Skip to main content

WWE Cruiserweight Classic week two preview: Tozawa & TJP make their debut

tozawajohnsonwon.jpg

After last week's inaugural episode debuted to almost universal praise, the second week of the Cruiserweight Classic tournament will air tonight on the WWE Network.

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.

Akira Tozawa vs. Kenneth Johnson --

Image placeholder title

Akira Tozawa by Alan Counihan

When I think "biggest potential breakout stars" in the Cruiserweight Classic, Akira Tozawa is at the top of the list. The main reason I can say this is simple: we’ve seen him do it before.

In 2010, Tozawa came to America as an unknown. He had spent four years on the Dragon Gate undercard treated as a joke for the most part. Once he reached the States, he cut loose. He became a cult favourite in Reseda for PWG and was wanted by indies across the country.

Everywhere he went, he got over with his unique charisma, undeniable charm, and incredible wrestling ability.

Inevitably, he was recalled to Japan in mid-2011 and has become one of DG’s best performers (arguably THE best) ever since. With DG’s hectic schedule, Tozawa hasn’t wrestled outside of Japan much in recent years and thus has fallen off the radars of those who don’t follow the promotion.

He’s only gotten better and he’s as excited as anyone in the field for this opportunity. Make no mistake, THE STAMINA MONSTER is coming to steal the show.

Image placeholder title

Kenneth Johnson by Bryan Rose

Not much is known about Johnson -- one of the few on this roster that hasn't made a name for themselves on the independents, at least on a mainstream level. But that's okay as if there is ever a platform to step up and show what you are made of, it's the Cruiserweight Classic.

A wrestler based in Detroit, MI, Johnson has had runs in Ring of Honor. His WWE CWC profile claims that he puts his body on the line every night and has demolished many larger opponents in the past, which, at 5'11 and 156 pounds, sounds very interesting. 

Who knows how Johnson will do in this tournament? So little is known about him, he could either be really great or fail to make an impact. But, since he's wrestling on a show that many Network subscribers will watch, it's up for him to make a name for himself in this tournament.

TJ Perkins vs. Da Mack --

4IjSU7q.jpg

TJ Perkins by Bryan Rose

Although he's just 31, TJ Perkins has been wrestling since 1999.

A few years after making his debut, he went to train at the short-lived NJPW Dojo in Los Angeles with the likes of Daniel Bryan and Rocky Romero. At 18, he was already wrestling on main cards for New Japan Pro Wrestling, making him the youngest foreign talent to ever wrestle for the company.

He is more well known for his run in TNA as he went through a series of start and stop pushes under various gimmicks. His big run started when he took the helm of Suicide and ran with it, winning the X Division title in the process.

The gimmick was convoluted and didn't make much sense as he appeared on TV both masked and unmasked for some unknown reason. He eventually renamed himself Manik and donned new attire, but didn't find much luck in terms of a push before eventually being released after months of not being used.

Since leaving TNA, he's worked for other companies that include PWG and Evolve.

TJP is another veteran who should do really well in this tournament if given the chance. He has the ability to go very far and already has a decade plus of experience wrestling all around the world. No matter who he faces, there's a good chance he'll be able to adjust to whatever style his opponent is the most comfortable with and should have great matches in the process.

Y6PoCrP.jpg

Da Mack by Mike DellaCamera

They say you should always dance with what brought you here, and it's safe to assume that’s what Da Mack will do.

Whether it’s putting on a show between corner chops or moonwalking across the ring, CWC viewers will have a hard time forgetting this compelling German wrestler. Some wrestlers have an innate charisma that resonates, and if you watched the introduction video, it’s easy to see that with Da Mack.

Spending the better part of the last five years with German-based Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), he currently holds their Shotgun championship. He also comprises half the European Wrestling Promotion (EWP) tag team champions along with Axel Dieter Jr. Together, they make up the team Hot and Spicy which should immediately make them your favorite tag team.

The real matchup to root for is a dance off between Da Mack and Rich Swann. That way, we all win.

