This is a follow-up column to my last one entitled "How WWE Can Use Nostalgia to Grow Again"... What I try to personally do with my columns is to not just criticize, but advise. I WANT Pro Wrestling to improve. I see things like WWE's TV viewership audience shrinking by over 2 million viewers and that concerns me. I'm not just going to sit here and complain... I'm going to provide my advice on how to improve things and much this won't cost the WWE much at all to implement. Furthermore, by reading my columns, the WWE can save millions on consulting fees or other hired talent.
First of all, two questions:
(a) Who is the biggest star, right now, of Mixed Martial Arts?
(b) Who is the biggest star, right now, of Professional Boxing?
If you answered (a) Conor McGregor for MMA and (b) Floyd Mayweather for Boxing, you are correct!
And what do both fighters have in common, besides actually coming together once in a major Pay Per View drawing boxing match?
Oh, neither guy is a Heavyweight fighter.
Conor McGregor has fought primarily within the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions while his last official UFC match was within the Welterweight division. In other words, NOT the Heavyweight division and yet he's their top box office attraction by a large margin.
Floyd Mayweather fights between 130 and 154 pounds within Super Featherweight, Lightweight, Super Lightweight, Welterweight, Super Welterweight, Light Middleweight, and Super Light Middleweight divisions. In other words, NOT the Heavyweight division and yet he's their top box office attraction by a large margin.
In fact, because Conor and Floyd are so good as SMALLER fighters, they help subtract attention away from the prized Heavyweight division of the past that has dominated the box office for both MMA and Boxing. They are living proof that size does NOT matter as long as you're an interesting fighter to watch.
And now that brings us to the WWE. They have a Weight Class, but the WWE presents being a smaller wrestlers under 205 pounds as a burden and not an asset to the company. The real money is wrestling for the WWE World Heavyweight Title or the WWE Universal Title, at least that is what the perception is telling you. WWE's Cruiserweight based show, 205 Live, airs after WWE Smackdown as it is taped right after Smackdown ends. Obviously, calling upon fans to watch 1 more hour of wrestling after 2 hours of Smackdown is asking much, whether they were live inside the arena (back in the day) or watching on the WWE Network. The show is quite dull and nobody is getting over.
Sure, the format and the timeslot of WWE 205 Live does that show no favors, but I seems to recall a day when TNA wrestlers had NO television timeslot and had Pay Per View events only. That X-Division had some real talent presenting a "sense of urgency" to go after that X-Division title. We saw tremendous matches and in my opinion, that helped build the brand of TNA to be different from the WWE and attracted fans to help TNA obtain a television deal with FOX Sports and eventually SpikeTV.
Go back to 1996... The World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Cruiserweight Division existed, but it wasn't a big deal. Then, guys like Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Ultimo Dragon, Eddie Guerrero early on, Pyschosis, Juventud, and eventually Chris Jericho took this division seriously and not only put together compelling matches, but gave us bright and flashy characters to believe in. Dean Malenko, the "man of 1000 holds". Rey Mysterio was seriously a wrestling version of Spider-Man. Those guys MADE this division special and didn't cry because they were in a smaller weight class. No, they used the platform given to them.
205 Live guys aren't taking advantage of this opportunity... Yeah, I know... It's only on the WWE Network, it's after WWE Smackdown... LAST I CHECKED, the 205 Live show can be viewed at anytime On-Demand from both the WWE and I think Hulu may have it (I might be wrong). Wrestling fans don't have to watch it at 10pm on a Friday night. They can easily pour themselves a bowl of Captain Crunch and watch it the next morning, or anytime throughout the weekend.
Problem is that wrestling fans do NOT want to watch 205 Live... The numbers show it. You cannot blame the timeslot when the show can be viewed On-Demand. Thus, the SUBSTANCE of the show needs to be questioned. Why aren't the wrestlers on 205 Live taking full advantage of this opportunity shine?
205 Live has been on the air since its debut on November 29th, 2016. We've have FOUR YEARS of a sample size and yet nobody cares about this show.
