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WWE 205 LIVE
APRIL 24, 2018 ON WWE NETWORK
REPORT BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Announcers: Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson
-The show began with a promo hype video for the main event which will feature a number one contender gauntlet match between Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Kalisto, TJP, and Mustafa Ali with the winner getting a shot at Cedric Alexander for the cruiserweight title at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia. In it, each competitor cut an extremely short selfie promo on why they’d win the match.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was an effective video and presented the main event in a sports like way. It highlighted the competitors and gave them the time to show a bit of character and explain why they would win the match. 205 Live has been successful with pieces like this for a few months now and its something that both main brands could use if done in the same fashion.
-After the video, the show open ran and the announce team welcomed the audience to the program. They sold the main event and discussed how the order of participants was determined for the main event gauntlet match. They also recapped Buddy Murphy not making the 205 pound weight limit which is why the number one contender gauntlet match was needed in the first place. From there, the gauntlet match began and the first participant was Mustafa Ali.
(1) MUSTAFA ALI vs. TJP
Ali hit the ring and was fully decked out in his WrestleMania entrance gear. As he did Vic Joseph did a nice job of selling just how important it was for Ali to win this match in order to receive a second shot at the title. TJP came out next and received virtually no response from the audience.
Heydorn’s Analysis: As TJP made his entrance to the ring, it was painfully obvious that much of the SmackDown Live crowd had left the arena prior to 205 Live starting. That explains TJP’s shockingly small reaction and shines a light on Ali’s noticeable response. It was small, but with that audience, any volume at all is a good sign.
The match began with both men circling each other in the ring. They then felt each other out a bit as TJP dabbed while pushing Ali against the ropes. From there, the two chain wrestled on the mat with Ali getting the initial upperhand with a head lock take down. After, he locked in a standing arm bar before TJP escaped. Out of the escape, TJP connected with a few strikes and shoulder tackle before the two exchanged a flurry of pin attempts for one or two counts on one another. Out of the pin attempts, Ali looked to have momentum in the match after hitting a standing drop kick which sent TJP to the outside of the ring. From there, TJP just stayed on the outside to slow Ali’s momentum. Eventually, Ali went to the outside to get TJP back in the ring and TJP made him pay with an eye rake.
Heydorn’s Analysis: These two have been very crisp throughout the first part of this match. There hasn’t been a significant amount of psychology in the match, but the moves and execution have been spot on.
As the match went on and TJP maintained momentum after his dirty move, Cedric Alexander was interviewed backstage. He said that Buddy Murphy blew his opportunity, but that blown opportunity opened doors for the gauntlet match competitors. He then said he was ready for the competition.
Heydorn’s Analysis: If you are going to interrupt what has been deemed an important match, it better be for a good reason. For example, a Seth Rollins promo after lasting an hour on Raw in a gauntlet match. That’s a good reason. A so-so Cedric Alexander promo? Not a good reason. It took away from the momentum of the match and wasn’t effective enough to be worth it. On a regular basis, Alexander stalls out in first gear on the microphone. He has to start taking that next step if he wants to be successful as the face of this brand.
Back in the ring, TJP was still in control of the match and had Ali locked deep into an inverted surfboard submission. Ali was able to escape, but TJP kept up his offense with a Russian leg sweep into a second submission hold. Again, Ali was able to escape and this time was more consistent on offense. He connected with a round of chops and followed with a hurricanrana and a kick to the face. From there, he connected with his rolling facebuster and covered for a two count. After the pin attempt, the two exchanged a series of moves and then a series of slaps to the face. Out of those, TJP connected with a top rope drop kick and then transitioned Ali into his knee bar submission. After writhing in pain for almost 30 seconds, Ali made it to the ropes to break the hold. After, TJP looked to apply the hold again, but Ali battled him off and connected with a huge tornado DDT. From there, Ali saw an opportunity to hit his 054 finisher, did so, and covered for the 1,2,3 victory.
WINNER: Ali at 9:50
Heydorn’s Analysis: Really solid opening match. Both guys were crisp and balanced having a good match with a match that wouldn’t tire the crowd out with three more matches to go. Mission accomplished.
