How WWE Botched The Cruiserweight Division They Don’t Need …
August 2, 2017 - WWE
When you’re around pro wrestling fandom for a prolonged time, we turn informed with several articulate points that have, over a years, turn groupthink. One, specifically, has bordered on self-parody during times: “Push a cruiserweights.”
In theory, a thought is that smaller wrestlers should be given a multiplication unto themselves, and if they already have one, it should be treated with during slightest tighten to a turn of honour that a heavyweight multiplication gets. In a process, though, fans mostly tumble too in adore with a idea, to a indicate that heavyweight wrestling is treated as lesser, and bereft of peculiarity performances. Hell, in a 1990s, what was a videotape that any hardcore fan endorsed as a gateway to Japanese wrestling? NJPW’s Super J-Cup tournament. This combined a unfolding where a same fans became dismissive of a promotion’s heavyweights. “You don’t watch NJPW for a heavyweights” became a consistent refrain, even nonetheless a categorical events featured impossibly gifted and charismatic performers who were sketch a biggest crowds in wrestling during a time. Fans had schooled a wrong lessons from WCW, where a cruiserweights were customarily a in-ring prominence of any show: WCW’s heavyweight categorical events didn’t siphon given they were heavyweight pro wrestling, they sucked given a categorical eventers were old, slow, and mostly unmotivated. But that kind of meditative resulted in terms like “cruiserweight” carrying a certain mystique with a genre’s biggest fans.
Case in point: A few years ago, when WWE was formulation a launch of WWE Network, word started to get out that WWE had finished a array of commander tapings in front of college students in Florida that enclosed an all-cruiserweight show. It never finished air, nonetheless it had CRUISERWEIGHTS(!) and so there wasn’t too many warn when, in 2016, WWE announced a Cruiserweight Classic. A singular summer array chronicling a 32-man tournament, it finished with a reconstruction of a Cruiserweight Championship, final hold 9 years progressing by Hornswoggle, Fit Finlay’s pixie mascot.
Aside from a inclusion of reduction gifted wrestlers to get certain countries in a mix—they were fast bounced in a initial round, anyway—the eventuality was about as un-WWE as possible. Some of a many gifted eccentric wrestlers in a United States, like Drew Gulak, Cedric Alexander, and British expat Zack Sabre, Jr., were booked, as were Akira Tozawa and Kota Ibushi from Japan and Mascara Dorada from Mexico. After a mostly uneventful initial round, a contest constructed good TV for a residue of a run, with glorious wrestling, clever prolongation that was totally conflicting from what WWE does on a other shows, and a best reason of a year from a group of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan. On tip of all that, a live special, with a semifinals and final was one of a best shows of a year.
But it was a commencement of a end.
The regenerated multiplication got a permanent weekly show, 205 Live, named for a division’s (legitimately enforced) weight limit. Even nonetheless a uncover runs after SmackDown any week; even nonetheless a voices of a tournament, Ranallo and Bryan, were SmackDown announcers; and even nonetheless a contest shows had a SmackDown feel, a multiplication was placed on Raw. Worse, it was put out there cold, though many reason of who these new guys were for those who hadn’t watched a past several weeks of streaming-only shows. The cruiserweight participation on Raw has been a disaster since, and 205 Live isn’t many better, in partial given a live assembly consists of fans who were sleepy out by SmackDown. The outcome has been a temperate division, one that arguably doesn’t even strech a heights of a prior cruiserweight crop, where during slightest Rey Mysterio could pretension SmackDown with pretension matches if he was in his hometown.
Where did this all go wrong? How has a critical partial of WCW’s success during a moneyed time for pro wrestling in a 1990s always gotten mislaid in interpretation on a WWE side, anyway?
Unfortunately, it’s not that complicated.
Let’s get a apparent one out of a approach first: WWE has always sucked during utilizing smaller wrestlers, generally in their possess division, and is a final association we should ever trust to do this right. It’s been a large man’s domain for a whole existence as a graphic brand, going behind to Bruno Sammartino apropos a tip star of what was afterwards a northeast-based informal graduation in 1963. Sammartino was fed dragons to slay, and when a stream Vince McMahon took over for his namesake father, he grown a antipathy for wrestlers who were shorter than him. Former WWE executive Bruce Prichard remarkable on his podcast final year that when McMahon saw Eddie Guerrero in chairman for a initial time, he was so repelled by a new hire’s status that he even blurted out something to a outcome of “HE’S SO TINY!”
In 1997, when WWE introduced a possess light-heavyweight multiplication as a reflection to a WCW cruiserweight division, a mistakes were countless from a outset. The “cruiserweight” name, that WCW was a initial to use in pro wrestling and achieved a idea though a petite adjective, was absent, nonetheless that was a slightest of their problems. The early light-heavyweight register felt some-more like a formula of someone carrying left by a WWF Rolodex labelled “short dudes” than anything else, with those featured including second-generation musclehead Scott Putski, Memphis buttress Brian Christopher, 1980s tab group legends Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton, long-time jobber Scott Taylor, and unknown Canadian indie wrestler Eric Shelley. None of them wrestled a character remotely like what fans saw in WCW. Japan’s Taka Michinoku, one of a best immature wrestlers in a business, became a initial champion, nonetheless was badly miscast as a babyface.
