SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
WWE 205 LIVE
MARCH 6, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
GREEN BAY, WI
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 last week’s quarterfinal matches. In addition, promo videos aired for tonight’s matches including Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy and Drew Gulak vs. Mark Andrews.
-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 showed the up to date tournament bracket and got ready for the first tournament match of the evening.
(1) MARK ANDREWS vs. DREW GULAK
Andrews hit the ring first and did his best to pump up the crowd to go along with his “stage diving” gimmick, but it was all for naught and he still received the typical tempered 205 Live response. With Andrews in the ring, Drew Gulak was interviewed backstage ahead of his entrance. In the interview Gulak said that he hasn’t opened Microsoft Office in weeks because he’s been so focused on getting his WrestleMania moment and winning the cruiserweight championship. He said that Andrews wants to take that moment away from him and if everyone wants to know how he’ll combat the high flying style of Andrews, Gulak said, “watch this.” From there, Gulak made his way down to the ring to a similar lackluster response that Andrews got.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I like the new Gulak character. The aggressive side of him will fit better in this new era of 205 Live. At the same token, it’s encouraging to see him working to maintain consistency by referencing the past PowerPoint presentations that defined who he was for so long.
The match began with both guys tying up in the middle of the ring. Gulak used his strength to push Andrews to the ropes but Andrews bounced back quickly with another tie up. After this, Gulak pushed Andrews into the corner again and chopped him viciously on the chest. Andrews didn’t back down and aggressively tied up again with Gulak. From there, Gulak got the upper hand with a variety of submission take downs, but Andrews was able to escaped with his high flying agility. This stunned Gulak but he was able to take control again with a headlock. From there, Gulak whipped Andrews off the ropes and Andrews capitalized by connecting with a dropkick. Andrews then covered for a two count. After the cover, Andrews kept up his momentum and took Gulak to the mat with a head lock takedown. Gulak escaped by pushing Andrews into the ropes and Andrews kept momentum with a slap to the face. This angered Gulak who proceeded to teach Andrews a lesson by body slamming him into the ring ropes. From there he covered for a count of two. After the cover, Gulak kept up the assault with a gorilla press slam in the middle of the ring. Once again, Gulak covered for a two count.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The crowd wasn’t reacting much to Gulak here, but Gulak looked strong. He is able to show a level of intensity that forces you to take him seriously and even though that isn’t meriting a reaction tonight, it will down the road
After the pin, Gulak went back to the submission strategy. He locked in a grounded armbar which Andrews sold well. Andrews worked to escape a handful of times, but each time Gulak was able to keep the hold locked in and Andrews grounded. Finally, Andrews did escape and caught Gulak with a few strikes to the face. The momentum was short lived as Gulak locked in the armbar submission once again. From there, Andrews continued to work his way out of the hold and was successful with forearms to the face. Gulak immediately squashed the comeback with a shoulder to the midsection. Then, Gulak tossed Andrews into the corner and connected with a forearm to the face. Though stunned, Andrews bounced back out of the corner and connected with a nice spinning hurricanrana that sent Gulak to the outside of the ring. The two brawled at ringside where Andrews hit a flying moonsault off of the announce table. Andrews then tossed Gulak back into the ring and hit a boot to the face. He then hit a bulldog over the top rope which he followed with double knees and a stomp to Gulak’s chest. From there, Andrews called for and hit his corkscrew stage dive moonsault. After, he covered for a two count. After the pin, Andrews laid in some stiff kicks to Gulak’s chest before Gulak lifted him up for an electric chair back drop. After hitting it, Gulak covered for a two count. From there, both men were down and the camera got a nice shot of the aggressive Gulak stalking Andrews with brutal kicks and punches. From there, Gulak pushed Andrews into the corner and chopped him. After, he stomped him in the corner before Andrews countered with his own chops that the crowd popped for with Ric Flair like woos.
