As the Second Round came to a close, Episode Seven of the Cruiserweight Classic included AIW's Johnny Gargano taking EWF's TJ Perkins. Could tournament head into the Quarter Final's with another Cruiserweight Classic classic?
Johnny Gargano and TJ Perkin's main event clash was the first contest from the entire Cruiserweight Classic, so far, that I haven't predicted correctly. I felt certain that Gargano would advance to the Quarter Final, where another Battle of the NXT stars could have occurred opposite Rich Swann, but it was Perkins who came out victorious winning by submission with the Figure Death Lock. Despite being taped almost a month before NXT's Takeover: Brooklyn II, the commentary team of Daniel Bryan & Mauro Ranallo did a marvelous job of carrying on the story from that match, that saw Gargano tap out to a Inverted Figure Four leglock from Scott Dawson and tying into the match that Perkins and Gargano had already had. It helped, of course, that the leg was a big part of the match! The story began earlier in the match, but really came to the forefront when Gargano overshot on a somersault dive off the apron and ended up whacking his leg off the bell table. After that Johnny Wrestling's would give out a number of times, before the former TNA X-Division Champion escaped a Dragon Suplex and transitioned into the finishing submission. Gargano was marvelous whilst in the hold, reaching and reaching for the ropes, selling the pain on his face and eventually tapping out.
As compelling and dramatic as the end of the match became, a lot of the action was a back and forth indy-style bout that was exciting and pacy. Hard strikes, slick submissions, a handful of dives and more than a handful of near falls and close calls, this was a cross-section of the popular American Indy style, put on by two of it's biggest proponents. The alternating strikes sequence was done with a real purpose and was an improved version of an over-used wrestling trope, and ended with a great double big boot spot with both men refusing to go down. The two were superbly fluid from start to finish and managed to move easily from one part of the match to the next without it ever feeling forced or contrived. I have to say that when I went to check how often the pair had faced each other over years, I was very surprised to see they'd only had one previous one on one contest [PWG DDT4 2015] because the contest looked like they were much more familiar with each other. Perkins goes on to face Rich Swann in the Quarter Final.
After I'd been underwhelmed by wXw's Zack Sabre Jr's first round appearance, his Second Round bout with CZW's Drew Gulak was a much more satisfying contest. The pair bought the World of Sport style to the 'E and put on a belting eight minute contest. With Bryan & Ranallo bleeding the story of Gulak wanting to prove he was a better technical wrestler than ZSJ, the two had gripping fight, that had an intensity that has been missing from some of the previous CWC matches. Each strike had that little bit extra behind and Gulak, in particular, was a vicious little shit. He'd use the ropes to launch into a stomp and at one point bodyslam ZSJ into the ringropes, whilst also trying to get an early victory with a Northern Lights suplex. The exchanges between the pair were as beautiful as they were painful looking, but were made even better by the juxtaposition of the brutal strikes, especially the pair slapping the absolute shit out of each other heading into the finish. Every move had that little extra touch, whether it was ZSJ moving quicker than I've seen anyone get into an Octopus Stretch or Gulak's modified Boston crab, that made me wanting more when ZSJ was able to slip out of the Dragon Sleeper and bridge to get the pin. With five or ten minutes more this would have been a masterpiece. ZSJ goes on to face ICW's Noam Dar in the Quarter Finals.
Rounding out the 2nd Round, NXT's Rich Swann and BELIEVE's Lince Dorado were the highflying representatives putting on a very good opener. The commentary team put over how familiar the pair were and that was clear to see in how they wrestled with each other. Their six years of history with each other, one on one, in scramble matches, as a tag team or on opposite teams, for the likes of the NWA, DGUSA, AAW and FIP, was evident in every step they took here. After a comedic opening where the two engaged in an impromptu dance off, the action got serious quickly with a massive strike battle that was highlighted by a huge chop from Dorado. The theme would be bought back latter when the two went punch for punch in a lengthy exchange that the crowd adored. The closing section was an aerial assault with the duo going for a series of impressive moves and whilst Swann missed a standing 450 splash and there was no water in the pool for Dorado's shooting star press, Dorado was able to hit a tasty reverse rana and Swann pulled out a Phoenix Splash. It was the latter that got the win as Swann advanced to face TJ Perkins in the Quarter Finals.
ATPW Scale Rating - 7.69/10
Another cracking episode of the Cruiserweight Classic, which is once again the best show that WWE has aired this week. In fact it was miles ahead of RAW, Smackdown Live and NXT. It also get's a higher rating than both NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II and SummerSlam. Obviously that's helped by being an all in-ring based show and having only simple stories to follow, but that would mean nothing if the performers didn't go out and put on tremendous action. All three matches this week were impressive, with a number of different styles showcased throughout the hour. It would be difficult to pick a match of the evening, but if I was pushed I'd probably go for the main event between Johnny Gargano and TJ Perkins, for the sole reason that there was more of it!
As the Quarter Finals begin next week with Kota Ibushi, Akira Tozawa and Gran Metalik [Mascara Dorada] through to the final eight, the action can only get better.
All content - James Marston
Banner Credit - Kai Stellar