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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Review (8/3/16): Then We've Come To the End of the Line


The first round of the Cruiserweight Classic is in the books, with the final four matches having taken place on this morning's episode! I was particularly hyped for this one because of the Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa main event, and that match did not disappoint at all.

But before that, we also got Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee, Gurv Sihra vs. Noam Dar, and Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner. So let's go through these matches one by one take in the gift of the CWC. Drink it in, maaaaaan!

Match #1: Rich Swann (U.S.A.) def. Jason Lee (Hong Kong)

We're reacquainted with Rich Swann, whose zest for life is emphasized, especially given how he lost both his parents at a young age but found a new lease on life through wrestling. And then there's Jason Lee, who we learn speaks great English, but is also given the chance to stay something in his native Cantonese with English subtitles. Great call right there.

They start off with some good chain wrestling, but early on, it's obvious that the crowd is partial towards Swann because they're familiar with him as an American and as an NXT superstar. Poor Jason Lee. Guy couldn't get the crowd behind him no matter how hard he tried.
Throughout the match, Jason Lee displays an impressive level of quickness and agility, which unfortunately isn't enough to build him a character other than "Chinese guy from Hong Kong." As a result, it wasn't easy for me to find a reason to get attached to Lee, even though we're both of Chinese ethnicity.


Swann would finish Lee off with a standing 450 splash in the corner to pick up the win, ending one of the more quiet matches from round one. I'm guessing the Full Sail crowd wasn't into this match very much partly out of fatigue since they're coming off the previously taped matches that day. But as we'll see later on, if you give them something to go nuts about, they'll pop like hell. It's a shame that Rich Swann and Jason Lee weren't able to give us an entertaining bout relative to the other first-round matches, which is a testament to how fucking high these other cruiserweights set the bar.

Match #2: Noam Dar (Scotland via Israel) def. Gurv Sihra (India)

It's a clash of technical wrestlers in the second bout, which manifests itself early on when Dar and Sihra engage each other in a battle of holds. Both guys are able to slip out of these fairly easily, but when they establish space between one another, Dar ends up wasting too much time playing to the crowd. That would come back to hurt him as it allowed Sihra to get back up. Later on in the match, Sihra himself would commit the same mistake, with a costlier result.

Noam Dar was actually a fun watch during this match because you'll see how cerebral his offense gets, especially when he targeted Gurv Sihra's left leg multiple times. He aimed to weaken it to impair Sihra's movement. Once he saw what he'd accomplished, he would take time out to be cocky and arrogant, which would make him this week's most likely recipient of the Ariya Daivari Award for Dick of the Night.


Dar's attacks on Sihra's left knee would pay off later on after the former hit a fisherman buster, transitioning it into a pin combo, and then quickly into a knee bar after Sihra kicked out! While in the knee bar, you'll see how intelligent Dar is by using his free leg to pound Sihra into submission.

Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra was alright for what it was, an appetizer for the next two matches.

Match #3: Jack Gallagher (United Kingdom) def. Fabian Aichner (Italy)

Gallagher's interview was pretty enjoyable to watch, even though we'd already seen it in Bracketology. Nonetheless, it's always a treat to see a wrestler doing interviews in suits. Plus, he got a gentlemanly orchestra score, too, much like his own entrance theme—a modernized, upbeat version of Toreador. Classic. I love this guy already.

Aichner and Gallagher start off with a fancy wristlock counter sequence, which was really amusing as it showcased both men's technical abilities. Throughout the match, I got an idea about why Fabian Aichner's dubbed "Cesaro Lite," and that's not just because of his look. His hybrid style—coupled with the way he moves in the ring—is very much like our favorite Swiss Superman's.


The Italian's graceful moveset impressed me during the match, particularly the one spot where he did a double springboard from one top rope to an adjacent one in the corner into a moonsault on Gallagher!

Later on in the match, Aichner would rely on his strength and size to gain an advantage over a seemingly mismatched Gallagher. But the Brit would come back using hard strikes and clever counters, which would lead to an epic finish. Aichner would go to the top rope to attempt a huge frog splash, which misses, disorienting him. Gallagher would take advantage with a solid headbutt to Aichner's jaw, rocking him to the corner. Jack Gallagher would then hit a running corner dropkick that just cracks Aichner's jaw, leading to the 1-2-3!


Just when you think a dropkick is one of the most basic moves in pro wrestling, Gallagher was able to find a way to make it an effective finisher. Color me impressed, indeed. I couldn't help but just agree with the Full Sail crowd when they erupted into a "THANK YOU BOTH!" chant. What a ridiculously entertaining match.

Match #4: Johnny Gargano (U.S.A.) def. Tommaso Ciampa (U.S.A.)

Ah, finally. The match I've been waiting for since Bracketology. The CWC did a good job of hyping this match up, even treating it like a PPV match. Hell, this was the only match in which a backstage interviewer got to talk to both men before the actual match. That says a lot about how they seriously they were treating this match and both Gargano and Ciampa.

The match itself had the most backstory heading into it since both guys are tag team partners in NXT, and have a long history from the independent circuit. Ciampa would have no reservations about hurting Gargano in order to advance, and the latter knows it, which is why he won't be backing down from it.


As the match began, Full Sail broke out into dueling "Johnny Wrestling" and "Psycho Killer" chants for both men—a fitting sign of respect after the work they've done to get to this point. Their match gets off to a fluid start, with each guy slipping out of each other's holds so effortlessly.


Ciampa would take control early on, using fierce and vicious strikes to stun Gargano, which visibly affected the latter as Johnny Wrestling struggled to find his footing later on. But Gargano would find a way to regain momentum as he hit a superkick to Ciampa, who had his head trapped on the turnbuckles—not all that different from Yohann Ollores' superkick to Mark D. Manalo at PWR Live: The ShawDown last Saturday. Gargano would quickly hit a powerbomb, sending Ciampa to the outside, so he followed that up with a tope suicida!


The story would approach its climax when Ciampa sized Gargano up and took off his knee pad in order to hit a stiff knee strike to his friend, but he hesitated and decided he didn't want to win that way. Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan would later realize that both guys were already past the 10-minute mark, and they made a great observation by pointing out that all this fighting would be for naught if the match ends in a draw because of the 20-minute time limit.

It got crazy to watch these guys just hurt one another, particularly when Ciampa hit Johnny with an Air Raid Crash to the apron. I also thought Tommaso already had it when he landed a lungblower variation on Gargano, but that kickout was enough to get me out of my seat.

In the end, I called it right when Johnny Wrestling caught Ciampa in a rolling crucifix after another series of pin counters between both men, ending what has been the best first-round match in the CWC.

Seeing both guys share a heartwarming moment as friends after the match was just icing on the cake. Thank you, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. Wow.


*****

Now that the field has been set for the second round, let me make some quick predictions with the matchups we've got:

Akira Tozawa over Gallagher
Tajiri over Gran Metalik
Zack Sabre, Jr. over Drew Gulak
Noam Dar over HoHo Lun
Brian Kendrick over Tony Nese
Kota Ibushi over Cedric Alexander
Johnny Gargano over TJ Perkins (sorry, Kuya TJ. :( )
Rich Swann over Lince Dorado

I used to think TJP could pull off the upset over Gargano, but after the arc they gave Johnny Wrestling—and that amazing, PPV-quality match he had with Tommaso Ciampa this week—he might be the guy to come out of his bracket into the Final 4. 

Next week, we get Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik and Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi! Plus, we get two more matches that have yet to be announced because of the taping schedule.

What did you think of this week's CWC episode? Let us know in the comments section below!

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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