The WCW Cruiserweight Championship helped to re-establish lightweight professional wrestling in the United States during the mid-1990s.
Many legends in pro wrestling won the coveted championship. It was introduced in 1996 and became part of WWE when WCW was purchased on March 23, 2001. Shane Helms is the last recognized WCW Cruiserweight Champion before the WWE buyout.
Many cruiserweight pro wrestlers would go on to not only find continued success in WCW but also in WWE. It is worth going back and watching some of these older matches in order to grasp how much of an impact they had on professional wrestling.
Former WCW Executive Producer and President, Eric Bischoff states in his book, Controversy Creates Ca$h that cruiserweights helped to give WCW an “international feel” and “had a lot to do with the continued success of Nitro” (201-202).
The cruiserweight championship changed hands quite frequently in WCW, but it helped to make these superstars household names during the Monday Night Wars.
Elix Skipper’s WCW tenure started in late 1999. Instead of winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, he was given it by Lance Storm, who at the time held two other WCW championships on Aug. 14, 2000.
Unfortunately, the cruiserweight championship was not showcased very much by WCW at the time. During his 49-day tenure as champion, Skipper only defended the title twice on television.
Most of the time Skipper was involved in tag-team matches with Lance Storm during the title reign.
His loss to Mike Sanders was quite dubious in nature as Elix Skipper faced both Kevin Nash and Mike Sanders in a handicap match.
What Skipper’s championship reign proves is that just because someone holds a championship for a significant number of days does not necessarily mean it is defended frequently.
Juventud Guerrera held the WCW Cruiserweight Championship for 50 days over the course of three title reigns.
His high-flying Mexican lucha libre pro wrestling style was something new to many American fans during the mid-1990s. With anticipation, fans waited for Guerrera’s 450 splash from the top turnbuckle to finish off an opponent.
Guerrera defeated Ultimo Dragon for his first cruiserweight championship on the Jan. 8, 1998 edition of Thunder.
One of Guerrera’s most impressive matches for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship was against Chris Jericho at the August WCW Road Wild '98 pay-per-view event. Guerrera would win the championship for a second time in a 20-minute match.
The last time Guerrera would hold the championship would occur in a win against Billy Kidman on the Nov. 16, 1998 edition of Monday Nitro.
For much of 1998, Guerrera would be at or near the top of the cruiserweight division having impressive matches with El Dandy, Tokyo Magnum, Psicosis, Evan Karagias, Hector Garza, Kaz Hayashi, Silver King, Super Calo, Rey Misterio Jr., Billy Kidman and Chris Jericho on numerous occasions.
Putting on impressive matches with many cruiserweights, Guerrera helped WCW expose lucha libre to the American audience.
Mike Sanders won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in a handicap match teaming with Kevin Nash to defeat Elix Skipper on the Oct. 2, 2000 edition of Monday Nitro.
Sanders would have the opportunity to defend the championship only a handful of times.
Defeating Lance Storm on the Oct. 4, 2000 edition of Thunder right after winning the championship seemed like a positive start to Sanders’ reign.
Unfortunately, the next time he defended the championship on a major televised show was nearly two months later at the WCW Mayhem 2000 pay-per-view event against Kwee Wee.
Sanders would go on to lose the cruiserweight championship to Chavo Guerrero Jr. on the Dec. 6, 2000 edition of WCW Thunder.
Again, the WCW Cruiserweight Championship was not a prominent feature of WCW programming in 2000. Although Sanders’ reign is not that memorable, during his reign as champion, he had matches with Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Ernest “The Cat” Miller, and Sting outside of the cruiserweight division.
The late Eddie (Eddy, as often used in WCW) Guerrero first started wrestling in WCW in 1995 before the cruiserweight championship was introduced.
Starting off as a cheered good guy in WCW, Guerrero really hit his stride a couple years later as a brilliant hated heel.
In his debut year in WCW, Guerrero had memorable matches with Dean Malenko, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit and even Ric Flair.
Guerrero spent the first half of 1996 wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling while wrestling the other half of the year for WCW.
Before going after the cruiserweight championship, Guerrero was a WCW United States Champion defeating Diamond Dallas Page at the WCW Starrcade ’96 pay-per-view event. Guerrero held onto the U.S. championship until March 1997 when he lost it to Dean Malenko at that year’s WCW Uncensored pay-per-view event.
Following his title loss, Guerrero would set his focus on the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Winning the title in an incredible match with Chris Jericho at the WCW Fall Brawl ’97 pay-per-view event, Guerrero would remain a top WCW Superstar in the cruiserweight division for the rest of the year.
