Round 2 is coming to a close and before we even know it the cruiserweight classic will be ending. It seems only a week ago I was writing my first review, so much has happened since then and there is still so much more to come. So with this episode deciding the remaining quarter finalists the pressure is on. The tournament has been a treat so far and with Gargano, Perkins, ZSJ, Gulak, Lince Dorado and Rich Swann I doubt things will change this episode looks to be something special and before watching I would venture to say it could be one of the best. As always the show opens strong to really establish the grandeur of the product. This time is was a lookback at this weekend with the reveal of the cruiserweight classic trophy (something we had actually seen long ago as it is in the opening titles but whatever) then we get the regular recap of last week’s edition.
Match 1: Lince Dorado vs Rich Swann
If there was ever an opener that guaranteed excitement this was it. Both of these men are just so damn athletic and move so fast that this match was guaranteed to get the blood pumping quickly. The pre match video package set Rich Swann up as the sympathetic underdog due to his tragic backstory and Lince Dorado as the patriotic hero wanting to represent his home and do his people proud. It was a fine set up to the match and as both men made their way to the ring everyone was in a good mood ready for what was undoubtedly going to be a good match. After seeing the way these guys performed in the first round I was very excited to see what they could pull out in the second round, whether they had anything new to show off and whether they could up the ante so to speak.
The match starts fast, very fast. A very short catch wrestling sequence soon become and Irish whip leapfrog sequence with both men flipping over the other and flipping out of headscissor moves to much fanfare. It sets the tone for the match and is a nice display of athleticism to start with. To inject some levity into the match Lince Dorado starts to lampoon Rich Swann by dancing and gyrating. It creates a feel good moment for people watching and it causes Swann to smile. It helps show that this tournament despite being a big deal is still quite a fun experience. Oddly enough it is the dancing that really starts the offense in this match, with Swann locking up Dorado in response to the dancing. From there the match progresses as expected with some very high speed and high octane offense from both men. Everything done in this match is to keep things moving its high speed and exciting, the match is moving a mile a minute and it’s all I can do to keep up, despite this it’s still very smooth and the match works well. A key example of how smooth things work is how Dorado reversed all Swann’s big spots from the first round. It made him look like a ring genius and it shows how well the men can work.
The first big spot of the match comes in the form of a double Superkick, each man takes the other out with a huge kick leveling one another and bringing the match to a grinding halt. It slows things right down and that really plays up the impact of the move. IT takes a little while for both men to get back to their feet but when they did the speed really picked up again with a snap German suplex being reversed by Swann as he flipped out of it and started to build some offense. Dorado had an answer though and managed to hit some big moves before heading up to for his shooting star press. Swann rolls out of the way which sets up Dorado for Swann’s own top rope maneuver in a Phoenix splash ending the match.
Rich Swann wins.
I loved this match and it was a really good start to the show, things moved fast and and it got everyone excited for the show ahead, I wouldn’t have placed this anywhere else, my big complaint however is that it was a little too short, I understand the episodes are only an hour long but I feel an extra couple of minutes could have made this match something special.
After the first match, we cut back stage to Johnny Gargano getting his leg bandaged ahead of his match tonight as a result of his match at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 2. This is great continuity and it allows Gargano to tell his story through multiple shows which is great. I felt the segment was there to put Gargano in the underdog position from the get go much as he was in his first round match but before audiences have a long time to dwell on things the second match gets underway.
Match 2: Zack Saber Jr vs Drew Gulak.
Gulak really impressed me in the first round. His aggressive smash mouth style is something very different to what we have seen in the rest of the tournament and it is a great example of how Crusierweight wrestling isn’t about flips and dives. I feel he would make a great addition to the revival if they were to ever expand. I was looking forward to this match quite a bit because although both men have a submission heavy wrestling style they are both very different in the ring so I was intrigued to see where they went with things, especially as I wasn’t blown away by Saber JR in the first round. I feel we didn’t see everything we could have seen and it left me a little deflated, this match was a second opportunity for him to demonstrate why he has the moniker of “the best technical wrestler in the world”.
As the match started the face heel dynamic was established immediately with Gulak refusing to shake ZSJ’s hand before the match. It was a simple way to get the crowd against him and it worked, it also set the match apart from some others in the tournament, as did the first sequence. There was no sooth catch wrestling this time around instead this match started with a chaotic, scrappy sequence that saw each man desperate to lock in a submission early. When things didn’t work out Gulak soon turned to an aggressive style and played up the fact that he was a much stronger man than Saber Jr. He overpowered him in several spots and it left ZSJ looking weak as Gulak locked in a working hold and started to slap him around. In a show of strength and defiance Zack cried out with a very typical British cry of “Come on Then” It endeared him to me a little bit showing his resiliency. It was here ZSJ started to really mount some offense, with a super smooth reversal. Gulak goes for a top rope dive only for it to be reversed into an armbar by Zack in slick fashion, it was probably the most impressive move of the match and started to show why Saber Jr is deserving of his moniker. It was a much better effort than his first round match and although the match was slower I was still very much engaged.
More power moves from Drew Gulak really play up his strength advantage, a Gory Special being the key example of this. However ZSJ, is consistently slipping out of moves and fighting back until Drew Gulak goes for the Dragon sleeper to end the match, however, ZSJ demonstrated some of his escapology and slipped out of the move quickly reversing it into a pin for the 3 count and the win.
Zack Saber Jr Wins.
A much better showing from Zack this time around leaves me happy however going on to face Noam Dar in the next round makes me think that they will struggle. Hopefully I will be wrong and wildly entertained.
Main Event: TJ Perkins vs Johnny Gargano.
TJ Perkins wants to be the one to identify with, almost a voice of a generation type. He’s cocky but can back it up, and it’s a great bit of character building in the promo. After the last match Gargano had in this tourney I was looking forward to see what this match had in store. His knee was being bandaged earlier in the show and it can be seen under his knee pad which is a subtle bit of story-telling, weaving his NXT story into the CWC. Which is a great way to kick things off.
The match does have a slow build, with TJ Perkins takes charge first trying for the early pin which started a nice sequence with their hands locked together. The flipped over one another with monkey flips and attempted pins before Gargano goes for a wristlock which is ultimately reversed into an Indian deathlock working the injured knee of Gargano. Soon a Dropkick from Gargano followed by a suicide dive prompts him to really start selling the injured knee and despite the injury he looks stronger, much stronger than in his match with Ciampa.
The match was slower than I had anticipated from Perkins, which turned out to be a good thing as it showed how he can mix it up while still employing fan favorite spots such as the twisting headscissor spot. Gargano Continued to sell the knee throughout the match even as he took charge, with his leg giving out in the middle of moves, it was really nice to see. Gargano hit his regular offense with the school boy rolling kick and the tackle from the outside. But TJ Perkins hit some big moves to emulating Ciampa with a lungblower move of his own before going for his Wrecking ball Dropkick. The match had a really nice back and forth throughout, It made Gargano look more than just the underdog even with his leg injury and it made TJ Perkins look like a star. Eventually these back and forth sequences come to a close with Perkins finding his Submission finisher and ending the match with Gargano tapping.
TJ Perkins Wins.
A great episode with a lot on show, now that the second round is over the expectations are even higher for the quarter finals. I’m going to be sad when this whole thing is over but until then I look forward to Wednesday nights.