3 hot tips from a not so hot man.
Also…I know you want me to apologise for that god-awful pun
I’m not gonna do it.
Okay so, the Cruiserweights: what the hell happened, right? With the runaway success and critical acclaim the Cruiserweight Classic garnered last year from fans and critics alike, it seemed pretty much inevitable that once the Cruiserweights made their long-awaited arrival to Monday Night RAW, they’d become one of the biggest sensations in the company.
Well…uh, not exactly.
To be fair, the division is slowly finding its footing, but that doesn’t change the fact that first few months of the Cruiserweight Division have been more than a little underwhelming: wrestlers not connecting with audiences, and a dearth of decent story-lines and angles to the point of non-existence has left us with a division lacking in strong characters or any identity beyond the color purple.
So, how are we gonna fix it? Well, I’m glad I put those words into your mouth, dear reader, because here’s at least 3 big things WWE can do to get the Cruiserweights back on track.
GET THEM THE HELL AWAY FROM THE MAIN ROSTER
Alright, so there’s basically no way to make this first point without coming off like a smarmy elitist smark, so I’m not even gonna bother trying: the fact of the matter is that the main roster crowds for RAW and even Smackdown just don’t appreciate the Cruiserweights. I’ve seen the Cruiserweights go out and put on genuinely great matches that these crowds have either responded to with mild amusement, total apathy, or even worse, vocally frustrated apathy. The long and short of it is that, regardless of the Cruiserweight’s talent, main roster crowds by and large don’t give a shit.
Now, to be fair to those crowds, they’re not really that much to blame for it. The way the division has been introduced and built up to this point is so scatter-shot that it makes perfect sense that someone totally unfamiliar to these guys would look at them and go “Who are these guys? Why are they fighting? Nevermind, I don’t care anymore.” And the frustrating thing is that, in spite of RAW being a 3 hour show, they get so little time to perform, which of course means even less chances to actually forge a connection with the crowd. Its strange to me that WWE would go to effort they’ve gone to build up the Cruiserweight division only to blatantly treat them like an afterthought. Now, the introduction of 205 Live might seem like a way to alleviate this problem, but there’s a slight catch: it’s taped with the crowd from the Smackdown episode that preceded it. What this means is you have a one-hour show populated with a drained, and tired crowd that probably just wants to go home more than anything, so surprise, even on 205 Live, the reactions aren’t that great.
So, what’s the solution? Well, like I sad: get them away from the main roster crowd, and get them to Full Sail University, the home of NXT. The Full Sail crowd, the same one that attended the CWC, is an enthusiastic, passionate (and extremely smarky-ass) crowd, who are the perfect witnesses to the Cruiserweight’s athletic prowess. Instead of taping 205 Live after Smackers, tape it at Full Sail.
Or, maybe even ditch 205 Live entirely and make the Cruiserweights a part of NXT. Moving the Cruiserweights to NXT could really help boost the brand’s current lack of talent and provide a wealth of exciting and interesting match-ups, both in and out of the division for the Cruiserweights. I mean, who doesn’t wanna see DIY mix it up with the Cruiserweights again? Or hell, build TJP or Rich Swann up as NXT Championship contenders: with Bobby Roode at the helm as the heel champ, that’s a great underdog story waiting to happen with either of those guys. No matter what ends up being done, getting the Cruiserweights to an audience better suited to them should be a top priority.
MO’ STORIES, LESS PROBLEMS
So there’s really only been two or three significant angles or storylines in the Cruiserweight division’s time in existence, and most of them revolved around the Cruiserweight Championship, and credit to ‘em, the recent storyline with Swann and Neville has been pretty damn entertaining. So that’s all fine and good where the Cruiserweight Title’s concerned, but what about the rest of the division? Cos it seems that the best we’ve got on that front is Jack Gallagher and Arya Daivari calling each-other scoundrels, and a truly god-awful love triangle between Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar, and Alicia Fox (or as Noam prefers, ALICIA FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOX). And to be fair, I like everyone involved, and Daivari and Gallagher’s feud has produced some amusing moments, but it also doesn’t change the fact that’s its really not enough to keep a whole division afloat.
