When WWE Network aired the “Cruiserweight Classic’s” second round of matches in August, Charlotte native Cedric Alexander turned in a career-making match that set the online pro-wrestling community abuzz and left grown men, including Alexander, in tears.
The 27-year-old actually lost the match to Japan’s Kota Ibushi. But it was his name the crowd chanted in a call to “Please Sign Cedric.” An unprecedented post-match appearance by 14-time World Champion turned WWE executive vice president Triple H seemed to assure the crowd that Alexander was on his way to the main roster.
“That really threw me off,” says Alexander. “I was already full of emotion from wrestling Ibushi – who, ironically, when we were doing interviews (for the show) that is the guy I wanted to wrestle. When the brackets worked out, that was enough to make me tear up. But hearing the crowd…my trainer, George South, used to say, ‘Sometimes when you lose, you really win.’ ”
Alexander represents his hometown, along with second-generation superstar and WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair on Monday when “Raw” hits the Spectrum Center.
In 2009 Alexander, began training with South, who wrestled for Jim Crockett Promotions, WCW, and WWF and runs a pro-wrestling school in Charlotte. Within a couple of months, he was on the card at shows.
He became a fixture in independent pro-wrestling circles, holding several championship titles and working for the large “Ring of Honor” promotion as well as several others.
Yet even when he was on the road, says South, Alexander returned to train with South’s students on Tuesday night. He was there the night before he moved to Orlando to be near the WWE Performance Center earlier this year with his fiancé, wrestler Ariel Monroe, and their 2-year-old daughter (Monroe wrestled Nia Jacks on “Raw” in August, but is not yet signed to the company).
“You wish you had 100 more just like him,” says South, recalling an outdoor event when his ring broke down during a show for children and Alexander wrestled one of South’s students on the ground without a mat. “Cedric didn’t ask no questions. He just jumped in with both feet.”
“Cedric’s just special,” South continues. “When he first went to WWE, they put up pictures of all these athletes from all over the world in this cruiserweight tournament. I told him, ‘You’re the only one that’s smiling.’ Even if WWE hadn’t called, he’d be smiling.”
Along with current champion Brian Kendrick, former title holder TJ Perkins, and fellow “Classic” alums Rich Swann, Daivari and Drew Gulak, Alexander is part of WWE’s reinstituted cruiserweight division, which returned to Monday Night Raw after being phased out nine years ago.
With its high-flying acrobatics and abundance of heart from the competitors, the “Cruiserweight Classic” stoked excitement from jaded longtime fans. Alexander’s breakout match had a lot to do with it.
“I don’t think anyone expected the show to take off like it did,” he says.
On Tuesday, WWE premiers another show devoted solely to the division, “205live,” which airs on the company’s streaming subscription network at 10 p.m. The number refers to the division’s weight class. Alexander dropped 22 pounds to qualify, which he credits for his mounting success.
“I thought I was in shape at 230,” says Alexander, a self-described “Southern boy” with an appetite to boot who ramped up his cardio and water intake, and “ate like a bird” for three months. “I do way better in this weight class. I felt lighter on my feet and my joints weren’t aching so much from carrying around so much weight. I was a whole different animal.”
WWE Monday Night Raw
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.