The WWE has dazzled fans with its presentation of the new Cruiserweight Classic, which has exclusively aired on the WWE Network. The tournament, which featured 32 wrestlers, has now dwindled down to 16, many of whom have proved to be the best under-205ers in the world.
Not only that, but the wrestlers in this tournament have more to look forward to, as Raw will be bringing the division to its show. That means you could be seeing some of these competitors on that show in the near future.
So now, let’s rank the remaining Cruiserweight Classic competitors. These rankings will be based on popularity and first round performance.
16. Noam Dar (def. Gurv Sihra)
I’ll be honest; I enjoyed almost every match I saw in the opening round of the Cruiserweight Classic. Noam Dar’s submission win over Gurv Sihra was the only match I found myself yawning and staring at the clock for. Obviously, not every cruiserweight has to be a high-flying, crazy spot-fest type wrestler, but Dar’s performance fell flat. He didn’t connect with the audience, his pace was monotonous and he really failed to deliver, despite high praise from Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo. He takes on Ho Ho Lun in the next round, so it’s possible WWE gets behind him, but fans would more likely prefer the Hong Kong native.
15. Drew Gulak (def. Harv Sihra)
Drew Gulak was very impressive in his win over Harv Sihra and is one of the most powerful cruiserweights left in this tournament. He had a smash mouth style and a brutal looking Dragon Sleeper. That said, he’s likely on the outside looking in with the talent remaining in this tournament. He may be one of the bigger wrestlers left in the competition, but he’s not the biggest name. Not only that, but he has the task of taking on Zack Sabre Jr. in the second round, one of the biggest favorites. Gulak is likely going to see his exit in Round 2.
14. Ho Ho Lun (def. Ariya Daivari)
For a guy that most fans didn’t know coming into this tournament, fans really got behind Ho Ho Lun, and for good reason. He was a very exciting, technically sound wrestler that has a charming charisma that fans connected with. He took on a bigger, just-as-impressive Ariya Daivari and looked stellar. He is a pioneer of wrestling in Hong Kong and China, which is a great narrative for him going forward. His second round matchup is against Noam Dar, so it’s possible he could advance to the next round. It’s a 50/50 matchup from the outside looking in.
13. Tajiri (def. Damian Slater)
I am a huge Tajiri fan and I enjoyed win over Damian Slater. But I am also a realist: Tajiri has slowed down considerably as he has aged. Surprisingly, that’s really not that big of a deal. He has adjusted his style well, which still incorporates deadly kicks and slick mat grappling. Tajiri is in this tournament to add a veteran presence. We don’t expect him to win, but we expect him down the line to put over a younger talent that he can help establish and give credibility to. That looks to be the case in the next round, as he takes on Gran Metalik, who many believe to be one of the favorites and a final-four finisher at the least. Expect the legendary cruiserweight to put over the masked Mexican wrestler to give him considerable momentum and a big resume marking.
12. Brian Kendrick (def. Raul Mendoza)
Veteran Brian Kendrick did not disappoint in his WWE return, as his match with Raul Mendoza was fantastic. While most of the flashiness and awe came from the part of Mendoza, Kendrick played his part very well too. He was the vicious, crafty veteran that used his brain to make up for the mileage he has on his body. He is basically in this tournament to add experience and a veteran face that will eventually be used to put over a younger talent. Whether it’s next round or not remains to be seen, but his match with Tony Nese should be a very interesting one to say the least.
11. Tony Nese (def. Anthony Bennett)
One of the physically most dominating wrestlers left in the tournament, Tony Nese is a dark horse in this pool. For a man of his muscular thickness, he moved like one of the smaller guys featured in this tournament and did some very impressive things. Although it looked like he may have hurt Anthony Bennett with a move that led to the 450 splash finish, that should not take away from the fact that Nese had a bunch of great highlights in the match. He has a 50/50 shot of making it past the next round, as he takes on veteran Brian Kendrick. If he can secure that win, he gains a considerable amount of hype from the veteran’s name.
10. Rich Swann (def. Jason Lee)
To be honest, I expected a lot more from Rich Swann’s match with Jason Lee, but I certainly was not bored with it. Swann did some incredible things, but he had so much hype, he was doomed to not live up to such lofty standards. Swann has an infectious charisma that goes with his ultra-athletic ring ability. To pull off some of the acrobatics he did require great agility, coordination and athleticism. Perhaps in the next round, he will have more time to show what he can do, as clearly the WWE has invested in him as an NXT guy. He has the task of taking on Lince Dorado, who looked stellar in his first match. It should be a show stealer.
9. Lince Dorado (def. Mustafa Ali)
One of two masked wrestlers in this tournament, Lince Dorado set the ring ablaze with his brand of high-flying, high-octane wrestling. In a stellar match with Mustafa Ali, who deserves a ton of credit in his own right, Dorado was able to show of his high-flying acrobatics and exciting style, which has certainly garnered him a ton of fans. Performances like that will keep the WWE calling him back, especially with a cruiserweight division being formed on Raw. Next up for Dorado is Rich Swann, a guy who is likely favored due to his NXT status and popularity. Overall, it could be the match to watch in round two.
