For 10 weeks, WWE presented some of the best on-screen performances of the entire week with the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic. Each week, the quality of matches were superb, and the series put a number of international stars on the map who were relatively unknowns to the United States audience.
With these unfamiliar competitors, names such as Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander, Tajiri, and Tyson Dux were known for their time spent either in the WWE or other well-known promotions, but they were vying to make a final impression on the WWE Universe.
Out of this list, there were two names that were already the betting favorites from the beginning of the tournament – UK sensation Zack Sabre Jr. and Japanese superstar Kota Ibushi. Based on their significant international popularity, many believed that one of these two would be the tournament winner.
As the weeks of the tourney progressed, the notion remained that one of these stars would be the winner. Sabre Jr. steamrolled past Tyson Dux, Drew Gulak, and Noam Dar to reach the “Fantastic Four”, while Ibushi bested Sean Maluta, Cedric Alexander, and Brian Kendrick to join ZSJ in the semi-finals.
Surprisingly, neither Sabre, Jr. nor Ibushi reached the finals, as they were defeated by Gran Metalik and TJ Perkins, respectively. The finals pitted Gran Metalik and TJP, in which TJP won and became the first ever Cruiserweight Classic winner, as well as the first WWE Cruiserweight Champion in nearly ten years. Interestingly, WWE is abandoning the history of the title altogether as he is being billed as the “first-ever WWE Cruiserweight Champion”.
The former TNA X Division Champion (as Manik) has traveled a long road to reach this zenith in WWE. Switching from Suicide to Manik in TNA, along with being enslaved to James Storm’s Revolution faction, Perkins never had an opportunity to really showcase his talent for an extended period of time. Thankfully, his resume from TNA and the independent scene allowed him to be noticed by WWE brass and selected as a competitor in the CWC.
While his win was well-deserved, many were wondering why the favorites did not win. The reason is due to both Sabre Jr. and Ibushi not willing to commit to contracts. Moreover, Ibushi was indeed penciled in to win the tournament but was not in favor of the full-time schedule presented by WWE due to his commitments to Japan (h/t The Inquisitr).
Ibushi also has to get accustomed to the American culture, including elevating his skill of the English language. These factors were not things that Ibushi was willing to do at this time, although the door is not closed for the future.
The same applies for ZSJ. He has a number of dates on the independent circuit that is bringing in some good income. At the time, his scheduled dates are more important than what WWE has offered him to join the company. Both will most likely land a spot on the WWE roster; but, as of now, they are returning to their former schedules, which leaves TJP at the top of the cruiserweight list.