There’s no denying that the Cruiserweight Division in the WWE has had a less than stellar start for the company. Following a hugely well received Cruiserweight Classic last summer on the WWE Network, the Cruiserweight Division – and its subsequent exclusive Network showcase, 205 Live – have sputtered and struggled until just recently. And while lots of credit deserves to be handed over to the emergence of characters like Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann, Noam Dar, Cedric Alexander and Akira Tozawa, there’s no denying that the addition of Neville, “The King of the Cruiserweights”, to the division and program have raised the bar. Not only has 205 Live and the Cruiserweights become solid television but the matches are gaining momentum.
But while they have been good, they’re about to get Great.
For the past few months, former World Champion Austin Aries has been working commentary on 205 Live and during Monday Night Raw‘s Cruiserweight matches while he recovered from a broken orbital bone late last year. During that time he’s conducted failed interview after failed interview with Neville, until it came to a head last night on Raw when Aries removed his glasses to reveal he’s fully healed and attack Neville, while a capacity Chicago crowd chanted ‘Austin Aries’ like he was the biggest Superstar on the show.
It’s been a long road to the WWE for “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived”, who was trained in 2000 by legendary trainer Eddie Sharkey and got his first national recognition when he joined Ring of Honor (ROH) in 2004. He spent six years in ROH, where he captured the ROH World Championship twice and the ROH World Tag Team Championship (alongside NXT’s Roderick Strong), with historic matches with the likes of Seth Rollins (Tyler Black), Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson), CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Kenny Omega, Jushin Thunder Liger, Nigel McGuinness, Jerry Lynn…you get the picture. A short, sporadic stint in TNA failed and after leaving ROH in 2010, he spent a year with Dragon Gate USA before finally catching on with TNA.
From 2011 to 2015, Austin Aries became one of TNA’s biggest stars, with his swagger and bravado and Devil May Care abandon in the ring. Not only a TNA World Heavyweight Champion, but a 6-time X-Division Champion, as well as a Tag Team Champion alongside NXT Champion Bobby Roode in The Dirty Heels.
Aries lustre in (and with) TNA soured in 2015 and he briefly made a return to ROH. In January of 2016, Aries signed with the WWE and debuted in NXT, where he immediately began to have high profile matches against the likes of Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Baron Corbin and Tye Dillinger. When his former ROH Tag Team partner Roderick Strong jumped to NXT in the summer, they reunited for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, before a kick from Nakamura in the fall broke his orbital bone and he was sidelined ever since.
Tonight on 205 Live, Austin Aries announced he was back to in-ring action and was coming for Neville, a move that just may finally put 205 Live on the map. The crowd reaction on Raw will go a long way to showing the casual fan he’s someone important, and, like he has in ROH, TNA and NXT, once he gets a hold of the audience, Aries will prove that he’s a Superstar. This is just the feud the Cruiserweight Division needs to begin to elevate to a level that’s revered – like WCW’s Cruiserweight Division at its peak – rather than a region where failed midcard guys go for demotion.
Ain’t life GREAT?
Main Photo: WWE.com