SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE 205 LIVE
FEBRUARY 27, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
LOS ANGELES, CA
REPORT BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness
-A recap video aired of last week’s WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament action including highlights from the final round one matches. In addition, promo videos aired for tonight’s matches including Cedric Alexander vs. TJP and Roderick Strong vs. Kalisto.
-From there, the show open ran and Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuiness welcomed everyone to the program. They quickly recapped the events of SmackDown Live and then further highlighted the quarterfinal tournament matches that would be taking place on tonight’s show. They then dissected the tournament bracket and made some predictions for how the rest of the tournament would play out.
(1) CEDRIC ALEXANDER vs. TJP
Cedric Alexander made his way to the ring first and the crowd seemed to enjoy his presence even though he didn’t get a loud pop. Alexander has been a staple of this brand and came off as the show’s biggest star. As he did his entrance, a backstage selfie promo aired in which Alexander said that all week long TJP has been talking trash to try and get inside his head. He then said that TJP could not play him and that the only thing in his head was going to WrestleMania. From there, TJP was shown backstage for an interview ahead of his entrance. He said that he was a living cruiserweight legend and that it was ridiculous that he was being forced to go through an entire tournament to go to WrestleMania. He then said that if that was what had to be done, so be it. He finished by saying as the first cruiserweight champion he would walk through Alexander in their match tonight and then walk out of WrestleMania as the champ once again.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I’m not thrilled about the selfie promo here, but if it protects Alexander from holding a live microphone, so be it. On the flip side, I’m 100 percent sold on the pre-walkout interview. That has a nice sports feel to it that catches the wrestlers in the moment. More of this throughout the tournament will go a long way in making it feel ultra-competitive.
After the interview, TJP made his way to the ring next and his non-reaction was similar to Alexander’s. As the bell for the match rung, TJP got a nice chant from the audience and Nigel played it up as the hometown boy getting respect. From there, they locked up before a rope run with Alexander eventually getting the upper hand due to a power bomb. After the move, Alexander went for a pin, got a two count, and then locked in a head lock. TJP then made his way to his feet, broke the hold, and took Alexander down to the mat with a head scissor. Soon after, Alexander got back to his feet and was able to secure his second takedown with an armbar. TJP attempted to escape but was unable. With TJP lying on the mat he continued to work himself free of Alexander’s hold but was unsuccessful each time. From there, TJP worked himself to his feet and secured a submission hold of his own that targeted the legs of Alexander. Alexander broke the hold by covering TJP for a two count. After TJP kicked out, they traded hurricanranas before Alexander took him down with a dropkick. From there, Alexander went for a suicide dive, but TJP jumped back into the ring and hit a second hurricanrana. After, he locked in his own armbar before Alexander grabbed the ropes to break the hold. TJP had the momentum from there and he used it by hitting Alexander with a series of strikes to the face in the corner. Eventually, Alexander countered and chopped TJP in the chest. Quickly, TJP kept the momentum and continued his assault with elbows to the face and knees to the chest. After that series, he covered for a two count.
Heydorn’s Analysis: TJP is getting chants? I didn’t think that was a pig that just flew over my head, but maybe it was. All jokes aside, he was the hometown guy here, so the reaction to him makes sense. That said, it still wasn’t big or loud on a grand scale. For a match that was featuring two stellar in-ring workers, the crowd was quiet and not responding to much of what they attempted to do.
Out of the pin attempt, TJP locked in a reverse chin lock to try and slow Alexander down. Alexander worked his way to his feet before TJP pushed him into the ropes. Alexander countered by rocking him in the face with a kick. He followed that with an uppercut and then ran at TJP but TJP countered with a roll-up pin attempt for a two count. Out of the pin, TJP locked in another submission hold. It was a modified figure four lock that Nigel was very complimentary of. TJP brought the move to a pin attempt, but Alexander escaped at two. After, TJP posed to the crowd before taking Alexander down with a fireman carry. From there, he hit an over the top rope senton an covered for a count of two. Out of the pin, TJP locked in a sleeper hold to further ground Alexander again. On commentary, Nigel sold how Alexander had prepared from a cardio standpoint for submissions like the one he was in. Eventually, Alexander escaped and hit the ropes for some offense. Immediately after TJP stopped the momentum with a stiff dropkick to Alexander’s face. TJP then grabbed Alexander and attempted another submission hold. Alexander fought through this hold and prevented the official lock-in by elbowing TJP in the chest and then connecting with a vicious forearm to the face. It wasn’t enough as TJP hit a vertical suplex. From there, Alexander rolled to the corner and as TJP followed, he connected with a series of forearms and kicks. He ended the sequence with a vicious back elbow followed by the neuralizer. From there, he covered for a two count. After the pin attempt, TJP rolled to the corner. To further his momentum, Alexander ran at him for a move, but TJP dodged it which sent Alexander to the apron. Even though he missed his initial move, from the apron, Alexander hit a diving flatliner and covered for a two count. After the pin attempt, Alexander worked to hit a lumbar check, but it was countered into a gut buster by TJP. TJP covered for a count of two. From there, TJP stalked his opponent and looked for his detonation kick. Alexander countered and hit the ropes, but TJP crushed him with a kick to the knee. From there, TJP attempted a high risk move by jumping off the top rope. Alexander countered and proceeded to launch him off the top turnbuckle with a spinning super kick that sent TJP to the outside mats. From there, Alexander hit a huge suicide dive. He then rolled TJP into the ring and went for his springboard clothesline. As he tried, his knee couldn’t hold up and he went crashing to the mat.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Okay, if Cedric’s knee is going to be the focal point and main story of the match, it needs to be woven in earlier. Yes, looking back you could find the moments that may have hurt Alexander’s knee. We shouldn’t have to though. All the moments should be obvious so that each moment thereafter involving the injured knee is impossible to miss. Alexander sold this in epically awful fashion and the announcers didn’t drive it home early enough either. Certainly a miss calculation here that caused some confusion in how the crowd was supposed to react.
