Welcome to the Cruiserweight Classic Reaction, where I let you know what happened and how this particular Heavyweight feels about it.
The commenters on the Live Podcasts have christened me "A-Train" and I'm about to leave the station, so get on board.
If you missed last week's episode, catch up here.
And if you still haven't read my HUGE Bracketology and Predictions Preview, you can find it here.
Now let's light this candle.
On this week's episode:
Zack Sabre Jr vs Tyson Dux
Drew Gulak vs Harv Sihra
Tony Nese vs Anthony Bennett
Brian Kendrick vs Raul Mendoza
One of the best things about this tournament is that it showcases all different styles of professional grappling. Last week, with the unbelievable Lince Dorada vs Mustafa Ali match, we saw the High Fliers. Two weeks ago, in the match between tournament favorite (and recent NXT debut) Kota Ibushi and the surprising Sean Maluta, we got a look at two of the better Strikers in the tournament.
Tonight we'll get to see some of that, but it's our first real look at a whole new subsection of CWC talent: The Mat Technicians.
This style is not as sexy, it's not as exciting, but man alive, is it effective.
Zack Sabre Jr vs Tyson Dux
That handsome fellow up there is none other than Zack Sabre Jr, and he and his leather Union Jack jacket (UNION JACKET) are considered by many to be one of the favorites in the tournament. I've picked him all the way to the finals, and after Wednesday's match, I feel pretty good about it.
Zack Sabre Jr is an almost entirely unique animal: over six feet tall, lanky and rail thin, all sharp elbows and bony knees. And if given the chance, he'll leverage your arms right out of their sockets. And while he's doing it, he's so confident he almost looks bored. Dude looks like he's doing his taxes.
Watch the gif below. Watch him transition from wristlock to cravat like it ain't no thang. Look at the two contrasting styles: ZSJ is almost infuriatingly smooth. His opponent, Canadian veteran Tyson Dux, is a ball of rage and power.
Dux gets the better of him here, but Sabre Jr just keeps working the neck and arms. Dux, who is legitimately great, fights back and puts a cravat of his own on Sabre. Watch Sabre get out of it like he's folding his laundry.
Dux gets him in a head scissors and Sabre is making a grocery list in his head.
At times, Sabre is so many steps ahead, it seems like he can see the damn Matrix.
He really looks like he enjoys causing pain.
That kick to the arm is just brutal.
When you're this good, you have a tendency to get cocky, and I love that they work that into the booking of the match. For example:
I love the way he sells too. You can see it above, but watch him just CORPSE on this DDT:
Dux is very good, but Sabre is otherworldly. Watch him get out of this setup for a Death Valley Driver by just deciding to use his whole body to break Tyson Dux's arm. You know, since he didn't have anything better to do.
Now he's a shark with blood in the water. You get the sense that he can feel the ligaments getting ready to snap, so he just dials it up to 11, and Tyson Dux, a guy who looks like his favorite food is nails, has to verbally submit.
Watch as he carefully, deliberately, makes the conscious decision to bend the fingers back.
The man is a surgeon, and he operates without anasthesia.
WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr. by Submission.
The next two matches aren't much of a contest, so I'll try to make it quick.
Drew Gulak vs Harv Sihra
Drew Gulak murders this poor guy.
Harv Sihra looks like he could be a lot of fun, but Drew Gulak IS IN NO MOOD FOR FUN.
Early in the match, Sihra hits a springboard crossbody to the outside, but it looks like that just serves to make Gulak angry.
He breaks out a real-life version of E. Honda's 100 Hand Slap, then body slams Sihra INTO THE ROPES which I have never seen and does not look like it would feel good.
By the way, did we ever figure out what the "E" stood for in E. Honda?
Eric? Eddie? Evan? Ephraim?
(*remembers Google is a thing*)
Oh, Edomondo. I guess that makes sense. I was hoping for Edamame.
Anyway, Gulak just decides the match has gone on long enough, and ENDS IT.
WINNER: Drew Gulak by Submission.
Drew Gulak moves into the second round where he will meet Zack Sabre Jr. and I think maybe one of them will have to kill the other to beat him. I'm kind of hoping for it actually. I want this match contested under Thunderdome Rules: Two Men Enter, One Man Leaves. At the end of the match, I want Daniel Bryan to slowly stand up from his chair at the announce desk, look to the ring, and give one of these:
Anthony Bennett vs Tony Nese
Another one where one of the competitors is just hopelessly outmatched.
It's a shame, too. I get the sense that Anthony Bennett would be hella entertaining in a high school gym against a 400 lb guy called "The Mangler."
But against a world class athlete like Tony Nese, it's a No Go.
I mean, look at that. For that matter, look at this:
I gotta hand it to Anthony Bennett, the kid's out there selling like a champ. At least, I think he's selling. He could be actually knocked out. It sure looked like he was unconscious after this Pumphandle Slam:
Seriously, the ref almost stops the fight. He checks on Bennett, the kid says he's okay, and Nese is given the go-ahead to take it home:
WINNER: Tony Nese by Pinfall.
