Despite the dead crowd reaction, Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins for the Cruiserweight Championship was a really solid match. It not only featured several high-spots, but the storytelling aspect of the bout was on par with many of the older-school matches featured during the glory days of Ric Flair holding NWA titles.
Kendrick eventually won the match, and the title, after faking an injury and roping his former buddy into his finisher.
The result seems shocking, but that is only surface-level thinking. When one goes slightly deeper, while adding important context, it is safe to assume this was a need-move by WWE.
It isn’t only because Kendrick is the more name-brand of the two, either. In fact, there are numerous reasons the title had to change hands at HIAC.
The division in its entirety has been met with indifference since its debut. This is largely the company’s own fault. Thanks to not dedicating enough time to letting each wrestler tell their story, and mostly focusing on six-man tags and the title feud, fans have no idea who is good, bad or worth rooting for.
Because of that, every single time any cruiserweight wrestler steps foot in the ring, it is essentially the same as one of those jobbers Braun Strowman destroys. Fans know nothing about them, and the WWE shouldn’t expect them to. Generally speaking, not knowing about someone or something prevents people from being emotionally invested.
Giving Kendrick the gold at the very least gives the WWE Universe a recognizable name holding the title. Maybe not the emotional investment for the entire division, but at least it is a start.
It does far more than that, too.
Most divisions (world title or mid-card variant) are best served when heels have the gold. Faces need something to chase, and unless the good guy holding a strap has elite-level mic skills (think The Rock or Stone Cold), it isn’t all that interesting to see some goody-two-shoes trot about the squared-circle smiling all the time.
Kendrick adding some much-needed evilness to the top of the division is important in all of this, yet it is only a result of something else happening from a negative standpoint. It has as much to do with Perkins not exactly setting the division on fire in a post-Cruiserweight Classic world.
This can be due to the WWE wanting to tone down the work-rate of the CWC matches while transitioning the talent to Raw, but Perkins has been a shell of himself since winning the tournament. Couple that with his gimmick being super millennial-y — which, yes, does alienate many people — and fans haven’t taken to him as everyone assumed they would.
Either way, even if it isn’t the too-millennial aspect, it can just be due to the played-to-death homeless character or the fact Perkins smiles too much. Seriously, who smiles that much?
Nevertheless, having Perkins drop the belt gives him a chance to reinvent himself a little bit before it is too late. He doesn’t have to turn heel or go full repackage, but the WWE and Perkins need to gloss over what worked for him and what didn’t. And without going full old man, get off my lawn… not only is dabbing a weird thing to still be doing (it is 2016, you know?), the origins of the move is about drugs.
Finally, this gives the entire cruiserweight division a combination of a mini-reset to its inauspicious start, and continues to add to the idea of parity in it. It allows the division to start fresh.
Speaking on the former first; while no one will all of a sudden forget the first few months of this weight-class’ infancy, the company can look at all the iffy decisions it made since it began, and use the Kendrick-era as a tool to reboot it on the fly. Taking away the purple ropes, more in-ring promos, etc., can all be introduced as early as this Monday Night Raw and no one would notice.
As for the latter, Kendrick won the belt after losing to Rich Swann on the previous edition of Raw. In a span of six days, Kendrick went from losing to a guy to becoming the champion. When you consider the fact that Perkins already lost a non-title bout to him in the past, with the fact Kendrick is dropping matches elsewhere prior to being the new champion, it just lets the audience know the entire division is volatile and anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
Regardless, the entire division hasn’t gotten as over as many presumed. The majority of the blame certainly goes to the WWE, but many of the wrestlers have severely under-performed since the CWC ended. Here is to hoping the title chance at HIAC signifies a fresh start to what is still a very young cruiserweight division.
I still think fans are in good hands. After all, Brian Kendrick is a man with a plan.