Throughout the majority of the 2016 summer, WWE gathered 32 athletes (all 205 lbs and under) from around the globe from several wrestling promotions for the first annual WWE Network exclusive Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. With each of the virtually unknown and underseen participants highlighting their remarkable abilities in tremendous matches every week, the tournament was a critically acclaimed one. Everything came to a thrilling conclusion on September 14th when tournament underdog TJ Perkins surprisingly won not only the tournament, but became the first Cruiserweight Champion for Monday Night Raw’s contemporary Cruiserweight division. Fans expected and hoped that WWE would sign at least a handful of wrestlers from the tournament to permanent contracts, but it seems that WWE was gracious enough to sign the majority of the participants. Favorites from the underground wrestling scene like Cedric Alexander, Rich Swann, and Akira Tozawa now belong to the Monday Night Raw roster and can be seen every week showcasing that athleticism for a mainstream wrestling audience. As a new way to freshen up the Raw roster, this should be great news for the WWE Universe. However, many fans can’t help but feel a little apprehensive going into this “New Era” of Monday Night Raw.
As much as it seems like we’re being a bunch of Debbie Downers by looking at the bad side of something that hasn’t even kicked into high gear yet, we as WWE fans have been pre-conditioned to expect the worse out of the company. WWE has squandered opportunities and let us down one too many times for us to have complete faith in them. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be proven wrong. Maybe in the coming weeks, the Cruiserweight Division will flourish on Monday Nights with no setbacks whatsoever. But again, it’s still WWE so we have to remain skeptical until further notice. After all, just look at all of the things that WWE could get wrong with their Cruiserweight Division.
15. Too Many Cooks
We all know what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Either it causes a big mess or you’ve got a room full of cooks yelling over each other over how to prepare the best dish. When too many cooks put all of their different ideas into the same dish, it turns out to be a bowl of slop. WWE has suffered from too many cooks on more than one occasion in the past and it’s easy to understand why. In addition to Vince McMahon getting the final say as to what does and doesn’t happen on tv, Raw has a massive staff of writers elbowing each other for their ideas to make final cut; as well as elbowing each other for, well, elbow room. Not to mention Stephanie McMahon and Triple H also have creative input backstage. It goes without saying that everyone working on the scripts is going to have their own ideas on how to translate the Cruiserweights onto television and there is a very strong chance that all of these ideas compiled together could amount to a sloppy division.
14. Too Many Stars
To say that the Monday Night Raw roster is overstuffed would be a major understatement. Among the 10 wrestlers billed as members of the Cruiserweight division, the Raw roster consists of a whopping +40 superstars. Let’s not forget that as a 3 hour show, Raw feels overstuffed as is. Cruiserweights coming in at the bottom of the barrel only adds to an over-saturated brand. Plus, again, they’re starting from scratch as they enter a roster where Roman Reigns has reigned (pun intended) atop the Raw mountain as The Big Dog alongside fellow top stars like New Day, Seth Rollins, and the current World Champion, Kevin Owens. Not to mention an impressive Women’s Division where women like Sasha Banks and Bayley receive some of the biggest pops every week. Even if they’re lucky enough not to get lost in the thick of it all, the Cruiserweights will have a long way to go before they can successfully become a staple of Raw over previously established stars; especially the heavyweight stars.
13. It’s Still A Big Man’s World
As we’ve all known for years, WWE is a big man’s world. It’s been well-documented that Vince McMahon loves big, strapping men with impressive statures. That certain size bias hasn’t been as prevalent in recent years, but it’s hard to deny it’s still there. A wrestler doesn’t have to be 300 pounds to be successful, but it certainly helps. Vince is more willing to push a guy to the moon if he looks like Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant opposed to the 1-2-3 Kid. With most of the Cruiserweights being under 205 pounds, it’s going to be tough for them to bypass Vince McMahon’s prejudice against “small guys.” With most fans being aware of that McMahon bias, it’s hard for most fans to be genuinely excited for a brand new Cruiserweight division when they’re too busy wondering how long it’ll be before WWE feeds everyone in the division to Braun Strowman.
12. Cultures Clash
The Cruiserweights from the tournament all come from unique parts of the world, which brings a unique brand of style for each Cruiserweight to utilize and showcase. Unfortunately, WWE isn’t great when it comes to incorporating different cultures into the WWE universe. WWE has always been notorious about making Japanese wrestlers into comedy jobbers and just plain not knowing what to do with masked wrestlers; especially if they happen to be masked Mexican American wrestlers. Admittedly, when it comes to Japanese wrestlers, things have improved enough where someone like Shinsuke Nakamura can be considered a top star so Cruiserweight Akira Tozawa may not have to worry about being re-branded as a lost member of Kaientai. But Lince Dorado or Gran Metalik may have something to worry about considering how it took the death of Eddie Guerrero for WWE to push their luchador predecessor, Rey Mysterio. Basically, unless WWE can get their act together and not make someone’s culture into a stereotype, then any Cruiserweight who wasn’t born and raised in the USA should be worried about their WWE future.
