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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Review (8/24/16): #PUSO


Seven weeks and two rounds later, we find ourselves with the Elite Eight of the Cruiserweight Classic. This week, we got the last three matches from the second round, and as it always is with the best hour of televised wrestling today, all three matches were superb. Lince Dorado went head-to-head with Rich Swann in an athletic showdown, while Zack Sabre Jr. and Drew Gulak faced off to see who was the superior technical wrestler. And in the main event, TJ Perkins hoped to prove that he is no one-hit wonder against NXT Superstar Johnny Gargano.


Match #1: Rich Swann (U.S.) def. Lince Dorado (Puerto Rico)



Swann vs. Dorado was a fun opener for what was an exciting episode of the CWC. The match started off with some showmanship from both competitors, who displayed grace alongside their innate athleticism. I enjoyed seeing them match each other’s counters while showing off how flashy they could be.
In the second act, both guys moved away from the showboating and went towards submissions and strikes, showing that neither of them were one-trick ponies. Switching gears like this throughout a match is actually something I enjoy seeing because it helps you veer away from typecasting a wrestler under a particular style—something which the style categorization of the tournament makes viewers guilty of doing.

The third act featured Swann and Dorado attempting to pull off their signature moves on one another unsuccessfully because each man had a quick counter ready for the other’s attacks. It was reflective of how both men were very familiar with each other from their history outside WWE, and the result was an adrenaline-filled finish.
In the end, Rich Swann picked up the win with a Phoenix Splash on Lince Dorado’s face, as the former guaranteed his spot in the Elite Eight. With the victory, Swann continues to build momentum for himself despite not having appeared on NXT in about a couple of months. But that’s okay because he now finds himself in a high-profile matchup against the winner of this episode’s main event. And whether you’re a Filipino or not—spoiler alert—that should make Rich Swann’s next CWC match matter even more because that match is for a spot in the tournament’s Final Four.


Match #2: Zack Sabre Jr. (U.K.) def. Drew Gulak (U.S.)



After going several weeks without a recipient of the Ariya Daivari Dick of the Night Award, we get one this week in Drew Gulak, who takes umbrage to ZSJ being hailed as the tournament’s best technical wrestler. Gulak refused to shake ZSJ’s hand, establishing himself as the heel of the match.
ZSJ vs. Gulak was a technical contest, with both wrestlers trying to show each other up on the mat, which was really enjoyable to watch. ZSJ put Escapeology on display once again, while Gulak showed that he could match Sabre Jr.’s submission expertise by tying up the Technical Wizard up. Gulak’s Gory Special variation, where ZSJ’s shoulders were being stretched, and then later, with ZSJ’s chin being pulled back, was particularly impressive.

This match was the antithesis of the previous bout, with barely any flips and just a lot of grappling, but that didn’t make this one any less fun. They ramped up the intensity when both guys started to hit each other with hard slaps and stiff kicks! While this was happening, we have to acknowledge Mauro Ranallo for shouting out Katsuyori Shibata when ZSJ hit Gulak with a Penalty Kick, one of the stiffest shots of the night.

ZSJ would pick up the win by countering Gulak’s dragon sleeper into a bridging pin, where the former used his legs to hold down the latter’s shoulders. How that happened so quickly and smoothly still amazes me. Damn. Escapeology for the win!
ZSJ’s victory puts him in a match against Scotland’s Noam Dar, the CWC’s youngest competitor, in the Elite Eight. Noam Dar’s been playing a brash, arrogant character who knows how to be savvy in the ring to get under your skin—a great complement against Zack Sabre Jr.’s creativity and cleverness as a technical specialist. I’m looking forward to seeing this clash of styles, even though it’s pretty much a given that ZSJ is advancing here.


Match #3: TJ Perkins (Philippines) def. Johnny Gargano (U.S.)



Ahhh, the upset we’ve been waiting for!

When you think about it, though, the TJP victory isn’t much of an upset considering both of these guys have had heralded indy careers prior to their WWE exposure. Add the fact that TJP and Gargano have previously had an excellent match in EVOLVE, and that Johnny Wrestling was working with a kayfabe injured knee as a result of the NXT Tag Team Championship match against the Revival at TakeOver: Brooklyn, and the match was actually TJ’s to lose.
Gargano was the same plucky underdog he’s been in WWE television, while TJ wasn’t shy about being flashy when he had to be and being technical when the situation called for it. Johnny would still launch himself outside the ring, while TJP dabbed just because he could. Both guys started off with submissions, though, but gravitated towards stiff kicks midway through the match before bringing the game back to the mat once again.

Johnny Wrestling’s injured knee would come into play towards the end of the match when TJP capitalized on its weakness, as you’ll see in his pinfall covers, and later, in the finish. Gargano would try to finish TJ off with a Lawn Dart, but Kuya TJ would find an opening and finally lock in the TJP Clutch to get Gargano to tap out and advance to the quarterfinals.
This sets up a matchup with Rich Swann in the Elite Eight, which could very well lead to another TJP win, fulfilling the suntok sa buwan prophecy about TJ being his bracket’s representative in the Final Four. Win or lose, TJP’s having one hell of a CWC, and it looks like he’s parlaying that into a spot on the RAW roster as one of the CWC participants who’ll be part of the red brand’s cruiserweight division. Congratulations, Kuya TJ!

*****

With that, we’re down to our Elite Eight: Akira Tozawa, Gran Metalik, Noam Dar, Zack Sabre Jr., Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann, Kota Ibushi, and TJ Perkins!

Given the way the brackets are set up, here are my predictions for the rest of the tournament:

  • Akira Tozawa defeats Gran Metalik
  • Zack Sabre Jr. defeats Noam Dar
  • Kota Ibushi defeats Brian Kendrick
  • TJ Perkins defeats Rich Swann

  • Zack Sabre Jr. defeats Akira Tozawa
  • Kota Ibushi defeats TJ Perkins

  • Kota Ibushi defeats Zack Sabre Jr.

But don’t take these predictions as gospel. With both Kota Ibushi and ZSJ not having signed WWE contracts after the CWC, a TJP win could very well be a plausible dark horse scenario!

How does your CWC bracket look like heading into the Elite Eight? Let us know in the comments section!

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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