Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Cruiserweight Classic. Spoilers begin immediately following the Read More link.
This past Wednesday, the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic did the only bad thing it ever did, and ended. TJ Perkins and Gran Metalik wrestled a five-star match that saw Perkins gut out a win, somehow reversing a Metalik top-rope move into a kneebar and forcing the wrestler formerly known as Mascara Dorada to tap out. Our Father Who Art In Stamford, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, crowned Perkins the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion, giving the division a belt to hang its feuds on, and Perkins added to his solar-fusion levels of face heat by dedicating his win to all the men who competed in the tournament. I was pretty sure I could not be more excited for the debut of the Cruiserweight Division next Monday (Tuesday for the Hulu crowd), but then WWE rocked my face again by confirming seven cruiserweights who will be joining the division.
TJ Perkins’ presence on the roster is no surprise — even before he got the strap, the pop from his first-round match against Da Mack sounded like a contract to me. Cedric Alexander, likewise, was confirmed by WWE not long after he was eliminated by Kota Ibushi (probably to stem a tsunami of social media messages about Queen City’s Favorite Son). Rich Swann felt like as much of a foregone conclusion as Perkins, to the point where I was sure Swann was going over in their quarterfinals match, and the Brian Kendrick seemed likely, given his experience with wrestling generally and WWE style specifically. But then there are the other names on that list, and this is where I get pleasantly surprised: Noam Dar, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik himself.
Dirt sheets were confirming Dar’s signing around the same time as they were jawing about Alexander and Perkins, and I think he’s a solid add to the division, bringing a nastier, less acrobatic style; I expect he’ll be joining Kendrick as one of the division’s heels (unless they try to make him a tweener, which from what I saw in the CWC might work). Lince Dorado was a complete shock to me, given the way luchadors and Chikara alumni seem to be viewed by WWE brass (I’m looking at you, Cesaro’s on-and-off push), but the decision to add a masked wrestler with that level of indy cred hints at very good things to my mind. But for me, the treat at the bottom of this cereal box is Gran Metalik. This is a man who is everything we do not expect from the WWE main roster: a stellar high-flyer, a masked wrestler who gives his promos entirely in Spanish, and most importantly, someone who already has an impressive pedigree from a major promotion that is not in any way influenced by the McMahons.
When Metalik lost in the finals to Perkins, I was sure that was the last we were going to see of him — that he was here to make the new champ look like a million bucks and then go back to CMLL, the same way Kota Ibushi’s run went down. WWE signing him (and letting him keep his mask) indicates to me a respect for the lucha libre tradition, a respect for the ability of other promotions to develop talent, and a willingness to reward those who do the tough job of coming in second, all of which have felt lacking in the ‘E in recent years. I think Metalik will be an excellent way to bring in viewers WWE might not have captured yet, and give the Cruiserweight Division an air of legitimacy that might have been lacking if they had just boosted their smaller in-house talents (not that I don’t want to see Kalisto vying for the purple belt as soon as he’s cleared to compete). As Metalik climbs into his thirties and his body starts to object to his style, I think he’ll also be an excellent person to help train would-be flyers : he was one of the most fluid, safe flyers in the CWC this year, and his finisher is the first driver variant in a long time that doesn’t make me wince every time he hits it. Perkins, Alexander, and Swann are my holy cruiserweight trinity, and Dar, Kendrick, and Dorado all have a thumbs-up from me, but Gran Metalik being in the division puts a huge smile on my face.
Sound off in the comments, folks — what are your favorites on this list? Anyone else you’re hoping to see, either from the tournament participants or the rest of the WWE roster? Anyone you especially want to see debut with Perkins on Monday? Can any of us actually wait that long?