For the first time since 2007, the WWE will showcase a Cruiserweight Division on its programming with a highly-anticipated debut set for this week’s episode of Monday Night RAW. The WWE’s brand extension created opportunities, not only for current superstars looking for an expanded role but for free agents and independent wrestlers with a dream of making it to the WWE’s big stage.
The success of the recently-completed Cruiserweight Classic helped kill two birds with one stone. The brainchild of one Triple H, the CWC gathered 32 of the best cruiserweights from around the world to compete in a tournament broadcast exclusively on the WWE Network. Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan were tasked with calling the entire Cruiserweight Classic in what is being hailed as one of the greatest tournaments the WWE has ever booked.
Originally, the CWC was to be nothing more than a unique WWE property, where the winner would receive a giant trophy and gain some more national exposure. At some point during the ordeal, the company decided to award the winner a championship belt that he would bring to RAW, thus reigniting the Cruiserweight Division that had been dormant for nine years. The eventual winner of the CWC, of course, was TJ Perkins.
Perkins, along with six other confirmed cruiserweights, is signed to the flagship brand set to appear on Monday night. The other six are Rich Swann, Brian Kendrick, Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar, Lince Dorado, and Gran Metalik. One name not listed by the WWE is Jack Gallagher, but according to Daily Wrestling News, Gallagher has been booked for RAW and may appear on television as soon as tonight.
It should also be noted that Gallagher had a ton of backstage support from both WWE and NXT officials and is slated to receive an immediate push within the Cruiserweight Division. There has also been some talk that Perkins will either defend the Cruiserweight Championship on RAW or at this coming Sunday’s Clash of Champions. If the belt is, in fact, defended at RAW‘s first brand-exclusive pay-per-view, it would mean that five championships would be up for grabs at the show.
The WWE was courting several other cruiserweights to join the crusade with FOX Sports reporting that the top three rumored wrestlers that may join soon are Akira Tozawa, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa. Gargano and Ciampa are currently a tag team in NXT, and they wrestled during the Cruiserweight Classic finale show.
Two names absent from the proceedings, at least presently, are Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi. Both emerged from the CWC as true stars, advancing all the way to the semi-finals. Since they turned down offers to join the WWE, it was in the company’s best interest not to have them advance any further. There is still hope among many backstage that Sabre and Ibushi will sign, but they’ve both conveyed that they have some unfinished business in wrestling rings around the world.
One very interesting rumor coming out of this recent report is the WWE’s plan to introduce the Cruiserweight Division to the WWE Universe. There have been discussions in the creative room to involve Chris Jericho in a segment where the seven new superstars make their main roster debuts. Jericho, of course, performed as a cruiserweight in his early days at WCW and has had classic rivalries and matches with the likes of Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit among others. In this instance, he’d be used to help get the entire division over once again.
Jericho entered a feud with Sami Zayn last week, which will see the two do battle at Clash of Champions, so it will be interesting to see how they integrate both angles should they go that route. Zayn is a high-flier himself, and fans could see him and Neville wrestle several of the newest WWE cruiserweights.
It should also be noted that according to Ringside News, the WWE is claiming that TJ Perkins is the first Cruiserweight Champion, ignoring the lineage of the title that the WCW created in 1996. They, of course, still recognize the United States Championship that Rusev currently holds and is also the property of RAW. All told, the division should certainly add a new dimension to Monday nights as long as Vince McMahon gives it a long enough freedom.
[Image via WWE]