Ranking Every Match of the Cruiserweight Classic

In case you didn’t see it, The Cruiserweight Classic was awesome. I have gone on record calling it the greatest thing WWE has ever put together. When the tournament began 11 weeks ago, I had no idea that it would be as great as it was, or that I would have my own website by the time it reached its conclusion. But I love lists, so I decided I would rank every match as I went through the tournament. How convenient! Below is my list, from worst to best, of all 31 matches from The Cruiserweight Classic.

31. Round 1: Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra
Sorry Dar fans, but nobody in this tournament was more overrated than him. Though in his defense, his opponent was even worse. There were a few other matches in the tournament that were forgettable, but this is the only one that I would classify as straight-up bad.
My Rating: 1/2*

30. Round 1: Anthony Bennett vs. Tony Nese
This match suffered from a lack of star power. I ended up liking Tony Nese pretty well, but, I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember who Anthony Bennett is. Better luck next year, Kid.
My Rating: *1/2

29. Round 1: Drew Gulak vs. Harv Sihra
The other half of the Bollywood boys wasn’t any better than his partner, but he did have a better opponent. Gulak made this match watchable, but it wasn’t much more than that.
My Rating: *1/2

28. Round 1: Tajiri vs. Damien Slater
This was a decent match and most of the action was crisp and on-the-money. But was there really any doubt about who would win? Nah.
My Rating: *1/2

27. Round 1: Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee
I thoroughly enjoyed this match, but that’s mainly because I love Rich Swann. This was nothing more than a showcase for the charismatic showman and it didn’t last long.
My Rating: *1/2 

26. Round 2: Noam Dar vs. Hoho Lun
Man, Noam Dar just couldn’t catch a break. Not only was he criminally overrated, but he was easily wrestling in the weakest section of the bracket facing some of the worst guys in the tournament. Fun fact: He has the distinction of turning in the worst match of every round of the tournament in which he appeared according to this list. Ouch.
My Rating: **

25. Round 1: Hoho Lun vs. Ariya Daivari
This is just one of those times when the wrong guy won. Hoho Lun wasn’t too bad in this match, but that was mainly because he was going up against a man who is clearly a pro in Daivari. Hell, I’d rather it have been Daivari make it to the third round than Dar. At the very least, he got a better match out of Hoho.
My Rating: **1/2

24. Round 1: Clement Petiot vs. Cedric Alexander
This was the first time I ever saw Cedric Alexander, and from the opening notes of his entrance through his great performance in this match, I was blown away. If Noam Dar was the most overrated, Cedric was easily the most criminally underrated guy in this tournament, and I’m very pleased that he made it to the RAW roster.
My Rating: **1/2

23. Round 1: Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson
I distinctly remember Kenneth Johnson’s lanky frame getting smashed into the mat by Tozawa’s brutal German Suplex. That damn Tozawa is a killer and I agree with Daniel Bryan: his Germans kick Brock’s ass every single time.
My Rating: **1/2

22. Round 1: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux
This match paled in comparison to Sabre’s later matches, but for his introduction to the WWE audience, it went just fine. He was one of the most unique performers in this tournament. Tyson Dux was not. But the match, for what it was, worked.
My Rating: **1/2

21. Round 1: Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Richner
I don’t remember much about this Richner guy other than his name, but I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jack Gallagher. Going into this tournament, I thought he would clearly be a First Round knockout, but I’m very pleased that wasn’t the case. This guy is a technical wrestling badass while simultaneously being hilarious. It’s a fine line, but Gallagher knows how to walk it.
My Rating: ***

20. Round 1: Gran Metalik vs. Alejandro Saez
The first match of the Cruiserweight tournament was one hell of an introduction. By the time this match reached its conclusion, after several incredible high-flying moves from both Saez and Metalik, I was absolutely hooked. Metalik in particular was extremely impressive, and if he ever hit a more brutal version of his Metalik Driver, I wouldn’t want to see the man that got hit with it.
My Rating: ***

19. Round 1: Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta
This match was particularly memorable to me because it introduced me to Kota Ibushi, who is easily one of the Top Five best all-around performers I’ve ever seen. This guy can do it all, and poor Sean Maluta was required to take the full force of all of it. Ibushi carried the youngster to what must be his career highlight, but Ibushi was destined for much greater things.
My Rating: ***

