After months of anticipation, WWE officially launches the Cruiserweight Classic Wednesday, a 32-man tournament designed to play off the success of NXT, find new talents to get into the WWE pipeline, and to provide new content for the WWE Network during the summer months.
In order to help get you familiar and/or learn more about some of those new talents, we brought together some of our talents that have expertise in covering many of the wrestlers' home regions and promotions.
- Matt Farmer: MLW radio host & wrestling historian
- Alan "4L" Counihan: Dr. Keith Presents host, Japanese wrestling & indie wrestling expert
- Alan Boon: Wrestling Observer columnist for "This Week In British Wrestling"
- Bryan Rose: Wrestling Observer NJPW & CWC reporter
- Joseph Currier: Wrestling Observer editor & news writer
- Mike DellaCamera: Wrestling Observer writer
Because WWE didn't break up the entire bracket NCAA-style (East, Southwest, etc) and because we want to give each match preview some time to breathe without doing one long mega-post, we decided to break them the bracket ourselves into A/B/C/D brackets starting counterclockwise from the top.
We first began with Bracket A, and today, we move onto Bracket B (lower left):
Harv Sihra vs. Drew Gulak --
Harv Sihra by Matt Farmer
Harv Sihra, along with his brother Gurv, is based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, but both brothers will be representing their country of India.
The younger Sihra brother, Harv, followed in his brother's footsteps and became a professional wrestler. After a short time in wrestling, they formed a tag team called the Bollywood Boyz. The duo has traveled all across Canada and have attended many training camps and seminars around the United States. Some of their highest profile matches came when they competed with TNA's Ring Ka King promotion in India.
Earlier this year, I interviewed both Harv and Gurv for my Indyriffic podcast on MLWRadio. I see big things in the future for these two men, and it's just a matter of time before promoters across the United States and internationally start booking them consistently.
Drew Gulak by Joseph Currier
While many of the competitors in this tournament don’t conform to what is traditionally thought of as the cruiserweight style, few do it as noticeably as Drew Gulak.
Gulak isn’t going to amaze the audience with his ability to fly around the ring, and he may not even leave his feet voluntarily. Instead, Gulak will look to wear down his opponents on the mat.
He is a throwback to the early days of wrestling. Along with wrestlers like Timothy Thatcher, Gulak is revitalizing a style of mat-based wrestling that had been written off by some audiences as boring in an industry that has become increasingly dependent on fast-paced action.
Gulak is the leader of Evolve’s Catch Point stable along with “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, TJ Perkins, Matt Riddle, and Fred Yehi. Gulak and Williams are the current Evolve tag team champions, and Gulak defeated his partner in a qualifier to earn his way into this tournament.
He describes the group’s philosophy as foregoing flash in favor of substance. They isolate their opponents' weaknesses and aggressively attack them, and Gulak is at his best when that aggression is apparent in all aspects of his work.
A veteran of the American independent circuit, Gulak has worked extensively for CZW, CHIKARA, and Evolve. He has also been a fairly regular feature on PWG cards.
In addition to his career inside of the ring, Gulak has been lauded for his ability to train talent. He currently works as a trainer at CHIKARA’s Wrestle Factory, and leads seminars for Gabe Sapolsky’s World Wrestling Network.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tyson Dux --
Zack Sabre Jr. by Alan Boon
If the last few years of Zack Sabre Jr.’s career haven’t been a carefully-orchestrated plan, then it’s a remarkable series of happy accidents that have brought the 28-year-old to where he stands today.
A grounding on the British and European indies was parlayed into a lengthy run with Pro-Wrestling NOAH and all that entails, then followed by the past year of returning to Europe and expanding his time in the US.
Add in holding one of the big four titles in the UK and one of the big three indie titles in the US, and you have a man poised to take the next step into where this has surely always been leading: WWE.
Sabre Jr. began with the rump of the Hammerlock Gym in his native Kent, the former UK NWA affiliate which many years before also produced Doug Williams, Jody Fleisch, Jonny Storm, former NWA World champion Gary Steele, and Jimmy Havoc, as well as having a hand in the development of both Finn Balor and Becky Lynch.
Sabre Jr. received training in the traditional British style which he has carried through the 12 years of his career. Now that it has once again became a sought-after style, he finds himself as one of the master practitioners.
He has moved around the UK and European indie scenes, holding titles in IPW:UK, wXw, and Triple X Wrestling, where he held their main title for two and a half years, defending against Balor amongst others, and a promotion where he faced CWC commentator Daniel Bryan in a match spoken fondly of by the former WWE champion.
Then came NOAH, where he held the GHC junior heavyweight tag team titles twice (with Yoshinari Ogawa), and cemented his name as one of the foremost lighter weight contenders the whole world over.
With show-stealing performances in Pro Wrestling Guerilla (where he holds the title) and Evolve furthering his name in the US, his appearance in the CWC is surely the final step before WWE proper comes calling, and the whole world gets to see this charismatic technician with a swift, brutal side to his work beamed into their homes on a weekly basis.
Tyson Dux by Matt Farmer
Tyson Dux may be one of the competitors people are the most familiar with aside from the tournament favorites. He has been one of the more traveled independent wrestlers of the past 15 years, and he's competed with major promotions like Ring of Honor and All Japan Pro Wrestling.
He may be most well-known for his time as a member of Team Canada at the 2006 TNA World X Cup. In the last few years, he's been wrestling for some of the top independent promotions in North America like AIW, AAW, Smash, and CZW.