During his first reign as cruiserweight champion, Guerrero would have matches with many in the cruiserweight division including Ultimo Dragon and Psicosis.
Guerrero’s most notable title defense during his inaugural reign would come against Rey Misterio Jr. in a Mask vs. Title match at the WCW Halloween Havoc ’97 pay-per-view event. Guerrero would lose this match and the championship in what was one of the most exciting matches on the show.
Eddie Guerrero would win the championship again in a rematch with Misterio at the Nov. 10, 1997 edition of Monday Nitro.
During his second reign, Guerrero defended the championship multiple times against Rey Misterio Jr., Dean Malenko and Bobby Blaze. His second reign would end to Ultimo Dragon on the Dec. 29, 1997 edition of Monday Nitro.
As a two-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Eddie Guerrero brought prestige to the title not only because of the Guerrero name but because of the incredible matches he had with the likes of Rey Misterio, Jr., Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and Ultimo Dragon.
Becoming cruiserweight champion helped Guerrero to become a household name during the Monday Night Wars and gave fans their first glimpse at the heel persona of Eddie Guerrero.
Sean Waltman, formerly known as the 1-2-3 Kid in WWE, entered WCW as Syxx (the sixth member of the New World Order). Quickly establishing himself as a prime member of the NWO, Syxx had a string of victories against WCW Superstars like Chris Jericho and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan.
Syxx quickly set his sights on WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko. At the WCW SuperBrawl VII pay-per-view event on Feb. 23, 1997, Syxx defeated Malenko for the championship after Guerrero accidentally distracted Malenko allowing Syxx to hit Malenko with the belt.
As cruiserweight champion, Syxx helped to make the NWO an even more important faction in WCW.
Syxx defended the championship against a slew of cruiserweight contenders including Rey Misterio Jr., Prince Iaukea, Juventud Guerrera, Chris Jericho and Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Chris Jericho would go on to defeat Syxx for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship at a house show in Los Angeles on June 28, 1997 in an impromptu match.
After defeating Rey Misterio Jr. in the reguarly scheduled match on the show, Syxx would not release his submission maneuver, the Buzzkill, causing Jericho to come to Misterio’s aid and challenge Syxx to a match.
After losing the cruiserweight championship, Syxx would begin a feud with the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
Being cruiserweight champion helped Syxx to establish himself as a major player amongst WCW’s gigantic roster of talent in the mid-1990s. He gave the championship major exposure during the spring of 1997 on various WCW television programs as well.
During 1998 and 1999, Chavo Guerrero Jr. challenged for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship numerous times against Billy Kidman, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho but always came up short.
Chavo Guerrero Jr. seemed to always be in the shadow of his uncle, Eddie Guerrero. Not wanting to follow his uncle’s cheating ways, Chavo made a friend out of wooden hobby horse named “Pepe” to get attention before joining the Misfits in Action (MIA) stable.
MIA was stable of WCW Superstars in 2000 that included Lieutenant Loco (Chavo Guerrero Jr.), Captain/General Rection (Hugh Morrus), G.I. Bro (Booker T), Private/Major Stash (Van Hammer), Major Gunns (Tylene Buck), Sgt. AWOL (The Wall), and Corporal Cajun (Lash LeRoux). This stable was a humorous group that would wrestle their matches in camouflaged fatigue uniforms.
Guerrero's luck would finally change in 2000 as part of MIA when he won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in a three-way match on the June 7, 2000 edition of Thunder. The other two participants in this match were champion Daffney and Disco Inferno.
During his first cruiserweight championship reign, Lieutenant Loco would defend the title against Disco Inferno, The Artist, Rey Misterio Jr., Corporal Cajun and Juventud Guerrera before losing the championship to Lance Storm on the July 31, 2000 edition of Monday Nitro.
Upon losing the cruiserweight championship, Loco would go after the WCW World Tag Team Championship with Corporal Cajun.
MIA would lose its momentum by the end of 2000, and Lieutenant Loco would revert back to Chavo Guerrero Jr., once more challenging for the cruiserweight championship.
Guerrero’s experience with MIA gave him the opportunity to work with other mid-card talent in WCW and provide more screen time being part of a pro wrestling stable.
Cruiserweight gold would again be around the waist of Guerrero following a win over champion Mike Sanders on the Dec. 6, 2000 edition of Thunder. Defeating Sanders with a Brainbuster, Guerrero would start off his second and last cruiserweight title reign with a blast.
Holding the championship well into the beginning of 2001, Guerrero defeated the likes of Shannon Moore, Shane Helms, Crowbar and Rey Misterio Jr. before losing to Helms at the final WCW pay-per-view event, Greed on March 18, 2001.