11. Remember WWE’s Last CW Division?
The last time that WWE had a Cruiserweight Division was about 9 years ago. Their last Champion was WWE’s favorite dwarf leprechaun, Hornswoggle. That should tell you everything that you need to know about how WWE treated their Cruiserweight division. WWE’s Cruiserweight division was never respected and often seen as the butt of a joke. When the Cruiserweight stars weren’t getting jumbled together in a “Cruiserweight Invitational,” they were being fed as jobbers to WWE’s biggest giants. And going by how Cruiserweights were treated a few years ago, they were always kept in a small bubble. Once a wrestler was labeled as a Cruiserweight, that’s all they were. You never saw guys like Jamie Noble, Paul London, or Tajiri challenge for WWE World titles. It’s blatant typecasting that hurt the Cruiserweight division of old and it’s that same typecasting that could risk holding Cruiserweights back in the division of today.
10. Remember the Divas Division?
WWE has never been great at booking an exclusive division. One can look no further than the Divas division as a prime example. Since the Divas were re-branded as Women following this year’s Wrestlemania, they have been booked significantly better. They’ve been given a brighter spotlight and have taken advantage of it with fantastic matches that truly captivated the crowd. But a few years ago, there were a number of biases against the division that prevented them from truly excelling in WWE. WWE didn’t think most of their female wrestlers were good wrestlers, so they were given short matches and “bathroom break” spots on the card to calm the crowd down before a big main event. Or put in a degrading “Bra and Panties” match to boost ratings. When the Divas did manage to put on a good match, they were told backstage to tone it down because they were “too good” and could risk overshadowing the male wrestlers; as Michelle McCool recalls being told following her stellar contest with Melina from Night of Champions 2009. The Cruiserweight division has always had similar biases and it would be a shame if they were watered down in the same way the Women used to be.
9. Risks Being Watered Down
Much like how the women used to always be told not to do certain moves as to not outshine the guys or simply because the moves seemed too dangerous to pull off, the Cruiserweights run a large risk being watered down in the same manner. One of the highlights of the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament was that we saw wrestlers do moves that we normally wouldn’t see inside of a WWE ring. We never would have imagined that Gran Metalik would do a hurricanrana off an apron or that Brian Kendrick would pull out a devastating Burning Hammer from his arsenal. We should probably not expect them to pull off these same types of moves now that they’re on the main roster. We should also expect that many of the Cruiserweight’s most eye-popping moves may be barred from a WWE ring because the risks are either too high in doing them or because backstage management isn’t willing to present the Cruiserweights in a way that outshines their bigger stars.
8. Some Cruiserweights Aren’t “Superstars”
For the most part in WWE, wrestling skills come dead last compared to superstar quality. What makes a WWE Superstar is that they have marketable potential, they have a personality that connects with crowds, loads of charisma, and great mic skills. Most of the Cruiserweights have none of that. No disrespect to any of them, but it’s true. Aside from veteran Brian Kendrick and to some extent Rich Swann, none of the incoming Cruiserweights have charisma or characters that can connect with audiences around the world. Unlike most wrestling promotions, being a great wrestler cannot get a competitor very far in WWE. It’s being a great talker that pays off in the long run and for most of the Cruiserweights, promos are their Achilles Heel. Plus, as we’ve already said, English isn’t a strong suit for guys like Gran Metalik so trying to have them connect with WWE’s American fanbase will be difficult. Hopefully, in due time, everyone in this division’s mic skills will be just as good as their wrestling ability. If not, then their time with WWE won’t last long.
7. Small Fish, Big Pond
If “small fish, big pond” is a bit of a harsh way to put it, then let’s consider them to be big fishes in a lake. When the Cruiserweights used to compete in gyms and bingo halls alongside more inexperienced wrestlers, it wasn’t hard for them to stand out. Looking at a stacked Raw roster, it’s going to be even harder for them not to get lost in the shuffle. As of now, there are 10 wrestlers who WWE consider a part of the Cruiserweight division. The current Raw roster is comprised of almost 40 superstars; mostly heavyweights. As we’ve previously mentioned, Vince McMahon loves his big strapping men and loves to push them down our throats. You really think that Vince is going to give Cruiserweights more time when he could dedicate more screen time to a Roman Reigns or a Braun Strowman type of character? Maybe if he has his daughter or his son-in-law in his ear, maybe that could convince Vince, but at the end of the day, all final decisions lie with the Chairman and as history tells us, it isn’t easy to change Vince’s mind.
6. Could Be Used to Hold Guys Back
Let’s rewind the clocks back to WWE’s 2013-14 calendar year. Daniel Bryan was easily the most popular superstar on WWE’s entire roster. But since he’s a stereotypical “small guy” that didn’t fit into Vince’s grand plans, it was decided that Bryan would be kept out of the WrestleMania 30 main event in favor of a returning Batista. That is until the fan response to Bryan was so overwhelming that Vince had no choice but to insert Bryan into the main event and give him his WrestleMania moment. If the Cruiserweight division was alive and well back then, Vince could’ve easily decided to insert Bryan into the Cruiserweight division as an excuse to not give him a well deserved WWE Championship shot. Bryan may have opened the show winning a lower-tier title (as he did at Mania 31 with the Intercontinental Title), but it would’ve deprived fans of Bryan getting a well deserved main event. What’s stopping Vince from doing that if someone like Jack Gallagher becomes more popular than expected? We should all expect Vince to do for the next Cruiserweight becomes the most over competitor on the roster.
