Following the immensely well-received Cruiserweight Classic over the summer, it was expected that those moving from the tournament into Monday Night Raw’s brand new cruiserweight division would be a premier feature on the flagship show.
The talent in the division was, and still is booming, but instead of taking the WWE by storm, the majority of the roster has had no choice but to wallow in obscurity while only two men could get an eye in at the WWE Cruiserweight Championship picture at any given moment. The rest of the division could only participate in meaningless tag-team matches to increase their stock every week, while those in the title picture had the only real spotlight.
Now that 205 Live is set to give these guys the platform they need to truly steal the show every week, which is bound to be accompanied by new storylines and enhancements for each athlete’s personality in the purple division, fans who didn’t watch the CWC should get a much better idea of who these men really are. But who are they, exactly? Let’s take a look.
Keep in mind that although guys like Kalisto and Neville certainly fit the bill to be considered cruiserweights, this list is only going to look at those officially part of the division itself – primarily those who transitioned to Raw following the CWC, those who joined the division thereafter, and those listed on the roster online who have yet to make their debut.
15 The Bollywood Boyz
Harv and Gurv Sihra may have entered the Cruiserweight Classic as independent athletes, but it appears as though they’ve realigned to take on a position in WWE’s cruiserweight-exclusive show, 205 Live, as The Bollywood Boyz. It might come in handy too, given the amount of meaningless tag matches that seem to take place on the weekly within the division and as the only established team on the roster whose bond stretches far beyond their time in the WWE, they should theoretically be the most likely to stand out.
That hasn’t necessarily been the case thus far, since they’re efforts have been few and far between with the occasional NXT appearance here and there, but you would expect that a tandem like Harv and Gurv might come in handy on a show like 205 Live.
They are an energetic duo with a lot of heart and although they may be ranked low - as a result of their lacking star value in comparison to others, as well as their few appearances since the CWC - they remain as ones to watch when they arrive on the WWE Network.
14 Ho Ho Lun
Though Ho Ho Lun came across a bit skittish during the CWC, this self-taught athlete is one of China’s finest wrestlers and a pioneer for the art form within his home country.
As wrestling is not so popular as a profession China, Lun took it upon himself to learn the tricks of the trade and now has over a decade’s worth of experience. There are some kinks that need to be worked out in his skillset, namely Lun’s facial expressions while in the midst of a match, but otherwise this guy’s in-ring ability is top notch.
Again, he could benefit from some stronger performances on WWE programming if he wants the fans to rally behind him, but given his incredible work outside of WWE, there’s no reason to believe that Lun can’t recreate some of that magic. Physically, he has all the tools, all he needs to do now is work on his storytelling ability.
13 Ariya Daivari
The name Daivari may ring a bell, and that’s because Ariya Daivari’s brother was actually a featured athlete in the WWE once upon a time – remembered for managing the likes of Muhammad Hassan and Kurt Angle, while also being known to step in the ring himself.
Ariya enters the WWE cruiserweight division looking to create a legacy for himself and although he may be associated with his brother now, he’ll want to leave a lasting impact so much so that he himself becomes the most successful Daivari in the WWE.
Very proficient in the ring, Daivari possesses an impressive frog splash which he can also be known to refer to as the “magic carpet ride” and although it didn’t get him far in the CWC, he has all the tools required to make an impact on Monday Night Raw and 205 Live.
12 Lince Dorado
The “Golden Lynx” of lucha libre, Lince Dorado is a luchador who is equally adept when it comes to taking flight as he is on the mat.
He has surrounded himself with excellent trainers in Mike Quackenbush, Cesaro and Chris Hero to acquire his expertise in technical wrestling and keeping his opponent grounded, while also possessing the knowledge of lucha legends El Pantera and Skayde so that he can take to the air with the greatest of ease – as see with his awe-inspiring shooting star press.
Dorado has appeared a number of times since the debut of the cruiserweight divison and it works to his favour that he’s the only masked individual to transition from the CWC thus far, given that the WWE loves the marketability of luchadores. Just look at the treatment of Kalisto and Sin Cara since Rey Mysterio’s departure and you’ll understand.
11 Sin Cara
Being the only man in the cruiserweight division with an already established connection to the current WWE fan base, you may have expected Sin Cara’s inclusion on the roster to be met with immediate success. After all, it hasn’t exactly been his year, what with toiling in obscurity while tag-team partner Kalisto found success as the United States Champion, and just when things evened up once again, they got separated by the draft and Sin Cara was doomed to a career of enhancing guys like Braun Strowman to the next level.
Joining the ranks of the cruiserweight division was sure to give a guy like Sin Cara the platform he was born for – where he can soar across the arena with ease and not have to worry about the majority of his opponents possessing the size advantage. Instead, he’s been right alongside those like Lince Dorado and Cedric Alexander, great athletes forced into meaningless tag matches while the real action takes place in the title scene.
