WWE Cruiserweight Classic – Finale
September 14, 2016
Full Sail University

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our reviewers

  • Rich Kraetsch: Co-host of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast and the person you can blame for this whole site existing. Sorry! Follow Rich on Twitter @VoicesWrestling.
  • Alex Wendland: Semi-longtime Voices of Wrestling editor and sometimes columnist. This week Alex was announced as one of FOLIO magazine’s 30 Under 30. Now you can all blame him for whatever is wrong in this thing. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexWendland
  • Robin Reid: Host of the BritWres Roundtable and general writer of European related content for the site. Also a grumpy star rater, which you will probablysee play out below. Follow Robin on Twitter @TheRDouble

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Semi-Final
Gran Metalik def. Zack Sabre Jr.

Rich Kraetsch: Well, this was quite the way to kick off the night’s festivities, eh? Metalik came out of the gates quick with a beautiful dropkick and a tope to set the stage for what was a fantastic—while at some points sloppy—contest. The match had a few acts including the opening firestorm from Metalik that morphed into a bit of technical back and forth with Sabre controlling the pace. This eventually gave way to a strike sequence before slowing again. It was Sabre diverting from what got him to the dance that eventually did the submission specialist in. I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the sloppiness throughout this match. While I enjoyed it, the two seemed to have major (and noticeable) communication issues throughout particularly Metalik not quite knowing where he should be or what he should do while in Sabre submissions. This led to a few odd sequences including Sabre at one point basically yelling for Metalik to lift his arm up. Reading this you’ll think it was Metalik fighting through the submission but it really appeared to this viewer to be confusion. It made for far too many awkward moments for me to like this match as much as I really want to. ***1/2

Alex Wendland: Thank god, amirite? Nah, I’ve been pretty lonely on my Zack Sabre indifference–bordering on disdain. That said, this was ZSJ’s best match in the tournament. Instead of making his opponent look silly at best and bad at worst, ZSJ gave Gran Metalik a ton of shine and both guys looked good coming out of this match. The story from the very beginning of this match was Metalik pushing the pace faster than ZSJ could keep up with and eventually it got him the win. Not the best match in the tournament, but you can’t expect these semi-finals to be spectacular with the final looming. Some may complain about the sloppiness of the match, but it was a ton of fun. ***3/4

Robin Reid: This was sloppy throughout. There were multiple times when Metalik didn’t appear familiar with Sabre’s signature spots and things didn’t go to plan. However they for the most part they managed to prevent an real awkwardness by keeping the pace and intensity high enough to cover for it. In the end we got a very fun match to kick the night off. ***1/2

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Semi-Final
TJ Perkins def. Kota Ibushi

Rich Kraetsch: We have a new addition to my Top 5 of the tournament. Hell, this may be my favorite match from the tournament. This had everything a modern wrestling fan could ask for: tremendous storytelling throughout, crisp, clean, fast-paced action and raw emotion. This was a work of art. TJ Perkins is a rare talent in that he can work with anyone, anywhere, in any style and make it work. This was the ultimate Perkins match—and I say this as one of the bigger Kota Ibushi marks you’ll ever find—Perkins was spectacular, all-time great here. The joy of watching Perkins is that he can alter his style to his opponent or in this case, alter it to the match’s momentum. When he had to fly, he flew. When he had to strike, he struck and when he had to end it with the ground game, he did, adding an extra flair to his TJP Clutch to finish Ibushi off. If you’ve never quite “got” TJ Perkins and you want Example A of why wrestling’s youngest veteran is great, this is your match. This was spectacular. Oh yeah and that Ibushi guy was awesome too. What a match. For those scoring at home, having an agreement to sign with WWE and appear on RAW is a nice way to find yourself in the Finals. ****1/4

Alex Wendland: If the DDT-Lungblower nearfall was the end of the match, this would’ve been the TJ Perkins meh-fest I was expecting in the semi-final. Everything after that was gravy, which is a very easy thing to say (I would know, I just said it), but think about it for a second. About half that match, and all of the best of that match, came after that nearfall. I’m no TJ Perkins expert, but that was easily the best Perkins match I’ve ever seen, and probably the second best match of the tournament behind Kota Ibushi-Cedric Alexander–I’ll hear, and perhaps accept, arguments if you really dug on some of Brian Kendrick’s work as well. The emotion and uncertainty in this great back-and-forth was made so much stronger by the will-he-or-won’t-he signing anticipation surrounding Ibushi. It seems we have our answer. ****1/4

