KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
(Search "wade keller" to subscribe in podcast app)
WWE 205 LIVE
MARCH 13, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
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, a promo video aired for the first semifinal match tonight between Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander.
-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 first semifinal tournament match that would be taking place on tonight’s show. They then showed the up to date tournament bracket and introduced the first match of the night.
(1) AKIRA TOZAWA & HIDEO ITAMI vs. LINCE DORADO & GRAN METALIK
Tozawa hit the ring first and was given a very quiet reception from the audience. Hideo Itami came out next to still a quiet reaction, but a louder one than Tozawa got. Tozawa did his war chants as they walked to the ring together and Nigel reminded the audience that Drake Maverick put these two together because he saw something special in them that was waiting come out. The Lucha House Party hit the ring next and got a nice pop due to the lucha chants for Kalisto even though he wouldn’t be taking part in the match.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The announcers did a great job at framing this match. Both McGuinness and Joseph drove home the point that the match is taking place to showcase the best competition. They then tied that purpose back to Drake Maverick which continues to position him as the true leader of the new 205 Live era. Yes, the match is essentially out of nowhere and meaningless, but because of the way it was framed and with Maverick attached, it felt important.
The match started with Tozawa and Dorado in the ring. Tozawa called for his war chant and the crowd obliged. Dorado took Tozawa down with a single leg and then tossed him off the ropes. Tozawa countered with a spinning kick, but Dorado ducked out of the way. Next, they tied up and Tozawa locked in a wristlock which drove Dorado down to the mat. Dorado flipped out and locked in his own headlock before tossing Tozawa into the ropes for a shoulder tackle. From there, Dorado and Tozawa exchanged clotheslines, pin attempts, and flips before having a stare down in the middle of the ring. Out of that, Dorado connected with a drop kick before tagging in Metalik. Metalik continued the momentum buy stomping Tozawa. He then lifted Tozawa up for a suplex but Tozawa countered with a hurricanrana before tagging in Itami. Itami and Metalik went at it from there with Metalik connecting with a set of dropkicks and a jumping arm drag from the top rope before he tagged in Dorado once again. When Dorado hit the ring he hit a standing moonsault on Itami before backing him into the corner. From there, Dorado attempted to whip Itami to the other corner, but Itami countered and sent Dorado into the corner instead. Out of that, Dorado hit a dropkick and looked to follow with more offense of some kind, but Itami was there waiting with a stiff kick. From there, it was all kicks and solid strikes from Itami on Dorado. With Dorado firmly on the mat, Itami tagged in Tozawa who was fresh at ringside.
Heydorn’s Analysis: I liked how Nigel and Vic defined Itami in this moment. He was portrayed as a vicious striker from Japan who was dangerous and it worked in legitimizing him as a threat. His aura is badly damaged and commentary like he received here will go a long way in getting some of it back.
Tozawa kept up the momentum with a couple quick kicks and a high speed move off the ropes before Itami tagged back in. When Itami got back into the match, he continued where he left off with stiff kicks and strikes. At this point they were building to the hot tag and the Tozawa/Itami team cornered Dorado. With Dorado firmly in the corner, Itami tagged in Tozawa who hit a senton bomb off the top rope. From there, he covered for a count of two. After the pin attempt, Dorado worked to fight off Tozawa with strikes. After, both guys connected with boots to the face on each other which led to both teams tagging in their partners in the hot tag. Metalik got the upper hand with a tilt-a-whirl back breaker and a stiff chop. He followed with another chop before hitting a top rope drop kick on Itami. Metalik then went to the ring apron for second high risk springboard move, but was held down by Tozawa who was outside of the ring on the lower mat. This caused Metalik to stay grounded and from there, Dorado jumped onto the back of Metalik and proceeded to launch himself into the air for a drop onto Tozawa on the outside. Back in the ring, Metalik scaled the top rope and rope walked on the third rope before attempting his patented splash finisher on Itami. Itami moved out of the way which caused Metalik to tweak his knee on the landing. Itami capitalized and connected with a twisting stunner finisher for the 1,2,3 win.
-After the match ended, Itami celebrated while standing over a fallen Gran Metalik. Seeing this, Lince Dorado rushed to the ring and pushed Itami out of the way. From there, Itami and Dorado jawed back and forth before Kalisto hit the ring to separate them. At the same time, Tozawa held back Itami as well and the situation didn’t digress into more fighting but just yelling between Itami and Dorado.
WINNER: Tozawa and Itami at 8:10
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was a good little match. With nothing on the line, it did a nice job in showcasing the strengths of each team while at the same time crowning a winner. I liked the post-match stuff in particular as it intricately started a deeper story between these teams in a sports like way. Eventually the cruiserweight championship tournament is going to end and 205 Live will need to tell other stories. This was a nice start.
-Vic Joseph showcased the cruiserweight championship tournament bracket and then proceeded to further promote the tournament semifinal main event.
-After the bracket, Joseph cued up a highlight and hype video for Roderick Strong who is one half of tonight’s tournament semifinal main event match.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The one thing you can never critique the WWE on is their promo videos. This was pristine in that it told Strong’s story while still putting over his opponent. After watching this, you’d think Strong was lacing his boots up for a WrestleMania main event. It built his tournament match to another level and was incredibly effective.
