The WWE Universe are gearing themselves up for the upcoming Cruiserweight Classic, pitting 32 of the finest athletes from various promotions into one tournament in a bid to find the best of them all.
It’s obvious that not every major star is included in the 32-man bracket, the WWE failed to land Will Ospreay, Ricochet was also heavily rumoured to take part while Amazing Red had to miss out due to injury. We can sit here and discuss other top talents that deserved a spot, but we should now be excited to see what these 32 men have to offer.
The tournament oozes talent and it’s something not to be missed, there are already some clear-cut favourites with the likes of Zack Sabre Jr, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano and Andrade Almas expected to reach the final stages of the competition, but here are the five stars I believe you need to look out for.
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Dragon Gate’s Akira Tozawa is another fan favourite heading into this competition; he’s one of the most beloved stars on the independent scene, and rightfully so, his ability to engage the audience in every single one of his matches is a fantastic skill to possess.
Like most stars involved in this tournament, it’s going to be a little strange seeing him compete inside of a WWE ring, but now that we’ve seen almost the possible take place, such as Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles compete in the WWE, anything is possible.
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The fans will be behind him, and the avid wrestling fans will point out some of his fantastic matches over the years, against the likes of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and even the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Dean Ambrose.
The tournament is about crowning the best Cruiserweight talent, and the majority of them are very fun to watch, and that’s what Tozawa brings. The fans will be behind him from the moment he steps onto the stage and even though he may not stick around when the tournament ends, he’ll leave his mark.
For someone who combines his high-flying skills excellently with his technical wrestling and topped off with a good look and charisma, Tozawa is somebody you should keep a close eye on.
Cedric Alexander is another star competing in the event and is someone who can set the tournament alight with what he brings to the table. The 27-year-old Ring of Honor star isn’t somebody who has completely set himself apart from the rest of the pack, but this tournament is the perfect place to do such a thing.
Over the past couple of years, Alexander has improved in some areas from his look to his personality and his charisma, but his in-ring work has certainly improved the most so it comes as no surprise as to why the company decided to include him in the tournament.
He can use this platform to reach bigger and better things, and whether those better times are in the WWE or not remain to be seen. He has the skills to succeed in the long-term, from his aerial manoeuvres to the brawling and mat-based offense which makes up an excellent Cruiserweight in 2016, he has brilliant upside which makes him a valuable asset to have.
His consistently in putting on excellent matches will leave you appreciative, and this future star could leave fans talking.
Despite being arguably the biggest name to compete in the tournament, Kota Ibushi may still be relatively unknown to the WWE Universe. However, once his stint in the competition comes to an end – where he is a favourite to win – it won’t be a surprise to see him sign with the company on a full-time basis.
We’ve already seen Ibushi on our screens before; he has appeared in the crowd at NXT TakeOver: Dallas while also appearing in the latest episode of Breaking Ground. His links to Nakamura could put him in good stead in winning the competition and signing with the company.
I can’t even begin to explain how insanely talented this Japanese sensation is, the tournament can’t come quick enough for us to watch and wonder why it took so long for the WWE to bring him over. He’s easily one of the greatest high-fliers on the planet today and incredibly unique, he can make the worst wrestler on the planet look like the best, and it takes a special talent to do something like that.
He has more than the ideal strength to succeed as a Cruiserweight; he has the agility and the speed, and he’ll continue to wow fans with his consistently impressive outings in the ring. He’s been on the up for plenty of years now, and it’s about time his skills are showcased to the world.
His Phoenix Splash alone is something to behold, but if you need any more convincing as to why Ibushi is somebody you need to know, go ahead and watch his 20-minute masterclass against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9.
Noam Dar is one of the youngest competitor competing in the tournament but he has plenty of experience under his belt to warrant a place here, and his work in recent years has been nothing short of impressive.
The 22-year-old Scottish star has created a huge following here in the UK, and it’s only a matter of time before that transitions across the pond where he can follow in the footsteps of other British stars, such as Marty Scurll, Ospreay and Sabre Jr.
He looks like one of the smaller men involved in the tournament, but he still has a unique look about him which makes him stand out, he isn’t generic at all, and his microphone work and charisma backs that up.
He’s highly competent in the ring, and there’s no ego with him either, he doesn’t act like he is above others and that’s a good trait to have when you’re trying to burst on to the US wrestling scene.
He may be a big UK star for now, but being one of the first men to qualify for the tournament, I believe the WWE will keep him on their radar for some time.
I get the feeling that the WWE will look to have one of their own win the tournament, and it makes sense because there’s nothing wrong with that. The WWE don’t need to give others an opportunity like this, but they’re producing a platform where other stars and promotions can showcase their abilities.
Despite this, I do believe a WWE-contracted star will win the tournament, and if it isn’t Andrade Almas, I won’t be surprised if Rich Swann is the man to get the nod, and he'll be a perfect choice.
We’ve seen him on NXT already where he had a fantastic match with then-NXT Champion Finn Balor, and since then he’s been touted as a future NXT Champion, so a win here would put him in prime position to explode onto the NXT scene and create a prosperous future.
He has the emotional story background as well, not that it’s a reason for him to be a favourite but it’s something the WWE may delve into if he is to advance in the tournament. Focusing on his wrestling abilities, he still deserves to be one of the favourites because of what he has to offer.
He’s fun; he’s quick, and he’s strong. Those basics alone will make him a dangerous opponent for anyone, but the charisma and his personality just make you want to watch him more and more. He brings the energy, and he’s guaranteed to make fans get out of their seats and applaud for some of the manoeuvres he hits.
These are only five of the stars we need to look out for heading into the tournament; there are plenty of others who bring different skills. This is great for the WWE Universe, who are going to be in for one hell of a ride.
Who do you think the WWE Universe needs to keep an eye on in the Cruiserweight Classic? Have your say in the comments section below.