18. Round 1: TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack
I wasn’t familiar with TJ Perkins coming into this tournament (notice a pattern?) so I really had no idea who was going to win this match. Both men absolutely shined here as two of the most charismatic guys in the entire tournament, but it was Perkins’ fantastic technical abilities that really drove the match to its sizable peak.
My Rating: ***1/2

17. Round 1: Mustafa Ali vs. Lince Dorado
This was probably the most underrated First Round match of the tournament. Both men were impressive, Dorado’s high-flying was impeccable, the crowd was chanting “This is Awesome,” and the right guy won. What more do you want?
My Rating: ***1/2

16. Round 3: Noam Dar vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I have no idea how in the hell, Noam Dar managed to make it to a quarterfinal match against a man the caliber of Zack Sabre Jr., but my hat’s off to him. That isn’t particularly impressive, though, since I never where hats and Dar again took part in the worst match of the round. Sabre did everything he could to carry him to a classic, but the match peaked at being very good. But damn if that final submission hold didn’t look incredible.
My Rating: ***1/2

15. Round 2: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Drew Gulak
A very good mix of styles in this match barely puts it above Sabre’s Round 3 match. It had trouble standing out in a week that was full of great action, but I still look back at it fondly as Sabre’s first great match in the tournament.
My Rating: ***1/2

14. Round 2: Johnny Gargano vs. TJ Perkins
This match couldn’t top Gargano’s excellent First Round match against his partner Tomasso Ciampa, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great. TJ Perkins’ ruthless targeting of Gargano’s leg was great, and Daniel Bryan’s commentary really put it over. Yeah, Gargano’s leg wasn’t really hurt since his match with The Revival in which the injury occurred didn’t actually take place until weeks later, but in kayfabe, it gave Perkins the path to victory he needed to create of the best upsets in the tournament.
My Rating: ***1/2

13. Round 2: Lince Dorado vs. Rich Swann
Dorado had a vastly superior match to Swann in the First Round, but both men were two of the best athletes in the tournament destined to put together a great showcase. Best of all, it was never clear who would win going in, providing an air of uncertainty and intrigue that simply doesn’t exist for a lot WWE matches. Both men turned in great performances and both men were elevated regardless of the outcome.
My Rating: ***1/2

12. Round 1: Brian Kendrick vs. Raul Mendoza
Kendrick and Mendoza were both great in this match, but the true star of the show was Daniel Bryan. Bryan’s retelling of Brian Kendrick’s emotional story coupled with Kendrick’s willingness to do anything to win made this a showstopper, and the second-best match of the first round.
My Rating: ***1/2

11. Round 2: Gran Metalik vs. Tajiri
This is where things really started to get good. I loved that Metalik’s matches kicked off every round of the tournament because the man never disappointed. Tajiri had better matches in his prime, but this had to have been his best match in years. Both men hit some of the best striking offense of the entire tournament in this match, and Tajiri’s starpower and vicious kicks, combined with Metalik’s dual Lucha and Japanese background, made this a great mix of styles and a great match.
My Rating: ****

10. Round 2: Akria Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher
A lot of people were turned off by what they perceived to be a presence of comedy in this match, and while I won’t argue that Gallagher isn’t comedic, I actually think it works in his favor. The man is a goofball that can tie you in a knot and wriggle his way out of just about any hold in the game… except Tozawa’s German suplex. I was slightly disappointed in the outcome, but both men had my utmost respect by the end of this one.
My Rating: ****

9. Final: TJ Perkins vs. Gran Metalik
This may be controversial to many, but while I thoroughly enjoyed the final match of the tournament, I wasn’t blown away by it as much as I was by a number of other matches over the course of the 10 weeks. I think it would’ve felt a lot bigger if it had been Ibushi vs. Metalik instead of Perkins vs. Metalik, and the match was overshadowed by both semi-finals matches that took place on the same show, but it was still an excellent wrestling match. Really, it’s a testament to the quality of the tournament that there were eight matches that surpassed the final, but it also brings up the uncomfortable question: Did the right guy really win?
My Rating: ****

