5 Cruiserweight matches you must watch
In 2016, the Cruiserweight Classic reignited a long-missed style of competition in WWE. And after the success of the tournament, which was won by TJP, Cruiserweights like Rich Swann, Tony Nese and Akira Tozawa became exclusive to Raw and found their own home on WWE 205 Live on the award-winning WWE Network.
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Cruiserweight Classic, we selected five matches from the 205-and-under crowd that blew us away. Check out these show-stealers on WWE Network, and let us know in the comments what Cruiserweight matches you think are must-see.
Akira Tozawa vs. The Brian Kendrick – Street Fight, WWE 205 Live, May 23, 2017
One of the most bitter rivalries of 2017 was between The Brian Kendrick and Akira Tozawa. Feeling slighted by Tozawa’s refusal to be Kendrick’s protégé, The Man with a Plan engaged in a series of lessons for the Japanese Superstar. The tension only intensified as Tozawa turned the tables with lessons of his own, leading to WWE 205 Live’s first-ever Street Fight.
The battle got underway before Kendrick could event take off his jacket and never let up for a moment. The veteran Kendrick relied on his vast experience to counter the onslaught of The Stamina Monster, and then went ruthless, duct-taping his opponent’s mouth shut before bounding him to the ring post and brutally attacking him with a belt.
However, Tozawa proved his mettle and answered his opponent’s patented Captain’s Hook with a DDT on the steel steps. Delivering the final lesson of their rivalry, Tozawa ascended the ropes and dove to the outside, executing a swanton through a table to vanquish his enemy.
Neville vs. Gentleman Jack Gallagher – WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match, WWE Fastlane 2017
Sidelined with an injury, Neville missed the Cruiserweight Classic — something he believes he was intentionally kept from. When he returned to action, he set his sights on the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, defeating Rich Swann at Royal Rumble and dubbing himself “The King of the Cruiserweights.” Neville’s ruthless attitude and confidence in his abilities has led to a dominant reign, but he has had a fair share of close calls. One of those came in an early title defense against Gentleman Jack Gallagher at WWE Fastlane.
To counter Neville’s power, speed and ruthlessness, Gallagher unleashed a flurry of underutilized high-risk moves. With the prospect of being WWE Cruiserweight Champion at WrestleMania 33 on the horizon, Gallagher nearly won the match following three brutal headbutts. Unfortunately for Gentleman Jack, Neville countered an attempted superplex and executed the Red Arrow for a hard-fought victory.
Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa – Cruiserweight Classic, First Round: Aug. 3, 2016
The night Tommaso Ciampa stabbed Johnny Gargano in the back at NXT Takeover: Chicago wasn’t the first time the duo once known as #DIY found themselves at odds. In fact, during the first round of the Cruiserweight Classic, they threw down and helped set the tone for what the tournament — and, eventually, the Cruiserweight division — had to offer.
Eschewing the highflying style that has become synonymous with Cruiserweights, Gargano and Ciampa stayed grounded for much of the match, trading brutal strikes and technical maneuvers as they emptied their arsenals in a war that displayed the range and versatility of the Cruiserweights.
There was high drama, as Ciampa refused to devastate his partner with a running knee strike. Ultimately, Gargano emerged victorious, and both Superstars embraced in the center of the ring.
Cedric Alexander vs. Kota Ibushi – Cruiserweight Classic, Second Round: Aug. 10, 2016
The most talked-about match of the Cruiserweight Classic came during the second round, showcasing Japan’s Kota Ibushi and America’s Cedric Alexander. Even before the opening bell sounded, the bout was hotly anticipated with WWE COO Triple H calling it, “The match that everyone is talking about.” With mounting hype and high expectations from The Game himself, Ibushi and Alexander not only rose to the occasion — they blew it out of the water.
The back-and-forth throwdown between the world-class competitors ignited the WWE Universe, as the underdog Alexander nearly defeated Ibushi — a favorite to win the tournament — on numerous occasions. Each strike and maneuver was reciprocated in kind, but Ibushi executed his Golden Star Powerbomb to avoid an upset.
Following the match, the WWE Universe praised both competitors with Alexander earning a standing ovation and chants of “Please sign Cedric!” The reaction to Alexander and his emotional response prompted Triple H to greet the Cruiserweight near the entrance and show his own approval of the battle.
Rich Swann vs. TJP – WWE 205 Live, July 4, 2017
The first-ever Independence Day edition of WWE 205 Live featured the most exciting contests in the brief history of WWE Network’s home of the Cruiserweights. Two former WWE Cruiserweight Champions and close friends, Rich Swann and TJP, engaged in a friendly competition with Swann trying to help The Duke of Dab reclaim the focus that helped him win the Cruiserweight Classic.
What followed was a pure contest between two Superstars with acute ring awareness, speed and an intimate knowledge of what their opponent brings to the squared circle. Both Swann and TJP exhausted themselves through a combination of submissions, near-falls and acrobatics that left the WWE Universe delivering numerous, rousing ovations. Swann emerged victorious, and the two former champions embraced after completing a match that truly showcased what the Cruiserweight division is all about.