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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Review (7/20/16): This Is Not A One Night Stand, Baby

Another Thursday, another Cruiserweight Classic episode in the books, and after last week’s exciting opener, we get a set of tasty matchups for this week! These include Tajiri’s return to a WWE ring after a decade, our introductions to Lince Dorado and Mustafa Ali, Akira Tozawa’s WWE debut, and the much-awaited TJ Perkins first-round bout against Da Mack!

Let’s do this!

Match #1: Tajiri (Japan) def. Damian Slater (Australia)



If you caught Tajiri live in Manila two years ago, then you’ll be pleased to hear that not much has changed since the night he wrestled at the Ynares Sports Center. What’s astounding is the fact that Tajiri has managed to stay in very good shape at the age of 46. Then again, his Strong Style roots may have done its part in preserving his career.

Meanwhile, Damian Slater was presented without much of a buildup other than, “he’s a young dude with a technical style and he’s a world beater.” K.

The match itself wasn’t very long, but it did feature a good display of both guys’ repertoires. Slater got off to a good start using various holds to establish control over the veteran Tajiri, but the latter would eventually gain momentum using his stiff kicks. The Japanese Buzzsaw would spend the match weakening Slater’s left arm through those kicks to weaken him and prevent him from unlocking his technical game.

In the end, Tajiri would finish Slater off with his trademark Buzzsaw Kick to advance to the second round. It was a short and sweet match, but it was enough of a reminder about why Tajiri was able to carve out a successful career for himself in the U.S. during the 90s and 2000s.


It’s also worth mentioning that good ol’ Mauro shouted Kent Jones out, referencing his hit single, Don’t Mind, during one of the chain sequences between Tajiri and Damian Slater. Never change, Tito Mauro.


Match #2: TJ Perkins (Philippines) vs. Da Mack (Germany)


After establishing TJP’s backstory during Bracketology, they added a cocky flair to his character by including quotes like, “I like to make it look good. I like to make it look easy,” in his intro package. He would go on to have one of the more generic rock entrance themes in the CWC, but the fact that he dances all throughout would absolve it from the inherent blandness. Thank God TJP can dance. He actually looks like he would have fit in with the Streetboys or the Universal Motion Dancers.
Meanwhile, we’ll have the idea that Da Mack wants to be the Michael Jackson of wrestling beaten over our heads all throughout their match. Good for him for getting a funky, disco-like theme to enter to, though. And that moonwalk was quite the sight to see.

Watching TJ wrestle is such a fun experience because he’s so fluid that it looks like he’s dancing! Kuya TJ doesn’t lie when he says he makes it look easy. And you know that shit isn’t easy at all! Meanwhile, Da Mack would try to get the upper hand by striking hard while playing to the crowd, which would prove to be fruitless because TJP was the clear favorite early on.

What impressed me more than TJP’s high-flying offense was his submission game. He would go for a variety of holds including a Boston Crab variation where he’d grab Da Mack’s arms from behind him and a Muta lock. Every time Da Mack would try to seize momentum, TJP would cut him off with another submission, which made for many a mark out moment in the Sy household!



As the match hit its crescendo, TJP would miss a 450 splash, which Da Mack would parlay into a floatover facebuster. But not long after that, TJP would catch Da Mack in the TJP Clutch, which would force the Urban German to tap out.


What an exciting showing for TJP, who’s poised to be one of the CWC’s breakout stars moving forward. Expect us to ramp up the hype for Kuya TJ when he meets the winner of the Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa match-up in the first-round finale!


Match #3: Lince Dorado (Puerto Rico) def. Mustafa Ali (Pakistan)

From the video package alone, you’ll already be able to tell that Mustafa Ali’s going to be the heel because he’s Middle Eastern of how arrogant he’s portrayed. He’s billed as a hybrid because of his experience training in all the different styles featured in the CWC. Oh, and he’s a cop, too. Wait, a heel cop? How relevant to current events in the Philippines. Welp.


And then there’s Lince Dorado, who’s built up as a 10-year vet who has competed all around the world. He impressed me early on because he can actually speak in fluent English and he doesn’t sound bland unlike most luchadors. Aaaaaand then they give him some generic rock music to come out to. Great.



