Since WWE formed a new cruiserweight division and a (mostly) one-hour show on the WWE Network, it has been seeking to replicate the success of the event that spurred all of this -- the Cruiserweight Classic.
The division has had its ups and downs, a fair share of promising moments, plus headscratchers that left fans questioning the process. Regardless of your opinion, the division has often struggled to connect with the audience, especially the live crowd who has just watched a two-hour SmackDown Live.
But the charges against and subsequent release of cruiserweight champion Enzo Amore has given WWE a chance to reboot the division, and it's as close to the original Cruiserweight Classic as we've gotten since TJ Perkins won it.
The 16-man tournament to crown a new champion (which will culminate at WrestleMania, assuring that the division is represented at the biggest event of the year), got underway last week, with Cedric Alexander and Perkins moving on in a pair of solid matches.
This week, the tournament provided another pair of matches worthy of the Classic, plus a surprise member of the round of eight.
The main event saw Roderick Strong in his divisional debut, taking on Hideo Itami. What started with back-and-forth mat wrestling turned into a slugfest, confirming analyst Nigel McGuinness' pre-match breakdown that it was Itami's strikes against Strong's endurance.
The match really picked up when the action spilled to the floor. The two traded shots until Strong caught an Itami kick attempt and dropped him forcibly onto the corner of the ring apron -- a rib/spine/shoulder rattling maneuver.
It was a masterful display of false finishes and high spots. Submission attempts narrowly broken, a pop-up gubuster, Cloud Nine and top-rope Falcon Arrow all only got two counts.
The finish came after Itami hit his hanging corner dropkick, but Strong fought back with a running knee and a suplex-turned-backbreaker (the Heartache) for a surprise win.
After Tyler Bate was unable to defeat a slumping TJP last week, and Strong in a program for the United Kingdom Championship, coupled with Itami's dominance since joining 205 Live, an Itami victory was the easy pick. But the unpredictability, along with some new faces to the division, will only help the tournament.
That match also seemed like a surefire Kalisto victory, as Dorado has been in a supporting role since the division launched. But a back-and-forth matchup, coupled with Dorado hitting his Springboard Stunner and Shooting Star Press, put this match in doubt.
The finish was another great spot, as Kalisto hit a reverse hurricanrana. It wasn't hit entirely clean, but the two sold it well, and it was followed up so quickly with Kalisto's second Solida del Sol of the match for a win and a spot in the final eight.
Two matches, two "this is awesome chants" and all four competitors coming out of the match looking strong. WWE needs performances like this for the health of the cruiserweight division, and so far, it's started with just top-notch matches. But the surprises and new faces get people to those matches. And with a full bracket not revealed for the tournament, it suggests there's another surprise to come.
Hits and Misses
The self-shot videos are a chance for talent to showcase their personalities. Akira Tozawa used it for good with a goofy, fun video previewing his match next week with Mark Andrews.
Alexander and Mustafa Ali's video wasn't as smooth, neither has Tozawa's charisma, but hopefully was foreshadowing a match between the two in this tournament. Ali would need a win to not feel like a second-tier member of the division.
Maverick called out Drew Gulak for being a "goof" and Tony Nese for squandering his physical gifts? Please don't let this be the end of Gulak's character. He's so much more valuable with his powerpoint presentations than just a grizzled mat technician.
Superlatives of the Night
Move: Strong backed up his "Messiah of the Backbreaker" moniker as his dumping Itami onto the ring apron made me wince.
Line: Co-winners: "Who's going to win? Hey, hey, you don't know... I'm going to win next week, and then yoooooooou're fiiiiiiiiiired." - Tozawa, channeling his inner-McMahon, asking somebody backstage for their prediction
"It really sucks to dedicate 20 years of your life to something just to get booed for succeeding at it." - Perkins, playing a different side of his heel character
Match: Both were really good matches and worth a watch if you dozed off after SmackDown, but I'll give a nod to Strong-Itami for the stiffness and false finishes.