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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Heel Turns: WWE comes up small

Posted by Achilles Heel On September 19

Achilles HeelDuring the past month, Finn Balor won the WWE Universal Championship, A.J. Styles won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and T.J. Perkins won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Nobody in the trio hits the 6-foot mark. Styles, at 218 pounds, is the only one heavier than 200 pounds.

This isn’t your father’s WWE. Or even your Greek God of Wrestling’s WWE.

There was a time when WWE was the land of the giants. The champions were men like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Undertaker, Big Show, Diesel, Yokozuna and Sid Justice.  The “little guys,” such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Randy Savage, weighed 225-235 pounds.

That era was 20 years ago, but we only need to go back to the beginning of this decade to find the WWE World Heavyweight Championship held by Batista, Sheamus, John Cena, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio. With the exception of Batista, these would have been mid-size champions during the 1990s, but they still tipped the scales in the mid-200s.

But then came the 435-day reign of C.M. Punk, spanning from November of 2011 to January of 2013. Until Punk, smaller champions were the exception rather than the rule.

The wrestler who truly changed the game, however, was Daniel Bryan. He was incredibly popular with the fans – and the WWE listened. After being screwed out of the title twice by Randy Orton – Bryan’s two title reigns lasted less than 24 hours combined – Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30 in a triple threat match with Orton and Batista. He kicked off WrestleMania 30 by defeating Triple H.

After Bryan was forced to relinquish the title due to health concerns, not all of the champions were small. Cena, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns are large men. But Seth Rollins, who weighs 217 pounds, held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for 220 days before being sidelined by a knee injury.

Bryan kicked open the door that Balor and Styles have walked through. In addition to being relatively small, all three were major stars on the independent circuit before coming to WWE. Another former independent standout is WWE Universal champion Kevin Owens, whose weight is in the right range for the stereotypical WWE champion, but whose physique certainly doesn’t resemble the chiseled Lesnar, Cena, Reigns and Del Rio.

Bryan’s example seemingly taught WWE that champions come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to have the same look or build.

Styles and Owens might not have even received a serious look from WWE 10 years ago. Today they are champions.

RAW is going to feature a cruiserweight division.

The times, they are a changing.

And WWE deserves credit for keeping up with the times.

*****

CRUISE CONTROL: The Cruiserweight Classic was one of the most brilliant and best-executed ideas in WWE in many years. From the action in the ring to the broadcast team of Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan, the tournament was nearly perfect.

The 32-wrestler tournament concluded last Wednesday with a live broadcast of the semifinals and final. After upsetting Kota Ibushi in an amazing semifinal match, Perkins captured the tournament – and the WWE Cruiserweight Championship – with a win over Gran Metalik, who beat Zack Sabre Jr. in the other semifinal. Perkins will be joined on RAW by Gran Metalik, Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann, Lince Dorado, Noam Dar and Cedric Alexander, who may become the star of this division. More cruiserweights could be on the way.

Achilles Heel trusts final would be given its own show, but that’s a minor complaint about an outstanding event that WWE won’t mess up its cruiserweight division the way WCW did when it tried to feature smaller wrestlers. The luchadores featured by WCW performed acrobatic moves, with little storyline supporting them. Bobby Heenan once joked that WCW could save a lot of money by just hiring two luchadores and simply having them change masks between matches. Heenan’s comment demonstrates how little time was spent developing the cruiserweights’ identity and character. WWE should guard against making the same mistake.

*****

BACKLASH AFTERMATH: Three titles changed hands at Backlash. A.J. Styles defeated Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the latest in a series of phenomenal matches for the phenomenal one. Becky Lynch won a six-woman elimination match to become the first Smackdown Women’s champion, and Rhyno and Heath Slater defeated Jimmy and Jey Uso to win the Smackdown Tag Team Championship tournament.

*****

CLASH BASH: WWE’s “Clash of Champions” will take place Sunday, providing the Greek God of Wrestling an opportunity to voice one of his longest-running complaints. One week before Clash of the Champions, only four matches have been announced.

