10 weeks of some of the best wrestling in WWE history reaches its climax tonight. There will certainly be fantastic matches and moments as Gran Metalik, Zack Sabre Jr., TJ Perkins and Kota Ibushi vie for the Orange County Chopper-created Cruiserweight Classic Trophy. It should be a great night of wrestling, but first, there’s the matter of NXT to address. So let’s get to it.
Samoa Joe starts the show making a beeline to the ring wearing jeans. Joe says he was a disgrace the whole time he was NXT Champion. He asks Nakamura to come to the ring and the champ obliges. Joe tells Nakamura that he’s a worthy champion. Then Joe says he wants a rematch. Nakamura accepts. They shake hands and Joe leaves. This should’ve been a very normal exchange, but considering the personalities involved, every moment was gripping. These guys are wasted on NXT. They should be main-eventing WrestleMania. But then as Nakamura heads up the ramp, Joe jumps him from behind drawing a huge amount of heat. He got me. He lays out Nakamura on the steps in a heap. We’ve never seen Nakamura dominated like this since coming to NXT. The commentators are silent as Nakamura gets put onto a stretcher. Graves and Regal come out to check on him as the crowd is stunned. Very effective segment
We return to a very serious Tom Phillips and Corey Graves, who is returning from ringside. In the parking lot, Regal yells at Joe as somebody drives him away.
Match 1: Liv Morgan vs. Rachel Fazio
I’ve never seen this Rachel Fazio. She doesn’t even have her own music or video. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a squash. I’ll be honest, this match didn’t interest me at all and I didn’t really pay attention.
Winner: Liv Morgan
My Rating: DUD
After the match, Liv Morgan gives her first promo that I remember and calls out Asuka. The crowd chants “Asuka’s gonna kill you.” No kidding.
Match 2: Drew Gulak vs. Hideo Itami
Coming in I thought this would be a good, short match, as Drew Gulak was impressive in the CWC, but he’s no Hideo Itami. Gulak slapped the hell out of Itami when he was on the ropes, but Itami proceeded to beat the hell out of him after that. Gulak gets control again briefly, but Itami fires up, hits him with his striking combination and obliges the crowd’s wish to see a GTS for the win.
Winner: Hideo Itami
Good match as expected. Lots of hard striking. The GTS is over as hell.
My Rating: *
Match 3: The Authors of Pain vs. Doug Sessa and Chris Paine
This won’t last long. I’m not a fan of The Authors of Pain as wrestlers, but I do like NXT’s initiative to build up a monster tag team and Paul Ellering is a legitimate badass. This is a short squash with nothing to it.
Winners: The Authors of Pain
My Rating: DUD
We get a backstage interview with Tye Dillinger. This man is very charismatic and good in the ring. He deserves a big push, which hopefully is what we’re gearing up to see.
Main Event: No Way Jose vs. Bobby Roode
Not a huge fan of No Way Jose; he’s not going anywhere with that gimmick, but at least the crowd hasn’t totally turned on him as has been the case for Andrade Cian Almas. Roode is over as hell, exceeding my expectations and probably WWE’s as well. Let’s just hope he got a better finish than that ridiculous Pumphandle Slam. As Jose takes over on Roode, the crowd boos and tells him he isn’t glorious. Perhaps I spoke too soon earlier. But he does get some cheers and favorable chants after a double sledge off the apron to Roode on the floor. Jose’s offense is mostly boring strikes, but he does hit a nice TKO at one point. But Roode turns things around and hits Jose with an Impaler DDT for the win. Much better finish.
Winner: Bobby Roode
Good match. Nothing special, but No Way Jose was able to shine a bit in defeat. Crowd ate up everything Roode did. He must be having the time of his life.
My Rating: *1/2
Not much to this show, but who cares really? We’re here for the Cruiserweight Classic. Let’s get it on.
This is it. The culmination of the greatest tournament in WWE history. I knew the CWC would be great, but I had no idea it would be this fantastic. It’s been far and away the best thing going in WWE this summer and I’m sorry to see it end. But I’m eager to find out who the winner will be.
They have a great montage building up everybody who’s left. I’m hyped as hell.
Match 1: Semi-Final: Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Gran Metalik goes crazy right out of the gate like he was shot out of a cannon. Holy crap this guy is awesome. But Sabre Jr. is already focusing on the neck and arms. Crowd is already going crazy for both guys. I’ve never seen anyone like Zack Sabre Jr. This man employs holds that I’ve never even imagined. This match is such a mix of styles. But Gran Metalik can do it all. He puts Jr. in a crazy looking hold before doing some fantastic high-flying. This is incredible. Finally after many minutes of incredible action, Metalik hits that crazy driver of his for the well-deserved win.
Winner: Gran Metalik
Incredible match. I’m sad that Sabre Jr. is gone (I don’t think he wanted to come to WWE full-time), because I’ve gotten so attached to him over the course of this time. Hopefully we’ll see him on down the road as he’s an incredible talent.
