Hideo Itami def. Cedric Alexander
After suffering a crushing defeat to Mustafa Ali last year, Hideo Itami returned to action and continued to not only demand respect but set his sights on the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. In the process, Itami forged a new alliance with Ariya Daivari and only the former champion – Cedric Alexander – stands in the way of a title opportunity at WWE Royal Rumble.
The implications of the match were enormous, Alexander has previously defeated Itami and despite a loss to Buddy Murphy at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, he hasn’t lost sight of the Cruiserweight division’s ultimate prize.
Knowing Itami’s hard-hitting ability, Alexander was careful and deliberate in his early advances, focusing on Itami’s left arm and hoping to neutralize the Japanese striker. Despite Alexander’s strategy, Itami found an opening to begin unleashing strikes, specifically his powerful kicks. The former champion managed to regain control but was clearly favoring his chest following Itami’s brutal strikes.
Alexander managed to stay one step ahead of Itami and continued to keep the pressure on his opponent. However, outside the ring, Daivari took advantage of the official being distracted and leveled Alexander, giving Itami exactly the opportunity he needed to unleash more devastating kicks.
As Itami continued to dole out punishment, the ever-resilient Alexander continued to fight back but was again stopped in his tracks with another kick and a leg drop to the back of his head and neck. With encouragement from Daivari, Itami continued to maintain control of the bout.
Channeling the energy from the WWE Universe, Alexander reversed a hold from Itami and managed to initiate a sequence of high-octane strikes before taking his opponent down with a Flatliner. However, Alexander continued to favor his chest. As the Queen City’s favorite son continued to press on, Itami countered a neutralizer that left Alexander dazed in the corner. Itami capitalized and hit his opponent with a running knee strike. Following a near-falls, The Japanese Superstar continued to weaken the former champion with hard-hitting strikes and maneuvers but was unable to score a pinfall.
With the stakes higher than ever, Alexander and Itami exchanged blows in the center of the ring. Alexander gained the upper hand and was able to successfully execute the neutralizer, but he was still unable to secure the victory. With the WWE Universe in his favor, Alexander rallied, trying to execute the Lumbar Check, but to no avail.
After Daivari pulled Itami out of the ring to help him, both The Persian Lion and Itami found themselves flattened after Alexander took to the skies, soaring over the top rope. With the WWE Universe on the edge of their seats, Daivari tried to grab Alexander’s leg as he headed back into the ring. The distraction bought Itami enough time to attack his opponent and execute a shocking Falcon Arrow from the ring apron to the arena floor.
Alexander barely made the official’s 10-count, only to be welcomed back to the ring by Itami’s patented basement dropkick. Despite one last attempt to counter his opponent, Alexander found himself on the receiving end of another basement drop kick before Itami executed his double-knee jawbreaker to punch his ticket to the Fatal 4-Way at WWE Royal Rumble.