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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Review (8/31/16): It's Amazing, So Amazing

Here we are, the eighth episode of the Cruiserweight Classic, and we're down to the Elite Eight! It's your boy Stan Sy reviewing the action once again!

With the news coming out that the CWC Finale on September 14 is set to be a two-hour special, it implies that both semifinal matches and the finals match will air by then. That leaves all four quarterfinal matches for these next two weeks. On the plus side, now that we're in the quarters, all of the matches moving forward now have a 30-minute time limit, which raises the stakes and the possibility for more instant classics.

This week, we deal with the upper half of the bracket as Akira Tozawa takes on Gran Metalik, while on the other side of the upper half, Kota Ibushi goes one-on-one with Brian Kendrick. Let's do this!

Match #1: Gran Metalik (Mexico) def. Akira Tozawa (Japan)


This was the type of match that you knew could go from a slow pace to a furious frenzy in a hurry, given the way both guys have worked so far in the CWC. Thankfully, Gran Metalik and Akira Tozawa controlled the tempo well, shifting through the gears effortlessly throughout the bout. They started off with an even give-and-take, with Metalik taking control after he created some separation to go for a tope suicida on Tozawa.

Tozawa would then try to ground Metalik with a variation of the Figure Four, but the latter would get up and be the first to bust out a stiff kick, which was noteworthy since Tozawa was the strong style specialist in the match.


As always, commentary during the match was spot on, as Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan emphasized points like how Tozawa ends up benefiting from a longer match because of his superior stamina. I also found it amusing how Mauro just heaped praise upon praise on Dragon Gate, Tozawa's home promotion, as the Japanese sensation took over the match.

I daresay that Gran Metalik is the better high-flyer in this tournament over Kota Ibushi, because unlike Ibushi, Metalik's antics seem better controlled. They still look dazzling and hit hard, but they don't make you fear for the performer's legitimate safety unlike Ibushi's flips and dives. 

As the match kicked into its latter stages, we saw Metalik tapping into his quickness and agility to misdirect Tozawa and attack him. But it would still be 50/50 as both guys got to get their own signature moves in, while also countering some of their opponents' best shots. When Tozawa kicked out of a pinfall attempt after Gran Metalik's springboard huracanrana, Full Sail just went bonkers and broke into a "Fight forever!" chant, which was well-deserved.


I knew Gran Metalik was winning this when he kicked out of Tozawa's finisher, the deadlift bridging German suplex. True enough, he was able to counter another suplex from Tozawa and picked up the Japanese competitor for a Metalik Driver, allowing him to go for the 1-2-3.


That was one hell of a showcase for both guys, and while I'm still salty about Jack Gallagher being robbed in the previous round, I'm satisfied with Tozawa's performance in the CWC overall. He just brought a unique element to the tournament and showed me what I've been missing out on by not following his brand of wrestling. As for Gran Metalik, I'm happy to see him qualify for the semifinals. I love his hybrid style of high-flying and technical wrestling, and it'll be fun seeing him go up against Zack Sabre, Jr, who I predict will come out of his bout with Noam Dar next week as the winner.

Match #2: Kota Ibushi (Japan) def. Brian Kendrick (U.S.A.)


We're three rounds into the tournament and we're still getting the same desperate underdog video package that depicts Brian Kendrick as the veteran babyface. I don't get it. He's a desperate and cunning heel in the ring. Why are we pushing him as a babyface and then doing a 180 as soon as he enters the arena?

Kendrick didn't waste any time resorting to his heel tactics, challenging Kota Ibushi to meet him outside the ring. Ibushi wouldn't have any of it and didn't fall for Kendrick's tricks at the start. It was pretty surprising, though, when Ibushi busted out the Golden Triangle Moonsault early on. He could've saved that for a later spot and it would've had more gravitas.


I enjoyed seeing Kendrick work as the lone true heel of the CWC, especially when he played possum and trapped Ibushi's foot in the guardrail so he could pick up a countout win. Sure, Ibushi got out easily and got back in the ring immediately, but you had to admire the moxie of The Brian Kendrick to do something like that!

Kendrick spent a lot of the match working on Ibushi's surgically-repaired neck—a point that Mauro and Bryan hammered home a lot—using moves like a neckbreaker to the exposed turnbuckle, a cravat, and even Sliced Bread #2! For his part, Ibushi didn't hold back in showing his power game, particularly when he busted out an explosive scoop powerslam on Kendrick a la Goldust or Randy Orton midway through the match. I also loved how he picked Kendrick up from the apron for a German suplex into the ring while both men stood on the second rope. That was something I wouldn't be surprised to see from Cesaro, but from Kota Ibushi? Man. That was awesome.


Towards the climax of the match, Kendrick would resort to his Bully Choke, which Ibushi would kick out of, but Kendrick wasn't finished. He'd go for the Burning Hammer, landing Ibushi on his head, which made for such an impactful and cringing visual. I loved the move because it showed how far Kendrick was willing to go to advance in the tournament, but I questioned Ibushi's wisdom in taking a bump like that given his previous injuries.


The finish was fast and furious as Ibushi missed a Phoenix Splash, opening the door for another Bully Choke attempt, which Ibushi countered with a pinfall into a two-count. Upon getting up first, Ibushi nailed Kendrick with a stiff roundhouse kick, setting up his Golden Star Powerbomb to put Brian Kendrick away.

Man, that was just as much fun as the first match. I loved watching both of these guys go all out, but the more emotional journey had to be Brian Kendrick's. Heel or not, you had to feel for his character given what he's been through. It was extra special watching Full Sail just showering him with love, chanting, "Thank you, Brian!" during the episode's epilogue. And then seeing Daniel Bryan leave the commentary booth to enter the ring and give Kendrick a long, congratulatory hug—and hearing the crowd chant, "Thank you, Bryans!" was just an amazing moment. I love this show so much.

As for Kota Ibushi, what else is there to say? You knew he was one of the favorites early on, and whether TJP or Rich Swann advances, he's still going to be the guy to beat. I wouldn't be surprised if TJP advanced past Rich Swann, but Ibushi might be a hurdle too high for Kuya TJ to clear at this point.

*****

Next week, we get the last two quarterfinal matchups in Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Noam Dar and TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann! We're all more excited for the latter match for obvious reasons, but I'm not going to sleep on ZSJ vs. Dar because it might just be a sleeper Pick of the Week on next week's SGP Podcast!

What was your favorite moment from this week's CWC episode?

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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