32 competitors, 10 weeks, a 205 pound weight limit, and arguably the most consistently high quality wrestling show WWE has ever produced, culminating in a fantastic final that had us all on the edge of our seats. If you haven’t watched it already, you have the best binge watching session of your life awaiting you. The Cruiserweight Classic was a unique concept for WWE, and in my opinion is the best thing to happen in wrestling this year. But why would I make such a huge claim for just a mere 11 hours of television? Well, let me explain.
Honorable mention: although I don’t see it as a contributing factor to why the CWC is the best thing to happen this year in wrestling, and thus why it isn’t included in the list, the commentary for this tournament was absolutely superb. The mix of Mauro Ronallo’s cheesy lines and impressive wrestling knowledge, combined with Daniel Bryan’s unrivalled passion and excited, made for the perfect audio accompaniment to the entire tournament. The CWC has revealed another talent in Bryan’s already impressive resume of skills, and personally, I hope this isn’t the last time we see him donning a headset at ringside.
Influx of Amazing Talent
As of writing, the CWC has resulted in WWE signing 7 new talents, one of whom is already the Cruiserweight Champion, and all of which are going to Raw (along with already signed talents Swann, Gargano, and Ciampa) to show the world the depths of their talents. What’s more, there’s always potential to sign more CWC alumni in the future, with the likes of Drew Gulak, Ibushi, and Zack Sabre Jr. still unsigned, along with some of the less well-known competitors that showed a wealth of promise. Having an entire division on Raw that is bursting with ability is an extremely exciting prospect, and if they get the time and platform they deserve to showcase their crafts, they could easily become the most exciting component in the entire company. From the beauty of Tozawa’s perfect German suplexes, to the flawless teamwork of DIY, and literally everything about Jack Gallagher (I am genuinely obsessed with that guy), Raw has so much to gain from this division.
Good for the Business as a Whole
Possibly the best thing about the CWC is that no matter how smart of a fan you are, even if your last name is Meltzer, there was at least one participant in the CWC that you had never heard of. It gave 32 competitors, some of whom hadn’t even wrestled in front of more than a couple hundred people before the tournament, the chance to exhibit their talents on a worldwide stage. The CWC has educated and inspired fans around the world, and perhaps has attracted new fans from around the globe in places like Hong Kong. Also, with so many stars of the Cruiserweight Classic being big names in indie wrestling, it may have influenced more WWE-exclusive fans to check out a few indie promotions.
Even if their efforts didn’t result in a Vinny Mac contract, just being a part of the CWC creates a domino effect of success for the competitors: these wrestlers get bigger and better bookings due to their new-found notoriety; people will recognise them on posters/social media, encouraging them to support both the wrestlers and the promotions they’re working for; more people are encouraged to check out more sources of wrestling in general; and thus, the whole business benefits thanks to this wonderful tournament.
At the heart of it, wrestling fans just want to see some amazing matches – we love going along for the ride with build-ups, promos, and men dressed as Colonel Sanders fighting chickens, but the matches are what we’re watching for. When it came to match quality in the CWC, it more than delivered; almost every single match was amazing, and the worst match out of the 31 was still at least a 7/10. Not only that, the CWC produced some absolute classics (no pun intended), all of which are definite match of the year contenders, including Ibushi vs. Alexander, Ibushi vs Kendrick, all four matches from the live final, and who could forget the Tye Dillinger of a match that was Gargano vs. Ciampa. If you know someone who is curious about wrestling and wants to try and get into it, show them the CWC finals, it has everything a fan could want.
Just Pure Wrestling in WWE
The WWE product, like most wrestling promotions, is saturated with heels, faces, gimmicks, storylines, promos, backstage segments, pyro, the whole razzle dazzle; so to see a show under the WWE banner that is just pure wrestling is exciting and refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the razzle dazzle, but sometimes it’s great to see this art in its purest form. Throughout the Cruiserweight Classic, there was no good or bad, no rivalries or trash talking; the only motivation was to win and to advance, and no matter what happened, good sportsmanship was shown post-match. The only hint of any sort of additional spice that was added to the tournament was the masterpiece that was the Gargano vs. Ciampa match first round match, which played on their relationship as a tag team. Although Ciampa was known for his viciousness in the indies, particularly ROH, he’d been rather reserved in NXT for somebody nicknamed “The Psycho Killer”, thus when Ciampa immediately exploded with an animalistic ferocity against his friend as soon as the bell rung, it came as a surprise. Ciampa brutalised his tag team partner constantly throughout the match, yet Gargano’s heart would not let him quit. After The Psycho Killer showed his first glimpse of remorse, his restraint caused a beaten-down Johnny Wrestling to pick-up the victory. At first, it seemed as though DIY was no more after Tommaso left the ring with his head buried in his hands as his opponent sat in the ring watching, too weak to stand up, yet eventually, he joined his victorious partner in an embrace in the middle of the ring. This work of art is one of the finest examples of storytelling I have ever seen in a wrestling match, and created the crowning jewel of this tournament.
Although it was just pure wrestling lacking in pizzazz and gimmicks, the CWC created some of the most memorable moments of the year, e.g. the aforementioned Gargano vs. Ciampa classic, the Full Sail crowd adopting Cedric as one of their own, pleading for the powers that be to sign him, Triple H’s surprise appearance raising Cedric’s hand after his loss to Ibushi, Kendrick unleashing the rarely-seen and almost mythic Burning Hammer onto a man who isn’t even one year removed from neck surgery, a Coast to Coast from Mexico’s Raul Mendoza, incredible displays of athleticism from the likes of Gran Metalik and Tony Nese, moves I’ve never seen before in my life, a lot of flippy stuff in general, surprise victories, and of course a man who was once homeless being crowned the tournament winner and the new Cruiserweight champion.
It may not have had the biggest stars, the biggest names, or the biggest competitors (literally), but for me, the Cruiserweight Classic is the best thing to happen in wrestling this year, and if you can think of something that even comes close, I’d love to hear it.
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