During the pre-match handshake portion, Mustafa Ali reluctantly just slapped Dorado’s hand and attacked the luchador right off the bat with a shot to the head. It looks like Mustafa Ali is this week’s designated holder of the Ariya Daivari Award for Dick of the Night. Ali would then take control early after hitting Lince Dorado with a Shining Wizard off the apron.

Meanwhile, Lince Dorado would prove to be more interesting than Gran Metalik was last week. Dorado is everything you want in a luchador, just flying around the ring and hitting his opponent with the greatest of ease. Every time Ali tried to swing the match in his favor, Dorado would have a counter, echoing the recurring theme from the TJP-Da Mack match.

One of the highlights of this match was Lince Dorado’s springboard reverse huracanrana. Ali would not let himself get outshined, though, and he’d hit a springboard Spanish Fly on Lince Dorado late in the match.


In the end, Mustafa Ali would miss a reverse 450, opening the door for Dorado to go up top and hit a Shooting Star Press—which both Mauro and Daniel Bryan would call in stereo—leading to the 1-2-3!

Lince Dorado was pretty impressive, but don’t discount Mustafa Ali, who put on a great showcase of his own talents, as well. I didn’t care for a lot of these first-round losers heading into the CWC, but a lot of them are making more of an impact on me than HoHo Lun from last week.

Match #4: Akira Tozawa (Japan) def. Kenneth Johnson (USA)



This was my first time seeing Akira Tozawa, but after having read #MWM columnist Brandon Sy’s piece on Tozawa, it set an expectation about the excitement this guy would bring to the CWC. His video package was disappointing because they dubbed over him with an English translation instead of having subtitles like Kota Ibushi did last week. Good thing his Spider-Man-inspired gear made up for it.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Johnson is established as a guy who just wants to uplift, inspire, and motivate others. Bryan also delves into the fact that he’s got a speech impediment (stuttering), but that he spent the last half-year working on it to the point that he can now cut a three-minute promo without stuttering. What a shame that this dude won’t be able to do any more uplifting in the CWC beyond this week. Welp.

Tozawa would take control of the match early with a front facelock, and then a waistlock. But Kenneth Johnson would do his best to offset Tozawa’s chain wrestling with a nice wristlock, which would lead to him being the more dominant wrestler not long after the initial sequence. Johnson’s long, lanky frame would also come into play, allowing him to hold his own against Tozawa’s technical game.


It was fun watching how off-kilter Akira Tozawa would be with his high-pitched battle cry, which the wonderful people at Full Sail would copy over and over again. After a series of chops delivered at each other, Akira Tozawa would break the monotony and just punch Kenneth Johnson straight in the face, which was pretty fun to watch.

As the match approached its final act, Tozawa and Johnson kicked it into high gear by quickening the pace and increased the intensity really quickly. That livened up the crowd and got them into the finish, which saw Tozawa deadlifting a prone Kenneth Johnson into a bridging German Suplex for the win!


*****

Week 2 of the Cruiserweight Classic didn’t disappoint as a whole, especially considering how impressive TJP’s match with Da Mack was. Akira Tozawa also surely opened a lot of eyes in the WWE Universe, while seeing Tajiri back in the WWE is always a welcome sight to see. Meanwhile, Lince Dorado is someone I’ll definitely watch out for as the tournament progresses. Hell, I’ll even go far as to root for him to eventually land a WWE contract because of his potential to follow in the footsteps of Rey Mysterio. After all, he’s already a better talker than Kalisto is at this point.

As for next week, get your hearts and minds ready for “the Technical Wizard,” Zack Sabre Jr., who faces off against Tyson Dux! As if that wasn’t enough, Drew Gulak also makes his WWE debut against Harv Sihra of the Bollywood Boys, while Anthony Bennett (not to be confused with the fat fuck the Cleveland Cavaliers selected first overall in 2013) takes on Tony Nese. And finally, The Brian Kendrick also returns to WWE competition, facing Raul Mendoza in the first round.

It will most definitely be, as Mauro Ranallo called SmackDown Live, lit.

Photos from WWE.

*****

Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. He used to dress up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's General Manager.

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