Ranking The Remnants: WWE Cruiserweight Classic — Two Years On
Two years. Two frickin’ years. Two frickin’ years since the best tournament WWE has ever put on, and, to me, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Just less than a year ago, I ranked the remnants one year removed from the tournament, but in the year since, some have sadly departed, and some more may have joined. Add that to an overhaul of 205 Live at the turn of the year and while some have dropped down, others have surely skyrocketed.
Here’s a quick rundown of the list from last year:- 20. Sean Maluta 19. Raul Mendoza 18. Lince Dorado 17. Fabian Aichner 16. Gran Metalik 15. Sunil Singh 14. Samir Singh 13. Tony Nese 12. Ariya Daivari 11. Cedric Alexander 10. Noam Dar 9. Drew Gulak 8. TJP 7. Jack Gallagher 6. Mustafa Ali 5. Rich Swann 4. The Brian Kendrick 3. Akira Tozawa 2. Tomasso Ciampa 1. Johnny Gargano
Well, I can’t see there being many changes here. But let’s just double check…
It’s now nineteen, down from twenty, but let’s rank the remnants of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
19/ SEAN MALUTA Still bottom, but up one! Howdeedoodah!? Yes, an almost silent year for Mr. Maluta leaves him propping up this list that he maybe shouldn’t be on, but his frequent appearances keep him included. And when I say ‘frequent’, I mean ‘two’. He has had two WWE-televised matches in the past twelve or so months, with a combined time of 4:40. It took Adam Cole 2:15 to beat him on NXT, and then Noam Dar a whole ten seconds longer to pin him on 205. I’m a fan of Good Brother Uce and hope I can see more of the lad in the future. I still remember his first round match against Kota Ibushi, and for a match with Ibushi in, it’s a Maluta moment that’s stayed with me from it.
18/ FABIAN AICHNER This next few will pain me. Putting any professional low on a list pains me as they put their body on the line for our entertainment (see above), and so it just feels wrong to rank ’em low. But for the sake of list-keeping (a favoured pastime of mine), here’s Aichner at eighteen. Off-TV, he’s been cracking, and he will break out sooner rather than later, no doubt, potentially in a rumoured stable alongside Marcel Barthel, but that’s in the future. As of right now, his appearances are too few and far between. But if live event matches against Aleister Black and Ricochet are anything to go by, Fabian could be the skyrocketeer when we rank the remnants next time round.
17/ SAMIR SINGH For the time he was fit, he occupied a main event slot on Smackdown. For the time he had a torn ACL, he wasn’t here. He’s been out for a lot longer than he’s been here, so find n and solve for x. 17th position. Still a sick table bump in him though.
16/ ARIYA DAIVARI I miss him so much. My sugar daddy has been gone for too long, hence his low ranking on this list. When he’s about, he is money. I mean he literally is money. Daivari Dinero. That nickname was given to him by a famous rapper or somebody, that’s how cool he is. He’s not bottom, because he did some solid work at the start of the year and was given a big stage to stand on at The Greatest Royal Rumble, nailing his spot with his older brother Shawn Daivari. Just a shame that he hasn’t been seen since… If you do wanna check out one of his return videos though, it is absolute… Dinero.
15/ RAUL MENDOZA Our first permanent resident of NXT and he’s only just started coming into stories really. Shame. Especially considering that he’d been signed and made one or two appearances on NXT already when I made this list last year. It takes a while to make a star apparently. All that aside, he’s looked boss when given a chance, but only in the ring… He’s yet to show off his personality, but he won over a crowd in the Classic, and it’s the same one he’s in front of now, so go do, Fat Dog.
14/ NOAM DAR Now this…. This really hurts. My boy Dar should never be lower than #1 on any list he occupies, unless that list is entitled ‘People Who Suck and Have a Horrible Accent and Can’t Wrestle’. But injury made my boy human and had him out for months. But since he’s returned, I’m an excited lad all over again. Cracking comeback at the Royal Albert Hall, cracking comeback on 205 Live, with some cracking matches against TJP specifically (story-telling and psychology on point), and the sky is the limit, as his promo work has improved ten-fold since he came back, and he was already pretty good. 14 this year, but next year… Well, the sky’s the limit. Cracking.
13/ SUNIL SINGH For the time he was fit, he occupied a main event slot on Smackdown. For the time he had a torn ACL, he wasn’t here. He’s been out for a lot longer than he’s been here, so… Wait… Shit.
Of course I can tell the difference. They don’t even look the same. Sunil has done brilliantly in Samir’s absence. He seemed to be the one taking smaller bumps than his brother, and now with his brother’s neck in resting, Sunil’s neck has become the new victim. And what a job it’s done! He’s bumped around for everybody! From Apollo to Alicia, and everything in between. He’s done a stellar job in a big spot, and if you can do that and make yourself the best part of some matches… Hip toss hooray.
