By Jared "JJF" Jackson-Ferrans
With a few notable exceptions, the WWE has struggled over the last few years to use light heavyweight talents effectively. While Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan have managed to both become world champions in the last few years, many more talented stars have fallen by the wayside in favor of bigger talent and find themselves without storylines. With this in mind, it may be in the company's best interest to revisit the idea of bringing back a Championship based around these neglected talents.
Yes, I'm talking about the Light Heavyweight Championship.
Keep in mind, there are a lot of misconceptions about this title. The presence of a Light Heavyweight or Cruiserweight Championship does not prevent light heavyweights from going beyond the division if they're an exceptional talent, as Kurt Angle, among others, have proved. Nor would it hold back those who have held the title previously from holding a world or midcard title, as the likes of Chris Jericho, Christian, Rey Mysterio and Tajiri have all done. This would not only work as a starting point for new talent, but a way to put some much needed focus on the neglected talent already on the roster. These current WWE or NXT superstars, under the 225 pound weight limit, make up this potential roster in my mind
WWE has reportedly planned for Kalisto to ultimately become a replacement for Rey Mysterio, and there's no better way to start this process by bringing back the division Mysterio ruled over. His quick loss of the US title shows that WWE still isn't quite sure how to handle the former Samuray Del Sol, and establishing this would allow Kalisto to build his credibility while exihibiting his mic skills and character away from his partner Sin Cara.
If Kalisto would be the Rey Mysterio of the new division, look for Neville to be the Billy Kidman. While WWE has gone back and forth on what to do with the most decorated man in NXT, giving him strong showings against Seth Rollins and John Cena one minute, while losing to the likes of Stardust and King Barrett the next. Regardless, his high flying ability, coupled with his general likeability make him a must for the division, while giving him a chance to improve on his lacking character and mediocre mic work.
After quietly going from one of pro wrestling's most lackluster characters to an unlikely darling among fans, Heath Slater is finally being given something to work with as a singles competitor, being the leader of the Social Outcasts. His mic work has drastically improved and he's never been shy of charisma or deficient in recieving heat from the fans, all he needs is the opportunity to put on great matches on television. Matching up with Neville or Kalisto would be one of the best ways to establish him.
If anyone in WWE currently needs this division to rebound most, it's Zack Ryder. The poster boy for WWE's "Stars can't make themselves" mentality, he's fallen far since his 2011 US Title run, to the point where he went to NXT just for the company to have anything for him. With a chance to become part of a new division, Ryder would get a clean slate, potentially strengthening the heel side by considering the division a "downgrade", or remaining face and continuing his Hype Bros character as a singles star. Regardless, Ryder needs to rebound, this is his shot.
As Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit both demonstrated previously, there is always a place for a technically sound performer within this division. Enter Chad Gable. The former 2012 Olympian is currently a standout in the NXT Tag Division and will very likely stay with partner Jason Jordan on the main roster, but competing as a light heavyweight would add some legitimacy and technical prowess to the division while remaining with American Alpha.
While the division should be treated seriously, there's nothing wrong with having a bit of comedy, and Xavier Woods is the perfect man to provide it. While Kofi Kingston and Big E get the lion's share of the ring work in the New Day, Woods does the majority of the promos and hype for the stable, and giving him the opportunity to compete more often would only increase his visibility among the WWE fans.
After being quickly lost in the shuffle on the main roster, Tyler Breeze could use this reboot more than anyone. Between his mat wrestling acumen courtesy of the Storm Wrestling Academy, striking and aerial ability, and his impeccable character work, Breeze has the potential for great things provided he maintains a consistant spot on the card. Along with his fellow former NXT stars Neville and Kalisto, Breeze has nothing to lose and everything to gain right now.
Finally, we come to Stardust. Since it doesn't look like we will get the return of Cody Rhodes as a character anytime soon, the hope is that Stardust lives up to his potential. Creating an opportunity in a division that not only allows but encourages unique, larger than life characters would give him the chance to break out from the "Goldust ripoff" perception that still follows the character. If used correctly, he can truly establish himself as one of the most versatile performers in the business.
So there you have it. 8 performers who can benefit from a return to the long-defunct championship, each with a unique skillset and role that they bring to a revived Light Heavyweight Division. Should the revival occur, it would not only be of great benefit to the talent, but give fans an avenue to see neglected talent perform while recapturing some of the magic that the SmackDown brand had in 2008. At the moment, it may be a dream, but if wrestling teaches us anything, it's that dreams come true.