Welcome to week two of the Cruiserweight Classic! We’ve got more round of 32 action this week, so let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
Sorry about being a little late this week; it was my third wedding anniversary and since I want to have more of those, I decided that ‘staying home to watch wrestling’ was not the best plan to put out there. My wife puts up with a LOT from me and she earned a nice dinner for that, so my apologies.
Tonight, we’ve got Tajiri/Damian Slater, TJ Perkins/Da Mack, Mustafa Ali/Lince Dorado, and Akira Tozawa/Kenneth Johnson! We go to the booth with Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan, and Mauro congratulates Bryan for his new ‘role’ in the WWE, and Bryan says he’s not here to talk about his new ‘role’, he’s here to talk about the Cruiserweight Classic! Man, I wonder if they changed up what they were going to do with Bryan, because the term GM wasn’t mentioned at all. We see a few tweets as Mauro wonders if the feedback broke the internet, and they throw it to Corey Graves in the control center. He recaps last week and goes over our bouts for this week, and we’re off!
Tajiri comes out as Mauro name drops Super Crazy and Tajiri’s never-ending feud with him in ECW. We go to a package for Damian Slater, who’s playing the underdog role in this one. He’s not in it just to be involved, he’s in it to win it. Mauro proceeds to mention Outback Jack and the Kangaroos. Here’s a smoking HOT TAKE: Mauro is awesome.
Let’s go to the BOD Tale of the Tape!
Little introduction needed here. A former champion in the WWE, and an ECW mainstay, Tajiri had his first recorded match on September 19th, 1994, giving him almost 21 years (!) of experience in the ring. He currently holds the UWA Trios Title with Minoru Tanaka and Kaz Hayashi. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=54
Slater is from Australia, and fellow competitor TJ Perkins is listed as one of his trainers. His first recorded match was on January 29th, 2005, giving him more than 11 years in the ring. He currently holds the Wrestle Rampage Australian National Championship. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=6905
Tajiri vs Damian Slater – Round 1
Handshake to start is accepted. Lockup and Tajiri controls with a hammerlock. Now, I should be up front about the fact that I was a GIANT Tajiri mark back in the day, so I might not be objective here. I wish Regal were with him, though. Slater reverses, so Tajiri steps through the ropes and instead of breaking, reverses it with the ropes for leverage, then breaks. Side headlock by Slater, Tajiri shoots him off, shoulderblock by Slater. Tajiri doesn’t go down, so Slater kicks him and this time, the shoulder puts him down. Slater runs the ropes and rolls through a fireman’s carry into a bridge for two. Slater to the wristlock, but Tajiri punches him in the mouth to escape, and here come the kicks. Wristlock follows for Tajiri, who elbows him in the arm, snapmares him over and slams the arm to the mat. He keeps working the wrist, dropping a knee on it and winding it up again, but Slater flips out and dropkicks Tajiri to break. Second one misses, though, and Tajiri winds up and kicks him in the arm, followed by a hammerlock as he continues to work the arm. He’s got this awesome sick grin on his face the entire time, and it just makes me love him all the more. Slater makes the ropes, so Tajiri drops elbows on the arm and just keeps on it. Slater gets a spinning kick to break, and follows that with a corkscrew Pescado over the top to the floor! Slater throws him back in, but Tajiri immediately goes to the arm in a nice bit of psychology. Slater tries to kick Tajiri to break, but seriously – you want to exchange kicks with this man? Mauro says the same as Tajiri blasts him with a kick, but Slater keeps fighting. Slater goes up, tornado DDT! Off the ropes now, running knee to the head by Slater! 1,2, no! Slater gets him up, but Tajiri floats over into a waistlock. Slater breaks with back elbows and dropkicks Tajiri’s knee. He grabs the leg and tries for what looks like a single-leg crab, but Tajiri kicks the bad arm to break. Both back to their feet now, and they both fire kicks – Tajiri at the arm, Slater at the knee. Again! Third time by Tajiri is countered into a legsweep from Slater. Slater charges, but Tajiri avoids it and locks in the Tarantula. Tajiri goes for the roundhouse kick to finish, but Slater ducks it and gets a kick of his own. Whip by Slater ends with a Tajiri handspring back elbow, and Tajiri wipes Damian out with a back kick. And now the roundhouse kick to the head finishes for Tajiri. (Tajiri over Damian Slater, pinfall, 7:02)
WORTH WATCHING? It was very good, so YES, I’d say it was worth it. One minor thing, though, was Tajiri working the arm but never really attempting to submit Slater outside of the rolling hammerlock in the middle. Slater working the leg was fine, as the announcers kept putting over Tajiri’s kicks being his most dangerous weapon, and Slater sold the arm well, letting it hang down and trying to avoid using it for moves. With that, I kind of wish that Tajiri would have exploited it for the finish, but that’s a tiny thing in an otherwise good piece of work. Tajiri advances to face Gran Metalik in the next round.
