Cruiserweight wrestling has always been known for its dynamic action. But, when the WWE brought the Cruiserweight Championship over from WCW during the Summer of 2001, they reinvigorated the title with a cast of diverse characters. The Cruiserweights often stole the show.
The division was marked with the traditional high-flying Cruiserweight wrestling. But, it also featured quality storylines. Guys could cut effective promos, and many were great technicians as well. Perhaps the early 2000s were the greatest era of Cruiserweights outside of the mid-1990s WCW division. That Cruiserweight Division featured guys like Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, and many, many more. Still, the WWE did a tremendous job of building their own unique division.
Let’s take a look back at some of the great WWE Cruiserweights from 2001 through today.
Guys like Juventud Guerrera, Nunzio, Funaki, and Kid Kash all earned runs with the Cruiserweight Championship, but were never really focal points of the division. Still, this is a great class of wrestlers who deserve recognition. These reigns almost felt like career achievement awards for them.
Matt Hardy – Hardy’s run in 2003 remains one of the greatest Cruiserweight storylines of all time. As Matt Hardy, Version 1.0, with Shannon Moore at his side, he was forced to make weight before each match in order to qualify. The Era of Mattitude was short-lived, though, as Hardy only held the Cruiserweight Championship through the Spring of 2003.
TJP – Considering T.J. Perkins was the winner of the first Cruiserweight Classic, and subsequently revived the title, he’s worth mentioning in this discussion. He is one of the most electric in-ring performers in the WWE today.
On to the top 10…
10. Ultimo Dragon – Ultimo Dragon’s run with WWE didn’t amount to a lot of championship success. But, it was billed as a big deal at the time. His addition to that era’s Cruiserweight Division made it legitimate.
9. Spike Dudley – The perennial underdog, Spike Dudley always had to overcome the odds. Even dating back to his days in ECW, his heart heart was always considered his biggest strength. In July of 2004, he won the Cruiserweight Championship and carried the title all the way to December of that year.
8. Paul London – Always known as a risk-taker, London became the focal point of the division in 2005. He held the Cruiserweight Champion from March to August of that year, and would later go on to have a record WWE Tag Team Championship reign alongside Brian Kendrick.
7. Neville – Even before the Cruiserweight Division’s return to WWE in 2016, Neville was known as one of pro wrestling’s greatest high-flyers. He won the Cruiserweight Championship in January of 2017 and hasn’t lost it yet. He’s the best Cruiserweight to come along since Rey Mysterio.
6. Gregory Helms – Many people might not realize that Helms holds the record for the longest reign as WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He held the title for 385 days from January of 2006 to February of 2007. Throw in a 40-day reign as The Hurricane in 2002, and you have one of the greatest pedigrees in WWE’s Cruiserweight Division history.
5. Jamie Noble – When Noble debuted for the WWE in 2002, he bucked the trend of what the traditional Cruiserweight was supposed to look and wrestle like. He was different, with an unusual gimmick. But, it worked, and it helped catapult Noble to a lengthy WWE career. He held the Cruiserweight Championship once, but for a lengthy reign of 147 days.
4. Billy Kidman – 157 days on four reigns as Cruiserweight Champion lands Kidman high on this list. While his Shooting Star Press is his specialty, he’s one of the greatest all-around high-flyers in wrestling history.
3. Tajiri – Tajiri came to the WWE by way of ECW after an excellent career. He had the look and gimmick to fit in naturally with the rest of the diverse personalities in the WWE’s early Cruiserweight Division. But, it was signature green mist and Tarantula submission hold that made him stand out. Tajiri held the Cruiserweight Championship three times for a cumulative reign of 283 days.
2. Chavo Guerrero – Between 2004 and 2007, Guerrero held the Cruiserweight Championship four times for a total reign of 272 days as champion. While Guerrero was always one of the division’s most reliable workers, he also had a knack for doing whatever it took to entertain the fans. He’s a veritable jack of all trades.
1. Rey Mysterio – Mysterio could very well be the greatest Cruiserweight of all time. He’s certainly the gold standard when it comes to the early 2000s era Cruiserweight Division. From 2003 to 2004, Mysterio held the Cruiserweight Championship three times (to tack on to his five previous reigns in WCW) for a cumulative reign of 201 days.
Some of his greatest opponents over the course of his early days in WWE included Kurt Angle, Matt Hardy, and the aforementioned Guerrero. “The Master of the 619” would go on to become the World Heavyweight Champion, defeating Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in a Triple Threat Match at Wrestlemania 22. Mysterio was always one of the most marketable faces in the WWE, but he would then go on to become one of its bona fide in-ring workers. He’s definitely built a case for the WWE Hall of Fame that cannot be ignored.