There has been a major uptick, as of late, with WWE’s Cruiserweight division. What was once considered dead on arrival after the brilliance of the Cruiserweight Classic has suddenly seen new life with a slew of new wrestlers and two excellent performances during Fastlane. After the title match between Neville and Gallagher as well as a tag team match that may have been the best pre-show match to occur since the start of the WWE Network, the future for the Cruiserweights went from black to darly dim after the Vinnie Mac Express viciously clipped their wings early in their run. But even with this up swing, there is still room for improvement on the roster. With that said, I am going to rank the 16 current cruiserweights on the roster from worst to best.
I should stress that this list will include those who are permanently on the roster and have made several appearances. So the Bollywood Boyz are out since they only wrestled one match and disappeared. Austin Aries, however, is eligible due to the fact that it is clear their are big plans for him and he has been seen since day one in a commentary capacity.
16 Lince Dorado
What can be said about Dorado? I like the guy, I really do. But he is useless in WWE. WWE doesn’t like masked wrestlers, don’t let anyone tell you different. Rey Mysterio was a success, but they still treated him like dog shit. Kalisto, Sin Cara in all versions, and now Dorado and Metalik are getting the shit stick when it comes to WWE booking. Lince, however, being the worse off of the two.
Dorado is a jobber in a cape, plain and simple. WWE horrifically clipped his wings when the Vinnie told them they had to work a WWE moveset. Since then he has just been a dude in a mask to get wheeled out and take pins. As such, he is the worst thing on the roster right now.
15 Drew Gulak
On a personal level, Drew Gulak is winning me over. I didn’t like him in the Cruiserweight Classic and I wasn’t a fan when he first arrived. The reason being is that he just seemed too bland compared to the other wrestlers on the card. Plus is “catch as catch can” technical wrestling is not what I think of when I think of Cruiserweight wrestling. So there is that too.
But as time as gone on, the man has endeared himself to me for his work ethic and also the fact that he may has, what I can lovingly title, the “Pillsbury Dough Butt.” Seriously, he has the biggest doughest butt in WWE and it is glorious. God bless Gulak, god bless.
However, my praise ends there. Mainly due to the fact that Gulak is, not only a residential jobber, but one that isn’t even used that often. He can put on a decent technical match to put someone over, but WWE doesn’t have much use for him after that. I equate his talent and abilities to Dean Malenko. A wrestler who was valued for his technical skill, but did not see much value other then that by WWE higher ups.
14 Ariya Daivari
Ariya Daivari gets placed just above Drew Gulak and Lince Dorado due to the fact that he had a good feud to build up Jack Gallagher. Beyond that, this guy has been nothing more than a jobber with a pedigree. Thanks to his family lineage that WWE loves to tote, Daivari has seen a measure of success being a constant mainstay on the roster. However, he is a wrestler that, not only always loses, but is usually the one doing the honors when the pointless tag matches pop up.
13 Tony Nese
I wanted to put Tony Nese at sixteen. But ultimately I just couldn’t do it due to the way WWE has booked him. On a personal level, I cannot stand Nese and the reason is not because of heel or face tactics. I find the words that best describe Nese are not “premiere athlete” or “the fastest and the strongest.” Instead, words like bland and boring as well as “generic WWE wrestler” spring to my mind.
I didn’t even want Tony Nese in the Cruiserweight Classic and yet here he is, front and center every day, bringing nothing to the table except a decent move set and a generic build. Nese looks like the generic WWE wrestler from the WWE 2K games if you elongated his face a little bit and changed none of the moveset.
Nese gets boosted to number 13 on this list for being a constant presence in the Cruiserweight scene… However my generosity only goes that far due to the fact that he is booked like the jobber to the stars. He is the guy that everyone else beats for number one contender shots or to put over new talent. Beyond doing the honors, there is little left of interest for the “Premiere Athlete”
12 Cedric Alexander
Poor Cedric Alexander. His career has gone nowhere since the Cruiserweight Classic and it may very well be because of his success. Cedric Alexander and Kota Ibushi had a classic match in the Cruiserweight Classic, one of the best in 2016. This prompted the “Please Sign Cedric” chants and Alexander’s eventual signing with WWE.