-A commercial aired for The Ultimate Deletion match, Alexa Bliss vs. Asuka, and the Brock Lesnar appearance on next week’s episode of Raw.
-Out of the commercial break, Drake Maverick’s music hit and Maverick walked out to the ring. Nigel and Joseph put him over huge as he sat down for commentary.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This guy just looks the part. He acts the part as well and is confident in everything he does when he steps through the curtain. Maverick is becoming a high point of each show and it’s because of the intangible things which can’t be taught that he brings to the table.
(2) JACK GALLAGHER vs. MURPHY MYERS
With Myers already waiting in the ring after a non-televised entrance, Gallagher came out to his usual tempered response and was wearing his wrestling attire per Maverick’s request a few weeks ago. Maverick talked about this and said that Gallagher wasn’t championship material before he came on as General Manager. He continued by saying that Gallagher needed to sort himself out. From there, the bell rang and the match began. Myers went for the tie up, but Gallagher immediately pushed him off. Myers then tried again, but was forced to break the hold when Gallagher backed him into the ropes. After the break, Gallagher stared at Myers inches away from his face and then took him to the mat with a body manipulation submission. From there, he steam rolled Myers with body slams and running forearms smashes. From there, Gallagher continued his massive beat-down of Myers and pulled him to the outside to smash his face on the apron. After he did so, Gallagher stared at Maverick before he headed back into the ring. As he climbed back in, Myers connected with some stiff kicks. Myers then hit the ropes and tried to dropkick Gallagher, but Gallagher trapped him inside the ring apron and then laid in a flurry of punches to the body of Myers. From there, Gallagher rolled Myers back into the ring and connected with a vicious head-butt before making the pin for the 1,2,3 win.
-After his win, Joseph and Maverick called this Jack Gallagher the “new” Jack Gallagher.
WINNER: Gallagher at 2:38
Heydorn’s Analysis: Squash match city, but a good one. Gallagher looked great and had a nice interaction with Maverick that could be the foundation of something bigger down the road.
-When the match ended, Joseph and Nigel hyped the cruiserweight championship tournament as a whole before cuing up a promo package for Cedric Alexander.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Another great hype video by the WWE. Alexander came off great in this and if he can harness some of the energy and emotion in the live setting like he did in this video, it will go a long way in making him a bigger star for 205 Live.
-After the video, Cedric Alexander and Roderick Strong were both shown warming up backstage ahead of their semifinal tournament match.
-A commercial aired for WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans.
-After the commercial, Joseph and McGuinness promoted next week’s second semifinal tournament match between Drew Gulak and Mustafa Ali before cuing up a social media promo video that Ali aired yesterday.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This is the second week in a row that Ali released a produced promo video ahead of his tournament match. Just like the first, this was interesting, dark, and shed yet another light on who Mustafa Ali is. Ali has stepped up his game with these videos and has people talking. Clearly, he is the standout performer of the brand since the relaunch occurred.
(3) RODERICK STRONG vs. CEDRIC ALEXANDER
Strong made his entrance first and was met with some nice cheers (for 205 Live) from the crowd. Alexander came out next to a smaller response than Strong.
Heydorn’s Analysis: We know Alexander can deliver in the ring and is one of the top guys on 205 Live. He’s positioned that way, but just doesn’t get the crowd response off of it and he never has. Where Ali has triumphed in showing who he is, Alexander has ultimately failed.
Strong jawed to Alexander as he entered the ring and paced back and forth in his corner to show his intensity and it worked well. Before the bell rang, because of the broadcast team, the match had a big fight feel to it. After the bell rang to start the match, Alexander and Strong circled each other in the ring before tying up. Both struggled for the upperhand before Strong took Alexander down with a roll-up. They then chain wrestled a bit and teased pin attempts with neither guy actually getting to one. Dueling Roderick and Cedric chants broke out in the audience before both guys tied up again. Alexander whipped Strong into the ropes and then caught him with his hurricanrana before Strong countered it. Instead, Alexander connected with a dropkick and went for a pin attempt and a one count. After the pin, Alexander briefly locked in a headlock before getting chopped out of the building by Strong. It didn’t last long as Alexander connected with a second dropkick. From there, Alexander attempted a springboard clothesline, but Strong countered and sent Alexander’s face slamming into the ring post.
Heydorn’s Analysis: The match began with a nice pace that I can get on board with. They are fighting a crisp match and teasing the next gear well, but not kicking into it yet or too early. They are stringing the fans along like a cat following a string on the hardwood floor and its worked well.
