The History of the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships

Published on 22 June 2024 at 09:11

The WCW Cruiserweight division was, at one time, the most innovative wrestling on the planet. Started by Eric Bischoff in 1995 to help add content to Monday Nitro on TNT, the Cruiserweights represented the best pound-for-pound talent from around the world.


Performers like Rey Mysterio, Jr, Juventeud Guerrera, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, Billy Kidman, and Ultimo Dragon became stars by having state-of-the-art wrestling matches with one another every week on television. The incredible wrestling mixed with the New World Order helped make Nitro reign supreme for eighty-three straight weeks during the famed “Monday Night Wars”.


In particular, many people consider the Mysterio vs Eddie “Cruiserweight Title vs Mask” match at WCW Halloween Havoc 1997 to be the greatest match in company history. The emotion in this battle was second-to-none and helped inspire a generation of future wrestlers. 


By the Summer of 1999, however, the division was in a lull. Many of the fans were craving for a new infusion of talented wrestlers and hoping that the originals would move up the ladder to bigger success. Yet, with the exception of Jericho in late 1998, the majority of the division stayed put, frustrating fans. The stagnation began to settle in.


As WCW continued on, with Vince Russo as Head of Creative in October 1999, the entire program became less orientated towards the in-ring product and heavy on storylines and characters. I truly didn’t mind the change in philosophy at the time. Most of the stuff was fun to watch.


However, once I saw Madusa and Oklahoma’s rivalry over the Cruiserweight Championship in the Winter of 2000, I became angry. How could a C-level storyline between a bad-ass woman’s wrestler and a parody of “Good Ol ‘JR” Jim Ross represent the best of the light heavyweights? 


To 14-year-old me, I had watched my favorite division go from revolutionary to the gutter.


Over the next year, the Cruiserweights were in a stand-still. Rapid changes in the creative teams, from Mr. Russo to Kevin Sullivan, back to Mr. Russo and Mr. Bischoff, and to Mr. Russo again caused some topsy-turvy environments within the division.


Champions ranged from The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea, Chris Candido, and Lt. Loco (Chavo Guerrero in the Misfits in Action) to co-champions Crowbar and Daffney and Lance Storm. 


In fact, Storm, the conquering Canadian wrestling hero, actually won the Cruiserweight Championship on July 30, 2000, while already holding both the United States and Hardcore Championships simultaneously, becoming the only wrestler in WCW history to hold the Triple Crown. Of course, in true Canadian fashion, Storm renamed the belt, similar to what he did with the other two titles (The Canadian Heavyweight Title and Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title, respectively), to the 100KG and Under Championship. After New Blood Rising in August 2000, he handed it off to his Team Canada stablemate “Prime Time” Elix Skipper.


Even now, I rip my hair out on how that title “change” took place.


With the entire division hitting rock bottom heading into the Fall of 2000, change was needed desperately.






John Laurinaitis became the head of creative in October 2000, shortly after Mr. Russo left WCW due to post-concussion syndrome, and began his rebuild of the entire Cruiserweight division. Laurinaitis, who was a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling for a number of years, remembered how important the Cruiserweights were to WCW’s identity in the mid-1990s.


Alongside Terry Taylor and the aforementioned Ferrera (he was Oklahoma), the foundation began being laid.


First, he split the Jung Dragons and 3 Count from being trios to being three tag teams: Evan Karagias and Jamie-San, the ex-communicated members of those groups, became a tandem known as Knoble and Karagias.


Then, Laurinaitis put them in show-stealing matches. First, at Mayhem 2000 in November, those six men put it all on the line in a triple threat tag team match, with 3 Count of Shane Helms and Shannon Moore coming out on top. 


To follow it up, the three teams would have a rematch at Starrcade 2000 in a triple threat ladder match, in which the man on one of those tandems that pulled down a contract hanging from the rafters would receive a shot at the Cruiserweight Championship. Although Helms and Moore pulled down the contract at the same time, the following night on Nitro, both men did battle for the right to be the #1 contender, in which “Sugar” Shane won with his vicious Vertebreaker.


