By Will Pruett
Last week, I talked about one of WWE’s great creative victories of the last decade: their tournaments run exclusively for WWE Network. This week, it is time to talk about one of the biggest creative failures I’ve experienced as a wrestling fan: 205 Live.
205 Live is horrid. It might be the worst wrestling show I’ve seen since the time I tried to watch WCW Worldwide in 1999. To make a show as bad as 205 Live, one actually has to try to be awful. It’s not enough to just say this show is bad. This show is exceptionally boring, bad at telling stories, and depressing.
To illustrate how much of a clusterf— 205 Live is, let me tell you about the world-class talent roster it has. Akira Tozawa, Austin Aries, Brian Kendrick, Rich Swann, Jack Gallagher, Neville, Gran Metalik, Mustafa Ali, Cedrick Alexander, TJ Perkins, and Noam Dar. If this were an indie lineup a promoter put together 12 months ago, I’d be at that show. It’s insane how great the wrestlers on 205 Live are.
We are talking about some of the best wrestlers in the industry today who are supposed to be wrestling a high-impact style. How the f— is this show failing? Take these wrestlers and put them literally anywhere else in all of wrestling and they would be insanely successful. The failure of the Cruiserweight Division cannot be blamed on talent, since the talent is the strongest WWE could possibly have.
While I find the overly purple look of 205 Live to be an unnecessary waste of tape on a weekly basis, I also can’t blame the look of the show. Who would stop watching a show because of a graphics package and rope color? Yellow ropes are hideous, but I still watch NXT. Even the red and blue color schemes of Raw and Smackdown are tedious, but still watchable. There’s nothing wrong with purple.
The first flaw in 205 Live has to do with atmosphere. The show is recorded after Smackdown every week, which makes absolutely no sense. Smackdown usually ends with a crescendo, propelling fans out of the arena to the merch area and their transport methods home. Sitting through another wrestling show, especially a show with nothing at stake, after Smackdown is exhausting. There’s no reason 205 Live couldn’t be pre-taped like NXT. Heck, go to Full Sail every two weeks and tape two 205 Not-So-Lives and two NXTs.
I’m not one to enjoy the Full Sail University crowds, but they are at least paying attention for 75% of a wrestling show. They would know the wrestlers appearing in front of them. They would probably even have distinct feelings to express about said wrestlers.
The bigger (honestly, the biggest) issue with 205 Live isn’t the atmosphere though. The biggest issue is the lack of stakes on the show. What exactly have Noam Dar and Rich Swann been fighting for? What is Mustafa Ali attempting to win in random matches? What’s Drew Gulak’s ultimate goal? There is one championship on 205 Live and only one wrestler and story can be built around it.
When the same two wrestlers have been feuding over the Cruiserweight Championship for three months, what happens to the rest of the show? 205 Live is one holding pattern after another until a championship feud ends. This is a major issue.
I don’t condone putting another championship in the mix on 205 Live. WWE has a bevy of belts right now.
What if WWE rolled out a ranking system for the Cruiserweights? I’m not saying they should do this through the entire roster, but just the 205 Live competitors. What if once a month, there were rankings (say numbers one through ten) revealed at the top of 205 Live? The top five wrestlers could go into a five-way elimination match for a title shot.
This gives everyone on the card something to fight for. If a wrestler is unranked, they can earn their way into the rankings with a win over a ranked star. If the number ten wrestler beats the number two wrestler, this will be reflected in a month. This gives greater internal logic to 205 Live.
WWE has already shown an ability to take Cruiserweight wrestling seriously with the Cruiserweight Classic. Why not bring this seriousness to a weekly format. Try giving the show greater internal logic. Make every match and moment on the show matter. Give fans a reason to watch every moment of 205 Live.
WWE has to do something to fix this broken hour of WWE Network programming. The insanely great wrestling talent on 205 Live deserves better than they’re getting right now. On Sunday night, fans sat on their hands during a Neville vs. Austin Aries match that got almost 20 minutes on pay-per-view. This is absurd to think about and it needs to be rectified as soon as possible.
This week’s essential viewing:
For the purposes of this column, this week will be presented as Thursday-Wednesday.
