Skip to main content

WWE Cruiserweight Classic week four preview: Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa

garganociampawon.jpg

The first round of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic comes to its end tonight, and it features the round's most anticipated matchup with tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa going at it for the right to advance in the tournament.

Tonight's episode will also feature the tournament debut of European stars Jack Gallagher and Noam Dar, as well as Rich Swann's first appearance in the CWC as he looks to find his footing in WWE.

In order to help get you familiar and/or learn more about the competitors, 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

Let's begin.

Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa --

rGt4Zcw.jpg

Johnny Gargano by Joseph Currier

“Johnny Wrestling” was initially thought to be a favorite to win the entire tournament, but with a tough draw against tag team partner Tommaso Ciampa, there is no guarantee that he even advances past the first round.

Gargano will face-off against Ciampa in the first round’s toughest matchup, and unfortunately, that means that one of NXT’s brightest rising stars isn’t going to get a chance to continue to showcase what they can do as a singles wrestler in the tournament.

Both Gargano and Ciampa debuted as a tag team in NXT in 2015. They were initially used mostly as glorified enhancement talents, but after signing with the company, they have been on an impressive win streak lately and are looking to take the NXT tag team titles from The Revival.

The still 28-year-old Gargano has become one of professional wrestling’s most promising young stars, and it’s his versatility that really makes him stand out.

He is good at almost all aspects of the game. In just the lead-up to this tournament, Gargano has had an incredible match in PROGRESS with Mark Haskins, grappled with Zack Sabre Jr. in AAW, and brawled with EC3 and Drew Galloway in Evolve. Working all over the world has made him so good at so many different styles, he’s only gotten better as he’s gained more experience. Along the way, he has even developed the skills to deliver a more than competent promo.

Gargano has been arguably the top star in Gabe Sapolsky’s World Wrestling Network promotions, and has become the face of Evolve in the last few years. After getting his start in Cleveland, Gargano has worked for AIW, CHIKARA, Dragon Gate in Japan, and PWG in addition to his role in WWN.

His future has always been bright, but Gargano might have already become even better than most expected. He can become one of the NXT’s biggest stars, whether it’s tagging with Ciampa or as a singles wrestler. And with the WWE always becoming more open to showcasing smaller talents, there’s no reason that Gargano can’t succeed on the main roster.

Whether he is able to win the CWC or not, this is only the beginning for Gargano.

ySYmCRf.jpg

Tommaso Ciampa by Bryan Rose

Ciampa should be well known to those who follow NXT as he's been a regular on the roster since last year.

Along with tag team partner Johnny Gargano, Ciampa has been dominant in NXT’s tag team division with a title shot looking very likely in the future if he and Gargano can continue their momentum.

An interesting part of Ciampa's past is that he's a former developmental talent from another era, working in Ohio Valley Wrestling from 2005-2007. When he was released from his contract, that didn't deter him as he continued working in independents until joining Ring of Honor in 2011 where he started to build his reputation by being a part of their roster until last year. 

Ciampa chose to leave the promotion and began working all over the world, later getting dates for NXT. While Ciampa has been a part of WWE developmental off and on for years, he's proven to be one of the most well-versed talents in this tournament.

But an interesting twist here is that he'll be facing his tag team partner Gargano in the first round. Whether or not he makes it past Gargano, Ciampa is one of the better seasoned athletes on the roster that can bring it if the occasion calls for it.

Jack Gallagher vs. Fabian Aichner --

Image placeholder title

Jack Gallagher by Alan Counihan

The first thing you’ll notice about Gallagher is what he looks like as his throwback look and distinguished moustache certainly do catch the eye.

The second thing you’ll notice is that he’s possibly the most talented hold-for-hold mat wrestler in the world. Zack Sabre Jr. deservedly gets that hype, but Jack is every bit as good.

What you might not notice straight away, but what will come to be, is that “The Extraordinary Gentlemen” is one of the best babyfaces in the business. His connection which he can establish is unique and he is set to become one of the most popular guys on the indie scene (the recent announcement that he’ll be in Reseda for BOLA won’t hurt matters). You can’t help but root Gallagher on.

