By Victor Parenza (@ParenzaBooks)
Photo courtesy: World Wrestling Entertainment
The Cruiserweight Classic is now behind us. It was full of surprises, the biggest being that the WWE didn’t in any way restrict, repackage, or make it feel like a WWE show. It had its own identity, and they should be applauded for it. HHH took this seriously, and it resulted in one of WWE’s great recent achievements.
The talent involved got to do their thing, and all came out better for doing so. Sure guys like Kenneth Johnson or Da Mack probably won’t ever be signed by WWE, but they can now be promoted as a “CWC competitor” which will no doubt help their future paydays. Which is a win no matter how you slice it.
Other talent that got signed, can now be given the biggest platform possible to do their thing. Rich Swann went from barely being on NXT TV, to now being on Raw. In my opinion, Akira Tozawa was the most charismatic Japanese wrestler not named Nakamura. Now he has a shot to be bigger than any star currently wresting in Japan.
What about T.J. Perkins? I would wager that not too many people had him winning the thing. But good for him, his final two showings were top-notch and felt like a worthy contender when it was over and done with. It was also a nice touch having the winner be the inaugural champion. If this is an annual thing, it will be interesting to see what the stakes for the tournament will be in upcoming years.
Now let’s talk about the politics involved in it. The two favorites going in were Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. They were the biggest names, and seemingly shoe-ins to be facing off in the Finals. (They were even positioned on opposite sides of the brackets, making it seem to be even more of a lock.) Ibushi was even promoted as “the favorite” on CWC TV. Can’t beat a ringing endorsement like that! Even with all the hype, Ibushi over-delivered every time he stepped up to the plate. Odds are, your favorite match of the tournament had Ibushi in it. Hell your top three matches may have Ibushi in it.
There was only one problem, he hadn’t signed with WWE. There is no way they were letting a guy win that wasn’t contracted. There were conflicting reports throughout the whole tournament that he had/hadn’t signed. I was optimistic. He had a good thing going, but in the end apparently he didn’t. Not yet anyway.
As for Zack, he claimed he had more things he would like to accomplish before signing. Which is totally understandable. He’s only 29. He will come back in a couple years a more seasoned competitor, no problems there from where I stand. Ibushi, on the other hand, is 34. With his wild style, does he really need to wait any longer?
I’d never heard of Gran Metalik before the CWC started, but he won me over after his opening round match. I had no idea he would make it to the Finals, (a Finals with no Kota Ibushi or ZSJ no less!) but he had impressive showings winning over Full Sail throughout the tournament. It would have been a cool story for him to win it, but I could see WWE not wanting to put the belt on someone who can’t speak English- at least not for the inaugural champion. You know they will need the champion to do some interviews when he shows up on Raw.
So I said all that to say that TJP’s win is somewhat tainted. Everything pointed to it being Ibushi’s to lose had he signed. Damn politics. But you know what? Life is full of politics, and the wrestling business damn sure is too. Even if Raw ends up jobbing all these guys out to Sheamus, and they put the Cruiserweight title on Summer Rae, we can still look back on these 10 weeks as a wonderful reminder of a time when these guys were given their chance to shine and treated as important wrestlers. Or maybe, just maybe, we really could look back on this as the time when everything changed for the cruiserweight.