I’ve been waiting for this ever since they announced it. I’ve been agitating for a while that WWE should bring back the Cruiserweight division. And this is exactly the kind of thing WWE can do now that they have no real competition and 24 hours of time to fill on their channel every single day.
And the way they’ve presented this show far has only made me more excited. It’s the freshest thing I’ve seen in wrestling: presenting professional wrestling as a sport. Talking about styles and how they work against each other. Acknowledging that there’s an entire world of wrestling outside of WWE. It’s the realest, coolest thing WWE has done in years.
Nice opening package highlighting the history of cruiserweight wrestlers.
Bryan is proving himself to be surprisingly good on commentary.
Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez
Quick and to the point video packages that give us a basic idea of who each competitor is. I like the graphics and quick explanation from Bryan and Mauro of each wrestler’s style. REFEREE INSTRUCTIONS! They’re really after my heart.
As expected, Bryan and Mauro call this like a real fight, talking about Saez’s weight cut and how it might affect his performance. Metalik busts out an insane springboard Tope. Saez, not to be outdone, comes back with a Shooting Star Press off the apron to the floor. Huge Fisherman’s Piledriver by Metalik gets the win.
Rating: **¼. Short match, but very entertaining. Big spots, nice combination of styles. Good choice to kick off the show.
And they do the UFC-style announcement of the winner with the referee holding the arms of both men and raising the winner’s hand. Love this stuff.
Hoho Lun vs. Ariya Daivari
Very simple but effective presentation of who the face and heel in the match is. No question that Hoho is the good guy and Daivari is the villain just from their entrances.
Bryan is doing a great job on commentary. I was expecting some jitters but he’s absolutely perfect for this. Probably helps that it was taped but he seems like a natural.
A basic and solid match here. Nice German Suplex from Lun for the win.
Rating: **. Would have been interested to see what they could do with more time.
Clement Petiot vs. Cedric Alexander
I like mixing it up with a more mat-based match here. Both these guys have great looks and a lot of natural charisma.
Finish comes out of nowhere, but liked what I saw from both guys here. Physical match with nice pacing.
Rating: **3/4. If I were WWE I’d be offering both these guys contracts. Alexander in particular has star potential.
Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta
And now our main event, featuring the biggest star of the tournament. Maluta definitely seems like someone WWE would have an interest in, the Samoan family is incredibly well-represented.
I don’t know what to call that flip Maluta did to the outside of the ring, but it looked painful the way he landed. And Bryan does a great job explaining that he needs to take chances if he’s going to beat Ibushi.
Ibushi’s Dropkick is absolutely beautiful. Great selling of the neck, and then he breaks out an insane kick. And he follows up with a Moonsault to the floor. These guys are really going balls out. Maluta scores with a huge kick and nearly gets the pin. A Last Ride-style Powerbomb from Ibushi finishes the match.
Rating: ***½. Best match of the night. Both guys look great coming out of this, it’s only sad that Maluta is gone after losing here. But I definitely expect we’ll be seeing him again.
Excellent debut, no complaints. Strong matches and absolutely perfect presentation. This is the best thing WWE has done in a long time and I can’t wait to see more. I’m anticipating what their next step with this is, whether it’s just doing the tournament annually or doing regular specials.