It’s no secret that Vince McMahon has a preference for the larger athlete. Since he took the reins of WWE, he has filled its ranks with giants, prizing size and aura over in-ring skills - there are some things that simply can’t be taught, after all.
In spite of this, the promotion can boast a decent selection of smaller men who have managed to wow crowds, put on spectacular matches, and even win championships. They may not have convinced the man in charge, but with the technical quality and ability to win over audiences undeniable, even a man with Vince’s proclivities couldn’t deny them.
WWE never had a cruiserweight peak like WCW’s fabled ‘90s roster, but the locker room has been dotted with smaller stars for many years. Sometimes they’ve been shunted away into their own division; sometimes they’ve been given the chance to climb the ladder, and get their hands on title shots and major prizes.
Whatever the era, though, WWE’s cruiserweights have stood out as something out of the ordinary - a breath of fresh air among the lumbering giants that fill many of the top slots.
These performers prove that a little goes a long way.
10. Taka Michinoku
As the first recognised WWE Light Heavyweight Champion, Taka Michinoku will always be able to claim a piece of company history. For a good few years, the Japanese star pretty much was the light heavyweight roster for the company, putting on quality matches against mostly forgotten opponents and winning crowds over with his inventive offence and charisma.
Perhaps his best run in WWE came after this: partnering with Funaki to form Kaientai. Much of their comedy business has not aged well, but there’s no denying the star quality of the two athletes, who managed to get a pretty questionable gimmick over through sheer force of will. They were a quality tag team, too, during a golden age for the format.
Now 46, Michinoku continues to wrestle on occasion, and is in remarkably good shape. WWE often fails to utilise Japanese talent properly (see: Nakamura, Shinsuke), but Michinoku showed out every time he was given the opportunity to do so. Great runs with a midcard belt, impressive matches with the likes of Triple H, and a popular gimmick, with an even better run once he left the company - not a half-bad career.