SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE 205 LIVE
JANUARY 30, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness
-The show began with the typical show open. From there, Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuiness welcomed everyone to the program. Both said it would be a historic night as the future of the cruiserweight division would change forever due to the placement of the first ever General Manager of 205 Live.
-Daniel Bryan’s music hit and the SmackDown Live General Manager walked to the ramp to an enormous pop. Bryan walked out but was not alone as Rockstar Spud was standing beside him. The crowd chanted loudly for “Spud.” Bryan began by saying that in 2016, he was part of something that was dear to his heart, the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. He said that is why it’s his privilege to introduce the man that will usher in a new era of 205 Live. He said that under the new leadership, we will receive the action that the cruiserweights should have always been giving the fans. He then officially introduced Drake Maverick as the new General Manager of 205 Live. The crowd booed the announcement of the new name. Both Vic and Nigel were then on damage control and commented on how he was formally named Rockstar Spud.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Out of the gate, I like this choice a lot. I think having someone from the past like The Hurricane or even Rey Mysterio would keep the division rooted in the past instead of moving it forward. Drake (Spud) is a brand new face that will make 205 Live feel fresh. It needs that due to the damage it suffered throughout the last year.
-After the introduction, Daniel Bryan left the stage and handed the microphone to Drake. As he began to talk the crowd ignored the Drake name and chanted “Spud” anyway. Drake said he worked his entire life to stand in front of the fans in the WWE. He said he’s proud to stand in the WWE and thanked Daniel Bryan because he’s even more proud to be the 205 Live General Manager. He said he’s going to help 205 Live and the first thing he will do is crown a new cruiserweight champion. He said a 16 man single elimination tournament would take place and the winner would be the new cruiserweight champion. He said the finals of the tournament would take place at WrestleMania but the tournament would start in Philly. He said there would be two first round matches in the tournament and announced Cedric Alexander vs. Gran Metalik and Tyler Bate vs. TJP. To finish, he said his name again and called for the tournament to begin. Drake waved to the crowd as Cedric Alexander’s music hit.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The WWE might regret changing Spud’s name to Drake Maverick. Throughout the entire promo, that new name caused the audience to boo, while at the same time chant “Spud.” Maybe Philadelphia is just too amped for the Super Bowl because that reaction made no sense. That said, I liked Drake’s promo quite a bit. He sounds fresh and was able to effectively carry the segment and make his points. On the surface, I’m excited to see how he does. The tournament is a great call and they are essentially resetting and restarting the entire division with it. It will provide fresh matchups and create a buzz around the brand as well. If guys like Cedric Alexander and Tyler Bate can open up the playbook a bit like Alexander and Ali did last week, this thing will be something to watch.
(1) CEDRIC ALEXANDER vs. GRAN METALIK
Alexander walked to the ring to his usual tempered reaction, but acknowledged Drake on his way to the ring with a handshake. They showed a selfie promo in which Alexander said he’s fine with having to work toward the Cruiserweight Championship once again. He said it would be an even bigger moment for him to win the belt at WrestleMania by winning this tournament.
Heydorn’s Analysis: A little inconsistent to show this promo which clearly was cut before the announcement of the tournament. Yes, you can justify it somehow for sure, but it’s still a sloppy move.
