Eric Bischoff has left his mark on the wrestling industry in a number of ways. His implementation and coining of cruiserweights in WCW has come back into the spotlight with the WWE Cruiserweight Classic now underway.
Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard blog did an interview with the mastermind behind the nWo. The talk centered around cruiserweights and how he worked them into programming.
“Let’s face it – the guys who were 5’8” and 140 pounds could do amazing things that a guy who was 6’8” and 300 pounds just couldn’t. Having two separate styles of wrestling within our program was different,” Bischoff said.
Before he put them on TV, Bischoff talked to his guys who would be the first cruiserweights about their role in the company.
“When I hired the first group of cruiserweights – which consisted of Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero – I sat them down in my office and I was very clear to them. I said to them, almost verbatim, ‘You need to be my human car crashes at 9pm,’” Bischoff said.
The name cruiserweight itself was something Bischoff put serious thought into, wanting the group of lighter wrestlers to sound good and not be demeaning to them.
“When I created the Cruiserweight division in WCW, nobody called them cruiserweights in the industry at that point. That was a boxing term, not a wrestling term, but I did not want to call them junior heavyweights, light heavyweights, or anything that made them sound diminutive. I wanted it to sound special and cool.”
Bischoff held titles of executive producer and president in WCW, at separate times. He was the general manager of WWE’s Monday Night Raw from 2002-2005 and spent time in TNA, where he was an executive producer for part of his time there.
Cruiserweights came back into the wrestling spotlight with the announcement of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. The 32-man, single-elimination tournament airs Wednesday nights on the WWE Network. The CWC runs for 10 weeks (July 13 through Sept. 14) and will end with a live two-hour special.
The tournament features national and international talent, with competitors from 16 countries. Cedric Alexander and NXT’s Johnny Gargano are among those representing the United States. Kota Ibushi (Japan), Zack Sabre Jr. (England), Gran Metalik (Mexico), Ho Ho Lun (Hong Kong) and others represent the international wrestling community.
WWE has shown vignettes in recent weeks teasing a cruiserweight division coming to Raw later this year. The promos seem to be preparation for the end of the CWC tournament.