First off, you guys think they signed Cedric yet? Ah, HHH has our back, it’s only a matter of time. Let’s see what they got for us this week to try and top the seemingly untoppable, shall we?
Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher
In some ways, this is a bad draw for both men. To be certain, both are world travelers, men who have wrestled opponents of every size and style. This general matchup (hard-hitting, high-flying Japanese puro vs. pure English catch-as-catch-can) is nothing new for either man. And yet... they both gained an immense amount of crowd support in their first round matches.
And love them or hate them, but the crowd at Full Sail have a habit of making their feelings known loudly and vigorously. These men are both cool, collected professionals, but what if the crowd leans all the way behind one or the other? If Tozawa’s call and response yelps go up to dead air because the crowd is too busy singing Gallagher’s theme, does he falter? If Gallagher’s World of Sport escapes and flashy grappling meet chants of “TO-ZA-WA!”, will he be thrown off?
It’s a good problem to have, of course, certainly better than the opposite, but it’s not something often considered. Could it be the difference maker?
Ho Ho Lun vs. Noam Dar
Ho Ho Lun and Noam Dar, conversely, have the opposite problem. Neither man set the world on fire with their performances in the first round. They almost certainly do not have to worry about being distracted by thunderous support for anyone. But that also weighs on a man, in a different way. Fortunately, I don’t think we have to worry about either of these two slumping too hard.
Lun, after all, loves wrestling so much that he practically built the Hong Kong independent scene with his own bare hands. A little sterile reaction isn’t going to stop him, no sir, he’ll bring his kicks and suplexes to bear one way or the other. And while Dar is used to folks singing his name to all manner of soundtrack themes, he’s been wrestling since he was 15. His will to wrestle is indomitable, no matter the reaction, and that Champagne Superkneebar will do the job in any case.
They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Are these two men ready to make their second impressions count?
Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese
Brian Kendrick and Tony Nese, as well, find themselves linked by their situations. Kendrick, while being interviewed for the Classic, memorably said that without wrestling, he’s just living. This is his last, best shot at making something of his career, or so he thinks. Sure, he could go back to New Japan or Ring of Honor or Evolve or even TNA, he could make a good living for himself, maybe he could even become a real world champion. And to any of us, this would be good enough, this would be proof that his resume finally matched his potential, but to Brian Kendrick, all he would see is that he had one more chance and he failed.
Nese, for his part, he’s had a bad year. You can go look over my Evolve recaps, folks. He’s 0-5 in pure singles action in his home promotion, his only wins coming in multi-man scraps and tags. His tag team broke up, his manager left him, he hit rock bottom. He’s a proverbial man without a country, but then the Cruiserweight Classic came along, and he managed to get himself a spot in the Cruiserweight Classic Flashpoint, a five-man elimination match he won against all odds to secure his berth in the tournament. Nese hitched his wagon to the CWC and while he’s young and not nearly as desperate as Kendrick is, winning this match and going deeper still is a way to turn his year around right quick.
Kendrick’s ready to pull out all the stops, even if he has to cross a line. Nese has found himself back on the straight and narrow but he’s no stranger to skulduggery himself. Who blinks first?
The winner of Tozawa/Gallagher will face Gran Metalik in the quarter-finals, a formidable matchup if there ever was one. Against Tajiri he showed that he’s as much home on the mat as he is in the air, so he’ll be ready for either man when they come calling.
Likewise, the winner of Kendrick/Nese has a known opponent in Kota Ibushi. Neither man is likely to be favored against the Golden Star, but they’ve both fought against many other top Japanese superstars and may well be coloring with crayons from outside the usual box by then, and so cannot be counted out.
Meanwhile, the winner of Dar/Lun will go on to face the winner of Sabre/Gulak, a matchup that truthfully favors neither man given that Sabre and Gulak are two of the top technical grapplers in the world today, but for which Dar is almost certainly better equipped given his own grappling-heavy wrestling style.
There you have it, folks
Who you got advancing to the next round?