The most we ever cared about this show was when Enzo Amore won the Cruiserweight Title and appeared on this show for a while to defend it. And why did it matter then? Because whether you like Enzo or not, he had CHARACTER and PERSONALITY. He was more than just executing moves inside the ring. Today's WWE wrestlers just don't have the courage to show any personality that exceeds the scripts. And don't act like today's wrestling is so different from prior years. While today, you deal with Hollywood script writers, back then you dealt with former wrestlers turned bookers who might kick your arse if you went off of their outlines.
Which brings me to the many, many smaller wrestlers in NXT who would be UNDER the 205 pound weight limit for 205 Live and the Cruiserweight Division. In case you haven't noticed, Vince McMahon's NXT call-ups have been rather slow lately. Why? Well, he doesn't quite have the size of talent that he once did. In fact, there are reports that many of the NXT wrestlers don't want to join the main WWE roster and Triple H is beginning to protect some to remain on the NXT roster.
The other day, a story broke on how Adam Cole is happy being on the NXT roster for 2021 and it's a "main roster" to him. I admire that pride... But Adam knows that if he receives a call-up to the main WWE roster, Vince probably won't like him based on other wrestler sample sizes seen throughout the year. Cole is a hair or two shorter than 6'0" (he's billed at 6 foot) and he doesn't have the bulk that other wrestlers throughout the year carry. Vince McMahon likes them above 6 feet tall and carrying serious weight of 220 pounds or more. I want to stress again... I'm not here to rip Cole's size, what I'm saying is that he almost has no choice but to remain in NXT.
UNLESS Adam Cole is willing to join 205 Live and become the WWE's own version Conor McGregor (minus the legal trouble).
Adam Cole is, pound for pound, one of the most talented wrestlers in the world. On top of that, he can cut a great promo and is great acting both as a heel or a babyface. If he joins 205 Live and just has free reign to say whatever he needs to, he could become an asset there.
And let's face facts about NXT on the USA Network on Wednesday Nights... You are now consistently being under 600,000 viewers. That is AWFUL. Given how precious Prime Time slots can be, I could see USA Networks beginning to question the lifespan of this show. As much as the NXT wrestlers want to be loyal to the NXT brand, you better watch out...
With 205 Live, you have nothing to lose. It has no where to go but up because it's been limping along all of these years. But if you put on some wrestlers with swagger, which is what the Undisputed Era is well known for, then the show could take off. Remove the pressure of making a larger wrestler look good and suddenly, you have nothing but action packed matches on 205 Live.
And then if the matches and storylines are great on 205 Live, Vince will want that spillover effect to take a few spots on RAW or even Smackdown.
Think that I'm lying?
Go back to 2002... Specifically, look at where Rey Mysterio Jr., Eddie Guerrero, and Chavo Guerrero's careers were at the time. Eddie was given as second chance in the WWE, thanks to Jim Ross being a huge fan of his work. Chavo Guerrero was just kind of there for the WWE following the WCW merger of 2001. Meanwhile, Rey Mysterio did NOT join the WWE at all during 2001. I'm not sure if his WCW contract was heavy at that point or Vince did not want the undersized Mysterio on his roster. Either way, it was Paul Heyman who wanted to bring Rey Mysterio into the WWE while pairing up the Guerreros together.
Eddie, Chavo, and Mysterio were initially part of the Tag Team Division on the Smackdown brand during 2002. Did they complain one bit about that? Nope, they embraced it and pounded out multiple "Match of the Year" candidates against each other. The Guerreros vs. Rey/Edge vs. Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit were the talk of wrestling during the last 4 months of 2002. Then, after that, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero received amazing singles pushes after that in the years to come. Remember, Eddie Guerrero BEAT Brock Lesnar at the Pay Per View before Wrestlemania 20. That's crazy... And then shortly thereafter, WWE took a chance and made Mysterio become a world champion.
Now, both the undersized Mysterio and Eddie weren't exactly the strongest World Champions. After all, they both 5'8" or shorter in height. HOWEVER, my point is made... When you seize an opportunity on the midcard and provide the WWE with an undercard asset, it will create opportunities down the line. Since both Rey and Eddie were amazing in the Tag Team division on Smackdown during 2002, they both were then pushed as singles wrestlers after that year.
