MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-American wrestler TJ Perkins earned a ticket to the WWE Cruiserweight Classic semifinals with a submission victory over Rich Swann, and will face Japanese star Kota Ibushi with a finals berth going to the winner.
Perkins, 31, of Los Angeles, California had great chemistry with Swann, another staple of the US indy scene with whom he's shared locker rooms with at promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and Evolve. Their friendship, and their hardluck upbringing in the unpredictable world of pro wrestling, were the main themes of the match, which rose to a fever pitch as the two men grappled and taunted to early stalemates.
The match turned when Swann, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland, sold a knee injury following an attempted Asai moonsault from the ring apron. Perkins began targeting the knee, but mixed in a few tributes to his hero, the late-Eddie Guerrero, including a senton from over the top rope and a suplex-to-back suplex in the fashion of Guerrero's 3 Amigos signature move.
The finish came as Swann walked into Perkins' signature Detonation Kick, then tapped out to a kneebar. Perkins came to Swann's aid immediately after the bell sounded as a sign of friendship. The two shared another moment in a backstage segment where Swann urged on Perkins to go all the way in the 205 pounds-and-under tournament.
"We're brothers, I want you to go to the next round. But I also want you to go to the finals and bring that trophy home," said Swann.
In Ibushi, Perkins is facing perhaps the highest-profile performer in the tournament. Ibushi, a star in New Japan Pro Wrestling, has had exciting matches with the likes of AJ Styles and Kenny Omega, plus his 5-star epic against Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in 2015.
The semis are set for September 14, and the winner of Ibushi vs Perkins will face the winner of the Gran Metalik vs Zack Sabre Jr semis match on the same day.
The cruiserweight division, which was popular during the 90s and 2000s on WCW Monday Nitro and WWE shows, will be featured on the Raw brand. – Rappler.com