The Professional 3 2.24.13: The WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships
Posted by Jon Harder on 02.24.2013
The debut column from Jon Harder on the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships. Some people love to live in the past...
Welcome to the column that might change your lives…or at the very least, be an enjoyable read for you.
This is the Professional 3 and I'm Jon Harder. It's an honor to write on 411mania.com, as this is a website I've followed ever since the days of Scott Keith and followed through onto today with the Fact or Fiction series and all DVD reviews. This is indeed an honor and it is my privilege to have a column on 411.
For a brief history on myself, I have been involved in wrestling since 2007, doing camera, commentary, and managing my charge Leon St. Giovanni, most notably for Beyond Wrestling. For humility purposes, to read the long version (s) of the story, click HERE and HERE. Yeah, it's quite the read. #Sarcasm.
Also, I am the host of The Hardway Podcast, a podcast dedicated to the true of independent wrestling. I've interviewed all walks of life, from Indy legends like Gabe Sapolsky, Sugar Dunkerton, and Jay Lethal, to dream guests, such as WCW's Alex Wright. I've even had a one-on-one with 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giant Dwayne Hendricks! Definitely a unique cast of characters I've had on the Hardway, but Good News Hughes and I take podcasting to another level each and every Wednesday on TheJonHarder.com.
However, this is the Professional 3. My goal with the P3 is simple: to infuse modern-day mainstream wrestling topics and combine it with some sort of the weird, insane wrestling knowledge I utilize. I guarantee in due time, there will be some sort of column based Giant Gonzalez, so stay tuned for that. This week, however, for the first ever Professional 3, it is based around championship. What was the inspiration behind it? Simple: the debut of the brand new WWE championship belt.
After months of rumors and stories revolving around a new WWE championship in the works, the Rock on Monday Night Raw this week, unveiled the newly designed belt, signifying the dawn of a new era in championships, replacing the John Cena Spinner belt, which was in place for almost 8 years. With a giant WWE in the front, combined with unique buckles on the sides, the belt was simple, yet impressive. Despite all the trolls on the internet bashing the holy Hell out of the new title, this writer's belief is simple: it's an upgrade and will get more respect as time goes on. Combined with the lineage and history of the WWE's #1 prize, the WWE scene has never been more hip.
If only other championship for mainstream wrestling only had that prestige and luck…
This first edition of the Professional 3 will discuss a championship that technically was only around for 8 days, yet made an impact in its short span. If given more time, it could have changed a generation of wrestling and perhaps changed the in-ring action of the scene a year earlier. Instead, it's a weird footnote in wrestling history. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…
THE PROFESSIONAL 3: The WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship
In 2001, right before Vince McMahon bought World Championship Wrestling; there was a glimmer of hope for all anti-WWF fans that WCW could be saved, despite the $80 million they lost the year before. Eric Bischoff and Fusient Media Ventures were all but set to own World Championship Wrestling and run their TV shows through the Turner Networks. Bischoff, unlike years prior when all finances were run through Ted Turner's Time Warner, would have to create a salary structure and run WCW like a...um, business. Bischoff also had his creative set-up, with former All Japan star Johnny Ace handling the booking duties. And a lot of creative plans were already it motion.
The Magnificent Seven were formed in January 2001 under the leader of WCW "CEO" Ric Flair, and were retiring different main-event stars at a rapid clip. Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo were breaking away from the Natural Born Thrillers and started to dominate the Tag Team division. Team Canada and the Filthy Animals were embroiled in the feud that entered into the Penalty Box levels. And MI Smooth was a muscular limo driver that started to get involved within the realm of pro wrestling. However, the biggest creative decision that started to get rejuvenated was all but dead Cruiserweight division.
Once Vince Russo left WCW's creative process in November 2001, there was an immediate re-dedication to what made WCW stand out in the Monday Night Wars. Chavo Guerrero won the Cruiserweight championship and began his role as the flag bearer of the division. Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Jamie Noble, Evan Karagias, the Jung Dragons firmly got entrenched into the main swing of the division. Jason Jett made his debut and got pushed off the bat. Immediately matches started to pick up and even though WCW was near death, the Cruiserweights were being talked about. However, by February 2001, Bischoff and Fusient embarked on a new venture within the division. Stealing a page from New Japan with their Junior Heavyweights, WCW embarked on the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships.