Competing out of Ontario, Canada, Dux has a tough challenge as his first round opponent is CWC favorite Zack Sabre Jr.
Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra --
Noam Dar by Alan Boon
Any 22-year-old that has had well over 400 professional matches tends to have figured out how to work.
Noam Dar, a Scot of Israeli descent, began his professional wrestling career as a 15-year-old in 2008 for British Championship Wrestling, the Ayrshire promotion where he learned the ropes under Colin McKay and Lionheart.
That he still works for BCW today, when the demand for his services is higher than it has ever been, is a testament to the man and the men who trained him, who also produced Grado and gave Drew Galloway some of his earliest opportunities.
Within a couple of years, Dar’s career picked up and he earned some high-profile outings for Dragon Gate UK and the dying 1PW, making his first trips overseas to work for wXw where he acted as an alternate for the 2010 16 Carat Gold Tournament.
Dar’s style -- a mix of mat-based technical wrestling with some high-impact classic cruiserweight moves -- blends with an unaffected cool that comes off as very unrehearsed. All of that made him an attractive prospect for what would become the UK’s current big four promotions (PROGRESS, RevPro, ICW, and PCW) where he won titles and faced some of the best on the indie scene.
Dar has faced AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Chris Hero, not to mention Johnny Gargano, Brian Kendrick, Jack Gallagher, and Sabre Jr. from this year’s CWC.
In the summer of 2014, Dar tried out for TNA’s British Bootcamp reality series, becoming one of six finalists who made it through to the US tour portion of the show. Although Mark Andrews won the show and got the TNA contract offer, Dar impressed in outings against Austin Aries and Al Snow, and was part of the promotion’s 2015 UK tour.
Despite bowing out of PROGRESS last summer, which many took as a re-orienting of his career to more Scottish-based promotions, Dar recently won the PCW heavyweight title from Sha Samuels on that company’s first iPPV and has lately become a regular with London-based RevPro once again.
The CWC is a fantastic stage for the Scot to show his wares and few should dismiss his chances of causing an upset. Fluent in Hebrew, his value for an ever-expanding international company cannot be understated, and it may not be too long before that skinny 15-year old from Ayr signs a WWE contract.
Gurv Sihra by Matt Farmer
Gurv, the older Sihra brother, entered wrestling after first being trained by Michelle Starr, Scotty Mac, and Vance Nevada. He first started wrestling for BC's Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling.
He has since taken the same road as his brother with their Bollywood Boyz team having some success all around the world. Currently, they are the Global Force Wrestling tag team champions. Known primarily as a team, they bring not only a lot of experience, but also a lot of charisma to the CWC. Both brothers are very well-rounded wrestlers.
I know these guys pretty well and besides their first year in the business, it's hard to really think of many standout singles matches the two have had as all of their accomplishments have come as a team.
But, this tournament provides an opportunity for the Sihra brothers to differentiate themselves from each other, and even though they aren't matched in the first round, there is sure to be some brotherly competition.
Ariya Daivari vs. HoHo Lun --
Ariya Daivari by Matt Farmer
If you're not familiar with Ariya Daivari, it's more than likely that you are familiar with his older brother Shawn, he of the very well-known run in WWE teaming with Muhammed Hassan. Not surprisingly, he is very similar to his older brother in how he wrestles.
The younger Daivari got much of his initial training from both his brother and Arik Cannon. He's carved a strong career out for himself being based in the Midwest, and has competed several times for Ring of Honor, including an impressive match with Roderick Strong.
Like the Bollywood Boyz, he was part of TNA's excursion into India with the Ring Ka King promotion.
HoHo Lun by Alan Boon
China hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of professional wrestling in the sport’s varied history. Discounting Gorilla Monsoon and the Mighty Chang, who were very much not Chinese, there has been a distinct lack of athletes from the world’s biggest population making it onto the world stage.
This can largely be explained by a lack of shows to inspire the natives, aside from visits from the top British and Australian stars in the post-colonial era entertaining British ex-pats at prices beyond the reach of the average Hong Kong citizen.
However, the emergence in the mid-2000s of Middle Kingdom Wrestling and Chinese Wrestling Entertainment changed all that, and the CWC's HoHo Lun and Jason Lee are the first fruits from that cultural glasnost.
The CWC isn’t Lun’s first foray into international wrestling. After completing his rudimentary training at CWE’s Guangzhou school, he traveled to the UK where he enrolled at the 4-Front Wrestling academy.
During that trip, he made several appearances for 4FW and after a trip back home, he returned for more dates with 4FW, Triple-X, and other small independent promotions. One further trip in 2013 brought with it appearances for ATTACK!-Pro, Fight Club:PRO, and more. In those UK visits, he faced Mark Andrews, Tyler Bate, and Pete Dunne, amongst others.
Back home in China, Lun continues to work for CWE and Middle Kingdom. He also opened Zero-1 Hong Kong, an extension of his own Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling Federation, which led to him traveling to Japan to fight for Zero-1 proper (something he has in common with fellow CWC competitor, Jack Gallagher).
With WWE having signed their first Chinese national, 22-year old Bin Wang, to a developmental contract, and with WWE shows now being beamed live into Chinese homes, Lun is in the right place at the right time and the CWC is his shop window.
His limited experience and relative youth, plus a tough first round match against Daivari, may mean it will be a short window, but his history has already shown he’s willing to take risks for future gain. There’s no reason to think this will be any different.
Look for our next bracket later today and our full coverage of the CWC starting Wednesday.