The Junior Heavyweight Championship has had a weird mark in wrestling. Almost every big promotion has a championship of this kind, with a weight limit of 205 or 220, displaying young, up and coming talent and being the usual openers for every event.
It is a championship subject of appreciation. New Japan gives their belt a lot of recognition and big profile matches, recently KUSHIDA and Hiromu Takahashi have taken the division to new levels. WWE has a solid champion in Neville, but has one of the worst shows in the WWE Network around the division. Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) is one of the more active promotions to bring prestige to the title, with them having different titles within the division (welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight).
Many other promotions have their version of the title and the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico is one of them. The WWC Junior Heavyweight Championship is one of the oldest championships in wrestling right now. The Championship was created in 1974 when Carlos Colon had a new promotion in the island, the Capitol Sports Promotion. Even the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship is younger that the WWC Junior Title. The strap has been hold by the likes of Gerald Brisco, Rey Mysterio, Carlos Colon, Carlito, Ron Starr, Steve Corino and the list goes on and on.
The State of the WWC Junior Heavyweight Tittle
Since its creation, the Championship has been used to create new stars or to feature them. The title was the first step of every great wrestler in the island to climb the ladder, eventually, the Universal Championship being the goal. For years, every wrestler that won the Universal Championship was reminded of his up comings in the Junior Division. Even former WWE United States Champion Carlito (son of WWC’s owner) had to win the Junior Heavyweight championship to climb the ranks in WWC.
In recent years, the meaning of the title has been diminished and instead of a step, it was deemed as a footprint of never doing anything further in the promotion. Just looking at Tommy Diablo’s 16 reigns with the title makes someone ask themselves, how many times did Tommy needed to prove that he was ready for bigger things? The Title was even used as a way to punish people for not “delivering” in the mid-card o upper mid-card, with Angel Fashion being relegated in the Junior division when WWC’s directives didn’t see hope in the young star.
It was said that if you win the Junior Heavyweight Championship, probably in the future, you would be a WWC Universal Champion. But… the last time that someone in the company had won the Junior Title and later, in less than 5 years, the Universal title, was BJ in 2010. BJ in 2007 had won the Junior Championship and kept climbing the ladder. It has been 7 years since we have seen progress between both titles.
A new star wants to bring back its glory
In recent months, the Junior Heavyweight title has seen a new spark of light beneath its old strap. A young promise in the island, OT Fernandez has brought a new chapter to the title, with him going to Arena Mexico to showcase his reign and even defending the title in the United States against Aero Boy.
OT Fernandez won the Junior Title in March, with him defeating Angel Fashion and now having a great run with the Championship. In midst of all the bad news that WWC has had, from having their biggest star in Mr. 450 leaving for the WWL and then in this summer having very low gates in their show, OT Fernandez’s run has something to have hope on. Fernandez has defended the championship against very good opposition, with him having bouts against former champions Angel Fashion, Angel Cotto and Peter the Bad Romance.
Where did OT Fernandez come from?
OT is a 6 year veteran in the industry. He started wrestling for some indie promotions in the island like the extinct LWE, EWO, CWA, but later getting some stability in WWC. OT would later move to Mexico (with the help of Tommy Diablo) alongside Vanilla Vargas and JC Navarro to go train for CMLL’s wrestling school. As he told me for this article, “I had the opportunity to train in the Arena Mexico and that opened a lot of doors to me”.
He would have a full season in Mexico, wrestling in CMLL and Toryumon, wrestling the likes of Himoru Takahashi (he was Kamaitachi before), Ultimo Dragon, Rey Bucanero, Tempura Boyz, among others. OT would travel through LA and Florida thanks to the experience he gained with CMLL’s own Arkangel de la Muerte.
The big challenge ahead for OT
As for now, OT Fernandez is riding a 120 days reign with the WWC Jr. Heavyweight Championship, “I’m the Junior Heavyweight Champion and as it remains like that, I’m going to keep representing and showcasing the Title with the best of my abilities. I want to keep elevating this championship to its old roots” says Fernandez.
OT Fernandez has a big challenge ahead of him. The last really long reign for the title was in 2011, with Tommy Diablo having more than 300 days reign and as we pointed out, that didn’t bring Tommy any good luck with the Universal Championship. The last really good reign that saw its holder later getting the big prize was in the early 2000s with Eddie Colon (Primo in WWE).
Fernandez has to keep putting great matches, exposing the title in international venues and have a long reign so that the title can have its prestige back. Fernandez says that he doesn’t know why the title was in so bad shape, “Last year, the title was held by the best Junior Heavyweights in the island”. He does know that he wants people to have respect and admiration for the Junior Title and that wrestlers are proud to hold the strap.
It would be irresponsible to call OT’s reign successful, but it is a fact that the title is seeing its best days this summer, with Fernandez showcasing it and defending it around the globe and having solid matches. Fernandez might not take the WWC Jr. Championship to IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title heights, but it certainly can add a new layer of prestige to the much diminished WWC.
The World Wrestling Council is seeing their worst days coming (you can read my column The Caribbean Report for more information), but OT Fernandez’s reign can be a showcase of what the company can do or should do. If Fernandez is able to keep this run, WWC should have a rising star in their lines and a tittle that they can use to signal that rise. Is up to the company and to OT’s hunger to keep that hope alive.