8. Round 3: Rich Swann vs. TJ Perkins
Last week on Talk is Jericho, Chris Jericho’s podcast, Kevin Owens said that wrestling matches are about moments. And he’s absolutely right. This match had them in spades: Swann dabbing on Perkins, the final moments of the knee bar submission, and the crowd turning on the winner because he’d just beaten one of their favorites, were all unforgettable. The outcome may not have been my choice, but again both men were elevated by the end.
My Rating: ****

7. Round 3: Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi
Everybody pretty much knew going in that Kendrick was doomed as he went up against the obviously superior Kota Ibushi. But while that usually works against a match, it actually worked to this one’s advantage. The fans weren’t watching to see the outcome, they were watching to see how the two men reached the outcome, and how Kendrick would react when that outcome was reached. They didn’t leave disappointed on any of those counts and Kendrick and Daniel Bryan created one of the most emotional moments of the entire tournament.
My Rating: ****

6. Round 1: Tomasso Ciampa vs. Johnny Gargano
Going into this match, I knew it would be good. How could it not considering the backstory and the chemistry between these two guys? But it exceeded every expectation I could’ve possibly had. Both of these guys are on fire right now, and their match against The Revival on NXT Takeover Brooklyn II is my favorite tag team match of all time. But when I saw this, the last match of Round 1 of the Cruiserweight Classic, I knew it would be a tough one to top. And it barely was until we got to the semi-finals. Hell, even the final match of the tournament couldn’t top it. Translation: Gargano vs. Ciampa = Money.
My Rating: ****

5. Round 2: Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese
If Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali isn’t the most underrated match of the entire tournament, then it’s this Round 2 showstopper between Kendrick and Nese. Although Kendrick’s first match planted the seeds that he would do anything to win, this match took that concept and pushed it to the brink. Kendrick was easily the most deplorable guy in the company, but he still got a babyface pop when he manage to squeak out a win against the superior athlete in Tony Nese. And that’s the power of the psychology that Kendrick put into his matches, which was, again, enhanced by Daniel Bryan’s work from the announcers table. By the end of this one, it seemed like Kendrick might actually have a chance to win the whole thing and it made his subsequent match with Kota Ibushi that much more special.
My Rating: ****1/2

4. Round 3: Gran Metalik vs. Akira Tozawa
Sometimes two guys just bring out the best in each other, and that’s exactly what I’m reminded of when I think back on this, the best match in Round 3 of the tournament. This was one of those matches where a coin-flip could’ve determined the outcome and nobody would’ve gone home disappointed. Both men were signed to RAW, so let’s hope it wasn’t the only time this match graces a WWE screen.
My Rating: ****1/2

3. Semi-Final: Gran Metalik vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
As I said when I reviewed this match last week, I wasn’t sure coming in if it was going to be able to top Metalik vs Tozawa simply because both of these guys’ styles are so different. But as soon as the bell rang and Metalik launched like a rocket at Sabre Jr., I realized that this one would have the potential to top both guys’ previous efforts. This match was so good, it took what was in reality a pretty predictable outcome and suspended the belief of everybody watching until its final dramatic conclusion. A classic.
My Rating: ****1/2

2. Semi_Final: Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins
Unlike Metalik vs. Sabre Jr., there was really no way to predict who would win this match. Perkins was the underdog throughout the tournament (except maybe in his first match), but you couldn’t find a time when that was more true than here. Ibushi had been built up like a monster, the Brock Lesnar of the tournament (only he actually deserved it) that could not be stopped. But by the end, not only did it all come crashing down, but TJ Perkins was a made man to everyone who had seen it. We can only hope that Ibushi comes back next year, because words cannot overstate what he did for this company in the short time he was here.
My Rating: ****1/2

1. Round 2: Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander
The crown jewel of the tournament (and of Ibushi’s brief stay in WWE) wasn’t putting over the new Cruiserweight champion, it was making a star out of Cedric Alexander. Coming into the match, I doubt anybody had any notion that Cedric had a chance in hell of beating the Japanese destroyer, but he quickly made a believer of everybody watching on the Network, the lucky few who were in the crowd at Full Sail that night, and of HHH who came out afterward to congratulate the man on his performance… after he lost! Call it an understatement if you must, but to everyone watching that match on that night, Cedric Alexander was their hero. I don’t think anybody has gotten that over in defeat since Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. And you know what? I like this match better.
My Rating: *****

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