10 Drew Gulak
Drew Gulak remains somewhat unbeknownst to the casual WWE fan, despite his regular appearances as part of the cruiserweight division on Monday Night Raw. What many fans don’t know is that Drew Gulak is actually a gifted technician, having learned his craft from decorated wrestlers Mike Quackenbush, Chris Hero and WWE’s Cesaro.
Those who happened to watch the CWC will know of Gulak’s ability, given his impressive victory over Harv Sihra in the opening round and his efforts against tournament favourite, Zack Sabre Jr. in Gulak’s second and final match of the CWC. His ability to stand toe-to-toe with one of the industry’s finest technical wrestlers put Gulak on another level and his talents are definitely befitting of WWE’s cruiserweight division.
Much like many others on this list, the weekly booking has been a downfall for Gulak, so with a bit of luck he’ll find more success if he can get into singles action on the WWE Network.
9 Jack Gallagher
“The Extraordinary Gentleman,” Jack Gallagher added a distinct flair to the CWC that’s very hard to come by in this industry. He approached the competition with a level of gravitas and sophistication that isn’t typically synonymous with the hard-hitting WWE style, but he proved himself as a perfect fit with a win over Fabian Aichner and a valiant effort against Akira Tozawa in his second, and final, match of the tournament.
Complementing his sophisticated nature to pure perfection, Gallagher’s in-ring technique is a thing of beauty. The way he weaves in and around his opponent’s body with ease is both perplexing and exhilarating at the same time, using an escapist-like form of technical wrestling to get the advantage on his competition and use their own physique against them, regardless of the potential size difference - as seen in his contest with Aichner.
Jack Gallagher has yet to make his debut on weekly WWE television, though he did appear on 205 Live, however with such a unique and entertaining character, the man would be a treat to watch every week on 205 Live.
8 Noam Dar
Noam Dar had perhaps the grandest debut of all the cruiserweights, emerging on Raw in his home country of Scotland to team up with Brian Kendrick. Though the match would result in a loss for the hometown hero as a result of Rich Swann pinning Brian Kendrick, Dar was immensely popular with the audience and managed to walk out with his head held high after a confrontation with the current WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Noam Dar caught WWE fans’ attention during the CWC when he managed to make it to the third round before suffering elimination by Zack Sabre Jr. after a vicious submission hold and his reputation after competing in numerous independent organisations - including ICW, where he wrestled for six years - is definitely worthy of his current platform.
Noam Dar has his sights set on making the Scottish wrestling scene proud and as one of the division’s primary features since debuting, having already received a No. 1 contender’s opportunity, should be a sign of big things to come in this man’s future.
7 Tony Nese
Out of everyone on this list, Tony Nese probably has the most impressive physique as far as the WWE is concerned. The guy may weigh just under 200 pounds, but his build is definitely similar to that of the typical WWE Superstar, at least from years gone by. Nese comes across as a hybrid of multiple styles within the cruiserweight division.
He is powerful and can stand toe-to-toe with anyone in terms of strength, yet he is also well capable of taking to the air when the time is right. Tony’s 450 Splash is a thing of beauty, which he used to put away Anthony Bennett in the opening round of the CWC.
Though he may have been eliminated by Brian Kendrick before he could get on a serious roll in the tournament, the man who has been dubbed “The Premier Athlete” should have a huge future ahead of him on the main roster regardless – including a WWE Cruiserweight Championship match which will likely happen sooner than later.
Additionally, what sets Nese apart from his colleagues is that he is one of few who have the look necessary to easily transition into the WWE’s alternative divisions and should a crossover ever occur, he’ll likely be at the forefront of it.
Akira Tozawa, now seemingly going with his last name exclusively in WWE, was one of the standout performers of the Cruiserweight Classic. He put on a thrilling display every time he laced up his boots and rallied the fans with every match with his infectious shouting – a tool to get the fans involved and to seemingly get inside his opponent’s head.
Tozawa possesses a debilitating arsenal of maneuvers for his competition, with specific reference to the hellacious bridging German suplex he uses to put his opponents away for the three count, which he put to use against Kenneth Johnson and Jack Gallagher in the CWC before he was eliminated by Gran Metalik, all of which were terrific matches.
Tozawa is unbeknownst to the casual WWE fan, having not yet made his debut, but when he does, this man will be a major player in the division. Whether it’s on Raw or 205 Live, Tozawa is going to make a serious impact as soon as he makes his presence felt and it will undoubtedly lead him towards the coveted WWE Cruiserweight Championship in due time.
