"Cruiserweights" are here to stay
For years, WWE has subtly been trying to re-establish some sort of cruiserweight division as we see more and more main roster spots taken up by smaller, more agile guys like Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, Daniel Bryan, and several others. But now seems to be the first time in years, even in the history of WWE that we're seeing a sizable chunk of the roster being taken up by guys who would be considered cruiserweights.
The difference is that the shift and narrative on these "cruiserweights" from fans and slowly but surely officials inside WWE that they are capable of main-eventing RAW and even pay-per-views. Some of these guys include Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Kalisto, Neville, Stardust (and the eventual return of Cody Rhodes) and even a few guys from NXT are being put in a position of success like Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and Tyler Breeze.
WWE's Indie Exposure
Speaking of Itami, Balor, and Zayn, kudos to WWE for being open to bringing in these former indie standouts and making the company more enticing to these guys. At the December 11 NXT TakeOver: R Evolution special, I heard friends watching the show call it a Ring of Honor DVD. It was tongue in cheek of course but it was a statement on how WWE seems to finally be catching on and adapting the product to fit several styles that indie promotions brought in.
David Shoemaker, wrestling columnist and podcast host at Grantland, gave analogies to some of the WrestleMania matches to how they compare to other promotions: Seth Rollins looked like he was wrestling in his Ring of Honor days, Lesnar-Reigns had the strong style wrestling that New Japan Pro Wrestling popularized. Not only were those matches very good, the crowd enjoyed and it was the first show in which it wasn't dominated by the "WWE style of wrestling."
Divas can entertain a crowd… as wrestlers
WrestleMania may have featured only one Divas contest, and it wasn't even for the title, but it wasn't the bathroom break, cringe-inducing "match" that we've become accustomed to in the post Lita-Trish WWE. It may have been only a six and a half minute match, yet at the same time, it felt like all of the participants tried their best to make it interesting and entertaining, and for the most part, it was. In February, now-retired AJ Lee made headlines for her #GiveDivasaChance campaign and it signaled the start of a new campaign that could revitalized the division.
Everyone wants to point out that the NXT women's division is better than the Divas division and for the most, they are correct. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley are among the top women wrestlers in that division, but top to bottom, it's one of the most talented female wrestling groups in the world, in my opinion. But what people are not quick to point out is that there is legitimate talent on the roster outside of Paige. Natalya has been overlooked by WWE for a while, but she had one of the greatest women matches in WWE history against Charlotte at NXT TakeOver almost a year ago. The Bellas' in-ring work has gotten significantly better in recent years. And then you have Alicia Fox, Naomi, Emma, and the injured Tamina Snuka are also quality athletes who are capable of wresting good matches.
Overall, there's no reason not to give them quality time or at the very least, take them seriously and give them good angles to work on. Now we won't be seeing nor am I asking WWE to give Nikki Bella and Naomi a 60-minute submission only iron man match, but at least some assurance that these women's talents won't go to waste just for the sake of plugging a reality television show or to make them fools. In these coming months, I expect a slow, but good, change in the division so that in 3 years' time, we'll be seeing Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Paige, and Natalya have a quality 15-minute match for the title, whether it be a Divas or Women's championship, at Mania that fans will be proud of witnessing.
The Newest Era of WWE is here
If WrestleMania is any indication, expect WWE to become a hybrid of what it has been for the past half century and the newer, hipper, faster style that indie wrestling has popularized in the past decade and NXT is starting to make it mainstream. This is the new WWE. This crop of wrestlers is not going to be the second coming of the Attitude Era, but that's fine. These Superstars and Divas entertain crowd in such a unique and forward style of wrestling that we don't need Seth Rollins yelling out F-Bombs to a little kid or Paige strip in the middle of the ring to keep us happy.
During his feud with The Shield, Triple H constantly said "adapt or perish". It was a perfect metaphor to Vince and the higher-ups at the time. The Streak was snapped, it took nearly a miracle to get WWE to give Bryan the WWE title, Cesaro was going nowhere after winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, the WWE Network wasn't doing as well as stockholders thought it would be doing which in turn, made the company's stock plummet. WWE used to scoff at indie wrestling, but now it had no choice but to adapt the product to make it even more contemporary. The Reality Era is still now, but with WWE COO Triple H getting more and more control of the company from Vince, we may be getting a glimpse into WWE's Indie Era soon enough.
Are you excited about the future of WWE or does this make you nervous? Tell us what you're thinking in the comments below!