When WWE held their Cruiserweight Classic tournament over the summer of 2016, the tournament became an instant classic (no pun intended). The CWC, as it was called, hooked in fans immediately. While the tournament was happening, WWE announced that the Cruiserweight Division would be coming to Monday Night Raw that September. After the performances of wrestlers like Cedric Alexander and TJ Perkins in the CWC, fans wondered…what could they do on Raw? And then, something really weird happened. The cruiserweight division, as a whole, lost almost all of its steam. Confused fans scratched their heads, searching for a both a cause and a solution. Then the WWE announced 205 Live, billed as the “most exciting hour on television.” And amazingly, it’s actually working. So why are the cruiserweights struggling so badly on Raw, but thriving on 205 Live? Well, it’s just too much of a good thing.
Laws of Diminishing Returns: Why WWE’s Cruiserweight Division is Struggling
Okay, let’s start with the raw source of the problem (pun intended). Why doesn’t the cruiserweight division work on Raw? Well, simply, it’s the economic law of diminishing returns. In other words, it’s too much of a good thing all at once. The cruiserweights get too many matches between Raw and 205 Live. And the worst part is that the matches they get are rarely good. Raw’s creative team is so concerned with getting them in and out of the ring entirely too quickly. The matches are only awful because Raw gives them no time to develop or tell a story in the ring. In other words, one well-paced cruiserweight match each week is much better than three short ones. Furthermore, the cruiserweights have little to no time to develop a character on Raw. They’ve basically become faceless names. Fans just don’t care.
On the other hand, the lack of brand exclusiveness is gravely hurting the cruiserweight division. WWE is essentially killing their own child in the form of 205 Live. 205 Live can’t get off the ground because Raw continues to hurt it. If fans see that the cruiserweights are still on Raw, what reason do they really have to watch 205 Live? In addition, 205 Live is on immediately after SmackDown Live on Tuesdays. And while attendance does gain traction each week, many fans still leave right after SmackDown Live. So, how can WWE fix it? How can WWE help 205 Live and its cruiserweight division as a whole?
Solving WWE’s cruiserweight woes is a deceptively deep problem. However, it has a strikingly simple solution. The solution has two parts.
Creating Characters and Storylines
WWE made good headway on this part at the Royal Rumble. By giving the Cruiserweight Championship to Neville, they gave the belt and division a face, or rather, a heel. Neville best work in the cruiserweight division has come, ironically, as the exact opposite of most cruiserweight characters. Neville is the Joker to the Batman that is Rich Swann. Neville’s win over Swann at the 2017 Royal Rumble reinvigorated the entire division. WWE’s cruiserweight success now firmly rests on the back of Neville. Neville has the power to be a complement to the babyface-heavy cruiserweight division by simply keeping his character.
Other feuds in the division are already beginning to take place. Wrestlers like Jack Gallagher and Ariya Daivari are currently the “secondary” feud in the division. Gallagher works strikingly well with Daivari’s heel work, and this all revolves around Neville. Neville and Swann set a basis for cruiserweight feuds to come, and it’s working to perfection.
Make the Division Brand Exclusive
This one is simple economics. Raw is taking any and all possible potential away from 205 Live. Like I’ve stated before, fans have no incentive to watch 205 Live if they know the cruiserweights will still be on Raw next Monday. And then comes the problem with Raw. The cruiserweights are getting exposure, yes, but in the wrong way. Raw‘s cruiserweight matches make the entire division look bad. If only fans had a reason to watch more 205 Live. Then maybe they would see what the division is actually capable of! See the problem?
The problem with the cruiserweight division actually isn’t their problem at all. The cruiserweights themselves aren’t at fault. It’s the fact that they’re being exposed to fans in the wrong ways. Mediocre (at best) exposure in short bursts, rather than prolonged exposure in the right ways. And when they do get the proper exposure (205 Live), no one is there to see it! So let me propose to you this.
WWE pulls the cruiserweights from Raw. They make it so the only way that fans can see the division in action is 205 Live. And then, I guarantee you, the cruiserweights flourish. And the WWE benefits too! More people show up in attendance for SmackDown Live because they want to see the cruiserweights battle after it goes off the air. Vince McMahon gets the fan money that he desires. And…done. Not only does that gets rid of the problem, but it’s a win-win. And you simply cannot pass up a win-win.
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