical in his attack, but a little too showboat’ish and he pays for it by Gurv taking advantage of those opportunities. A very much back and forth affair for the entire match. But even Shira is not immune from being a showboat and it ends up being his own downfall. Gurv with his playful Bollywood camera ends up costing him, as Noam moves out of the way and Shira misses an elbow drop from the top rope. Dar works on Shiras leg most of the match and that translates into a kneebar for the finish.
Greg: Guv Sihra is the other half of the Bollywood Boys. His brother Harv was eliminated earlier in the tournament. Noam Dar is Israeli born but represents Scotland. The fun fact for this week is that Dar is the first Israeli competitor to step foot in the WWE. I guess remember that if it ever comes up in some wrestling related trivia on Jeopardy.
As the match begins Bryan comments that this a battle of hair styles and there’s a lot of grease in the ring. Not hard to argue with him on that. Anyway Sihra lures Dar into a headlock takeover with a Bollywood Camera taunt and takes early control of the match using his experience early against his younger opponent.
The tables turn when Dar starts to focus on attacking Sihra’s leg to take away his high flying offense. Dar hits a double palm thrust into a European uppercut and follows up with a rolling drop kick for a near fall. Bryan comments on the the theatrics from Dar and says he wants him to keep his movements simple.
Sihra regains control but wastes too much time taunting Dar (which raises the ire of Bryan for too many theatrics) with the Bollywood Camera. He misses a second rope move and pays for his mistake. Dar puts him into a fisherman’s suplex for a near fall and then quickly goes into a knee bar to force Sihra to tap. Noam Dar moves on to face Hoho Lun in the second round.
Hiro: Hoho Lun is winning the tournament, so of course he will defeat Noam Dar. It wouldn’t surprise me if he squashes him.
Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner
BigFreaky: The English Gentleman vs. the Italian Powerhouse. Gallagher visibly smaller to the mammoth of a cruiserweight Aichner. 165lbs vs 203lbs. Fabian who shows he has obviously been trained by the Wright family (Alex Wright of WCW lore) with his incredible agility. Impressive flips and reversals while Jack bides his time. Counter after counter as this match progresses. Anything that Aicher seems to throw at Gallagher, Jack seems to have an answer for. Back and forth, back and forth. As technical as a match can be with splashes of power and finesse, a bit of a sleeper hit of a match. Fabian lands a double springboard moonsault, but that doesn’t seal the deal. A few more great sequences, until Aichner misses a big frog splash and Gallagher seizes the opportunity and delivers the most impressive corner dropkick I’ve ever seen garnering him the 1,2,3.
Greg: Fabian Archer’s video promo was fairly short and more was focused on the British competitor Jack Gallagher. A 10-year veteran who treats wrestling as a gentlemanly sporting contest and describes it as a human game of chess.
Gallagher is the first to make his way to the ring and it’s noted that he has some flashy in-ring attire. He’s also very much a throwback to a different era based on his look alone and can probably compete with Seamus for palest man on the roster. Aichner comes out next. He was trained by Steve Wright and former WCW Cruiserweight champion Alex Wright. Much like Tony Nese, he’s a big guy for a cruiserweight and has the obvious size advantage in this match.
There are early wrist lock maneuvers early in the match allowing Aichner to show off his athleticism and Gallagher his technical British style. Both get the crowd popping early. Gallagher shows off more mat prowess with a neat toe hold escape before applying his own. After reaching a standoff some short fan appreciation before the match speeds up.
Aichner tries to out muscle Gallagher and fails the first time getting thrown into a leg flip. His second attempt is more successful as he hits a springboard kick to knock Gallagher to the mat. They proceed to go into a series of back and forth pinning counters until Aichner powers Gallagher into a backbreaker. He then hits a double springboard moonsault for a near fall.
