A video package showed some highlights of the first round, which concluded last week. Round two kicks off this week. The opening video aired.
In case you have missed my reviews of the first four episodes, here’s a link to those reviews.
The announce team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan welcomed us to the show. Bryan mentioned how they saw different styles in the first round. He said his favorite moment was Gargano vs. Ciampa as tag partners that laid it all on the line. I agree. Best match in this tournament so far.
Corey Graves is in the studio talking about the Sweet 16 performers that are left. Nice colorful shirt by him. On this week’s show is Tajiri vs. Gran Metalik and Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander is the main event.
A video aired about Gran Metalik with highlights of his first round win. He talked about how wearing the mask represents Mexico and motivates him to do more. Metalik said he’s come up with some creative moves on his own and that he’s there to have his hand raised. Tajiri mentioned wrestling for 23 years saying that his career is older than some guys in the tournament. They showed clips of him in ECW & WWE. He talked about how his experience is an advantage and how he wants to accomplish something great before he retires.
Analysis: Love the pre-match videos as a way to show highlights of the performers and hear from them showing us how confident they are.
They made their entrances. Tajiri beat Damien Slater in round one. Gran Metalik beat Alejandro Saez in round one.
Round Two: Tajiri (Japan) vs. Gran Metalik (Mexico)
They shook hands before the match. They both showed off some incredible basic wrestling skills early on. Lots of quick moves followed by counters led to applause from the crowd. They both went for submission moves on the mat with each guys doing counters. Each guy got crucifix pin attempts. The idea is that they are very even early on. Metalik took down Tajiri with a headscissors takedown as well as a superkick on the floor. Tajiri came back with a kick to the head when they were in the ring. Neckbreaker by Tajiri gets two. Sleeper by Tajiri followed by a headscissors submission, but Metalik got to the ropes. Hard kick by Tajiri to the face. Crowd was chanting for Tajiri. Nice enziguri kick by Metalik, then a springboard dropkick that sent Tajiri to the floor and Metalik walked across the top rope leading to a somersault dive. Wow! That was pretty awesome. Back in the ring, Tajiri hit a kick, but then Metalik blocked a kick and whipped the leg against the rope. Metalik walked across the ropes again with a top rope elbow by two. Metalik with a springboard back elbow gets two. Tajiri came back with a hook kick to knock down Metalik and give him control. Tajiri with a basement dropkick on Metalik in the corner gets two. Ranallo noted that Metalik was 27 years of age with a decade of experience. Tajiri countered a top rope attack with a Powerbomb for two. Metalik avoided the Buzzsaw kick. Tajiri was able to ground him with a submission using his legs to hook the arms behind Metalik, but Metalik kicked himself free. Tajiri came back with a kick to the head. Tajiri went for the Buzzsaw kick, Metalik avoided it, put him on his shoulders and hit the Metalik Screwdriver slam for the victory after 11 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Gran Metalik
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a very good match with both guys getting in a lot of offense while Tajiri showed that he’s still very talented in his mid-40s. I was really impressed by some of the high spots from Metalik as he walked across the top rope several times before hitting moves. Not easy to do stuff like that. They each had several spots in the match where they could have won, which shows that it was a competitive match from start to finish.
Post match, Metalik’s hand was raised. He faces Tozawa or Gallagher in the next round. They shook hands post match. The crowd was on their feet applauding them for their work.
Analysis: Both guys are likely going to be signed by WWE after this tournament if they aren’t already. I say “if they aren’t already” because sometimes people are signed without things being official – WWE tells guys to keep it quiet. WWE really likes Metalik as a masked wrestler in his 20s with a bright future. Tajiri can work well as a veteran that can still have good matches.
Ibushi vs. Alexander is coming up.
Commercial aired for Rollins vs. Balor at SummerSlam.
