The Cruiserweight Classic is the best WWE produced event the company has done in a long time. Honestly, save for a few NXT TakeOvers and WrestleManias, it might be the very best thing the company has ever produced. While there are nuances, variables and preferences at play when discussing the CWC in those terms, at the very least most people can agree that it has been a fantastic product.
There are numerous reasons for its awesomeness. To the way in which it is broadcasted, to the announcers, all the way to the video packages that air before each match, but at the end of the day it is the in-ring performers who have turned this tournament into a spectacle worth drooling over.
With the cruiserweight division coming back to Monday Night Raw on Sept. 19, the fear moving forward is that a lot of these guys will be pigeon-holed into a certain role. That, despite smaller wrestlers like Finn Bálor and others getting massive pushes in the past, these guys will never be able to escape the confines of the “small man” division.
That is a noteworthy concern, as it can most certainly play out that way, but there’s a reason cream tends to rise to the top – and it doesn’t matter how big your coffee cup is, as it will still rise.
Here are three talented performers that will enter the WWE Universe likely tagged as cruiserweights, but will trot about the landscape of the company without a glass ceiling. Guys who might start their careers battling for the cruiserweight championship, yet can find themselves in or near the main even scene at some point or another.
There are bigger names in the CWC, but I’m not sold on the idea that any one performer has been more impressive than Perkins.
Perkins is the perfect mix of confident in-ring talent who has the goods to back it up. While the CWC doesn’t have clear heels or faces, by listening to him talk in the video packages and watching him wrestle, it is clear he can play either role.
He’s also an innovator of offense. Something that WWE fans will find more than refreshing.
A veteran of the industry who has incredible experience despite only being 31 years old, Perkins can work any style of match needed, make it look great, all while elevating his opponent. Hell, the greatest compliment a wrestler can have is that s/he makes the “loser” in a match still look good despite not getting the victory.
Angles, storylines, etc., are all ready and available for him when he gets to the main roster. The WWE can play-up his international career, matches against other already established WWE stars, and begin to build a fan base for him even before he hits the ring.
Even if any of that doesn’t work, his in-ring style alone will get him fans. Sincerely, Perkins is such a great talent that there should be no issue in him transcending the cruiserweight tag and becoming a high-level performer in the WWE.
This one is really a no-brainer. Provided things work out according to plan, he might skip the cruiserweight division completely. He is already a huge international star with a cult-like following. Not to mention that he had to cut weight to enter the division, it is less likely he would enter the main roster tagged as a cruiserweight to start his WWE career anyway.
In fact, as it is with many other international stars, Ibushi might begin his WWE career on NXT, which will allow him to avoid the pitfalls of being categorized as a cruiserweight.
After that, it is pretty easy to envision him fighting for mid-card titles on the main roster, and potentially a “world” championship at some point down the line.
Ibushi has nearly everything one needs in their arsenal to make the leap – and be successful – in the WWE Universe. He can wrestle many styles, is entertaining in the ring, and comes with a name-brand feel to him, The only sincere question mark anyone will have of him is if the casual crowd will immediately take to him or not – which is unlikely to be an issue.
This one is cheating a bit. Johnny Wrestling is already performing for the WWE down in NXT, but has he ever improved over the last six months or so.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: There was a point in time in his career that Gargano not only looked like he was created in an ROH generic-wrestler-factory, but performed as such. However, as he’s gained in-ring experience and confidence, he has become a must-watch for any wrestling fan.
There are other reasons to think Gargano can resonate really well on the main roster and blast through any glass ceilings. He has an aura around him that always sets him up to be the underdog, but one who can overcome those odds by way of incredible striking and dazzling – and sometimes innovative – moves.
The NXT fan base has its collective heart currently attached to Gargano. There is little reason to think he can’t do the same at the next level.
There’s even more to it than that. If or when he does go to Raw or SmackDown, there’s a decent chance he will do so as a member of a tag team, and not in the cruiserweight division. Some of the sport’s greatest talents have started out in that similar position, especially smaller guys, and have been able to parlay that to main eventing huge Network Specials (PPVs).