Will Hornswoggle go down in history as the last wrestler to ever hold the WCW/WWF/WWE Cruiserweight Championship? Perhaps.
Since the title was established in 1991, 41 wrestlers have held the belt. The first champion was Brian Pillman, Rey Mysterio has held the belt eight times, Gregory Helms held the title as three different personas (Gregory, Shane and The Hurricane) and for the longest period (from 1/29/06 to 2/18/07) and, yes, three women — Daffney, Madusa and Jacqueline — have also been champ. But it looks like the belt worn by three Guerreros and a Guerrera, the first Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho, as well as puro stars from Jushin Thunder Liger to Ultimo Dragon, is no more. Or is it?
WWE.com has taken down the below graphic…
…and moved the Cruiserweight Title History to the section of the site that features other defunct belts: Hardcore, Light Heavyweight, European, ECW Tag Team, ECW Television and WCW Championship.
There has, of course, been speculation that the title was no more ever since Hornswoggle was stripped of the title by Smackdown GM Vickie Guerrero. Some hope remained, with Michael Cole making a reference to the title during a match between two cruiserweights about a week later, and the championship staying in the main area of WWE.com’s title history page. At the time, I was hoping WWE had realized that the belt had once again become a joke — this time by putting the belt on the leprechaun — and was planning to bring it back and give it a serious push.
I should have known better. Why would I think they would book the cruiserweight division any better than they had in the recent past? How could I imagine that WWE learn a lesson from other successful pay-per-view-driven combat sports/entertainment vehicles?
No, I’m not about to write that Total Nonstop Action Wrestling rode its X Division to success, because as far as TNA has come, it’s been years since “smaller more athletic wrestlers” headlined a big show for the organization. (And even when Samoa Joe vs. Chris Daniels vs. AJ Styles was tearing up PPV, TNA was hardly knocking on WWE’s door.)
But just look at boxing and mixed martial arts. In the former, the last two heavyweight title fights weren’t even on PPV while welterweights (140-147 lbs.) Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Oscar de la Hoya broke buyrate records. WWE obviously sees the value in an athlete Mayweather’s size as a draw, since he’s the focal point of WrestleMania 24. Yet Rey Mysterio needed to be moved up to the heavyweight division and given an improbable run as World Champion (and some feel he only got the push due to Eddie Guerrero’s tragic death) in order to be given the main event slot. Now, I agree that the visual of an occasional Mysterio vs. Khali match is unique and fun to watch. Wouldn’t it have been worth it to see if Mysterio, the top ratings draw on Smackdown for years, could draw a buyrate in a main event bout in the cruiserweight division? Not only is it a more realistic scenario, but it puts more focus on Mysterio the character and athlete rather than his physical size (or lack thereof).
Like in boxing, MMA group Ultimate Fighting Championship’s title holders only fight a few times a year, simply due to the nature of the sport being real and the athletes needing ample time between bouts to recover and train. That said, until Randy Couture’s Rocky Balboa-esque comeback last year and upset heavyweight title win, the top drawing big events were in the light heavyweight (featuring Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin) and welterweight (Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Josh Koscheck) divisions, and it’s probably safe to say that UFC Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva is the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now, yet just getting a taste of his marketability and drawing power. Couldn’t WWE take a queue from UFC and, say, use its b-show PPVs to highlight a Cruiserweight Title fight? Or even a Tag Team, United States or Intercontinental Title match-up? Yes, WWE has the luxury as a worked sport of being able to stack a card with tons of stars and title matches, but something tells me it would at least be worth a try to spread things out a bit, with more focus on the lesser shows (while continuing to put all the cards on the table for WrestleMania, Summerslam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble).
So, the era of cruiserweight wrestling in WWE seems to be over… at least for now. But who knows? Vince McMahon might have a change of heart; smaller stars from TNA, ROH and the indies could catch the right person’s eye and get a chance to be the “next Mysterio;” WWE’s eventual expansion into Mexico and Japan might lead to popular local junior heavyweights getting more of a focus; or Congress can kick up the pressure on pro wrestling with regard to steroids (therefore large physiques) and indirectly open up opportunities for wrestlers that fit the “Shawn Michaels” mold more than the “Ultimate Warrior” one. Or that might just be wishful thinking from a fan who likes to wonder about what could have been.