WWE Retrospective: WWE Cruiserweight Classic – Five Years Later

WWE, Cedric Alexander (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
WWE, Cedric Alexander (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images) /

The landscape of Professional Wrestling has changed exponentially in recent years. Nothing makes that clearer than looking to the Cruiser Weight Classic.

It would be hard to argue in today’s wrestling world that anyone knew where we were heading two years ago, 18 months ago, or even 6 months ago. In some ways, the WWE, who have made their brand by being ahead of the curve, being the tastemakers in a world of followers, seem to be on the back foot. Trying desperately to just keep up with their rival in the south. Whether they want to admit it or not.

While some people will call out the careers of Miro, Jon Moxley or the tragically shortened run of Mr. Brodie Lee as reasoning enough that the WWE has lost touch with what made it great.

There is another even more glaring instance, this one from within the four metaphorical walls of the WWE Universe and within the four literal walls of the Performance Center. You have to go back just a few years to see the first indication that the WWE just doesn’t get it or quite possibly never did.

The Cruiserweight Classic was great and should have continued to be

The Cruiserweight Classic was a truly incredible moment in time. With some of the best-unsigned talent under 205 pounds in the world. The tournament was also a major proving ground for the newly minted WWE Network. Would there be enough interest in the tournament to drive subscriptions and bring people back week by week as the original field of 32 was whittled down until only two wrestlers remained?

The experiment worked. The fledgling streaming service saw a huge influx of subscribers as fans attached themselves to individual competitors cheering them on and willing them to continue moving towards the ultimate goal. the Cruiserweight Title.

Perhaps the best example of fans latching onto a wrestler and living and dying with his successes and failures is Cedric Alexander. Alexander wowed fans with a quick win over Clement Petoit in the first round. He would then go on to have a Match of The Year contender in a losing effort to Kota Ibushi. (Yeah, That Kota Ibushi.)

Following his loss and the shattering of his ultimate dream of being the Cruiserweight Champion the WWE Universe came to his aid cheering him and chanting loudly “Please Sign Cedric!” The relatively unknown indie star had gotten over with the WWE Universe. So much so that Triple H came out from his place behind the curtain to raise his arm in a truly special moment.

From there, unfortunately, the tournament felt a bit formulaic. There were great moments, of course, TJ Perkins, who would go on to win the tournament had another Match of the Year contender with Kota Ibushi in their semi-final match-up.

But even with the great wrestling, and deeply entertaining wrestlers. The “Sports Entertainment” plastic feeling of WWE began to show through in places. Gran Metalik’s matches against Akira Tozawa and Tajiri felt stiff. The men didn’t have nearly the chemistry of other matchups across the tournament.

But even with some issues of chemistry and the tournament being streamed entirely online, the finale was by all accounts a massive success. The finale featured a card of five matches, two tag team bouts, and three singles matches. It was, unbeknownst to the fans, the spiritual pilot for the forthcoming 205Live.

Next. Mick Foley is right about the current state of the WWE. dark

Why no Cruiserweight Classic 2?

So it bears the question if the cruiserweight classic was such a success that it ended with Vince McMahon greenlighting a Cruiserweight-only television show, which still runs today. Why would they not run another tournament? There is no shortage of young cruiserweight talent on the independents today. Some of which were signed by and subsequently released by the WWE in the past 18 months.

The answer is simple and disappointing. Vince doesn’t like cruiserweights. He made his empire on the backs of The Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, and Roman Reigns. Guys like Rey Mysterio and C.M. Punk succeeded in the WWE despite Vince. Not because of him. So why haven’t we had five subsequent Cruiserweight Classic tournaments and yet we get multiple Saudi Arabia shows a year? Because Vince doesn’t see the Cruiserweights as a draw.