Sunday Sermon: The WWE Raw Cruiserweight Division

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Craig Wilson, Brian Damage, Jamie Lithgow, John Carbery and Russ Morgan

Tomorrow night on Raw, the WWE will debut its new cruiserweight division. So on the back of the success of the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC), which finished this past week, and ahead of the debut of this new division, in this Sunday Sermon the team outline their hopes as well as what we are likely to see from the cruiserweight division.

Craig: Straight off the bat, I have to say I’m quite looking forward to the return of the cruiserweight division to Monday Night Raw. The cruiserweight classic has been one of the most entertaining shows in recent memory and really helped get the fans invested in a series of some of the hottest talents wrestling across the world.

johnny_garganoIt made sense that after getting fans suitably invested, the WWE would cash in on that and have them as part of their regular programming. With the creation of various WWE titles in recent weeks, a cruiserweight one is more than likely to be the next one added.

Already the likes of Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, Gran Metalik, Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick, Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa are set to grace our screens after their respective showings on the CWC.

So, as we count down the hours until the new division debuts on Raw. What are your expectations and hopes for it in the coming weeks and months?

Brian: The CWC has been very entertaining and the talent has been phenomenal. The question is though…can that same talent crossover to the main roster? I admit, I have some doubts about that. First of all, Vince McMahon hasn’t had the greatest track record with “cruiserweights” in the past. I mean don’t forget that the last WWE cruiserweight champion was none other than Hornswoggle. Secondly, will the Raw audience appreciate the talent like the smaller crowds do down at Full Sail University? I am not sure…they are different as far as to what they find entertaining.

Other than that, I personally think it will add a much needed boost and interest into watching a three hour telecast of Raw. The names that Craig mentioned like TJ Perkins, Rich Swann and Johnny Gargano are great but the greatest in my opinion is Kota Ibushi. He in my view is what will make this divison “pop” like it never has before in history.

Having Michael Cole instead of Mauro Ranallo call the cruiserweights I think will hurt…but at the very least there is Corey Graves to save the play by play.

Craig: I think your point about the announcing is a big one. I agree, Michael Cole’s announcing is likely to hurt the division. That is a worry.

I also take your other points. The WWE have hardly got a strong record when it comes to booking the cruiserweights/light heavyweight division. After all, they debuted Taka Michinoku with a bang but it wasn’t look before he was a comedy act, in no small part due to the WWE fans not really being all that invested.

Not wanting to remain quite negative, but there are many issues with Raw. But does a cruiserweight division solve them?

Jamie: As someone who has followed and loved the CWC I’m delighted that we will continue to see cruiserweight wrestling in WWE. My concern is that it’s being placed on the wrong show. Literally the only reason I can think off to have the cruiserweights on Raw and not Smackdown is because Raw is three hours long and needs some filler material. Which leads to my concern; the cruiserweights will become what they have always been in WWE – a time filler. As soon as the writers hit a hot streak and have a few ‘heavyweight’ feuds simmering at the same time then you can be sure that the Cruiserweights will get bumped. It happened in 1998, 2000 and at various intervals in the 00s. It may sound pessimistic, but that’s what history has taught us. So to address your question about a Cruiserweight Division solving some of Raw’s problems? As I see it, no chance in hell! It may provide a distraction – hopefully and entertaining one – but that’s all I think it will be unfortunately.

John: I’m on the same page as Jamie, I think the division is going to be on the wrong show. Smackdown has been hobbled by WWE from the out with a smaller roster and fewer stars, the Cruiserweight division would’ve been a huge injection to that brand and they would’ve really stood out. On Raw there’s already an extra 1/3 the roster of Smackdown as is and now they’re supposed to find time to feature 10 new players?

jack-gallagherAll of the wrestlers signed up are talented performers though I can only see a few succeeding on RAW. Jack Gallagher has a great gimmick and is a unique performer who will stand out immediately. Rich Swann has a surplus of natural charisma, a great entrance and can get it done between the ropes. Brian Kendrick has already told an amazing story on the CWC and his in ring psychology and ring general style is unmatched by anyone in the division and many on the main roster. Gran Metalik has great gear and an incredible lucha moveset.

In comparison though Gargano, Ciampa, Tozawa, Alexander, Perkins and Dar while all great wrestlers in their own right are probably going to struggle on a show like Raw. The writers/bookers rarely put any effort into mid card feuds and I’d worry the Cruiserweight division is going to be as neglected as everything that isn’t the Universal title. The aforementioned wrestlers would need well written programs for them to really connect to the audience, whereas Swann, Gallagher, Kendrick and Metalik are all distinctive and will probably get over quickly if not permanentley.