The tournament was scheduled to culminate at Greed on March 18, 2001. In the finals, Team Canada's Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo upset former WCW WORLD Tag Team champions Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Kidman to win and what this writer maintains to be an awesome contest, Check it out HERE:
Sadly, only 8 days later, Mysterio and Kidman won the belts on the final Monday Nitro, just as WCW was bought out by WWE on March 26, 2001. Ultimately, and most likely due to the fact that WWE has never truly known what to do with light-heavyweight wrestlers and divisions, the championships were not revamped in the Invasion time-period of 7 months. Woe, what could have been?
But here in the Professional 3, I, the wrestling nerd, have pondered long and hard about what could have been. My personal opinion is this: If WCW had started the Cruiserweight Tag Team Division earlier then 1 1/2 months before the death of the company, WCW would have picked back up to where it needed to. The Cruiserweights, under Bischoff's regime, would have thrived. There was a mass exodus of talent that had started to come in. The rise of the internet fan base combined with the high intense state-of-the-art wrestling would have preceded TNA's X-Division and the ROH style a year later in 2002. The supposed Big Bang that would have taken place on May 6, 2001, might have set off the platform for WCW to come back after the slow decline of WWE after the mother of all shows, WrestleMania X-Seven.
Now, obviously I have given the wrestling purist reason on why the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship should have thrived more than just 8 days. Here are 3 materialistic things - The Professional 3 - on what made this idea stand out for the short time it existed.
1) THE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The belts stood out for and beyond from what previous WCW championships brought to the table. The World championship was legitimately "the big gold belt", while the United States title was a statement of class. The Cruiserweight belt and the Television titles were a simple design, and the Tag Team championship was a bold statement, flashy and colorful. However, the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships was a state-of-the-art championship belt that was incredibly risky to attempt. An updated version of the old WWF winged eagle World championship, the words CRUISERWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPION with the WCW logo below on the eagle's body and the left and right wings as the side plates. Very flashy, very different, but incredibly modern. This design has not been duplicated since, but it might be one of the coolest title belt ever created by a wrestling company.
2) AJ STYLES' FIRST TV EXPOSURE
Yes, that's right. Before AJ Styles wrestled in the first ever TNA match in 2002, he was a part of the Cruiserweight Tag Team scene with Air Paris, his teammate in NWA Wildside, in Air Raid. Air Raid was starting to get a little notoriety for themselves, wrestling the Jung Dragons, Noble and Karagias, and the Boogie Knights. With AJ starting to get regular TV exposure, Air Raid could have been the first homegrown team WCW has built in quite some time and had them be champions. From there, both men could have gone their separate ways and possibly, quite possibly, AJ could have been "phenomenal" in WCW. Bottom line, I could fantasy book all I want, but the Cruiserweight Tag Team division was AJ Styles' first TV exposure, and he made the most of what he was given.
3) IT HASN'T BEEN TRIED SINCE
With that said, this vision has not been duplicated since. Rumors swirled for years that TNA would be starting an X-Division Tag Team championship, but ultimately that has not transpired. ROH and other independents simply do not have the funds to attempt such an endeavor, whether in roster terms or not. Lastly, as I stated earlier, WWE has never known how to truly develop a light-heavyweight division in the singles ranks, so a tag team division with Cruiserweights would just be downright impossible (See 1997-2001, 2002-2007). A special product has to come along to go in that realm. They would need the money, the crew, and a special amount of guys to pull that vision off.
Bottom line, the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles were just a case of too little, too late. The vision was there. The drive was in place. The opportunities were endless. It was just not meant to be. Sometimes, things just happen where it wasn't the right time. Hopefully one day, a junior tag team division takes place and is done right.
WCW gets criticized for a lot of things; the Cruiserweight Tag Team division just doesn't get praised enough.