Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the Cruiserweight Classic, which began the return of WWE's cruiserweight division that eventually led to its own show, 205 Live.
After a year that has seen some notable arrivals and four champions crowned, where does the cruiserweight division stand?
The level of talent - There's no doubt the talent is on the roster, ranging from the top of the roster (Cruiserweight champion Neville) to those taking regular losses (Ariya Daivari, Noam Dar) to even those who are relegated to Main Event (Gran Metalik, Lince Dorado).
But that leads us to ...
The division still needs to win over the fans. It doesn't take a Breezango level of investigation to see that the crowd is often quiet during some 205 Live action. Part of that is to be attributed to a worn-out crowd that is coming off a two-hour SmackDown Live, but the silence during the Monday Night Raw segments and overall for the division could be attributed to a lack of character development, something that has been worked out recently.
The additions WWE brought in are some of the top competitors from the Cruiserweight Classic, but the division right now is being carried by recent arrivals. Neville joined the division after an injury and thrived after a heel turn, doing the best work of his WWE career. He is easily one of the best talkers in the WWE at this point. Austin Aries first arrived at NXT, was also injured, joined 205 Live as an amazing color commentator, and helped Neville carry the division through and after WrestleMania.
The division is isolated. I'm probably not alone in wanting to ditch the purple ropes, because giving the cruiserweight division a different look than the rest of Monday Night Raw indicates that it's not on par with the rest of the brand. A great test for merging the division with the main roster has been Akira Tozawa's storyline with Titus O'Neil and the Titus Brand. Even connecting Tozawa, the probable next No. 1 contender, with a midcard act on the main roster has seen crowd reactions. WCW's Cruiserweight Division gave springboards to talent like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr. to wrestle for world titles, but that's only possible if they're allowed to dabble outside the division.
Could there be more to come? Call me an optimist, but I'm counting it as a pro for the talent that could still be added to the division. There's the main roster talent like Sin Cara and Kalisto, the NXT talent like Pete Dunne and Orey Lorcan and outside talent who could make an appearance like Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr.
Where's the variety? Part of the appeal of the cruiserweight division is how many ways matches can end. Since his return, we've seen Neville wins matches via his Rings of Saturn submission, the Red Arrow and a superplex. But, many wrestlers have fallen into a rut of their matches going along the same set of moves, despite the wide variety of moves in their arsenal. Go back and watch Jack Gallagher's Cruiserweight Classic matches versus his contest last night. Also, we've seen the division fall into having the vast majority of their matches being singles and doubles. The popularity of WCW's Cruiserweight Division was carried by their multi-man tag matches.
The quality is there, now the challenge is getting the fans to fully buy into the wrestlers and their personalities to connect with the audience, and to let those combined with the in (and out)-ring action.
Hits and Misses from June 20:
If Austin Aries hinting that he and Gentleman Jack should use more nefarious means that Aries is going to revert to the best version of himself, as well as friction as Gallagher wants to play it by the book, than I'm in favor of what could potentially be a good, long-term story.
Rich Swann and Neville had a very good main event, with the only reasonable finish of eventually Swann succumbing to Neville. I don't know where Swann goes from here, but I'd love to see him in matches where he can show his full plethora of moves.
Tony Nese's running "Kneese" finisher is impressive, especially the speed at which he comes into the corner. Nese is due a push, but needs to pick up more wins that aren't via trickery.