Another Change In Direction?
March 14, 2007 by Lee Hetherington
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With the recent news that the WWE is looking into purchasing and employing some of the smaller guys in the business and with TNA building a company on the X Division, is the wrestling business finally changing direction for the good of the industry, or just in the middle of another cruiserweight trend?
Looking at the recent news that the WWE have decided to look at Misticio, Perro Aguayo, Gedo, Jado & Shocker, is there really hope for the wrestling business in taking in this direction? Simply put, YES. When you look at the success of the Japanese industry, which has built some of its success on the Junior Heavyweight Division, ask most fans to name a Japanese wrestler and they are likely to utter the names of Jushin Liger, Great Sakuke & Ultimo Dragon, along with the likes of Kobashi, Kawada & Misawa. This is really unusual due to the fact that in most wrestling hotbeds, Juniors or Cruisers aren't really mentioned in the same breath as their heavyweight counterparts. If it were not for the likes of the Junior Heavyweight scene in Japan we may not (although highly improbable) have heard of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko or Chris Jericho, due to the fact that this is where these guys really garnered public opinion about how good they were, and how the American industry could allow such talents to get away from them.
Mexico is a place where the cruiserweight is not just a division, it's a whole industry that can boast many a Latino cruiserweight, but not many people will be able to name many Latino heavyweights i.e. Vampiro, Konnan, Tito Santana.
Wrestlers like Juvi, Rey, La Parka, Psicosis and Super Crazy made a name for themselves with AAA, CMLL, ECW & WCW before they even came to the WWE. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho all held the World Title but made their names as Junior Heavyweights, which shows the talent that is out there in the Junior Heavyweight division. Brain Pillman was one of the most underrated and controversial wrestlers who ever lived, and was a phenomenal talent. Just look at the Jushin Liger match to see how good Pillman really could have been, had he not had his tragic car accident which virtually ended his career due to the bad ankle injury.
The first real glimpse that most fans in the US and the rest of the western world would have of the Lucha Libre style, was at the AAA / WCW co-produced When Worlds Collide PPV in Los Angeles in 1994. This super card showed the talents of Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Art Barr and Konnan to the attentions of the world. This helped them get work in the US, showing the style which would become the WCW Cruiserweight division.
ECW was a company that, by virtue of its need to compete with the Big Two, brought in smaller wrestlers that could actually perform in-ring, adding to the list above with Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko Chris Benoit and Lance Storm. Just look at any RVD vs. Jerry Lynn match and tell me that this style could not be successful.
TNA has shown the way with handing the NWA World Title to guys like Christian, Ron Killings and AJ Styles, great talents who deserved this accolade, but showed with their in-ring skills and mic work that this was a decision that was not hard.
The X Division has also helped elevate TNA. Talent like Jerry Lynn, Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin and Petey Williams have been the centre of what people wanted to see when they tuned in to TNA. They have had some amazing matches like the Three Ways between Samoa Joe / AJ Styles /Christopher Daniels and The Ultimate X. Now when you look at the talent available, TNA didn't have much of a choice but to push the smaller wrestlers, as at the time there was only one big man capable of carrying the title - Abyss. So they rose to the challenge and showed what you could do with men of a smaller frame.
Even here in the UK there is a big swell of support for the smaller man, being that the likes of Johnny Storm, Jody Fleisch, Spud and the phenomenal Pac have been reigning supreme for the past few years. When you look at the UK scene, there haven't been many smaller men in the UK since The original Black Tiger Mark Rocco and The Dynamite Kid. Just look at the success of both Storm and Fleisch in the US in CZW, ROH and TNA. And although many would say they have never heard of either man to the UK audience they have been a success. Even The Anarchist Doug Williams is considered a smaller man in the scheme of things, which is probably why he hasn't been picked up by any of the major promotions. And for those who don't know who he is, think William Regal or Nigel McGuiness, only better.
The big problem is that back in the mid to late 90's, WWE did not draw with smaller men at the helm of the company. Two of those men were among the most talented smaller heavyweights of all time: HBK and Bret Hart. The fact these two men didn't draw was not down to size, it was due to the fact that WCW was beating them in the ratings (ironically with the fast-paced high flying Lucha Libre style), and that wrestling was having a down turn in popularity. Then when they put the titles on Benoit and Guerrero, the business took another down turn, but the fans were raving about the quality of the matches. However, you can only watch the main event if the rest of the card gets you there, as in my opinion a bad bottom half of the card really makes you lose interest.
Now don't get me wrong, there are cons to allowing Cruiserweights or Juniors to carry the main title as shown by the recent push of Rey Mysterio or Naomichi Marufuji. The point where you have to push them against a man more than twice their weight and a good foot taller. The believability factor of a small 5'8, 195 pound man beating the perennial 6'10, 300 pound Goliath. This always has to booked as a fluke time and time again, as it seems the only plausible reason for the public to believe it; case in point would be Spike Dudley. The fast paced style means that the wrestlers will take more bumps and hit bigger spots time and time again; this then means that the wrestlers have a shorter shelf life and are taking more risk of injury which is never a good thing. Just look at the rumours that are abound at the moment about the possible retirement of Rey Mysterio due to the wear and tear his ring style has had on his body.
The pushes of men like Mysterio, Helms, Styles and Christian has shown that the wrestling business knows what direction it could and probably will go in. Although I am advocating the faster paced ring style and smaller physiques, it is not without its woes, but would also eradicate some of the problems that come with the bigger physiques like the drugs problem, which would sit well with the WWE Wellness policy at the moment. Couple that with the large Hispanic population making up most of the Smackdown demographic, they may want to have a run with a fast paced high flying ring style that many wrestling fans want to see. Due to the money making potential of this demographic being the biggest minority in the US, the WWE should do something to tap into this potential, as TNA were trying to do with Shocker, Herza Garza and now the biggest success story in wrestling at the moment: LAX.
With all the talk of Misticio, Gedo & Jado getting talked about by the WWE, and RVD and Mysterio possibly moving to TNA in the near future, then they must be looking at having another stab at letting the Cruiserweights run the asylum. Fans would be the better for it, and just looking at the down turn in ratings with TNA, with the X Division being given a backseat at the moment, then the answer to my initial question is yes, the business would be better off taking a change of direction, due to the fact it would take the wrestling industry one step forward and give us a new refreshing product.
by Lee Hetherington (View/Submit your feedback here)..
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