When the Cruiserweight Classic began, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Zack Sabre Jr. and Kota Ibushi would meet in the finals, with the latter defeating the former. That’s not what happened, however, as both guys fell in the semifinals. TJ Perkins ended up not only winning the first CWC, but became the first Cruiserweight Champion.
It is far too early to tell if the WWE is planning on using either its own light heavyweight history or WCW’s Cruiserweight version of the division to tell future stories, but it is worth noting that the WWE acknowledged Perkins as the first ever WWE Cruiserweight Champion during the telecast.
He’s the perfect choice for this honor. While his name recognition isn’t as internationally known as the presumed finalists, there’s both logical and creative reasons to give him the nod.
The logistical reasons are as obvious as they are simple. Both Sabre and Ibushi have yet to sign official WWE contracts. Apparently the two of them have been trying to play a version of hardball with the company. Hopefully that all gets rectified, but if the WWE needs to move forward with its cruiserweight division, plus have it debut with a champion on Raw, it would make complete sense to give the strap to a person who is actually under contract.
So, yes, sad face for you, Internet Wrestling Community. But the fact that this presumably forced the WWE’s hand into picking a person under contract to win the entire thing, it can become a blessing in disguise very quickly.
As far as the creative side, the possibilities are endless. This has much do with with Perkins, as well as his backstory, as it does with the rest of the division.
Perkins was at one point homeless. That’s not an angle. That was very much in real life. He’s also an 18-year veteran of the sport, but is only 32 years old.
The WWE can make his story that of an underdog sacrificing it all to reach his dreams. All that Disney movie jazz, honestly. A clean-cut, babyface who has all the tangibles to be one of the more over characters in all of the company, Perkins has do nothing other than be himself to help lead the division into a great era on Raw.
Lost in how great of a person and in-ring performer Perkins is, though, happens to be the notion that he is incredibly versatile. While it appears as though he’s currently slated to be a face moving forward, he has shown — on the international level — he can play that sly, cunning, and evil bad guy as well as anyone else.
There’s even more waiting for a Perkins-led division. Mostly because of Neville, who did not participate in the CWC, has been lost in the shuffle for some time, and is an easy first candidate to challenge Perkins whenever the title will be first defended.
Without going too far into the world of fantasy booking, this is a killing of two birds with one stone. The cruiserweight division needs as much momentum as possible upon its debut, Perkins needs to continue to ascend as a worthy champion, and Neville just needs to be in something — anything — engaging.
It is simple to envision Perkins either cutting a babyface promo or working a match, then being interrupted by a turning-heel version of Neville. It would setup not only a tremendous match down the road, but it would finally give Neville something to do — and who knows, maybe make him interesting — all while helping Perkins be elevated as a champion since he will do battle with a “known” guy on the main roster.
Even if that doesn’t happen, and the WWE instead turns to another CWC participant for Perkins’ first feud, he is the right choice for the first champion. He is versatile in what characters he can play, is (importantly) under contract, and is as good an in-ring performer — which is the most important part of this specific division — as anyone at the WWE’s disposal.
Oddly, and this is not hyperbole, we are likely beginning the early portion of the rise of TJ Perkins. The CWC and Cruiserweight Championship are only the start. There’s even bigger things awaiting him down the line.
But for now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.