WWE’s product has, in recent years, evolved from big, muscular men getting almost all the big titles and juicy storylines, to one where smaller, more athletic men are given far more opportunities to succeed. That’s one reason why after several years, WWE decided to revive its Cruiserweight division, ushering it in through the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, which kicked off in July on the WWE Network. Last night, the Cruiserweight Classic wrapped up in memorable fashion, as former TNA competitor TJ Perkins defeated Gran Metalik to win the final round of the 32-man tournament.

Perkins has years of experience in major indies and TNA, but no stranger to WWE.

Avid Wrestling fans are mostly familiar with the name TJ Perkins. Prior to the Cruiserweight Classic, he had spent over a decade wrestling in Ring of Honor and other independent federations, and had most recently competed on a high level in TNA, using the ring name Manik. With TNA, he had most notably won the X Division Championship in 2013, but few are aware that he had also made a couple cameos in WWE in 2009. During that brief run, he was booked as a jobber named J.T. Quinn, yet had actually won his match against Sheamus, due to the latter being disqualified after a Shelton Benjamin run-in.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic had Perkins upsetting Ibushi before dramatic final

Given his credentials outside of WWE, Perkins, 32, was favored to go far in the Cruiserweight Classic, and was also among those signed to the company’s Cruiserweight Division ahead of last night’s finale. But he wasn’t as favored as Japanese wrestler Kota Ibushi, who had won multiple titles in his home country’s DDT Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

As such, it was considered a substantial upset when the Filipino-American Perkins made Ibushi tap out to his kneebar submission after a hard-fought, 15-minute semifinal match. That set up the final match between Perkins and Mexico’s Gran Metalik, who had defeated British wrestler Zack Sabre Jr. in the other semifinal.

Perkins vs. Metalik proved to be another match to remember, as both men traded high-flying moves over almost 18 minutes of action. The match ended when Perkins countered his opponent’s Metalik Driver finisher, putting him in a kneebar submission and making him tap out. He was then awarded the WWE Cruiserweight Championship belt by WWE executive/occasional wrestlerTriple H, closing out what had been an exciting show from start to finish.

What’s next in WWE for TJ Perkins?

Following his Cruiserweight Classic win, Perkins should become an integral part of 'Monday Night RAW' programming as the rebooted division’s first champion. Given that the RAWbrand features the likes of Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and other main event competitors, the Cruiserweight division may largely take a backseat with only one match a night, or two matches at most.

Still, Perkins’ status as an indie veteran with name recall and his ability to skillfully combine high-flying and technical wrestling should help make the division an entertaining one to a lot of fans.

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