8. Akira Tozawa (def. Kenneth Johnson)
If you like stiff matches with big strikes, mat-based techniques and power moves, then you more than likely had a blast watching Akira Tozawa dismantle Kenneth Johnson. Tozawa is a veteran of the ring that really had a coming out party in the first round. He showed exactly why the Japanese style of wrestling is so revered by the hardcore fans, giving the viewers a taste of a work you would see overseas. It gave Tozawa considerable credibility. In the next round, he clashes with Brit Jack Gallagher in a matchup that could go either way. All we really know is that the match should be more than entertaining.
7. Jack Gallagher (def. Fabian Aichner)
I’ll be honest, coming into this tournament, I did not know much about Jack Gallagher. I figured he was a schlub. However, I can easily say that I am pleasantly surprised with what I saw from him. Not only is he a pro mixed martial artist, but he is a charismatic figure in the ring, getting the crowd on his side. His mat-based skills are something to watch, and his corner dropkick that he utilized over Fabian Aichner to win his match was awesome. I’m not sure how far he will go in this tournament, but he has the charisma and personality to continue to get over with the Full Sail fans. He has the scary Akira Tozawa in the next round, so that should make for a fun outing.
6. Gran Metalik (def. Alejandro Saez)
All the hype behind Gran Metalik was completely warranted. He is an absolute pleasure to watch in the ring and everything he does is so fluid. He had the first match of the tournament when he took on Alejandro Saez, who was impressive in his own right. However, Gran Metalik stole the show. The Mexican masked wrestler had incredible aerial attacks to go with some great slams, including his finisher that put Saez away. He is certainly a favorite going forward. He is now tasked with taking on the veteran cruiserweight legend Tajiri in the next round, which will be no easy task. However, if he beat the vet, he gains a considerable amount of momentum.
5. Cedric Alexander (def. Clement Petiot)
Cedric Alexander certainly backed up all the talks of how good he was in his first round victory of Clement Petiot. Alexander is a fantastic wrestler and is among one of the most athletic guys in this tournament. He uses a balanced mix of strikes, slams and high-flying moves to make his matches more enjoyable. Petiot was clearly the larger guy, but Alexander played to that size and contrasted it with speed and explosiveness. He has to be among the favorites in this tournament. Unfortunately, he goes against the overall favorite in the next round when he takes on Japanese sensation Kota Ibushi, so expect his chances to be a tad lower.
4. TJ Perkins (def. Da Mack)
TJ Perkins had one of the best performances of the first round, as the veteran showed of great moves, charisma and in-ring presence in his victory over Da Mack. Da Mack, who had a great match in his own fight, just couldn’t keep up with the quick, precise style of Perkins, whose flying ability and technical wrestling were incredible. I remember the days when Perkins played Suicide/Manik in TNA, and was impressed with him there. He now has a chance to bring that experience and skill consistently to WWE rings. Things will not be easy for him in the next round though, as he takes on NXT standout Johnny Gargano. We’ll see if Perkins can make it past the second round, but even if he doesn’t, he deserves a crack on the WWE roster.
3. Johnny Gargano (def. Tommaso Ciampa)
Johnny Gargano spent most of his match with partner and friend Tommaso Ciampa on the defensive, playing the baby face in peril who took an unusual amount of punishment. It was that ability to overcome and not quit which got even more fans on his side than he already had. His win over Ciampa was crafty, as “Johnny Wrestling” came back from certain defeat to hit a Crucifix pin out of nowhere. Being the main event of the last night of tournament action means that the people in charge of this tournament see a lot in Gargano. That’s why he has staying power in this tournament. He has TJ Perkins in the next round in what should be a dynamite match. A win there would solidify him as a top-two favorite.
2. Zack Sabre Jr. (def. Tyson Dux)
Zack Sabre Jr. was advertised as the best mat wrestler in the world right now, and, boy, did he not disappoint. His submissions were on point, his grappling was slick and his overall presentation of skill against veteran Tyson Dux helped his star shine brightly. Sabre may not be the biggest, strongest or most physically imposing, but his technical skills and work rate are something to marvel over. He’s like a skinnier, quicker version of Daniel Bryan. In the next round, he is tasked with taking on Drew Gulak, who easily has a power advantage over him. It will be a fun contrast in styles.
1. Kota Ibushi (def. Sean Maluta)
Kota Ibushi was a star coming into this tournament and he proved it in his first round matchup with Sean Maluta. Ibushi is a technical master and a stiff kicking striker. Not only has he come off as a large star just from the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, but he already got an appearance on NXT, where he beat Buddy Murphy. That shows he has the be the favorite in this tournament. He is a world-renowned wrestler that has possibly the most popularity in this tournament. His next round matchup will see him go up against Cedric Alexander in what could be the best matchup in round two.