When people speak fondly about the Monday Night Wars of the 1990s, they usually cite the rise of WCW Nitro.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking show of the era, World Championship Wrestling broke all the rules and conquered new milestones when they took the chance of going head-to-head with the World Wrestling Federation.
Eric Bischoff and the folks at World Championship Wrestling rolled the dice to unseat Monday Night RAW as the king of prime time in their shared genre. Quite frankly? For a while, it worked.
A big part of that success lay in the fact that Nitro presented a wide variety of talent from all around the world. From megastars to new names, the entire presentation was at its best when it was an array of talent - from A to Z.
The WCW Cruiserweight Division would often kick off the show during Nitro's best era. From 1996-1998, the best match of the night might have come on first. Little did they know, as they were 'jerking the curtain' on wrestling's highest-rated TV show, they were gaining the attention of fans worldwide.
Some of professional wrestling's biggest names became stars as part of WCW's cruiserweight ranks
Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho, and Rey Mysterio eventually graduated from the ranks of being considered undersized performers who were mid-card, at best. Each went on to win world titles against much larger opponents and, at the same time, changed the perception of grapplers with their stature, skill, and insight.
When you look at the stars who not only captivated us with their electrifying moves but moved on to even greater success, the alumni of WCW acrobats in the late '90s reads like a who's who of wrestling royalty.
Beyond the aforementioned legends like Jericho, Mysterio and Guerrero, there was a lot more that this revolution had to offer. Names like Juventud Guerrera, Ultimo Dragon, and Psychosis can always be counted on to provide an explosive exhibition. Each has gone on to make a name for themselves internationally.
More traditional stars in the division have forged successful careers as well. Dean Malenko, Disco Inferno, and Alex Wright are decorated, former WCW Cruiserweight Champions who continue to work behind the scenes in the industry today.
Looking back, it's a testament to how great this group of performers indeed were and how much they have influenced the new generation.
It's almost as if that group was brought together at the same time by both fate and chance. Their era was a special time in wrestling, and they re-wrote history in their own and sometimes overlooked way.
In hindsight, if there's one thing that those fantastic fliers and mat marvels of the cruiserweight division taught us back in the '90s, it's that wrestling was entering a whole new era. Things were moving faster, and it was time to time to fly.
What are your fondest memories of WCW's Cruiserweight Division? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
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