Tony Nese is very impressive, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he's capable of against some better competition. Actually, considering that his next opponent is the winner of our next match, I hope he's capable of WIPING THE FLOOR WITH HIM.
Raul Mendoza vs Brian Kendrick
Brian Kendrick is an A-Hole, you guys. I hate him. I didn't before this match. But now I do. He is a reprehensible, repugnant excuse for a human being.
Let me explain: I've watched three episodes of the Cruiserweight Classic, and one of the best things about it is that there are no babyfaces and no heels. I mean, Ariya Daivari refused to shake HoHo Lun's hand before their match, but he was probably just trying to psyche Lun out. It really appears that each guy is trying to gain the upper hand by using the techniques he's been trained in, and may the best man win. Maybe it's the fact that the wrestlers are representing different countries, but it really feels like this is the Olympics of Professional Wrestling. And just as it would look kind of out of place for a runner in the 100 meter dash to reach out and trip the guy running next to him, a thumb to the eye or a low blow while the ref is distracted would be kind of jarring in this setting. As such, no dirty heel tactics have been used.
That is, until now.
Raul Mendoza is super talented and a ton of fun to watch in the ring. He's also apparently under the impression that this match will be contested by the same rules as all the others in the CWC. Too bad he's wrestling disgusting sh*t-bird Brian Kendrick.
I love Mendoza. Check out this crazy upside down Cesaro Swing transitioning right into very cool knee-lock-with-body-scissors submission:
Now here's where Kendrick starts to show his scummy side. He uses stupid referee Charles Robinson to his advantage:
I hate when referees let this kind of stuff happen, but I'll allow it in a match between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat in 1988. Here, in this tournament, presented a pseudo shoot, it's f*cking INFURIATING.
But here's where Kendrick crosses a line in this match between two ostensibly honorable men who are just trying to do their country proud:
He forces Mendoza, who wears braces, to bite down on the rope and then KICKS THE ROPE.
Okay, I know this is a worked match, and Mendoza signed off on this, but it's gruesome. Especially when Mendoza starts BLEEDING FROM THE MOUTH.
Mendoza mans up, says he's okay to continue, and Kendrick immediately runs in to hit him in the mouth.
Dick move, Brian.
That's okay though, since Mendoza fights back. Check out this series of spots:
That's bad ass.
Mendoza rolls Kendrick back into the ring and tries to end it with a 450 splash.
He can only get a two count though, and soon Kendrick is in control, going for a high risk maneuver of his own. Mendoza has him scouted though, and sets him up for the spot of the night:
God, I love this guy. Watch the crowd leap to their feet when they realize what he's going to do.
It's moments like that that make this tournament so special. How many people entered that arena having any idea who Raul Mendoza was? Twenty? Fifty? And every single damn one of those paying customers left that night talking about that spot, how he pulled it off and why, dammit, why, did they book him to lose to that dirty snake Brian Kendrick.
Yes, you see, after this move only gets a two count, Mendoza runs the ropes, no doubt to perform some kind of amazing Hurricanrana variation, and Kendrick just falls down and covers up. Mendoza approaches him and then this happens:
WINNER: Brian Kendrick by Submission.
Raul Mendoza outwrestled, outfought, and outperformed Kendrick through the whole match, and Kendrick had to use dirty tactics to gain the advantage and take the win. What a damn waste.
The most upsetting thing about all of this is that Daniel Bryan, mega-babyface, is on commentary, putting over Brian Kendrick the whole damn time. Mauro is gently trying to nudge him back to objectivity, but Bryan is like "You can be objective, I'm biased, I'm rooting for my good friend, world-class scuzzbucket Brian Kendrick." It's unnerving. At one point, he calls Kendrick "not only one of the smartest wrestlers I've ever met, he's one of the smartest MEN I've ever met."
And at this point, Daniel, I would like to direct your attention to this little video, in which your buddy, your pal, your soulmate, Brian Kendrick calls the moon a hollowed out space station brought here by aliens to spy on us, that 9/11 was caused by holograms and that Barack Obama is a lizard man:
Wow, smart guy.
YOUR FRIEND IS A HORRIBLE PERSON, DANIEL, AND YOU ARE A BAD PERSON FOR CALLING HIM YOUR FRIEND.
Look, I know it's a work, it's not still real to me dammit,
and I understand that by getting me to hate him, Kendrick did his job. I even understand that they're going to book him to do the same thing to Tony Nese in Round 2, and then he'll put over Kota Ibushi in Round 3, helping to make Ibushi even more of a hero in the process, and I understand when Kota hits that Golden Star Bomb on Kendrick and gets the 1-2-3, I will mark out on my couch like a damn 12 year old. I understand all of those things.
But I wanted Mendoza to win. He deserved to win.
And I wanted my Olympics of Professional Wrestling, dammit.
Next Episode on the CWC:
Rich Swann vs Jason Lee
Noam Dar vs Gurv Sihra
Jack Gallagher vs Fabien Aichner
Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa
We are in for a treat next week boys and girls.