Backstage, Gran Metalik was shown with Kalisto and Lince Dorado. As they shook hands and pumped Metalik up, Drake Maverick interrupted and told Metalik to show him something. He said that his match is for a cruiserweight title opportunity and that it was Metalik’s time. Metalik received no reaction from the crowd when his music hit. As he made his way to the ring, Nigel gave a rundown on the new 205 Live GM. Nigel raved about him. The bell rang and Alexander tried to get a unity clap going from the crowd. They both circled each other and then tied up. From there, they traded holds until Alexander connected with his flipping hurricanrana takedown. Metalik landed on his feet. From there, Metalik attempted a hurricanrana, but Alexander flipped out of it. After, they tied up again, and Metalik took Alexander down to the mat with an armbar. Alexander attempted to roll out, but was trapped after Metalik locked it in harder. Eventually, Alexander got to his feet and delivered a swift kick to the stomach. He followed it up with chops and a whip to the corner. Metalik jumped over the rope and then connected with a kick to Alexander’ face. From there he connected with a springboard drop kick that sent Alexander to the apron on the other side of the ring. Metalik went for another high risk move, but Alexander countered with a springboard clothesline. This sent Metalik out of the ring and Alexander capitalized and connected with his high risk move of a flipping suicide dive. Alexander immediately rolled out of the ring and tossed Metalik back in for a cover but got a two count. From there, he locked in a choke hold on Metalik. Metalik attempted to escape, but Alexander slammed him to the mat. From there, Alexander went of more chops. Metalik then bounced off the ropes to attempt a high risk move but was caught by Alexander. Metalik countered with a flipping Canadian destroyer like move and went for a two count cover. After, Metalik connected with a stiff super kick followed by a dropkick off the second rope. Alexander rolled out of the ring because of the move and Metalik went flying over the top rope with his version of a flipping suicide dive. Throughout that spot, the crowd chanted “205.”
Heydorn’s Analysis: Well, that chant certainly has not been heard on this show yet. Not many chants have, period. This match grabbed the audience and forced them to connect. That seems to be the formula of success for the cruiserweight division. Storylines are necessary and important, but the in-ring action can carry a large part of the load as evident by this match which had no build at all.
After the move, Alexander was rolled back into the ring and Metalik covered again for the two count. After the pin attempt, Metalik picked Alexander up for the Metalik Driver. Alexander escaped and hit Metalik with an uppercut. From there Metalik hit the ropes but Alexander countered with a Spanish Fly. Both competitors were down after the move and got to their feet at the same time. Metalik was first to attack with an overhand palm strike in the corner. From there, he lifted Alexander to the top rope and chopped him again. Metalik climbed up top with him, but Alexander kicked him back down. From there, Metalik kicked Alexander and climbed up to hit a top rope hurricanrana. Metalik covered, but Alexander kicked out at two. Metalik couldn’t believe it and went to pick Alexander up off the mat. As he did, the two exchanged strikes with Alexander connecting with a stiff elbow. From there, Metalik bounced off the rope and Alexander caught him again and went for a lumbar check. Metalik countered into a DDT and covered for a two count. After, he dragged Alexander to the corner. The crowd was clapping in unison after the spot and was fully engaged in the match. After he set Alexander up, Metalik climbed to the top rope and attempted a moonsault but Alexander got his foot up in the air to counter. From there, Alexander connected with the lumbar check and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Alexander at 9:27
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked the match quite a bit. It was what cruiserweight matches should be. Alexander won and is the presumed favorite in the tournament. He’s on a six week winning streak and is a big deal for this brand. If he can step out of the ring and find his personality, he can be even bigger.
-When the match ended, Joseph and Nigel were at ringside and once again discussed the new 205 Live General Manager and how with this tournament he’s scoured the world for the best competition.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Between this comment and others made by the announce team during the first match, it’s clear that the marching orders for the announcers are ‘to relate the action and what’s happening on 205 Live back to the CWC. They want to try and rebrand 205 Live in the vain that made the CWC so popular. Smart move as the WWE hit a homerun with the initial CWC tournament.
-From there a promo video aired for Tyler Bate. The video was good and highlighted many of the reasons why people are drawn to the guy.
-After the video, a backstage selfie promo was shown from Jack Gallagher. He said that hopefully the new GM understands the importance of a gentleman making the way through the tournament and to WrestleMania.
-Then, Drake Maverick was shown backstage talking to a production worker. He reiterated the details of the cruiserweight tournament and then was interrupted by Drew Gulak who was holding flowers. Gulak said that on behalf of the roster, he is happy to have Maverick on board. He said that the roster may not want to admit it but that the wrestlers crave law and order. He then said he’s excited to hear and see what changes will come for a better 205 Live. He then handed Drake the flowers and Drake handed them directly to the production guy.
Heydorn’s Analysis: A perfect backstage segment for Gulak and Maverick. To me, there was some nice chemistry between both of them which should lead to many entertaining segments down the road. I’m looking for Maverick to completely disagree with all of Gulak’s 205 Live ideas which will drive Gulak nuts on a regular basis. Very smart move to bring that interaction right out of the gate.
-A commercial aired for the new WWE 24 episode on WrestleMania Orlando.
-A backstage promo was shown with Mustafa Ali sitting in a red chair. He said that last week was insane and that he was happy to tear the house down with his friend Cedric Alexander. Ali said that he lost the match which wasn’t awesome. He then said that he needed that wakeup call and that he won’t just go steal the show next time. He ended by saying he’s going be the guy that steals the show and punches his ticket to WrestleMania.
-The shot then cut to another backstage area where TJP was being interviewed. The interviewer introduced him as TJP, but then had to reintroduce him as the first ever cruiserweight champion. From there, TJP went on to say that everyone has a short memory. He said that he won the CWC and was the first ever cruiserweight champion. As he said this, Drake Maverick popped onto the screen and introduced himself. He said that TJP’s win was a long time ago and that 205 Live is in a new era. He asked TJP which TJP would show up for the match. The one that won the CWC or the one that whines and complains when he doesn’t get his way.
-After the interview, a selfie promo was shown of Akira Tozawa. He said that even though he wanted to be the 205 Live GM, now he can win the cruiserweight championship tournament.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m not a huge fan of the selfie promos, but glad that these guys got an opportunity to showcase themselves. These segments are important in the character building effort which all three very much need at this point. Gallagher less so than others. Guys like Mustafa Ali and Akira Tozawa can work to showcase who they are as characters during these moments and portray those characters in the ring. Just the fact that they got this opportunity is a step in the right direction for the show.
-A commercial aired for the season finale of Total Divas.
(2) TJP vs. TYLER BATE
TJP came out to the ring first to his usual small response. Tyler Bate was out next and got a nice pop from the audience. Many in the crowd were doing the wave back to him as he walked down the ramp. The bell rang and the crowd was loudly chanting for Tyler Bate. The two locked up and TJP got the quick upperhand before Bate got to the ropes for a break. They tied up again and Bate applied a wristlock which TJP escaped from relatively easily. From there, they went back and forth with each countering holds. Finally, TJP brought Bate down with a head scissors. TJP got a cover with Bate in the scissors but only got a two count. Out of pin, TJP dabbed which got some nice heat from the crowd. After, Bate got the upperhand with a head scissors of his own. TJP attempted to escape a few times, but was unsuccessful.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The TJP dab got a nice negative reaction, but there were some folks cheering for him loudly against Bate. It certainly wasn’t the majority of the audience, but it was enough to make some noise.
Finally, TJP escaped and the two did a nice spot in which they ran the ropes. Bate missed his clothesline and TJP missed his as well. From there, they both stood across from each other in the ring before TJP took Bate down into another submission. Eventually, Bate countered the move with the same move and then picked TJP up while keeping him in it to further enhance the hold. He rocked TJP back and forth which got a nice reaction. After, Bate pinned TJP, but only received a two count. After the pin, Bate connected with a vicious dropkick that sent TJP out of the ring. Bate saw it and connected with a suicide dive through the ropes. The crowd loved the move and was cheering Bate quite a bit. From there, Bate tossed TJP back into the ring. TJP went for a punch, but Bate dodged it and attempted a monkey flip pin into the ring. TJP dodged it and connected with a kick to the face. TJP had the momentum from there. He pushed Bate into the corner and connected with a boot to the face followed by a combo of two different suplexes. He went for the cover, but only got a two count. After the pin, TJP locked in another shoulder submission to capitalize on the damage done earlier. Bate worked to escape by slamming TJP into the ropes, but TJP held onto the move. Back in the corner, TJP converted his shoulder submission into a half Boston Crab which he connected with while on the top turnbuckle. Bate sold this very well. From there, TJP had to break the hold, but hit Bate with a body slam before covering for a two count. After the pin attempt, TJP stepped on the knee of Bate and talked trash. Finally, Bate got some momentum with a boot to the face. Bate sold his leg and his shoulder throughout the move. With TJP stunned, Bate connected with a European uppercut and a delayed German suplex. He covered, but only got a two count. Bate continued to sell the leg from the rope submission throughout his run. From there, Bate attempted a Tyler Driver but TJP kicked his injured knee. TJP went for his finisher, but Bate countered. Bate rolled into the corner and connected with his standing shooting star press moonsault. He covered, but only got a two count.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The TJP chants and cheers were a bit louder here so color me confused. Typically, TJP gets no reaction at all. The psychology of this match is not built for those cheers. TJP is looking for boos when working over the knee. Hearing the crowd chant for him really messed up the flow and the story of the match.