Video package for TJ Perkins vs Da Mack airs next, as Perkins is still just crazy annoying to me. I can’t put my finger on why, but I sort of hate him. He’s all style, dontcha know? Da Mack was influenced by Michael Jackson, right down to the glove on his hand. He wants to be the Michael Jackson of wrestling! Sorry, but I’m pretty sure that Rob Feinstein already has claim to that honor.
Man, that was tasteless. I apologize.
Let’s go to the BOD Tale of the Tape!
TJ is an EVOLVE mainstay and has a million aliases, too many to list; his most famous might be Manik in TNA, where he was a former X-Division champ. His first recorded match was on January 5th, 2001, which gives him more than 15 years in the ring. He currently holds no titles. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=847
Mack is from Germany and primarily wrestles there and in Europe. His first recorded match was on March 1st, 2008, giving him 8 years of ring experience. He is currently the EWP (European Wrestling Promotion) Tag team champ with Axel Deiter Jr as the team Hot and Spicy, and the wXw (Westside Xtreme Wrestling) Shotgun Champion. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=6060&name=Da+Mack
TJ Perkins vs Da Mack – Round 1
I’m assuming Mack has no shot here, as I’m expecting Perkins is gonna go deep into this thing. Da Mack moonwalks along the edge of the ring as Daniel Bryan talks about famous moonwalkers through time, like Neil Armstrong and Michael PS Hayes. Mauro, not to be outdone, pipes in with Alex Wright. I love, love, love this commentary team. Handshake accepted, and we’re off!
Knucklelock into a top wristlock takeover for Perkins starts us off, smooth as silk. Mack rolls through and reverses, but Perkins isn’t gonna be outdone, as he does the same into a dropkick and a front flip to his feet. Damnit, he’s good. Mack attempts an Irish Whip, but Perkins turns that into a headscissors takeover for two. Mack reverses it for two, but Perkins takes him over again, doing a little dab when he hits the mat. Back up for Mack, and he cartwheels out when TJ attempts the takeover again, so Perkins hits him with a spinkick. Perkins off the ropes, Mack leapfrogs a few times and dropkicks him. Flying forearm in the corner by Mack, and some chops with a little slow turn on each one. Perkins shoves him away, but runs right into an uppercut by Mack. Mack tries to toss TJ, but TJ lands on the apron and slides under a charging Mack, taking him over into a sunset flip into a Boston Crab. He reaches back and grabs the arms of Mack and stands up, making a combination Crab/Surfboard, which is pretty cool. He drops back down and ties up the legs for an Indian Deathlock, but Mack grabs the ropes. Mack rolls out and Perkins springs after him over the ropes, but Mack drops him to the apron face first. Mack back in, somersault plancha to Perkins on the floor! Back in, that gets 1 and a half. Kicks to the back of the head from Mack as he dances, then a moonwalk to the front of Perkins and he tries for a running knee, but TJ ducks it and rolls him up. Perkins runs the ropes and locks Mack in an Octopus. He drops that and ties his legs up again, Indian Deathlock into the Mutalock! Mack makes the ropes to break. Perkins goes after Mack in the corner, but runs into an elbow and Mack somersaults off the top with a body block to knock TJ down. Mauro talks about the Great Muta in WCW and says that you can check out some of his matches here on the WWE Network, and I marvel at how seamlessly that sounded coming from him. Back to their feet, TJ gets a jumping side kick to Mack, who pays him back with a European uppercut. Perkins catches Mack coming off the ropes with a dropkick to the knee and looks for the Tiger Suplex, but Mack turns that into a rollup for two. Mack charges TJ in the corner, Perkins moves and Mack springs up to the top and comes off with a spinning kick to the face that had some pretty decent hangtime. 