Hello everyone, it’s Lee Hazell, and I’m here to give you the 5 foot 2 take on 205 Live.
There is a champion in need of a challenger in the Cruiserweight division on 205 Live. Former champion, Rich Swann, cannot compete after he injured his foot kicking the new champion’s head in. The trouble is, there is a lot of talent currently on 205 Live, and none of them are standing out from the rest. That isn’t a criticism, that is a statement regarding one of the strongest and deepest upper cards on any of WWE’s current programming.
There are five spaces and four contenders because Tony Neese hasn’t been cleared to compete. The pugilists are Jack Gallagher, Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar, TJ Perkins and a fifth to be chosen in our opening bout. That is a strong line-up and the fact that they could easily have also put Brian Kendrick, Tajiri, Akira Tozawa, Drew Gulak and Lince Dorado into the mix speaks volumes for the embarrassment of riches 205 Live has. However, only one of them will get to face Neville at WWE’s Fastlane PPV.
But, as we need a fifth, let’s check in with Mustafa Ali and Ariya Daivari. The two men do not make a good pairing. Both of them are excellent athletes, Mustafa is one of the most acrobatically capable men on the roster, which is saying something, and Daivari hits a hammerlock lariat that by rights should be his or anyone’s finisher if they hit it as good as he does. But the pair of them lack personality.
Despite the need for heels in the main event match, Mustafa Ali picks up the win. It’s a predictable result as Mustafa’s style is much more suited to the chaos of a 5-way match than Daivari’s is. You need his kind of high-flying to enable the inevitable spots that come from a match far too populated to reliably tell a decent story. He wins with the Imploding 450° Splash, an impressive move no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Next, it’s Kendrick vs Lince Dorado and before the match gets going, Kendrick walks down to the ring with a mic to proclaim himself the gatekeeper of 205 Live. He is here to crush the dreams of the wannabes and send them packing back to the indies, where they will have nothing more than their two-figure paychecks to dry their tears.
However, he uses this promo to ignore Dorado, and extend an offer to Akira Tozawa, the Dragon Gate alumni that will soon be one of the most technically proficient wrestlers on the show, as well as one of the hardest striking. He wants Tozawa to become his protégé.
Anyway, the match begins and immediately Kendrick is on the back foot. Dorado dishevelled Kendrick when he planted the ‘Man with a Plan’s’ face on the mat, knocking him silly. Kendrick gets the win though as he counters Dorado’s Shooting Star Press, and turns a roll-up by the Luchadore into a bully choke. Dorado taps out in what feels like far too little time and this wasn’t the best use of either man’s talent. This was clearly the decoration to the real story that bookended the match. Kendrick’s relationship with the Japanese section of the roster.
He calls out Tozawa to invite him to be his new student. Instead, he gets Tajiri, who blasts him with green mist. Now, I had thought that Tozawa had taken over Tajiri’s role in this story wholesale after Tajiri’s injury, but it appears that he will still have some part to play. Personally, I’d like to see Tozawa get his own storyline instead of be substitued in someone else’s, especially as this uncomfortably looks like WWE think it’s appropriate to just swap the place of one Japanese wrestler with another, but I also can’t turn down the idea of one of the best in-ring workers, Akira Tozawa, taking on Brian Kendrick, one of the most charismatic wrestlers on the 205 Live roster.
Cruiserweight Champion Neville has a promo before the main event, the five-way to decide who the number one contender for his championship will be, and he uses it to verbally destroy each of the five rivals hoping to meet him at Fastlane. He calls Jack Gallagher an embarrassment to England, says Mustafa has ten years to go until he’s ready to face him and that Noam Dar can barely get a hold of Cedric Alexander’s girlfriend, let alone the Cruiserweight crown. It’s fantastic stuff from the best talker on the roster. Possibly in the company.
The match itself, you truly do not know who is going to win. That’s a hard set of circumstances to create in 2017. The roster is such a huge pool of amazing talent, there’s no knowing who’s going to pick up the victory, and that creates something that is rare in a WWE match these days – real drama. For my money, it’s a tossup between Cedric Alexander and Jack Gallagher, but realistically, anyone could be the next man to step up to Neville.
