The Cruiserweight division as we know it has its roots in World Championship Wrestling. During the infamous “Monday Night War” of the 1990s, WCW needed a way to stand out as a different form of wrestling entertainment than its monstrous predecessor, the World Wrestling Federation. This came in the form of a championship belt designated for the smaller men of the wrestling roster, which inevitably meant a faster paced, more exciting style of wrestling. That style took off like a rocket ship and helped put WCW on the map.
When Vince McMahon purchased WCW and WWE absorbed a large portion of its roster, the Cruiserweight Championship was kept around due to its massive popularity until 2007, by which time it had fallen largely out of favor within WWE and hadn’t seen much in the way of meaningful television space in some time. Fans of the division have eagerly waited for the day the Cruiserweight division would be resurrected and that’s exactly what they got with the newly minted title belt in 2016.
However, ever since the conclusion of the hit WWE Network Cruiserweight Classic tournament when TJ Perkins was crowned the first Cruiserweight Champion of the new era, the whole division has been a bit hit or miss. To WWE’s credit they’ve attempted to remedy this problem by giving the Cruiserweights their own weekly show on the WWE Network called 205 Live, but perhaps what they really need is some bigger, more established names to lend the division some credibility. Here are fifteen famous Cruiserweights WWE could sign to set the new division on fire.
15. Rey Mysterio
This one’s a bit unorthodox, which is why we will just get it out of the way early. Back in World Championship Wrestling, Rey Mysterio was one of the greatest Cruiserweight Champions of the era. Sometimes considered the heart and soul of WCW, Mysterio may be the one person who could be seen as singlehandedly putting the Cruiserweight style on the map. His influence in wrestling carried him into the “heavyweight” division later on in WWE where he became the World Heavyweight Champion.
Simply put, there’s no greater star in all of Lucha libre and Cruiserweight wrestling than Rey Mysterio himself. He may have long ago made his mark in the main event picture, but it seemed his glory in that era was behind him by the time he left WWE a few years ago. If he were to return, what better way to make proper use out of one of the best small guys in the business than to have him lend some credibility to the new Cruiserweight division?
14. DJ Z
DJ Z, formerly known as Zema Ion, has been competing with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling for around six years now and has proven himself to be quite versatile. He was a member of the popular BroMans stable for some time as well as having frequently proven himself in singles action. He’s one of the more athletically gifted men on the TNA roster and has long had a solid hold on his character, having had a hand in many of the company’s memorable moments throughout his tenure.
DJ Z is a two-time X Division Champion, a title which represents something akin to TNA’s version of the Cruiserweight Division. While he has indeed been a mainstay for some time in TNA, should DJ Z be looking elsewhere for employment at any time in the future, WWE certainly would be wise to snatch him up and make use of him to build the backbone of its Cruiserweight division.
13. Rockstar Spud
Another longtime TNA regular WWE might want to consider looking into for its Cruiserweight division is Rockstar Spud. Granted, WWE has its own version of what Rockstar Spud has been to TNA and his name is James Ellsworth, but Spud has more than shown he has the ability to pull off being a more competitive version of Ellsworth and make it believable. Spud has shown himself to be very versatile, working effectively as both a heel and a babyface in very different capacities.
Few can match the pure energy Rockstar Spud can bring before an arena. The man may be small in stature, but his personality is larger than life and could be the shot of adrenaline needed on a sometimes stale 205 Live. As for the athletic side of things, Spud has competed frequently in the ring during his TNA tenure and racked up two reigns as the X Division Champion.
12. Jack Evans
It would be difficult for you to find a more traveled and seasoned independent veteran than Jack Evans. Perhaps his greatest exposure has come as a member of the Lucha Underground roster, but he has competed all over the world for just about every company imaginable. Aside from Lucha Underground where he has become a Trios Tag Team Champion, Evans has worked for such famous indie organizations as Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate, AAA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and others.
If you’ve never seen Jack Evans perform, you would be wise to do yourself a favor and look him up. He frequently incorporates break dancing into his arsenal and is one of the most mind blowing and agile professional wrestlers in the world. His cocky personality doesn’t hurt the package, either, as the Hart family trainee has made a career out of showing he believes his own hype and is proud of it.
