Why the Cruiserweights can steal the show at WrestleMania
Published: October 8, 2016
We Write Wrestling – @WeWriteWrestlin
On the 23rd of June, tapings for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic began with thirty-two of the best wrestlers in the world under 205 lb – at least, that’s what WWE will have you believe; I see no Will Ospreay, but I digress. To some of the older fans it brings back memories of the fast-paced, exciting action last seen in WCW with the likes of Rey Mysterio Jr, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero.
One of the unique characteristics that WCW had been was their Cruiserweight division; the company’s meteoric rise against the WWF can be partly attributed to the lighter wrestlers, on which storylines centered around the athletic ability of these men, rather than the cartoon-like product the WWF was providing.
Traditionally, the WWE has always been classed as the ‘land of the big men’, a reputation which has only recently been eliminated, partly due to the introduction of a Cruiserweight division on Monday Night Raw in wake of the critical success that has been the Cruiserweight Classic. Remember when The Great Khali held the World Heavyweight Championship, despite the fact that he had all the wrestling ability of a bar of soap? Yeah, I can’t forget it either sadly.
Yet you feel that the WWE has turned a corner with regards to how they treat the smaller talent. The very fact that the Cruiserweight Classic is taking place shows that the WWE is acknowledging that the fans want more than your standard heavyweight clash. The fans want more than just a storyline now. They are appreciative of the physicality involved in a wrestling match and the storytelling that takes place within the ring, not just outside of it.
It is that attitude that means that fans care less about how a wrestler looks and more about how he/she is presented and the storylines surrounding them. This, essentially, is how the women were able to revolutionize the division they compete in. Triple H created a character for each of them, and then gave them storylines to engross people, not your typical WWE perspective on the TV presentation of women.
This formula can be applied to the newly introduced Cruiserweight division on Raw. Most of the casual fans will be unaware of who most of these superstars are, and it cannot be downplayed the significance of properly introducing each of them to the mainstream audience. Done correctly, and suddenly the booking team could have the world at their feet.
The Cruiserweight Classic was an epic event that got the whole wrestling world talking, negatively as well as positively. Ric Flair claimed that, and I quote, “I don’t think we’ll ever see the day, and I could be totally wrong, that a cruiserweight will ever main event a WrestleMania”. Whilst many fans disagreed with him (and rightly so, may I add), it still prompted discussion and wider publicity for the smaller wrestlers.
These wrestlers were allowed to perform with no ‘real’ time constraints (I know that technically there were time limits, but they were given sufficient amount of time to showcase their talents). Not only that, but they still kept that element of storytelling through the pre-taped interviews which made you care about these guys as well.
Looking at the talents just from their CWC work and already you can start to get a rough idea of how their characters should be presented. Gran Metalik, for example, could continue his “King of the Ropes” moniker, or Rich Swann could draw on his real life experience of when his life slipped away from him after his father was murdered.
It is a bold, but welcome, step from the WWE to send the cruiserweights straight to Raw, bypassing NXT (although Cedric Alexander appeared on the most recent edition of the developmental show, so maybe they’re doing double duty). It is that kind of risk taking that won WWE the Monday Night Wars. As the old saying goes, great risk brings great reward.
I was always taught that you never get a second chance to create a first impression. One problem that will plague the division for some time is the shameful introduction by Mick Foley on the Raw before Clash of Champions. The very fact that he was reading off of a snippet of paper immediately put the cruiserweights as an afterthought in the mind of the casual fan. Corey Graves would have been a much better choice, having been a smaller wrestler himself, and a constant feature in the CWC control room.
It was always going to be strenuous to get these talents over to the crowd, given that even NXT hadn’t seen these superstars. Foley did not make this any easier.
Remember, though, Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn’t built in a day, he had a continual rise to a level of super-stardom that these young wrestlers can only dream of. But it can be achieved. Austin wasn’t over because he was 6 foot 2, or 252lbs of muscle; rather he became the most beloved anti-hero wrestling has ever seen due to his riveting character and intriguing storylines. If that’s true (which it is) then why can’t these guys get over in the same way? Because they’re smaller? I don’t think so.
There is just over 6 months until WrestleMania 33. There are many exciting match-ups not only hoped for, but expected for, such as Cena vs Taker, Sasha vs Bayley and Owens vs Lesnar. Despite all that potential star power, the cruiserweights can absolutely make the show their own, with the distant yet vivid memory of the women doing the same at ‘Mania 32 driving them on all the way.
I’m a huge advocate of the Cruiserweight division, and I genuinely hope that it proves a success on Monday Night Raw and on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter here.