Same thing happened with WCW's Cruiserweight Division... What ultimately cut that division off is because most of its top stars began chasing other singles titles instead, such as Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Jericho. Rey Mysterio was suddenly without dance partners and the division suffered... HOWEVER, the point is made that because Dean, Eddie, and Chris looked amazing in the Cruiserweight division, it created other pushes for them elsewhere.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
If 205 Live SUCKS, it's because the wrestlers appearing on that show are either lackluster or have a bad attitude about being on that show. Take your pick. I don't give a damn it it's in an emptying arena following Smackdown... There are cameras rolling and you have a chance to be viewed either LIVE or On-Demand by 1.5 million WWE Network Subscribers.
The WWE has a ton of under 6 feet tall, less than 205 pound wrestlers right now... They should all voluntarily request to be on 205 Live. Then, just let it rip and be very demanding on WWE Creative to give you some freedom for your character. And stop wasting Rey Mysterio on Smackdown with his goofy family storylines. Put him on 205 Live as the veteran and maybe some sort of authority figure.
And while we're at it, I was listening to the amazing theme music for the 1992 Royal Rumble that hyped up the event. That old WWF music was amazing. Why can't a show like 205 Live bring out some older music properties to make the show feel like a legitimate WWE property. 205 Live just seems out of place for the WWE.
Adam Cole, if pushed seriously with the Cruiserweight, has a real opportunity to be a Conor McGregor like star. He was already that in NXT as that company's World Champion but the height and weight differences against many of his opponents made things look awkward. However, if you have a legitimately defined weight class, LIKE Boxing and MMA already do, then Cole and others his size can appear credible because Weight and Height do usually matter in a fight.
And hey, Internet, if you think that my idea is stupid... Allow me to pull the Dave Meltzer rabbit out of my hat: New Japan has weight classes!
During his stint in New Japan, Kenny Omega was a 2-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion during 2015 and early 2016. Did you guys know that? It's a title with a 220 pound weight limit. After that, Omega won the IWGP Intercontinental Title during February 2016. Then, he won the brand new United States title during 2017. By 2018, what happened? IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Omega, however, was New Japan's Junior Heavyweight Champion. And it was during those title reigns from 2015-2016 that began to put Omega on the map to where he could begin working with the company's top stars. By mid 2016, he puts on a classic with Naito and then by early 2017, the Okada match that many raved about (not just Meltzer). Point being, it doesn't matter what situation that you're in... Weight Class, Tag Team division, or in a bizarre midcard feud... MAKE THE MOST OUT OF IT. Eddie and Rey made the most out of their Smackdown roles in the Tag Team Division during 2002 just as Kenny Omega made the most out of his 2015-2016 Junior Heavyweight Title reigns.
You can keep blaming Vince McMahon all that you want but it's a FACT that 5'8 and under Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio impressed him with their 2002 Tag Team action.
Many smaller wrestlers on NXT need to realize that Vince McMahon does not give a damn about NXT. To him, that's the farm system and any wrestlers wanting to cling to that promotion are probably deemed to be "weak" in his eyes.
Try and make Vince McMahon BELIEVE that smaller wrestlers can be financial assets to him. Force him to rethink his business model. If something makes him money, he'll sign on. Remember, he was NOT a fan of Steve Austin and Mick Foley during 1996 and then when both brought something unique to the table, he signed on 100% and pushed both guys to the moon. And again repeating myself, he pushed smaller wrestlers like Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero to the very top despite their size.
It's your choice, WWE roster... The fact is that 205 Live has somehow survived existing for 4 years now, as Vince McMahon probably wants it to succeed in some fashion. Yet, none of the wrestlers performing on that show are standing out to draw in more viewership. Opportunity knocks...
I keep pounding the damn table... Conor McGregor draws huge for UFC and he's NOT a heavyweight. Floyd Mayweather draws monster dollars for Boxing and he's NOT a heavyweight. Hell, the WWE even brought in Floyd for Wrestlemania 24 and paid him millions to appear on their show. WWE knows...
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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