This coming Monday, the cruiserweights will be making their debut on “Monday Night Raw”. A group of high fliers are going to be a part of the brand and are likely going to have their own title to fight over in the near future. Why is isn’t just being awarded to the winner of the Cruiserweight Classic still isn’t clear but we have more important things to get to. Today we’re going to look at some of the options the cruiserweights have going forward and what should and/or shouldn’t be done.
Now before we get into this, let’s compare the new division to two other lightweight divisions that had some success over the years: the WCW Cruiserweight division and the TNA X-Division (the older days that is). Both of these are fondly remembered because they were treated like something that mattered. The Cruiserweight Title was given a lot of prestige and offered some of the best matches in WCW history. The X-Division main evented more than one TNA show and still has what is considered the best match in TNA history. Now why did these titles work as well as they did?
For me, it comes down to two major reasons and they tie together: the stories were simple and the focus was kept on the action. If you look at a main event storyline in most modern wrestling promotions, it’s built around something big. It could be either a major showdown for a title, someone fighting against a cause, pure hatred or something else. No matter what, the story feels like it’s something huge with everything being about blowing off the big story.
Think back to what are considered the best matches from either division. For WCW it would be Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero at “Halloween Havoc 1997” and for TNA it would be AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels vs. Samoa Joe from “Unbreakable.” The first match was a title vs. mask match with Mysterio fighting for his self respect and the second was about Styles and Daniels fighting against Samoa Joe who wasn’t following the unwritten X-Division Code.
In other words, the stories were hardly anything revolutionary or even complicated. These things are little more than reasons to get us to the matches, where the real action and entertainment take place. People remember these matches because of how intense they were, not because of how we got there. In other words: let the wrestlers do their thing and ignore the oh so brilliant ideas that the WWE often shackles around the wrestlers to drag them down.
That’s what brings us back to WWE. If this division is turned into a bunch of people at the mercy of the WWE’s writing staff just like everyone else, it’s not going to matter how well they can fly or move around on the mat. The cruiserweights are going to work if the WWE allows them to show off and be different like they’re supposed to be, which doesn’t seem like the strongest possibility. The division has to have some stories to it in order to avoid having nothing but a string of spot fests but don’t make this any more complicated than it needs to be.
In addition to that, one of the most important goals has to be allowing the cruiserweights to advance up the ladder. This is a place where WCW failed miserably but TNA managed to succeed to an excellent degree. Again consider the TNA X-Division Title. Thirty six men have held the title over the years and nine of them have also been TNA World Champion with five of those nine winning the World Title after being X-Division Champion.
On the other hand, consider the WCW Cruiserweight Title. Twenty nine people (or combinations of people because WCW was funny that way) held the title between its introduction and the WWF purchasing the company. Of those twenty nine, none of them ever became WCW World Champion. Absolutely zero. The only thing they could manage after winning the title was a pair of United States Title reigns (combining to last less than three months) and a TV Title here and there.
I’m not saying these people need to move on and headline “Wrestlemania XXXIII” but they need to move up the card. The Cruiserweight Title can be a foot in the door but it needs to lead somewhere. If it’s only purpose is to give the little guys something to fight over while they’re flipping all over the place, it’s nothing more than the current incarnation of the TNA X-Division Title and the less said about that the better.
Next, the cruiserweights need to have personalities. This time we can look at modern WWE for all the proof you need. Just looking at the high fliers, what do you know about people like Neville, Kalisto and Sin Cara other than where they’re from and their finisher? When they’re only having a few minutes a week (if that), they’re not going to have the longest lifespan on the main roster.
The new class of wrestlers need to have something that sets them apart. Maybe it’s a catchphrase, maybe it’s a way of speaking, maybe it’s a certain look or maybe it’s something else but they have to do SOMETHING different to make them stand out from the rest of the group. If the Cruiserweight Classic has shown us one thing, it’s that a lot of people can do the same high flying moves but you have to do something more than just jump around or be flashy on the mat to stand out.
Finally, remember that this isn’t the Cruiserweight Classic. That show ran for ten weeks and really didn’t have a story aside from “survive and advance.” Now they’re moving into the world of “Monday Night Raw”, meaning they need to do something long term. It’s not about just winning another match to get to the next round. Now you need to get people to care about you and want to see you. Wrestling is about a lot more than just doing moves and complex sequences. You have to hook the fans into you and your character, which is much easier said than done.
The cruiserweights have a chance to become a very beneficial addition to the main roster (you can also argue they would be much better suited on “Smackdown” than “Monday Night Raw” but that’s what we’re getting at the moment) but they could also be horribly wasted. Hopefully WWE actually takes a combination of lessons from the other promotions that have done this kind of thing so well, but there’s always the chance that the division is going to be a meal for Strowman, which is only going to benefit one person and he’s not a cruiserweight. I’m very cautiously optimistic though and that’s a really nice feeling.
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