Everyone who writes about wrestling online, and I mean everyone , has griped at some point or another about how stale things have gotten. The same people in the main events, the matches losing meaning, the lack of excitement. Even the introduction of new faces such as ECW/WCW stars didn't seem to change matters. It always seemed to end up the same faces in the same situations. This is nothing new for the business but in today's world it seemed a hallmark of doom. The ratings started to drop and the complaints flew fast and furious. People expect a fresh product and if they don't get it, they turn the channel. And they have. I have some online friends I talk wrestling with and a lot of them have stopped watching outright or just watch when "nothing better is on". I kept watching but I'm stubborn and optimistic.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of my desire for the WWE to have a legitimate, non-joke cruiser division. The WCW cruiser division, in my semi knowledgeable opinion, helped keep that federation alive. After all, was anyone really tuning in to see another Steiner vs Booker match? Or another mutation of the N.W.O/New Blood/Perfect Package/Stable with more thought given to the name than the members selected for it? When the so-called Invasion happened, I was happy to see faces like Booker and DDP. I looked in vain for people like Shannon Moore. I knew that Vince has and has always had a fetish for the big man, so I wasn't holding my breath on seeing a Three Count reunion.
But then something happened. The Invasion failed.
Partly due to the fact that the so called big names of WCW (Steiner, Goldberg, Sting and at the time Nash) were not signed. People were looking forward to an Austin/Goldberg match. They got instead Shawn Stasiak running into walls. Partly due to the craptacular match between Bagwell/Booker. I'd love to know whose bright idea that was. Out of all the WCW talent, why Bagwell? Why not Booker vs Lance Storm? Or Mike Awesome?
There were a few lights shining however. People with a different style beyond the WWE punch, kick, submission, finisher were coming up. Rob Van Dam and Tajiri were showing the fans something new and the fans responded. Here was the chance for the WWE to break out of the rut. However, it was a chance not acted on. The same people were still in the main event. It started to seem like the booking consisted of putting the names Rock, Taker, Austin, Triple H, Angle and Jericho into a hat. Sometimes other names would pop up, but the song remained the same.
Ratings started to drop and merchandise sales went down. So in what looked to be a desperation move, the rosters were split and the N.W.O. members of Hogan, Nash and Hall were signed. While the curiosity factor - I call it the carwreck - may have sparked some interest, it was temporary. The casual fans came and went. Hogan was hotshotted into holding the belt. Things started to seem bleak, unless you were watching carefully.
Over on Smackdown the cruiser division was being slowly built. First Tajiri, then Kidman, then Chavo, then Noble. Shannon Moore made his debut on Velocity. Next was a series of promos featuring a masked wrestler. The longtime fan knew it was Rey Mysterio, the casual fan was intrigued. Here was another new wrestler with a new style. I had a lot of fun conversations with my friends who think I'm the wrestling expert. (If they only knew. I just learned how to pronounce kayefabe a few weeks ago) about who this new guy was and why they needed to see his debut.
Thursday, I'll admit I marked out hardcore from his intro to the runin at the main event. I was already happy that it was Rey, the luchadore and not Rey Rey, the horn wearing wanna be pimp, debuting. When he sprang out of the floor with the small pyro blast - much more effective and true to character than most intros - I squealed. Really I did. Like a little girl. Then I snapped out of it and settled down for some mature marking out with a beer. I was hoping Rey and Chavo could pull off a match to show everyone how great cruisers are, and they did not disappoint. It was great to watch and great to hear some real pops from the crowd. From start to finish they owned the crowd, a tough thing to do. They proved you don't have to be a big guy to get the crowd worked up. Compare the pops that match received vs the reaction to Brock Lesnar. When Rey did the runin during the main event and scaled the cage, the crowd went nuts. In contrast when Brock ran in during the Raw main event, the crowd was reacted with almost a sense of "whoopee, here comes Lesnar...if we leave now we'll beat the crowd."
Like I said above, the WWE has always been the home of the big man, the lumbering thug. ECW and WCW had room for the smaller and more innovative guys. Hopefully Vince and the rest of the bookers watched that Smackdown and took notes. First Rob Van Dam, then Jeff Hardy and now the cruisers. Let the WWE change its style, not the performers to the WWE formula. Let the days of punch/kick/finisher die out and a new style begin. Let's have some high flyers and mat technicians.
A girl can dream, can't she?