Last night WWE aired the first episode of the Cruiserweight Classic, their tournament involving thirty-two of the best cruiserweights in the world. It’s entirely new territory for the company, and you only need to glance down the list of names to get excited. In this piece, I’m going to have a look at the first episode reviewing it in three separate areas: presentation, commentary and in-ring action.
This is one of the first times that I have seen WWE go all out in presenting their product as a real sport. From Corey Graves in his CGI box to the way the refs were acting before and after the bout. Even the small video packages introducing each competitor and the tale of the tapes they were showing before the fights brought to mind UFC in all the right ways. This was one of the best presentations I have seen from WWE, and it gets a big thumbs up from me.
Daniel Bryan and Maura Ranallo were an inspired choice as commentary team for this event. Bryan has all the fans’ love and at this point can do little wrong in their eyes while Ranallo’s voice just screams big time. The two of them also worked well together. There were a few moments where they spoke over each other or where Bryan maybe played up to things a bit too much, but for first timers that is forgivable. Noticeable was the mentioning of other promotion and wrestlers. Talents like Low Ki and Chris Hero were name dropped, and Bryan was able to delve into his history in the indies. Assuming these guys will get better as time goes on, WWE could have one hell of an announce team on their hands.
There has to be a caveat to this section. This is the first round and having wrestlers go all out at this stage would make no sense. Instead, we are getting relatively short bouts with bursts of thrilling spectacle and on the whole, I thought it worked well. We got a glimpse of what Gran Metalik can do in the opening match, but they also allowed Saez to impress, although he did have a tendency to overact. Similar can be said of Ho Ho Lun, who looks raw but has potential. Putting him in there with someone like Arya Daivari was smart as the experienced man helped him put together a good match. Cedric Alexander meanwhile is just a likeable bloke, and we again saw only a smidgen of what he can do while at the same time making Clement Petiot look dangerous.
The main-event was the first real glimpse of what this tournament could provide. If you didn’t figure it out already, Ibushi is good, and Maluta did a great job of keeping up with him. I liked that they acknowledged the botched flip to the outside and used it to push Maluta’s determination rather than brushing it under the carpet. Ibushi has to be one of the favourites for the tournament, and I’m already looking forward to him and Alexander.
The Cruiserweight Classic nails something that WWE rarely manages to do. It makes wrestling feel real. You could show this program to UFC fans, and while they might still struggle with the logic, they would recognise it as at least touching on the sport they like. If WWE keeps this up, this tournament could go down as a classic in more than just name.