Back in the nineties, amid the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW, the Cruiserweight Classic helped the latter gain a firm advantage in the TV ratings.
Not only that, it thrust the likes of Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho into the forefront of WCW shows in support of, and at times bettering, the famed nWo era of the company.
Those wrestlers gave viewers the chance to see high flying action like never before, and this adrenaline fuelled innovation caught the imagination of fans like Bryan, himself inspired to then pursue a profession in wrestling.
“For me, as a fan, when I was growing up the transition from being a fan and really liking the Ultimate Warrior to thinking ‘I really want to do this’ was because of the cruiserweights,” explained Bryan.
“Dean Malenko was billed as 5’8, maybe 200 pounds but I didn’t relate to the guys that were like Hulk Hogan, The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin because they were so big or so massive but when I saw guys like Dean Malenko and Rey Mysterio who were able to succeed at that kind of level I thought there was no reason why I can’t try this.
“I also love cruiserweight because they’re pretty much the ones who invent stuff. If anything new happens in wrestling it’s pretty much the smaller guys that do it first and then the big guys think ‘I may be able to do that’. I love seeing new stuff, I love the evolution of wrestling and I love it when people are trying new things.”
Bryan co-hosts the programme, which gives 32 independent wrestlers the chance to showcase their talent via the WWE’s far-reaching platform – in tournament competition.
For those working the indy scene and anyone looking to make an impression and secure a WWE contract, the show is win-win.
The former can enhance their reputations, increase exposure and drive more interest to their freelance services, while the latter have a ready-made opportunity to fight for a place on a WWE roster that is expanding thanks to the company’s New Era and re-branding.
A first sign of this was the announcement this week that RAW will host the cruiserweight division in its shows.
Bryan believes this opportunity is unlike any other the company has ever given ‘The Little Guys’.
“It’s an amazing step forward for WWE. WWE has never done anything like this before as far as getting people who aren’t under contract and focusing on them, it’s crazy. It’s the first time they’ve built a show around lighter weight guys,” said Bryan.
“I don’t really know the details with these guys going forward but I’m sure some of them, if they really impress the management, will be offered contracts and they have the ability to accept or deny those contracts. Some people really enjoy being independent wrestlers.
“Regardless of whether these guys get offered contracts or not, getting this kind of exposure is great for your independent career as well. I’m sure some of the guys will be offered contracts but I think a good showing in the Cruiserweight Classic will help your independent career as well.”
The potential is obvious and Bryan’s excitement entirely justified.
He also believes that should this show prove a hit among the WWE Universe then there is no reason why that once debilitating rival offering could now inject new life into the WWE.
“When Triple H had talked about it he had mentioned that he wanted to make this an annual thing. He thinks it will be a great annual show for the Network,” he added.
“As far as tournaments going forward, I don’t know if there will be any more. So many of the top guys now within WWE would have been considered cruiserweights when WCW first had their Cruiserweight Championships.
“Originally, in WCW it was 225lbs and under. The Cruiserweight Classic is 205 and under. But when you look at the WWE roster, everybody’s a little bit smaller because fans want more action which requires a little bit more mobility and you to be a little bit lighter.
“I would not be surprised, especially with the brand extension, if they restarted the Cruiserweight Championship.”
It was an all-action affair as Smackdown Live went up against Monday Night RAW for the first time this week.
And eventually, there was a massive upset in this one, which you can check out in the video above.
What do you make of the outcome and who do you think will leave SummerSlam with the World Title?
And boy did Balor take his opportunity.
The NXT graduate downed Reigns in superb fashion, securing a showdown with Rollins at SummerSlam.
It was some way for Balor to introduce himself to the main roster and the Irishman will be looking to go one better at his first pay-per-view event.