This match is by far the most cruiserweighty of all the cruiserweight matches we’ve seen so far on 205 Live, and by that, I mean the one with the most ‘flippy shit’ in it. Now, personally, I like the fact that 205 Live hasn’t centred itself around death-defying stunts and logistically impossible feats of human contortion. I like the fact that the division has mostly seen matches conducted with more psychology in mind than aviation. However, this streak of wrestling simplicity hasn’t exactly set the WWE Universe on fire, and I have to admit, this match is one of the best we’ve seen on the show to date.
The spots are excellently choreographed and are performed with silky-smooth slickness by this most capable of competitive coalitions. The action doesn’t even require too much sacrifice in the storytelling and character progression departments. It creates one of the most exciting and engaging contests we’ve seen on the show to date, but that’s mainly because this kind of spot-fest has been used sparsely in 205 Live. We need to keep matches like this special to stope them becoming stale.
The fight begins with Noam Dar tanking the majority of the offence for the first minute or so after he decides to tell the other four guys in the ring exactly what he thinks of them. None of them are impressed. The moves on offer here are numerous and endlessly entertaining. Gallagher takes out all the other competitors by jumping off the top rope with his William the Third Umbrella fully opened, and flying (well, plummeting) like Mary Poppins. Cedric Alexander hits Mustafa Ali with a standing Spanish Fly that is one of the most mind-boggling moves in the industry. Ali hits Perkins with a flying crossbody while Perkins is on top of Gallagher’s shoulders.
Dar is the first one to be eliminated after he preens to the crowd and forgets that there are four other guys he’s got to keep an eye on. His love rival, Alexander, comes back in the ring from Jack’s umbrella spot and takes him out with a Lumbar Check. Dar returns to get his own back on Cedric and cracks his nuts on the turnbuckle. Perkins takes him out with a Detonation Kick.
I find it odd that both Dar and Alexander get eliminated ahead of the ringer of this match, Mustafa Ali. To have him go out before the guy who’s already wrestled tonight, makes them feel a little underpowered in comparison. Although, I suppose this is a demonstration of how self-destructive their feud has become and this will help to intensify later encounters.
Another thing that intrigued me is both of the eliminations that TJ Perkins picked up. Both times he took someone out of the match, he was pouncing upon a wounded combatant. He took out Alexander after outside interference crushed his plums, and he submits out Ali after he hurts his arm missing an Imploding 450° Splash. Both eliminations use sound and intelligent tactics, but both are so predatory they seem heelish. Now, this could be down to the fact that Dar went out first, and they felt the match needed another bad guy to balance all the faces out. But this could also be hinting at a new, more aggressive and more desperate turn for the former champ in the hope of regaining past glories.
A new personality for TJ would be a positive step, as his babyface run has squandered a lot of the potential people saw in him in the Cruiserweight Classic. Finally, it’s down to Perkins and Gallagher and I am genuinely unsure of who will win, and I wish it could be both of them. That tension is the best kind of tension in wrestling. Jack is insanely popular right now, but Perkins’ performance is killing it, and the story of him trying to get back into the title picture has too much potential to be dismissed.
Gallagher’s performances are like good, old school comedies. He’s funny, but not funny the whole way through. When things heat up, the jokes stop and he starts with the serious stuff. He might start with umbrellas and comedy wrestling, but he ends with stiff strikes that knock his opponents out of their boots. His head butt, which makes me wince every time I see it, and his running kick leaves no one laughing. It’s precisely this kind of striking that not only gives Gallagher the win, but also paints him as a credible threat to Neville’s championship.
Even more important than that, is the crowd’s reaction to his victory. For the first time in months, the WWE Universe looks invested in the action taking place in front of them on a 205 Live show. Chants of ‘This is Awesome’ fill the arena, and finally, finally, the audience gives the performers the due that they deserve. Hopefully, this will turn a corner for the fortunes of the underrated show.
His celebrations are cut short, however, as Neville’s music hits and the man with a face naturally made for sinister staring, emerges out from the back to give Gallagher a stark warning about his future.
Tune in next week to see the continuation of the 5 foot 2 guy’s weekly take on 205 Live.