11. Paul London
If the name Paul London sounds familiar that’s because he has competed in WWE before, for quite a few years actually. Indeed, the name should sound familiar because not only is London actually a former WWE Cruiserweight Champion, but he is also one of the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions alongside one of the current faces of the new Cruiserweight division, Brian Kendrick. Paul London had a bright future ahead of him at one point in time, but his souring relationship with his employer sort of put a stop to all of that.
Since leaving WWE years ago, Paul London has been incredibly outspoken about how poisonous he believes the company can be as a place of work. He has shown no interest in returning to the corporate giant, but crazier things have happened in the world of wrestling and if WWE has the chance to bring him on board, London’s veteran skills would be invaluable to the younger Cruiserweights.
10. Son of Havoc
Lucha Underground has been an invaluable addition to the world of professional wrestling. It’s not only that a lot of wrestling fans love the sport so much that they’ll watch any new program they can get their hands on; it’s also the fact that Lucha Underground is so unique in its presentation that viewers have flocked to it in order to see what all the hype is about. This science fiction style of wrestling has captivated audiences, but its defining feature is undoubtedly the uninhibited athleticism of its stars.
This spectacularly fun style of wrestling has allowed fans to get to know some exciting new wrestlers, and one of the show’s biggest stars is a former Trios Tag Team Champion known as Son of Havoc. As one of the most agile wrestlers in the world, the independent star, who is also known as Matt Cross, has worked on the indie scene for over fifteen years and would be a perfect fit on 205 Live.
9. Crazzy Steve
Another TNA star who could bring some magic to WWE’s Cruiserweight division is the creepy Crazzy Steve. Steve has long been a part of Decay, a three-person act which also includes longtime TNA legend Abyss and Rosemary, a TNA Knockout. The trio has been one of TNA’s hottest tag team acts in years and certainly a highlight of 2016. Although the company has been a slowly sinking ship for years now, it continues to benefit the wrestling world with its exposure, allowing lesser known talents to reach a wide audience. Crazzy Steve is one such talent who has endless potential.
Steve’s dedication to his character is enough to warrant interest from WWE all on its own, but he’s also an incredibly talented professional wrestler and just happens to weigh in at less than 205 pounds. It’s always difficult to say what type of character WWE will conceive for an athlete, but if his portrayal of his TNA counterpart is any example, Crazzy Steve would fit in just fine with WWE’s Cruiserweight division.
8. Chris Sabin
It would be pretty difficult to have a discussion about potential Cruiserweight division stars for WWE and delve into Total Nonstop Action Wrestling without taking a look at perhaps one of the greatest stars in the history of TNA’s X Division, Chris Sabin. As a mainstay in TNA for many, many years, Chris Sabin won just about every piece of gold there was to win in the company, including the TNA Tag Team Championship and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. However, his defining accomplishment is likely that he is an eight-time TNA X Division Champion.
The X Division has always been a sort of Cruiserweight division for TNA, albeit often not about weight limits and more about a style or mentality of wrestling. Sabin came to epitomize that mentality, putting the division on the map. He could do the same for WWE’s Cruiserweights if given the chance and could even bring a veteran’s mind to the game.
7. Matt Sydal
If you were to compile a list of the most popular stars in independent wrestling, Matt Sydal would no doubt rank among the elite. For over fifteen years Sydal has worked the independent circuit and has become synonymous with indie organizations like Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate. He did enjoy a stint with WWE a few years ago, although “enjoy” is probably too strong a word given how things went down.
At the time, Sydal, known in a WWE ring as Evan Bourne, was never used to his fullest potential and eventually left the company following a lengthy absence due to injury once he realized he was never going to be used properly. He returned to the independent scene, but if the terms can be worked out, there’s no better place for Evan Bourne to make his return to WWE than on the weekly WWE Network show 205 Live with the Cruiserweights.
6. The Young Bucks
This one is not a typical choice for the Cruiserweight division given the fact that it’s technically two men instead of one, but how can you have one of the Young Bucks and not the other? Matt and Nick Jackson are one of the most legendary tag teams on the independent circuit, having been making waves for over a decade in organizations like Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling and winning tag team gold everywhere they’ve been.