Yes, WCW did have many of a best talent possibly underneath agreement or sealed down around operative agreements with general promotions, and a American eccentric stage was not accurately fruitful belligerent yet. But it wasn’t as if WWE had no options, either; they usually unfit them. Japan, that had countless options outward of WCW sister graduation NJPW, was hardly explored. Talent brought in from Mexico was possibly not nonetheless discriminating adequate (Mr. Aguila/Papi Chulo, a usually luchador to come in full time) or not used to a best of their abilities (Super Crazy was brought in underneath a mask). When a best, smoothest wrestlers on a indie scene, like Christopher Daniels, did come in, they weren’t signed, instead being used as occasional cannon provender for Taka on B-level shows.
Meanwhile, WCW in 1997 was a accurate opposite. While Taka was possibly wrestling other light-heavyweights or being finished to demeanour defective to a heavyweights, in WCW, there were points where all of a singles titles other than a universe heavyweight pretension were hold by cruiserweights. Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Alex Wright, and Ultimo Dragon all had opportunities with heavyweight belts, and others, like Syxx (later X-Pac) and Psicosis, were in line as contenders. Hell, Chris Benoit, who is historically remembered as a pivotal couple in a cruiserweight division, was never once requisitioned in a weight category by WCW. He was a heavyweight, that did a bit to fuzz a lines so that nobody batted an eye at, say, Guerrero vs. Big Bubba Rogers.
WWE’s stream cruiserweight division, by contrast, others a wrestlers to a laughable degree. From a start, there were skits where a whole multiplication took adult a singular cruiserweight locker room. They weren’t men; they weren’t women; they were usually tiny. This helped give a graphic sense that these were not people a assembly indispensable to caring about. They didn’t dress with a large boys; they had to get altered among themselves like locals brought in as extras.
(It should go though observant that a cruiserweights have generally interacted among themselves and not branched out with other Raw register members.)
Another prolongation develop “helped” make them mount out: To elicit a demeanour of a Cruiserweight Classic, matches in a multiplication would take place in a ring with purple ring ropes and a pad with cruiserweight-specific logos. To fans—especially ones examination live who saw a ring organisation rushing to change a ropes and mat—this was a evidence that something insignificant was about to happen.
The cruiserweights are not partial of a whole. They exist in their possess enchanting world. Maybe that could work, nonetheless there’s one other, really large problem: They don’t do anything generally interesting.
Look adult and down a WWE roster, and answer this question: Who does a many fantastic shit? Is it A.J. Styles? Maybe Seth Rollins? Perhaps friendly shlub Kevin Owens? Cesaro is always a dim horse, and while they’ve aged, a Hardys are always drifting around, too. Don’t forget that New Day and a Usos have some flattering adorned tab group matches on SmackDown, as well. And a women have lots of flash, with Charlotte’s moonsault to a building being maybe a many fantastic signature pierce in a company.
Past that, if a important cruiserweight-sized wrestler shows adult and picks adult steam, WWE competence even use him as a heavyweight, anyway. They did it with Daniel Bryan. They did it with Finn Balor. They even did it with Rey Mysterio!
Why do we need a cruiserweight division, again?
When a Cruiserweight Classic happened, one of a smartest things finished in compelling it was to highlight that being a cruiserweight wasn’t about high flying. Instead, a multiplication was framed as identical to lighter weight classes in fighting and MMA: It would underline good athletes with lots of speed and technical pointing who could surpass during mixed styles. Zack Sabre, Jr. and Jack Gallagher brought their twists on a old-school grappling-heavy British style, and American Drew Gulak was similar. Gran Metalik (the former Mascara Dorada) is a high flyer, nonetheless has a some-more normal lucha libre flavor. Kota Ibushi had adorned karate kicks and energy moves to enrich his flying. And T.J. Perkins? Well, he could literally do everything.
It was a good approach to apart a cruiserweights from a really adorned difficult WWE style, nonetheless it got a bit … complicated. Sabre and Ibushi, a biggest standouts in a tournament, didn’t pointer contracts, that resulted in Perkins, who doesn’t utterly have a glamour to lift off being a tip guy, removing a title. The cruiserweights were shortly tiered into those who were in a pretension design and got storylines and those who usually floated around. Gulak and Metalik were fast rendered non-entities, with Metalik not even being used on 205 Live, while Gallagher, whom fans indeed responded to, was finished too many of a comedy wrestler to be used in a tip brew with any regularity. So in a championship design with Perkins were guys like a prime Brian Kendrick, operative a really general WWE style, and Rich Swann, a gifted wrestler nonetheless one though a singular qualities indispensable to mount out. Incumbent WWE star Neville returning from an damage to turn heel champion was a exhale of uninformed air, nonetheless he and contingent rivals like Austin Aries, a maestro drafted from NXT, were not doing anything we wouldn’t see outward of a division.
It’s now apparent what WWE was doing with a Cruiserweight Classic and successive hirings for a new division: It was never about carrying “cruiserweights,” per se. Instead, a idea was to move in buzzworthy indie and general talent as good as prospects for building general markets, and given many of those guys occur to be small, a approach to tie it all together was to make them “cruiserweights” in a “cruiserweight” tournament. When a fanciful tip stars and many singular talents in a contest didn’t pointer contracts, a whole thing came screeching to a halt.
By a way, where are Sabre and Ibushi, a aforementioned mislaid tip WWE cruiserweight stars, anyway? They’re on debate with NJPW in another tournament, a annual G1 Climax. As heavyweights.
David Bixenspan is a freelance author from Brooklyn, NY who co-hosts a Between The Sheets podcast any Monday during BetweenTheSheetsPod.com. You can follow him on Twitter during @davidbix and perspective his portfolio during Clippings.me/davidbix.