Although Chavo Guerrero Jr. held the WCW Cruiserweight Championship prominently during the dying days of WCW, it gave him the opportunity to be on national television and most likely did nothing to hurt him upon entering WWE.
It also allowed him to step out of the long shadow cast by his highly successful uncle, Eddie Guerrero.
Entering into the top five total longest WCW Cruiserweight Championship reigns is Billy Kidman.
Billy Kidman’s WCW career started with no hype whatsoever. As a perpetual jobber, Kidman gained experience in WCW losing to just about everyone in the company on Saturday Night and Monday Nitro in 1996 and 1997.
Sometimes hard work does pay off, and for Billy Kidman it did in 1998 when he joined former Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) World Heavyweight Champion Raven's new WCW stable, The Flock.
Shortening his name to only Kidman, he adopted the grungy look of Raven and the other Flock members.
Kidman had a series of entertaining matches with Juventud Guerrera prior to and after winning his first WCW Cruiserweight Championship from Guerrera on the Sept. 14, 1998 edition of Monday Nitro, which was the night after Raven's Flock was disbanded by Perry Saturn.
His first title reign would stretch for just over two months until losing the championship back to Guerrera on the Nov. 16, 1998 edition of Monday Nitro.
During Kidman’s first championship reign, he defended it against the likes of Disco Inferno, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Psicosis, Lenny Lane and Kaz Hayashi. He also went to a draw with Rey Misterio Jr.
Showcasing his abilities not only on Monday Nitro, Kidman also frequently wrestled on the WCW programs Thunder, Saturday Night and at the WCW Halloween Havoc '98 pay-per-view event.
After losing the championship the first time, Kidman regained it only six days later from Juventud Guerrera at the WCW World War 3 '98 pay-per-view event.
Kidman’s second reign with the championship would be much longer than his first, stretching 113 consecutive days.
In such a competitive division, Kidman’s second reign as champion would prove his worth to WCW.
Kidman’s second reign would see him defeat both Rey Misterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera in a spectacular triangle match at the WCW Starrcade '98 pay-per-view event. This match started off the event in magnificent fashion.
Not only defeating both Misterio and Guerrera at Starrcade, Kidman defeated Eddie Guerrero in the second match on the show. Kidman defeated three of the top cruiserweight stars in one evening showing that he belonged at the top of the division.
Stretching into the first quarter of 1999, Kidman continued to defend the championship frequently against a multitude of opponents. These cruiserweights included many from his first title reign and others, such as Lash LeRoux, Lodi, Chris Jericho and Mikey Whipwreck.
Kidman’s second cruiserweight championship reign ended at the hands of Rey Misterio Jr. on the March 15, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro. Both superstars were babyfaces for this match and they ended up as a tag-team on and off.
His third cruiserweight championship reign had little notice and only lasted for one day when Kidman defeated The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea at a non-televised house show in Baltimore, Maryland on March 31, 2000. He was defeated by Iaukea one day later at a non-televised house show in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Billy Kidman was an integral part of WCW’s cruiserweight division through its highs and its lows. His contributions to making this division popular cannot be overstated.
Dean Malenko was a perennial fixture of WCW’s cruiserweight division starting all the back at its start in 1996. He actually started wrestling in WCW toward the end of 1995, mostly having matches with Eddie Guerrero.
When Malenko came to the ring, he was all business. This attitude earned him the nickname the “Iceman.” Also, with his wide array of wrestling holds and maneuvers, he was called “The Man of 1,000 Holds.” Whatever his nickname, Malenko was a force to be reckoned with inside the squared circle.
Shinjiro Otani may have been the first WCW Cruiserweight Champion, but it was Dean Malenko and Rey Misterio Jr. who really popularized a faster pace of pro wrestling in WCW during 1996.
Being the second cruiserweight champion in WCW history after defeating Otani on the May 18, 1996 edition of WorldWide, Malenko’s first title reign ran for 67 days.
During Malenko’s initial title reign, he defended the championship against Brad Armstrong, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Disco Inferno. He also wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling during the month of June in 1996 representing WCW.
Malenko’s first title reign would end by defeat to Rey Mysterio Jr. at the WCW Clash of the Champions XXXIII event in August 1996.
Having a number of matches with Rey Mysterio Jr. in 1996, Malenko would win back the cruiserweight championship at the WCW Halloween Havoc '96 pay-per-view event. This match would help elevate the cruiserweight division by having the championship defended on a high-profile event.
Malenko’s second reign had him defend the title against competitors from his first reign and more including Juventud Guerrera, Psychosis, Billy Kidman, Jimmy Graffiti, David Sammartino and Mark Starr.