Seeing the knee injury, TJP looked to capitalize by locking in his knee bar submission. As Alexander crawled to the ropes, TJP pulled him back into the middle of the ring for a cover, but only got a two count. After the pin, TJP picked Alexander apart with kicks before hitting the ropes. Alexander then connected with an uppercut before they both took each other down with clotheslines. From there, both guys got up at the same time with TJP striking first with a flying forearm. He attempted a detonation kick again, but Alexander countered. TJP countered his counter with his knee bar once again. Like earlier, Alexander was able to reach the ropes to break the hold. TJP looked as serious as he ever looked after the break and he immediately went to Alexander for more offense. Alexander then hit a second spinning elbow and TJP returned the favor with a kick to the head. From there, the two exchanged kicks before Alexander caught one of TJP’s legs and lifted him up for his lumbar check. Alexander connected with that devastating move and then covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Alexander at 17:21
Heydorn’s Analysis: I was expecting more here. For one thing, the entire match was choppy and much closer to sloppy than good. Second, the story they tried to tell didn’t add up. At no point within the match was I concerned for Alexander’s knee. Yet, that knee was the main story. They missed here. Alexander didn’t sell it enough and they simply didn’t focus on it early enough or hard enough to convey a sense of serious worry. Sometimes the best in the business can have an off night and I believe that’s what happened here.
-After the match, a commercial aired for NXT and promoted this week’s main event between Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler
-When the commercial ended, Joseph and Nigel highlighted Fast Lane and then sung the praises of the new 205 Live General Manager, Drake Maverick. From there, a clip of Maverick in a WWE.com exclusive aired in which Maverick said that cruiserweight wrestling is meant for competition that should include the best athletes in the world. He said, he believes those athletes need someone to steer them in the right direction and that he’s the right guy for the job. He then outlined his vision for 205 Live by saying he simply wants to showcase the best cruiserweight action in the world on his show.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Maverick is just fantastic. He has an aura around him that is infectious and I regularly believe the words that come out of his mouth.
-After the interview highlight, a backstage taped interview aired from Mustafa Ali. He said that last week he had the fight of his life and that Jack Gallagher made him feel pain that he never thought he could feel. He then said that despite that pain, he fought and clawed to win. From there he said that next week he has Buddy Murphy as an opponent. Ali proceeded to call Murphy bigger, faster, and stronger than he was, but ended by saying that even though Murphy was a bad dude, he wouldn’t be bad enough to break him.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The sit down interviews work for Ali and he does a nice job with them. Sometimes it’s a bit corny, but he regularly is able to relay his emotions and thoughts in an effective way.
-When Ali was done, the camera cut to Buddy Murphy walking out of the arena. Murphy was asked what his thoughts were on facing Mustafa Ali and he said that he’s been waiting for this moment for a long time. He said that if Ali thought the match against Gallagher was bad, he’s got another thing coming in him. He finished by saying he’s going to WrestleMania.
-Heydorn’s Analysis: That had NXT written all over it. You can see Triple H’s influence shine through when segments like that air in prominent spots and with prominent guys on the show.
-After the promo, Kalisto and Roderick Strong were shown in the locker room area preparing for their upcoming quarterfinal match.