Making emotional connections in pro wrestling is about more than just bad-ass feats of insane athleticism: like any good work, its about characters and stories. Hell, some of the modern pro wrestling scenes’ biggest criticisms is the lack of attention the young wrestlers pay to story-telling, instead favoring the aforementioned insane acrobatics (or “flippy shit”, if you prefer sounding like a vaguely dismissive, condescending asshole about it), and this seems to have unfortunately been WWE’s booking philosophy with the Cruiserweights to a great degree. And yeah sure, guys like Jack Gallagher are entertaining now, but what happens when the “Extraordinary Gentleman” shtick loses its luster or novelty? Giving wrestlers interesting stories and angles to work with is what helps them make a connection and get over: it gives them something to invest in, and when the guys involved are invested, we’re invested too.
So WWE, start giving them Cruiserweights shit to do, preferably shit that doesn’t involve ridiculous love triangles. Instead of having them brawl over Alica Fo(OOOOOOOOOOOOO)x, have Noam Dar and Cedric Alexander start going out of their way to prove themselves as top contenders in the division, pushing each other to increasingly reckless attempts at one-upmanship; have Drew Gulak and Tony Nese use their alliance to go after the division’s top guys and run roughshod, making them a force to be reckoned with; hell, start really playing around with Jack Gallagher’s shtick in weird and inventive ways, like the Vaudevillain’s feud with the Lucha Dragons, in NXT. You could even have a division-wide tournament to find a challenger for Neville’s title leading up to Wrestlemania, and weave some interesting angles into that along the way. Point is, these guys need to stories to tell, and characters to tell them with: cos if you ain’t got that, then what’s there to care about?
WHO’S THE FACE THAT RUNS THE CRUISERWEIGHT’S PLACE?
So, here’s a fun fact: the current iteration of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship has been active for 141 days, which translates to roughly 4 and half months: in that time, there has been four different champions. TJ Perkins’ inaugural run with the belt only lasted 41 days; Kendrick’s reign was even shorter at 31 days; and Rich Swann’s reign clocked in at only 61 days before being ended by our current champ Nevillie. Jesus Christwheels, its little wonder that the division feels so ill defined when no-one’s actually been given a decent chance to take the ball and run with it. If the division’s gonna take off big in 2017 it needs a strong, convincing champion to serve as its centerpiece.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying to pull a ‘John Cena’ and focus on one guy to an insanely myopic degree, but when you have a new division or title, nothing helps better put it on the map than having someone holding it who people can believe in. Luckily for WWE, they actually just put the belt on the perfect guy to do just that: Neville was already established and over outside the division, and his heel turn and subsequent entry into the division has been entertaining and piqued interest in what’s going on the division. Now that Neville’s on top of the mountain, WWE needs to keep the ball rolling and give Neville a nice, long, and convincing title run. The more victories he racks up, more the more dominant he looks, the more fans are gonna buy into Neville as the a star in the division, and once you’ve got a star in the division, people will watch. Let Neville run through the division, and get people talking about who’s gonna be next, and who might finally topple him.
And the thing of it is, this is just as much a great opportunity in star making for everyone else in the division as it is for Neville: when you have a strong champion, anyone who is booked to be a match for them is instantly elevated. Just imagine what that could do for someone on the cusp of breaking out like Cedric Alexander, or someone who’s already building up a head of steam in the division like jack Gallagher. With Neville as the strong foundation, a whole bunch of promising careers could be built up. But of course, everything I just talked about requires actually committing to someone as a long-term champion, and that means that the hot-potatoeing of the Cruiserweight Championship needs to end.
The Cruiserweight division has the potential to be huge for the WWE, but its current direction threatens to squander every last bit of that potential. Fact is, I love the Cruiserweights, as do a lot of other people: they’re all wonderful, tremendous talents who deserve to be recognized as such. Unfortunately, these days in-ring talent alone isn’t always enough, and if all this potential weighing 205 pounds or less is ever gonna be recognized, they’re gonna need some help from the people who should already be helping them in the first place: the WWE.
Or they could just turn the Fox, Dar, Alexander love triangle into a love rectangle with…oh I dunno Tajiri?
Yeah, sure, Tajiri: that’ll put some butts in seats.