Brian Damage, Craig Wilson and Jamie Lithgow
The WWE roster is filled with “superstars” at every level. There are the main roster guys who regularly appear on Raw and SmackDown, those who are used as glorified jobbers and those who are barely used at all. In this series of pieces, we will take an individual wrestler barely used and decide if they are worth keeping or should they be let go. Today we decide if we Book or Cook the Cruiserweights.
Brian: When the Cruiserweight Classic was announced and aired, I was both excited and satisfied with the outcome. It certainly lived up to the hype and was worth the time and effort put into it. When it was announced that the Cruiserweights were going to be featured exclusively on Raw, I admittedly was sceptical. I simply felt the show wasn’t the right fit for the division.
I will say the WWE has tried hard to push the cruiserweights but the reactions to them by fans have been relatively non-existent. They were even given their own show with backstories to all of the wrestlers to get to know them, but as seen all over the internet, half of the Smackdown Live crowd left the building before the start of their show. So I ask, is the Cruiserweight division a dying idea or is there still life in it?
Craig: For me, I think the WWE fell into the same trap with the cruiserweight division as they do with guys promoted from NXT. They assume that the bulk of Raw and Smackdown viewers and those in attendance watched the respective WWE Network shows and would react the same to the guys on the main stage.
That’s not, generally, the case though. Whilst there are exceptions to every rule – Bayley – for every one of her we’ve had countless guys, and gals, from NXT who have been brought up to the main roster without any care given to explain their story to the fans at Raw or at home and the reaction is then terrible.
On the CWC we got a background story to each guy, an indication of why we should root for them in action. On Raw, they were dumped into a multi-man tag match or a singles bout. The WWE stripped all that was interesting about them – the competition and strive to be the best – and dumped them into simple matches, hoping for spots.
All that was needed was some vignettes etc, ironically something they are now doing on 205 Live, and give the fans a reason to cheer superstars that, in the most case, they’ve never heard of before.
Brian: Is it too late though? Will 205 Live work out for the cruiserweight division? I read somebody’s comment not that long ago that said they felt that the era of putting weight classes on pro wrestlers is dead. More and more smaller wrestlers are being pushed as heavyweights such as AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Jay Lethal, Eddie Edwards etc.
I know that it still works in Japan, but has the weight class system in the states faded away with the 1990’s?
Craig: I can’t help but think that it will work if it is done properly. The WWE would, however, have to go full throttle at it. Yes, AJ Styles can still be a main event and separate from the other lighter guys, but if there is a cruiserweight division the WWE have to do everything in their power to make it work. A half-arsed attempt at getting it over won’t work but that’s all that they have done.
I genuinely believe that 205 Live can be a success. It can get viewers hooked and invested in the superstars on show. But, and it’s a big but, that doesn’t automatically translate to the fans on Raw caring in the slightest. There lies the problem…
Jamie: I think we may have to face facts, the cruiserweights are not here for the long haul on Raw and probably not Smackdown either. You can’t argue that WWE has tried to get the division over with fans, the problem is WWE are notoriously bad at promoting anything different from what their fans expect to see. Which leads me to my other point, the fans. A fan watching or attending Raw is not necessarily a WWE Network subscriber, or does not necessarily watch the likes of CWC, 205 Live or NXT. A woman’s division worthy of the name and which all fans can take seriously has been a long hard slog for WWE, and the job still isn’t done. Will they show the same patience with the cruiserweights? I doubt it, but patience is the one thing that is needed with fans who have been programmed (by WWE themselves) to expect one specific style and size of wrestler.
205 Live is a ray of hope for the division, but there’s a problem for me; “Live”. Pre-record it at Full Sail University like NXT. Let’s face it, the audience for NXT and 205 Live is much the same. Moving the division from Raw to NXT might help too…
Craig: I wonder, though, if there is really much difference between the cruiserweights and the guys already on NXT. Many of the superstars are roughly the same size so won’t really be much different to what’s already on show and with only a weekly one-hour show and a fairly regular two-hour stand-alone event, can you really add another title to the NXT roster? It would probably have made more sense to have the guys just join the NXT roster but making such a move now would just be admitting defeat, wouldn’t it?
Jamie: Honestly, if the cruiserweight division is going to survive as a credible division within WWE then it’s logical home would be NXT. When guys that had been eliminated from the CWC started popping up on NXT that’s what I assumed would happen. If 205 is going to remain live then it’s a cook from me. If the cruiserweights stay on Raw then it’s a cook too, ditto Smackdown. Basically, as is the cruiserweight division has not been a success, despite the talent exuded by some of it’s members. Fan appreciation of talented performers has kept guys like Cesaro in a job, but that love and appreciation just isn’t there during cruiserweight matches, which is sad.
Brian: I was thinking the exact same thing as Jamie. The division shouldn’t be put in the larger scale arenas. It belongs at Full Sail where it can be properly appreciated. I don’t know if it is too little too late, but that is where 205 Live should be taped at. I do give credit for at least putting two of the WWE’s more knowledgeable announcers (Ranallo and Graves) on the Cruiserweight programme…
Well there you have it, our thoughts on the WWE Cruiserweight division. Reckon it still has a chance? Better served on NXT? Leave your comments below
You can read all previous ‘Book or Cook?’ pieces here.