The Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network is off and running, and has thus far been the best place this side of NXT to see some incredible matches. It’s been a breath of fresh air for the portion of the WWE Universe who feels that the five hour block of WWE programming on USA is a retread of the same boring old thing.
With the WWE’s brand extension and draft officially finalized, the company has decided to embrace new and exciting ventures like the CWC, by incorporating the crusierweight talent into their main roster. During the preamble leading up to the draft on the July 18th episode of RAW, Stephanie McMahon made the announcement that WWE’s flagship brand would become home to the new cruiserweight division. It was a decree that has left many fans, not just fans of the Cruiserweight Classic, but also the ones who enjoy the in-ring side of sports entertainment, chomping at the bit to see it unfold.
Like many wrestling fans of old, I personally found myself in awe that this announcement didn’t immediately trigger a reaction of cynicism. This is the WWE after all, and I was shocked that my first instinct wasn’t the usual “boy, I wonder how they’re gonna screw this up” reaction. In hopes that they don’t blunder what could be their best initiative in years, here is the top 15 ways WWE can make the Cruiserweight Division epic.
15. Continue The Talent Search
Spearheaded by Triple H, the Cruiserweight Classic is a literal who’s who of stars from around the world. The 32 man tournament is a nice blend of young and old, rookie and veteran, that has been an explosive success as far, as far as on-air product is concerned.
The Game and key WWE personal have scoured the globe in order to find the best and brightest the world has to offer from the independent scene. In order to make Raw’s cruiserweight division truly flourish, the hunt for new and exciting talent needs to continue and do so on a global scale.
One of the things that made WCW’s cruiserweight division such a success, was the inclusion of the luchadores as well as stars from Japan. WWE must keep this trend alive as well, and make sure their eyes are peeled past simply just Mexico and Japan in order to find exciting new stars.
14. Keep The Weight Down
Here’s a secret you’ve likely heard before, the weight of wrestlers is inflated to make its larger than life characters literally just that. WWE isn’t boxing or the UFC, and the beauty of the crusierweight division is that it eliminates the need for discrimination based on size. We have seen countless small guys that can put on a heck of a show, despite not being included in the main event picture.
The old WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Title was inflated to 235 pounds, and later reduced to 225. The current Cruiserweight Classic participants must be under 205 pounds to qualify, a number that not only seems legit but is be a good benchmark. WWE is often criticized as the land of the giants, and this could be their chance to get away from that. While it could be argued by the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy and Daniel Bryan were main eventers, the point of this division is to legitimize the weight of its participants and keeps the size at its current 205 pounds max.
13. More Than Just Nationalism
Using national pride as the basis of a gimmick, transcends all weight classes in all wrestling organizations. This tactic is nothing new, and is by no means a bad thing. WWE is hammering home that the CWC is an international tournament, featuring wrestlers’ homelands while, filling screens with respective flags during every entrance.
But it isn’t a true representation for all. Participants like Mustafa Ali and The Bollywood Boys are being billed from countries of their family lineage rather than where they’re actually born or hail from.When introducing the new division, WWE should focus more on the individuals and their talents, instead of just their nationalities.
That’s not to say this should be the case with everyone. Embrace guys like Zack Sabre Jr. as a proud Englishman, clad in the Union Jack, and push the fact that Mexico is the birthplace of lucha libre with stars like Gran Metalik. Just be sure to allow new wrestlers in the division to be given the time and treatment to develop gimmicks outside of just nationalist pride.
12. Let It Evolve Organically
WWE is really good at shoving things down the throats of fans. They love telling us the status quo, and who and what we should love or hate before we get to make the decision ourselves. I say more power to them, it is their product after all, but at the end of the day it’s a company that runs on the reactions (and wallets) of fans. WWE typically fills their programming block with wrestlers that fans don’t want to see given the spotlight (see John Cena and Roman Reigns), but this time there is something we actually crave with the cruiserweights.
They need to put the spoon down with this one, and allow their young stars to do what they do best; entertain us in the ring. Don’t tell us that the division is the hottest thing in WWE’s entertainment canon, prove it to us with exciting matches. Follow in the footsteps of the Divas Revolution, the precursor to the current, phenomenal Women’s Division. Let it evolve on its own merits on its own time table, and everything will turn out just fine.
