Why WWE’s Cruiserweight division is failing
Since the conclusion of the Cruiserweight Classic on September 14th, RAW has been the home of WWE’s Cruiserweight division. However, despite its sheer talent; with the likes of Noam Dar, Brian Kendrick and Gran Metalik, the Cruiserweight division quickly became an after-thought, and as evident by crowd reaction has become a filler segment.
The Cruiserweight Classic was one of the best ventures WWE have taken in recent years, the tournament received rave reactions from the Full Sail crowd week in and week out, and on more than one occasion garnered higher viewership than NXT (even during the build up to NXT Brooklyn). The Cruiserweight Classic had amazing story telling, both inside and out of the ring and because of the diversity of competitors, the competition never grew stale.
However, since ‘graduating’ to Monday Night RAW, everything that made the Cruiserweights so amazing was stripped away, and for the following reasons, the division has already lost its appeal and potentially its credibility.
The Purple Ring Ropes: At face value this point may seem like nit-picking, but the purple ring ropes used for Cruiserweight match do have an effect. All other matches on RAW have the same red ring ropes (excluding Pay-Per-Views and special circumstances). The effect WWE were probably going for was to make Cruiserweight matches stand out and draw the attention of the crowd. To some degree this works, the ring most definitely stands out, but it feels out of place. The change in ring ropes, makes Cruiserweight matches feel like they’re not actually ‘part’ of RAW and are their own entity from the rest of the show. When the matches look as if they aren’t part of the show the crowd paid to see, the audiences will tune out, and see the Cruiserweight segment as a time where they can take a break. Had the Cruiserweights been built better than as a ‘filler’ match from the start, perhaps making them feel like a different entity would have work, but due to the position WWE have put the division in, the best means of securing it is to properly integrated it into RAW programming.
Not properly building feuds: A good storyline is just as important as a good match, a good storyline can make a mediocre match seem great, take the Shield triple threat at Battleground for example. (The match itself was good enough to main event Battleground, but the prospect of finally having a Shield triple threat after two years raised the stakes exponentially). Yet when it’s come to the Cruiserweights, no real storylines have been built. The one attempt we received was Brian Kendrick v. TJ Perkins, and that was a poorly built feud. WWE had a good foundation for a storyline, hitting on the real life relationship between the two competitors, which if done right, could have struck a chord with the audience. Unfortunately, the lack and brevity of promos surrounding the feud meant mainstream audiences didn’t really care about the stakes of the match. Furthermore, of the few promos Kendrick and Perkins had, it was obvious both were heavily scripted (whereas in the Cruiserweight Classic, the two cut less scripted, natural and more believable promos), and Kendrick was made to look like a coward, who literally asked the champion to loose. This was translated in the blow off match at Hell in a Cell, where the crowd seemed completely unfazed when Kendrick ‘suckered’ Perkins into The Captains Hook to win the title.
Not properly building wrestlers: Apart from TJ Perkins, because he won the Cruiserweight Classic, and Brian Kendrick, because his WWE background, the company haven’t really tried to build any of the Cruiserweights on the main roster, with the exception of Noam Dar who was given a home field debut. This lack of building of wrestlers comes down to the fact that the Cruiserweights given one match a week on a three hour showing of RAW (where Stephanie McMahon gets more screen time) and two matches on a Pay-Per-View (although one is usually on the pre-show). Because of the size of the Cruiserweight division and the fact they get such little time, no-one is really given the chance to shine and the audience isn’t given the time to get any particular Babyface over or give a Heel any heat and therefore crowds don’t have any incentive to pop for or boo any of the competitors.
Matches for the sake of putting on a match: This might be the biggest reason why the Cruiserweight division is failing. Because of their limited screen time we often see Cruiserweights thrown into 6-man matches. This doesn’t allow anyone to get any real momentum on RAW and become a credibly challenger for the Cruiserweight Championship. However, with the introduction of 205 Live, hopefully more competitors can be given opportunities, such as Rich Swann who will be receiving a title shot on the inaugural episode of the show, and more storylines can be built, which can then be paid off on RAW. But so far, the fact Cruiserweight matches have been treated like they’re a chore to book has hurt the credibility of the competitors because there are so many of them in match at once those that don’t win (the most frequent examples being Ariya Daivari and Drew Gulak) are seen as if to be jobbers to the few that do win.
The only real hope now for the Cruiserweight division is that 205 Live gains traction, getting mainstream audiences invested in Cruiserweight matches so they start reacting to what they see on RAW and at Pay-Per-Views, because despite the lack of audience interaction, and the lack of a push from WWE Creative, the Cruiserweights always put on good performances no matter how little time they’re given. However, unless WWE capitalise on 205 Live or give the division more time on RAW, we could see the Cruiserweights become solely a Network exclusive, or see the division disbanded all together and many of the superstars sent to developmental or released. At the current rate WWE are going, that might be best for some of the competitors, but for wrestling fans and the industry as a whole, it would be a disaster.
(I would like to mention that this article was originally written as an 'audition' for a role as a writer for STLD Wrestling)