Strong was a like a shark in the water after the counter. He viciously stomped Alexander, connected with suplexes, and attempted pins before locking in a chin lock. After the chin lock, Alexander hit the ropes with his neuralizer to get the upper hand, but Strong was ready and waiting with a dropkick to the face. Strong went for the pin, but got just a two count. Out of the pin, Strong kept up his attack and locked in another chinlock while yelling at Alexander that he didn’t want to win bad enough. This prompted the crowd to clap and get behind Alexander. It worked as Alexander broke the hold and then reversed Strong’s Irish whip that sent Strong into the corner. From there, Alexander was slow to get up and finally did at the same time Strong did. Alexander then connected with strikes and elbows before hitting a drop toe hold into the ring post, a big boot, and a spring board cutter on Strong. That sent Strong out of the ring and Alexander then hit a jumping suicide dive to the outside. Immediately, Alexander rushed to toss Strong back into the ring for a spring board clothesline, a cover, and a two count. Out of the pin, Alexander kept up the offense and hit a Michinoku Driver which he followed with another pin attempt and a two count. After the pin, Alexander attempted the Lumbar Check, but it was countered by Strong. From there, Alexander went to the top rope and tried another springboard maneuver which Strong countered. It didn’t matter though as Alexander rolled Strong up for a two count pin. Out of the pin, Strong struck first, connected with his first backbreaker, and went for his own two count pin attempt. After the pin attempt, Strong tried to lift Alexander up, but Alexander countered with elbows to the head and sidewalk slam. Alexander followed that up with a neuralizer and then a Lumbar Check. Alexander covered, but at the stroke of three, Strong grabbed the ropes to stop the pin.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Wonderful spot. All week in promos, Strong has asked Alexander what he would do when the Lumbar Check didn’t work. They finished that story with this spot, but did so in a unique way that protected the move for future matches by having it “not work” due to a rope break.
After the pin, both guys rolled to the outside and exchanged strikes before Strong lifted Alexander up over his head and then spiked him lower back first onto the ring post. From there, Strong got back in the ring and got the count started but Alexander made it back into the ring at the count of nine. As he did, he went to the top rope, but Strong stopped it with a knee to the face. Strong then climbed to the top with Alexander and hit a superplex. He then covered for a count of two. After the pin, both men were down and a this is awesome chant broke out. Strong got to his feet first and pulled Alexander up with him. Strong was not able to get him all the way up and the two exchanged stiff shots to the face instead before Alexander connected with a spinning elbow. Then after an intense back and forth exchange, Strong landed the End Of Heartache and went for the cover, but this time Alexander grabbed the bottom rope at the count of three to stop the pin.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Consistent psychology in a wrestling match is a beautiful thing isn’t it? This sure was. Playing off of the earlier spot and the story that was setup all week was a smart move and the “this is awesome” chants that they got proved that following it paid off properly.
After the pin, Alexander tried to roll to the outside, but was dragged back in by Strong. As Strong lifted him up, Alexander connected with a very stiff back elbow that left Strong reeling. Both men were slow to their feet and used each other’s bodies together to get up. They then exchanged chops and strikes with both telling each other to bring it. They then hit a flurry of punches on each other before Alexander attempted a second Lumbar Check that was countered. After the counter, Strong attempted his Stronghold submission, but it too was countered in a way that allowed Strong to attempt a two count pin attempt instead. Out of the pin, Strong hit a knee strike and then attempted a second End Of Heartache but before he could lift Alexander up, Alexander used an inside cradle to pin Strong for the 1,2,3 win.
WINNER: Alexander at 14:57
Heydorn’s Analysis: Awesome match that delivered on all fronts. From an action standpoint it was exciting and fast paced, but everything that happened connected with their psychology as well. It was the best of both worlds. Alexander took a scary bump which was a tad uncomfortable to watch, but that’s nitpicking. It was a really good match and one that I would certainly go out of my way to watch. The spots with finishers were thought through perfectly and neither move was hindered or defined down because they didn’t end the match. To the contrary actually. The match was setup for these guys to try and avoid the finishers at all costs which paints them in a very sellable light moving forward.
-After the match, both Strong and Alexander were very emotional about the outcome with Alexander appearing shocked. Both then were slow to their feet before Strong told Alexander to “get it done” before rolling out of the ring.
-With Alexander celebrating in the ring, he was interviewed and was asked how it felt to earn a championship match at WrestleMania. With the crowd cheering and chanting “you deserve it” Alexander said that he didn’t deserve it, but he earned it. He said that the match he just had was the single most important match of his career because it allows him to go to WrestleMania. He then emphatically said that he would leave WrestleMania as the WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Heydorn’s Analysis: That’s more like it Cedric. He wasn’t over thinking the words and was saying what he was feeling. Low and behold he came off more real to the audience and they cheered. It’s not a hard formula and Alexander finally started to get that here with this mic time.
-The broadcast ended with Alexander celebrating in the ring and pointing at the WrestleMania sign.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall, this was a really good show that was well thought out and well executed on all accounts. The announcing was especially on point and did a tremendous job in setting the matches up with their proper hype. By the time it went on, the semifinal main event felt really big and the match exceeded expectations. Both Strong and Alexander fought a very stiff match that had really nice psychology intertwined within the fancy moves. This show also started to set a road map for what future 205 Live shows may look like after the tournament is finished. Seeing some tag teams develop stories and Jack Gallagher featured prominently outside of the tournament are a sign of things to come.
OVERALL GRADE – A-
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 3/5 WWE 205 Live Report: Mustafa Ali vs. Buddy Murphy, Drew Gulak vs. Mark Andrews, Tozawa & Itami tag match