One of the biggest mysteries surrounding WWE TV is why the cruiserweight division has been such a failure. The wrestlers are talented, and WWE even gave them their own show, so why isn’t it working? Why isn’t it as good as the WCW version? There many popular theories, but I believe I’ve found the truth.
Why WWE’s Cruiserweight Division Failed
When you completely change the arena for a match, you’re letting me know that I’m not watching the same show anymore. You’ve taken the time to say that this is different from what I’ve been watching. You separate the cruiserweights from the show I came to see, and then you don’t let them wrestle a cruiserweight style. You change the lights and the ropes, and then I just get another WWE style match.
We love to complain about the purple ropes, but believe it or not, this isn’t the reason the cruiserweight division has failed. Keep on reading.
If I want to be invested in a cruiserweight angle, watching Monday Night Raw isn’t enough. I have to watch all three hours of Raw, and then I have to watch 205 Live every Tuesday night. Assuming I’m watching Raw and Smackdown, as well as NXT, I just don’t have it in me to watch more WWE television. So if I’m not watching 205 Live, then I’m not going to have any idea what’s happening on Raw. If I don’t know the story or the wrestlers, then why should I care about the match?
Throw in the fact that 205 Live is filmed after SmackDown Live, and most of the fans have left or don’t care, and I’m just not going to be into it. Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania was a great match because the crowd was hot for it and it felt big. Just like the fans ruined Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor at SummerSlam because they kept booing the Universal Championship, a bad crowd can ruin a great match.
However, the lack of context also isn’t the reason. It certainly hurts, but Kalisto vs. Apollo Crews at Extreme Rules was a ton of fun, and absolutely nobody is invested in that storyline. Worry not, reader, you’re almost there.
The first two reasons I gave won’t shock anyone. Fans tune out when the purple ropes come on, so even great matches between guys like Neville and Austin Aries put the crowd to sleep. But there’s one other reason why a cruiserweight division in the WWE isn’t working, and it might not be what you’d expect.
The reality is that when people think of cruiserweights, they think of an up-tempo, high-flying style. In WCW, that’s exactly what people got, and it was fun because it was so different from the main event. You weren’t going to see Hulk Hogan go to the top rope or Goldberg hit a suicide dive, but you could with the cruiserweights. And therein lies the true reason the division has failed.
Think of the upper midcard and main eventers in modern WWE. You’ve got guys like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and A.J. Styles running the show. And if you think about it, what’s one thing they’ve all got in common? Well, without offending Randy Orton, they all do dives. Most of the big names in modern WWE can do high-spots.
Finn Balor goes to the top rope for his finisher. A.J. Styles has a variety of springboard attacks. Seth Rollins can hit a freakin’ Phoenix Splash. Even Roman Reigns has a suicide dive in his arsenal. You don’t need to watch a special show or a specific division to see “cruiserweight” stuff because you see it in almost every match.
So why should I care about the cruiserweights? You go out of your way to make sure they feel different than your normal product, you don’t let them do any crazy high-flying stuff, you demand that I watch a different show just to understand the storylines, and then it’s no different than what I can see on the rest of Raw or SmackDown Live. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
If WWE has any sense, they’ll just merge the rosters. You can keep 205 Live, or make it part of NXT, but let the cruiserweights engage in feuds with other members of the roster. Let us have Braun Strowman vs. Neville or Austin Aries vs. Seth Rollins. You create a bunch of new stars, your employees don’t have to do extra rope work, and guess what, nobody chants CM Punk during your matches.