The second round begins! The first round was relatively easy to predict; if I had heard of them, they were probably advancing. This next round is much tougher to pick though, with only a few heavy favorites obviously advancing. The first round had mixed quality. There was nothing bad, but nothing really stood out either. It was definitely worth watching though, if nothing more than for the novelty of all these guys on WWE television. The show opens with a fantastic video package recapping the first round and the 16 men who advanced.
Tajiri (Japan, strong style) vs Gran Metalik (Mexico, lucha libre): This is a pretty big clash of styles, we will see if Tajiri can keep up with the younger and faster Gran Metalik. Tajiri is no stranger to lucha libre, though the style has certainly evolved since Tajiri was fighting the likes of Super Crazy. Tajiri is able to keep up with Metalik early as they run the ropes, showing Tajiri’s lucha skills. They also exchange grounded holds, going from armbars and leg locks, showing Metalik’s proficiency in the more technical style.
Tajiri gets the advantage, and the crowd, with some mean kicks, but Metalik shows some of the strong style he picked up in Japan, creating space with elbows then hitting a springboard dropkick. That’s just the start though, as he walks the rope, diving to the outside and landing on Tajiri, bringing the crowd to his feet. He tight rope walks again, landing a diving elbow drop from the middle of the ropes. Metalik is flying around the ring, but gets caught attempting a hurricanrana, Tajiri countering it into a powerbomb. Metalik ducks a Buzzsaw kick, and lifts Tajiri on his shoulders, driving him headfirst into the mat with the Metalik Driver. Really solid start to the second round. ***1/2
Kota Ibushi (Japan, high flying, strong style) vs Cedric Alexander (USA, high flying): This match had a ton of buzz coming out of the tapings, let’s see if it lives up to the hype. Ibushi is one of my favorites to win, but Cedric is highly entertaining to watch. Ibushi had a few matches on NXT proper, getting a few wins, which only makes his stock in this tournament rise. They’re very evenly matched early, with neither man able to get an advantage. Bryan and Ranallo are great on commentary, telling us how Ibushi is the favorite to win this tournament, but Alexander has wanted a match against Ibushi for a long time. Ibushi is unable to hit one of his devastating kicks early on like he did last match.
Cedric avoids the Triangle Moonsault to the outside, and Alexander counters with a big dive, followed by a springboard elbow for a two count. Ibushi is able to take control with some stiff strikes, and hits the moonsault this time. Cedric counters a running attack with a Michinoku Driver! Cedric lands on his feet when Ibushi tries a top rope hurricanrana, these guys are going all out here. Alexander hits Ibushi with everything he has, but Ibushi keeps kicking out. Ibushi finally puts Alexander away with a lifting powerbomb, but damn! This was one hell of a match. ****1/2
After the match, the crowd chants “Please sign Cedric” as he stands at the entrance in tears, and HHH comes out, raising his hand. A good sign for him I’d say.