Helms, the stand-out star of the six talented competitors, would begin his journey towards the Cruiserweight Title in 2001.


Laurinaitis’s next step was already in motion, long before Helms became #1 contender. He began to re-establish Chavo Guerrero, Jr as a dominant performer. The former Lt. Loco left the MIA in November at the aforementioned Mayhem event and, weeks later, pinned then-Commissioner of WCW Mike Sanders to win the Cruiserweight gold on the December 6 Thunder on TBS. 


Chavo became the face of the Cruiserweight division and was effective in-between the ropes, taking on all comers in his path. The first quarter of 2001 was dominated by the Chavo vs Helms rivalry.


The remaining teams, combined with “Prime Time” Skipper, Sanders, a maskless Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, and Kwee-Wee began picking up the pace, putting on show-stealing contests on live events, Nitro, and Thunder each and every week. The hardcore internet fans were enamored with the matches and the dedicated effort WCW was putting into the division once again.


Once Mr. Bischoff and Fusient Media Ventures began their due diligence into buying the promotion on 1/11/01, it was full steam ahead on the Cruiserweight division.


Immediately after Superbrawl Revenge on February 18, 2001, in Nashville, TN, WCW management announced that they would be instituting the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships, with a tournament beginning the following week. 


A few days later, the official graphic was released of the tournament brackets, which would culminate at the Greed pay-per-view in Jacksonville, FL on March 18, 2001.

To me now, knowing Laurinaitis' history, it seemed inspired off of the Japanese wrestling scene. 

With junior heavyweight wrestling reaching its zenith in the late 1990s in Japan, and the success of various light heavyweight tournaments around the country, Laurinaitis utilized that formula in his continued restoration of the Cruiserweight division. 


New Japan Pro Wrestling, in fact, established a very successful and exciting Junior Heavyweight Tag Team division, with Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa winning the inaugural IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships in a round-robin tournament final on August 8, 1998.


With his fingerprints on New Japan’s blueprint, Laurinaitis and the WCW Creative team went to work.




Some parts of the initial brackets intrigued me immediately.


For starters, it seemed as if Rey Jr. and Kidman would be the odds-on favorite to win the inaugural belts, as they were former WCW World Tag Team Champions in the Spring of 1999 for 41 days, defeating Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko of the Four Horsemen, as well as being stablemates in the Filthy Animals for the prior eighteen months. The tag team chemistry was off the charts.


Also, Johnny Swinger made his way into the tournament, mere weeks after ECW’s last live event in Pine Bluff, AR. Initially a product of WCW, primarily wrestling on Saturday Night and Worldwide throughout the late 90s, Swinger made his way to ECW in 2000, best known for being in the finals of the ECW World Tag Team Title Tournament on August 25, 2000, alongside Simon Diamond, narrowly losing to Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri. Having high-pressure tournament experience could possibly work in his favor.


Furthermore, AJ Styles’ name in this tournament blew my mind. Before becoming the face of Total Nonstop Action in 2002, Styles and Air Paris, two products of the cult-favorite NWA Wildside promotion, were getting worldwide exposure to make their own opportunity and shock the wrestling world.


Finally, it was interesting to note that Elix Skipper would have a mystery partner. With Storm focused on the World Tag Team Titles with Mike Awesome, no one knew who “Prime Time” would select to be his partner in the tournament.








On February 26, 2001, on Nitro, the tournament kicked off with Mysterio and Kidman defeating the team of Swinger and Jason Lee. Lee, a product of the Ohio Valley Wrestling school under Danny Davis, and Swinger did their best, but at the end of the day, the experience of the Filthy Animals was just too much, as Lee fell victim to a Nutcracker Suite double-team and a Kid Krusher for the loss.




Two days later on Thunder, the Jung Dragons of Hayashi and Yang took on Kwee-Wee and “Above Average” Mike Sanders. Sanders and Kwee-Wee, who were rivals with one another after a prolonged rivalry in late 2000, took a ground-and-pound style towards their high-flying opponents. However, the Dragons survived, with Hayashi kicking the former WCW Commissioner’s head in with a kick and Yang delivering a twisted moonsault, known simply as Yang Time, for a three-count, and an advancement to the semi-finals.




