On this week’s episode of 205 Live, the tournament to determine a challenger for Buddy Murphy’s Cruiserweight title at WrestleMania began. Tony Nese went one on one with Kalisto, while Drew Gulak took on The Brian Kendrick, who was looking to secure his first match at WWE’s ‘show of shows’.
There wasn’t a great deal of focus on anything other than 205 Live’s two tournament matches this week. And while both matches gave us something different, the strongest part of this week’s show was how they were able to add extra emotion and narratives to both bouts.
Drake Maverick’s usual opening video discussing what lies ahead for us on the show excellently set the standard for adding intrigue to both matches. He explained how Tony Nese’s fortunes have changed since training with champion Buddy Murphy, but his opponent Kalisto had the experience on the big stage having previously held the cruiserweight and U.S title. With Kendrick and Gulak, he brought up their past friendship, how Gulak turned on Kendrick, and Kendrick’s quest for his first Mania match. Drake’s words were simple, and he made these matches mean more than just being random pairings for a tournament.
Tony Nese vs. Kalisto
Before Nese and Kalisto even touched, it was clear how much ‘Mr. Abs’ (Tony Nese) has grown as a performer. His look is incredible, as is his in-ring ability. However, he’s always lacked a certain spark. As he made his entrance, there was a great moment where he stood on the stage and invited the camera to come closer to look at his impressive physique. It’s a subtle action, but one that can capture fans and help you stand out from the rest of the pack.
Nese started off by overpowering his smaller opponent before Kalisto began to pick up the pace. They then went back and forth, showing off their athleticism by flipping off the ropes, springing to their feet while laying on the mat, and more great aerial maneuvers to light up a rather quiet crowd. Aiden English also did a good job teasing a potential feud between Nese and his training partner Buddy Murphy by asking what would happen if they had to face one another.
The closing moments of this bout were particularly strong with an impressive German suplex from Nese off the top rope, and some nice nearfalls that managed to get the crowd a little more invested as well. It ended when Nese German suplexed Kalisto into the corner, followed by his signature knee to the face. Meaning Tony Nese becomes the first man to advance in the tournament.
As Nese celebrated, Buddy Murphy was shown backstage applauding, and also forcing a WWE employee to applaud his friend’s victory. It’s potentially a great visual for a video package if these two were to feud in the future.
We then had an entertaining backstage segment featuring Jack Gallagher and Humberto Carrillo, which continued the storyline between these two and Drew Gulak. Gallagher played a video of Humberto diving out of the ring onto his opponent last week. He told the young high-flyer he was “disappointed” because Humberto took an unnecessary risk. A simple wristlock would have been just as effective. Gallagher was excellent as the “nice teacher,” making it clear he and Gulak are still trying to win over the new 205 Live superstar.
Fortunately, WWE also gave Mike Kanellis a segment to continue his storyline. Mike and Maria Kanellis claimed they were robbed last week when the referee reversed the decision after Mike pinned Cedric Alexander. Drake did not agree, but he promised Mike would get a match next week. However, he did not state whether or not Mike would be a part of the tournament. Leaving us with a few questions, which is never a bad thing.
The Brian Kendrick vs. Drew Gulak
The strongest and most enjoyable part of Kendrick vs. Gulak wasn’t the wrestling (although it was good) it was the storytelling by the commentary team. The narrative leading up to the main event was Brian Kendrick looking to secure his first Mania match after debuting in the WWE fifteen years ago.
Nigel McGuinness did an excellent job discussing his relationship with Kendrick, and how they both dreamt about performing at WrestleMania. It was a nice touch of reality mixed in with this somewhat fictional narrative.
The match itself featured some good technical wrestling and a great series of submissions and counters. Nigel appropriately described the match as a “human game of chess.” Unfortunately, with the show being on the same day as SmackDown Live, the crowds are not always appreciative if the cruiserweights are not risking life and limb.
Both Gulak and Kendrick put on a good display of wrestling technique, which gave us an alternative to Nese and Kalisto’s more acrobatic style, and the different style of matches was also explained by the commentators as well. They were able to highlight the diversity of 205 Live’s roster.
Even though the live crowd gave both performers a hard time for their mat based wrestling, they were more receptive to the final exchanges between the two superstars.
Kendrick’s attempt at a submission victory was effective, as he kept hold of the captain’s hook even after Gulak tried to roll out of it, only for Gulak to hook his mouth, forcing Kendrick to break the hold.
Gulak eventually pulled off a nice reversal to apply the Gu-Lock submission. Kendrick refused to tap out and passed out to give Gulak the win. A logical conclusion, as Kendrick’s dream of performing at WrestleMania meant so much to him, he refused to tap out.
Overall, this week’s show was not quite as strong as previous episodes. It was partly due to the crowd being a tad quiet, and unfortunately negative towards the main event.
However, next week we will see Humberto Carrillo vs. NXT’s Oney Lorcan, and Akira Tozawa vs. Cedric Alexander. So we will see what next week has in store for us!
All images are courtesy of wwe.com