The video aired for the main event with Cedric Alexander noting he was still in shock that he’s even there. He said people told him he would never make it, but he’s going to prove to them that you should never doubt him again. He said this validates the fact that he’s one of the best professional wrestlers in the world today. He said this is the apex of the industry and he can say he made it here. Kota Ibushi spoke in Japanese about how the ring is the place where he can make people happy. He talked about wrestling all over the world and now he can be in front of the world.
Kota Ibushi made his entrance first to a really good reaction. He beat Sean Maluta in the first round, which was a damn good match. Cedric Alexander entered to a good ovation as well. He beat Clement Petiot in the first round.
Round Two: Kota Ibushi (Japan) vs. Cedric Alexander (United States)
They shook hands before the match. Bryan commented about how Alexander looks great after losing 22 pounds to qualify for this tournament under 205 pounds. Crowd chanted for both guys as they battled it out with Ibushi nailing a shoulder tackle early. Ibushi worked on the arm a bit, then Alexander tripped him up, they each hit arm drags and Alexander hit a sweet reverse hurricanrana. He got a rollup for two, then Ibushi did a pinning attempt for two and they both went to corners as the crowd clapped for them. Tight headlock applied by Alexander. After Alexander nailed a back elbow, Ibushi nailed him with a hard kick to the chest. That looked great with a big crowd reaction. Ibushi with a chop to the face and a springboard missile dropkick sent Alexander out of the ring. Ibushi went for a moonsault out of the ring, but Alexander moved, went into the ring and hit a somersault dive over the top to take out Ibushi on the floor. What an awesome sequence there. Alexander with a springboard leaping clothesline for a two count. Ibushi landed on his head/neck to make it look even more painful.
Alexander was still in control with some chops. Ibushi went for a kick, but Alexander blocked it and chopped him in the face for a two count. Ibushi countered a move by slipping out and nailed a beautiful dropkick that made a big noise. A huge ovation for a dropkick. You don’t see that very often. They exchanged forearm shots with Bryan saying these guys are going to war and Ranallo saying this is the strong style that Ibushi is used to. Ibushi with a standing corkscrew moonsault. Wow that’s not easy to do. Crowd was giving them a lot of applause. Ibushi with an Exploder Suplex sent Alexander to the floor. Ibushi ran to the top rope and hit an Asai Moonsault to take out Alexander on the floor. Wow! I’m saying wow again. What a move. Crowd chanting “fight forever” as Ranallo noted there’s a 20 minute time limit. Back in the ring, Alexander came back with a Michinoku Driver for a two count. He was shocked that Ibushi kicked out. Uppercut by Alexander, but then Ibushi chopped him on the top rope. Ibushi went for a top rope rana, Alexander blocked it and flipped off the top landing on his feet. Alexander nailed a hard forearm shot, but Ibushi came back with a Pele Kick. Damn this is so good! Alexander avoided a Powerbomb, hit an enziguri kick and nailed a brainbuster. Bryan: “OH MY GOD!” It gets only two to the shock of the crowd. Alexander nailed a spin kick to the head for two. Another shocking kickout. Good closeup of Alexander’s face showing the shocked expression. Bryan: “I am blown away by Cedric Alexander.” Fans chanted “this is awesome” for them. Damn right. Ranallo noted there's about five minutes left. Alexander went up top, Ibushi moved out of the way of an attack. Ibushi nailed a German Suplex and a hard kick to the head. Ibushi hits the Golden Star Powerbomb (Last Ride into a sitout Powerbomb) and that’s enough for the one…two…three. Wow. That was so good. It went 15 minutes.
