It’s tournament season in professional wrestling. New Japan and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla have announced the participants in their G1 Climax and Battle of Los Angeles respectively. Not to be outdone the WWE has thrown their hat into the fight with the creation of NXT’s Cruiserweight Classic.
The WWE’s third, and arguably most exciting, brand has raised the bar once again for themselves with the creation of a tournament bringing in some of the best 205 and under grapplers from 16 countries. The initial announcement of the tournament a couple of months ago caused a buzz getting the Internet Wrestling Community in a frenzy trying to guess who would be a taking part.
NXT teamed up with Evolve in the USA as well as Progress and Revolution Pro Wrestling in the United Kingdom and put on some qualifying matches. This brought about a real sports feel to the whole concept by not making all the competitors just a hand selected class with no rhyme or reason behind the selections. These wrestlers that won the qualifying matches were the first hard names we received until a couple weeks ago when the remainder of the field was announced and boy is it impressive.
Even to a hardcore indie follower you may be unfamiliar with some of the names on here. Quick YouTube searches will find you a lot of material on them and be able to get you up to speed with many. NXT hosted a live weigh in and opening ceremony for the tournament via Facebook Live videos as little teaser into the wrestlers. Add this to a show that will have Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves looking in depth at the match ups and giving SportsCenter like coverage and this will be a truly unique format.
With the logistics out of the way I present to you my Top 5 Potential Winners of the Cruiserweight Classic.
Swann is the only 100% full time NXT competitor in the field. His pedigree includes Evolve, PWG and Dragon Gate among other indies. He signed a developmental deal in 2015 and he has been working the NXT touring schedule along with some appearances on NXT television. Being that he is the only participant that is wholely WWE’s it would make sense to put over your own prospect. Even with that in mind it doesn’t mean that he isn’t deserving. Swann has more than earned his spot with NXT and only 25 years old a win in the CWC would springboard him up the card.
Johnny Wrestling, along with occasional tag partner Tommaso Ciampa, works with NXT under a modified contract. They are only signed for NXT and are still allowed to take independent bookings. While Ciampa has a more fearsome look that the WWE tends to like Gargano’s skill has become known the world over as top notch. It’s this style that the NXT crowd loves to see from wrestlers and makes him an instant favorite.
Alexander has accomplished so much in such a short time wrestling. He started off in 2009 and by 2010 was wrestling regularly with Ring of Honor. After a few years of tag team action he began a singles run that saw him put on great matches in ROH and PWG. His unique mix of power and speed makes him a unique participant of the tournament and could be a dark horse in the whole thing.
Ibushi might be the biggest free agent in pro wrestling right now. The former New Japan and DDT star left both companies recently after putting together a couple of the best years of his young career. He strikes hard, has an arsenal of high flying moves that makes jaws drop and is a solid mat technician. After appearing in the crowd for NXT Takeover: Dallas rumors went crazy of Ibushi’s imminent arrival to the US and WWE specifically. The Japanese superstar has a lot of support from the die hard community and he will be tough to beat in the bracket.
Zach Sabre Jr
For every internet fan that loves Kota Ibushi there is at least another that love ZSJ. Already in his 11th year of wrestling the British born grappler is probably the best pure wrestler in the entire tournament. With the retirement of Daniel Bryan he may now be the best technical wrestler in the world. Look for ZSJ to wow the world with mat skills like we rarely see, sick submissions and stiff strikes. If you asked me to pick my winner for the CWC, it’s this young man.