The 2016 Cruiserweight Classic tournament has been one hell of a ride with the finals taking place tonight. Wrapping things up in a special post-show podcast, I wanted to also review the tournament as a whole with a recap of some High Spots and Low Blows of the many positives and few negatives throughout the past few weeks.
THE HIGH SPOTS
So, so much about this ended up being so, so good, which is surprising considering all of the factors working against it. After all, this was a tournament that would be pre-recorded, consist almost entirely of people that the WWE Universe was not aware of (and even the ones they did know weren’t big stars like John Cena and Dean Ambrose). These guys could have not known WWE’s style and done some weird things that didn’t mesh well with what the crowd would want to see. They could have gotten into backstage arguments since they weren’t vetted and brought up through the WWE system. A multitude of other factors could have gotten in the way, yet that didn’t happen.
This was a rousing success in all regards. Nearly all of the 32 men involved had something different about them to distinguish themselves from the others and the least entertaining of the bunch were still putting on a better show than what we get from some of the regulars on Raw and SmackDown. Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo oddly worked well as a commentary team, providing not just a lot of enthusiasm, but dropping tons of knowledge on the audience as well. It was refreshing to hear about the backstories of the competitors in an environment that didn’t feel like the fabricated bubble of WWE’s storylines that we hear about all the time. Even the moves had a proper identification to them, rather than the typical method of valuing the story more than the sport and emphasizing the power of a move over what the move actually is.
The biggest positive standout for me about this whole tournament, though, was the atmosphere. Every taping had a ruckus crowd that was super thrilled to see everybody go out there and put on a good show. The audience didn’t hijack it, nor did they go silent in boredom. The wrestlers themselves fed off the environment, making each fight have a “big match feel” to it. All of this was best showcased in the match between Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi, which is in the running for Match of the Year for my 2016 awards. This wasn’t even the semifinals, yet the crowd was chanting “fight forever” and “please sign Cedric”. When Triple H came out to pat him on the back and give the crowd a thumbs up, that was just awesome to see. Somehow, despite losing the match, he walked out a winner along with everyone else in the arena that night, and it went to show that WWE was truly paying attention to what the fans would want for the future.
Overall, this tournament was just amazing from start to finish, and I’m super happy to see T.J. Perkins above all be the one to win the Cruiserweight Championship. He’s a great face of the division and an amazing choice to be at the top of things going forward.
THE LOW BLOWS
It’s really tough to think of anything to criticize about this tournament. As expressed above, pretty much everything from the commentary to the participants and the concept itself were executed very well. If I have to pick a downside, though (which is kind of the point of doing a High Spots and Low Blows article), I would have to say the only thing that hurt it was the pre-recorded tapings. While these were going on, I had to read the results and post those up on Smark Out Moment, which meant I was spoiled for every single outcome before being able to watch them. If I didn’t know ahead of time who was going to win, I think that would have made this even more fun to check out, since the shock factor would have applied to a few matches here and there. I would have thought at least one of the Bollywood Boys would have won, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa would be on equal footing and hard to pick, and Rich Swann’s win over Lince Dorado would have been a huge surprise. The matches were still entertaining to watch knowing the outcome ahead of time, but it definitely lacks a punch when you already know what to expect. The same thing applies to NXT, which is why I sometimes go several weeks without actually watching any of the episodes, as there’s no need to when you’re crunched for time. Hopefully, if this tournament happens again in 2017, more of it will take place as a live presentation and not bulk recordings done a month in advance.
For more opinions on the event as a whole as well as my immediate reaction to the finals, check out the latest edition of the Smark Out Moment wrestling podcast SMACK TALK POST-SHOW.
Hosted by Anthony Mango
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