205 Live Review – Feb 7th, 2017

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 of 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 to think that they could easily have also put Brian Kendrick, Tajiri, Akira Tozawa, Drew Gulak and Lince Dorado into that match. 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, 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 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, the second best talker on the show (sorry Brian, but Neville has really upped his game recently, you’ll have to do the same to reclaim the crown, old son) walks down 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 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 has 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 plants 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 as 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. This leaves me wondering where all this is going and how does Akira fit in? Will he and Kendrick team up against Tajiri? Possibly, but I don’t think WWE want to devalue Tozawa by having him play Igor to Kendrick’s Frankenstein. So does that leave Kendrick against both Tajiri and Tozawa? And if he does, will that turn him face? Or will it be a straight up three-way? The unclearness of it all isn’t sloppy booking just yet, but if they keep up the obtuseness it might descend into that. Anyway, Kendrick goes down to the mist like he’s just been hit with a biological weapon. The overreaction is fantastic.

Neville has a promo before the main event, 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 character on the roster. Possibly in the company.

Next is the five-way elimination match. Not sure who’s going to win this one. Gallagher’s been given a lot of time in the talk of this contest but Cedric Alexander is in the centre of the bout’s graphic, so it’s a tossup between them. 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.

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. There is story and character progression, and it doesn’t even require too much suspension of disbelief like most five-way matches would. It creates one of the most exciting and engaging contests we’ve seen on the show to date.

But this isn’t a call for more like it on 205 Live. In fact, I believe that the only reason that this match has been so well received is because we’ve been starved of it up until now. Remember, for a smaller wrestler in the late 90s/early 00s this was the only kind of wrestling that would get them noticed. It got to the point where, in 2017, we’ve come to expect nothing else from them. But these days, does a smaller wrestler have to be so acrobatically talented to get booked? Do we have to funnel them all into this one, narrow idea of what a smaller wrestler should be?

I think the Cruiserweight Classic showed us that we do not. The foundation of 205 Live must remain simple matches with a foundation of good storytelling, and psychology which is what made the CWC such a great tournament. Then you can punctuate these stories with spot fests, to inject some excitement when needed, this will optimise how exhilarating they are to fans without getting tiresome.

The moves on offer here are numerous and endlessly entertaining. Gallagher takes out all the other competitors by jumping off the top rope with William the Third fully opened and flying 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 wasn’t thought to be fit for the contest in the first place makes them feel a little underpowered. 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. Perhaps with Dar going out first, there were no other heels to take on the eliminations meant for Tony Neese after he was hit with injury. But this could also be a new, more aggressive and more desperate turn for the former champ in the hope of returning to past glories.

Oh, and I have no problem with Ali tapping out so fast. If his arm was genuinely hurt, he should tap out as soon as it comes under pressure like that. Besides, he already had one fight that night, and it was nice to see him selling it.

Finally, it’s down between Perkins and Gallagher and I am genuinely unsure of who will win. 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 is like a good, old school comedy. He’s funny, but not funny the whole way through. When things heat up, the jokes stop and he starts with the serious stuff. Stiff strikes like that head butt, which makes me wince every time I see it, and the running kick that eventually gives him the win leaves no one laughing.

No, they are cheering. For the first time in months, the WWE Universe looks invested in the action taking place in front of them. 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.

But before we get there, we have the story to tell. Perkins clearly has the advantage over a wobbly legged Gallagher, but every time TJ hits Jack with some high-impact offence, Jack finds some way to make a desperation manoeuvre levelling the playing field. Just when Jack has the chance, determination dawns upon his face and he will not let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

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.

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