|Ready for a whole tournament of matches like this?|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Overall, this is good news. One, the series will be more exclusive wrestling content on WWE Network, which is the kind of thing that fans like you and me want out of our over the top streaming service. Moreover, it will be good wrestling, given the state of smaller-statured wrestlers both in WWE and in outlets where WWE will more than likely be plucking participants from. The roster right now, both RAW and NXT, has several of the most talented and excited small workers already in place: Biff Busick, Rich Swann, Kalisto, Neville, Kofi Kingston, El Torito, Hideo Itami, Enzo Amore, Austin Aries, Chad Gable, and of course, Manny "La Sombra" Andrade (for whom the tournament is STRONGLY rumored to be his introduction and jump start into a major, major push). While WWE can cull wrestlers from other places to fill out the spots, it really has as solid a base as any to work from under its own contracted talent.
Additionally, the base of wrestlers WWE can draw from worldwide is impressive, even if the big names in companies like Ring of Honor, TNA, and the New Japan Pro Wrestling guys who aren't Jushin Liger aren't on the table. Remember, WWE and WWN Live are in bed together, and officials from Lucha Underground and Chikara have ventured to the Performance Center. Additionally, both major lucha libre companies are open to working agreements; in fact, WWE has a past with Asistencia Asesoría y Administración.
At venture such as this will need the utmost care in its presentation. Thankfully, the tournament will also be given its own space on the Network, and it will be held at Full Sail University, which will draw fans that will cheer more passionately for the competitors. All signs seem to point at this being another one of those Triple H vanity project babies, which tend to play out so much better than the usual Kevin Dunn-produced RAW roster slogs. NXT shows this kind of commitment to change every week, and Beast in the East was a refreshing departure from the normal pay-per-view set-up that has dominated every other special event for the longest time.
The perfect mix of ingredients is coalescing into something that should be, on paper, one of the most successful ventures of the year. However, I still have concerns about cordoning off a group of wrestlers by weight, especially in a company where wrestlers need to be perceived as equals to larger peers in order to get precious attention from management and from various fans in the audience. Having a demarcation via weight in WWE gives me pause about getting behind this venture all the way. That being said, the fact that this tourney is going to be a Network venture with Triple H behind it gives me a bit more hope that either it will be a fun distraction full of hype matches, or the beginning of a cruiserweight division that doesn't take a backseat to the heavyweight division.
With that out of the way, of course I have a realistic shopping list of guys I'd want to see in this thing. I'll save the indie guys for tomorrow, since I received a Twitter Request Line question for that specific category, but among the lucha and alumni wrestlers I want to see back are the following:
Rey Mysterio - Mysterio is rumored to have interest in coming back to WWE as early as SummerSlam. While he might be too big a fish (as a former World Heavyweight and WWE Champion) to be in such a tournament, he would still provide star power and name cache as the most successful junior heavyweight wrestler of all-time. The guy who beats Mysterio would get the rub of all rubs.
Yoshihiro Tajiri - Time has come for Tajiri to get himself back into a WWE ring, and what better setting for his return than this tournament. Tajiri was always one of the most fun wrestlers WWE has ever had, but the company never really had a stage for him to truly spread his wings at least not like this series. Plus, he would add some fun heel antics with his exaggerated body language and GREEN MIST.
Jushin "Thunder" Liger - Liger made his WWE debut at Takeover: Brooklyn, and the door was left wide open for him to make a return. Sure, he may not shoot be under the 205 pound limit, but what's WWE if it doesn't kayfabe at least one of its competitors, right?
Aerostar - Of the AAA/CMLL/Lucha Underground guys, Aerostar may not be the first name to come to mind, but he's one of the most exciting and probably attainable too. Ricochet/Prince Puma has NJPW commitments, and it seems like Fenix is more important to the Lucha Underground fabric to be let go. But with Aerostar, the tournament would get jaw-dropping flips and name cache.
And my one last request is not so much about a specific wrestler, but rather, a change in philosophy. When the Lucha Underground people visited the Performance Center, they crowed about how their intergender wrestling was progressive and innovative. I don't know how WWE officials took that, but hopefully, if it was the same people running NXT, they got some ideas about spicing up the tournament.
Some of the best talent in WWE is female right now. Sasha Banks can go with anyone in the ring, as can Bayley, Emma, Becky Lynch, Asuka, or any other top-level female wrestler on the roster. The tournament doesn't have to be flush with women, but inserting Banks or Asuka or just one token woman for now and having her go all out in one or two matches would be a tremendous measuring stick for how ready WWE crowds are for seeing women take on men as equals. I'm not getting my hopes up too much, but opening up the world of WWE's matchmaking is just too delicious a possibility for not to dream about, y'know?