My Rating: ****1/2
After the match, we have an interview with Gran Metalik who is also presented with a silver medal from William Regal. Who knows what he said, but who cares? He’s The Man. If he’s facing Ibushi in the finals, it could be a match for all time.
We get a backstage interviewer from Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa. They talk about tonight’s match where they will apparently face Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar. Too bad Alexander couldn’t get a better partner…
Match of the Night: Match 2: Semi-Final: Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins
Crowd is going crazy for Ibushi and booing TJ Perkins. He drew some major heat for beating Rich Swann in the last round. Let’s hope Ibushi gets the win here. He certainly deserves it, regardless of whether he’s signed to WWE. Perkins is great, too, but he’s no Kota Ibushi. Unlike with the Metalik match, this one starts slow and methodical. Dueling chants throughout. Perkins goes for the knee bar early, but Ibushi easily escapes. As the match progresses, Ibushi takes a nasty spill to the outside and barely makes the 10-count. Nobody I’ve ever seen kicks like Kota Ibushi. Ibushi hits a cavalcade of high-flying offense before Perkins reverses and puts him in the knee bar. But Ibushi makes it to the ropes and the match continues. Ibushi kicks Perkins in the chest against the ropes multiple times. That must’ve sucked. Perkins hits Ibushi with two boots to the face after a hell of a DDT for possibly the greatest near-fall I’ve ever seen. But it’s then topped after Ibushi hits Perkins with the Last Ride Powerbomb and Perkins kicks out. Holy shit. Somehow, Perkins gets Ibushi in the knee bar, turns it into a modified STF, and Ibushi finally taps.
Winner: TJ Perkins
What a disappointing finish. The match itself was incredible, probably even better than the Metalik match, but there are a lot of unhappy people in that arena right now. I’d be one of them.
My Rating: ****1/2
Crowd chants “Thank You, Kota” as Perkins is awarded his medal. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this disappointed by the outcome of a wrestling match.
We have a backstage interview with Noam Dar and Cedric Alexander.
Cameras show Jack Gallagher, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Kalisto and Rich Swann in the crowd. Sure wish Swann or Gallagher were teaming with Alexander here over Dar. It’s great to see Cedric here, though.
Match 3: Noam Dar and Cedric Alexander vs. Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa
Daniel Bryan is hoarse on commentary. Who can blame him? Cedric Alexander is so great. Action is expectedly fast and furious. Alexander is clearly the best person in the match. Gargano and Ciampa hit Noam Dar with a crazy-looking head kick off the Death Device position. Lots of great striking in this match from all competitors. Dar locks Gargano in a knee bar, but Ciampa breaks it up. Ciampa is hitting Dar so hard with these chops, he’s hurting his own hand. There’s a near-fall from Cedric on Gargano that looked like a 3-count. Ciampa and Gargano end up winning with their tag finish on Noam Dar. Better him than Cedric.
Winners: Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa
Excellent match. It paled in comparison to the previous two, but it was still better than anything on RAW or Smackdown this week.
My Rating: ****
Main Event: CWC Final: Gran Metalik vs. TJ Perkins
Perkins botches his ring entrance. This is big, but it doesn’t feel as big as it would if Ibushi was here. Just as we’re about to start the match, HHH shows up to a huge ovation. He unveils the new Cruiserweight Championship. I don’t care for the blue leather, but I like the rest of its design. The match begins with lots of technical action and submission holds. In its opening minutes, this match is nowhere near the level of the semi-final matches. But it should be a long one, so a slow-build approach is probably for the best. Metalik hits an incredible hurricanrana over the ropes on TJ Perkins to the outside. Metalik hits his big second-rope dive to the outside and Perkins fails to catch him. Nasty fall, but Metalik barely misses a beat as he hits a springboard elbow drop onto Perkins. Perkins manages to get Metalik into the knee bar, but Metalik makes it to the ropes. The two exchange some vicious blows. Perkins continues to lock in the knee bar, but Metalik escapes every time. Metalik hits Perkins with the Metalik driver, but it’s not the best as his knee is killing him. The match continues. Metalik attempts his finish off the top rope, which certainly would’ve been it, but Perkins reverses into the knee bar for the submission victory.
Winner: TJ Perkins
Not a good choice for the winner. Perkins is a good wrestler, but he has been the inferior man in every match he’s had in this tournament since facing Johnny Gargano in the second round. This match was great, but it was overshadowed by the semi-finals. Leave it to WWE to do everything in its power to blow the greatest thing they’ve ever done. And in part, they succeeded.
My Rating: ****
HHH puts the new Cruiserweight Championship around Perkins’ waist and tells him to shake Metalik’s hand. He does. Some fans foolishly chant “You deserve it” at Perkins, who is sporting the nastiest welt I’ve seen since Undertaker vs. HHH at WrestleMania XXVIII. And so the best WWE show I’ve ever seen ends in disappointment.