If this division were on Smackdown there would be so much potential, especially with AJ Styles as WWE Champion who could have a great TV match with just about any of the Cruiserweights available.

I really am hoping the best for everybody involved and am also hoping if things don’t work out on Monday nights the WWE will have the sense to ship them to Smackdown where they should be to begin with.

Russ: Raw has 3 hours and they need to cut the promo time down a bit. Smackdown only has 2 hours and doesn’t need the more wrestlers competing for TV time. Smackdown also has the better wrestling already.

Brian: I think the hope the cruiserweights will have is that it is obvious that Triple H is firmly behind them. If this was say back in the 1990’s and Jim Ross or Johnny Ace were the ones pushing for this division I would see ultimate failure but this seems to be the brainchild of Triple H. That to me is a positive, because he and Stephanie can get into Vince’s ear and convince him to give these guys the proper time to grow and develop.

John: Hopefully you’re right on that one. Smaller wrestlers have a lot more upward mobility now too. AJ Styles and Finn Balor wouldn’t have been anywhere near the main title 10, 15 years ago whereas now its commonplace to see smaller guys competing in the main event. I honestly think Rich Swann has the greatest potential to break out. He’s just got so much swagger. I could easily see him tearing the house down with Jericho or Zayn in a solid mid card feud outside of the Cruiserweight division.

rich-swannThey’re kind of stuck at the moment though seeing as they invested so much into Zack Sabre Jr and Kota Ibushi but neither seems interested in signing. Ibushi in particular would be a boon as he can deliver incredible matches especially with current NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura.

If they wanted to build a Cruiserweight division for Smackdown too they easily could. Drew Gulak, Mustafa Ali, Lince Dorado, Tajiri and a few others from the CWC who haven’t been signed up would easily give you a good roster. Throw in Kalisto and maybe the likes of Breeze and they’d be good to go. Maybe sign up the likes of Ricochet etc while they’re at it.

Craig: Yeah, Brian probably has a good point. The WWE would not have spent so much time and energy on the CWC if the end point was to solely create to create some jobbers for the main show. Point taken.

Also agree that the division is being placed on the wrong brand. For me, Smackdown is the better show more often than not because there is more focus on developing characters and that, for me, is the environment that many of these cruiserweights need. They aren’t all indy darlings in the mould of the likes of Kevin Owens and Finn Balor so need something to get the crowd to get to know, and like, them.

Brian: I will say this much, I seriously doubt that the WWE invested all this time and effort in the CWC for them to just waste the division as time filler. I may be wrong, but but it looks like the WWE is really going to showcase the cruiserweight division properly this time around.

tj-perkinsJohn: They have changed their tune quite a bit when it comes to a lot of things. Smaller or just less cosmetic wrestlers have been getting opportunities they would never have gotten 10 years ago and their attitude towards the women has been a complete 180, so hopefully they’ll follow suit with the Cruiserweights. I’m really hoping Jack Gallagher catches on, I love the classical British wrestling style and he’s doing it wonderfully at the moment.

Craig: It’ll be interesting to see how the winner, and the rest of the division, will fare on Raw. If the company put as much effort into the division on Raw as they did with the CWC the guys will be fine. Right?

John: This is actually a strange statement considering how WWE handled these things up until a year ago, but I hope that the Cruiserweights are given a similar approach and distinction as the Womens division. The Women’s title on both brands is presented as something major to fight for and the pinnacle of the competitors careers which is hopefully how they book the Cruisers.

Having seen the final of the Cruiserweight Classic I think they did a perfect job of starting it off by making with winner, TJ Perkins, the inaugural Champion also.

In an update too, Lince Dorado has been added to the roster which I think is tremendous. I first saw him in his rookie year teaming with Sicodelico Jr and El Pantera in the 2007 Chikara King of Trios. He tore the house down with Mustafa Ali (another hot prospect) and my personal favourite from the new line up, Rich Swann, in the CWC. If anybody is looking for a hidden gem from his indy days to familiarise themselves with the Golden Lynx I’d reccomend checking out his classic Chikara Young Lions Cup Final match against Frightmare from 2010, I still can’t figure out how they were able to do the finishing sequence from that match.

We’ll see in the coming weeks and months how seriously the company will take the new cruiserweight division but there’s certainly consensus around fact that the WWE put too much into the CWC for the division not to be taken serious.

What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to the influx of cruiserweights? Think Smackdown would be a better home for them? As ever, leave your thoughts below.

You can read all previous Sunday Sermons here.

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5 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: The WWE Raw Cruiserweight Division

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