205 Live has been an experiment born out of the excitement of last year’s Cruiserweight Classic. As well as the constant need for new content to be added to the WWE Network. However, since its launch back in November of 2016, 205 Live can’t exactly be considered a resounding success. It’s not a highly watched product, and the live audience is often dead during the fast-paced action (likely due to the show airing immediately after two hours of SmackDown Live).However, despite a largely apathetic (or exhausted) live audience and meaningless Cruiserweight segments on Monday Night Raw every week, 205 Live is a wrestling show worth watching. Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons why…
Obvious: Ring Work
In both WWE and its original incarnation in WCW, the Cruiserweight division has always been built on athleticism, technical skill, and awe-inspiring action. In this era of incredible ring work all over WWE’s roster, the Cruiserweights’ wrestling style blends in more today than it would have 10 years ago. However, 205 Live should still be praised for the wrestling style it presents. Which is more akin to what can be seen on today’s independent scene. After all, indie darlings like Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, and Mustafa Ali have all found great success in the division. Conversely, Cedric Alexander is poised to become a challenger for the Cruiserweight Championship sooner rather than later. Giving talent of this caliber a national platform is not only good for WWE and the Network. But it also provides a destination for aspiring Cruiserweights to show off their skills.
Obvious: Neville is King
Since returning to WWE programming at Road Block: End of the Line and viciously attacking Swann and TJP, Neville has truly lived up to his moniker of “King of the Cruiserweights” by taking complete control of the division. Not only has he consistently put on incredible matches – nearly stealing the show at every pay-per-view/WWE Network event in 2017 – but he has also elevated his work on the microphone to levels no one thought possible. He’s performing at the highest level of his career. The “Neville Level,” if you will. Furthermore, you can catch his brilliance every Tuesday on 205 Live.
Not So Obvious: Nuanced Storytelling
When it comes to WWE’s main roster programming, wrestling fans often complain about a lack of attention to detail with regards to storytelling (i.e. a wrestler’s motivation). That’s not a problem with 205 Live’s dedicated and well-paced storylines. As is the case with NXT, 205 Live can take it’s time with stories. Because there is only one championship to fight for, WWE’s creative team is forced to come up with actual reasons certain characters would be in conflict with each other. Look no further than last night’s episode for proof of this…
Drew Gulak started a political campaign, the “No Fly Zone” – against the dangerous, high-risk wrestling style that is often associated with the Cruiserweight division and his latest foe – Mustafa Ali. (I’m sure Randy Orton gives his approval.) The previously bland Gulak now has a character and story to sink his teeth into; a story that gained some depth on Tuesday night. As Gulak and Ali’s match was coming to an end, Ali went for a crossbody block off the top rope that Gulak reversed into a pin fall that won him the match. With this finish, Gulak proved that a flashy, high-risk maneuver off the top rope isn’t necessarily an indicator of skill. This story can continue now that Gulak’s entire mission statement is justified.
Neville & Austin Aries
In addition to that story, Neville’s ongoing feud with Austin Aries (the tent pole holding up the division) is rife with nuanced storytelling. Dating back to WrestleMania, Neville won the match after gouging Aries’ left eye socket. The same orbital bone that was broken last year. The injury wasn’t oversold when he sat at the commentary table before officially joining the division. Suggesting that it wasn’t going to be a major part of his wrestling return. However, the story demonstrates that Neville was paying attention to Aries wearing sunglasses while commentating to hide his swollen and still healing eye. Fast-forward to last night, and Neville (with TJ Perkins) attacked Austin’s left knee for the umpteenth time. Both in an attempt to weaken Aries before his next bout with Neville. As well as an attempt to make Aries “bend the knee” and acknowledge Neville as the true king of the division.
Not So Obvious: Not Beholden to PPV Format
Finally, to piggyback off of nuanced storytelling. 205 Live finds strength in the fact that non-championship feuds don’t have to wait for a pay-per-view/Network event to end. A feud’s big blow-off can happen on a random episode, helping a feud’s unpredictability. Take the Akira Tozawa/Brian Kendrick “Street Fight” as an example. Kendrick and Tozawa have been at odds for months now. However, they didn’t have to wait for a big event to have the brutal match that (seemingly) ends the feud. Instead, 205 Live made it a main event and the two delivered a great match that people may have missed because it wasn’t on the Extreme Rules card.
Now, 205 Live is not a perfect show. No wrestling show is. Nevertheless, it deserves more attention from the audience than it gets. The ring work speaks for itself. Neville’s brilliance is sure to elevate him above and beyond the Cruiserweight division, but the show’s attention to detail is something that isn’t necessarily prevalent on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live on a week-to-week basis. http://bit.ly/2rM8T5I