Yesterday (April 12), NXT revealed the line-up for their upcoming tournament to crown an Interim Cruiserweight champion. Eight wrestlers were placed into two groups. They’ll face each of the other three men in their group, and whoever has the best record (based on this scoring system) will advance to face the winner of the other group for the belt.
Group A: Kushida, Drake Maverick, Tony Nese, Jake Atlas
Group B: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, El Hijo del Fantasma, Akira Tozawa, Gentleman Jack Gallagher
We’ve got several no-brainers here. Nese and Tozawa are former Cruiserweight champs. Gallagher’s been a staple of the division since it was created in 2016, and Scott’s been a fixture of it since he signed last year. Kushida is a legend of the style, and held New Japan’s version of the belt (the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title) six times.
Then it gets interesting.
Maverick’s been a utility player for WWE, and was most recently doing comedy with R-Truth in the 24/7 title picture. But even while doing things like that, or donning tactical gear to manage AOP, he was also the General Manager of 205 Live - the WWE Network show dedicated to the cruiserweights. WWE was probably content to just announce the two-time TNA X-Division champ and leave it at that, but Maverick is too smart for that, and offered an explanation via Twitter video.
In a nutshell, his 2019 feud with Mike Kanellis re-lit his competitive fire. And since the division’s been moved under the NXT umbrella anyway, that brand’s General Manager William Regal agreed to oversee it. What a gent.
Jake Atlas only has one WWE television appearance to his credit, but he’s someone whose signing generated a lot of buzz - both because he has a great reputation & following from his time on the indies, and because he’s the only openly gay male on the company’s roster. Essentially getting a title shot less than six months after your signing was announced is proof WWE has plans for Atlas.
Last but not least, there’s El Hijo del Fantasma. The second generation luchador was a highly sought after free agent, with some talk he’d get the “fast track” approach to a push we’re seeing with Killer Kross. There was a lot of speculation his television debut would comes as part of the kidnapping angle which has been running on NXT for a few weeks. Does this rule him out as the leader of the masked guys grabbing dudes from Florida parking lots? Or play into it?
That they’re going with his lucha libre gimmick name and not his real one (Jorge Bolly) or a WWE-branded moniker is also eyebrow-raising.
It’s also interesting who’s not in the field. Neither of the men who were champ before Jordan Devlin won the belt at Worlds Collide made the cut, for instance. Angel Garza looks like he’s a fixture on Raw, so his omission makes sense. The man Garza beat has some questions though...
Is this still April fools!? . No Man Of The Hour? No 25 year old piece of gold? No Versace Doctor? No Former Cruiserweight Champion? No LIO MF RUSH!? https://t.co/3rFiyIxjO9— Lio (@itsLioRush) April 12, 2020
Let us know what questions you have, and who you’re picking in the tournament, in the comments below, Cagesiders.