Jinny vs. Toni Storm vs. Laura di Matteo from PROGRESS Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16 Day 2 (May 28, 2017) – PROGRESS Wrestling’s first Women’s Championship match delivered in a major way. This was the first PROGRESS show headlined by a women’s match and they earned the slot. This match goes everywhere and features three delightful and different performances from three great wrestlers. Storm, Jinny, and di Matteo should be commended for their performance and you should go out of your way to see this match.
Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA in the NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 24 (June 2, 2017) – Will Ospreay is amazing to watch in the ring and constantly getting better. KUSHIDA has been great for years and is the centerpiece babyface of NJPW’s Juniors division. Both men delivered great performances in this main event. More than this, the story told to put KUSHIDA back into title contention against Hiromu Takahashi was fantastic. This was one of the best matches this year and part of a great story. Where could you go wrong?
Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt from WWE Extreme Rules (June 4, 2017) – Would this match have been better as a Scramble Match? Absolutely. This isn’t even a debatable point. Was this a really fun match? Yep. The last ten minutes of this five way were some of the most unpredictable and exciting wrestling I’ve seen all year. Seth Rollins seemed to return to high flying form. Finn Balor was able to look great in defeat. Roman Reigns was kept away from the title, as he likely will be until WrestleMania. Samoa Joe’s win was unpredictable, yet made perfect sense.
Samoa Joe Chokes Out Paul Heyman on Raw (June 5, 2017) – I’m not particularly amused by Paul Heyman’s promos these days. I’m not particularly compelled by Samoa Joe’s promos either. When the mics were down and Joe got in Heyman’s face and calmly explained what he was about to do? I was in. All in. Completely in. This was everything I want Samoa Joe to be.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
Mojo Rawley – You’re probably looking at me like I’m crazy right now, but I have a soft spot in my soul for Mojo Rawley. He brings a fun earnestness to his promos (like backstage with Shane McMahon this week). He literally makes me smile while he’s in the ring. Mojo is a weird pure shot of joy for me. He doesn’t just get hyped, he stays hyped and I like that about him.
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
Gal Gadot is a f—ing badass. This is an amazing superhero movie made more amazing by the portrayal of the protagonist. It’s not just the first superhero movie of the new era with a female protagonist, it’s one of the best ever. Given that Marvel has produced 15 films at this point without a female protagonist among them, this movie stands out even more. GO WATCH WONDER WOMAN!!!!!
Got something to say/react to in today’s piece? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @wilpruett. Just let me know whether you’d like your name attached to your statement or not. Alternately, there’s a comment section just below this article, so comment away!
Brittany wrote in sharing some GLOW excitement:
Like you, I’m also pretty excited for GLOW when it hits Netflix. While my knowledge of that promotion is pretty slim, I’m interested to see just how the show does, especially since Awesome Kong/Kharma is in the show.
I had completely forgotten about the former Awesome Kong being involved in this show and now I’m even more excited. Hopefully acting becomes a solid second act for Kong, who was spectacular in her prime.
Arky challenged me with the following:
Wrestling isn’t a short-run prestige drama. It’s a soap.
I’m sure the quality of the action would be higher if they only had to produce 10 tightly scripted shows a year and could shoot and re-shoot to ensure it was all as good as it could possibly be. So what? I reckon all wrestling fans are a lot happier with year-round live shows with the highs and lows that result from that than they would be 10 episodes a year.
This is an interesting point. My piece last week seemed to endorse wrestling in short bursts only and I don’t believe that’s necessary. I also don’t believe wrestling needs to have poor quality just because it’s weekly. WWE employs an army of writers, most of whom are pretty talented. The doldrums WWE regularly exists in aren’t necessary. You don’t have to be a short-run show to avoid them. You need to be a better show.
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
Slow motion Shane McMahon is peak Shane McMahon…
This week’s wrestling reading:
From time to time, I want to highlight some of the best wrestling reading I’ve found over the past week.
We’re Done Here:
So many wrestles happened in the last week and there was so much to see, read, and experience. It’s been pretty great. This hasn’t been the easiest week for me personally, but watching wrestling has been a joy for most of the week. This reminds me of the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore…
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at email@example.com.