Heydorn’s Analysis: More aggressive Drew Gulak. In addition to Gulak himself showing it with his facial expressions, the announcers were all over the fact that the new aggressive side of Drew Gulak is significant and impactful for 205 Live. He’s the story here and has been throughout the match. Andrews has been good fodder for that story, but that’s all he’s brought to the table.
Out of the chops, Andrews climbed the top rope but Gulak held him down. Andrews kicked Gulak off and then hit a hurricanrana from the top rope to the floor. Andrews climbed back into the ring and awaited a count out on his opponent, but instead he hit a moonsault from the top rope onto Gulak on the outside floor. After, Andrews tossed Gulak back into the ring for a cover, but Gulak stopped him with a kick. It did nothing and Andrews hit a crucifix bomb on Gulak before covering for another two count. From there, he climbed the top rope again, but Gulak followed and grabbed the beard of Andrews. After slapping Gulak’s hand off of his beard, Andrews was able to create some distance and leapt off the top rope for a splash. Gulak proceeded to crush Andrews with a forearm to his face and then connect with a series of two clotheslines. He then lifted Andrews up for a suplex, but Andrews hit the stun dog millionaire. From there, Andrews went for the shooting star press, but Gulak got the knees up to block it. Because of that, Gulak immediately locked in the dragon sleeper and Andrews tapped out.
-After the match, Gulak refused to the release the hold and received a nice amount of heel heat from the crowd for doing so.
WINNER: Gulak at 12:09
Heydorn’s Analysis: Andrews got some nice spots in toward the end was and able to showcase what he can do. That said, this match was all about Drew Gulak and his new personality. He drove it home with his ring work, the announcers drove it home with their commentary, and the story of the match was centered around Andrews not being able to overcome Gulak’s new side. On all of those accounts, the match worked. Plus, with Gulak illegally keeping his submission locked in after the bell, it’s clear he’ll be a heel moving forward in the tournament.
-Backstage, Drake Maverick was shown talking with Hideo Itami and Akira Tozawa. He asked them if they were surprised that they were put together in a tag team match tonight and said that his reasoning was simple. He said that they were both down about being eliminated in the first round of the cruiserweight championship tournament, but that they both were still some of the best cruiserweights in the world. He said that Hideo Itami was known all around the world and that Tozawa was a former cruiserweight champion. He said that he has seen the respect they have for each other and by putting them together as a tag team, they can bring the best out of each other. From there, Tozawa shook Itami’s hand and told Maverick if he was wrong, he would be fired. He then had a silly grin on his face and walked off screen.
Heydorn’s Analysis: 90 percent of this promo was fine. Tozawa needs to stop it with the funny facial expressions though. It’s like he’s living in the old era of 205 Live and those expressions didn’t even work then. Tozawa can be a serious character and should be at this point. His funny smile completely derails that possibility and takes away all credibility.
-After the backstage segment, the broadcast was tossed to ringside where Joseph and Nigel talked about how good of a job Maverick was doing as GM of 205 Live. They then cued up a social media promo that Mustafa Ali cut earlier in the week from his Twitter account. In this promo, Ali called out his opponent, Buddy Murphy, and told him that the most dangerous man doesn’t fight for himself like Murphy does, but he fights for others.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This promo is absolutely must-watch. The 205 Live broadcast only aired some of it, but the rest can be found on Ali’s Twitter account. It’s creative, well spoken, and well written. More than that, it gives a sense of who Ali is and where he comes from. If enough people watch this promo, the game for Mustafa Ali could change in a complete 180 degree fashion.
-A commercial aired for WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans which is now 33 days away.
