SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE 205 LIVE
DECEMBER 26, 2017
AIRED ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness
-The broadcast began with video highlights of the journey to crown Enzo Amore’s number one contender including recaps of Amore turning on Tony Nese and Cedric Alexander winning that opportunity on Raw. From there, the video highlighted last week’s 205 live events in which Cedric Alexander decimated the Zo Train in the main event.
-The show began with a cold opening that showed Drew Gulak backstage looking at his cell phone. As he was about to dial, Cedric Alexander walked in and asked him if he was waiting for his boss to call. Gulak responded by saying that he was waiting for his best friend, Enzo Amore, to call. Alexander said he didn’t think Enzo was concerned about Gulak. Gulak went on to say that Cedric shouldn’t worry about his friendship with Enzo and that he should worry about his match against himself and Daivari later in the night instead. Alexander then planted the seed that Enzo without the cruiserweight championship makes a better 205 Live for everyone including Gulak himself due to the fact that Gulak wouldn’t be talked down to by Enzo on a regular basis. Cedric listed off a multitude of other reasons as well. Alexander walked off the screen and Gulak appeared to be debating the merits of what Alexander said.
-After the backstage segment, the show open ran and Vic Joseph welcomed the audience to the program. He and Nigel McGuinness quickly recapped the events of SmackDown Live and then promoted the matches for the show including Hideo Itami vs. Jack Gallagher as well as Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak & Ariya Daivari.
(1) HIDEO ITAMI vs. JACK GALLAGHER
Itami made his way to the ring first and got a nice pop from the audience. As he made his way to the ring, a recap video aired that detailed Itami’s win over The Brian Kendrick from Raw this week. Nigel and Vic played up Itami’s strikes on commentary and talked about how dangerous he is in the ring. Gallagher came out second and cut a promo on his way. Gallagher said that on Raw he learned that Itami is not afraid of a little cruelty. He said from ringside he could hear Kendrick’s bones break and that tonight he was going to teach him a lesson. He then called Chicago ignorant which got a nice response.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked Gallagher’s promo a lot. It made Hideo Itami look like a total bad ass by highlighting how much damage he did to Kendrick while at the same time legitimizing Gallagher due to the fact that his threat was delivered in such a convincible way. Gallagher can really work a mic and could make his character better if given the chance to shine more in that role. He’s sometimes overshadowed on the microphone by The Brian Kendrick, but has proven that he doesn’t need to be.
The match began with Itami and Gallagher tying up in the middle of the ring. They traded positions before Gallagher slapped Itami in the face. Itami countered with a slap of his own and then assaulted Gallagher with brutal leg strikes to the back and chest of Gallagher. He then went for a cover but only received a two count. After the pin he kept up the attack by dropping knees to Gallagher’s skull. After those moves he yelled “respect me” toward the crowd. Gallagher proceeded to take Itami down, but Itami quickly got the upper hand with more striking that this time included a leg drop to the back of Gallagher’s head from the second rope. Gallagher rolled out of the ring and as Itami followed, Gallagher caused him to slip on the ring apron. This gave Gallagher the upper hand. He rolled back into the ring and locked in some of his patented submission holds. The crowd rallied Itami with a “Hideo” chant, but Gallagher kept the pressure on by striking Itami with his knee while they were in the corner. The crowd began to boo and Gallagher played it up which made them boo even more.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The crowd was chanting “boring” and “this is awful” at this point in the match which I didn’t understand at all. The match was stiff until this point and solid from a psychological standpoint as well.
After taunting the crowd, Gallagher locked in a submission head lock which he released to taunt the crowd again. After taunting, he went for a pin attempt but Itami kicked out at two. After the pin, Gallagher locked in another submission hold. Itami broke free of the hold and rolled Gallagher up for a pin. He received a two count. From there, he hit a spinning knee drag and then a release fisherman suplex. Then, Itami hit a innovative offensive move that draped Gallagher over the ring rope. Itami then went to the top rope and hit a top rope clothesline. From there, it was back to the strikes. Gallagher ran away from them and countered with a hangman on the top rope. This stunned Itami and because of it, Gallagher was able to lock in Kendrick’s Captain’s Hook submission hold. Itami struggled and sold well, but made it to the bottom rope. Gallagher released the hold and attempted a suplex that Itami countered with a back body drop. Itami then connected with a stiff strike that sent Gallagher into the corner. From there, Itami connected with a running dropkick. Then Itami yelled “respect me” again before locking in his new submission finisher, the Rings Of Saturn.
WINNER: Itami at 7:39 by submission
Heydorn’s Analysis: No surprise in terms of the finish, but the match was good. It was a showcase match for Itami who is clearly being positioned as one of the top stars on the show. Interesting to note that he did not win the match with the GTS. He didn’t even tease it. It appear as if he’s injured one too many people with it and now cannot use the move. In my eyes this is a huge loss for 205 Live. Itami’s GTS is a very popular move and something that fans want to see out of his matches.
-After the match a video package was shown that highlighted the dissension in recent weeks within the Zo Train. Especially with Tony Nese.