But those chants may have been Alexander’s death knell. Since booking him and throwing them out there immediately to the crowd that wanted him, WWE’s booking plan seems to be… “Well he is black… QUICK! Make him smile and be so gosh darn happy to be here like Apollo Crews!” Cedric Alexander comes across as a character with next to no personality on the roster in a show where personality may be the make or break moment for them. Alexander is the babyface version of Tony Nese. He is there to get the heels over and sometimes look good. But that is it.
11 Mustafa Ali
Mustafa Ali is a tragic case of racism biting him in the ass. Ali is prodigiously talented and was a late entry in the Cruiserweight Classic after the Brazilian wrestler, Zumbi decided to fuck off. After coming out with the name “Mustafa Ali” and having a darker complexion, Ali was almost instantly booked as a foreign Islamic heel just like the Daivaris and Muhammad Hassan. However, after everyone called racism, and rightfully so, on WWE. WWE changed gears and made Mustafa a tween-to-face character.
However, when they did that, it seemed that the writing staff created this big question mark. Instead of just making him a character with the name Mustafa Ali, the general sentiment seems to be “But… He has an Arabic name… And he is a face… What do we do?!” Apparently give him no personality or arc at all is the answer. Mustafa just sort of “shows up.” He sometimes wins, he sometimes loses. But he doesn’t do much more than that. Probably because the idea of writing a character named Mustafa Ali as anything other then an evil Arabic character would make the minds of the WWE writer’s collective heads explode.
Tajiri has been getting a nostalgia pass whenever he shows up for 205 Live. The guy has been showing up sparingly as of late, mainly due to the fact that he is well into the waining years of his career. But anytime his music has hit, it is cause for celebration as those longing for the younger years of professional wrestling are happy to see an old favorite lace up the boots again and spray the green mist into someone’s face.
While Tajiri has not been as present as wrestlers like Nese, Gulak, Ali, Alexander, and Daivari he has been greeted with moderate reactions from the crowd and consistently looked strong in whatever match he has seen.
9 Gran Metalik
This is an extremely low number for a wrestler like Gran Metalik. A man who went to the finals to eventually lose to TJ Perkins, Gran Metalik is the unfortunate recipient of Vince McMahon’s meddling. Not only is Metalik a masked wrestler, who is often wasted in WWE, but his wings were horrifically clipped by the Cruiserweights forcing to work a WWE style routine. Also, the language barrier can be a problem as well.
Metalik still finds himself at the middle of the pack due to the fact that his personality and character is keeping him there. But if he is not more present and allowed to work a better match, he will quickly find himself on the outside of the division looking in like Harv and Gurv Sihra.
8 TJ Perkins
Oh how the might have fallen. While eight may be the upswing of the division, in this case it feels like the “worst of the better.” TJ Perkins seemed to be in for some big things. He won the Cruiserweight Classic in the traditional “WWE has to throw a curve ball to throw all the smarks off” fashion. But that does not discount the fact that Perkins went from relative nobody who wrestled in TNA to looking like a star. But after his star burned bright at the end of the tournament, his star began to fade.
TJP was given a video game character gimmick, but little personality beyond that. His feud with Kendrick made him look like the fool to the far superior and more charismatic Kendrick. Perkins became the face of the foundering early days of the division that the Cruiserweights are just now digging out of with the more recognizable talent. After losing the silvery purple belt and the only legitimacy he had, Perkins has fallen farther and farther down the card to now he is comparable to that of Tony Nese and Lince Dorado.
Perkins makes it high on this list because he still does have some value and is still winning matches. But unless TJP can get a serious feud and soon, he is doomed to fall further d own the card.
7 Noam Dar
When Dar came into the WWE, I had my reservations. I liked him in the Cruiserweight Classic. I liked him in WCPW with his Dar Wars gimmick. But I worried that Dar’s accent and small stature would be a death knell in WWE. All things considered, even the cruiserweights are on the beefy side in the Vinnie Mac House of Oil and Beef.