(2) MUSTAFA ALI vs. DREW GULAK
Drew Gulak hit the ring to a small response from the crowd and as he did, Nigel said that Gulak was the last opponent Ali wanted to see. As Gulak walked to the ring and as Nigel spoke, Ali sold his leg injury from the knee bar submission in his last match. The match started with Gulak mocking Ali and dancing around him arrogant fashion. Ali took advantage and went for a pin attempt by surprise, but just got a two count. Out of the quick pin, Gulak body slammed Ali’s knee on the top rope which sent Ali to the outside of the ring writhing in pain. Eventually, both men made it back into the ring. From there, Ali hit a top rope splash, but soon after turned inside out by a Gulak clothesline. After, Gulak covered for a two count.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Props to the announce team with how they handled Gulak. They mirrored up their very specific commentary on him as he was just decimating Ali. They gave the audience a sense of why Gulak was a dangerous man at the exact second he was decimating Ali in the ring. That timing painted Gulak in a very favorable heel light and gave him some nice heat at the start of the match.
Out of the pin attempt, Gulak maintained his dominance and feverishly worked over Ali’s injured leg. The match then went to a picture in picture view and a commercial aired for the Greatest Royal Rumble event aired.
Back in the ring, Drew Gulak was still dominating the match via strikes and specialty submissions to further hurt Ali’s knee. Intermittently, Ali would work to fight back, but then would be immediatley shut down by Gulak’s vicious offense. Finally, Ali was able to create some significant distance from Gulak by connecting with a stiff enziguri. From there, Ali tried to attempt more offense to keep momentum, but Gulak countered it into a half crab submission to continue the assault on Ali’s leg. It took a long time, but Ali eventually forced a break of the hold by grabbing the ropes.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Ali is putting on a clinic on how to sell a leg injury in a match. He winces at the right time and sells pain whenever he puts the leg to use. Because of it, he’s garnering a ton of sympathy from the crowd and Gulak is looking like a monster heel.
After the rope break, Gulak lifted Ali to the top rope while taunting him about being a high flyer. Ali then turned the tables and locked in a leg submission Gulak while sitting on the top rope. Gulak escaped and rolled to the outside of the ring, but Ali jumped off the top rope and took Gulak out with a cross body. The audience chanted for Ali after this as he tossed Gulak back into the ring. Back in the ring, Gulak looked to get another submission locked in, but Ali blocked it. From there, Ali connected with a tornado DDT before attempting his 054. It took him too long to climb the ropes for it though and Gulak pushed him off and sent him crashing into the the steel steps. After, Gulak rolled to the outside and tossed Ali back in the ring before locking in his Gu-Lock. Ali passed out from the pain and the referee called the match in Gulak’s favor.
WINNER: Gulak via submission at 10:51
Heydorn’s Analysis: Another well executed match on both accounts. Ali sold his pain like a million bucks. His facial expressions made you feel for him and the evil Drew Gulak was right there to exploit and use those feelings. Because of Ali’s selling, Gulak came across as an awful heel picking on someone who was hurt and incapacitated. The psychology was well thought out, made both guys look really good, and was a totally different style of match from match number one. Mission accomplished once again.
(3) DREW GULAK vs. TONY NESE
Instead of cutting an off mic promo on the way to the ring, Nese ran down the ramp and immediatley starting brawling with Drew Gulak. The two exchanged punches and strikes before Nese got the upperhand with stomps and chops on Gulak in the corner. He then maintained his upperhand in the match with a back body drop and a flipping suicide dive over the top rope.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Some really nice fire from Nese to start this match. We saw more personality in this minute than we have in his entire career on 205 Live.