(2) HIDEO ITAMI & AKIRA TOZAWA vs. SCOTT JAMES & NEMETH ALEXANDER
Itami hit the ring first alone to zero response from the Green Bay crowd. He waited at the top of the ramp for Tozawa who hit the ring next and also received zero reaction. Both partners shook hands and walked to the ring. The crowd was cold to their entrance and didn’t respond to the Tozawa war chant as much as usual crowds do. Alexander and Tozawa started things off and as they did, the war chant finally picked up with the crowd. Out of the gate, Tozawa crushed Alexander with punches before knocking Alexander to the mat and then senton bombing him from a standing position. From there, they tied up and Tozawa pushed Alexander into the corner. Tozawa hit a couple strikes before Alexander flipped the script and destroyed him with forearms to the face. This sent Tozawa stumbling out of the corner where he was able to connect with a back drop. From there, he tagged in Itami who kept up the offensive with a fishermen suplex. Out of that, James tagged in and was immediately hit with kicks and a boot to the face in the corner. Itami then went to the top rope and hit a clothesline. After, Itami picked up James and hit a series of chops to the face. Alexander looked to intervene but Tozawa drop kicked him out of the way. From there, Itami hit his running corner drop kick and then officially tagged Tozawa into the match. Tozawa then hit his senton bomb within the drop zone off the top rope and covered for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Itami & Tozawa at 2:54
Heydorn’s Analysis: A simple squash match to build the tag team scene; presumably for the tag titles. I like Tozawa and Itami as tag team partners if for no other reason that neither one have anything going on. Certainly, they’ll need more than that to be entertaining week in and week out, but this is a start at the very least.
-When the match ended, Nigel and Vic showcased the cruiserweight title tournament bracket and highlighted the fully flushed out semifinal match to take place next week between Cedric Alexander and Roderick Strong.
-From there, a special video was shown of Strong training at the performance center in Orlando. In the video, Strong said that he will outwork anyone in and out of the ring. He said that he is prepared, that he’s ready for WrestleMania, and that he’s only one match away.
-After that brief segment, Cedric Alexander sat down for a promo. In it, he said that he has one more match between him and WrestleMania. He said for the last two years he’s been so close to being champion. He said before things went wrong, but this time, nothing will stop him. From there, he said that this time he is absolutely going to WrestleMania and that he will become WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Alexander just has a missing ingredient to him on the mic. Where Mustafa Ali is finding himself, Alexander is treading water and this promo was a microcosm of that.
-Buddy Murphy and Mustafa Ali were shown warming up backstage ahead of their quarterfinal match.
-A promo video aired for Dusty Rhodes and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic beginning on NXT this week on the WWE Network.
-A commercial aired for WWE Fast Lane which airs this Sunday on the WWE Network as well.
As a side note, here is Mustafa Ali’s promo for the TV main event that he posted on his Twitter account that is getting so much praise in many circles… CLICK HERE
This Tuesday, I take on @WWE_Murphy in the second round of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament.
— Mustafa Ali (@MustafaAliWWE) March 4, 2018
(3) MUSTAFA ALI vs. BUDDY MURPHY
Ali hit the ring first and received the pop of the night. On his way to the ring, a video package aired that highlighted Ali’s first round win against Jack Gallagher two weeks ago. Murphy came out next and on his way to the ring, footage aired of him successfully weighing at 197 pounds.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I really like these weigh-in videos for Buddy Murphy. It gives him and the show a sport like feel which gives the entire production a bigger sense of being real.
The match began with Ali and Murphy fist bumping in the middle of the ring. A “buddy” chant began as they tied up. Both muscled back and forth until Murphy pushed Ali into a corner. From there, the wrapped up again with Ali securing a headlock. Ali tossed Murphy off the ropes and Murphy connected with a thunderous shoulder tackle. Murphy stood confident in the ring with Ali appearing to be unsure of himself. They tied up again and Ali and Murphy both exchanged reversals of back body drops until Murphy landed another shoulder tackle. After that sequence, they went at it again in the middle of the ring with both guys exchanging headlocks until Murphy got the upperhand with a headlock takedown. Ali got free and sent Murphy off the ropes again. This time, Ali got the upper hand with a hurricanrana that sent Murphy to the outside.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The announcers really drove the psychology of this match by selling how much faster and stronger Murphy was compared to Ali. That laid a nice foundation for the match and Murphy and Ali both played into that with the spots they executed.
