The show began with highlights of the matches from last week.
Coming up this week Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee, Gurv Sihra vs. Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner and Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa.
In case you have missed my reviews of the first three episodes, here’s a link to those reviews.
The intro video aired and then the announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan welcomed us to the show. Bryan talked about how excited he was. He said he wishes he was in the ring competing against these guys. I wish he was in the ring too. Damn concussions!
Corey Graves was in the control room with the updated graphics. I’ll update them at the end of the show with all of the second round matchups.
Video package aired for Rich Swann from Baltimore. He has a WWE developmental deal already. He talked about how he’s 5’7” 165 pounds living his dream while proving the doubters wrong. Jason Lee is from Hong Kong, he speaks English pretty well and said he’s been wrestling for eight years. He said he’ll try his best to win the tournament.
Lee made his entrance first followed by Swann, who got more of a reaction. Ranallo noted that he’s the only NXT singles competitor in the tournament. Gargano & Ciampa are tag team wrestlers under NXT deals.
Jason Lee (Hong Kong, China) vs. Rich Swann (United States)
Swann with a nice dropkick early on. Lee with a kick to the chest, then some chops and an enziguri kick knocked Swann down for a two count. Very quick offense by Lee. Swann came back with fists and a spinning back first. Lee went up top, but Swann did a hurricanrana to take him down. Swann with a somersault into a splash for two. Lee took him down with a neckbreaker variation, a kick to the head and a cradle for two. Bryan said that Lee may be the fastest guy in the tourney. Roundhouse kick by Swann knocked Lee down. Swann jumped up a couple of times and hit a standing 450 Splash for the pinfall win after four minutes. Wow what a finishing move. Never seen a standing 450 before!
Winner by pinfall: Rich Swann
Following the win, more dancing from Swann in celebration. He faces Lince Dorado in the next round.
Analysis: ** A quick match that was one of the shortest of the tournament so far. Maybe the shortest. No surprise that Swann won because as I noted earlier he’s already got a WWE developmental deal, so they want to put over the guys they already have signed. I was impressed by Swann’s athleticism as well as his charisma. Lee is an athletic guy, but clearly the company didn’t have that much faith in him if they only gave him four minutes to show what he can do. Great finishing move by Swann with a standing 450 splash. Of course if you were doing it on the top rope it makes sense as a better finisher because there’s more force, but it’s good as something different.
A video introduced us to Gurv Sihra with him talking about being mat based because he idolized guys like Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. Noam Dar said he was born in Isreal and he’s 22 years old, so he’s the youngest the guy in the tournament. He said he’s been wrestling since he was 15. He’s proud to represent Scotland.
Noam Dar (Scotland) vs. Gurv Sihra (India)
Dar with a dropkick to the knee early on. Back elbow by Sihra. Dar with a dropkick to the face and then he celebrated it a lot. Sihra with a sloppy side slam. That didn’t look great as they stumbled down. Sihra sent Dar into the corner with a hard whip. Dar whipped Sihra sternum first into the corner. Dar kicked the back of the leg of Sihra to take him down. Dar nailed a forearm smash followed by a dropkick that took down Sihra. Dar with a corner dropkick leading to a two count. Sihra came back with a small package for two and then a spinning heel kick gets two as well. Sihra missed an elbow splash off the middle rope. Dar with an enziguri kick, then a fisherman’s suplex for two and a knee bar submission by Dar. Sihra tapped out giving Dar the win after six minutes. The crowd barely reacted to it.
Winner by submission: Noam Dar
The win means that Dar will face Ho Ho Lun in the next round.
Analysis: *1/2 That was below average for this tournament. They just never got going very well and the crowd wasn’t into it that much. It would have been better if Dar worked on the leg more to set up the submission. He worked on the leg a bit, but it wasn’t that much. In terms of crowd reaction, this may have generated the least amount of reaction.
The video package aired introducing us to Fabian Aichner, who said wrestling culture in Italy isn’t as strong as it is over here. He talked about how he’s not going to let this opportunity slip through his fingers. Jack Gallagher is from England with an old school mustache. He said he’s a submission based wrestler while noting he’s not one of the biggest people there, but he’ll use his mind to outsmart his opponents.