While on the outside, Nese hurled Gulak into a couple ring barriers before rolling back into the ring stop the referee’s count. He then went back to Gulak and connected with more chops before tossing him into the announce desk. After, Nese tossed Gulak back into the ring and screamed in his face. From there, he hit a running shoulder tackle before stomping him in the chest again. Nese then tried to hit a vertical suplex, but Gulak countered by pushing Nese through the ropes. Both men battled on the outside of the ring again before Nese tossed Gulak back through the ropes. Gulak crawled to the corner and Nese immediatley connected with a running knee strike. This left Gulak limp in the middle of the ring as Nese looked on.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This incessant beat down by the Nese who is the babyface has gone on a bit too long. I’m staring to feel bad for Gulak which is not the intent here.
After staring at Gulak and deciding not to pin him, Nese propped Gulak again in the corner and attempted a second knee strike, but Gulak moved. Gulak then locked in his Gu-Lock out of nowhere and Nese tapped out almost instantly.
WINNER: Gulak via submission at 6:25
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was a bit of a coming out party for Nese. He did a nice job of conveying his anger for his former best friend in Gulak, but was a little too heel like with his beat down. So, while I liked that he showed a new extension of his character and personality, he went a little too far with it as by the end of the match I felt a little bad for Gulak. Nese has something to build off of now though which is more than he had before the match started. Gulak needed the win here, but with Nese actively not pinning him when he had the chance in favor of inflicting more damage, his loss is protected.
-After the match, Nese was furious with himself as the crowd chanted “you tapped out” at him.
(4) DREW GULAK vs. KALISTO
Kalisto hit the ring and as soon as he did, Drew Gulak rolled to the outside to catch his breath. From there, he played cat and mouse with Kalisto in order to stall and gain more energy. Kalisto was extremely angry because of this and eventually connected with a drop kick as soon as Gulak got into the ring. The kick sent Gulak to the outside of the ring and Kalisto followed to keep the brawl going. After rolling into the ring to break the ref’s count, Kalisto attempted a suicide dive, but Drew Gulak countered and sent him crashing into the ring barrier.
Heydorn’s Analysis: Nice ring psychology to start the match. Gulak dove deeper into his villainous antics by avoiding and annoying Kalisto while at the same time Kalisto looked like a fighting babyface rearing to go. Sure, he was the fresher guy, but it worked due to Gulak coming across so well as a heel.
With Kalisto down, Tony Nese was interviewed backstage. He was asked how he would rebound from his disappointing loss and before answering he just walked out of the shot.
Heydorn’s Analysis: This was confusing as Nese not answering the interview question didn’t mesh at all with the fiery character he found and played in his match. He looked more like a jerk than anything else.
Back in the ring, Gulak had all the momentum with stiff stomps and forearms to the face. He then locked in a sleeper hold to keep Kalisto grounded. From there, Kalisto managed to escape and then hit Gulak with a flurry of offense. As Kalisto went for a springboard clothesline, Gulak countered and sent him crashing into the ring ropes. After, Gulak attempted his Gu-Lock, but Kalisto countered out of it with an SDS. He the covered Gulak for the win.
WINNER: Kalisto at 6:40
Heydorn’s Analysis: Yikes. Going with Kalisto again? I don’t agree with this call. Since Gulak dropped the comedic gimmick, he’s come across really well as a dangerous submission specialist. That gimmick is rooted in wins and needs wins to be effective. Its one thing for him to lose to a brand player like Mustafa Ali or Cedric Alexander. Kalisto though? We’ve been down that track before and it doesn’t end well. Gulak’s run shouldn’t have had to been sacrificed for a Kalisto level guy.
-After the match, Cedric Alexander’s music hit and Alexander walked to the ramp and clapped for Kalisto’s win. The show went off the air with Alexander smiling and holding his belt up in the air as Kalisto celebrated with Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The gauntlet format of this show worked well. Obviously this program can’t be built like this every week, but as a one off it was a fresh feel that was effective. All participants had their moments to shine and the matches were good, but different from one another. The outcomes all made sense until the very end. We’ve seen Kalisto be the focal point of this brand and it hasn’t worked. Gulak’s gimmick is too valuable to be sacrificed for a babyface that hasn’t cut it on top.
OVERALL GRADE – B+
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 4/17 WWE 205 Live Report: Maverick addresses Buddy Murphy, Dorado & Metalik vs. Tozawa & Itami, and more