5 Cedric Alexander
Despite only making it to the second round of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, Cedric Alexander emerged from the tournament this summer with fans begging to see more, chanting for the WWE to sign him to a contract after suffering a crippling loss at the hands of Kota Ibushi in an extraordinary match-up.
The man showcased immense heart and determination in his efforts to overcome the tournament favourite and, although he didn’t get the win, the match all but defined the lengths that these combatants would go to in order to be a part of wrestling history. That kind of passion would not go unrewarded and now Alexander finds himself as one of the most notable members of the WWE cruiserweight division.
The scope with this guy is virtually infinite, given the stories he’s able to tell inside the squared circle, but one match the fans need to see eventually is Cedric Alexander taking on the WWE Cruiserweight Champion. It would allow the WWE Universe to experience Alexander’s skills in an organic way that would do well to get this man over.
4 Rich Swann
Though Rich Swann was one of those in the division to find himself competing in non-matches on weekly episodes of Monday Night Raw, while T.J. Perkins and Brian Kendrick took up the real limelight in the championship picture, he quickly emerged as an energetic and infectious athlete through his fun-loving approach to competition.
He carries himself with such pride that he’s become a really likable individual. Even though fans won’t get to know Rich Swann for who he really is based on him dancing his way to the ring every week, his eye-catching performance has set him apart from the rest of the division so much so that he's already had three pinfall victories over former WWE Cruiserweight Champion Brian Kendrick and is the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Swann has a lot to offer the company and in a division where it’s been very difficult to connect without prior knowledge from the WWE Universe, Rich Swann has made the best of the hand he’s been dealt and is capturing the hearts of the fans with each passing week.
3 Gran Metalik
Gran Metalik has only been seen once since the cruiserweight division debuted on Raw, competing in the opening fatal four-way contest in September that would determine Brian Kendrick as the #1 contender to T.J. Perkins’ WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
His absence since that day has come as quite a surprise, considering he made it all the way to the finals of the CWC and really gave Perkins a run for his money before succumbing to “The Fil-Am Flash” and finishing the tournament as the runner-up.
His innovative high-flying offence, complemented beautifully with a devastating arsenal of power moves, including the Metalik Driver – which saw many an athlete’s hopes in the CWC come to an end – made him a unique individual that truly embodied the unparalleled versatility that the cruiserweights are known for.
What’s even more perplexing is the rumours that followed Metalik into the cruiserweight division, suggesting that he would soon become the division’s representative as its champion. That has yet to happen, but if Gran Metalik does ever re-emerge on WWE television, you’d better believe he’ll be set to take on a big role both on Monday Night Raw and on 205 Live, with a potential title run definitely looming in his future.
2 T.J. Perkins
T.J. Perkins walked into the CWC as an underdog, despite being one of the more familiar names on the line-up with regards to his time on the independent scene.
His ability was undeniable, but among guys like Kota Ibushi, Zack Sabre Jr. and a few other wrestlers considered to be favorites, it was difficult to gauge what kind of impact a guy like T.J. Perkins would have in the tournament. Fast forward, and T.J. Perkins is the inaugural victor of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, and was the first recipient of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship under the new era.
Aside from immense athleticism and a unique sense of style, "The Duke of Dab” brought with him an undying sense of heart, having had a tough road on his journey to becoming a WWE Superstar. Unfortunately, the poor booking surrounding the cruiserweight division since the CWC ended has rubbed off a little bit on T.J. Perkins, who was the roster’s sole representative at a very pivotal time, but his individual performance is never anything to brush aside.
T.J. Perkins has brought his A-game to the WWE, and if the division ever does pick up and weed out some of its issues, he will be a major component.
1 The Brian Kendrick
The Brian Kendrick has been a huge breath of fresh air since his return to the WWE.
His character work has been on another level and in an otherwise disappointing division when it comes to week-to-week booking, Kendrick’s consistently passionate delivery has made the WWE Cruiserweight Championship picture worth watching.
Coming into Raw, Kendrick had the same mind-set that made him a favorite in the CWC. It was time to put up or shut up, and after a humble career - which certainly had its upsides, but still left Kendrick longing for more – “the man with a plan” saw this as his last chance.
Failure in the CWC and in the WWE’s new and improved cruiserweight division, would be an opportunity at redemption squandered by Kendrick’s inability to get the job done.
He carried that level of desperation into Hell in a Cell and in an excellent display of psychology – pleading with T.J. Perkins to let him win and planting the seed of empathy in his opponent’s mind – Kendrick emerged as the rightful representative of the division when he captured the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
With 205 Live set to become the primary platform for cruiserweights to showcase their abilities, Brian Kendrick's reign as champion came to an end for the sake of adding extra buzz to the show. Nevertheless, Kendrick’s performance this year has put him way ahead of the curve whether or not he has a title over his shoulder and defeat at the hands of Swann won’t change that.