Cruiserweight (professional wrestling)

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In professional wrestling, a cruiserweight is a wrestler weighing 220 lb (100 kg) and less, sometimes 215. The older term junior heavyweight, which was used to describe the division, is more favored in Japan, where many titles for lighter-weight competitors are called junior heavyweight titles. Prominent titles include New Japan Pro Wrestling's IWGP, Pro Wrestling Noah's GHC, and All Japan Pro Wrestling's World/PWF titles. The weight limit utilized by World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Japanese promotions is "up to 220 lbs" (100 kg). Due to the scripted nature of professional wrestling and that the billed weight of wrestlers can be changed, weight classes usually are not strictly enforced as they are in professional boxing and mixed martial arts. New Japan and Noah also have junior heavyweight tag team titles, for teams composed of junior heavyweights. WCW tested such a format with their own title shortly before the company was purchased by World Wrestling Entertainment. Cruiserweight divisions and championships have risen to much greater prominence in wrestling promotions in Japan and Mexico than the United States. Due to the scripted nature of professional wrestling, many American promoters and fans feel that limiting smaller wrestlers by placing them in weight classes relates a message that the smaller wrestlers are inferior to larger ones. While there have been various wrestling companies over the years that have promoted cruiserweight/junior heavyweight titles and divisions in the U.S., they've had comparatively little prominence. For instance, the National Wrestling Alliance is a governing body of professional wrestling and has actively recognized its own junior heavyweight championship since 1945, but few champions have become major pro wrestling stars in the U.S. over the decades while many heavyweight champions have become celebrated icons of the industry.

Wrestlers[edit]

Cruiserweight wrestlers are generally shorter and possess less muscle bulk than heavyweights, a build which lends itself to a high-flying wrestling style. While there are many cruiserweights who specialize in alternate wrestling styles, cruiserweights are strongly associated with moves performed from the top rope and moves requiring a degree of speed, agility, balance and torque. Cruiserweight wrestling is often associated with lucha libre, where similar moves and match pacing are used, but Mexico uses a different weight class system and the actual term "cruiserweight" (crucero, in Spanish) is rarely used in favor of Light-Heavyweight (peso semicompleto in Spanish). Cruiserweight wrestlers tend to be wrestlers of average human height and weight.

The high spots performed by cruiserweights are normally visually impressive but carry a varying degree of risk. A cruiserweight match with little to no transition holds featuring little psychology and storytelling is known as a spotfest. While spotfests do sometimes occur featuring heavyweights, they're far more common among cruiserweights. Some fans and wrestlers alike us the term "spotmonkey" to describe wrestlers whose matches consist primarily of high spots. In the United States, the term is generally meant as an insult and derogatory criticism, suggesting that the wrestlers have to rely on risky spots to get a reaction from fans due to a lack of charisma, personality and understanding of psychology.

Championships contested by cruiserweights cannot be held by wrestlers who are not cruiserweights, but cruiserweights are normally eligible to compete for heavyweight championships.

Promotions[edit]

World Championship Wrestling[edit]

The term was popularized in World Championship Wrestling, when WCW President Eric Bischoff in 1996 re-established the light-heavyweight division as the cruiserweight division and reactivated the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship as the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Bischoff renamed the division because he felt that "light-heavyweight" was a pejorative term. During Bischoff's stay in the company, the smaller wrestlers gradually became less important. As a result, in the declining years of WCW, the cruiserweights were seen more as comic relief to the heavyweight wrestlers. As one of the top wrestlers in the division, Rey Mysterio would go on to voice his disdain in regards to Eric's business sentiment:

The division kicked off to a certain point but they never put us on top, and when they unmasked us it all came tumbling down. Those in charge of WCW had the mindset that only big men could draw and didn't create new superstars. But wrestling now has changed so much. Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho have all been world champions, but back in WCW they were mainly cruiserweights. Also the top guys in WCW were scared that fans were more interested in watching luchadore action and high-flying moves than big men just going out there and stomping on each other for 10 minutes. The heavyweights were getting into Eric Bischoff's ear, saying: "We can't let these guys be on top. They're small and wrestling has never been about this, we've got to keep the tradition going." It was stupid for Eric Bischoff, who was running a huge company like WCW, to listen to other people. Vince McMahon runs his own company and does what he wants to do, as did Paul Heyman. Wrestling is about what the fans want, not what the boys want.[1]

