If you’ve been tuning into the Cruiserweight Classic on WWE Network, you’d likely agree that it’s one of the best ideas the company has put forth in quite some time. From the true weight limit of 205 pounds, to pre-match and post-match handshakes, the whole thing has been outstanding thus far.
But make no mistake, WWE is looking for special Superstars in this 32-man tournament, particularly after the announcement that the brand new cruiserweight division would be exclusive to Raw following the brand split. The division should be active once the Cruiserweight Classic concludes, with a number of the 32 entrants being signed to WWE contracts.
WWE has never had a true cruiserweight division, at least not like the one WCW used to showcase every Monday night. However, WWE has had its chances. It just chose to book certain Superstars such as Rey Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon in a different way, rather than make them the centerpiece of the exciting division.
Prior to the Cruiserweight Classic, the company put forth an admirable search to find the best Superstars in the world. Several names in the tournament could soon be stars on Raw, but one that sticks out perhaps above all the rest is that of Kota Ibushi.
Ibushi defeated Sean Maluta in the first round of the tournament in one of the more exciting matches we’ve seen to this point. But the company isn’t relegating Ibushi to just the cruiserweight tournament. Just last week on NXT television, he won a match against a much bigger man, Buddy Murphy. Ibushi was able to put away one half of the former NXT Tag Team Champions in impressive fashion in which he showcased some of what he can do, but far from all of it.
Having Ibushi beat a Superstar outside the cruiserweight division shows that WWE has big things in mind for him. If it didn’t, he would just be stuck to compete inside the tournament. Having Ibushi defeat Murphy shows that WWE is aware of one fact that anyone who is familiar with Ibushi already knows — that he’s pound-for-pound one of the best pure wrestlers in the world today.
That was the case when WWE signed Mysterio well over a decade ago. He was put in the ring with the best Superstars in the company, regardless of his stature. The difference now is that WWE has announced this new cruiserweight division and its going to expect instant success.
Ibushi is the answer.
A three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Ibushi has won titles all over the world while putting on five-star matches with every major name in Japan. In Japan, Ibushi had great matches with the likes of El Generico, Taka Michinoku, Dick Togo and Kazuchika Okada.
Though he’s relatively unfamiliar to many fans in the United States, Ibushi has competed in Japan for the past 12 years and earned a reputation as one of the best workers in the business. He did have a brief run in Ring of Honor, where he faced many stars already in WWE, such as Cesaro and Austin Aries. Ibushi works an exciting style, full of moves the average viewer isn’t used to seeing.
Here, Ibushi goes at it with Generico, also known as Sami Zayn. This is as good as it gets.
This is the kind of Superstar WWE used to turn its back to, regardless of how popular they were even among fans in the United States. There was a belief that an international wrestler such as Ibushi wouldn’t be able to connect with the fans. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as a large portion of viewers still appreciate what goes on inside the ring over what doesn’t.
Ibushi’s time in NXT could be short-lived. WWE may be priming him for a run in the Ccruiserweight division and soon, Raw could be the go-to destination for some of the best wrestling in the world. Who would have ever thought they’d say that?
The possibilities of great matches with him in WWE are endless. But the company is doing things the right way by slowly introducing him on NXT and through the Cruiserweight Classic. Don’t be at all surprised to see him emerge as the last man standing in the tournament, either.
WWE has a star. One that is perfectly suited to be the centerpiece of its brand new division. As a result, this time, WWE’s cruiserweight division will be a rousing success.