Monday, May 9, 2016

A Shopping List for The Cruiserweight Classic

Gable is number one with a bullet on my Cruiserweight Classic wishlist
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The Cruiserweight Classic, which you may have known prior as the Global Cruiserweight Series, is still roughly nine weeks away from starting. WWE has promised 32 of the rip-roaringest wrestlers weighing in at 205 pounds or fewer, and so far, the folks running the show have delivered on the goods. Jack Gallagher, Johnny Gargano, Zack Sabre, Jr., Tommaso Ciampa, Rich Swann, Noam Dar, Lince Dorado, Akira Tozawa, TJP, and Drew Gulak have all been formally announced. So far, 11 names are in, and they encompass a wide variety of styles already. However, I won't stop from ruminating on others who should get the nod.

Already in the fold: Holding a tournament just for outsiders and yet-to-debut NXT guys would be exciting if just for the sheer absurdity and surreality of WWE making a home for a bunch of guys who are either not on its roster or who are just starting out. However, if no current, established wrestlers, either on NXT or RAW, make hay here, then the tournament should be counted for a wasted opportunity at least. The tourney has many facets, right? It's not just being conducted for business, but with the names announced already, it has to be a scouting venture. What better way to scout potential WWE superstars than by having them go up against guys who have already been wrestling the "WWE way" for years now. I have a few guys whom I'd like to see take a dip in the pool who are already tenured WWE or NXT dudes.

Chad Gable - Gable is WWE's most intriguing prospect, not because he's exceedingly good at pro wrestling (he most definitely is), but because he's mostly an unknown property. The number of people he's been let loose upon in the squared circle is low, and most of them have been confined to the NXT tag team division. One could say that has been a blessing since he's still new and might be exposed in singles settings. I say I don't care, and I want to see if he can sink or swim. This tournament would be the best platform for it. He got plaudits from Quackenbush during his sojourn at the PC, and honestly, if Quack likes you, you have a good chance of being pretty darn special.

Heath Slater - He's listed at 216 pounds, but what is wrestling if it isn't blatant lies under the banner of kayfabe? Leave kvetching about truth in advertising like wrestling hasn't been built on carny lies for a century to Wade Keller and give me the One Man Rock Band in this tournament. If one of the goals is to have a platform for potential future WWE superstars to show compatibility with the company's in-ring ethos, then Slater would be an ideal opponent for one or more newer guys. He makes his opponents look good, and he plays the crowd well. He's gotta be in if I'm filling out a bracket.

Alumni: "Cruiserweight" has always held the connotation of "young," but if one is to be honest with him or herself, then the amount of time the "junior heavyweight" weight classification should be a stark realization of how many old guys could come in and provide some veteran weight.

Yoshihiro Tajiri - For a few years in the early '00s, few were better at wrestling short, WWE television matches than Tajiri. Of course, that era was over a decade ago, but he's still kicking around in Japan with acclaimed results too. With that body of work, he also brings with him name appeal and global cache.

Kid Kash - Kash on the surface screams "ECW washout," but at the same time, he provides a dirty, old-school Southern presence that would give some variety to the proceedings. In addition to doing a bit of the modern junior style, he's steeped in that old school stank that'll give the proceedings nice flavor. Plus, he could easily act as one of the tournament's cruiserweight "bullies" as a counterweight to the high-concept flippy dudes or grapple-fuckers who are already announced or who will eventually be announced.

Brian Kendrick - The former Spanky is already in the fold as a trainer at the Performance Center. He's a world-traveled veteran and a stone-cold influence on many of the competitors already announced, but he's also not only a veteran enough with WWE to know how the company likes its workers, but he's been entrusted with training them as well.

EVOLVE Adjacent: EVOLVE is already providing two wrestlers this weekend, fine wrestlers no doubt, but its roster and the rosters of promotions like Full Impact Pro have wrestlers I'd like to see get a shot in this hootenanny.

Dan Barry - Barry, one-half of Team Tremendous with former WWE developmental talent Bill Carr, definitely wouldn't need persuading for entry based on his dazzling spot-heavy ring style. His talent belies his look, which is that of a recurring character on a show like Reno 911 rather than most other big spot acrobats. But that is the exact reason why I think he should be a part of the tournament. As much as throwing down is crowd pleasing, any tournament needs an injection of character in it. Barry can bring timely and appropriate comedy into the proceedings.

Gary Jay - Jay, who at times looks like a homeless person, certainly doesn't have WWE's ideal look, but if the people running this thing want a hard worker and a versatile wrestler who can do comedy, strike fests, grappling, and sprints, they need to look long and hard at the Submission Squad's resident ginger warrior. Jay has gotten a reputation as one of the best strikers, and he's a guy who got relatively famous doing something else that can do that strike heavy style leagues better than some of the people renowned for it (looking at you, Davey Richards).

