As has been a common theme this year, last week delivered an array of great matches from EVOLVE, Backlash, RAW, ROH, PWG, NJPW and the finals of the inaugural CWC. Here are the top five matches of last week.
Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
EVOLVE 69: Nice
Drew Ortman: This is another one of those matches when you see it on the card, you know it will be an automatic four-star or better. These are two of the biggest indie talents in the world today so EVOLVE has gold anytime they can book something like this. Early on these two look like they are having a blast slowly working into the match with big smiles on both their faces. You don’t always want to see a look like this on your pro wrestlers, but in a situation like this, it is welcome. The back and forth is as you would expect, Ricochet using his incredible athleticism and ZSJ attempting to tie him in knots. Ricochet does surprise me here as he is able to keep up with ZSJ with every move on the technical side of things. ZSJ works hard on Ricochet’s arms wrenching them around every which way. If you were fighting Ricochet, which body part would you go for? The legs? Me too, just curious. This was a back and forth game of Ricochet trying to get his offense flowing and ZSJ having an answer every time. The match picks up, and ZSJ throws everything he can at Ricochet to seek to pick up the pin, but in the end, the agility won. Ricochet went for a shooting star press but landing into a triangle lock. After the escape, he was able to hit a 630 off the top for the victory. What a fantastic match. These two lived up to their names on the card and then some. If you don’t check out any other match on the show, make time for this one.****1/2
Dean Ambrose (C) vs AJ Styles
Robbie Radford: AJ Styles arrived to a thunderous reaction, not to be outdone by the WWE Champion, Dean Ambrose. Like the majority of fans, I had my fingers crossed for a title change here. The Richmond Coliseum was very 50/50 when choosing who to chant for, arguably Styles had more fans in his corner in Virginia tonight.
The opening stages consisted of both men working each other out, Ambrose showed signs that he came to compete instead of goofing around was a pleasant change. The former IWGP Champion used his far superior move set to ground the Lunatic Fringe early. Styles focused on the neck of Ambrose, working a rest hold or two whilst trash talking in the ear of Ambrose. The atmosphere was electric throughout the opening, The Coliseum crowd certainly gave the thumbs down whenever the WWE Champion launched a fightback. Accompanied by the plethora of ‘MAMMA MIA’ shouts from Ranallo, the match kicked it up to the next gear after Ambrose nailed a top rope belly-to-back suplex. As much as I, justifiably, criticise Ambrose for his goofy segments, he certainly turned up for a fight tonight, taking leave of his senses to keep Styles grounded. Also, Ranallo said something about Ryusuke Taguchi during the bout, for some reason.
AJ Styles kept altering his game plan, he went from targeting the head and neck to targeting the calf and thighs, what a superstar. Styles then locked in his patented Calf Crusher to reap further misery on the left calf of Ambrose, with the Champion only just managing to reach the ropes. Styles locked it in once again but Ambrose reversed it by brutally bouncing Styles’s head off the canvas. Ambrose took charge by reversing a canvas Styles Clash into slingshotting Styles into the ring post.
The momentum pendulum constantly swung in both men’s favour as the gruelling battle waged on past the 20 minute mark. As said earlier, I tend to criticise Ambrose for his irritating antics but he really turned up tonight and this match was proving to be a battle for the ages. The Virginia crowd chanted ‘this is awesome’ just as Ambrose countered a Pele kick into a rebound lariat. Styles nailed a Styles Clash following a low blow whilst the referee was distracted to pick up another stunning victory in his WWE career. The Phenomenal One has done it. ****1/4
Chuck Taylor vs Trent?
Joe Greenwood: This right here, for me, is the main event of this show. Chuck Taylor has perhaps been the most interesting guy on the indies this year with his turn in EVOLVE to DUSTIN, where he plays the bitter indie guy who has to watch his friends go to WWE whilst he waits forever for his contract from “Uncle Paul.” Excalibur incorrectly puts this match over as streak vs streak as Taylor is on a five match win streak in PWG, and Trent was on one as well, but he lost on the last show to Chris Hero, but regardless the crowd are fired up to see these two best friends go at it.
Some excellent psychology to start as Trent shoulder tackles Chuck to the ground, only to help him up, but when it’s the other way around Chuck ignores it and carries on. This is the story of the opening of this match, Trent unwilling to fight Chuck and never quite pulling the trigger on him. They run the ropes before Chuck ducks a clothesline and hugs Trent, garnering the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd. Chuck then rakes the eyes of Trent, which causes the match to take a turn. Chuck goes for a Plancha on the outside but Trent moves out the way and throws a chair at him. This is when Trent tells the ref that “best friends don’t need rules,” and the match turns into Foley vs Orton at Backlash. We get Suplexes and Powerbombs on the outside onto chairs, some nasty back bumps onto a ladder in the corner, and then, of course, the thumbtacks. First Chuck takes a second rope Frankensteiner into them, then Trent goes for a swinging DDT but Chuck throws him off into the tacks, before hitting a piledriver on them for the win. ****1/2
This match also contained a great line from Excalibur, where he declared that “this match has taken a Teddy Hart hard left.”
