When Enzo Amore was released from WWE on January 23rd, the Cruiserweight Championship was vacated and the future of that title’s path was up in the air.
This week on 205 Live, the new general manager Drake Maverick addressed the status of the Cruiserweight Championship by stating there would be a 16-man single-elimination tournament that would culminate at WrestleMania with the crowning of a new champion.
There is a lot to unpack here, so I figured I would break down as much of this as I could while giving my first impressions and overall thoughts on the concept as well.
Is it the Right Choice to Make?
First off, they could have done any number of things to settle the title situation, but I can’t imagine a single scenario that would have been better.
In these past few months, we’ve seen such chaos related to this title and the No. 1 contender spot.
Neville holds it for a long time, drops it to Akira Tozawa for a minute, wins it back, drops it to Enzo Amore and quits the company, then Enzo drops it to Kalisto for a minute and wins it back, and we start setting up Rich Swann or Drew Gulak to fight Enzo, only for Swann to get arrested and Cedric Alexander to take his place, and then Enzo to leave the company.
WWE could have said “the hell with it” and just did some sort of multi-man match to determine who would fight Cedric Alexander (the rightful No. 1 contender if there was one) for the title at Elimination Chamber or had some Fatal 4-Way to crown a new champion, but they didn’t.
The tournament idea is much better because it forces the new champion to start with some credibility, as he’ll have gone through 4 opponents to get that belt.
Plus, the fact that it will be completed at WrestleMania ups its prestige a bit more and makes it so much more special for whoever gets chosen to win that title.
Good call, WWE. This is a true instance of turning a bad situation into a positive outcome.
The Field of Competitors
Right now, we don’t know who the 16 men are who will be competing, because there are more than 16 options available.
Oddly enough, had The Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar not been injured, Rich Swann not be involved in his legal issues, and Neville not taking his leave, that would have made the total of competitors exactly 16.
Since those four are unlikely to be competing, we need to figure out some replacements—although it’s important to note that there is always a chance any or all of them come back into the fold now that the charges against Swann have been dropped, Dar and Kendrick could always heal and Neville may just have the right deal put in front of him to convince him to return.
We do know two outsiders who have already been announced, though: Tyler Bate and Roderick Strong.
Bate was eliminated by TJP this week (which also saw Cedric Alexander taking out Gran Metalik) and Strong will face Hideo Itami next week, along with Kalisto vs. Lince Dorado as another round 1 match.
That takes care of 8 of the 16 men, leaving 8 more spots open for discussion.
Akira Tozawa, Ariya Daivari, Drew Gulak, Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Mustafa Ali and Tony Nese are damn sure guarantees even though we don’t know their placement yet, since no brackets have been released whatsoever and may very well not be mentioned for many weeks while the company sorts out the rest of the details.
Assuming nothing odd happens, those 6 men are givens, which means there are still 2 more cruiserweights who have to be in this tournament.
Luckily for WWE, there are 15 wrestlers 205 pounds or lower on Raw, SmackDown or NXT at the moment.
Samir Singh is injured and won’t be back for months, so we can count him out, but Sunil Singh is certainly a possibility. I wouldn’t bank on it, as he’s more likely to just be tagging along Jinder Mahal like normal, but you never know.
I would also think that Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are out of the running as they’ll be on NXT and busy in their own feud. The same goes for Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish with the NXT Tag Team Championship being their focus.
Marcel Barthel would just seem like a jobber, as he isn’t even a regular NXT roster member. Pass.
Even though it would make people go nuts, don’t expect Finn Balor to join the 205 Live roster. I think it’s safe to assume the same thing for Xavier Woods and Chad Gable.
Since Tyler Bate was in it, Pete Dunne is a possibility, but with him holding the United Kingdom Championship, I don’t think he’ll start fighting for another one and lose in a random tournament match.
The field of options is starting to get pretty narrow for those 2 empty spots, isn’t it?
Out of all the available wrestlers, I think we can safely say those last 2 men, if they aren’t including Kendrick, Neville, Dar or Swann, will be some combination of these names: Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan, Lio Rush and Sin Cara.
At this point, I think Sin Cara is a lock. He’s wrestled back and forth on the 205 Live roster multiple times, meaning WWE considers him a cruiserweight but for some reason doesn’t want to fully pull the trigger, and he’s the perfect type of person with enough clout to lose in the first round to a guy like Tony Nese or Ariya Daivari so they can advance and look stronger.
Lio Rush wouldn’t surprise me as another first-round loss, either, but this could actually be the perfect time to bring Oney Lorcan (more so than Danny Burch) onto the brand for real and even give him a surprising victory to start him off with at least a little momentum, particularly as he’s wrestled and lost on the brand before.