-A commercial aired for WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
(2) KALISTO vs. RODERICK STRONG
Kalisto made his way to the ring first and was immediately hit with lucha chants from the crowd. Other than that, his reaction was very weak. Roderick Strong entered next and got a nice reaction (relative to 205 Live) from the audience. Strong looked confident as he walked to the ring and the announcers played up his ultimate goal to get to WrestleMania as he did. The match began with a loud Roddy chant. The two then locked up with Strong getting the early upper hand with a takedown. Kalisto then got to his feet quickly and worked in a wristlock on Strong. From there, Strong countered with his own wristlock before Kalisto spring boarded off the top rope to hit a hurricanrana which he followed with a dropkick. Out of that, he covered for a count of two. Kalisto then worked to hit a spring board splash, but Strong reversed it into a back breaker. Strong then was on the attack with stiff chops. From there, he lifted Kalisto onto the top rope before Kalisto hit another hurricanrana that sent Strong to the outside of the ring. Kalisto followed that up with a suicide dive through the top ropes. From there, the two battled on the outside with Kalisto maintaining his momentum due to a third hurricanrana on Strong that sent him into the barricade. From there, Kalisto continued to gain momentum until Strong hit a massive suplex onto the announcer table. The crowd popped huge for the suplex and began chanting “205”. Strong then rolled Kalisto back into the ring and continued his beat down with more chops and stiff kicks.
Heydorn’s Analysis: 205 chants? They’re back. Only one other time were those chants heard on an episode of 205 Live and that was in another Roderick Strong match. Strong is the common denominator there and was clearly a fan favorite. His work rate and intensity is something the audience is begging to get behind.
After the chops, Strong covered for a count of two. Out of the kickout, Strong connected with a backbreaker and covered again for a two count. Through this, Nigel and Vic told Strong’s family story. As they did, Strong kept up the vicious assault with more intricate back breakers and kicks to his opponent. As he kicked, Kalisto got some separation by running the ropes but was trounced by a Strong drop kick. From there, Strong covered for a two count. After the pin, Strong applied a back submission which involved draping Kalisto over his shoulder. Kalisto escaped, but Strong kept the momentum with a stiff punch. The punch didn’t do enough damage though and Kalisto was able to hit a basement-rana to gain some momentum back. After the move, Kalisto rolled to the outside and connected with a springboard clothesline, corkscrew elbow, and another basement-rana before covering for a count of two.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Very cruiserweight-eque. I loved the speed and pace that Kalisto brought here. Strong is great in a lot of ways, but his pace doesn’t scream “cruiserweight.” Kalisto adds that fast element that people love about this style of wrestling.
After the pin, Kalisto attempted an SDS, but Strong countered by tossing him into the turnbuckle. From there, Strong connected with an Olympic slam before covering for a count of two. After the pin, the two exchanged strikes before Kalisto reversed a back breaker into a code red. Kalisto covered, but only secured a two count. After the pin attempt, Strong put Kalisto on the top rope and chopped him. He then tried to lift Kalisto onto his shoulders before Kalisto escaped. After, Kalisto kicked Strong in the jaw and then climbed to the top with him. From there, Kalisto and Strong exchanged punches before Kalisto connected with a high risk top rope move which sent Strong to the mat directly on his shoulder. Strong sold the shoulder really well and looked to be in lots of pain.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Yikes, that was a dangerous bump. Strong almost landed on his head and did land his shoulder as Nigel and Vic highlighted. I don’t know what they were going for, but this had to have come off looking better than what was planned. Strong sold his shoulder like a million bucks and it got him added sympathy heading into the finish.
After hitting the ground from the top rope, the two got to their feet at the same time and exchanged knees, elbows, punches, kicks, and everything in between until Strong hit a back breaker and then his End of Heartache finisher for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Strong at 11:39
Heydorn’s Analysis: Solid match. There is something about Roderick Strong that just yells “watch.” He’s intense and his eyes convey that intensity in a real way. Because of the narrative that the announcers setup throughout the match, I’m not surprised by the finish. Clearly, they are running with the “Roderick Strong to WrestleMania” story within the larger story of this tournament. To tell it well, he needs to be winning. Because of that story, against my better judgement, I’m taking Strong over Alexander in the semis.
-The show ended with Strong staring down at the cruiserweight championship belt and pointing to the WrestleMania sign.
-Joseph and McGuiness then closed the show by highlighting next week’s quarterfinal matches.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that this show was 90% in-ring action. That truth will be what the 205 Live niche is on the WWE Network. That said, the action left a little to be desired. I had high expectations for the Alexander vs. TJP match and it under delivered. Both guys were fine in what they did, but the match never kicked into high gear and was confusing at times. Strong vs. Kalisto was very hard hitting and deserved the main event spotlight it was given. Again, it wasn’t a must see match, but it was solid. If the 205 Live brand is going to be built around in-ring action, the in-ring action has to deliver and frankly as a whole, it missed the mark tonight.
OVERALL GRADE – C
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 2/20 WWE 205 Live Report: Daivari vs. Buddy Murphy, Mustafa Ali vs. Gallagher, Metalik & Dorado in tag