Lince Dorado vs. Mustafa Ali --

926dYwO.jpg

Lince Dorado by Joseph Currier

Lince Dorado is the sole representative of Puerto Rican heritage in the CWC. The tournament comes at a good time with the Golden Lynx looking to find a regular home in wrestling.

Dorado began his career in CHIKARA, learning from Mike Quackenbush, Chris Hero, and Cesaro. He was regarded as a promising prospect and was a regular for CHIKARA from 2007-2010 before parting ways with the promotion.

Dorado has since been largely based in Florida, working for a plethora of independent promotions.

Adept at lucha libre, Dorado is an impressive high flyer and will look to provide the tournament with a more traditional cruiserweight style.

uiV1YJx.jpg

Mustafa Ali by Mike DellaCamera

The current DREAMWAVE World champion and holder of the Freelance Wrestling championship, “Prince” Mustafa Ali enters the CWC looking to add another title to his resume.

The Illinois-based veteran has over a decade of experience on the independent scene, and Ali is the first Pakistani to wrestle for WWE. His expansive independent career has seen him have matches with a veritable “who’s who” of indie stalwarts like Chris Hero, Jigsaw, and CHIKARA founder Mike Quackenbush, just to name a few.

Both technically and aerially proficient, Ali is equally comfortable both on the mat or in the air. Audiences could see Ali end his matches with either his trademark implosion 450 he calls “The Weapon of Mass Destruction” or make someone tap to “A Call to Arms”, his crossface chicken wing variant.

Tajiri vs. Damian Slater --

Image placeholder title

Tajiri by Alan Counihan

Since leaving WWE in 2005, Yoshihiro Tajiri has had quite the eclectic career. He bounced around different places like HUSTLE, New Japan, and All Japan where he was more living off the gimmick than anything else.

When he was placed in charge of new promotion SMASH in 2010, he became a bit more consistently active and had more matches in which felt like the Tajiri of old (including a great bout against Fit Finlay).

SMASH became Wrestling New Classic in 2012, but was never able to break into the top tier of promotions in Japan and folded in 2014. Ever since, “The Japanese Buzzsaw” has been competing in Keiji Muto’s WRESTLE-1 promotion on somewhat of a part-time basis as he has other business interests outside wrestling.

The clear theme with the former ECW star in recent years has simply been a one of motivation, or lack thereof.

His matches generally aren’t all that good, but it’s abundantly clear it’s more to do with how much he’s willing to do rather than depleted skills. He’s shown on more than one occasion that the skills are still there, and he’s a veteran with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. I saw this in person at Korakuen Hall this year when he faced Kotaro Suzuki and wrestled an excellent match focused on attacking the arm.

In the CWC, in front of a worldwide audience once again, it’s very likely that we’ll see a motivated Tajiri and if that’s the case, that may mean we see the Tajiri of old.

Image placeholder title

Damian Slater by Mike DellaCamera

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of other recent Australian WWE superstars such as Emma and TM61 (Shane Thorne and Nick Miller, both of whom don’t kneel), Slater enters the CWC with unique offense and a personality to match.

After all, how many wrestlers can say they competed on Deal or No Deal and put the host to sleep with a rear naked choke?

Slater began his training under Australian trainer Col Devaney before moving on to study under the likes of Jesse Hernandez in California, and Ikuto Hidaka in Japan. Slater represents the ‘young veteran’ idea much like one of his fellow competitors and another of his former trainers, TJ Perkins, who he states is a huge influence on his style.

While he may be new to a United States audience, Slater has experience working with some of the biggest names in international wrestling in some of the biggest venues.

In 2012, he had the opportunity to wrestle in the famed Korakuen Hall as part of a three-month stint with Zero-1. Then, in 2014, Slater stepped into the ring with global superstar and current NXT roster member Shinsuke Nakamura in one of his self-proclaimed ‘greatest personal matches’.

He is the current Australian Middleweight Champion, the oldest active championship in Australia.