1,2, NO! Suplex attempt is blocked by TJ with a drop toehold that hangs Mack on the middle rope, and Perkins goes outside the ring, springing off the top with a dropkick to a prone Mack. Perkins goes up, 450 misses! Mack tries a headscissors, but TJ just drops him down onto his face. Ouch. TJ puts him a Fireman’s Carry and hits a variant of Ricochet’s Benadryller, followed by a kneebar (with the other leg across in a figure-four position) for the submission to end it. (TJ Perkins over Da Mack, submission, 6:34)
WORTH WATCHING? Well, it wasn’t boring, that’s for sure. I thought in the beginning that it was just going to be the TJ Perkins show, as he’s clearly the guy they like, but Mack got some offense in there as well. Although Bryan made a glancing comment about Mack hurting his knee, there really wasn’t much to that and TJ didn’t do much to exploit it until he got the sub. I’ll go with a mild YES here, as you’re clearly going to be seeing more of Perkins as we go along, and watching his first match in the tournament is probably worth your time. I wasn’t as impressed with Mack, who didn’t strike me as being in the same league as TJ.
Bryan puts over the submission as nearly impossible to get out of when Perkins crosses the leg, while they show the replay of Mack ostensibly hurting his knee with the kick off the top rope. Bryan does what good commentary does, pushing the hurt knee story as a way to put TJ over and have Mack save some face. Graphic shows us that Perkins will next get the winner of Gargano and Ciampa. Perkins and Mack hug it out after the match.
And right into the next match, as we get a video package for Lince Dorado and Mustafa Ali. Ali is from Chicago, and he talks about being trained in various styles, from British to Lucha Libre. Dorado is a luchadore and talks about having been injured in his career as the video shows a terrifying crash into the railing in a match.
Let’s go to the BOD Tale of the Tape!
Ali was born in Illinois and works primarily out of the Midwest, Chicago specifically. His first recorded match was on April 20th, 2007, giving him 9 years plus in the ring. He is currently the FW (Freelance Wrestling) Champion and the DREAMWAVE World Champion. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=7145
Dorado has worked all over the USA, and might be most well known from Chikara. He was trained by Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush. His first recorded match was on February 17th, 2007, which gives him 9+ years in the ring. He currently holds no titles. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=4843
Mustafa Ali vs Lince Dorado – Round 1
Ali is apparently a Seth Rollins fan, if his gear is any indication. Bryan talks about this being more what people associate with cruiserweights, as both guys are high-flyers. Ali slaps the hand of Dorado in what could be considered a handshake, I suppose. Ali is the heel here for sure, and he attacks immediately after the bell with forearms. Off the ropes and Dorado slides through the legs of Ali into a headscissors takeover. Ali goes to the apron and Dorado attempts a springboard dropkick, but Ali ducks and Dorado lands on the floor. Ali follows with a beautiful flying knee off the apron. Shades of Kyle O’Reilly! Ali rolls him back in and gets one. Lince makes a comeback with shots and tries to dropkick Ali in the corner, but Ali goes the apron to avoid it and hits Dorado with a high kick when Lince lands, and he follows that up by somersaulting through the middle rope and hitting a neckbreaker for two. Dorado tries to kick Ali away, but Ali picks him up and drops him, kicking him in the back on the way down for two. Ali leaps to the top and gets a GORGEOUS springboard moonsault, like ‘Christopher Daniels may have to pass the title on’ type of gorgeous, but it misses. Just a great layout there by Ali. Dropkick by Dorado, then an enzuigiri to counter a spinning backfist. Dorado charges Ali in the corner, Ali alley-oops him and Dorado springs back in with a ‘rana to send Ali to the apron. Lince springs to the apron with a dropkick, and follows that with a headscissors from the apron to the floor! AWESOME. ‘Holy s---!’ chant from the crowd is well-deserved, and Lince decides to make it a two-man competition on that moonsault thing by hitting one from the second rope to the floor on Ali. Eh, I liked Ali’s better, but still. That was sweet. Back in now, and Dorado hits a crossbody from the top rope for two, getting some great hangtime. Jawbreaker by Ali slows Dorado down, but Lince blocks a suplex with a knee to the head. Back elbow and jumping roundhouse kick by Dorado, and he leaps off the second rope backwards and hits a SPRINGBOARD REVERSE ‘RANA ON ALI! Holy S---, he looked like he might have spiked his head on that one. That gets two, so he apparently didn’t spike it hard enough. Dorado puts Ali on the top rope and goes up with him, but Ali jumps up and hits a Spanish Fly! 1,2, NO! There’s a dude in the front row in a Paul Heyman shirt who just flipped s--- at that. Ali sets Dorado up, Inverted 450 misses! Dorado goes up, huge Shooting Star Press! 1,2,3. (Lince Dorado over Mustafa Ali, pinfall, 5:57)
WORTH WATCHING? Total spotfest here, as both guys looked like they were just working out to show off what they could do; that’s been a theme of the first round matches thus far. They made it work, though, so YES, check it out for the spots. Not a great wrestling match, but a fun match to watch when they keep this type of thing short, which this one was. This was stereotypical spot-rest-spot stuff, though, so be warned; it’s more of a highlight reel than a match. I actually preferred Ali, who I thought was crisp and did a better job at playing to the crowd, so I wish he would have won just to see him in some longer matches to see what he can really do.
Notably after the match, Ali doesn’t stand with Dorado for the hand-raising, and you can see the trainer checking on Ali in the background, so he may have been injured there. I hope he wasn’t, as he was fun to watch. Dorado advances to get the winner of Rich Swann and Jason Lee.
And we’re onto the next one, as we get our video package for Akira Tozawa and Kenneth Johnson. Akira promises that if the fans know him or not, they’ll be entertained by watching him – he’s very energetic in the ring. Johnson has been fighting all his life, and he’s here for a reason, and that reason is to uplift, motivate, and inspire others.
Let’s go to the BOD Tale of the Tape!
Akira is from Japan and works primarily out of Dragon Gate. His first recorded match was on April 3rd, 2005, which gives him more than 11 years of experience in the ring. He currently holds the Open the Gate Triangle Championship as part of the Monster Express, with T-Hawk and Masato Yoshino. His Cagematch database is here: http://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=3739
Kenneth is a wrestler out of Texas with the nickname Weazy Woo. He has no Cagematch database, but near as I can tell, his first recorded match was sometime in 2009, and he’s been a champion in various companies in Texas during that time. He did a local talent match for Ring of Honor in 2014, but wasn’t signed beyond that.
Akira Tozawa vs Kenneth Johnson
Mauro tells us that Johnson moved to Georgia to train with Curtis Hughes (THE BIG CAT, BABY!), and that yes, Hughes did indeed wear his trademark sunglasses during the training sessions. Bryan tells us that Johnson had a serious speech impediment, and that he worked on it for months and can now talk for 3 minutes without a single stutter, which is impressive. Handshake is accepted, and here we go!