A commercial aired for Dean Ambrose on the Stone Cold Podcast this Monday on WWE Network after Raw.
Jack Gallagher made his entrance. He’s got a very unique look with bright tights, very pale skin and an old school mustache. He’d fit in well with The Vaudevillains. Fabian Aichner is one of the biggest guys in the tourney at 203 pounds since the limit was 205 pounds.
Jack Gallagher (England) vs. Fabian Aichner (Italy)
Aichner showed off his athleticism early on. Gallagher did a unique counter to a wrist lock by dipping underneath the arm of Aichner. Bryan was impressed by how unique Gallagher is. Aichner tripped him up. Another unique takedown by Gallagher with a toehold. When Aichner broke free, Gallagher did a nice cartwheel to earn a nice ovation from the crowd. Shoulder tackle by Aichner, then Gallagher flipped him over using his legs and got a two count. Chops by Aichner and then a springboard kick where he hit the legs instead of the chest because he didn’t hit it perfectly. They did an exchange of nearfalls, but then Aichner stopped that with a backbreaker for two. Aichner with a leap to the top rope, then a springboard off the top for a double springboard moonsault for two. That was sweet. Gallagher with two dropkicks and a cross body block. Guillotine Choke by Gallagher weakened Aichner until Aichner came back with a sitout Powerbomb for a two count. The crowd was into this match a lot. Aichner missed a top rope splash. Gallagher with a headbutt to the chest. Running corner dropkick by Gallagher finished it off after seven minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Jack Gallagher
Post match, Bryan said he had done the corner dropkick a million times, but he had never finished a guy that was tough like Fabian Aichner. The crowd chanted “thank you both” for their work. Gallagher faces Tozawa next round.
Analysis: **3/4 Fun match. Gallagher is unlike anybody else in the tourney, which is great because it allows him to stand out. Aichner did a great job of using his power moves as part of the story as a way to counter the different style of Gallagher. The crowd liked this match from the beginning thanks to Gallagher’s showmanship and Aichner’s impressive moves. This was another great example of guys making the most out of their seven minutes of in-ring time. Sometimes they don’t use the time wisely, but these guys did. Gallagher was the right choice to win while Aichner impressed me more than some others that advanced in the tournament.
Back to the Cruiserweight Classic control room with Corey Graves. He set up Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa.
The video package introduced us to Gargano and Ciampa, who are a regular tag team in NXT. Gargano said he’s from Cleveland while Ciampa resides in Milwaukee. Gargano noted he was a singles guy, but in NXT they started teaming together and had instant chemistry. Ciampa noted that Gargano is getting married in September and Ciampa is in the wedding party. They both talked about how they wanted to see who the best man was and who was going to win.
Gargano and Ciampa were interviewed by Andrea Dimarco backstage. Gargano said that it doesn’t matter that they are partners or like a brother. He said Johnny Wrestling isn’t ready to go home. Ciampa said it’s not about Johnny Wrestling. He said after tonight, Ciampa will be the guy that puts him out of the CWC and he’ll be the guy that hurt Gargano. Gargano just said “do what you gotta do” and walked away.
Analysis: Nice to see a promo before the match. There haven’t been promos before the matches, but for these guys it makes sense since they are NXT regulars.
Gargano made his entrance as Ranallo noted that his role models are Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and Johnny Saint. Bryan noted that he’s wrestled Gargano before and was impressed by him. Ciampa had a very serious look on his face as the announcers put over how physical he is.
Johnny Gargano (United States) vs. Tommaso Ciampa (United States)
The crowd chanted their names as they shook hands. Quick mat wrestling early with Gargano applying an armbar. Hard back elbow by Ciampa to the mouth with Gargano spitting to make it look like a big deal. Knee strike by Ciampa sent Gargano to the floor. Ciampa with a running knee lift while Gargano’s head was by the apron. Good physicality by Ciampa. Bryan is so into this that he’s trying to sell chinlocks as big moves. Another back elbow by Ciampa on the apron. Gargano tripped up Ciampa by the turnbuckle and nailed an enziguri kick. Slingshot DDT by Gargano gets two. Gargano trapped Ciampa against the turnbuckle, then nailed a superkick, a running Powerbomb and a suicide dive took out Ciampa on the floor. What a great sequence by Gargano there. Back in the ring, Ciampa with a knee to the head to counter a slingshot attempt by Gargano. Bryan was freaking out about how many hits to the head Gargano has taken, which is interesting considering Bryan had to retire due to concussions. Ciampa nailed a couple of more knee lifts to the head, but then Gargano came back with an enziguri kick. Both guys were down.
They were both on the apron exchanging chops. Ciampa nailed him with a kick to the face. Ciampa did a move similar to the White Noise by Sheamus on the side of the ring apron. It’s called an Air Raid Crash according to Bryan. The announcers put it over as a huge move. Ciampa got a pin attempt for two as he was shocked that it wasn’t enough to win. Gargano looked daze. Ciampa had second thoughts about doing a knee strike, so he walked right into a Gargano superkick. Ciampa with a clothesline and then a Powerbomb into a Lung Blower (Backstabber) gets two for Ciampa. The crowd was going crazy about that nearfall because they thought that was it. Ciampa was stunned that Gargano kicked out. The crowd chanted “this is awesome” for them. Gargano did a great job of looking like he was out of it. Ciampa spit on his hand and then hit a chop. Ranallo noted they have passed the 10 minute mark noting there’s a 20 minute time limit. Gargano got in a punch, Ciampa with some chops, Gargano got a rollup, then Ciampa with a pin attempt and Gargano with a crucifix pin was enough for the win after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Johnny Gargano
Gargano had his hand raised as the winner. He’s facing TJ Perkins in the next round.
Analysis: **** Wow that was great. Four stars out of five. Very physical match. I believe that’s my highest rating for a match in this tournament so far. It certainly helps that they were given 11 minutes. To their credit, they made the most of that time. Ciampa used his power and physical game a lot. Gargano did a great job of being the babyface coming back, showing heart and finding a way to win. As much as I loved this as a first round match, they could have saved it for later in the tournament because Ciampa is one of the best guys in the CWC. He shouldn’t be out after round one. I get why they did it, but I would have liked to see Ciampa get a win or two because he’s one of my favorite guys in the tournament. At least they can say that Ciampa dominated much of it and that Gargano barely found a way to win. It wasn’t a fluke win, but more of an underdog win for Gargano. I love them as a tag team in NXT and I’m looking forward to them having another match one day soon.
After the match, Gargano wanted a handshake. Ciampa was so upset that he walked out of the ring. Then he went back into the ring, they sat by side and Ciampa hugged him as well as raised his hand. Bryan said he had no words and that moment touched his heart. The crowd gave them another ovation as they shook hands and hugged again.
Analysis: Cool moment after the match.
Next week the second round kicks off with these matchups:
Gran Metalik vs. Tajiri
Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander
Both of them should be very good, but I’m really looking forward to Ibushi vs. Alexander because that could be a match in the finals. They are great. I’m also expecting longer matches in the next round as well, so that’s a positive as well.
The tournament has gone from 32 men to 16 as we head to round two.
Here are all of the second round matches with the ones that are side by side meaning the winners face off in the next round.
Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher
Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik
Drew Gulak vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Noam Dar vs. Ho Ho Lun
Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese
Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander
TJ Perkins vs. Johnny Gargano
Lince Dorado vs. Rich Swann
They’ve already taped those eight matches. If I have to pick somebody to win the whole thing it’s Kota Ibushi. If not him then maybe Sabre Jr. or Swann.
Great show this week thanks to the main event. That was one of the best matches of the year thanks to Gargano and Ciampa working a hard hitting style while mixing in some story as well. Ciampa was the more powerful of the two, but Gargano had that babyface heart that never quit. He found a way to win.
I liked the win by Gallagher too. He’s different from everybody else in the tournament and it’s why the crowd reacted to him in a big way. He’s got a bright future.
Swann was the other guy that stood out this week. Very athletic. Never seen that standing 450 splash as a finish either.
I’m really enjoying the announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan. Their enthusiasm for the matches is definitely there.
The first round was a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to the next round for some longer matchups featuring some of these great athletes with all kinds of different background.
Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays.
John Canton – [email protected]