Winner by pinfall: Kota Ibushi
Analysis: ****1/2 Wow that was incredible! Loved it. One of the best WWE matches this year. The amount of moves that they hit that could have won the match is the reason why it was so awesome. When you can have several moments in the match that are believable finishes, the crowd is going to buy into it and it helps tell the story. Alexander hit him with everything, yet Ibushi was able to kick out. That shocked look on Alexander’s face was great because it tells the story about how tough these guys are. It’s an example of why you need believable nearfalls in a match, but you don’t always have to have them in every match just for the sake of having nearfalls. It’s more about telling the story by using the falls. Then there's the way they finished the match, which was brilliant. Alexander did all he could to win, he went up top, which proved to be a mistake and Ibushi finished him three moves later. That's how you end things in a decisive way. I’m glad that Alexander got a chance to really show what he can do because even though he lost, he won over the crowd. Ibushi was able to finish him off, but really they are both winners after that much. It sucks that Alexander is out of the tournament because he’s such a great performer, but as we saw with Ciampa in the first round, there’s nothing wrong with having a loss when you have such a good match. As I said it’s one of the best matches of the year. No doubt about it. Nakamura/Zayn still tops the list, but this match is in the top five this year.
Post match, the announcers praised both guys while the crowd were standing up showing them some love. Ranallo mentioned how Alexander’s stock has risen a lot even after a loss. Bryan said his heart hurts for Alexander because he did it for his two-year-old daughter and gave it his all. They showed replays of the key spots including several believable nearfalls.
Ibushi had his hand raised in the ring. He faces the winner of Kendrick vs. Nese in the next round. Ranallo put over Alexander saying he has a name that you’ll be hearing a lot of despite the loss while saying that Ibushi is considered the best cruiserweight in the world. Ibushi gave a thumbs up to the camera.
Analysis: Love the way the commentary team puts over the performance of both guys after a match like that. It was pretty special and the commentary adds to the work in the ring.
Corey Graves narrated over highlights of the matches we’ll see next week in round two:
Akira Tozawa vs. Jack Gallagher
Noam Dar vs. Hoho Lun
Brian Kendrick vs. Tony Nese
After those highlights, a clip aired of Alexander receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. Fans chanted “thank you” at him. He walked to the back looking emotional with his hand raised in the air. Fans chanted “Please Sign Cedric” as he continued to look emotional. In a really cool moment, Triple H walked out from the back and it looked like he said “Alright” to the crowd telling WWE to sign him. They shook hands and Triple H patted him on the back as they went to the back. Loud “yes” chants from the crowd as the show went off the air that way at the 47 minute mark.
Analysis: That was fantastic. I loved it. Good job by Triple H showing up to acknowledge the crowd chants for Alexander as Hunter basically told them that they would sign Alexander. He deserves it. A lot of these guys deserve it, but Alexander is high on the list. As I said it sucks that he is out of the tournament already although his performance won over the people.
Remember in the Gladiator movie where the guy tells Maximus to win over the crowd and you’ll win your freedom? It feels like Alexander won himself a WWE deal after winning over that crowd. I hope so. He deserves it.
Awesome show. The main event between Ibushi and Alexander was the best match of the tournament so far and is in the discussion for one of the top five WWE matches this year. I already praised it a lot, so all I really have to say in addition to that is that I hope you spend 15 minutes out of your day to watch it. You won’t regret it. It’s the kind of match that reminds us why we became wrestling fans in the first place.
I think Ibushi will win the whole tournament and if he doesn’t, he’ll still likely get a significant WWE deal. He’s an elite performer that deserves to be there. Alexander should be there. I’m pretty sure he’s on the list of names of guys that may be signed by WWE. There’s likely a deal in place already, but they don’t want to make it official until this tournament is over most likely.
I was impressed by Tajiri and Gran Metalik as well. Tajiri’s still a very good in-ring performer in his mid-40s. Metalik is an experienced guy in his late 20s with a bright future. He makes things look easy.
This was my favorite episode of the tournament thus far due to the main event. I look forward to the rest of this round and whatever else is to come. It’s a show that keeps things simple because it’s all about the work in the ring without storylines. If you appreciate great in-ring work, this is the show for you.
Thanks for reading. Go Toronto Blue Jays.
John Canton – firstname.lastname@example.org