By Jason Powell
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WWE Cruiserweight Classic on WWE Network
Taped June 23 in Winter Park, Florida at Full Sail University
After the opening video, the broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan checked in with a brief intro. They turned things over to Corey Graves, who set up a video package that recapped last week’s matches. Graves hyped the upcoming matches for this show…
1. Tajiri vs. Damian Slater in a first-round match. Ranallo noted at one point that Tajiri is probably best known for his feud with Super Crazy. There was also a pre-match Slater video package. Ranallo noted that Slater paid his own way from Australia for a tryout at the Arnold Classic event (in Ohio).
Slater performed a cool fireman’s carry into a pin. Tajiri came back with kicks. Slater came back and threw a nice spinning kick of his own. Slater followed up with a corkscrew pescado. Tajiri threw more kicks, but Ranallo told the story that Slater cut him off whenever it seemed like Tajiri was starting to take control. Tajiri eventually caught Slater in the Tarantula in the corner, and finished him off with a kick a short time later…
Tajiri beat Damian Slater in 5:30 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
The broadcast team noted that Tajiri will face Gran Metalik in the second round of the tournament… A video package focussed on the TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack… [C]
Powell’s POV: It was cool to see Tajiri back in WWE after all this time even if my fondest memories are of him in ECW. In fact, while I enjoyed the feud with Super Crazy that Ranallo mentioned, some of my favorite three-ways ever involved Tajiri, Crazy, and Little Guido. As I mentioned in my NXT review, I am filling in for Zack Zimmerman this week, but he will return in this slot next week.
2. TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack in a first-round match. Bryan noted that Perkins is the youngest man to ever wrestle in the Tokyo Dome. Mack danced, which led to Ranallo dropping an Alex Wright reference! Okay, he also mentioned Michael Hayes too.
Ranallo emphasized that there is a 20-minute time limit for each of the first round matches. Mack threw a kick off the middle rope for a near fall. Bryan raved about how Mack is dangerous because he creates space and is then explosive. Perkins performed a leap over the rope and then caught Mack with a kick. Mack avoided a 450 splash. Perkins didn’t miss a beat and ended up applying a kneebar for the submission win moments later…
TJ Perkins beat Da Mack in 6:40 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Powell’s POV: Good action, but I can’t say that I’m a big fan of a guy popping right up from missing a 450 splash and never losing offensive control. That said, I’m happy to see Perkins get this opportunity, as I was always baffled by the silly gimmicks that he was saddled with in TNA such as being one of the men to play Suicide and Manik (complete with Manik wearing a hood on the back of his gear for no apparent reason).
Perkins will face the winner of the Tommaso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano match in round two… [C] A video package set up the Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali match…
Powell’s POV: Dorado’s introductory video package left me feeling like there should have been some explanation as to why he wears the mask and what his character is all about. He was just another cruiserweight who was happy to be there.
4. Mustafa Ali vs. Lince Dorado in a first-round match. Dorado offered his hand. Ali looked to the crowd and then slapped Dorado’s hand, which drew some heat. Ali performed a nice neckbreaker for a two count early in the match. Darado came back with a nice huracanrana and then a unique dropkick onto Ali on the apron.
Dorado followed up with a head scissors on the apron and flung Ali to the floor. There was a holy shit chant. Dorado performed an Asai moonsault. Back inside the ring, Dorado performed a springboard reverse huracanrana for a two count. Bryan demanded to see the move again and said he has never seen anything like that in his life.
Ali came back with a Spanish Fly for a two count of his own. The fans chanted “this is awesome.” Bryan said he was speechless. Ali crashed and burned on a big move attempt, then Dorado performed a Shooting Star Press for the win. The trainer checked on Ali, who was holding his neck afterward…
Lince Dorado defeated Mustafa Ali in 6:05 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Dorado will face the winner of Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee in the second round…
Powell’s POV: A very cool match that took a fairly quiet crowd and had them marveling over some of the great acrobatics. Bryan was genuinely blown away by what he was seeing and I love the way he put by saying he didn’t know much about him coming into the tournament before gushing over him. My only critique was that it seemed like Dorado could have sold a couple of the two counts a hair longer. He was kicking out right at two when it seemed like they were big enough spots that he could have kicked out at the last moment to make them more dramatic. That said, that was a really fun match.
Graves checked in from the control room and noted that seven men had advanced, then hyped that it was time for the main event… A video package set up the main event match… [C]
4. Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson in a first-round match. Ranallo noted that Tozawa was one of three Japanese wrestlers in the tournament. Bryan said that when they asked Tozawa what he was best at he replied “everything.” Bryan said Tozawa might be the fastest wrestler in the tournament. Ranallo said Johnson was trained by Curtis Hughes. Bryan said Johnson had a horrible speech impediment and overcame it.
After some back and forth action, Tozawa caught Johnson with a kick coming off a sunset flip for a two count. Tozawa and Johnson traded chops. Bryan said Johnson won’t be intimidated and felt Johnson’s chops might be stronger. Tozawa cut off the chops with a punch to the face.
Late in the match, Johnson caught Tozawa with a knee to the face and got a two count. Bryan said it would be a huge upset if Tozawa won the match. A short time later, Jonson went for some type of crazy corkscrew move that didn’t even come close and he just popped right up. Tozawa performed a German suplex, then followed up with another and got the win…
Akira Tozawa defeated Kenneth Johnson in 9:45 to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Tozawa will face the winner of Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Richner… A video recapped the tournament winners… They hyped next week’s matches as Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux, Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra, Anthony Bennett vs. Tony Nese, and Raul Mendoza vs. Brian Kendrick…
Powell’s POV: The outcome of this match felt predictable despite Tozawa giving him a lot of the match and Bryan’s best efforts to establish the heart that Johnson showed. For instance, the crowd didn’t even seem to react to his biggest near falls. Still, Johnson has a nice story and it would be nice to see him get a spot as one of the lower end wrestlers in the new cruiserweight division. Overall, I enjoyed the first show more than week two, but it was still an enjoyable hour, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Zack Sabre Jr.’s first match next week. Thanks for watching along with me.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Will Pruett on the Roman Reigns whodunnit angle, WWE heading into SummerSlam, AEW's October 2 premiere on TNT, the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax Tournament through Day 11, and more (77:45)...