Going into this Wednesday’s episode of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, there was a buzz about several of the night’s competitors. Japanese legend Kota Ibushi, one of the odds on favourite to win the inaugural new WWE Network tournament, was top of everyone’s list – long time fans knew exactly the kind of athletic ingenuity and creative approach Ibushi was capable off and this tournament offered him new opponents; for the newly initiated, his first round CWC match against Sean Maluta and the July 27 match on NXT against former NXT Tag Team Champion Buddy Murphy, gave them a glimmer into the magical potential of this former 3-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, whom many in the industry consider the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world.
Mexico’s Gran Metalik – better known to indie purists as NJPW/CMLL wrestler Mascara Dorada – won a lot of new fans with his first round win (so much so that he’s reportedly already signed on to join NXT in September’s next new recruits) and many were eager to see what he could bring in a second showing. His opponent on Wednesday was also riding a surge of nostalgia, from WWE to NJPW fans alike, in the “Japanese Buzzsaw” Tajiri.
But ultimately, in a match most thought would be a showcase for Kota Ibushi, it was the fourth and final competitor of the night whose name was chanted in the halls of a fickle Full Sail University.
The first night of the Second Round of the CWC belonged to Cedric Alexander.
Don’t get me wrong. The other three all did their jobs admirably – Ibushi put on another clinic, Gran Metalik continued to dazzle, and Tajiri had a solid final match in the tournament for a feel good moment. But both the in-ring star – and also the best feel good moment – went to former long time Ring of Honor wrestler Cedric Alexander. The other three were expected to stand out. But Cedric Alexander went out and stood out.
Charlotte, North Carolina’s Cedric Alexander, trained by old territorial enhancement talent George South (who worked for NWA and WWF), began working dark matches for ROH in 2009 and 2010, before entering the show as part of C&C Wrestle Factory with Caprice Coleman in 2011. For three years, the tag team flirted with Tag Team gold, but failed to win a title before the team split in 2013. Both men went on to singles careers, but it was Cedric Alexander who shone brightest. During his run he had matches against top ROH stars like Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin, ROH World Champion Jay Lethal and perhaps most memorably, the feud that introduced most of the world to Moose. But by the time his feud with Moose ended, it seemed like Cedric Alexander had run his course with ROH. There was new faces coming into the company, NJPW was getting more involved, The Bullet Club needed it’s place. So in early 2016, he announced his departure from Ring of Honour following six years with the company he’d began with.
It didn’t take Alexander long to find work. He debuted in WWN‘s Evolve promotion, in a match against former UFC star Matthew Riddle at Evolve 62. Alexander showed a spark he hadn’t shown in ages, and a confidence that was infectious. Riddle himself had never looked better in a professional wrestling ring. Unfortunately for the two of them, the “pipebomb” fallout from EC3 and Drew Galloway stole the majority of the events thunder of the next few days. But the subsequent announcement that Alexander would be a competitor in the highly anticipated new Cruiserweight Classic tournament brought many smiles to indie fans around the world.
Cedric has continued to have great matches in Evolve – against Fred Yehi and NXT’s Johnny Gargano – as well as impress in his own first round victory over Clement Petiot (European grappler Tristan Archer). But it wasn’t until he was paired up with the elite that his true potential was allowed to emerge. And wow, was it beautiful.
His grace is flawless, his athleticism precise but natural, and his charisma is in the range of emotions he can pull out of you in a match. Anger, anticipation, sympathy, excitement, you got it all from this match. There was no heel in this match. Everyone loved Ibushi going in. But coming out, the crowd was equally – if not more – on Alexander’s. In a match where he wasn’t expected to be the best man in the ring, he showed that on any given night, he could be.
The night ended with another wonderful moment akin to those Breaking Ground moments from NXT. A normally sarcassholish crowd at Full Sail University chanted “Please Sign Cedric” to a standing ovation, bringing the true emotions of gratitude from Alexander’s eyes. His career had been redeemed so far in that one glorious moment.
And in seeming agreement, Triple H came out of from behind the curtains and nodded in agreement with the crowd, extending his arms to the sweaty and emotional man before him. If they weren’t sure about Cedric Alexander for their roster beforehand, I would bet everyone in that room behind the curtain was now unanimously in agreement. And like another Alexander the Great, he’s done it by slowly conquering every landscape put in front of him, with a sense of grace, an unsuspecting strength, and an unwavering charisma.
He had to turn his back on Honor in order to Evolve, but he could very well be the NXT Superstar that we’ve been looking forward too.
“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.”