Tonight brings us the finale of the Cruiserweight Classic, a live, two hour event on the WWE Network. With the Cruiserweight division making it’s Raw debut the following Monday, one would hope this should set up either the winner receiving an actual championship title, or at least being automatically put into a match to crown a new champion at Clash of Champions.
To this point, the tournament has been an absolute joy to watch. Even someone with no knowledge of any of the participants should be invested in who wins and loses, because WWE has done such an effective job of presenting the wrestlers involved as actual human beings that act the way real human beings behave. In a sense, this tournament has been really smart because they’re essentially providing their own competition, giving us the alternative so many of us say we want. It’s had all the production spectacle of a WWE event, but virtually none of the bad comedy or half-hearted storylines that Raw produces week in and week out.
So, here we are at the end of it, and it’s kind of bittersweet. It has to end because it’s a tournament, but I don’t really want it to. It’s been a reliably good to great show, even during the first round where we weren’t necessarily getting the kind of top notch wrestling we’ve gotten in the later rounds. There’s also the reasonable concern regarding the future of the wrestlers who signed contracts and will end up on Raw every Monday.
The WWE main shows have not had a great track record as far as protecting and showcasing non-heavyweight wrestlers. If you’re on twitter any given day, you’re bound to run into someone expressing worry about cruiserweight wrestlers being fed to larger wrestlers to give them quick/impressive wins. Those concerns are by no means unfounded. But if anything, there’s also more reason to be hopeful about this than at any time in the recent past. We used to hear all the time about WWE’s bias against so-called “indie darlings”. It was probably true to some extent, though I’m not really basing that on anything other than a gut feeling from what we saw on TV.
But this is 2016. WWE’s top champions at the moment are Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. That WWE put this tournament on at all would seem like an absurd notion even just a couple years ago. But it’s happened, and it’s been beautiful. That it’s happened at all is reason enough for at least some optimism.
It’s fair to say that we’ll look back at this tournament fondly, and who knows if it will ever happen again. It’s probably also fair to say that fans generally hope that the wrestlers that have/will sign on to be a part of the main roster will get treated with a similar level of seriousness and respect that they’ve received throughout this tournament as well. We’ve got one night left yet. So we might as well enjoy it, for all the uncertainty that lies ahead.