12/ THE BRIAN KENDRICK What a mind… This is the guy I think I’d like to talk to the most. We’d sit and watch TV in silence. BUT THAT DON’T GET YOU HIGH ON THIS LIST. The Brian was off for a while in the middle of the list, getting his face broke by Hideo. More like, HIDEO-US, AM I RIGHT? Still, even since he came back, he’s been a bit-part player in stories with Jack Gallagher and Drew Gulak, never being the focus, but he’s still stood out in his matches, as he always does. It’s a big drop, but The Wizard Of Odd will find the Off-Yellow Brick Road back to the top.
11/ TONY NESE The tale of Tony Nese, Is one page with many-a-crease. He seems to pop up with the look and direction, But he’s got used to a strong feeling of rejection. Tozawa and Murphy, Mustafa Ali, All grabbed the branch a little higher on the tree. So he remains undercarded, for now, a caged beast, Oh, poor old eight-pack, Anthony Nese.
I think that sums it up.
10/ AKIRA TOZAWA He wins a lot, you know? Like, seven times out of ten he wins the match he’s in. Now if you were to name seven Akira Tozawa matches, I feel I wouldn’t remember half of them. Sweet feud against Itami that spawned some froot matches, but apart from that… A smashing wrestler doing… Good stuff.
9/ JACK GALLAGHER You could almost copy and paste what I say about Tozawa right here. But that wouldn’t be very gentlemanly, would it? Gallagher’s ventures outside of 205 Live see him place higher than Tozawa here. Sure, he’s been a player with Gulak and Kendrick, but appearances for PROGRESS and for NXT U.K. remind viewers how great a singles wrestler Jackie boy is, yes, but also how great a face. Very easy to support even though his character should scream heel, RIGHT!?
8/ LINCE DORADO Since Dorado has returned and the Lucha House Party has commenced, it’s hard to deny their inclusion in quality matches and feuds. There’s always a reason for them to be going up against whoever they’re going up against, and that’s delightful. Going from an injury-riddled inclusion on this list last year to the top-ten this year is testament to Dorado’s explosiveness and impact, pulling his weight in singles and tag team matches. Plus, his colour scheme is stunning.
7/ TJP For someone who was already a streets ahead in-ring performer, TJP just seems to get better and better every time he steps between the ropes. And now, his promos and character are catching up. After missing out on all the Enzo stuff at the tail end of last year, he returned at the start of this year with little direction. He looked good, but it’s when he started getting stories that he clicked into that higher gear. He threw story into a victory over Tyler FUCKING Bate, made squash wins over local talent more entertaining than it should have been by using a mic while he had them locked in a submission, and gave Noam Dar a comeback feud that got fans behind the Supernova as a face. Add this to a now blossoming feud with the Lucha House Party that got started in a big way (TJP removing Dorado’s mask), and he’s got a great, if similar, year coming up ahead. And that multiple submission spot? Yum bloody yum.
6/ GRAN METALIK King of the meemaw-flippin’ ropes, ladies, germs and everything in between. Alongside the 24-hour Lucha House Party people, this guy has looked like he deserves a place on the wrestling Mount Rushmore. Was that too far? No. No, it wasn’t. Along with stellar tag matches, Metalik has rocked one-on-one bouts with Buddy Murphy (obviously), Mr. Kendrick, TJP, and mostly Tony Nese. This is a guy whom Big Dave Meltzer has called one of the most underutilized talents in the whole company, and I think, if you weren’t taken in by his classic Cruiserweight Classic performances, he’s finally starting to show why. Also, no-one seems to know this guy’s real name. Which is pretty sweet. I long for that kind of anonymity while still being on television, but I’m just too bloody addicted to the attention.
