I like Tom Phillips and Corey Graves. I really do. But I miss Mauro Ranallo and his whacky turns of phrase, energy, and ridiculous pop culture references. Say what you will about him (JBL) but the man injects excitement into proceedings.
That said, we’re onto the opener!
Akira Tozawa vs. THE Brian Kendrick
Recap of Lesson #9 from Kendrick from last week. "Anything and everything can be used as a weapon" precedes another opening promo. Kendrick responds to the "10" chant by mistaking the crowd for "goofballs". We need to bring that insult back. Lesson #10 - Psychological supremacy. Let's see what that means.
Kendrick immediately demonstrates the lesson by diving outside the ring to avoid a fired-up Tozawa.
Speaking of fired up, it is very pleasing to hear the crowd shout, "HA! HA! HA! HA!" in support of Tozawa.
That "yeee yee yeah yooooow!" as Tozawa delivers the Senton is just Life.
Great back and forth early once Kendrick is back in the ring. Kicks to the head; exchange of chops; Senton; Kendrick reversing to fake-out punch into a rollout; a STIFF elbow from Tozawa; a good ol’ Austin Aries’ approved thumb to the eye. Finally slows down with a Kendrick high kick into a head lock.
I love the crowd doing the "HAs!" in rhythm to the "Let’s go.." handclap pattern.
Pillar to post with a stiff kick by Tozawa, leading into a standing Hurricanrana.
Another insane looking head-first suicide dive by Tozawa, and one of the most beautiful I’ve witnessed from the man. Like a bullet propelled from a gun.
Kendrick crotches Tozawa on the top ropes. Kendrick appeals for an eye poke that doesn't exist. The rascal.
Tozawa claims a knee injury from coming off the top ropes.
It’s a fake! Tozawa rolls up Kendrick for the pin! Psychological warfare!
Akira Towzawa def. THE Brian Kendrick with THE FAKE OUT
"Psy-co-log-cal supremecy?" Tozawa offers to the mic after the match. "I teach you Lesson No. 1"
This is great.
Stiff match; the chemistry between Tozawa and Kendrick improves with every bout. Thanks to the on-going "Lessons" storyline, I look forward to each bout to see what twist will occur instead of being bored of the same old match. Besides… Whether we realise it or not, Kendrick is ACTUALLY giving us all a lesson on how to be a dastardly heel in wrestling. It also celebrates the man’s longevity and knowledge. Take notes, kids!
Rich Swann vs "The Boston Brawler" Oney Lorcan
Lorcan explodes out of the gate. The SPEED of this man.
HUGE clothesline. Lorcan is looking GOOD here. "Like driving a '95 Buick. You don’t care about damage; just full speed ahead," quips Graves.
Great transition from the ropes into the abdominal stretch from Lorcan.
Lorcan hangs Swann out to dry over the ropes and applies a body scissors. Three minutes in, and it’s all Lorcan.
Finally, Swann reverses with a kick to the head to a charging Lorcan.
But Lorcan soon crotches Swann on the top of the ring. A lengthy battle at the top ensues.
Swann reverses a top rope Half-and-half into a backflip, landing on his feet.
A VICIOUS looking running Alabama slam into the top turnbuckle. Ouch. Frickin' OUCH. It's the worst bump I've seen since Charlotte decked Paige with an Alabama slam on the apron.
Swann rallies with some headshots and clotheslines, and finishes the sequence with a neat frogjump backkick. Haven't seen that before.
Lorcan to the top; big superkick from Swann, followed by a Hurricanrana. Phoenix Splash for the victory.
Rich Swann def. "The Boston Brawler" Oney Lorcan with the Phoenix Splash
What a cracker of a little match. Vicious.
I am greatly impressed with Lorcan, and good on Swann for allowing him to get so much offence in, and sell like a used car salesman to boot.
Thumbs up all round.
Swann takes to the mic; he’s gotta get something off his chest. Swann admits he is the secret admirer to Alicia Fox. Well there you go. Where is Cedric Alexander in all this?
Backstage segment - Drew Gulak and Mustafa Ali.
Gulak continues to try and literally "talk Ali down".
We have a UK Tournament intro with Trent Seven, Mark Andrews, Wolfgang, Pete Dunne and, of course, the champ Tyler Bates (which they could have done for TJP back in the day… The man didn’t even appear on the CWC Raw debut!). Their cross promotional integration is at an all time high these days.
Neville promo - "There is no one on Neville’s level… How dare people suggest I gouged Aries' eye socket out of desperation. I DID IT BECAUSE HE DESERVES IT!... Thank you all… For NOT believing in me." That’s all that needs to be said about a typically good Neville promo.
Jack Gallagher vs. TJ Perkins vs. Mustafa Ali vs. Austin Aries for the #1 Contender for the Cruiserweight Championship
Fatal 4-Ways in the 205 - Live division are nearly impossible to call play-by-play on paper. At least 5000 words would be needed to call the moves themselves. As such, I shall attempt to list the highlights.
Nice running head-scissors from Ali.
TJP with a top rope double arm drag to Ali and Aries. Spectacular.
Gallagher with a cheeky boot to the arse, sending a celebrating TJP to the outside. Gallagher threaten to "rain on their parade" but Aries cuts him off.
TJP with a bulldog to Aries and a clothesline to Gallagher at the same time. The man is on fire.
Ali with a Hurricanrana and headstand nip up.
Huge springboard dropkick from TJP to Ali. Quickly hooks Gallagher into the Knee bar. Aries breaks that up with a Last Chancery. A double drop kick from Ali puts an end to all that.
Ali with a backflip crossbody. Not the cleanest you’ll see, but serviceable.
4-Way move! Gallagher goes to reverse suplex TJP; Aries gets behind Gallagher to do the same; Ali rolls through with his trademark neckbreaker to send all four men down. Crowd pops.
Aries escapes a precarious top rope Frankensteiner.
A stepladder (using TJP) leads to a double suplex by Gallagher and Aries to Ali.
"This is awesome" rings out from the crowd. And they ain’t kiddin’.
Aries ducks a clothesline from Gallagher to execute his middle rope suicide dive to Ali and TJP on the outside. Gallagher takes the chance to whip out William III.
"Mary Poppins" chant from the crowd.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand Gallagher hits the top rope bum-first umbrella-assisted offence, to a warm round of applause from the crowd.
Athletic dodging from TJP to Gallagher, followed by a sick head kick.
Ali hits the second rope swinging tornado DDT. Beautiful. Aries breaks the pin.
A HUGE gentleman’s dropkick sends Ali FLYING after a tussle between he and an evading Aries.
Gallagher with THAT headbutt to Aries. Aries rolls out of the ring after Gallagher collapsed onto him for the cover.
TJP and Gallagher go toe to toe with exchanging strikes to the head. It finishes with a Detonation kick by TJP, Gallagher instinctively hits back with THE HEADBUTT. Aries rushes in with the Discus Fivearm forearm to TJP to land the pin.
Austin Aries def. Jack Gallagher, TJ Perkins and Mustafa Ali vs. for the #1 Contender for the Cruiserweight Championship by pinning TJ Perkins after the Discus Fivearm (and Gallagher Headbutt)
Wow. What a match. The Cruiserweight division absolutely shines in these kind of often-clusterfuck encounters. Energy, moves, workrate, choreography, skill, precision… An utterly electric match on every level that deserves a watch from any discerning fan of the craft.
The division turned. It. On. For the post WrestleMania crowd. I even forgot this is usually the time we get big debuts. Top to bottom cracking action and storytelling, with a positively sizzling Main Event.
Well worth checking out.
Grade - A