Chikara: You didn't think I wasn't going to include my favorite promotion ever on this wishlist, did you? I have a sneaking suspicion that Chikara is going to be involved, especially since Mike Quackenbush did a week residency down at the Performance Center. Something tells me he wasn't just there to whistle dixie and trade holds with the lads and lasses.

Fire Ant - The first time I remember seeing Fire Ant in person, he dove over the top rope, missed his target, and bent the steel guardrail that he landed into. From that moment on, he gained my respect as the craziest and most energetic high spot purveyor in the company. He went and topped it at King of Trios '10 by climbing the beam at the ECW Arena and launching himself into the eventual winners, the BDK. His craziness has always been limited by the smaller arenas, and I think he could really blow some minds in even an arena the size of the NXT Arena at Full Sail University.

Silver Ant - Silver Ant is the secret ace of Chikara, and a huge part of that is his versatility. He can mesh with so many wrestlers already announced and rumored to be added, so it's a no-brainer to add him.

"Lightning" Mike Quackenbush - Quack is technically retired, but his doctor cleared him for "one more match" (wink wink nudge nudge) against Johnny Kidd on the Chikara UK tour. Additionally, he found himself entangled in an angle with Max Smashmaster earlier on this year, and lo and behold, Sidney Bakabella returned to Chikara on Saturday with a big masked client who looks an awful lot like the former DevCorp bruiser. While I doubt Quack will make a full comeback, he sounds ready to take on a limited slate of matches a year, some of which might include getting to wrestle Gable one more time, this time out of the training sessions and on camera.

Japanese Wrestlers: Obviously, the former name "Global" connotes wrestlers from around the world, and Japan is the most prominent international hub for the graps nowadays. So obvs...

Kota Ibushi - Ibushi was shown on camera at Takeover: Dallas, and usually, when that happens, that wrestler is just about ready to work a few dates with the NXT brand. Kana went from face in the crowd in Brooklyn to NXT Women's Champion. Bobby Roode got his face shown, and lo and behold, the cat was accidentally let out of the bag (and then shoved back into the bag, but everyone knows what happens when you try to shove a cat) on his addition to the upcoming NXT UK tour. I get the feeling that Ibushi is going to be in this thing, and I couldn't be any happier. He's another super-versatile wrestler, but what he does best, he does maybe better than anyone in the world right now. That is, of course, if his injuries are healed and his back holds up. Hopefully, his appearances at the EVOLVE shows Mania weekend are a sign that he's ready to go.

Jushin "Thunder" Liger - Technically, his Takeover: Brooklyn match makes him a WWE alumnus, but I'd rather not split hairs. Anyway, grumpy old man Liger would be a great addition to the tournament for name value, obviously, but also for his versatility. He's been around the block several times in every promotion known to man, so if WWE needs a guy with weight who can make a lad look good going forward, Liger is the one to do the job.

Other Indies: Hey, a guy can dream, right?

Steve-o Reno - If WWE goes scouting for deep indies, it has no reason not to take a hard look at Reno, who has become one of Inspire Pro Wrestling's signature wrestlers over the company's short history. While the Austin/Central Texas scene has grown in the last few years, it still feels like the rest of the country doesn't know about it. Reno would be a great ambassador to show everyone what it's all about.

Louis Lyndon - Again, Lyndon is a guy who checks a lot of boxes. He's versatile. He can do crazy shit in the air. He's got hard strikes. He's a great character wrestler. If WWE isn't considering this guy for its tournament, then its standards are out of calibration, or it's not sending scouts to enough gyms and bingo halls around the American indie scene.

As you can read, I didn't fill out the rest of the field with my fantasy booking candidates. For one, I wanted to leave room for surprises from places not familiar to most of the wrestling world, things like the Ho Ho Lun announcement. Second, I'm not familiar with the Mexican scene as I would like, and my guess is that the Lucha Underground folks are off the table given the kerfluffle involving King Cuerno/El Hijo del Fantasma. I'm also not too up on the BritWres scene either. But if even a quarter of the guys listed above are in this thing along with the names already announced, then I'll be happy. Hell, even if NONE of the names left on the docket match my wishlist, then it should still be a great time. While I make no secret about my distaste for weight divisions in wrestling, I'm a huge fan of guys being able to throw down. The Cruiserweight Classic is going to be 31 matches of dudes throwing the fuck down. I cannot wait, and hopefully, neither can you.