Both guys were slow to get up but then traded strikes in the middle of the ring. This was impressive and the crowd enjoyed it. TJP got the momentum out of it by connecting with a dropkick to Bate’s injured knee. TJP went to lock in another submission but Bate kicked him away. Bate then went for his patented shoulder bounce off the rope into a clothesline, but TJP countered with his knee bar. Bate writhed in pain, but made it to ropes which forced TJP to break the hold. Finally, Bate hit his patented clothesline and went for a cover, but only got a count of two. After, Bate signaled for the helicopter spin and connected with the move. The crowd counted along as TJP was spun in circles. After, he slammed TJP to the ground and signaled for the Tyler Driver. As he went for it, TJP countered and locked in the knee bar again on the injured knee. Bate countered into a rollup pin, but only got a two count. After, Bate hit is classic distraction punch and then climbed the tope rope. Bate leapt off with his corkscrew dive, but missed as TJP rolled out of the way. TJP capitalized and locked in the knee bar again. Bate sold the pain very well and teased tapping numerous times. Finally, Bate got to the ropes which the crowd cheered loudly for. TJP was visibly frustrated after and took off his elbow pads. He ran at Bate, but Bate countered with an elbow to the face. He then hit a rolling boot to the face and went for the Tyler Driver. TJP used the corner to his advantage to boost himself out the hold. From there, he rolled up Bate with a jumping move from the top rope and went for a pin. Because he was holding Bate’s tights, TJP got the 1,2,3 victory.
WINNER: TJP at 14:37
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was a good match that was bogged down by a confused crowd. You’d have called me crazy if I told you that folks in a Philadelphia crowd would cheer TJP over Tyler Bate. Those cheers threw the story of the match off kilter. That said, like the first match of the night, it was very cruiserweight-esque in nature which the fans were connected with the entire time. Bate is a star in the making regardless of the reaction and the way TJP won will lead to character progression for him. I’d imagine he’ll have an altercation with Drake Maverick on the cheating avenues he utilized to win as well.
-The show ended with Bate pleading his case to the ref about the tights being held and TJP dabbing at the top of the ramp. The camera faded to black as Vic Joseph announced that next week, the first round matches would be Lince Dorado vs. Kalisto and Hideo Itami vs. Roderick Strong.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The WWE hit the reset button on 205 Live tonight and it was easy to feel a difference. It was presented as less of a joke and more as a sport. This division needs that. What got the cruiserweights over again was the CWC and its clear that the WWE is working to tap into that interest to rebrand what 205 Live is. The matches highlighted that new strategy because of the intensity and the training wheels being removed from the wrestlers. Adding Tyler Bate was significant and even though he lost, he added credibility to the tournament and the division. I enjoyed Drake Maverick as the GM. He was fresh and though he was new, he did a great job in conveying that he was the boss throughout all of his segments. If the WWE stays with this direction, they can turn this division into something relevant.
OVERALL GRADE – B+
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 1/23 WWE 205 Live Report: Enzo departure addressed by Bryan, new G.M. to be named, Cedric vs. Mustafa, Gallagher vs. Itami