This countdown isn’t in any order or declaring the definitive best, we’re just selecting ten that we Vultures loved. Find out more here.
I have an embarrassing confession to let you in on: going into his Cruiserweight Classic bout with Kota Ibushi, I was not sold on Cedric Alexander. Perhaps Clement Petiot, Alexander’s first round opponent and on old school European brawler, wasn’t the right fit. Whatever was missing in round one though, Ibushi and Alexander found a fortune of it in round two.
Let’s back up for a second though. If you’ve been following WWE this year it’s probably felt like there’s been a wave of Japanese talent landing at the company. Shinsuke Nakamura basically owns NXT. American wrestlers who made their names in Japan, like AJ Styles, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson, are too sweeting their way through the main roster. Meanwhile Kota Ibushi, along with Akira Tozawa, helped make the Cruiserweight Classic WWE’s best product of the summer.
Rise of the Cruiserweights
Ibushi is a blue chip star, as Jim Ross might say. He has a splash of the intense physical charisma that makes Nakamura break the language barrier, and he’s also that bit more athletic. Alexander, on the other hand, has mainly made his name at Ring of Honor. He’s an incredible athlete who’s been in the ring with the likes of Kevin Owens, Michael Elgin and Tommaso Ciampa. Crucially, he’s young but seems to get the small details of wrestling in a way many young guys don’t.
To my knowledge Ibushi and Alexander have never met in singles competition. Which, after watching this one, is incredibly hard to believe.
I’m just going to call this how I see it: there are multiple sequences in this match that are nearly flawless. It started with some astoundingly crisp chain wrestling, followed by a series of hard chops and big moves ending in Alexander’s dive to the outside. Neither guy let up for a second.
Both men pulled out moves which would ordinarily belong at major pay per views. Whether it was Ibushi’s 45 corkscrew moonsault or Alexander’s dramatic brain buster the crowd at full sail were getting to see two potential main eventers bringing the house down.
Oh, and can we talk about the selling in the match? Alexander’s face when Ibushi kicked out for the second time in quick succession had me on the edge of my seat. Both guys sold shock, exhaustion, caution and pain in equal measure from start to finish. For that, it’s earning a special prize from me: best selling of 2016.
Future WWE Stars?
It would be remiss of me not to mention the great commentary from Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan, but it was the performers that made this one great. Kota Ibushi seems to be playing the field at the moment with WWE and NJPW. If I were either company I think I’d probably just give him everything he wants after this performance. Cedric Alexander, meanwhile, has landed a permanent gig in WWE. What we saw from him here tells me he can be a main event star for them before he’s 30. Hell, if they let him he could even develop into the face of the company.
I did hear somewhere that Alexander had asked for the match against Ibushi to begin with. If that’s true, it likely goes down as one of the best decisions of his career – and one of the best matches of 2016.