5/ DREW GULAK This guy overshadowed Enzo on some of his promos. That’s how entertaining this guy was. His ‘No Fly Zone’ stuff was great, and when GM Maverick told him to get his arse into gear, he was still committed to a better 205 Live, but he was crazy intense and IT WORKED. A stunning heel versus heel match against former best friend Tony Nese succeeded in making Nese sympathetic and Gulak brutal, and any match that came afterwards was definitely worth a watch. Feuds against Lucha House Party or Cedric Alexander were boss and it is only a testament to the folk above him on this list with how fantastic a year Drew Gulak has had. While he may not have held gold (or purple silver in this case), his attempts have legenderified him in the division. I’m not lying, Gulak is high-flyin’. (on this list)
4/ MUSTAFA ALI Is there anyone who doesn’t like this guy? He seems like one of the most humble, genuine human beings OF ALL TIME, and I think that’s because he is. Pair that with a wrestling ability that’s second to none, and you got a fire-cracker. Seriously, he seems to put on classic matches with anyone. Yes, he and Buddy Murphy are excellent together and Murphy should dump Bliss so he and Ali can have the most powerful high-fliers of all time. But this guy just keeps going. Banging match after banging match against Cedric, Gulak, Hideo, Buddy, and the list goes on. The moment when he finally wins the title will be spesh. For me, and hopefully for you too. Shout-out to his unique promos on Twitter as well; makes ’em interesting to look at so you believe what he says a tad more. Even with that, it’s hard to put him above his bezzie mate though…
3/ CEDRIC ALEXANDER And his bezzie mate has earned it. Undefeated in singles competition this year. How is that flying under the radar? He makes the title seem important, he’s an immense wrestler, and what more do you need. Stories are small but important on 205 Live, and they all intertwine if you look close enough, with this guy at the centre of it. While he’s had an amazing year with the title, I think Ali’s matches and stories are better, not to say that Cedric’s are bad, just that Ali’s are better. And won’t that be a story? Or could it be two friends clashing? Either way, these two are destined to meet down the line; star-crossed forever. Cedric, hats off to you, the division might not be on your back, but with you at the forefront, they’re 205 Thrive.
But the champ ain’t number one? Whaaaaaaaaaaa?
2/ JOHNNY GARGANO Forget about these two? OF COURSE YOU DIDN’T, HOW COULD YOU? Without the confines of 205 Live, Gargano and friends have been tearing it up on NXT, especially this fella when it comes to matches. I was thinking about putting him top again, with his two five-star Meltzer-rated matches, but his rival may have just pipped him. Seriously, Gargano’s arc has been one of the best in NXT, moving on from Ciampa to NXT Title matches before he couldn’t avoid his former bestie anymore, embarking on the feud of the year in the process. Great matches, great story, great arc, great wrestling, great wrestler. So why ain’t he number one?
1/ TOMASSO CIAMPA Because this big, bad, bald bastard has had the most impact of anyone on this list, and anyone off this list, for that matter. Since he came back he has been the biggest, baddest, baldest bastard in wrestling. Emphasis on the middle one (and the last one). Seriously, the heat this dude gets is lovely; we just love to hate him. Coming out to no music so we can hear all the aggravation he causes, putting on a five-star match his first time back because of the picture they painted, WINNING THE FUCKING NXT TITLE, I was unglued, agog, shocked. This guy is the hot hand right now and we hate him for it. Great matches, great story, great arc, great wrestling, great wrestler, great champion. And that is why he’s number one. Fuck you, Ciampa.
Classic. Quality. Controlled.
BIGGEST MOVE UP: +10 — Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik BIGGEST MOVE DOWN: -8 — The Brian Kendrick
Unlike last year, folk are starting to seperate themselves, carving out their own niche, and that’s nice. I complained last year that they weren’t getting the chance to bounce around with the lads on RAW and Smackdown, and I still feel like they should, but they’ve made 205 Live the home of tremendous wrestling together and I kinda don’t want them to dilute that by taking folk away and having them everywhere, I like that they have their own show and their own brand, I’m really digging it. Additions have been welcome as well; Itami was huge and is starting to live up to his reputation, Buddy Murphy flew in under the radar and has blown everyone away (I’ve only been saying it for years, but I won’t bang on about it), Lio Rush is already main roster bound with Lashley, others like Mark Andrews of Flash Morgan Webster from NXT-UK might pop up, and a mention here for COLIN DELANEY. It’s growing, and it’s doing it gracefully. But growing up doesn’t come without loss, one from this list, and two newer additions to the show have gone, with Rich Swann (5th on the list last year) making his way over to Impact, Neville making his way to anywhere that wasn’t WWE, and Enzo probably making it onto some kind of register.
*phone rings* Hello? Oh, his member was consensual? My bad.
Then Enzo made it onto a list of the best rap songs ever recorded.
205 Live is growing up and it’s getting better. Their live events were sold out despite being only reasonably hyped, and they were electric. The fans are there, they just gotta get more of them involved.
Obviously, a shout-out to those who made the Cruiserweight Classic what it was and haven’t stayed with WWE, the likes of Zack Sabre Jr. (who I think’s doing fine), Kota Ibushi (also fine), Tajiri (108 years old), Damian Slater, HoHo Lun, Jason Lee, Tyson Dux, Alejandro Saez (honestly, his facial expressions were one of my favourite parts of the Classic), Clement Petiot, Kenneth Johnson (who did have a squash match against TJP this year), Anthony Bennett and Da Mack. I hope all these guys can make it to where they wanna go, whether that be 205 Live or Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Live your dreams, guys. Or… Your nightmares, I guess.
Keep it streets ahead,