WWF/WWE[edit]

After the World Wrestling Federation acquired the intellectual property of WCW in 2001, the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship was abandoned in favor of the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, and the title was renamed the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. However it is no longer contested, Hornswoggle being the last champion before being stripped of the title for his own safety, when the title was also discontinued. Prior to acquiring WCW, the WWF sanctioned two cruiserweight titles of its own. In 1965, while operating under the name of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, the WWWF Junior Heavyweight Championship was created. Initially, the title was used from September 1965 until sometime in 1972. During this time period, the title was held four times by Johnny De Fazio and was vacated after his retirement in 1972. The championship was reactivated in January 1978 with the first new champion being Carlos Jose Estrada. By this time, the company renamed itself the World Wrestling Federation and engaged in a cross promotional agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Three days after Estrada won the vacant title, he was defeated by Tatsumi Fujinami. Going forward, the title was almost exclusively used by New Japan while the WWF retained ownership. The title was vacated and retired for the final time on October 31, 1985 as a result of New Japan and the WWF ending their working relationship.

Another cruiserweight championship sanctioned by the WWF existed simultaneously alongside the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship. In early 1981, the company created the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship but unlike the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship, the Light Heavyweight Championship was used primarily in Mexico due to a working agreement with the Mexican promotion Universal Wrestling Association. New Japan Pro Wrestling also recognized the championship and the title was used as part of several cross promotional cards between New Japan and the UWA. The WWF's working agreement with the UWA came to an end in 1995 and the title was returned to the WWF by 1997. However, the WWF, now simply called WWE, did not sanction the reign of any of the previous champions. Adopting a revisionist history tactic, the company would claim that the title was created in 1997. The title remained activated from December 7, 1997 until it was retired in late 2001. WWE then replaced the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship with the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

Neither then Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight Championship were particularly prominent in the company. Over the years, however, the notion of lighter wrestlers becoming main event stars has become readily accepted in WWE existence due to many of the top young talents of the past decade could be considered cruiserweights. As a result, a very substantial portion of WWE's roster are billed at being 220 lbs. or just slightly more. Many lighter wrestlers have achieved main event status within WWE and, over the years, have won several world heavyweight championships. For instance, the billed weight of former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan is 210 lbs. Other lighter wrestlers have risen to prominence as main eventers and world heavyweight champions include Shawn Micheals, Chris Jericho, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and CM Punk. With so many successful lighter wrestlers achieving greater success outside the restriction imposed by weight classes, WWE considers the continued existence of a cruiserweight division as nonessential and redundant.

Vince McMahon's opinion[edit]

McMahon was seen to have little interest in light heavyweight wrestling, considering it to be something of a farcical league. When asked how he would improve the division in an August 1998 WWF internet chat, he scoffed: "Perhaps an influx of Ethiopian talent would be appropriate."[2]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling[edit]

In 2002, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling created the X Division Championship, a title with no upper or lower weight limits but which is epitomized as "wrestling reinvented" and views its contenders as those who compete on the innovative side of professional wrestling. To help market this emphasis, the phrase "It's not about weight limits; it's about no limits" was used. Almost all of the X Division champions have been high-flyers, with Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe and Abyss being notable exceptions. In August 2011, the division was given a 225 lb (102 kg) weight limit until they went back being an openweight division. In 2013, the weight limit returned.

Due to their initial affiliation with the National Wrestling Alliance, many NWA territories have started sanctioning their own X Division championships, while some of them even replaced the territories' cruiserweight belts.

Major championships[edit]

The following is a list of all titles equivalent to a cruiser weight championship. Title names vary, but include cruiserweight, lightweight, midweight, middleweight, flyweight, welterweight, featherweight, X Division, and junior heavyweight in their name. It is worth noting that each of these class listings are separate in boxing and amateur wrestling, but are almost interchangeable in professional wrestling.

Active[edit]

North America[edit]

Asia[edit]

Europe[edit]

Africa[edit]

South America[edit]

Defunct[edit]

North America[edit]

Asia[edit]

Australia[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.rey-mysterio.org/rey/articles/misc004.php
  2. ^ Martin, Fin (February 1999). "Amazing but True!". Power Slam (SW Publishing) (55): 28. 

External links[edit]