The March 5 Nitro gave us some much-needed answers. “Prime Time” came out to the ring, with Styles and Paris in wait, and announced that Kid Romeo would be his partner. A playboy from Miami, FL, Romeo had spent the majority of 2000 in New Japan Pro Wrestling, being a part of the Best of the Super Juniors VII round-robin tournament, while also learning from the best light heavyweights in the world.


Skipper and Romeo gelled instantly as a duo. Not to disparage Styles and Paris, but in spite of their high-flying exploits, Romeo caught Paris with a 2K1 Bomb and got the pinfall to advance to the next round. “Prime Time” found himself a prime-time player as a tag team partner.




The final first round took place on Thunder on the 7th, as 3 Count faced the team of Scotty O and Jason B. 


Some interesting notes: due to injury, Jamie Knoble wasn’t able to compete, so Scotty O, best known as Scotty Sabre from the OVW Wrestling School, was allowed to find a new partner for the tournament. Jason B would fill the void, and interestingly enough, would be recognized by many as EZ Money from ECW. 


Karagias and Moore, who reunited after Helms went solo, overwhelmed them with offense to win. 3 Count got the three-count to advance forward.


Coincidentally, within days after this match, Jason B would be rechristened Jason Jett, and quickly made a name for himself, capping his short WCW run with a fantastic victory over Kwee-Wee at Greed.






On the March 12 Nitro, Skipper and Romeo went head-to-head with the Jung Dragons in the first semi-final match. Even with only a year into his career, “Prime Time” showed so much poise and charisma, meshing well with Romeo.


At one point, Hayashi and Yang thought they had it won; however, once Hayashi’s plancha attempt got caught by Skipper on the floor into a belly-to-belly suplex, and Yang missed his Yang Time on Romeo in the ring, “Prime Time” re-entered, hit the Play of the Day, and got the win. The newly formed cocky tandem found themselves in the finals.




The March 14th Thunder, the official “go home” show to Greed, had Mysterio and Kidman facing 3 Count. This battle went ten minutes, which was the longest match in the tournament to this point. Karagias and Moore really gave it to the former WCW World Tag Team Champions, but the plucky Rey Jr. and Kidman fended off the challenge, ultimately winning with a unique double-team move, as Mysterio nailed a dropkick to the face of Moore while Kidman held him in an elevated full nelson.


Immediately after, Skipper and Romeo went down to ringside and started a fracas with the Filthy Animals. Rey Jr. and Kidman got the upper hand on the duo and sent them to the floor. Greed was set. The finals were locked in.





Before we go into the match, I have to discuss the look of the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships. To me, they might be the most unique looking titles I have ever seen. The front plate was an eagle, full spread, with the logo underneath the name of the title, which was up near the majestic bird’s head. The side plates were the eagle’s wings, which was a gutsy call to make. Some have said that the belts were not cosmetically appealing, but I personally disagree.


I had also heard throughout the years that the titles were not made by any special belt maker like J-Mar or Wildcat Belts. Instead, an unknown WCW production member created the belts in time for the pay-per-view. If anyone knows exactly the person or people that did make these belts, please let me know. It’s one of wrestling’s great questions.


Now, to say this was the match of the night for Greed was an understatement. The Filthy Animals and Skipper & Romeo laid it all out there for the fans. They were diving out of the ring, off the stage, into the ring, and delivering high impact moves with reckless abandon. 


After thirteen minutes of an absolute war, Kidman and Skipper fell to the floor, and Mysterio tried to outpace Romeo with his incredible agility. However, once Rey attempted a springboard moonsault, Romeo caught him and delivered his 2K1 Bomb, now dubbed, as per commentator Scott Hudson, The Last Kiss. 


Three slaps of the mat by referee Scott Armstrong later, and we had new Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions in Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo!


Truly, this was an upset. A plethora of fans believed this was Mysterio and Kidman’s time to shine. Instead, the WCW Creative committee went in a different direction and gave the belts to the young upstarts. As a fan, I commend that decision wholeheartedly. Even more so, much credit to the Filthy Animals for making Skipper & Romeo look like stars.


