Eric Bischoff discussed WCW’s commitment to creating a cruiserweight division during a recent edition of 83 Weeks.
Here is what he had to say:
Eric Bischoff on WCW’s commitment to creating a cruiserweight division: “Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon, Psychosis – so many of the lucha libre talent as well as the Japanese talent we brought over as part of the cruiserweight division – Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, all of that talent that came in and put on such a phenomenal, phenomenal presentation. For the most part, and I’m not pissing on ECW – there was some of this type of wrestling in ECW but nobody knew it – there just wasn’t anybody watching it. That’s a fact. This was the first time that anybody in the United States and professional wrestling industry ever showcased – not just had a match as a one-off once or twice a year featuring some of this high-flying cruiserweight or light heavyweight talent – nobody ever said I’m going to make a commitment to create a division that will constantly showcase all of this new talent, new to the American audience for the most part, and make it a focal point of the show by putting it in the crossover, which in our case was the nine o’clock hour to help compete against the WWE.”
On why the cruiserweights was as important to Nitro’s success than the nWo: “The talent that represented that cruiserweight division – as highlighted here by Rey Mysterio and Ultimo Dragon……I think the cruiserweight division and the talent represented therein probably had as much to do with the success of Nitro as the nWo storyline and Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. I don’t think people recognize it. The talent in that division not only helped Nitro consistently defeat WWE – that talent forced WWE, as much as the nWo, to change the way they were resenting the product.”
On how that group of cruiserweight impacted current WWE and AEW stars: “That talent in the cruiserweight division we’re talking about in 1996 is the reason why guys like the Young Bucks are on television today because they set the standard, they raised the bar, they changed the paradigm of what the audience thought of when they thought of a professional wrestler. They changed the level of expectations in terms of what should happen physically in the ring and what’s good and what’s outstanding and what’s not. The cruiserweight division and everybody involved in it – Dean Malenko, I don’t want to leave anybody out – set a standard that people in so many companies today including WWE and obviously in AEW, those opportunities wouldn’t exist today had it not been for the talent and the execution and the industry-changing impact that talents had at that time. We’re still seeing it manifest today.”
(h/t – 411 Wrestling)