Eric Bischoff has described the quandary he was left with when stars of the WCW cruiserweight division wanted to be main event talent instead of just high-flyers.
Fans of World Championship Wrestling in the mid-late nineties will be able to attest to the fact that the company’s cruiserweight division and stars were often the highlight of weekly television and monthly pay-per-views. Devotees would come for Hulk Hogan and the nWo, but stay for Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.
This was never more prevalent than at WCW Halloween Havoc 1997 when the WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match trumped not only the main event, but everything else on the entire card.
However, there was growing tension in the light heavyweight ranks as men like the aforementioned Guerrero and Mysterio grew jaded with being saddled as the back-up and yearned for main event stardom where their talents clearly belonged.
Eric Bischoff has taken to his 83 Weeks podcast in order to detail the headache caused by the cruiserweights wanting a bigger spot and how he had a hard time understanding their plight:
“It was a compromise on my behalf. On one hand I understood how a lot of the cruiserweights felt, they didn’t want to just be cruiserweights, they wanted a shot to be in the main event. That’s a natural thing for a performer who has the drive and the vision for himself, or herself, to be the biggest star they can be. It was a source of frustration source amongst certain people that were ‘cruiserweights.’ Eddie Guerrero being one of them, Chris Jericho another. They didn’t want to be confined to the Cruiserweight Division.
I had a hard time understanding that, because in my mind, I would be willing to pay them more money as cruiserweights. I had to be able to be able to justify it, I had to have at least a story that sounded plausible to back me up, and taking someone from 150 grand one year to 225 the next year to 350 the next year and continuing to escalate those agreements throughout the course of their employment seemed to be the most practical way to do that. A lot of guys didn’t want to wait for that, they wanted to jump from where they were to where they wanted to be, and, on my part, creatively at least, this was a compromise because I didn’t think it was the best move.”
However, despite being the focus of an arguably under-utilised cruiserweight division Eric Bischoff began to notice the smaller stars making changes to their appearance in order to look like main event stars:
“As we look back at early cruiserweight matches and we cover Rey Mysterio, or even Eddie when he first got to WCW he was much smaller, he was much lighter, he was more agile, faster, more dynamic to watch. That didn’t take away from his wrestling skill or psychology, but as these guys got bigger […] I think Rey Mysterio is a classic example, as he started bulking up and putting a lot of unnatural weight on his frame, he started breaking down and it started hurting his ability to do the things he became most famous for.
I think had certain talent decided, ‘I’m going to be the best cruiserweight there’s ever been in the history of this industry’, they would’ve made the money they wanted to make. They might not have made Hulk Hogan money, but not many people did or do, but they would’ve made a lot more money than they did had they decided to s**t all over the cruiserweight division because they wanted to aspire to be something else.”
Unfortunately for the company and the stars, the cruiserweight division took a nose dive in 1999 when the strap was used as a comedy vehicle for the likes of Madusa and Oklahoma who was portrayed by Vince Russo’s right hand man and WCW writer, Ed Ferrara.
Credit for the interview: 83 Weeks