Just as things were starting to look depressing for WWE’s new cruiserweight division, WWE took the right step when it was needed: Sooner rather than later.
Another hour of weekly pro wrestling programming is coming to the WWE Network, exclusively for the cruiserweight division. Yes, in most any other case, another hour of WWE programming each week would be news to deplore. Three hours and change of Raw, two hours of SmackDown, an hour of NXT for the hardcore fans, plus those PPV weeks — more WWE to watch each week is about the last thing we need. But, boy, do the cruiserweights need that exclusive hour and do they need it quick.
Let’s be frank: the cruiserweight division has not been doing so hot on Monday Night Raw. To be even more frank, the cruiserweight division is sinking on Raw. It has been two months since the debut, yet it feels like it has been years already — and not in a good way. What wrestling fans who thoroughly enjoyed the Cruiserweight Classic worried could happen has basically come to be.
The first few weeks were a little rocky, but calmer minds wanted to give WWE a chance to settle the division in and let it blossom. After two months, though, things have been consistently heading south, and it is clear that was not going to change. The WWE cruiserweight division has become the Divas division of old. Its stars are given cheesy stories and character development, and the segments and matches tend to go on during the death slots of the show.
If T.J. Perkins or The Brian Kendrick are not involved — because remember, the whole division has been focused on just two guys since Day 1 — then its some multi-man filler match on Raw to fill the gap from one segment to another. And what Perkins and Kendrick have gotten so far has been nothing to get excited about, either.
Think back to only a few short months ago at the Cruiserweight Classic. During its running, it was easily the best WWE show each week — ironic since it wasn’t technically a WWE show, but its own entity that simply aired on the WWE Network. For 10 weeks, we got to watch the cruiserweights tear it up with exciting matches of various styles, and every match was prefaced with well-done promos for each wrestler, which allowed viewers to get to know each competitor and become invested as the tournament progressed. Many hailed it as the best tournament WWE had ever put on in the entire promotion’s history — a justified claim void of hyperbole.
It created a bullet train of momentum for the new division to debut on the main roster, which has since been lost almost entirely. Everything that set the division apart and made it fresh and exciting has essentially disappeared on the main roster. At least in the old days of WCW you could look forward to the cruiserweight matches because they were routinely the best matches on the show, but you can’t even say that here, even when it should be the case. To turn things around, something needed to happen, and it needed to happen pretty quick.
So why not retrace to recapture elements of the Cruiserweight Classic, seeing as how it was such a success? On the surface, that seems to be exactly what “205 Live” is being prepped as. It’s a one-hour program each week that is exclusively for the cruiserweight division. Perfect. That means the cruiserweights get full focus for an entire hour not to be interrupted or overlooked by other WWE stars who have no relation to them.
It means a whole hour of exclusive time to host matches and promo work in order to build characters, create emotional investment, and let the wrestlers perform to their ability.
Cruiserweight Classic fans may also remember an extra cherry on top that had nothing to do, really, with the cruiserweights themselves: The commentary. Daniel Bryan and Mauro Ranallo served as the commentary team for the tournament and became the best commentary team in the entirety of modern day WWE programming. Well, Ranallo will be back as lead commentator for the cruiserweights on “205 Live,” and while we will not be graced with Bryan’s voice, a worthy successor will fill that spot as color commentator in Corey Graves. Yes, a two-man commentating team again, unlike the three-man units on Raw, SmackDown and PPV’s that no one thinks is preferable except head honcho Vince McMahon.
Everything is not all roses with “205 Live,” though. The show will air immediately following SmackDown each week, live in the same venue — unlike the Cruiserweight Classic, which took place at its own location in Florida, where NXT is produced. On the surface, what this means is McMahon is likely going to be remaining as a pivotal figure in the production of the show, unlike the tournament which he had little involvement in.
Say what you will, but the fact of the matter is the cruiserweights tore it up every week when Paul Levesque was running the show during the CWC, and ever since McMahon has taken the reigns, things have been lackluster, to say the least.
The good news, though, is Levesque seems to have a major hand in the recent development of “205 Live” with his personal words being featured in the official WWE breaking news article: “205 Live is a natural progression to showcase the depth of our roster,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative. “With world-class talent such as Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins and Rich Swann, 205 Live will be a must-see program on WWE Network.”
Exactly how the hierarchy of running the show works is yet to be seen. But what can be said is the cruiserweights certainly needed more time in order to grow as a division and make an individual mark away from the rest of the WWE main roster.
The show does not start until Nov. 29, but, for now, the plan is to have the exclusive show and continue featuring the cruiserweights on Raw as well, working as a link and not as two separate entities like Raw and SmackDown post-brand split. It would be foolish to expect a continuation of the CWC’s quality and success, but “205 Live,” from every angle, looks to be a big step to get the cruiserweight division back on track to flesh out the potential it is capable of.