Akira gets a go-behind off the lockup and grabs a front facelock on the mat. He floats to the back, but Johnson gets back to his feet and grabs a wristlock. Akira tries to roll through it, but Johnson rolls with him, second attempt produces the same result. Akira finally reverses it, hammerlock into a side headlock which Johnson breaks on the mat with a headscissors. Stalemate. Takedown by Tozawa and he tries for a leglock, which Kenneth reverses into an Indian Deathlock in a nice bit, then into a front facelock. Tozawa grabs a wristlock and prevents Johnson from flipping out of it, slamming him back to the mat and putting some torque on the arm. Ken finally gets back to his feet and uses the top rope to flip out, grabbing a side headlock. They go down to the mat awkwardly, and Tozawa uses the headscissors to escape this time. They lockup again and trade side headlocks, with Johnson getting a sloppy sunset flip and Akira rolling through and hitting a Shining Wizard for two. Johnson isn’t looking ready for prime time so far. Akira with a snapmare and we hit the chinlock. Akira breaks it to shush the crowd and deliver a kick to the back of Ken. They exchange chops in the center of the ring, and Akira freezes him with a fake out, following it with a straight shot to the face! Slam by Tozawa, then a jumping senton for two. Kicks by Akira, followed by a snapmare into a seated abdominal stretch. Johnson breaks it with strikes to the face, Akira grabs a go-behind that Kenneth reverses. Man, Daniel Bryan is doing a hero’s job putting Kenneth over, but I’m not buying in this time. Off the ropes, and Akira just PASTES him with a Discus forearm, but a second attempt and Kenneth gets a leg lariat. Belly to back suplex attempt by Johnson, but Akira goes over the top and gets a spinning back kick. 450 kick misses, Akira grabs a go-behind and goes for a German, but Johnson lands on his feet, and they clothesline(?) each other. I’m not sure if that was what was supposed to happen there. Back up and they trade forearms in the center of the ring, with Tozawa getting the better of him. Akira winds up, but Johnson ducks the last and gets double knees to Akira’s face for a close two count. Kenneth gets an Unprettier for two. Kenneth tries to come off the second rope with what looked like a spinning legdrop that misses; he was nowhere NEAR Akira. Please end this match. Tozawa tries for a wheelbarrow suplex, but Johnson rolls him up for two. And now, Akira has had ENOUGH of this s---, and hits a nasty snap German suplex, following that with an impressive deadlift German to get the 1,2,3. (Akira Tozawa over Kenneth Johnson, pinfall, 9:45)
WORTH WATCHING? Holy cow, Kenneth Johnson was not ready for this in the slightest. Akira tried his hardest to hold this thing together, but this was a bad wrestling match. I’m going with a NO here, although I liked Tozawa a lot. Johnson was completely exposed here, and he needs a lot more work to say the least. Not good, but at least the right guy went over.
Mauro calls it an ‘amazing match!’ Mauro, I love you, so I’m giving you a pass on that one.
Tozawa will get the winner of Jack Gallagher and Fabian Richner. Mauro thanks us for watching. Corey Graves voiceover recaps the winners so far and previews our matches for next week, which will give us our first look at Zack Sabre Jr, as he’ll take on Tyson Dux. Also, Drew Gulak/Harv Sihra, Anthony Bennett/Tony Nese, & Raul Mendoza/Brian Kendrick!
FINAL THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As the first round has mostly been a ‘getting to know you’ type round, this week’s first three matches succeeded very well, with standout performances from TJ Perkins and Mustafa Ali, and very good performances from Tajiri, Slater, Tozawa, and Dorado. Outside of the main event, this one’s a thumbs up all the way. If you’ve never seen Akira, though, I guess watching the main is fine, though there are other matches of his out there if you know where to look.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter