It’s that time again. The Cruiserweight Classic, easily my favourite part of WWE programming at the moment. This week sees the first instalment from the quarter finals with Brian Kendrick vs Kota Ibushi and Akira Tozawa vs Gran Metalik. With matches I had been wishing for since the start of this tournament coming to fruition it’s hard not to be excited. And after dealing with a WWE network issue I was rearing to go for what promised to be an excellent episode.
Match 1: Akira Tozawa vs Gran Metalik
This is the way to kick off a show, with these two you know right away that the match is going to be full of big spots and great moves, I was suitably excited as soon as Tozawa’s music hit. The match started slow, switching it up from Metalik’s previous matches, he brought the pace down for Tajiri but to start the match with some Mat wrestling with different and showed just how diverse Metalik was. That being said things soon sped up with both men running the ropes and simultaneously going for a dropkick. This served to set the men up as equals as they had a short stare down soon after this spot to build excitement for what was to come. Tozawa soon started to pull ahead however, setting himself up as the strong man of the two as he gauded Metalik into striking him and gave little to no response. It made Tozawa look tough and it really embodied his “king of Stamina” gimmick mentioned by Mauro earlier in the match. Ultimately this did not last as he was soon felled by a big dropkick from Gran Metalik. This opened the door for Metalik to start employing his regular springboard offense with dropkicks and back elbows from all sides.
It wasn’t long before the first suicide dive of the night with Gran Metalik diving through the middle rope. As I said earlier in the tournament I love seeing outside dives they are always nice to see but they are starting to seem like a standard move now as opposed to something special which is what I feel they should be, nonetheless it was a nice suicide dive. Before long things are back in the ring and we see a nice figure four from Metalik putting the hurt on Tozawa who refuses to give up and shows his resiliency with his shouting. His resiliency soon manifests itself as some big offense with Metalik going for another of his springboard moves only for it to be countered with a big dropkick followed by a bicycle kick sending him tumbling to the outside really building some momentum and really hyping up the crowd. Then we got not one but two suicides from Tozawa perhaps in an attempt to one up his opponent.
Things find their way back to the ring and it allows Tozawa to hit that beautiful Senton he does, every time is see it I am filled with glee. Tozawa continued to challenge Metalik verbally throughout the match, shouting come on at him and doing his psych out slap spot. Tozawa was really going for big and brash in this match and he did it perfectly even pulling a move out of the Heel handbook. At one point he started to do his signature shouting “Ah. Ah. Ah etc” but just as the crowd started to shout along he shouted back “Be quiet” it was a nice little moment that put a smile on my face and kind of made him the matches heel despite both men having a great crowd reaction throughout. The match continued to have impressive spots throughout and the speed really picked up towards the end of proceedings. We saw a standing shooting star press from Gran Metalik followed by yet another outside dive and a missed Moonsault from the top rope. Soon after however he hit an incredible Hurricanrana With Tozawa suspended on the ropes which was made even better with a 2.9 kick out from Tozawa.
At this point fight forever chants broke out and Daniel Bryan says as the tournament continues the matches just get better. I was inclined to agree until I remembered Cedric Alexander vs Kota Ibushi and Gargano Vs Ciampa. That being said the matches are incredible all throughout this tournament and the fact that the time limit has been upped to 30 minutes it really allows the wrestlers to show what they can do. The match ends with a high speed sequence full of heart in your mouth moments like a reversed German Suplex followed by a snap German Suplex before the Deadlift German was ultimately escaped and countered into the Metalik Driver. With the the match was over and the crowd was riled up ready for Kendrick and Ibushi is was a great way to start the show and a really fun match. I’m sad to see Tozawa go but I’m glad I got to see what I did from him.
Gran Metalik Wins.
Match 2: Brian Kendrick vs Kota Ibushi.
Before the start of this match the story was set up by Daniel Bryan in the perfect way. All throughout the cruiserweight classic he has been a staunch supporter of Brian Kendrick but before this match started he opened with “I’m nervous” it wasn’t much but it really sold how strong Ibushi is as a competitor and how big of a deal he was and how difficult it was going to be for Kendrick. It was a simple story for match but it was a story and was a quick way to get people invested before things started.
Brian Kendrick’s music hit and people were excited. the man with the plan is such a good entrance song, it always gets me excited I can only assume the same for other people as the crowd were chomping at the bit for this match and as soon as it started Kendrick went pure heel running away to after pushing Ibushi. This was a great start to the match as it clearly defines the heel and the face as well as showing us how desperate Kendrick is to win, he has to play sneaky and clever for this match, more so than he has done previously in the tournament. Being clever can only get you so far however as Ibushi lands some huge strikes to start his offense. Almost immediately Ibushi hits his Golden triangle, though this time it’s from the top rope, it’s a great start to the match and had everyone chanting Ibushi’s name. Having the crowd behind Ibushi was probably helped in a big way by Kendrick really heeling it up.
Despite his heelish ways though Kendrick seemed to be getting dominated throughout, that is until he hit a huge Neckbraker off the turnbuckle. I loved this spot because Kendrick using the ring in a clever way was by far the best part of his last match it really plays up how clever he has to be to try and beat Ibushi. The mix of smarts and desperation work extremely well for Kendrick as he soon capitalizes and starts hitting move after move trying to stay on top of Ibushi. This desperation starts to endear Kendrick to the crowd despite him being the heel. That being said Ibushi soon took charge by flipping out of an attempted bully choke and hitting his patented strong style offense. The two then start to exchange strikes before Kendrick hits the move I had been waiting the entire tournament to see…The Kendrick, Sliced Bread No.2, Shiranui, whatever you want to call it he did it and it was beautiful. It didn’t win the match but it was nice to see regardless. Kendrick then hit took his offense to the corner but it backfired and resulted in one of the biggest moves of the night. Ibushi hit a middle rope release german suplex prompting the first holy shit chants of the night and Holy Shit was right. It is rare to see moves like that at when you do it means something special and shows that the wrestlers are bringing out their best to beat the other. A near fall gets the crowd excited and when Kendrick locks in the Bully choke the crowd is in uproar. Kendrick then follows the Heel handbook and targets the neck, but instead of wearing Ibushi down with chokeholds Kendrick goes for a desperation tactic and hits the biggest move of the entire tournament. A move banned by WWE and a move rarely used by it’s originator, the Burning hammer.
For those not familiar with the Burning Hammer, it is a big deal in wrestling and can cause a lot of damage, as it drops the opponent straight on to the top of their head. The move is so dangerous that it is treated as a match-ender in almost all situations. This was my holy shit moment of the night as it is an incredible move to pull off but for it to be kicked out of, is an incredible shock. After Ibushi kicks out, a desperate Kendrick starts to strike hard at Ibushi only to be met by a huge kick. Soon Ibushi hits his Golden star Powerbomb and after an exhausted match he gets the three count ending it.
Kota Ibushi Wins
This was a fantastic match and to see Kendrick hit two huge moves made him look like a big threat, the also made Ibushi looks like an unstoppable monster, something that will serve the eventual winner of the tournament well if it isn’t Ibushi himself. The end of the match wasn’t the end of the show however as things got emotional at the end. Kendrick is left alone in the ring his eyes welling up with tears Daniel Bryan makes his way down form the announce booth and embraces his old friend to be met with cheers. I love it when you see real emotion in wrestling it makes it so special and it’s a big reason of why I’m such a fan seeing what these guys put into their craft hits me hard. The episode ends with the crowd chanting “Thank you Brian” Thank you Brian Indeed.