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WWE Cruiserweight Classic recap, reactions & video highlights (July 20, 2016): Japanese Buzzsaw!

We're back with another week of Cruiserweight Classic action featuring a former WWE superstar in addition to standouts from Evolve, Dragon Gate, and Freelance!

Tajiri vs. Damien Slater:

As fun as all the independent names were when this tournament was announced, Tajiri was honestly one of the names I was most excited about. He's been a genuinely great wrestler for about 15 years (including Best in the World level in 1999 and 2000 in ECW) and if tonight is any indication, that fact has still not changed. I liked a lot of what Slater was doing, primarily his consistent selling of the arm, but Tajiri gave an absolutely killer performance.

This is the kind of attention to detail I love to see in professional wrestling. Tajiri had an absolute laser focus when he was on offense, making sure that every attack was logical and going after the arm that he was trying to take out of commission. He did so many great little things too, like the way Slater rolled him back in after the big dive, but let his arm get too close and Tajiri immediately grabs it with a wristlock. He never lets up his focus or loses track of what he needs to be doing in a match. I also really liked the sequence with Tajiri going for the arm kicks and Slater going for the leg kicks, further constructing the story. Great psychology. And his striking still looks as flawless as ever with nasty kick after nasty kick.

Very good match, and a great Tajiri performance. Given his history with Super Crazy, I am thrilled for Gran Metalik versus Tajiri in round 2. That should be excellent. Plus, the Observer reported last night that they're thinking of signing him for the brand split. Consider me thrilled!

Brief Tajiri related aside, if you're looking for things to watch on the Award Winning WWE Network, as though there isn't enough current wrestling on already, basically anything they have from 1999-2000 ECW on the network featuring Tajiri gets a strong recommendation from me if you haven't seen it. In particular, his match with Corino in 2000 is one of the best babyface revenge matches you'll ever see, the kind that Ambrose really needed in 2014 at the height of his feud with Rollins, and the Mexican Death Match with Super Crazy is also outstanding. Two of the best matches of 2000.

TJ Perkins v. Da Mack:

I really liked this match a lot. What's great about this tournament is that it feels so different from match to match so the matches all feel fresh even if not all are necessarily great. The first was a psychology heavy technically sound match whereas this was more of a fun, entertaining match with both guys showing a ton of character and personality in their work. Da Mack has a lot of potential, he's a charismatic guy and can get that out when he wrestles.

As for TJP, he's one of the many elite Evolve guys that are making that the best promotion in the world this year, and he showed why here. The great man Stokely Hathaway was missed at ringside, though. #DreamTeam

His character is a hard one to marry to his work, because his character is all about making hard things look easy, and obviously that's difficult, but as always he elegantly conveyed that here. His smoothness and timing on all his spots is really excellent. He has great execution and is excellent with creatively flowing between his spots, especially when working the mat.

One spot I really liked too was the one time when he didn't actually execute perfectly when he was going for the old spider web rope spot that people like Rocky Romero do and instead quickly transitioned out of it, dabbed (or dubstepped, to quote Bryan... he's such a dork, how can you not love that guy?) to pop the crowd without losing a beat and got right back to it. The key with a mistake is to make it not matter by selling that it wasn't a mistake at all.

Mustafa Ali v. Lince Dorado:

This is the first match of the tournament where the underdog is actually the one I was more excited about. Since early this year, I tried to catch all of Freelance Wrestling's Friday night streams from the Bottom Lounge out in Chicago, and Mustafa always stood out most out of their roster, and you could definitely see why in the match tonight. It very swingy with Ali for me throughout this process too. When the initial leaked list came out, he was listed as in and I was excited, but then the official list came out and he was out and I was disappointed, but then Zumbi got pulled and he was back in and I was thrilled!

This was really the singular standout performance of the tournament thus far from someone who wasn't getting the win. After this, I'd be really stunned if WWE wasn't seriously thinking about offering him a contract.

There's not a ton I could say about this match to really do it justice because it was a simply tremendous display of athleticism from both guys that is hard to put into words with things like the imploding 450 splash or the beautiful top rope Spanish Fly, but what I think they did extremely well here in addition to the sheer athleticism was how they paced the match. It was a very spot heavy match, but they paced it such that the spots had time to breath and really were sold well as important. They didn't just blow through everything a million miles an hour, they let the stuff they were doing breathe, and that's the best way to deploy the highly athletic spots you're doing. If you're going to do an imploding 450, you want it to matter and have impact on the audience, not to already be doing the next spot.

Akira Tozawa v. Kenneth Johnson:

Well, they can't all be winners. This was the first really disappointing match of the tourney and  a rough one to end the night with. It just didn't feel like these two clicked. Johnson was trying to wrestle Tozawa's match and it didn't work at all. It really felt like they were off with their timing and didn't have good communication so even Tozawa looked a bit lost at times. Luckily, Tozawa definitely still seems like he'll get over big with the CWC fanbase who were already very into his schtick tonight.

The nearfall right at the end was pretty great though. Loved the one yell when someone thought Johnson had pulled the big upset. And Tozawa's German Suplex is always very cool.


That's it for me this week! I'm very excited for an Evolve focused episode next week with Tony Nese facing off against Anthony Bennett, Zack Sabre Jr. facing off against Tyson Dux, and Drew Gulak facing off against Harv Sirha, as well as Daniel Bryan's old friend THE Brian Kendrick facing off against Raul Mendoza.

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