Sure enough, Dar was given a relatively goofball gimmick by being the stalker/boyfriend to the ever wild Alicia Fox. But Dar was able to take the gimmick and get it over by saying the word “Fox” in such an over-the-top fashion, that it revealed to the crowd that Dar himself was also in on the joke. Since then, Dar has been a great heel leaning tween in the Cruiserweight division. Knowingly goofy and loving every second of it, Dar sells himself perfectly to the crowd.
6 Rich Swann
Rich Swann has hit a bit of a backslide since losing the Cruiserweight belt to Neville. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Swann is one of the most entertaining motherfuckers in the whole division. He has a natural charisma to him that resonates with the crowd.
Swann was the shining light during the dark early days of the division and he continues to be one of the best mainstays in the division. Swann tragically had to do the honors for the resurgent Neville, but it was truly what was best for the division. While he has dropped due to the slew of new faces, he still remains one of the best aspects of the Cruiserweights.
5 Akira Tozawa
After the disasterous attempt to simply dub him “Tozawa,” Akira Tozawa was the coming of a resurgent Cruiserweight division. In his debut match on RAW, his “battle cry” was able to rile up the WWE crowd and his moveset was already adaptive to the WWE style, meaning he didn’t have to change to fit.
His feud with Kendrick has made both wrestlers look good, as of this moment, and it looks as if Akira Tozawa is destined for a run with the Cruiserweight belt.
4 The Brian Kendrick
Brian Kendrick has been the consistent saving grace for the Cruiserweight division. Even during the times when it was absolutely foundering under the weight of the WWE restrictions, you could count on Brian Kendrick and his doofy sleaze look to keep the show entertaining. He is a dastardly heel that you just love to hate from all of his sleazy faux philosophical help systems. He is the perfect kind of heel in that, he himself, thinks that he is a face. Even when he is doing his heel tactics he feels that it is absolutely justified.
Kendrick is the work horse for the division. After the his first run with the company did not go his way, he has certainly made the most of the division and will always be a mainstay if he isn’t competing for the championship.
3 Austin Aries
Aries may be a latest wrestling addition to the division, but the man has been around since the beginning as a commentator and, now that he is ready to wrestle again, is looking to take the division by storm. WWE’s decision to put Aries in the Cruiserweight division is certainly a dubious one. All things consider the man would be a perfect fit on SmackDown to help bolster their already foundering mid card that seems to be a perpetual cycle of Dolph Ziggler fighting Apollo Crews and sometimes Kalisto.
But since Aries showed up and announced he is ready for a contest, he has been on fire, and lit a fire in the division. Aries and Neville look to be set to collide at Mania and if that is the case then this is going to be awesome.
For anyone who has read my 20 Most Overrated Wrestlers, I do not have a lot of love for Neville. I find him to be a decent work horse, but lacks a certain level of charisma to be a main event level guy. He seems perfect as a mid card type of guy. Seeing as how the Cruiserweight division could best be described as a mid card division, I think Neville has found his home and has seen a career renaissance that was not seen on the main roster.
Now a full fledged heel and considered the “King of the Cruiserweights,” Neville is that perfect powerhouse heel that the Cruiserweight divison needs. He is right now the forebearer and I am really looking forward to the inevitable Austin Aries vs. Neville match.
1 Jack Gallagher
Number one might be a little odd and others would put him third compared to Aries and Neville… But my god, Jack Gallagher may be ones of the best damn teams to come out of the Cruiserweight division and the WWE at large. He has charisma, personality, a look, and an identity that he calls his own. He is insanely over with the crowd and was able to get an umbrella over. Something that is rare in a sport. That is some Chris Jericho shit.
Gallagher is someone that was needed for the division. In a room filled with decent looking small guys like Nese, Gulak, Swann, Daivari, Alexander, Dar, and so forth, Gallagher sets himself away from the pack. While he didn’t get the belt off of Neville, you can bet that he will hold the strap at some point in the near future.
I hope you enjoyed and please like and subscribe for more. Come back for a new episode of Crit or Miss as well as a new web series, The Cinema Files.