Robin Reid: My biggest takeaway from this match was the bagginess of TJP’s gear. Well, that and this being my favourite match of the tournament. They did such an excellent job of making it feel like a big deal that TJ Perkins avoid the rope elevated German suplex, and it ended up paying off when it meant that he had enough left in the tank for a number of big kickouts down the stretch. Then add in a handful of counters from TJP that saw me jumping out of my seat and you have the magic that this match brought. My goodness I was biting on near falls from about four minutes to go. The crowd were incredible, both guys were at the very top of their elite games and it all resulted in something really special. Just spectacular, and comfortably inside my top five matches I’ve seen anywhere this year. ****1/4

Johnny Gargano/Tommaso Ciampa vs. Noam Dar/Cedric Alexander

Rich Kraetsch: You’ll need a shower after this sprint. These boys did not stop for one second and it’s exactly the type of buffer match this night requires. I know the long-term story is Gargano and Ciampa (DIY) breaking up and as a fan of both men throughout the year I know they have more potential but goddamn if I don’t want those two to be a white meat babyface ass-kicking team for the next 10 years. There’s something special about that team and I’m afraid we’ll rush to the breakup and always wonder “What If? Keeping with a tournament-long narrative, Noam Dar was clearly a level behind the others in the ring but we won’t dwell on that. Johnny, Ciampa and in particular Cedric all looked great and kept the match together despite its torrid pace. ***3/4

Alex Wendland: This was 20 pounds of “getting your shit in” in a 10 pound bag. And the match didn’t suffer for it in the least, in this environment at least. Wrestling Twitter might be obsessed with the DIY breakup over the horizon, but Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are already an incredible tag team. Enjoy the matches while they’re happening and don’t get caught up in what’s yet to happen. Well done to all four guys for having the wind to get through this blur of nonstop motion, I was out of breath just watching this thing. Noam Dar may need some more seasoning, but Gargano, Ciampa and Cedric Alexander are clearly ready for prime time. ***3/4

Robin Reid: It took me a little while to get into this one after all the excitement of the previous match, but once my pulse reset I suddenly realised that these four were putting on one hell of a match. Dar and Alexander worked really well as a thrown together team and worked brilliantly with the established DIY to create a great sprint. ***3/4

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Final – WWE Cruiserweight Championship
TJ Perkins def. Gran Metalik

Rich Kraetsch: The finale of the Cruiserweight Classic had lofty standards to live up to. Arguably the greatest ever wrestling tournament on American soil, the CWC featured MOTY-level contests in nearly every round. Earlier in the show, Perkins and Ibushi added another feather to the all-timer cap of the CWC. We’re talking next-level stuff here. This match had lofty standards and unfortunately it didn’t live up to them. Now let me preface, that doesn’t mean this match was bad, it wasn’t. Perkins continued to shine on this night dictating the pace and turning his knee bar submission into one of the most feared locks in wrestling. Yet, something just seemed off. They didn’t work a sprint—definitely the right move—but failed to take the match into that next gear. This had the look and feel of a top-level WWE main roster main event but lacked that certain pizzazz at the end that makes them so special. This wasn’t a special match but it was a great way to cap off what has been a special tournament. It’s hilarious that it took WWE of all companies to hone in on the potential of both TJ Perkins (who’s been wrestling for a decade plus right now without much fanfare) and Gran Metalik (the former Mascara Dorada who was indefensibly wasted by NJPW and CMLL throughout his career). Never change, 2016. Never change. ***3/4

Alex Wendland: How was this match supposed to live up to the rest of this tournament? Honestly, it probably couldn’t. This match was so hyped after this tournament featured four or five MOTY contenders in the preliminary rounds. To me, part of what held the final back was so much of the tournament riding on the perceived danger of a finisher that has no business being considered so devastating: TJ Perkins’ leg hug/knee bar. The match itself started out more slowly than you would expect the final of this tournament to start, and never reached the urgency levels of the Ibushi-Perkins semi-final, but the spots they set up were spectacular, highlighted by Gran Metalik’s hurricanrana over the ropes. Sadly this incredibly tournament has to end, but there’s still hope until the entire Cruiserweight division is fed to Braun Strowman over the holiday season. Congrats to the CWC’s biggest winners: TJ Perkins (obviously), Gran Metalik, Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander and Brian Kendrick. Those five created a must-watch atmosphere over the past few months, and I hope it continues on Raw for a long time. ***1/2

Robin Reid: This one took a long while to get going, starting with a slow and methodical style that really doesn’t behoove a wrestler like Metalik. Things picked up with the vaulting hurricanrana to the outside, and from that point onwards they put on a very enjoyable second half of the match. But at no point did they really hit the heights of the great matches this tournament has produced. The execution of the leg cross on the knee-bar was a real highpoint and was an excellent finish to a marvellous tournament. He’d gone for it a few times, and when it finally got locked in it had a wonderful finality to it. ***1/2