The international flavor of WCW’s Cruiserweight division produced some of the most innovative wrestling matches and served as the launching pad to some of the biggest names in the industry. The hot potato nature of its title reigns make it impossible to rank the wrestlers by championship merit. Often times, these matches would not only open the show but down right steal it. Jushin Liger and Brian Pillman deserve honorable mentions in this conversation. Their matches took place in the Light Heavyweight division, which was a precursor to the Cruiserweight division, and put lighter-weight classes in professional wrestling on the map in the United States. Today, I rank the top ten WCW Cruiserweights of all time.
10. Shane Helms: Helms was the final star that came out of the cruiserweight division. His work had a certain swagger that helped him out grow the mock boy band group, Three Count, and set himself apart from everyone else. The king of the vertabreaker was the final title holder as the promotion was purchased by the WWE in 2001.
9. Syxx: Sean Waltman was a cruiserweight before cruiserweights were cool. Hell, he was the cruiserweight that almost no one looked at as a cruiserweight because talent made him the exception to the rule. In 1996 he entered WCW under the moniker, Syxx. While he was often neck deep in the heavyweight affairs of the New World Order, he had competitive matches with most of the top Cruiserweights instead of burying them as his politica cloutl would have allowed him to do so and a great example of this is the ladder match with Eddy Guerrero that is still talked about today.
8. Psychosis: You knew you were in for a treat when Psychosis entered the ring as his matches were a high octane symphony of chaos. He was a staple in the division despite never rising above mid-card status. One thing Psychosis doesn’t get credit for is how good is at working the American style cocky heel which you never saw from the other rudos. His match at the 1997 Great American Bash with Ultimo Dragon is a perfect illustration of this. Being one of the bigger cruiserweights gave him carte blanche to do power moves others couldn’t pull off and his guillotine leg drop looked like it could literally take your head off. Despite never having a decent run with the title, he was a true staple of the division.
7. Billy Kidman: American wrestling fans saw their first shooting star press executed by this talented performer. While we all know his exploits with Raven’s Flock and his three cruiserweight title wins, what people don’t remember is his slew of action packed matches on WCW Saturday Night. He more than held his own and proved he was worth the push.
6. Juventud Guerrera: Despite the energy that he brought to the ring, the Mexico City native started off as just another mask in the division. He rose above to capture the Cruiserweight title on the debut episode of Thunder but it was the loss of his mask that helped him become The Juice. “Finally, The Juice has come back to Boston” while addressing a New York crowd was a hit as he named the wrong city night after night.
5. Eddie Guerrero: In a division where styles made fights, Eddie could truly do it all. He sparkled as a baby face, shined as a heel and in later years, his two personas merged to become the phenomena known as Latino Heat. His frog splash, was perhaps the most effective version of this maneuver. His mask vs. title match with Rey Mysterio at the 1997 Halloween Havoc is considered the greatest WCW cruiserweight match of all time.
4. Chris Jericho: Lionheart had some astonishing matches, but it was Monday Night Jericho that made the world notice this talented performer. The five time cruiserweight champion brought a wealth of international experience to the table that helped him work flawlessly night in and night out with any wrestler of any style. His charisma was unmatched by anyone in the division and he helped get Juventud Guerrera over with the audience in their feud where the luchador lost his mask.
3. Ultimo Dragon: Mysterio was a flyer while Malenko was a ground specialist, and then you had Ultimo who did both. The master of the Asai Moonsault showed a unique blend of Mexican and Japanese style to the American audience. His work in the ring was as crisp and clean as it gets. No one will forget his infamous entrance at the 1996 Starrcade, draped with the eight championship belts of the J-Crown. He defeated Dean Malenko to win the WCW cruiserweight title thus adding a ninth belt to his vast collection.
2. Dean Malenko: While Shinjiro Ohtani was the first cruiserweight champion of record, Malenko deserves the accolade of being the first person to carry the title on television. In his prime, Malenko could go and have a good match with anyone. Despite the bevy of challengers, he was the division until talent from abroad entered the promotion and even then, the man of 1000 holds was among the best of the best. Malenko’s crowning moment was at the 1998 Slamboree where he won the number one contender’s battle royal, disguised as Ciclope and went over on Chris Jericho to win his 4th and final cruiserweight championship.
1. Rey Mysterio: Was there really any doubt about who number one was going to be? Mysterio is the first name you think of when you mention the word Cruiserweight. His high flying offense and colorful attire is just one of the many things that makes him stand out. While hardcore fans in the United States knew of his exploits, the masses were introduced to this masked luchador at the 1996 Great American Bash. Mysterio was mocked by those who weren’t in the know as they witnessed the smallest wrestler they had ever seen walk down the aisle. Jeers turned into cheers as he and Dean Malenko tore the house down. His matches with the likes of Dean Malenko, Psychosis and Chris Jericho were a wrestling fans dream. No one ever forgot his mask vs. title with Eddie Guerrero at the 1997 Halloween Havoc. It’s fitting that Rey held the cruiserweight title more than anyone with six reigns to his credit. Not only is he the epitome of the division, but a genuine inspiration to any current or aspiring wrestler who was told they were too small to make it in the industry.
Categories: Pro Wrestling