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WWE Cruiserweight Classic Preview pt. 3: Kota Ibushi, Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander

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.

We began with Bracket A, moved on to Bracket B, and now we head to to Bracket C (upper right):

C Bracket

Let's begin.

Raul Mendoza vs. Brian Kendrick --

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Raul Mendoza by Mike DellaCamera

At only 24, the sky might be the limit for this young luchador out of Mexico.

Debuting in 2009 for the legendary AAA promotion, Mendoza has wrestled all over the world under different names including a stint in Japan’s Pro Wrestling NOAH – the former home company of WWE’s own Hideo Itami – as Jinzo.  Mendoza will look to make an immediate name for himself when he takes on WWE veteran Brian Kendrick in round one.

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Brian Kendrick by Bryan Rose

One of the more established veterans on the roster, Brian Kendrick was known as someone with a lot of potential early on in his career, but booking and size pretty much kept him down from achieving really great success.

At this stage of the game, other workers are far better than he is, but Kendrick is still really sound and should do well in this tournament if motivated.

Breaking out around the same time Daniel Bryan and Paul London entered the indy scene, Kendrick was trained by Shawn Michaels, someone that you probably heard of. He was quickly signed to a WWE deal in 2000 and when called up a few years later, was known as a bit of a goofball. Eventually, he morphed into someone that had potential, but was cut before he ever really got a chance to show it.

A few years late,r he was re-signed and teamed up with London for years on the Smackdown roster. They were one of the best teams in WWE at the time, but politics eventually caused them to break up and be put on different brands.

Kendrick established himself as a singles wrestler, calling himself The Brian Kendrick, to mixed results. He had a push at first, but like with so many other guys on the WWE roster, eventually it fizzled out and he wound up being a casualty of roster cuts in 2009.

Since then, Kendrick has mostly worked independents, along with a somewhat memorable run as X Division champion in TNA.

Kendrick has been off and on NXT for the last year, best known for having a match with Finn Balor on TV, as well as being known as the person who is trying to make Eva Marie into a competent wrestler.

At 37, Kendrick is one of the older participants in this tournament, and he's out to prove that he's still got it.

Anthony Bennett vs. Tony Nese --

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Anthony Bennett by Joseph Currier

Anthony Bennett is one of many largely unknown wrestlers in the Cruiserweight Classic, which is strange given that he is from the United States. It will be interesting to see what WWE talent recruiters saw in Bennett to give him one of the tournament’s 32 coveted spots.

Bennett’s defining characteristic is his high-top fade. He enters the ring with two pairs of light-up glasses, one for his eyes and one for his hair.

A product of the Monster Factory wrestling school, Bennett is a former Supersonic and heavyweight champion in their promotion.

Little video of Bennett is available online, and he unfortunately almost immediately botches a springboard spot pretty badly in one of his only singles matches available on YouTube, but he appears to be a solid athlete that grasps the importance of entertaining the audience.

Whether he’s able to make it past the first round or not, the Cruiserweight Classic is going to be invaluable for Bennett’s career.

Any appearance on WWE produced programming increases an independent wrestler's profile and Bennett will see an increase in bookings if he is not signed by WWE. That will allow him to get more experience and further establish himself to wrestling fans.

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Tony Nese by Joseph Currier

The man who calls himself a “premier athlete” is one of the competitors with the most to gain in this tournament.

It’s difficult to argue with Tony Nese’s categorization of himself as his impressive athleticism and strength allow him to do pretty much everything he wants to in the ring.

He says that he “moves like a cruiserweight and hits like a heavyweight.” And with one of the most impressive physiques in the field, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the WWE seriously consider signing Nese after the CWC is over.

But for all of his athleticism, Nese has yet to establish himself at the highest level of independent stardom.

The Long Island native and Mikey Whipwreck trainee has had an impressive career, working extensively in the New York area. He even had a brief run in TNA and is now a regular in Evolve, where he formerly held the organization’s tag team titles with Caleb Konley. Nese earned his way into the CWC by defeating Drew Gulak, Johnny Gargano, Lince Dorado, and TJ Perkins in Evolve’s Cruiserweight Classic Flashpoint elimination match.

Despite all of that success, Nese has yet to become the type of talent that regularly headlines the highest profile independent shows in the United States as a singles wrestler.

This tournament is a showcase for Nese, whether it ultimately gets him signed by the WWE or increases his profile outside of it.