Ulitmately, Malenko’s second reign would end in December 1996 at the WCW Starrcade pay-per-view event to international superstar Ultimo Dragon. Even though Malenko lost the championship, he would hold the title for much of the latter part of 1996.
Always at the top of the cruiserweight division, Malenko would win back the championship from Dragon in January 1997 at the WCW Clash of Champions XXXIV event. Malenko’s third title reign would not last but a month, but during this reign, he defended the championship against Jerry Flynn, Mike Enos and Mark Starr.
With the New World Order taking WCW by storm, Malenko lost the championship to Syxx at the WCW SuperBrawl VII pay-per-view event in February 1997.
Malenko would continue to wrestle in and out of the cruiserweight division for the remainder of 1997 and into 1998 getting chances at the championship but never winning.
The last title reign of Dean Malenko would finally occur in May 1998 when he defeated Chris Jericho at the WCW Slamboree '98 pay-per-view event. This was a huge win for Malenko as Jericho had been one-upping him in matches during the previous months.
Malenko could not get another shot at Jericho at Slamboree '98. A 14-man battle royal was set up to determine a No. 1 contender. Entering the battle royal under a costume borrowed from the masked luchador Ciclope, Malenko won the battle royal and unmasked to reveal his true self before his match the same night with Jericho.
Dean Malenko would defend the championship in his last title reign against many cruiserweight competitors like Chavo Guerrero Jr., Lenny Lane, Silver King, Disco Inferno, Scotty Riggs and Evan Karagias in a very short time.
Stripped off the title only one month later on the June 11, 1998 edition of WCW Thunder for not rightfully earning the championship shot at Slamboree, Malenko’s final reign ended in an anti-climactic fashion.
Dean Malenko is one of the pillars of WCW cruiserweight division. He was also an integral part of WCW’s most popular cruiserweight matches during the first two years of its existence.
During Chris Jericho’s 198 days as cruiserweight champion over four title reigns, he proved that cruiserweights could not only be entertaining in the ring but also out of the ring.
The cruiserweight championship helped Chris Jericho to develop from a non-personality showing babyface to a compelling and unique heel.
Jericho’s first cruiserweight championship win would occur at a WCW non-televised house show on June 28, 1997 in Inglewood, Calif. A heavy underdog, Jericho would defeat Syxx, a member of the powerful New World Order, for the championship.
This was a major win because the NWO rarely lost high-profile matches at the time. Jericho also ended Syxx’s 125-day reign as champion.
Unfortunately for Chris Jericho, his first cruiserweight championship reign would hit a road bump by the name of "Das Wunderkind" Alex Wright on the July 28, 1997 edition of Monday Nitro. In his first short reign, Jericho was able to get wins over Juventud Guerrera, Alex Wright and Ultimo Dragon.
Jericho would soon get revenge against Alex Wright and win back the cruiserweight championship a month later on the Aug. 16, 1997 edition of Saturday Night. Still a babyface, Jericho would get wins over Eddie Guerrero, Yuji Nagata, Hector Garza and Brad Armstrong during his second reign.
In one of the most exciting cruiserweight championship matches, Jericho would see his second title reign end when Eddie Guerrero defeated him at the WCW Fall Brawl 97’ pay-per-view event. Following this loss, Jericho would travel to Japan wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling for the remainder of Sept. 1997.
Jericho’s character would evolve upon his return to WCW in Oct. 1997 and into 1998. Turning heel, Jericho would soon become a sensation on the microphone and again in the cruiserweight division.
Winning his third cruiserweight championship at the second annual WCW Souled Out pay-per-view in January 1998 from Rey Misterio Jr., Jericho spent 113 days as champion. As a heel, Jericho shined as cruiserweight champion defending the championship against Dean Malenko, Super Calo, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Lenny Lane, Ciclope, Disco Inferno, Psicosis, Marty Jannetty and Prince Iaukea,
Jericho even defeated Juventud Guerrera in a championship vs. mask match forcing Guerrera to unmask at the WCW SuperBrawl VIII pay-per-view event in February 1998. This historic championship reign would end with a defeat to Dean Malenko at the WCW Slamboree pay-per-view event in May 1998.
The fourth and final cruiserweight championship reign for Chris Jericho would come under dubious circumstances at the WCW Great American Bash pay-per-view in June 1998. One month previous, a masked Dean Malenko would defeat Jericho but be stripped of the championship for masquerading as the masked luchador Ciclope.
At the Great American Bash, Jericho took on Malenko in order to determine a champion. Winning the championship by disqualification after Malenko hit him with a chair, Jericho’s last cruiserweight championship reign saw him take on Ultimo Dragon, Barry Houston and Rey Mysterio Jr.
