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Cruiser-weighed Down: The Underwhelming Presentation of WWE’s Cruiserweight Division

One of the most puzzling pieces of the WWE’s modern product is how they’ve presented the Cruiserweight division.

They’ve gone out of their way to tell fans that the superstars in this division are different from everybody else (and perhaps inferior at times), while they really don’t do anything different from anybody else.

It’s never been easier to make it as a professional wrestler if you’re under 6’00 tall and less than 200 pounds. WWE has focused more on match quality than ever before (which is most important to smart fans), and less on a strong look and believability in a world of make believe.

This has opened the door of opportunity to a lot of professional wrestlers who are undersized or not in the best shape, but who are great in-ring workers.

It’s often said that timing is everything, and perhaps more than ever it seemed like a great time for WWE to bring back its cruiserweight division.

I was always primarily a WWE guy, but one of the reasons I fell in love with WCW during the Attitude Era was its Cruiserweight division. I could see great talents like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, and Rey Mysterio do incredible things in the ring.

I remember how impressed I was as I watched Eddie execute a top rope hurricanrana. Now I can see 250 pound WWE Champion John Cena do that on any given show. While that is certainly impressive, it also highlights a problem – why is it special for me to see TJ Perkins do this, when I can watch someone much larger do the same thing?

Therein lies the problem – the cruiserweights aren’t doing anything different than the heavyweights, which doesn’t allow them to stand out in a positive way. WWE could solve this in a couple of different ways.

They could allow the cruiserweights more leeway to perform high risk moves (which they’re certainly capable of), but they likely aren’t interested in upping the ante at the risk of the talent’s safety.

They could also tone down the matches of the heavyweights, which they aren’t likely to do with the biggest focus today being on match quality.

Instead of allowing cruiserweights to stand out in a positive way, WWE has presented them in such a way that it makes them at times appear boring and inferior. What’s the quickest way to know you’re about to watch a cruiserweight match? Just look at the ring ropes, or the lighting, or the purple championship belt that looks like a cheap toy from Kmart.

Yes WWE chose purple, which is largely associated as a more feminine color, to be the branded color of the men’s Cruiserweight division.

The Cruiserweight division doesn’t need purple ring ropes, lighting, or championship belts. I would argue that hurts the division more than it helps it as you try to reintroduce that to fans to take seriously.

It hasn’t helped that the Cruiserweight division has been given little airtime, stories, or characters, although that has improved a bit in recent months. I know more about TJ Perkins’ character from his Twitter account than I do from watching WWE. We’ve been given no reason to care about it, which shows.

If you don’t believe me, just watch a Cruiserweight division match on Raw. You’ll know it’s a Cruiserweight division match because it’s likely as quiet as a library in the arena.

I want to be more invested in the Cruiserweight division because there are some excellent wrestlers there. So how does WWE solve this problem? Rather than wait for them to figure it out, I’ve come up with a few basic and bold solutions of my own, which they’re free to use:

– Give each talent regularly on TV a true character, with character development
– Work with each talent on promos true to their character and allow for each talent to have promo time on TV
– Remove all special lighting and coloring (“86” the purple)
– Re-brand the Cruiserweight division to the Light Heavyweight division
– Dedicate at least one hour of Raw weekly to the Light Heavyweight division
– Turn 205 Live into a reality-based show, exclusively on the WWE Network, which follows new light heavyweights on their journey in WWE (similar to the thought behind WWE Breaking Ground) and shows their personalities.
– Move all superstars that are not in a tag team, and who are legitimately under 205 pounds to the Light Heavyweight division – this is a great way to establish a new division while putting it on equal footing with the heavyweight division.

If WWE does all of the things I’ve listed above, I believe they would be well on their way to establishing a thriving Light Heavyweight division. Let me know what you think on Twitter, at @TheBradShepard.

Computer Software/Cyber Security & Fraud Manager by day, Brad Shepard is a polemicist who enjoys following and covering professional wrestling and sports in his spare time. Previously, Brad has written for PWInsider, Top Rope Press, and Voices of Wrestling. Brad is the co-host of the Voices of the Voiceless Podcast, available on iTunes. Growing up in New England, Brad is a diehard Boston sports fan, and enjoys football, hockey, basketball and baseball. You can follow Brad on Twitter at @TheBradShepard.

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