The Manchester resident cut his teeth in the North of England with his home base of Future Shock Wrestling giving him great opportunities against the likes of Davey Richards early in his career.

Gallagher traveled to Japan seeking both personal and professional growth and ended up acting as the resident shooter in the Zero-1 dojo. His shoot-style abilities come from training under the legendary Billy Robinson in the snakepit and that has lead to a burgeoning MMA career in which he’s off to a winning start.

2015 was a big breakout year on the UK indie scene with PROGRESS making him one of their regulars. He’s had a bunch of great matches there including his outstanding win over Pete Dunne which qualified him for the CWC.

Image placeholder title

Fabian Aichner by Matt Farmer

Austria native Aichner is a five-year veteran wrestling under the name Adrian Severe.

Aichner learned his craft from second-generation wrestler Alex Wright of WCW fame. When you first set eyes on him, you'll assume that his main attribute will be his brute strength, but don't let that fool you. He is capable of performing some truly death-defying maneuvers.

He is also a fundamentally sound wrestler, one of the rising stars of the vibrant resurgence of wrestling promotions in Germany and Austria.

In my opinion, Aichner will be one of the wrestlers who will catch people's eyes as a virtual unknown that surprises fans. As he faces Jack Gallagher in the first round of the CWC, this will be Aichner's first time wrestling in the United States.

Noam Dar vs. Gurv Sihra --

RdNOhcz.jpg

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.

2fez2YJ.jpg

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.

Rich Swann vs. Jason Lee --

pKbOj8K.jpg

Rich Swann by Joseph Currier

It is almost impossible not to root for Rich Swann to succeed.

His backstory was briefly profiled on the CWC Bracketology show, but the full story is even crazier than WWE let on.

Swann is from Baltimore, Maryland -- one of the most notoriously rough areas in the United States. He lost both his father and mother when he was a teenager. Forced to live a life without his parents, he began to associate more with friends who were gang members. He got hooked on cocaine and only stopped when his supplier died of a heart attack from its effects.

But wrestling saved Swann’s life. He moved in with his aunt and went to a wrestling school in York, Pennsylvania, and his career has been on the rise since.

Swann is a multi-talented performer who is adept at dancing, beatboxing, and making music. He’s also an incredible athlete and one of the best high flyers in the tournament. Few people in this field, or the entire wrestling world, have the combination of charisma, athleticism, and ability to work a crowd that Swann does.

Prior to signing with the WWE, Swann was probably best known for the infectious energy of his entrance, set to “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie, on the independent scene.

But even if you didn’t know the difficult road that Swann took to get to the WWE, and even without the soothing sounds of Richie, it is still difficult not to root for him. His love for life and professional wrestling is apparent in everything he does in the ring.

As a member of the NXT roster, the Full Sail crowd will be at least somewhat familiar with Swann. He has wrestled on television in short losses to Finn Balor and Baron Corbin, and has wrestled on many NXT live events in Florida.

Before reporting to the WWE Performance Center in 2015, Swann was one of the fastest rising stars on the independent scene and even had a lengthy stay in Japan with Dragon Gate. He has been a regular at CZW, Dragon Gate USA/Evolve, and PWG.

Swann has yet to really get going in NXT, and the CWC could be the perfect springboard for his career. Regardless of the CWC outcome, here's hoping he is featured regularly on NXT TV after the tournament.

c2KDbzi.jpg

Jason Lee by Alan Counihan

Hong Kong’s Jason Lee may end up as one of the surprise packages of the CWC.

The talented high flyer has been wrestling with the ZERO-1 promotion in Japan since 2012 and as a result, he has put a lot of time on the mat with greats like Ikuto Hidaka, Shinjiro Ohtani, and Masato Tanaka. He’s improved leaps and bounds in that time and won’t look out of place against any of the competitors in the field.

In the first round, Lee goes up against Rich Swann which could end up being one of the sleeper matches from the first few episodes of the show. They could compliment each other very well.

On the opposite side of the draw is Lee’s countryman HoHo Lun, and an all Hong Kong final would definitely be a dream come true for both men. With that realistically very unlikely to happen, it would be nice to see them cross paths in non-tournament action in the later weeks as the field is whittled down.