Then again, if they’re able to do it, why would you ever pick any of those names when you might have Rey Mysterio as an option? Wishful thinking, I bet, but something to ponder…
The Time Table
While I have all the faith in the world that the matches we’ll get in this tournament will be entertaining, I’m concerned about how WWE will properly space out the contest.
There are already two matches down and two more set for next week, so by the end of February 6th, the first round will be half over at the very least.
If they continue at that rate of 2 matches per week on 205 Live, this tournament is finished on March 13th, not April 8th.
That is, of course, not even factoring in Monday Night Raw or Elimination Chamber, in which case we’re looking at the end of February being the finals of the tournament!
They are going to need to slow down on this and cut plenty of shows from having any tournament match at all.
No episode of Monday Night Raw should realistically have a tournament match, as the lack of one won’t be noticeable on a 3-hour show with plenty of other content, but if an episode of 205 Live goes by and there isn’t a single tournament match, it will feel like a pointless filler episode.
Even at the pace of 2 on February 13th and 20th to finish Round 1, they will need to only do one tournament match at Elimination Chamber and on every episode of 205 Live going forward and still have a week where no match happens—ideally, the week before WrestleMania, where the two finalists can compete in some other competition.
Part of me thinks the Fastlane card is going to be rather thin and could have used the finals of this tournament to help fill out the lineup. Even though that’s a SmackDown event, the WWE Universe would have bought the excuse of “Drake Maverick says he wants to have the cruiserweight division not tied specifically to Raw anymore and now, the wrestlers can appear on both shows” to explain why it’s happening there instead of Elimination Chamber.
It’s not impossible to pull this off, but with 20 shows (Raw, 205 Live, Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania) to go and only 13 matches left in the tournament, somebody either didn’t do the math correctly, or they plan on stretching it and hoping fans don’t lose interest in a few weeks.
This is strange, since WWE just recently got impatient with the United States Championship tournament and bumped up its finals two weeks in advance, and with the Mixed Match Challenge dropping more viewers in week 3 after week 2 saw a big drop as well, those signs point to a 10-week tournament possibly not working out all that well.
Who Should Win and Who Will Win?
The last thing to cover is the end game itself: which two superstars are going to be in the finals and who walks away with the title?
Who should and who will could be different, depending on your preferences, of course. A die hard fan of Lince Dorado is going to root for him even though he is likely to be taken out of commission next week by Kalisto, for example.
The easy call is to say this goes to Cedric Alexander, who has yet to have a run with the belt and is arguably the best performer on the whole brand. If that happens, I don’t think many people will be complaining.
Hideo Itami is another possibility, but even though Alexander isn’t over with the crowd to some Braun Strowman type level, I think he at least gets more of a reaction than Itami does at this point.
It would also be nice to see Gallagher finally get the title, but there’s no way his current character matches up to his previous one, so they might have missed the boat on that.
Obviously, if Rey Mysterio is in this, he becomes the top pick as he’s undoubtedly the biggest star and could draw the most attention to the brand far more than anybody else, but he has to actually be in it in order for that to happen, and I wouldn’t bet on that being the case.
Mustafa Ali is an okay choice, and I love Gulak but his character doesn’t quite justify the title.
Then again, what if WWE just reverts back to the status quo and is able to get Neville to come back with the promise that he’ll win the title at WrestleMania and not be on the pre-show? (I know, I know…the cruiserweight match is still going on the kickoff, let’s not fool ourselves.)
I think this tournament will eventually come down to Hideo Itami playing a heel role against either Cedric Alexander or Mustafa Ali, with one of those babyfaces winning.
For my money, Alexander deserves that belt just a little more than anybody else, and I’m not only hoping he wins, but I’m also 60/40 betting that he will, with the 40% loss potential coming in when you consider WWE might think that’s too obvious and give Ali his win back over Alexander instead.
All in all, I think this is going to be a good thing for all parties, but that it isn’t going to completely change the game.
If you’re not watching 205 Live now, it’s doubtful a tournament featuring people you don’t care about is going to convince you to start tuning in, particularly if the wrestlers you like end up getting taken out of the competition before the finale.
You’ll be watching at WrestleMania anyway, unless you don’t watch the pre-show, but then you’ll probably miss out on the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and one or two other matches as well, so what most people will probably be exposed to is probably just the finale of this whole thing and nothing more.
For people like myself that watch this every week, though, I’ll definitely be more invested than I’ve been with the episodes that consisted of tag team rematches from what had already happened earlier that week on Raw, so this is definitely a positive no matter how you cut it.
What do you think about this tournament and who do you hope ends up being the next cruiserweight champion? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!