Almost a decade after being retired, WWE brought back the Cruiserweights in late 2016. Late during the Cruiserweight Classic tournament that took place throughout the summer of 2016, Triple H announced that the winner would become the inaugural champion of the new WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Of course, there are a couple of key differences between these two titles despite their having the same name. The first difference is that the new Cruiserweight Championship is not picking up where the old one left off. Secondly, rather than the traditional 225 lbs maximum weight, the new championship is capped at 205 lbs.
Looking back at the original WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Championship, there were many awesome performers who held the belt including Rey Mysterio, X-Pac, and Chris Jericho, to name a small few. Of course, in any division (in any sport for that matter), for every icon and star whose name gets plastered throughout the history books, there is a matching title holder whose career never took off and who became little more than a footnote. Whether due to a garbage gimmick, subpar technical skills, or just a lack of love from the fans, many of the wrestlers who won this championship never became icons in the sport.
The original Cruiserweight Championship was always exciting to watch but many of the stars who held the belt have been forgotten by the sport and by fans. Some stayed in wrestling but moved to other promotions or other roles, while many pursued other careers away from the squared circle. Here are fifteen stories about what lesser-known former WWE/WCW Cruiserweight Champions have gotten up to since their reigns ended.
Writer/wrestler Ed Ferrara’s Oklahoma character was used in WCW for the purpose of mocking Jim Ross’ mannerisms and even his partial facial paralysis (as a result of Bell’s Palsy; tasteless but that was wrestling in the late ’90s). Ferrara and Vince Russo had switched over to WCW after working for WWF had become more of a headache than a joy.
Of course, their storylines were awesome (if at least a little unbelievable) and included giving Ferrara time in the ring along with his writing duties. During this period, many wrestlers who had no business wearing championship belts, including Oklahoma and a few others we’ll touch on later, won the Cruiserweight Championship.
14. Evan Karagias
Before his wrestling career, Evan Karagias was a collegiate wrestler, a model, and had some small acting jobs. He got recruited into WCW and put his time in losing the vast majority of his early matches, before eventually becoming the Cruiserweight Champion; defeating Disco Inferno at Mayhem 1999.
After WCW he briefly worked for WWE (but never being used due to injury), he worked for various smaller promotions, took a few acting jobs (including a short role on Joey), and a part in campy action flick Sinners and Saints. These days he’s a family man, married with four kids, owns part of a small financial services company in North Carolina, and is an avid outdoors-man.
After training while in college in the mid 1990s, Chris Ford entered the world of wrestling first in small promotions and then ECW. He spent two years in WWF as Devon Storm, and then signed with WCW and later debuted as a new character, Crowbar. He, Daffney, and David Flair played maniacs who were both erratic and violent. Crowbar and Daffney won the Cruiserweight Championship, beating Chris Candido and Tammy Lynn Sytch, being named co-champions.
He was released from WCW in 2001, and returned to other promotions. He worked in TNA for a couple of years, and has had occasional appearances in regional promotions, but is for the most part out of the wrestling game today. He and his wife Dina have two kids together and own their own healthcare company in which she is a dietitian and he is a licensed physical therapist.
12. Lenny Lane
Leonard Carlson (Pictured Right) wrestled in WCW for the second half of the 1990s and was for a brief time a member of the West Hollywood Blondes, with Lodi. This duo were a pair of flamboyantly gay men and many fans will remember that WCW got in trouble for this gimmick, as it was pretty blatantly homophobic (not as big of a deal in the ’90s but still not their sharpest move).
He took the Cruiserweight belt from Rey Mysterio, only to lose it shortly thereafter to Psychosis. He was released in mid 2000. Since then he wrestled for smaller promotions, including a brief stint with TNA.
He started his own wrestling promotion in Minnesota; Prime Time Wrestling. He also started a business that offered wrestling themed parties for kids. This venture appears to no longer be in business (the last Facebook update on their page was in 2010, and the website has been taken down).
11. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
The elder Chavo Guerrero died earlier in February and with this event, the world of wrestling lost a great performer. His son, a former six-time WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Champion, however, has been wrestling for over twenty years and remains active in the sport to this day. He spent five years in WCW and then almost a decade in WWE, and worked for Lucha Underground for two years, but left the promotion in late 2016.
He’s spent some time acting, and has recently published his own comic book series, of which he is the protagonist. While Chavo may not return to WWE any time soon 9if ever), it’s good to know he has other avenues to explore.
10. Lance Storm
Lance “Storm” Evers trained with the Hart Brothers in Calgary, Alberta, along with Chris Jericho and the two eventually made their way to Jim Cornette’s Smoke Mountain Wrestling. He worked for ECW from 1997 until 2000, and then moved on to WCW. A heel, who played up his Canadian heritage, he renamed the three championships he won (United States Heavyweight, Cruiserweight, and Hardcore) to Canadian-themed titles; putting Canada-U.S. relations back at least thirty years.
After WCW was bought out by WWE, he worked there for a few years but was back in smaller promotions by mid 2005. Apart from his own wrestling career, Storm founded the Storm Wrestling Academy in Calgary and has trained several legitimate stars including Dolph Ziggler, Jillian Hall, and Tyler Breeze, to name three out of dozens.