Juventud Guerrera would finally get his revenge against Chris Jericho and win the championship at the WCW Road Wild pay-per-view in August 1998.
Chris Jericho showed that the cruiserweight division could not only be athletic but also entertaining. His heel turn granted more microphone time and the opportunity to develop his persona.
Jericho’s four cruiserweight championship reigns helped him to become the fantastic WWE Superstar he is today.
Rey Misterio (sometimes spelled Mysterio) Jr. revolutionized the cruiserweight division in WCW. His small stature betrayed his larger-than-life performance in the ring. It is a credit to Misterio and Eric Bischoff in making a masked luchador popular with an American audience in the mid-1990s.
Misterio’s five WCW Cruiserweight Championship reigns spanned nearly the entire history of the championship from 1996 to 2001.
Some of the best cruiserweight matches in WCW during the championship’s first year of existence took place between Rey Misterio Jr. and Dean Malenko. It was Misterio who would become WCW’s third cruiserweight champion by defeating Malenko on the July 8, 1996 edition of Monday Nitro.
This first title reign of Misterio’s lasted 111 days and saw him take on all challengers. He defended the championship against an incredible list of contenders including Psicosis, Ultimo Dragon, Dean Malenko, Mr. JL, Billy Kidman, Juventud Guerrera and Super Calo.
After an amazing first reign as champion, Misterio would lose the championship to Malenko at the WCW Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event in October 1996. Misterio’s first title reign would help to define the cruiserweight division as having the fastest pace and most unique maneuvers in WCW.
During the latter part of 1997, Misterio would become embroiled in a bitter feud with long-time friend and rival Eddie Guerrero. It would be this feud that would mark one of the most famous matches from the cruiserweight division. Guerrero put his championship up against Misterio’s mask.
When Rey Misterio Jr. defeated Eddie Guerrero at the WCW Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event in October 1997, it would mark Misterio as not only being able to keep his beloved mask and identity but also winning the cruiserweight championship.
Misterio’s second cruiserweight championship would not last nearly as long as his first. Eddie Guerrero regained the championship two weeks later on the Nov. 10, 1997 edition of Monday Nitro. During his second reign, Misterio was able to defend the championship against Dean Malenko and Billy Kidman though.
Undeterred, Rey Misterio Jr. always stayed in contention for the cruiserweight championship. In early 1998, on the Jan. 15 edition of Thunder, Misterio won his third WCW Cruiserweight Championship defeating Juventud Guerrera.
Unfortunately for Misterio, his third title reign would last only nine days. He was able to defeat Guerrera in a rematch and Eddie Guerrero before losing the championship to Chris Jericho at the January 1998 WCW Souled Out pay-per-view event.
Misterio would continue to wrestle in the cruiserweight division and have many shots at the cruiserweight championship in 1998. Often, he would be involved in triple-threat or fatal four-way matches for the championship. Also, Misterio would occasionally be tag-team partners with Mexican wrestler Konnan and even sometimes with cruiserweight rival Billy Kidman.
Never straying too far from the cruiserweight division, Misterio finally regained the championship from Billy Kidman on the March 15, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro.
Misterio’s fourth title reign lasted for one month but during this time, Misterio was able to defend the championship against Juventud Guerrera, Evan Karagias and Billy Kidman before losing it to fellow luchador Psicosis on the April 19, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro. Misterio lost his fourth championship in a fatal 4-way match with Juventud Guerrera and Blitzkrieg also participating.
Psicosis actually pinned Blitzkrieg to win the championship; Misterio was not even pinned.
Bouncing back quickly from the fatal four-way loss, Misterio regained the championship one week later on the April 26, 1999 edition of Monday Nitro defeating Psicosis. With this championship win, Misterio became the first and only five-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion.
In his last reign as champion, Misterio held the championship for a remarkable 115 days. In those 115 days, Misterio was able to defend the championship against Kaz Hayashi, Evan Karagias, Lash LeRoux, Kidman, Blitzkrieg, Lenny Lane and Silver King.
While holding the cruiserweight championship, Misterio also continued to perform in tag-team matches with Konnan, Billy Kidman and even Eddie Guerrero.
He finally lost the championship to Lenny Lane on the Aug. 19, 1999 edition of Thunder.
Rey Misterio Jr. is synonymous with cruiserweight/lightweight professional wrestling in the United States and across the world. His matches against an array of international athletes helped to make WCW the place to see various pro wrestling styles. Misterio became the face of the division and helped to propel it to the highest of popularity in the mid-1990s.
Who was your favorite WCW cruiserweight?
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