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WWE Cruiserweight Classic recap, reactions & video highlights (Aug. 10, 2016): Please Sign Cedric!

Round Two... FIGHT!

Gran Metallik v. Tajiri

I’m glad to see that they added new opening videos for the competitors for the second round to continue to build their stories. Tajiri’s was wonderfully melancholy with him discussing how he’s in the tail end of his career and is just seeking to achieve greatness one more time before he reaches the end of his rope. His line about how his career is older than some members of the field was lovely.

The match itself really lived up to my pretty high expectations. This is a great example of why there’s so much value to having experience in different places and working different styles. As Mauro said, Tajiri spent time in CMLL learning to work with Luchadors while Gran Metallik worked for New Japan Pro Wrestling and gained experience with the strong style so both men seemed to have instant chemistry and it felt like a natural pairing.

As I said in my first week review, I’ve been a huge Tajiri fan for almost two decades now, and it’s great to see him age gracefully into more of the Grumpy Old Man archetype that so many of the greats from Japan become as they get older and it still being just as fun as young man deranged psycho Tajiri. Knowing how to evolve and remain great as you age is something that is so difficult.

It’s a thing that even someone as great as Ric Flair really struggled with. He wanted to be that same Ric Flair from 1989 until the day he retired, but his body simply wouldn’t let him. Whereas Jushin Liger is still excellent to this day because he’s accepted that he’s older and turned into the skid. The same thing comes across with Tajiri.

The mat wrestling at the start was really excellent. Both men acquitted themselves very well on the ground. What made it work was that it was creative, it was done with a purpose, it felt like it meant something to the match rather than being perfunctory time killing, and the guys flowed elegantly from hold to hold with really smooth and natural transitions. I’d seen Metallik work his spot heavy matches in both Japan and Mexico, but his performance on the mat here made me think he could have fit in just as well in older CMLL as well where title matches were built more around mat wrestling than exciting high spots. So many of the holds in this match from both men were exceptional.

As excellent as the mat exchanges were, it was also great that we got to see the big calling cards from both men on display as well with Metallik’s incredible high spots and Tajiri’s devastating kicks. Even as WWE has moved more towards strong style wrestling in recent years it’s awesome that Tajiri’s kicks still get the big "Oh shit!" reaction that they do. The pop when he just straight kicked Metallik in the face was fantastic. And the tree of woe basement dropkick to this day still looks disgusting, like it would take your head clean off.

On the other hand, the way Metallik is able to walk the ropes to position himself for all these flips and dives is incredible. His body control and balance is tremendous. What I loved from both is the way the match was paced and the way they built well to the big spots, so everything that happened had time to breathe and felt important.

One final thing to highlight would be the despair in the Lotus Lock style submission Tajiri had locked on near the end. I thought Metallik did extremely well selling the desperation to get out of the submission, making it feel like it could have got the victory. That attention to detail is what really got the crowd on the hook thinking that it could be the end of the match which is so important.

Excellent stuff. On most episodes of TV, it would definitely be the match of the night, but this wasn’t most episodes of TV.

Kota Ibushi v. Cedric Alexander:

Wow. What is there to even say about this match? This was an absolute instant classic and like last week’s Gargano/Ciampa war should absolutely be near the top of everyone’s match of the year lists.

There’s way too much greatness to this match that I can’t possibly do justice to it; it’s a must watch, but I’ll try to spotlight my favorite stuff or the stuff that really stood out.

The big thing on display here, like last week’s main event was the stiffness and intensity from both men. In particular, I literally shouted at that dropkick from Ibushi that looked like it knocked Cedric’s teeth out.

Another spot that gets me every time is that snap Michinoku Driver Cedric and Sami both do, because it looks like people are inches from landing on their head every time.

Finally, the second turnbuckle moonsault into the over the ropes flip dive sequence was incredible. The timing these guys have is out of this world.

I also thought Cedric sold the emotion of this match perfectly. He was the underdog and knew it, but he was giving the fight of his life. You could tell he was dealing with nerves in this big spot, and that structured the story of the match, because he was in the biggest match of his life, whereas this was nothing for Ibushi.

He’d worked second from the top at the Tokyo Dome in front of tens of thousands. He’d been at this level before, this wasn’t new. This dichotomy added a layer of depth to the proceedings that made everything mean more, and really rallied the crowd behind Cedric, no matter how excited they were about the Japanese superstar in their midst.

One other thing I really liked was the way Ibushi did a multi-match build to his big standing Corkscrew Moonsault. Both in the first round and during the NXT TV taping he did the standard standing Moonsault, but this time he knew Cedric was a tougher opponent and was going to need to do the even more high risk move to keep him down.

And to spotlight a little psychology touch in this match, what I loved most about the big top rope moonsault to the floor was the way the callback was done.

Earlier in the match, he attempted the big moonsault off the second turnbuckle to the floor and missed, allowing Cedric to hit that dive. Rather than call back to the spot directly, he escalated it to a degree by doing the moonsault off the top rop, rather than the second turnbuckle to add that escalation element to the callback.

If you’re going to call back to a spot from earlier, you want to do it even bigger. A recent example that springs to mind of that would be Sasha’s match with Bayley where she failed to get the middle rope double knees earlier in the match, so when calling back, she stacked her on the top rope instead. Very smart wrestling.

Finally, I absolutely loved how Ibushi timed those kickouts at the end. He had the crowd hook, line and sinker both times thinking the match was over. Hell, I knew the spoilers and wasn’t sure if I misread them at that point. Those 2.99 kickouts can add so much to a match if they’re done really well like that.

But in the end, Ibushi was too much and advanced to the next round, but this was a starmaking performance for Cedric. I’m so happy they left in the post-match with the crowd chanting "Please Sign Cedric!" as he fought back tears, and the King of Kings himself putting Cedric over.

Was it a little self-serving from Hunter? Of course, so much of what he does is. He’s not called The Game for nothing. But it was also a genuinely awesome moment for Cedric, and in this case, that’s what matters to me.

The Cruiserweight Classic is simply incredible right now, and only stands to get better as these great wrestlers advance to even tougher challenges. Crushed to see Tajiri and Cedric go, but Ibushi and Metallik certainly earned those victories. Next week we have Gallagher vs. Tozawa, Nese vs. Kendrick, and Lun vs. Dar on tap.

Anyway, that’s it for me, because it’s time to go and rewatch these two matches over and over again.

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