-When the video was finished, Tony Nese was interviewed backstage. He said that the next time he sees the Zo Train, part of him will want to lay them all out. He then said another part of him understands that Enzo Amore is a global superstar and that like him or not it’s a fact. He said that his career has only gone up since he joined the Zo Train. Akira Tozawa interrupted and asked Nese if he was on the train or off the train. Nese responded by punching Tozawa in the face and walking away.
-A commercial aired for the Royal Rumble on January 28th in Philadelphia
(2) TONY NESE vs. AKIRA TOZAWA
Nese made his entrance first to a very tempered reaction from the Chicago audience. On his way to the ring, he counted his abs and told everyone why he was better than them. Tozawa came out to the ring next. The crowd didn’t pop much for him either. Right as the bell ran, Tozawa attacked Nese, but Nese was able to quickly fend it off and gain momentum in the match. Nese hit Tozawa with furious stomps before chopping him numerous times. Tozawa got a bit of offense in before Nese countered a high risk suicide dive. This left Tozawa in bad shape and Nese took advantage. He rolled Tozawa back into the ring and blitzed him with leg drops and more strikes. Through this attack, Nese attempted to pin Tozawa multiple times but Tozawa kicked out at two every time.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The crowd was bored during this match. It was obvious to see on TV and live in the building as the crowd was doing Ric Flair woo chants throughout it. Neither of these characters are developed at all and because of that there is no reason for anyone to buy into this match. Tozawa and Nese are both stellar in-ring performers but the lack of a story involved is hurting the match in a big way.
The match continued on slowly. Nese moved on from his striking attacks to submission holds including a choke hold and a body scissors. These moves grounded Tozawa until he finally escaped. As he did, he did his war cry which the crowd responded well to. Nese quickly squashed the comeback and taunted the crowd by doing the Tozawa war cry with them. As Nese went for a suplex, Tozawa countered and sent Nese to the outside. Tozawa then finally hit his suicide dive through the middle rope. He then ran quickly to the outside to throw Nese back into the ring. Once he did, Tozawa went for the cover but only received the count of two. Tozawa worked to maintain control of the match with a suplex, but Nese countered into a pump handle slam. Nese covered, but Tozawa kicked out at two and a half. After, the two exchanged a fast paced exchange of kicks, punches, and pin attempts. Neither could get each other down. Finally, Tozawa got the momentum on his side with an enziguri to the back of Nese’s head. This got a nice pop from the audience and in turn caused them to do more Tozawa war chants. Tozawa reacted to them and went to the top rope. While he was up there, Nese hit him with a palm strike. From there, Nese hit the Running Nese for the 1,2,3 victory.
WINNER: Nese at 6:44
Heydorn’s Analysis: A rough match overall. The ending picked up a bit, but for the most part, nobody cared. They could have easily wove in Nese’s Zo Train story into this match to further develop that story and character but it was nowhere to be found. A missed opportunity in my opinion.
-The broadcast went to the ringside commentators who alluded to the fact that rumors were rampant around the WWE that Enzo Amore and Nia Jax went out on a date in New York City tonight. From there, they cued up a video that highlighted Amore and Jax almost kissing under mistletoe during this week’s Christmas Raw episode.
-A commercial aired for WWE Shop’s post-Christmas sales and Brock Lesnar’s return to Raw next week.
-After the commercial break, Vic Joseph promoted the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match that is set to take place next week on Raw between Enzo Amore and Cedric Alexander.
(3) DREW GULAK & ARIYA DAIVARI vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER & MUSTAFA ALI
Gulak and Daivari made their way to the ring first. Limited pop at best. Gulak grabbed a mic when he got to the ring and introduced himself. He then asked the crowd how they were doing and introduced his partner. He said that they both are happy members of the Zo Train. Gulak said that with the year coming to an end its time to reflect. He said the best way to do that is by utilizing a best of list. Immediately after he said that the audience began chanting for the PowerPoint.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Week and week out the crowd pops for the PowerPoint presentation. A babyface turn is ripe with Gulak and all they need to do is pull the trigger on the PowerPoint. Only in pro wrestling would a sentence like that make sense.
Gulak then said he would review the best of his slides in the form of the very PowerPoint presentation that the crowd was chanting for. As he was about to start, Cedric Alexander’s music interrupted. Him and Mustafa Ali then walked to the ring while Alexander cut a promo of his own. Cedric said that he was sorry to be rude, but that they were in Ali’s hometown of Chicago. He said that Ali had some very valid points of his own to make. The crowd chanted loudly for Ali during this and Gulak yelled “no chanting” at them. Ali then said that Daivari and Gulak would never be friends outside of the Zo Train. Alexander said that was correct and that Daivari looked down on blue collar workers like Gulak. Ali further worked to drive a wedge in the Zo Train by saying that Daivari was Enzo’s right hand man until Gulak showed up. From there, Alexander said that both guys have been getting played all along by Enzo and by each other. He then said that if Enzo had to choose between the Zo Train and Nia Jax, who would he choose?
