Stop wasting 205 LBs of Talent
– Chris O’Mealy 7/20/17 – 4:30Pm
WWE’s Cruiserweight division was formed in the summer of 2016, following a 32-man tournament that aired on the WWE Network, showcasing talented high flyers from all over the world. At the conclusion of the tournament, Filipino sensation TJ Perkins defeated Mexican luchador Gran Metalik in an exciting battle and was crowned WWE’s inaugural Cruiserweight Champion. Although WWE has done a Cruiserweight and Light Heavyweight division in the past, this was the creation of an entirely new championship, with Perkins as the first champion. The Cruiserweights became part of the Raw brand, with their own live show airing after Smackdown on the WWE Network, to give them as much exposure as they could. Now, after one year’s time, the Cruiserweight division is beginning to die out. The writing in on the wall, and it’s rumored that the entire division, and possibly a chunk of the talents involved, will be dropped from WWE programming altogether.
And the only person at fault for this happening is WWE themselves.
Before I saddle them with blame for wasting a ton of talented wrestlers, let’s go back and look at a few of the missteps that WWE took along the way. The very first one should be fairly obvious: airing an all Cruiserweight show AFTER a major television taping (Smackdown) is death for the live audience. The crowd, who have already watched two solid hours of great matches featuring the big name stars of the brand, now suddenly are expected to muscle through one hour of much more relatively unknown stars. These stars had only been featured in a network-exclusive tournament, and in a handful of segments on Raw, so the majority of the live audience – most notably, the casual fans and much younger crowd – didn’t know who a lot of these talents actually were. The only thing keeping the fans in their seats was the prospect of a dark match to close out the night, which would likely feature a major player (John Cena, AJ Styles, etc.). But according to many live reports, a decent chunk of the crowd would take off as soon as Smackdown ended, hurting the Cruiserweight show by diminishing the number of fans watching. Add in the fact that these guys were already going to get less reaction due to less audience knowledge combined with an already tired audience, and you create a recipe for disaster.
The obvious solution? Tape 205 Live BEFORE Smackdown, and air it on a tape delay, much like they did with Main Event when it aired on television. Why hasn’t WWE done this? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s pretty obvious that this would have been a smart solution to the diminishing numbers in viewership.
As for the talents themselves, WWE did a fantastic job getting some amazing in-ring competitors. TJ Perkins had a fun 8-bit theme song and an emotional backstory about his time being homeless. The Brian Kendrick was a former WWE star with name recognition and a training pedigree to back himself up. Rich Swann was a fun loving dancer with a heart-wrenching history of growing up without his parents. Jack Gallagher was an English gentleman with excellent comedic timing and layers of charisma. There’s tons more, but you get the idea.
The problem isn’t the talent, it’s how the talent is presented. All of these guys wrestle each other exclusively. That means that eventually, and quickly, you’ll run out of possible combinations and feuds to work with. WWE would try to correct that problem by adding in some of their regular roster talents to mix things up, such as the exciting high flying Neville, who made a strong heel turn and became the best booked champion on the roster after Asuka in NXT. They also used veteran international talent Austin Aries (more on him later) to get the division over. While the fans have responded well to these matches in general, the fact is that the division as a whole is simply viewed as filler. Exciting wrestlers like Noam Dar, Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Tony Nese, Lince Dorado, and Drew Gulak all receive lukewarm reactions at best now. This is troubling, because some of the wrestlers (Cedric in particular) got rave reactions from the fans in their first few appearances. The crowd even chanted “please sign Cedric” after his match with Kota Ibushi in the second round of the tournament! Now when Cedric comes out, the fans react to one or two of his high spots, but generally don’t seem to care that much. So what happened?
I think the last of depth in the division as a whole led to the talents wrestling each other so much, with only one or two new wrestlers coming into the mix in the past year, did them no favors. The audience, even the casual fans, have now seen everything. WWE has taken a few of their stars and given them a bit more in-depth roles, such as Noam Dar teaming with Alicia Fox, or the Bollywood Boys joining up with Jinder Mahal, or even Akira Tozawa joining the Titus Brand, but overall their stars are more or less floundering with little direction. If you take 205 Live out of the equation (and based on the numbers, that’s happening more and more on a weekly basis) then you maybe see some of these talents once a month at best. I can’t remember the last time I saw Jack Gallagher perform on Monday Night Raw, but even he got a ho-hum response from the crowd, despite being quite over with them a few months earlier.
With 205 Live in its current time-slot, and the Cruiserweights treated as a filler attraction on Raw, their stock has dropped massively in the eyes of both the casual and hardcore fan alike. What can WWE do to remedy this, so they don’t have to drop some extremely talented wrestlers from the roster altogether?
First off, cancelled 205 Live would be a mistake. Instead, move it to the pre-Smackdown slot and see if the live audience vibe fixes the feel of the show. But with 205 on the rumored chopping block, it may only be Raw that gets the Cruiserweights. There’s more writing on the wall, as the former mat setup with purple rope exclusive for Cruiserweights was dropped on this past episode of Raw. That means that the Cruiserweights are becoming more exclusive to just one show on Monday nights. In essence, they’re slowly losing their identity.
Yet even if 205 Live goes away, I have a very simple solution to keep them over on television: let them wrestle everybody.
Seems like a simple concept, yes? Back when WWE had a Cruiserweight division on Smackdown in the 2000’s, they had a handful of wrestlers who fought each other for their weight class belt, yet they still wrestled other people on the roster. Paul London and Brian Kendrick would also hold the Smackdown Tag Team Championship, and wrestle guys twice their size for a year! Rey Mysterio would contend for the Cruiserweight belt, but also win the World Heavyweight Championship (irony?) in a fantastic triple threat against Kurt Angle and Randy Orton. Because there was no restriction to who could wrestle who, these talents got over more and could be better featured as a result. It’s not like WWE isn’t doing that with the Cruiserweights at all either. On NXT, TJ Perkins had a great match with Shinsuke Nakamura shortly before Nakamura’s call-up to Smackdown. HoHo Lun and Sean Maluta regularly compete against heavier talents on the NXT roster. And two of the Cruiserweight tournament competitors, Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa, not only won the NXT Tag Team Championships, but defended them against the much larger Authors of Pain. The Cruiserweights, when appearing on NXT, have no restrictions as to who they can wrestle with. All WWE has to do is expand the Cruiserweights into feuds outside their division, while still keeping one feud over the title, and they could get a ton of talents over in no time.
It would be a shame to see so many amazing talents simply tossed aside because they’re pigeonholed into a small roster of opponents. That very reason is what led to the immensely talented Austin Aries to request his release from the WWE. After a strong run in NXT against top NXT names, he was brought into WWE’s Cruiserweight division and his stock rapidly dropped, despite a well-worked program against Neville spanning from WrestleMania into the summer. While there’s more to Austin’s story than simply his unhappiness, that fact shouldn’t be overlooked. Wrestlers should not see their career in the WWE is limited, and become unhappy as a result. It’s not like WWE was actively bringing in new talents to showcase all over the place and keep the division fresh and exciting. I certainly hope the amazing talents they signed up for their United Kingdom television show don’t feel as though they’re in the same boat eventually. It would be a shame for an amazing wrestler like Pete Dunne or Tyler Bate to leave so much on the table because they end up feeling like they can’t go anywhere else in the future.
Let’s hope things change, and change soon. WWE has a major missed opportunity if they wind up scrapping the division and the talents involved. It’s one simple change that I think can save everything, and it won’t even require anything extra to do it!
WWE, are you listening? Save the Cruiserweights! Let them expand! Even without 205 Live, they can still get over! Don’t waste so much talent! Invest in them! Kevin Dunn, put down that tree bark you’re gnawing with your bucky beaver teeth and pat attention. SAVE THE CRUISERWEIGHTS!
Next week will be my tenth wrestling related article with Veracity. To commemorate this Tye Dillinger milestone, I want to do something different. For those of you who’ve read my blog (link at the bottom of the page) you know I’m a huge fan of top 10 lists. So I will do my first top 10 for Veracity next week, and YOU can tell me what to do!
I ask that we keep it related to wrestling, but the sky’s the limit! In the comments, tell me what type of top 10 you’d like to read. I can do a personal top 10 (IE, my favorite wrestlers of all time) or an objective one (who I feel are the 10 greatest wrestlers of all time with personal bias taken out of the equation). If this works out well, I may do a top 10 for every tenth article I present to you.
Let me know in the comments what you’d like to see! Since this is my first one, please don’t suggest something that would take more than a week’s time to research, like the top 10 SummerSlam matches, for example. I’d need time to watch every event and map out the matches to make that one work. Maybe for article 20, but not 10. Thanks!
Now to put some A’s to Q’s!
Q: Thoughts on the Kurt Angle reveal? Lame, big letdown, or something actually creative and different? (@thedynamicuno via Twitter)
A: I’m okay with Jason Jordan getting a singles push and a storyline, but I don’t feel like the illegitimate child angle (heh, Kurt Angle angle) is interesting to me. We’ve seen this in wrestling before, and it always ends up being pretty lame. Creatively, it’s boring, but at least a good talent like Jason Jordan will benefit from it, rather than a throwaway comedy angle to use Hornswoggle. Ironically, that only happened because Ken Anderson failed the Wellness Policy. Maybe I’d have a different viewpoint if he got the push instead.
Q: Who would be your dream commentating team and what event would you like to see the duo/trio call? (Randy via Facebook)
A: A pretty hard question, but I think I know who my team would be. While I generally prefer the two-man team for simplicity purposes, I can name three names I’d love to see work together one time. Either give me Jim Ross or Joey Styles as the play-by-play man, and combine them with Corey Graves and Nigel McGuinness, who I think are the best color commentators in wrestling right now. Historically, if I could get JR or Joey alongside Bobby Heenan or Jesse Ventura while they were working with Gorilla Monsoon, I think we’d have one hell of a commentary team. And can you imagine Corey Graves interacting with Bobby Heenan? Oh, what could have been! As for an event, what else would they call but WrestleMania? The biggest matches deserve the biggest team. I’d love to see them call one of my favorite Manias, like 3, 5, 17, 18, or 20. Imagine what could have been.
Q: Was there a specific announcer/interviewer (i.e. “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Howard “The Fink” Finkel) that made you want to become an announcer? (Maddog via Facebook)
A: Joey Styles is my all-time favorite announcer, and I loved how he could do everything from ring announcing to a color commentary team and still sell the event stronger than anyone. Joey was, and still is, my main inspiration, even if he is a “conservative Christian crackpot” as Jim Cornette calls him. I also see Howard Finkel as a huge inspiration, since he’s the king of ring announcers. I’ve used styles from others, like Justin Roberts and Jeremy Borash, but Howard and Joey will always be my top guys.
Q: Which tag team do you think was more wasted? Enzo/Cass or American Alpha. (@Trel67 via Twitter)
A: I wouldn’t say that the teams got wasted, but I do feel as though they each had a missed opportunity. For American Alpha, they at least got a run as the champions on Smackdown, and both guys will get decent singles pushes following the split. However I feel as though they were never truly used well on Smackdown, even during that run. Enzo and Cass were super over, and their split had a huge reaction from the fans. But for some reason, they never got a run as the champions in NXT or on the main roster. I feel like they deserved at least one run before the split happened. So given the choices, I’d say that Enzo & Cass would be my pick, for the lack of championship title run mostly.
Q: WWE Studios is good at churning out multiple films a year, do you have any favorites? (Matt H of pollinracingpodcast.podomatic.com)
A: Yes. My favorites are the ones I’ve never seen, because you can’t think a film is awful if you’ve never seen it.
Chris O’Mealy is a former indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. Clearly, he is a big pro wrestling fan. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community, which you can like on Facebook and follow on Twitter. He hosts three podcasts (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk, Talkin’ Talkies, and The Jersey Rain Hour) which can all be found on Facebook and Podomatic. He also writes for his own blog which you can read at http://comealy17.wordpress.com. He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or emailed directly at email@example.com. You may also contact him on Facebook (facebook.com/chrisomealy), but he will only accept a friend request if you introduce yourself to him first.