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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Preview (August 31): Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik & Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi

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Only three weeks to go, so let’s waste no time and get right to the action!

Akira Tozawa vs. Gran Metalik

Two of the marquee practitioners of their styles going head-to-head in a first-time matchup here, as pure of an example of what makes these tournaments excellent as you’re likely to find. Akira Tozawa represents the high flying, hard-hitting lucha-steeped puroresu of Dragon Gate— his strikes are stiff, his dives deep, and his suplexes deadlifted. Gran Metalik represents the highest risk, highest reward flavor of lucha libre acrobatics from the world’s oldest wrestling promotion, CMLL— and I do not believe there is a single thing on this planet that he would not jump off of in a pro wrestling context.

Last time out we discussed how Metalik’s relatively narrow experience might disadvantage him against Tajiri. Here he faces no such problem, as both men debuted in 2005, thus coming in with about the same amount of experience. Metalik, while never wrestling for Dragon Gate specifically, spent a whole year in New Japan facing off against their finest junior heavyweights. He knows the hybrid Japanese junior style, but Tozawa can’t say the same for pure lucha libre. Indeed, while Tozawa has traveled far and wide, he’s only wrestled in Mexico twice, both times in eight-man competition for IWRG. It’s unlikely to be the deciding factor, but it certainly might make a difference.

Does Metalik have Tozawa scouted or will the Everest German Suplex count another victim? This one is going to be explosive, folks.

Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi

Brian Kendrick has wrestled every match in this tournament like it’s his last. He feels that his entire life is riding on winning the whole thing and starting a third main roster WWE run fresh. He is, or at least seems to be willing to do literally anything to win and advance to the next round. Thus far, that’s only included cutting the corners a little, a cheap shot here, a thumb to the eye there, jamming your opponent’s arm into the turnbuckle... mostly standard stuff. But though the gloves are clearly off already, if Kota Ibushi pushes his back up further against the wall, Kendrick might strip his flesh clean to the bone. What manner of sadistic and forbidden maneuvers might he break out in the name of earning his last chance?

But don’t count the Golden Star out yet. Sure, Kendrick’s a man with nothing to lose, but Ibushi has a wild streak of his own. This is a man that Shinsuke Nakamura looks at and says “Hey, this guy is kinda weird.” He wants to use his Ibushi Pro Wrestling Research Institute to push the envelope hard, to develop rings with five sides, three sides, even a circular ring has been mooted. Point is, Ibushi is a man who may not be happy until he gets a chance to wrestle on the surface of the actual moon. He marches to the beat of his own drummer, and as such he might be one of the only guys in the tournament capable of anticipating what Kendrick might do next.

Both men are wildcards. Only one can advance. Who goes further to do it?

Looking ahead

The winner of Tozawa/Metalik faces the winner of Noam Dar vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. On the face of it this is a matchup that has to favor Tozawa if he’s the victor. He’s beaten Gentleman Jack Gallagher, of course, and this combined with his time in Evolve, though it was hardly the land of the grapplers it is today, has to give him an edge of Metalik, who while perfectly competent on the mat, has never had to go to it that often.

Whereas the winner of Kendrick/Ibushi faces the winner of TJ Perkins vs. Rich Swann. TJ Perkins, if he makes it to the next round, will have been nigh unstoppable, going over two of WWE’s contracted talent to make it that far. But as we’ve established, both Kendrick and Ibushi are real out of the box thinking types. Can either Perkins or Swann really think enough steps ahead to best them?

There you have it, folks.

Our first night of quarter-final action. Who’s advancing?