With the creation of these championships and the completed rebuild of the Cruiserweight division by John Laurinaitis and the WCW Creative team, as well as the immense hard work of the talent, WCW was prepared to take the next steps towards influencing the next generation of the promotion.


Well…not exactly.


A few days prior, on March 16, 2001, it was announced by Jamie Kellner, head of the Turner Networks, that WCW programming was canceled effective March 27. 


It was further established on the Nitro following Greed that that the March 26 Nitro would be a Night of Champions, as well as its “season finale”.


In the following days, thanks to the incredible work from wrestling journalists, including Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Live radio show on, that Fusient Media Ventures pulled out of the purchase of WCW, and that the World Wrestling Federation would then pick twenty-four contracts, several trademarks and assets, and the vaunted tape library, which was announced on March 23, 2001.


To many wrestlers, fans, and wrestling luminaries, the final Nitro on March 26, 2001, at the Boardwalk Beach Resorts in Panama City Beach, FL was a melancholy night. So much intrigue peppered the night with what would happen with a WWF-owned World Championship Wrestling. 


In spite of this worry, the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships were a major focus of the night.


First, Rey Jr. and Kidman defeated 3 Count and the Jung Dragons in a fast-paced sprint to gain a championship opportunity against Skipper & Romeo later in the night. Truly, these six-man, with the eyes of the wrestling world on them, did not disappoint one iota.




Then, in the second-to-last match in WCW history, the Filthy Animals squared up to the brash, young champions. Skipper & Romeo fought valiantly, attempting to end the night as the only Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions in company history. 


However, in a flashback to Greed, Mysterio and Romeo spilled out to the floor. This time, as “Prime Time” went for Play of the Day, Kidman spun out Skipper and caught him with the Kid Krusher. One three-count later, and, on the final Nitro, we had our final Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions in Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Billy Kidman!






Sadly, once WCW started infiltrating WWF programming by the Summer of 2001, the Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships were nowhere to be seen. In my opinion, with the WWF unable to ever properly produce a light heavyweight division, there was no purpose for those belts. 


Add in the fact that the long-rumored WCW television show never made it to air, the possibilities of that type of division were null-and-void.


In an eight-day span, the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships were introduced and eliminated from the sport forever.


Since this is on, I can safely say that, had the Fusient Media Ventures purchase gone through, The Big Bang pay-per-view on May 6 would have heavily showcased the Cruiserweight Tag Team Belts. 


Furthermore, I believe in my heart that the 2001 Cruiserweight division would have inspired the next generation of wrestlers, not the TNA X-Division or the state-of-the-art style brought by Ring Of Honor in 2002.


As it comes to the whereabouts of the physical championships themselves, both Mysterio and Kidman are still in possession of them. Mysterio, most notably, showed off his Cruiserweight Tag belt on the Rey Mysterio: 619 DVD release in 2003, while Kidman showed off his belt on Twitter in 2016.

In fact, during my research, on an edition of The Bump in 2021, Mysterio and Kidman reconnected and discussed their time as WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions and what they believed they could have done, had WCW continued onward. Credit goes to Wrestling Inc for this. Read about it here.


As it comes to the mystique and short length of the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championships, I have to give credit to John Laurinaitis. I know it is very taboo to talk about this man in modern day wrestling for obvious reasons, but his vision to rebuild the Cruiserweight division in short fashion has to be commended. It was a risk to do so, but, to the die-hard WCW fans, it paid off, even as the company was going under.


Of course, I have to give massive credit to the Filthy Animals and Elix Skipper & Kid Romeo. That match at Greed on March 18, 2001 in Jacksonville, FL still remains one of my all-time favorite matches. They, alongside 3 Count and the Jung Dragons, were the heartbeat of the promotion in its final few months. Those men gave a glimpse of what could have been.


To me, WCW’s Cruiserweight division remains among the greatest wrestling that I have ever witnessed. The Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles were an exclamation point to the next generation of wrestling. For eight days, it really was a revolutionary concept…and it was great.


Bankie Bruce

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