Matt and Nick are known for their excessive use of the Superkick, and their “Superkick parties” are a part of what has made them such a hit with wrestling fans around the globe. It might seem a bit of a shame for WWE to sign them to contracts and not have them compete in the tag team division on Raw or SmackDown Live, but just think of the flavor the Young Bucks could bring to 205 Live.
In 2006 a highly acrobatic wrestler by the name Ricochet started making waves competing for ChikaraPro. Since then he has continuously captivated wrestling audiences around the world as he has competed for nearly every major independent organization in existence. Evolve, Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and New Japan Pro Wrestling have all been lucky enough to have Ricochet present at their events and he has never failed to impress a wrestling crowd.
Perhaps some of his biggest exposure has come as a member of the Lucha Underground roster. However, he competes within the science fiction boundaries of that program under a yellow mask and uses the name Prince Puma. The first ever Lucha Underground Champion would be an invaluable asset to any roster and WWE would be wise to scoop him up for 205 Live if they are interested in adding some much-needed credibility to the Cruiserweight division.
4. Zack Sabre, Jr.
It’s a little bit mind-boggling to think about how Zack Sabre, Jr. is not a member of the WWE roster following the inception of the new era Cruiserweight division. Sabre did exceptionally well throughout the very popular Cruiserweight Classic tournament which aired on the WWE Network in 2016 and was easily one of the most popular participants in the entire competition. He has racked up quite the following throughout his years on the independent circuit competing for popular organizations like Pro Wrestling Noah and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, but apparently, all of that has yet to land him a comfortable spot in WWE.
It was reported that Zack Sabre, Jr. was actually offered a contract with the company but turned it down. It’s difficult to know the circumstances behind all of that, but it would certainly be a great boon for the Cruiserweight division and 205 Live if WWE were to manage to lock down this British star with a contract that satisfies both parties.
3. Kota Ibushi
With Hideo Itami and Shinsuke Nakamura now working for WWE, there is likely no bigger Japanese wrestling star Vince McMahon has yet to nail down than Kota Ibushi. At some point in 2016, it appeared as though that was finally going to happen, as Ibushi competed in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament on the WWE Network which eventually crowned TJ Perkins as the new Cruiserweight Champion. However, though Ibushi was a standout in that competition, he has yet to be signed as a permanent fixture in the Cruiserweight division.
Rumors have swirled that Kota Ibushi actually turned down several contract offers from WWE, which would seem to take the heat off WWE for a deal not having been worked out. However, his popularity is undeniable and he could be one of the biggest stars in the Cruiserweight division if WWE could find a way to make him an offer that makes both the company and Ibushi happy.
2. Will Ospreay
The independent wrestling circuit has always been packed full of some of the most talented athletes in the world and for a very, very long time, it seemed as though WWE had no interest in them. Vince McMahon always had a thing for well-muscled megastars, homebred for marketability. In recent years, though, the rise in popularity of NXT has shown where fan interests lie and the path to the future could be fought no longer.
One of the hottest sensations on the indie scene for a few years now has been Will Ospreay. If you’re involved in wrestling conversations on social media you likely remember that name from his recent drama with wrestling legend Vader after the big man criticized his wrestling style for being too flashy and lacking substance. Ospreay certainly wrestles an exciting style, though, and would provide a massive boost in popularity to the weekly 205 Live Cruiserweight program.
1. Kenny Omega
If you follow any independent wrestling at all, then you’ve definitely heard the name Kenny Omega. We can talk about all the rising stars on the indie scene until we’re blue in the face, but that conversation means nothing if it doesn’t end with Kenny Omega. Omega has been lighting the wrestling world on fire in New Japan Pro Wrestling as the leader of the Bullet Club, a role previously filled by the likes of WWE Superstars AJ Styles and Finn Balor. Recently, Kenny competed for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11, NJPW’s biggest show of the year and equivalent to WrestleMania.
It would be difficult to argue that there is any bigger star in independent wrestling yet to be signed by WWE than Kenny Omega himself. It seems unlikely that WWE would sign him and not feature him in a high position on Raw and SmackDown Live with his immense popularity and he could launch the Cruiserweight division to the next level.