9. Disco Inferno
This was one of those gimmicks that could have been absolutely horrible and just plain annoying, but actually ended up being worked fairly well by Glenn Gilbertti. While he was a heel for most of his time in WCW, Disco Inferno is remembered fondly by most fans. In October, 1999 he managed to win the Cruiserweight Championship with a victory over Psychosis, but lost it to Evan Karagias at Mayhem a month and a half later.
After WCW was absorbed into WWF, Gilbertti remained involved in wrestling but stepped into the ring far less than he had throughout the late 90’s. He worked on the creative side of WCW in 2000 and would later work in that aspect of the promotion with Vince Russo when he was with TNA. He still wrestles from time to time these days.
8. Spike Dudley
If you’ve ever heard of the phrase “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” and you’re a wrestling fan, this is one of the guys who should come to mind. At around 150 lbs soaking wet, Matt Hyson is far smaller than most pro wrestlers, but he had a goal and he got it done. In ECW he was the runt of the Dudley Brothers faction in the late 1990’s and continued the same gimmick in WWF/E after 2001.
He won the Cruiserweight Championship in 2004, but lost it and was released from WWE in 2005. He wrestled on and off in the years that followed, and trained wrestlers for a couple of years, but after getting married he gave it up. He now works as a financial planner and has a wife and daughter. While he looks back fondly on his life in the squared circle, he loves things as they are now.
7. Mike Sanders
Mike Sanders served in the United States military and worked as a bouncer before he got into wrestling in the late ’90s. He started out with WCW and won the Cruiserweight Championship in 2000, and held it from early October until early December. After WCW got bought out in 2001 he worked briefly for WWE, but ultimately didn’t last, being released a year later.
Sanders worked in some other promotions but fully retired in 2005. Since then he has dabbled (with some success) in several other lines of work, including motivational speaking, stand up comedy, improv, a small talent management firm, and a DJ service. Outside the office, he also has two kids and two ex-wives.
Scott “Raven” Levy doesn’t enter the ring as much as he used to these days, but he hasn’t retired officially, and his career is coming up on thirty years, having started in 1988. His most memorable period of work was probably his feud with Sandman, but few will remember him as Scotty Flamingo back in the early ’90s, when he won the WCW Light Heavyweight title, which WWE would later lump in with the Cruiserweight title’s history. He gets his spot on our list although there is somewhat of a technicality there.
Since his final release from WWE in 2003, Levy has worked for several promotions including TNA. He’s also done stand up comedy, appeared on a few TV shows and in a music video. He’s diabetic and has some mental health issues, but according to the man himself, all are under control. He is also one of many former stars to have tried, unsuccessfully, to sue WWE over health issues.
Two time Cruiserweight Champion from the days of WCW Psicosis (Dionicio Castellanos) has worked in numerous promotions both north and south of the U.S./Mexico border. He worked in WCW for most of the latter half of the 1990s and spent just a couple of years in WWE, most memorably for his time with the Mexicools faction. In 2006, he was released from WWE, but few people know the circumstances. He stole a car at gunpoint, after the owner of the car refused to lend it to him. He resisted arrest after trying to evade police, but the gun used in the threat was later determined to be a water pistol.
4. Shinjiro Otani
The de facto WCW Cruiserweight Championship sat vacant for almost four years between 1992 and 1996. In ’92, it was known as the Light Heavyweight Championship, but by 1996, when it was decided that there would be a match for that title the official name was changed to “Cruiserweight.” Otani beat Chris Benoit (then going by Wild Pegasus) to win the belt in March of that year.
In the early 2000s, he and Shinya Hashimoto founded their own promotion; Pro Wrestling Zero1. These days he still wrestles, and serves as the president of that company. Otani is perhaps one of the more lesser known Cruiserweight Champions to have held the title; but he remains an interesting figure on the wrestling scene.
3. Alex Wright
German-born Alexander Wright (Pictured Right) started out training with his father, and had his first match at age 16 in Germany. He’d wrestle throughout Europe and Japan before being signed to WCW. He was discovered in Europe and signed with WCW in 1994. Three years later, after some more training and a couple of years in the promotion, he beat Chris Jericho for the Cruiserweight belt, which he held for just over two weeks.
When WCW was bought out by WWE, Wright couldn’t be signed to WWE (his contract was through AOL Time Warner) so he returned to Germany. He worked for a bank and as a fitness instructor before founding his own wrestling school “The Wright Stuff,” and later his promotion: New European Championship Wrestling.
2. Prince Iaukea
No matter what you knew him as, Mike Hayner, The Prince, The Artist, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea, he was one of those guys who flew under the radar but was a talented performer in the late 1990s in WCW. Within the promotion he was a two time Cruiserweight Champion and also held the WCW World Television Championship. He was released from WCW in 2000 and has worked for smaller promotions since, briefly taking time off from wrestling to work in private security.
Debreh Miceli was back and forth between WCW and WWE throughout the 1990s with a brief stint in All Japan. She held the WWE Women’s Championship a few times (as Alundra Blayze) and the WCW Cruiserweight belt just once, and was the first woman (of three, Daffney, and Jacqueline being the other two) to do so.
Outside the squared circle she owned a custom motorcycle shop for a few years, and commentated for boating races. Most notably however, is her monster truck career. She has been involved with monster trucking since 1999, competing sporadically. In recent years, Miceli would mend fences with WWE and was inducted into the Hall of Fame where she would take her place in history alongside the legends of the industry.
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