Happy Friday TJR Faithful! Welcome back to a brand new edition of A Matter of Character. It has been a fairly uneventful week in the world of WWE, right? I mean aside from them making Nakamura vs Styles official, Asuka choosing to challenge Charlotte, Braun decimating all the Raw Tag Teams, Cena challenging The Undertaker, Zayn and Owens killing Shane McMahon and Roman crying about Brock getting special privileges to Vince McMahon, not much happened this week.
Seriously though, I saw a match this week that sparked today’s AMOC. I was transported back to seeing this guy kill it in the CWC and having the fans chant for the WWE to sign him. I’m not a guy that generally watches 205 Live, but my word, Cedric Alexander and Roderick Strong put on a show this week. Cedric, in particular, has re-established himself as that dude that captured the hearts of so many during his run in the Cruiserweight Classic.
There were some pitfalls on his way to this point and I want to get into his strengths, his weaknesses, the wrong ways to utilize his talents and the way they are absolutely nailing how to present him and his character right now. Cedric is a special talent, a very cool character, with a lot of star potential, and I’m going to examine all of it right now! Let’s Do This!
Cedric Alexander is a 9-year pro wrestler that spent most of his career in Ring of Honor. His early years in ROH were spent as a Tag Team wrestler, paired with Caprice Coleman as the tag team C & C Wrestling Factory (clever). I was aware of him during this time but didn’t think too much of him at the time. It was once he became a singles competitor that I noticed that he had a lot of talent, particularly at the end of his ROH run in 2016 working as a heel against Moose (Cedric ended his undefeated streak in ROH and stole his manager, which started their feud). He was good, but still not somebody I looked at as a game-changing superstar. Then the CWC happened.
When his name was thrown in the hat for the CWC I was happy. In a tournament full of names I didn’t really recognize, he was one of about a dozen that I knew pretty well. When he appeared on the WWE Network I was floored by how great he looked. He was in the best shape of his career and looked to be engaged in a manner that I hadn’t seen before. His run in the tourney while short-lived, was memorable, particularly his match against Kota Ibushi, which might have been the best of the tournament. The guys showed how badly he wanted to win the tourney in every moment of his matches and made an impact. I personally think he had the most memorable moment of the Cruiserweight Classic. He won the heart of the fans and when the chants of “Please Sign Cedric!” filled Full Sail to the point where Triple H himself had to come out to acknowledge him and the chants, I got my first glimpse of star power within him.
He was signed and has competed on the WWE Network’s designated Cruiserweight show 205 Live, as well as Monday Night Raw. While he’s delivered in ring most nights, that CWC magic was missing. They tried to bring out his personality by involving him in a romantic relationship/love triangle with Alicia Fox, but that idea fizzled quickly. It frankly wasn’t very good and didn’t play to his strengths.
Why Wasn’t It Working?
In the initial 205 Live Era, it seemed that the WWE wanted to focus more on gimmicks/character. Everybody was given a thing to make their character stand out more. Some got Campaign Signage, others got Umbrellas, and Cedric got a romantic entanglement with Alicia Fox. The problem with all that is that it actually obfuscated his personality.
I’ve talked about this with some other guys in the past, but it is certainly worth repeating: not everybody is a great promo. Not everybody is great at delivering dialogue or getting people to get behind their storyline/gimmick through vignettes and verbal acting. Those aspects of performance aren’t Cedric’s strong-suits. He is, however, a phenomenal physical performer. He has great facial expressions. He sells better than 90% of the roster. He tells stories through his physicality in the ring and draws you into his work. Give him a microphone and he won’t wow you, but ring the bell and the man can paint a masterpiece on the canvas that is the squared circle.
The guy has a physical charisma that is undeniable. It’s infectious. It comes across in all his matches. The longer and more competitive the better. He was never going to be the guy that succeeds with a storyline love interest. He is never going to be the guy that makes a wacky but fun gimmick work. Trying that with him is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
What’s Working Working Now?
There’s something about this guy and tournaments. Something about the innate competitiveness of a tournament brings the very best out of Cedric Alexander. He’s not the guy that dances. He’s not the guy that the ladies can’t keep their hands off of. He doesn’t play guitar or have impeccable comedic timing. He’s a beast of a competitor, and putting him in competitive situations is where he thrives as a performer and a character.
Ever since 205 Live has made the switch from the wacky character based variety show to an ultra-competitive, cut-throat pursuit of glory, Cedric has recaptured the magic we all caught a glimpse of in the Cruiserweight Classic. His matches in this tournament to crown a new Champion have been spectacular, particularly his match against Roddy Strong this week (also see his match against Mustafa Ali that kinda set this soft reboot of 205 Live in motion… which may be a preview of the finals of this Tournament currently in progress). Some guys’ strength within the WWE is the Television Show aspect of the programming, which is perfectly legitimate and is often some of the most compelling stuff on the show.
Then there are the guys like Cedric Alexander that thrive in the athletic competition aspects of the show. The pursuit of accolades, awards, and accomplishments, in the form of championships, trophies, and challenges. These guys don’t need overly scripted narratives. The narrative is formed in their pursuit of glory, the expectations that surround that pursuit, and their eventual success or failure. In the plainest of terms, Cedric Alexander is best utilized when presenting the product as a drama about a sport. He shows in all his matches how bad he wants to succeed. He makes all his matches seem important because he really feels like he’s trying to accomplish something. He wants to be great; and if you can exude that in every match, through each struggle, and with every damn thing you try to do on the show, then that’s all you need to be a compelling character that the people want to see.
So where do you go with Cedric Alexander after the new Cruiserweight Champion has been crowned? It’s not like you can have a tournament every week to best utilize his competitive spirit. The great thing is that regardless of the outcome, the focus can remain on the competition with Cedric. If he wins the title at Wrestlemania, well now he needs to defend it. It takes a ruthless competitor to climb to the top of the mountain, it takes a truly great one to remain perched atop it. If he loses, then he needs to start the climb again to prove to himself and any doubters that he can get there. He may have to add something to his game or change his attitude to do so. The narrative is set either way.
Looking even farther forward than that, I’m personally counting the days until somebody from the Cruiserweight Division decides that they want to make the leap to the next weight class (which is essentially everything else in the WWE besides the Cruiserweight Division). I think Cedric is the perfect first guy to reclassify himself once his time in the Cruiserweight Division has run its course.
I can definitely see him answering an open challenge by a cocky heel champion and pushing them to their limit, before deciding to reclassify himself to compete on that level full time. I can see him presenting it as the next great challenge of his career and that he needs to prove he can not only hang, but succeed on that level. I can see him in a Money In The Bank Ladder Match. I can see him as Intercontinental Champion. I can see him as a trailblazer for the current incarnation of the Cruiserweight Division. He has the tools, the ability and if he improves his mic work (which isn’t bad, just not awe-inspiring), he could be the focus of a great WWE narrative thread.
There you have it, but as always I want to know what y’all think! Am I gassing up Cedric Alexander too much? Do you think he’s as talented and capable of greatness as I do? What are his biggest weaknesses in your eyes? Strengths? Should he be the first Cruiserweight to make the leap to compete over 205 (of the current crop in the division)?
Until next time folks, I’m Matthew J. Douglas saying Go Raptors, Go Spurs, and if you aren’t already, for the love of god watch Atlanta on FX!! It’s Robbin’ Season. Have a great weekend everybody!