With a limited number of competitors in the division, there is little room for innovation. There are only a handful of ways that the storylines and match outcomes surrounding the Cruiserweights can be executed with wild surprises. It won’t be long before scenarios involving them have an air of predictability to them. That is if they haven’t already. On the last edition of Monday Night Raw, the Cruiserweight division’s long awaited debut was commenced with a Fatal Four Way match between Brian Kendrick, Gran Metalik, Cedric Alexander, and Rich Swann. According to commentating legend, Jim Ross, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kendrick would come out on top. The WWE Hall of Fame mentioned on his blog that he thought the match “was fun to watch but the four-way felt somewhat predictable….” Of course, Ross has been familiar with the business for decades now and so some things may appear old hat to him, but it still makes us wonder how long it’ll be before Cruiserweight matches and stories feel predictable for those watching at home?
4. Already Feels Rushed
We’ve just barely gotten to know any of the Cruiserweight competitors on Raw for a week and a title match has already been made for WWE’s upcoming pay-per-view, Clash of Champions. Cruiserweight Champion and WWE newcomer, TJ Perkins, will take on in-ring veteran, Brian Kendrick, for the newly established championship. The decision to put Kendrick in Perkins’s first championship title defense was likely because Kendrick’s previous WWE runs make him the most familiar face in the division to WWE crowds. Perkins, on the other hand, has yet to establish himself among Raw’s roster or even make his Raw debut. The pay-per-view will take place only 6 days after the Cruiserweights debuted so it’ll be hard for new fans to get invested in this one. It’s hard enough to get the crowd invested in a plethora of new faces among the division; yet alone a championship match between a fresh face with no background that casual fans are familiar with and a veteran itching for a comeback. It’s understandable why this was so rushed (the CWC only ended less than a week prior and Raw had a pay-per-view coming up), but hopefully future Cruiserweight decisions aren’t rushed seemingly at the last minute.
3. Vince Is A Little Out Of Touch
It’s no secret that the old booking methods of Vince McMahon are a little bit out of touch with modern audiences and he doesn’t quite understand what appeals to today’s WWE crowds. After all, this is the same man who publicly lambasted Cesaro on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast because he thought Cesaro was struggling to connect with audiences. Which, if you’ve watched Cesaro on a weekly basis and see the consistent reactions that he gets, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Keeping this in mind, there’s a legitimate concern in the air that Vince may not see or understand the hype surrounding the Cruiserweights and therefore not capitalize on what they can bring to the table. The freshness that the Cruiserweights can bring to Raw and the brand’s pay-per-views is exciting enough to sell tickets, but if Vince can’t see that, then the opportunity to make money off of something hot and new will be lost.
2. We Don’t Have A Reason To Care Yet
Those who have watched the Cruiserweights wrestle in a WWE ring since day one of the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament are already pumped up to see them compete on Raw. However, considering how only a fraction of the WWE Universe have the WWE Network, this includes a small niche audiences. Casual fans don’t have a reason to care about who these Cruiserweights are yet. It doesn’t help that their introduction to the those casual fans last Monday night was rather weak. It did them no favors to have the Raw General Manager, Mick Foley, give a long-winded promo referring to the Cruiserweights as “small,” reading off of cue cards, and fumbling over words from a badly rehearsed script. He came off as someone who knew nothing about the Cruiserweights and didn’t care enough to conduct prior research before signing them or before introducing them to a live crowd. If these Cruiserweights were new to me and the Raw GM doesn’t seem to care that much about them, why should I care?
1. We’re Basically Starting From Scratch
Most fans with WWE Network subscriptions know the story for all of the Cruiserweights heading to Raw, but we have to remember that wasn’t always the case. Aside from a couple NXT stars, everyone in the tournament was a virtual unknown to the mainstream wrestling viewing audience. It took an entire summer for us to get acquainted with them, and to fall in love with them. Now, they’ve been re-introduced on Raw to an even wider mainstream audience, which includes those without Network subscriptions, which introduces them to an audience that may not be as familiar with these competitors. The Cruiserweights are all guaranteed to put on astonishing matches every week, but without characters that crowds can connect with, they’re pretty much dead in the water. Judging by the Raw debut of the Cruiserweights, things aren’t off to a great start. Good match between the four guys who wrestled, but for now to most people watching, they’re just four guys. Not even superstars, just four guys. The Champion of the division, TJ Perkins, wasn’t even on the show. The brand new face of the division has yet to make his WWE debut and introduce himself to new eyes. That’s not good and if this is where we’re heading with the division, the Cruiserweight division won’t be good either.
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