11. Bring Back Some Familiar Faces
I gotta admit, as exciting as it is to see phenoms like Kota Ibushi and Akira Tozawa in the CWC, the resurgence of names like Tajiri and Brian Kendrick are just as much of a reason to watch. It gives the tournament a sense of familiarity, one that the cruiserweight division would benefit from by having on Raw. A blend of new and old would be a nice way to kick things off.
Needless to say, the division’s focus should remain on the stars of today and tomorrow, but tossing in a few blasts from the past would be great. Who doesn’t want Jushin Thunder Liger, Jerry Lynn, or Ultimo Dragon to return for one last spin? Guys who didn’t get a fair shake in WWE before like Psicosis and Super Crazy could have another shot at glory. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see Dean Malenko and Rey Mysterio put on one last mat classic at a WrestleMania? I think so.
10. Extend It To SmackDown Live
Raw getting the cruiserweights does make sense with a three hour time window, but based on the talent drafted by SmackDown, and the fact that GM Daniel Bryan tweeted “SmackDown Live is where Superstars are the feature & in-ring competition is the focus”, it sure seems like it’d be better served on the blue brand. One concern about being on the promo filled flagship brand, is its matches won’t be given the due diligence they need to become the success the division deserves to be.
There’s a reason Mauro Ranallo is calling the action with Bryan for the Cruiserweight Classic. He’s a play-by-play man, who actually knows the names of moves. Ranallo also has a Mike Tenay-like quality of knowledge and research that WCW used with their cruiserweight division. Michael Cole just isn’t built to credit the talent and matches the way they need to be to get over with fans. It’s not that Michael Cole sucks… no, wait… it is!
9. Not Just A Couple Of Top Guys
Let’s face it, a majority of the WWE roster, especially on Raw, is second place to the multiple promos and shenanigans of the few top guys. We get what seems like half a show dedicated to John Cena, or former members of The Shield, while guys like Kalisto, Bo Dallas, and The Ascension get a five minute spot if they’re lucky. I get it, more air time goes to the guys selling merch because they are who WWE deems to be the most important, but in order for this division to succeed it needs to be given the respect to do so.
We need more than just a couple of names fighting over the new Cruiserweight Championship every week. A solid five to seven wrestlers who all get a chance to display their talents is important to establish this division. This is a division that will be way to stacked with talent, to have the same three people in the mix for the title week after week.
8. Put Current Superstars In The Division
Current stars who fit the bill and weight class of cruiserweight should be given a chance at participating in the division. Guys like Neville, Sin Cara, Primo, and Enzo Amore could all be utilized to help get the division up and running. This still wouldn’t be taking them away from competing with other, heavier billed stars as well. Even Finn Bálor, destined for greatness and high billing, should be used in the division simply because he qualifies as a member.
It’s somewhat interesting to note the likes of Kalisto and Tyler Breeze were drafted to SmackDown Live, while WWE knew the plans for the cruiserweight division, and its exclusivity on Raw. I suppose it’s a case of not wanting all of their eggs in one basket, or a plan of having established talent ready for a crusierweight expansion. Regardless WWE needs to utilize current, already established talent to mix it up with the incoming newbies, and help give the division some legs.
7. Incorporate Cruiserweights Into the Bigger Picture
It is vital to keep the division its own entity, especially in its early days of becoming established, but at the same time it should be equally important that its stars aren’t kept out of the rest of the fun that goes on in the company. They should be fully able to participate in things like the Royal Rumble, and Money in the Bank matches. They should have tag and singles matches with Superstars who aren’t cruiserweights, and become involved in stables, angles and storylines with the greater WWE roster.
Let breakout stars do exactly that, and breakout. The key to success of the division will be allowing rising stars to integrate, while not making it look like the division itself. Its title and place in the company is inferior to WWE’s more high profile stars and storylines.
6. Hold The CWC Annually
Rumors are circulating that several talents included in this inaugural Cruiserweight Classic lineup have already signed with the company. It’s likely just the beginning of high profile signings, which will expand the new division. In the tradition of the Super J-Cup of Japan, the CWC should be something fans look forward to every year, while used as a testing ground for potential WWE stars.