In the main event, Seth Rollins challenges Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal Championship. In other announced matches, Charlotte defends the RAW Women’s Championship against former champion Sasha;  New Day defends the RAW Tag Team Championship against Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson; and Sami Zayn battles Chris Jericho.

*****

SEEKING GLORY IN TNA: If you think the Greek God of Wrestling is displeased with WWE for not having more matches announced for Clash of Champions, you can watch his head explode as he looks for Bound for Glory matches on TNA’s Web site. I know Ethan Carter III is facing Lashley for the TNA World Heavyweight Championships, but I can’t find that match, or any other match, listed for Bound for Glory on TNA’s Web site.

*****

STARS COME OUT: Several title matches will highlight Ring of Honor’s All-Star Extravaganza VII pay-per-view in Lowell, Mass., on Fri., Sept. 30. Adam Cole defends the Ring of Honor World Championship against IWGP Intercontinental champion Michael Elgin. There will be a ladder match for the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship, with The Addiction (Christopher Daniels, Frank Kazarian) defending the titles against The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin). Bobby Fish defends the Ring of Honor Television Championship against Donovan Dijak.

*****

FUNK IS HARDCORE: Terry Funk is known for doing some crazy things during his career, but he might have pushed himself to the limit in a new way this past weekend. Despite having hernia surgery on Sept. 12, the 72-year-old Funk flew to the East coast for a pair of House of Hardcore shows in New York and Philadelphia, including Saturday’s show at 2300 Arena.

Funk, who reportedly wasn’t feeling well, did not appear in Tommy Dreamer’s corner, as advertised, for Dreamer’s match Saturday against Matt Hardy, but he came out earlier in the show and gave a speech about that possibly being his last time in a wrestling ring. The Wrestling Observer reports that Funk, suffering from exhaustion after a late-night drive to Philly and signing autographs at a convention all day, asked Dreamer for permission to leave early. Dreamer, of course, granted Funk’s request.

The fact that Funk left early isn’t as big a surprise as it is that a 72-year-old man coming off surgery made a weekend trip across the country for a pair of appearances at pro wrestling shows. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t have expected anything different from Terry Funk. As the song goes, Funk is still crazy after all these years.

*****

SICK FEELING: Two titles changed hands at Combat Zone Wrestling presents “Down With Sickness” at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. Jonathan Gresham emerged from a four-way bout with Greg Excellent, Joe Gacy and defending champion Matt Tremont with the CZW World Championship. Joey Janela beat Lio Rush in the Chris Cash Memorial Ladder Match to become the CZW Wired champion.

*****

HALLOWICKED RETAINS: Hallowicked defeated Drew Gulak on Saturday to retain the CHIKARA Grand Championship at The Black Goodbye. CHIKARA has three doubleheaders left on its 2016 schedule: Oct. 8 in Haverhill, Mass.; Nov. 5 in Philly; and Dec. 3 in Chicago.

*****

PHILLY SMACKDOWN: The Smackdown at Wells Fargo Center last week, the first Smackdown after Backlash, was short on great matches but moved quickly due to entertaining storylines. Achilles Heel would like to thank the security that kept the masses a great distance from having contact with me.

*****

MEET ZIGGLER: Dolph Ziggler will appear at Adventureland Store in the Voorhees Town Center on Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets are required for autographs and photographs with Ziggler.

*****

WWE COMES TO HERSHEY: The Smackdown stars will come to Hershey on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) for a show at Giant Center. One Smackdown star who won’t be in Hershey is Randy Orton. He’s schedule to wrestle Brock Lesnar in Chicago. Achilles Heel worries about the wisdom of Orton, who is coming off a concussion suffered at the hands of Lesnar, working a physical match with The Beast.

*****

JERICHO HAS THE GIFT: Chris Jericho has been incredibly entertaining the past few months. His references to Kevin Owens as the longest-reigning Universal champion in WWE history make me laugh every time.

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