Kota Ibushi vs. Sean Maluta --

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Kota Ibushi by Alan Counihan

Being positioned as one of the biggest stars in the CWC, it’s clear that WWE knows what they have in Kota Ibushi. Well, to the extent that they knew he was one of the best wrestlers in the world anyway.

They may not have realized what a lunatic the man is, and may not have realized that he would be such a wild card that he would cheerily high five a confused Vince McMahon upon meeting him in Dallas (this actually happened because apparently Ibushi didn’t know what Vince looked like and thought it was just some guy).

However, it’s this lunacy that makes Ibushi the wrestler he is. He’s a wild card in and out of the ring, but is a creative genius that just seems to make stuff up as he goes.

Ibushi has been a part of Match Of The Year classics legitimately every year since 2007. He is a world class high flyer, a fearsome striker, and knows how to take the drama of a match to the next level.

He is a lock for reaching the semifinals at the very least and has been tipped by many as the tournament winner.

One great thing about him is how well he does in first time matches. He has a way of clicking with opponents that he’s never been in the ring with before and always delivers in dream matches. He’s sure to have a couple of them this summer.

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Sean Maluta by Mike DellaCamera

Part of the legendary Anoa’I wrestling family, "The Samoan Dragon" certainly has the bloodline and pedigree to make a name for himself in the CWC.

Beginning his training at the age of 14 under his Hall of Fame Uncle Afa at the Wild Samoan Pro Wrestling Training center, Maluta has been wrestling for the better part of 12 years.

He also spent time training under Samu of the Headshrinkers, as well as the legendary Haku. He made his in-ring debut in 2008 and has wrestled extensively for Florida’s World Xtreme Wrestling (WXW) ever since.

A technical wrestler who lists Eddie Guerrero, Homicide, and KENTA as some of his inspirations, Maluta won’t hesitate to unleash a flurry of strikes, often ending matches with the savate kick, which, incidentally, doubles as his Twitter handle.

The magnitude of the CWC is not lost on him calling it “the biggest platform for cruiserweights ever.” Any time your family reunion can include the Usos, Roman Reigns, The Rock, and The Wild Samoans, wrestling is embedded in your DNA.

‘The Samoan Dragon’ will look to make his own name and do his family proud during the CWC. The road to cruiserweight glory certainly won’t be easy as he will have to deal with the man many are picking to win the tournament, Kota Ibushi, in round one.

Cedric Alexander vs. Clement Petiot --

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Cedric Alexander by Bryan Rose

Cedric Alexander is a bright prospect on the indie scene that has a real good shot at being signed by WWE should he do well in this tournament.

At 26, he's someone who is already pretty good with natural charisma, and with more time should evolve into a really good performer with a lot of upside.

Him being in the tournament is kind of a surprise, given that for many years was part of the Ring of Honor roster. He seemed like a talent ROH should have cultivated, but yet never did much with when the time was right. He originally started with the company as part of the C&C Wrestle Factory with Caprice Coleman. When they broke up, Alexander turned heel and joined forces with valet Veda Scott.

The end result of this partnership? Well, nothing.

For months, Alexander and Scott talked about some sort of lawsuit that got them tons of money. Then Alexander's contract was up and the angle was dropped without much fanfare. No, it doesn't make much sense, but that's what happened.

Despite ROH's weird booking, Alexander still comes out of his ROH run as someone to watch with a ton of talent. This tournament is perfect for someone like Alexander -- a grand opportunity to showcase what he has at this stage of the game when all eyes are on you.

Whether Alexander has it or not compared to others in this tournament is anyone's guess, but the potential is still very much there.

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Clement Petiot by Matt Farmer

French wrestler Tristan Archer will be using his birth name Clemont Petiot while competing in the CWC.

Petiot began wrestling in 2009 after being trained by Lance Storm out of Calgary. After training with Lance and gaining some experience wrestling in Europe, Clement came to the United States for some additional training and work with Jesse Hernandez out of Southern California.

While he has competed all across Europe for the majority of his career, this has not stopped him from facing some of the best wrestlers in the world.

In his home country of France in 2015, he challenged Tommy End for his ICWA Championship in a wild brawl that helped Petiot gain a lot of attention as one of wrestling’s true up and coming stars. His first round opponent is one of the tournament favorites in Cedric Alexander.

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Look for our final bracket later today and our full coverage of the CWC starting tonight.