Heydorn’s Analysis: I like the idea of Ali and Alexander trying to drive a wedge within the Zo Train. This promo didn’t work though. Nowhere in the history of Drew Gulak’s character has he been portrayed as a blue collar worker. Why should that matter to us now all of a sudden? At the top of the show, Alexander was able to utilize viable reasons why Gulak may not want Enzo Amore as the cruiserweight champion. This was set to build off of that, but the writing was out of left field. If it was tied together smoother, it would have worked better.
The match began with Ali and Daivari in the ring. They tied up with Ali gaining the early advantage. Daivari eventually backed Ali into a corner and hit him with a cheap shot elbow to gain the momentum. Daivari whipped Ali into the ropes, but he was able to easily counter with a flipping arm drag. Ali worked the neck of Daivari, but Daivari was able to back into a corner and get a tag to his partner, Drew Gulak. Gulak entered the match, but had similar results as his partner. He was back body dropped by Ali and Ali tagged in Alexander after he received a two count pin attempt. Alexander entered the ring and kept up the pressure with a submission hold. Gulak escaped the hold and locked in a hammerlock of his own before Alexander back body dropped him too. After that move, Alexander tagged Ali into the match. Ali jumped off the top rope and connected with a double foot stomp to Gulak’s back. Ali attempted to keep the pressure up by hitting Gulak with a high risk running move but Daivari distracted Ali and because of it, Gulak was able to come to and hit Ali from behind with a clothesline This shifted momentum into the hands of the Zo Train.
Heydorn’s Analysis: A good fast-paced match so far. They are working to a hot tag to Alexander and it’s getting over quite well.
From there, Gulak tagged in Daivari who proceed to lay a beating on Mustafa Ali. Ali got quite a few chants while he was in a Daivari submission maneuver. Ali eventually escaped the hold but was unable to reach Alexander for the tag. Instead, he received a vicious sidewalk slam from Daivari who covered for a two count and then tagged in his partner Drew Gulak. Gulak and Daivari attempted to hit a tandem move on Ali, but instead flipped him near his corner.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ali sold this beat down tremendously well and it built a nice anticipation for the hot tag to Alexander. Ali’s facial expressions were really good and you could feel the pain he was in.
Because of that, he was able to hit the hot tag to Alexander. Alexander came into the match really hot and really fast with a double dropkick off the top rope followed by a kip up and a round of clotheslines to the Zo Train. From there, he hit a spinning elbow. After, he attempted his running enziguri finisher, but Daivari hit him with a kidney punch as he connected with the ropes. From there, Gulak kicked Alexander to the outside of the ring. With Alexander on the outside of the ring, Gulak tagged Daivari into the match. Daivari went to the outside and tossed Alexander back in. He then went for a pin attempt but got a two count. After that attempt, Daivari tagged in Gulak. Gulak hit a quick punch and then attempted a pin for a two count. After the pin, Gulak tossed Alexander outside the ring once again. Gulak and Daivari taunted Alexander and the crowd until Alexander climbed into the ring and connected with a springboard flat liner. From there, Alexander was able to slowly roll near his corner for the tag. As he tagged in Mustafa Ali, Gulak tagged in Daivari. Ali went nuts on offense by hitting dropkicks, clotheslines and a very unique twisting suicide dive. The crowd loved this part of the match as it was their hometown guy getting the time. After the high risk move, Ali hit an X-Factor face buster on Daivari. Ali went for the pin, but Gulak made the save. He then left the ring and Daivari attempted to take care of business by lifting Ali up to the top rope for a big move. As he did, Gulak yelled at him and asked what he was doing. Gulak then got in the ring and pleaded with Daivari to not do a top rope move. Daivari said it wasn’t a big deal and as he did, Cedric Alexander hit the ring and gave Gulak the Lumbar Check. With that distraction, Ali was able to knock Daivari off and then hit the 054 inverted 450 splash for the 1,2,3 win.
-After the match, Gulak and Daivari argued with each other and Joseph teased that there were cracks in the Zo Train foundation.
WINNER: Alexander & Ali at 9:11
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was a really good match. It had the Zo Train dissention story woven throughout it and also featured some nice ring work. Ali was super over live in the arena and it showed well on TV. Alexander came across as a star too which was important given his title match coming up on Monday night.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’d rate this show a B overall. The main event tag match was a fun match, but the overall purpose like last week is to get the Cruiserweight Championship story over. This is being done in two parts. On one hand, they are creating a story around the champion. In this case, the story is that there is some dissention within the Enzo ranks. Gulak is over enough to sell this through and its working. It makes Enzo look like a big star, but forces the delivery of a notion that he may not be able to walk out as champion Monday night due to the Zo Train being unable to pull it together to help him. The second story is Cedric Alexander’s rise. The last two weeks of 205 Live was designed to make Alexander look like a star. He did both times. All in all, the build to this Alexander/Amore match on Raw next week has worked. It may not feature the best cruiserweights in the world, but the story has been logical and interesting. 205 Live has its issues, but this story has worked on many levels. I’m excited for the payoff on Monday night.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 2/19 WWE 205 Live Report: Itami’s debut, Gulak (w/Enzo) vs. Alexander, Kalisto & Metalik vs. Gallagher & Kendrick