It’s critical an annual format only includes yet-to-be established stars, and not current superstars in the cruiserweight division. That leaves WWE with a stipulation like the winner of the tournament receives a contract or a shot at the title. Watering down the division with people who already have jobs negates the point of this tournament, and the opportunities it provides for wrestlers who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance. It would also be a great place to bring in one off appearances of previously established stars, who fans would love to see perform, but ones that WWE doesn’t want to bring back to the company full time.
5. Learn From Past Mistakes
The cruiserweight division was the best thing WCW had to offer its fans from 1996 to 1999 during the apex of the Monday Night Wars. Then Vince Russo came along and turned the title into a joke, making it impossible for WCW to turn the division around after his departure from the company. WWE seemed intent on utilizing the division properly after the WCW purchase, but always seemed to look down upon it. They too made a mockery of the division with title holders like Chavo Classic and the last Cruiserweight Champion in history, Hornswoggle.
I’m confident with the excitement and prestige that is being given to the CWC, and the fact the new division is a brain child of Triple H, that it will not be treated with such bottom of the barrel disdain. The championship and the division need to be placed on a pedestal, not looked down upon as inferior to the rest of the company, if this is going to work.
4. Award The Cruiserweight Championship To The Winner Of The CWC
Going hand-in-hand with my desire to see the CWC continue as an annual event where the winner earns a contract or title shot, the first Cruiserweight Classic should kick things off with a bang by bestowing the winner with the brand new WWE Cruiserweight Championship. New era. New title. Instant new star!
An announcement like this would really heat things up if made prior to the final eight, right in the middle of the tournament, forcing everyone remaining to pull out all of the stops in order to not just become a WWE Superstar, but a WWE Champion. So who gets the honor? I suppose it’s anyone’s guess at this point. My money’s on a final with Kota Ibushi meeting either Jack Sabre Jr. or Gran Metalik, all three of whom are on the list of rumored names to have already been offered WWE contracts.
3. Give Dean Malenko The Reins
WWE employs a long list of producers and road agents who work between the writing team and talent mapping out matches. They are also responsible for making sure that the creative vision is displayed properly for a WWE audience. All are former performers like Fit Finlay, Mike Rotunda, Arn Anderson, and The Road Dogg, and many are given a specific area or division of WWE creative to focus on. One of the guys still on the payroll in this role is Dean Malenko. Who better to be the man in charge of establishing the new cruiserweight division?
A four time Cruiserweight Champion, Malenko was not only one of the key pieces of WCW’s cruiserweight division, but one of the most sound wrestlers and storytellers in the world. WWE would do itself a grave disservice not to enlist the veteran to the role of producer for its new era of cruiserweights. They would also do well to let Malenko run wild and do things his way, removing many of the cooks in the kitchen who make the decisions in WWE creative, and in many cases, ruin things that might’ve been.
2. Let Them Fly
Not every cruiserweight is a crazy high spot maniac, many employ an arsenal of wrestling variations that keeps them grounded on the mat. Requesting WWE to allow their cruiserweights to fly isn’t wanting to exclusively see non-stop shooting star presses and moonsaults (although a few would be nice). WWE should allow their new division to be free creatively, and if that includes top rope action, so be it.
The problem lies in WWE’s mindset and its refusal to let its roster do this. If a new cruiserweight or mid-carder has a match of the year candidate, how are fans supposed to cheer for John Cena’s boring old move set? Or his applying the STF wrong night in and night out? It’s glaringly apparent that WWE moderates what their stars can and can’t do, so nobody is outshining the top dogs on the roster. It’s sad because all they’re doing is preventing fans from being entertained. In order for the cruiserweight division to shine the way it needs to, mindsets like this need to either be toned down or completely thrown out the window.
1. Let Them Fight
Like Ken Wantanabe at the climax of Godzilla… let them fight! While still letting the cruiserweight division happen organically over time, WWE needs to understand that television time is needed for up-and-comers is a precious commodity. We need more than one cruiserweight match per Raw, and more than one for every PPV. This division needs to thrive by having air time.
How about instead of showing Roman Reins put his gear on for the umpteenth time, we let mid-card matches booked for five minutes get eight or nine? How about instead of what feels like a two hour Highlight Reel segment on a PPV, we use that time to give a shot to some of the boys doing nothing in the back?
Let these wrestlers, and this division, tell their story. The fans will thank you.
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