Kota Ibushi vs. TJ Perkins
CWC Semi-Final Match
Drew Ortman: This is the match I’ve been anticipating the most heading into this week. You have the man whom everyone has pegged to win this tournament since the beginning, Kota Ibushi taking on one of my personal favorites in the pack, TJ Perkins. I expect their styles to mesh very well.
They start out with a bit of a feeling out process of methodical moves and reversals. From the beginning, Perkins looks like he is ready to block every kick Ibushi dishes out. Perkins also goes for the kneebar early, but Ibushi quickly escapes knowing that could end things early. Perkins reversals are so incredibly smooth like he is almost not trying. Perkins is slowed down quickly when Ibushi lays in a hard kick to the sternum. Ibushi goes for a Golden Triangle Moonsault to the floor, but TJP recovers quickly and kicks him off the rope and to the floor. Ibushi is almost counted out, but makes it in at the last second and Perkins continues on offense. Perkins is working on the knee setting up for his kneebar finisher later. Ibushi makes a comeback, sends TJP to the outside and hits a springboard Golden Triangle Moonsault from the top out onto his opponent.
They two continue back and forth using what seems to be everything they have in their move sets wearing each other down. Ibushi hits a series of hard kicks to the chest that leaves TJP lifeless on the mat. Ibushi goes for the German Suplex from the outside in, but Perkins escapes and heads up top only to be hits with a moonsault kick off the ropes. TJP still keeps coming hitting a satellite DDT for a two and three-quarters near fall.
Perkins locks on a kneebar in the middle of the ring, but Ibushi rolls out of it and then they begin to trade blows. Ibushi then hits Perkins with a Golden Star Bomb, but Perkins kicks out, pops the crowd and leaves Ibushi in shock. Ibushi goes for a phoenix splash but misses when Perkins moves. In the end, Perkins uses his reversal skills to lock again on the knee bar and then adding in a cross face to tape out Ibushi and beat the tournament favorite. The crowd is going insane along with Ranallo and Bryan. There is not much more you can say other than that match was awesome! A much up there with one of the best of the tournament…and we still have the finals to go.****1/2
Gran Metalik vs. TJ Perkins
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Finals
Drew Ortman: These two have already achieved fantastic notoriety and bragging rights making in through the incredible list of competitors in the previous rounds. They are about to battle once more in hope that they will be taking home that huge CWC trophy. Both men look in good shape after the first round. Neither seemed to be selling anything heading in, but it can always come into play. Perkins looks just as confident and ready as he did for his first round match.
Just before the match gets going, Triple H decides to use this moment to make it known that this whole thing is all him. He gives a decent, quick stock tournament speech, but I would have rather he left the spotlight on these two guys. Then it happened, much to the surprise of I think everyone, Triple H reaches down to a bag brought up by a stagehand and pulls it the new WWE Cruiserweight Championship. The winner of the tournament will now be taking the purple and silver belt to RAW with them as the first champion. A vanity speech turned into a new title. I’m okay with that.
They take their time getting going which was okay with the added hype. Perkins gains the early offensive control getting Metalik in a head scissors, but Metalik is able to reverse it quickly. Lots of trading of holds and reversals as they ease into the match. It all picks up when Metalik nails a quick dive to the outside sending his head right into Perkins jaw. Back in the ring, Metalik hits a springboard senton bomb for a two.
Some continued back and forth showcases how athletic and agile these two men are as well as their superior mat wrestling skills. This is the first time that I’ve noticed in the tournament that Metalik is a thunderous seller with the cries and grunts. The crowd goes crazy when Metalik leaps the ropes to give Perkins and insane frankensteiner from the apron and to the floor. He then followed up with a suicide dive over the top and to the floor.
Metalik gets on an offensive roll and goes for a running shooting star press, but Perkins avoids and locks in a kneebar. Metalik gets to the ropes to break the hold. Trading of punches and kicks ends with a dropkick to the knee by Perkins leaving both men on the mat. A series of back and forth moves and near falls ends with another Perkins kneebar that Metalik almost doesn’t escape. When Perkins went to pull him closer to the middle, Metalik jumped and rolled him up for a nearfall.
Metalik hits the Metalik Driver, but his leg gives out keeping him from capitalizing for the pin quickly. Perkins comes back with a rebound dropkick and then both men end up on top. Metalik goes for a Metalik driver off the top, but Perkins escapes and locks him in the kneebar on the ways down to submit Gran Metalik and become the first ever CWC winner and WWE Cruiserweight Champion. A fantastic match with a great ending. I am happy with Perkins being the titleholder heading into RAW. He has his hands raised at the end by both Triple H and William Regal.