Murphy raced Ali back in and though Ali was surprised, he dropkicked Murphy in the face and then did Murphy’s patented shush hand signal. The crowd oooh’ed and ahhhh’ed. From there, the two jawed in the ring and shook hands before Murphy just crushed Ali with a clothesline. From there, it was all Murphy. He stomped Ali in the corner and as Ali crawled out of that corner, he was met with kicks, stomps, and punches to the back. Through this beat down, Murphy was played up and sold as the overwhelming favorite by the announce team. To maintain his offense, Murphy lifted Ali up to the top rope. Ali countered and pushed Murphy off before kicking him in the face sending him down to the mat. From there, with Murphy’s arm holding the rope, Ali connected with a stiff 450 splash directly onto the outstretched arm.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Wow. If that move would have legitimately broken Murphy’s arm, I wouldn’t have been surprised in the least.
After that, Ali worked over the elbow and arm to secure his advantage. This included more kicks and a hanging arm drag over the top rope before connecting with his rolling facebuster. After the facebuster, Ali covered for a count of two. Out of the pin attempt, Ali worked the arm once again and followed with his tornado DDT attempt. Murphy caught him with one arm and threw him to the outside. From there, Murphy dove over the top rope for a flipping suicide dive on Ali. From there, he rolled Ali back into the ring and connected with a knee drop off the top rope. Murphy covered again for a count of two. After the pin, both men were slow to get to their feet with Murphy getting their first. He lifted Ali up, but Ali was able to slam him into the turnbuckle arm first. From there, Ali connected with a reverse hurricanrana followed by his tornado DDT. After, he went for the winning pin attempt, but only got a two count. The crowd was chanting “this is awesome” after those series of moves.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ali has perfected the tornado DDT. The way he whips to the side and the way his opponents have been selling it for him has been incredible. I’m not sure a “this is awesome” chant was warranted, but it certainly is a fun move to watch.
After the pin, Ali played to the crowd a bit and then crushed Murphy with stiff kicks to the injured arm. From there he hit Murphy with a forearm shot that sent him to his knees. Murphy didn’t back down though and connected with a series of kicks himself. Ali returned the favor with his own kicks until Murphy attempted to connect with Murphy’s Law. Because of his injured arm, Murphy could not successfully hit the move and this allowed Ali to roll Murphy up and secure the 1,2,3 victory.
WINNER: Ali at 11:06
Heydorn’s Analysis: A really nice match on both accounts. Ali played the underdog well and Murphy sold his arm injury in glorious fashion. Without that sell job, the win for Ali wouldn’t have been as meaningful and Murphy’s loss wouldn’t have been as understanding. They accomplished their mission. Ali is over with the win, but Murphy losing did no harm in the slightest. Going in, I thought Murphy would play more of a heel role, but instead the two had a point A to point B babyface/babyface match-up that worked well.
-The show concluded with Ali celebrating in the ring while the crowd chanted “Ali” as Drew Gulak looked on from the backstage area. From there, Nigel and Vic promoted the final four men left in the tournament as the broadcast faded to black.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Mustafa Ali has really come into his own throughout this tournament. He’s always been a smooth in-ring worker, but he’s developed a bit of a character and that shred of development has given him purpose. When he talks in his promos about wanting to have a match at WrestleMania, I believe him. In addition, his recorded backstage promos and social media videos have further helped to define who he is. When the tournament began, I would have said Cedric Alexander was the odds on favorite to win. Maybe that is still the case, but Ali should now be in the conversation. He simply is connecting with the crowd on a higher level than Alexander is right now and its quickly catapulting him up the card on 205 Live.
OVERALL GRADE: B
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 2/27 WWE 205 Live Report: Strong vs. Kalisto ends with a scary looking bump, Cedric vs. TJP, Mustafa Ali promo