Gallagher mounts a comeback and gets Aichner into a guillotine but can’t get the hold in fully. Aichner powers out and slams Gallagher into a sit out power bomb for another near fall. That pops the crowd big time due to the fact that Aichner used some brute strength to just get Gallagher into position for the move. He follows up that move with a top rope frog splash but misses. Gallagher recovers and pushes Aichner into the corner and hits him with a running dropkick to the face for the win. He moves on to face Akira Tozawa in round 2.
This was an impressive match from both men. The crowd thanks them for their efforts with a “Thank you both” chant.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa
BigFreaky: A main event anywhere in the world. A caveat to this match is that during both of their #NXT careers they have been a tag team. They have put that aside tonight to assure this match will be the best it can be, and that they did. I have followed both these men over the years as they have progressed in their independent careers. The Cleveland native of Gargano who has been a mainstay and a huge fan favorite in AIW (Absolute Intense Wrestling) as well as worldwide, being a champion and top star in various promotions. Ciampa out of Milwaukee, spent a good portion of his career in ROH (Ring of Honor) where I was introduced to him. Ciampa has also spent a lot of his time since leaving ROH in AAW in Chicago as well as overseas for United Kingdom promotions. Both men have also spent time in one of the most powerful independents there is PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla) in Reseda California.
I have to say, no amount of review or tricky wording I try to put together will do this match justice. You simply must watch this match and enjoy it as it unfolds. One of the best outings from both of them that I have ever seen. A CLASSIC for sure.
Greg: There is a long video package from the bracketology special covering the history between these two men. That leads into a backstage promo to sell the importance of this match to both men’s singles careers.
Ciampa reluctantly shakes hands before the match starts. Once it does there is early competition for dominance with quick arm drag exchanges until Gargano gets Ciampa on the mat and locks on an armbar. Ciampa gets back on his feet and nails Gargano with a hard back elbow to get out of the hold. He hits him so hard you can hear a loud thud and spit goes flying out of Gargano’s mouth. Ciampa takes advantage by going on the attack taking his opponent to the outside of the ring with a hard knee. He then starts laying in said knees and some elbows, beating the crap out of Gargano.
Gargano makes a brief comeback but is stopped with another hard elbow to the face. But he manages to gain some advantage and gets Ciampa in the corner and kicks him in the head. He follows up with a slingshot DDT for a near fall. A stunned Ciampa is then chopped into the corner but recovers enough to get Gargano on his back and climbs the ropes for a top rope move. He takes too much time and Gargano slips out for an attempt at sunset flip power bomb but takes a few shots to the head instead. Gargano eventually ties up Ciampa in the buckle and kicks him in the face. Then he follows up with a power bomb.
Ciampa rolls out of the ring and Gargano follows him with a suicide dive. Once back in the ring Gargano tries to do a middle rope dive but gets caught with another stiff knee to the face for another near fall after. Ciampa continues his assaults on Gargano’s head. A reverse in to an enziguri knocks him down and both men lay on the mat. Bryan comments he is concerned about Gargano’s head due to the number of hits he’s taken.
Both men roll out to the ring apron and trade chops. Ciampa kicks Gargano again and then hits an air raid crash immediately after. He quickly rolls Gargano into the ring for the cover but only gets a 2 count. He then gets ready to go for the kill but hesitates. He eats a super kick from Gargano but still has enough strength to clothesline him. Ciampa then uses a power bomb, back cracker combination and goes for the pin. Only a 2 count again. The crowd goes wild with “Yes” and “This is awesome” chants after that near fall.
Ciampa continues to beat down Gargano and tries to finish him with a discus clothesline. He misses and gets countered into a crucifix pin for the 3 count. Ciampa can’t believe he lost. Gargano moves on to face TJ Perkins in round 2.
Great match to close out the first round. There was plenty of drama during the match and even after when Ciampa was about to leave the ring in disgust only to return to embrace his tag team partner in the middle of the ring.
That closes the first round of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. So far this has come as advertised, presenting many exciting matches and styles that have not been seen on WWE programming in years. This should only get better as the matches will get longer. With less competitors there is a chance for the remaining to really show what they are capable of.
Round 2 starts with Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik and Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi.