This past week, WWE announced the creation of a new network exclusive show, 205 Live, that will air every Tuesday after SmackDown Live starting on November 29th. Playing off of the fact that the cruiserweight division features wrestlers weighing no more than 205 pounds, 205 Live will be a show that focuses strictly on the cruiserweight wrestlers, an extension of the previous Cruiserweight Classic program.
It has merely been a few weeks since the addition of the cruiserweight wrestlers to the Raw roster and this may be a sign that they plan to pull the plug on that arrangement. Once again, this could spell the demise of a division that WWE has failed to properly promote a number of times.
With the rise of the WCW Cruiserweight Division in the mid-90s, the WWF made the decision to jump on the bandwagon when they introduced their very own Light-Heavyweight Division in 1997. While the WWF had a Light-Heavyweight Championship since the early-80s, the title was actually owned by a Universal Wrestling Association–Mexican promotion–and was rarely defended in the United States.
Where the WWF failed in their first endeavor was their thinking that they could just hire any high flying independent wrestlers and the division would take care of itself; Sound familiar? There was a severe lack of talent in the early days of the WWF Light-Heavyweight division with most of the roster being talents that would never be featured players on the big stage–I’m looking at you, Ace Darling. After Taka Michinoku was crowned the first champion at the end of 1997, the concept of there being a complete division pretty much vanished and the belt became more of a prop, rarely being defended, chased after and never featuring more than one challenger. When the roster showed no interest in the title, the fans didn’t show any.
Once the WWF purchased WCW in 2001, the WWF Light-Heavyweight and WCW Cruiserweight Titles were combined almost immediately and after the invasion, only the Cruiserweight Title remained, becoming the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. While WWE did eventually sign Rey Mysterio and featured decent talent in the division (mostly WCW alumni), the division wasn’t taken as seriously as in WCW, with WWE almost thinking that the division would be a success on it’s name alone. In 2007, the WWE Cruiserweight Championship was abandoned.
In late-2016, with WWE’s penchant for catering to smarks, the Cruiserweight Classic Tournament was created as a way to further cash in on the success of NXT. Originally planned to be a one-off tournament with the winner receiving a medal, WWE switched it up for the finale, giving the winner the newly revived WWE Cruiserweight Championship as well. After TJ Perkins won the strap, it was soon announced that the cruiserweight wrestlers would be competing every week on Raw.
For some reason, WWE went to painstaking lengths to make sure the cruiserweight matches were presented differently than the rest of the product, with the lights, ropes and apron being changed to purple in mid-show for matches. More focus was on the production side of things than actual characters or storylines. Even the live crowds, whom have been increasingly smarky in recent years sat on their hands for these matches despite the excellent acrobatics of the performers in the division.
Once again, it looks as if WWE is in a position where they are ready to give up on the Cruiserweight division and they only have themselves to blame. While WCW had higher quality performers, they also had a variety of styles performing in the division with high flyers such as Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera, wrestlers such as Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko, and characters such as Disco Inferno. Every incarnation of a Cruiserweight Division in the WWE has been one dimensional and half-hearted.
When a specialty title is created that requires it’s own exclusive roster of competitors, the same attention and effort is required to make it as successful as the rest of the show. The WWF was successful with the Hardcore Division by being careful to present it as something unique compared to the rest of the championships. With the Cruiserweight Division literally promoted as “WWE Lite” (pun intended), it will never get over.