3/20 WWE 205 Live Report: Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak in the cruiserweight championship tournament semifinals

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


WWE 205 LIVE
MARCH 20, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
DALLAS, TX
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 semifinal match between Roderick Strong and Cedric Alexander. In addition, a promo video aired for the second semifinal match tonight between Drew Gulak and Mustafa Ali.

-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 second semifinal tournament match that would be taking place on tonight’s show. They then introduced the first match of the night.

(1) LINCE DORADO vs. HIDEO ITAMI

Dorado hit the ring first to a chorus of lucha chants and as he walked down the ramp, Joseph recapped the events of last week between Dorado and Itami. Itami made his way down next with his partner Akira Tozawa.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Itami’s reaction keeps getting weaker and weaker as the weeks go on. That’s disappointing given how much hype he had on him coming into the WWE. He doesn’t do himself any favors though. He has the same facial expressions and the same reaction to everything. There is nothing in his presentation that the crowd can connect with. That’s on him. 

The match began with both wrestlers tying up in the middle of the ring and as they did Nigel McGuinness walked through what should be the strategy for each guy. He said that both of them need to stick to what they do best. Dorado got the upper hand quickly out of the gate, but Itami stole it right back with a few shoulder tackles. One sent Itami out of the ring and Dorado teased a dive through the ropes, but thought better of it and stayed in the ring. Itami took his time to get back in the ring while Dorado did the lucha chant again. After Itami got back in the ring, Dorado kept his control and took Itami down with a headlock. After Itami escaped the headlock, Dorado connected with a hurricanrana, a drop kick that sent Itami to the outside, and then a dive over the top rope onto Itami. From there, Dorado celebrated and tossed Itami back into the ring for pin attempt and a two count.

Heydorn’s Analysis: I don’t want to keep digging at Itami, but he’s more out of it than usual tonight. He looks completely disinterested in what he’s apart of. 

Out of the pin, Itami was able to secure the momentum with a knee to the abdomen which he followed up with a boot to the face that sent Dorado out of the ring. Itami proceeded to toss Dorado back in and then disrespectfully slapped him in the face. This set Dorado off and he connected with palm strikes, slaps of his own, and a jumping splash off the second rope. He then went for a second bouncing splash, but Itami countered with a strong lariat. Itami went on the attack after this, but was stopped by a superkick from Dorado. Itami rolled to the outside and was met by Kalisto and Gran Metalik. Itami ended up slamming one of them into the ring apron and the ref called for the bell.

-After the match, both sides argued once again, but the physical confrontation never escalated due to Kalisto and Tozawa breaking everything up.

WINNER: No contest due to disqualification at 6:15

Heydorn’s Analysis: So so match, but I like that they are continuing to plant seeds for other feuds and cruiserweight programs for the show once the tournament concludes in a few weeks. That said, Itami needs to figure himself out because he looks awful out there. 

-A hype video for Drew Gulak aired ahead of his semifinal tournament match later in the night.

-A commercial aired for WWE 24: Empowered

-After the commercial, Cedric Alexander sat down for a recorded promo. He said that last week was the best moment of his career. He said it hasn’t sunk in yet that he’ll be competing at WrestleMania. Alexander then said that it all will mean nothing if he doesn’t win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

(2) TJP vs. KENNETH JOHNSON

Johnson was already in the ring as TJP made his way out. As TJP entered, a selfie promo aired from him and he said that he doesn’t care who wins the title at WrestleMania. He said all that matters is who will be challenging for the belt after WrestleMania and that it would be him.

The match began and out of the gate, TJP took Johnson down with ease and then locked in a headlock. He then connected with a shoulder tackle before hitting a spinning elbow to Johnson’s jaw. From there, TJP hit a couple European uppercuts followed by a few suplexes. Johnson got a brief set of offense in with a bowling ball attack in the middle of the ring which he followed up with a cover and two count. After the pin, TJP took over again and worked over Johnson’s knee. TJP then hit a Detonation Kick before locking in the knee bar which Johnson immediatley tapped out to.

-After the match, TJP refused to release the hold and Nigel surmised that he may have injured the ligaments in Johnson’s knee. Nigel also surmised that TJP may be in line for a title shot after his win.

WINNER: TJP via submission at 2:38

Heydorn’s Analysis: A standard squash match, but an effective one. This kept TJP in the bright lights and positions him as a viable threat to the title post-mania. 

-A hype video aired for Mustafa Ali ahead of his semifinal tournament match later in the night.

-After the hype video, Drew Gulak and Mustafa Ali were shown warming up backstage.

-A commercial aired for WrestleMania 34 which is just 19 days away.

-Drake Maverick was interviewed backstage and was asked about his reaction to the finish of the Lince Dorado vs. Hideo Itami match from earlier in the night. Maverick said that he was fuming. He said that it was a marquee match for the show and that the guys ruined it. He said he understood that it was WrestleMania season, but that everyone needed to keep a cool head. From there, he said he wanted to reward Kalisto and Tozawa who calmed everything down. Maverick went on to say that after WrestleMania, the new cruiserweight champion would need challengers and proceeded to announce a fatal four-way match for next week on the show that pits Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa vs. TJP vs. Buddy Murphy. He then told Dasha “thanks” and walked away.

Heydorn’s Analysis: “The new cruiserweight champion will need contenders.” I about fell out of my chair as I heard that one. What a novel concept. Planning ahead so the champion has good competition to face? You don’t say. This further defines the new direction that 205 Live has taken. Everything will revolve around the championship and they can get fancy with other stories off of that. In addition to having that philosophy, its smart to have Maverick around to dictate it. He continually is positioned as the fresh face of the show and it works very well. 

(3) DREW GULAK vs. MUSTAFA ALI

Gulak made his way to the ring first and was incredibly serious in doing so. He didn’t have his sign either. The crowd reacted well to him, but weren’t exactly loud in their support. Ali came out next to a nice 205 Live pop from the crowd. He high-fived the audience on his way down the ramp and displayed a nice intensity as he stared at Gulak. The match began with a tie-up and a Gulak takedown as Cedric Alexander looked on from backstage. Ali then took Gulak down to the mat and then was hit with a body slam by Gulak. Ali got to his feet and stumbled to the corner before being stiffly slapped in the face. Gulak then hit some big power moves, but Ali stole the momentum back by hitting a hurricanrana and a dropkick. The crowd chanted “Ali” as this went on.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Ali deserves those chants. He’s done the most to set himself apart from others in the division and the audience clearly took notice. A month ago he wasn’t getting this reaction. 

After the dropkick, Ali pushed Gulak into the corner, but he responded with a back elbow and a lariat to the back of Ali’s head. This gave Gulak the upperhand and he followed it up with a reverse electric chair drop and a two count pin attempt. After the pin, Gulak pummeled Ali with punches. Gulak pulled Ali up for more, but Ali countered with slaps to the face instead. This led to Ali tackling Gulak and further striking him the face. The crowd loved this and chanted Ali once again. From there, Ali connected with his rolling facebuster and followed it up with a two count pin attempt.

Heydorn’s Analysis: I really like the psychology that is being built in the match surrounding Ali going to that darker and more dangerous place to win the match against a dangerous Drew Gulak. He said he would and he’s showing it. Smart booking. 

After the pin, Ali seemingly went to a darker place and started to ignore the ref as he kept up the strikes. He went for more strikes, but Gulak countered and attempted to lock in the dragon sleeper. Ali escaped but was crushed with a second lariat for his troubles. Gulak went for a pin, but at the count of one Ali locked in the Coji Clutch. Eventually, Gulak escaped and rolled to the outside of the ring. This prompted Ali to climb the top rope. From there, Ali took Gulak out with a flip dive. He then rolled Gulak back into the ring and went for his 054. Gulak stood up and pushed Ali off the top rope to the outside mat instead. The ref started his count out as Ali was stunned at ringside. At 9, Ali made it back into the ring, but Gulak kicked him back out. They then brawled at ringside. Ali got the momentum after he tossed Gulak over the announce table. He followed with a flurry of strikes before he crawled back into the ring. Then, with bad intentions in his eyes, Ali rolled outside the ring and tried to put Gulak through the announce table. Instead, Gulak back body dropped him off it and down to the mat around ringside.

Heydorn’s Analysis: Wow. Quite the bump there by Ali. Unlike other high risk bumps in matches, this one made a lot of sense. Ali had lost his way and was out of his mind a bit as he attempted a devastating move through the announce table. That’s not him and he paid the price for being outside of himself. All match they told the story of Ali going to this place and it bit him. They needed a big spot to showcase that. 

After that major move, Gulak rolled into the ring to break the count and then viciously threw Ali into the ring post. He then tossed Ali into the timekeeper area before crawling back into the ring and telling the ref to start the count. At the stroke of 10, Ali made it back in and broke the count. The crowd chanted for Ali as he did. After, Gulak locked in the dragon sleeper. Ali broke the hold with the rope break and then hit a spinning DDT. From there, he climbed the top rope and hit the 054 for the 1,2,3 win.

WINNER: Ali at 15:13

Heydorn’s Analysis: Really good match. It was incredibly hard-hitting from an action standpoint but told a great story as well. Job well done on all accounts. 

-After the match Mustafa Ali was interviewed and said that he wasn’t going to WrestleMania but that “we” were going to WrestleMania. He said it doesn’t matter what your name is or what the color of your skin is. He said that all that matters is what is in your heart.

-The show went off the air with Ali celebrating in the ring and the Alexander vs. Ali WrestleMania graphic prominently displayed as the broadcast faded to black.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was 100 percent a one match show and that’s ok because that one match delivered. Mustafa Ali has been the star of this tournament and he showed it again in his semifinal match against Gulak. Ali’s character has depth. In the match tonight, you could feel Ali taking it to the next level. You could feel him making good on his promise to go to a dangerous place to make sure he wins. Right now, Ali is connecting. Plain and simple. Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali at WrestleMania for the title is the right way to go. I’d have to assume that putting the belt on Alexander for a post-mania run was the original plan. With the strides that Ali has made and the reaction that comes because of it, it could be that those plans have now changed.

OVERALL GRADE – B+


NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 3/13 WWE 205 Live Report: Cedric Alexander vs. Roderick Strong in the cruiserweight championship tournament semifinals

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