The Cruiserweight Classic has been a complete hit so far. For the last month, the first round of the tournament has been airing, proving to be some of the freshest WWE content in memory.
It has provided a largely fresh lineup of talent from all over the world, performing in matches that highlight a slew of various wrestling styles rarely, if ever seen in the rest of the WWE, and being presented in a new tournament format that puts precedent on the wrestling as a competition rather than the soap opera storyline-driven sports entertainment of Raw or SmackDown.
Laying underneath that though is a core element to the CWC that has shown to be just as pivotal to the product in separating it from everything else WWE, and making it a show which has excelled in quality across all fronts: the commentary of Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo.
Right off the bat, the two-man commentary team makes its comeback after WWE has been doing three-man commentary for years now, beckoning memories to the peak days of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler being the voices of what was then WWF. The two-man dynamic is superior, adhering to one play-by-play guy and one color commentator, instead of throwing in a third voice.
Since day one of Ranallo’s signing to the WWE earlier this year, his work on commentary has been universally praised. He is a walking encyclopedia of professional wrestling, and his talent was crafted outside of WWE with his extensive work in places like the MMA promotions Pride FC and Strikeforce and his work for Showtime Boxing.
Unlike Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, John Layfield and David Otunga, Ranallo is not a company-bred man, and therefore does not possess a cookie-cutter style which has been attributed to the aforementioned given their training by Vince McMahon and other WWE powers that be essentially since the inception of their commentary work.
As great as Ranallo is, it is actually Bryan who really makes the CWC commentary shine and helps give it that extra edge to push it over. And really, it is perhaps Bryan’s lack of commentary training that helps him succeed.
Bryan is a professional wrestler; he is arguably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time when looking at the entire library of his work, particularly from an in-ring standpoint. But the man has personality, and he has a genuine love for the business, so after he retired from being a professional wrestler earlier this year, many expected him to remain with the business in some form or another. Only a few months later, here we are.
Listening to Bryan on the CWC product feels like you are listening to a well-educated fan who wants to be watching these matches, rather than a professional who is simply doing his job. Listening to Bryan is absolutely infectious, and that, if anything at all, is what you want professional wrestling commentary to be.
Wrestling personality Eric Bischoff, of all people, highlighted Bryan’s unique contribution as the CWC’s color commentator, saying on his podcast, Bischoff on Wrestling:
“His passion for the industry, for the division, for what he sees going on in the ring, really comes through. It’s natural, it’s organic, it’s not a forced commentary. And what he lacks in polish, he more than makes for in believability, enthusiasm, and passion. I really like Daniel Bryan. He brings such a credibility to the product.”
And it is that unique combination of Bryan having been such an accomplished wrestler, but also one who is completely and fully a fan of professional wrestling as well, on top of having a personality which no one has ever had a bad thing to say about. That combination provides everything he needs, and those things which most commentators only acquire along with their traditional commentary training — a knowledge of the moves and and their purpose as a former wrestler, and understanding their significance and the drama of the match as a fan.
For goodness’ sake, Bryan was giddy with excitement over wrist holds and arm-lock transitions. And again, it comes off completely genuine, effectively pulling in the viewer to appreciate things they may have never cared about before had they watched Raw and SmackDown their whole lives.
After all, the whole point of professional wrestling is rooted in the suspension of disbelief. It is tricking your mind to focus on the fabricated drama in a way that one becomes emotionally invested in the exact same manner that a fantastic film can make a moviegoer cry.
When it comes to accomplishing that, there is no better catalyst for it in the entire WWE company than Bryan with his commentary work on the CWC, and it is truly the under-the-radar element of the whole endeavor that has made the CWC the most entertaining, exciting, and intrguing WWE programming for the last month, by far.