This is the last night of the first round, and they saved a couple of doozy’s for last. I’m still behind on, well, everything, so no more wasting time.
Jason Lee (Hong Kong, China, high-flying) vs Rich Swann (United States, high-flying): Swann has competed a few times on NXT television, and has been impressive. He’s got all the tools, including that all important charisma factor. I know a lot of people were looking forward to him being in this tournament. I do not know Jason Lee, but I hope he’s better than his Chinese compatriot HoHo Lun.
Both these guys are fast. Swann runs and flips around Lee, but Lee gets him with some quick martial arts strikes. Swann is super impressive athletically, hitting a leaping hurricanrana on the top rope, then an AWESOME standing 450 splash for the win. This was too quick to be anything but an impressive showcase for Rich Swann. **1/2
Noam Dar (Scotland, technical) vs Gurv Shira (India, technical): Noam Dar is a guy I’ve heard a bit about, but have never watched. He is apparently the youngest guy in the tournament. Shira watched his brother lose his match earlier in the tournament, so will certianly be trying to make sure the “Bollywood Boys” stay in contention.
The early parts of this match are rough. Two technical guys, without the charisma of a Zack Sabre Jr, means there’s not a lot of heat for the early exchanges. Noam is trying to get the crowd into it, but doesn’t get a lot of response. No one is buying a dropkick as the finish. Dar hits a Fisherman’s Suplex and transitions nicely into a kneebar for the win. This was short, and might be the worst match of the tourney so far. **
Jack Gallagher (England, technical) vs Fabian Aichner (Italy, technical): Gallagher is a World of Sports highlight reel. His holds and escapes are impossibly entertaining. He is the Gentleman Wrestler. Fabian I don’t know much about, but I do know he is about twice the size of Gallagher
They exchange wristlocks. That sounds boring, but amazingly it’s the best thing on the show so far. Daniel Bryan even goes so far as to wonder if he’s falling in love as Gallagher exquisitely ties Aichner into knots. Aichner more of less holds his own though, able to use his size advantage, then Aichner busts out an impressive double springboard moonsault. Aichner also counters a guillotine choke into a great powerbomb. Then Gallagher hits a headbutt of all things, and wins with… a dropkick in the corner. Remember how I said last match no one would buy a dropkick finish? Gallagher and Aichner made them buy it. Would definately not mind seeing more of Aichner is NXT. ***
Johnny Gargano (United States, technical) vs Tommaso Ciampa (United States, striking): Both these guys have been in NXT for almost a year, forming a tag team that recently challenged for the NXT Tag Titles. Gargano was, and in a lot of ways still is, the face of the American independent wrestling scene. Gargano is my pick to win his region and advance to the final four.
Ciampa isn’t messing around. Friendship is out the window as he lays into Gargano early with a loud, vicious elbow strike, following him around the ring with several more. Seriously, Ciampa nails him with a good half-dozen elbows right to the jaw. Gargano isn’t out of it yet though, hitting a flurry of offense climaxing into a suicide dive. This is great back and forth action, with Gargano doing everything he can to avoid Ciampa’s elbows and knees, but he can’t avoid them all, and he definitely doesn’t avoid a goddamn Air Raid Crash on the apron!. Ciampa lowers the kneepad, then hesitates, pulling it back up, not willing to injure his friend. So of course he gets superkicked for his trouble. Gargano is great here as a resilient babyface. He takes so much punishment, and when Ciampa pulls the elbow pads off and swings, Gargano dodges, countering into a crucifix pin. This was really good, easily the best match of the tournament so far. ****
So our second round match ups are: Akira Tozawa vs Jack Gallagher & Tajiri vs Gran Metalik, Drew Galuk vs Zack Sabre Jr & Noam Dar vs Hoho Lun, Brian Kendrick vs Tony Nese & Kota Ibushi vs Cedric Alexander, and finally TJ Perkins vs Johnny Gargano & Lince Dorado vs Rich Swann.