By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
WWE 205 Live on the WWE Network
Live from Bakersfield, California at the Rabobank Arena
More new show elements this week. The intro teaser of the show focused on last week’s Cruiserweight Tournament match. This week there was an epic narrator guy narrating over it. The teaser talked about how Kalisto and Lince Dorado were “Lucha Brothers” that had to go against each other while the Roderick Strong victory was a surprise. The teaser then focused on the four men competing on this episode. The 205 Live intro theme aired…
John’s Thoughts: Why can’t Impact Wrestling do hard resets like this? In Paul Levesque run shows, when they get bad, they reboot, acknowledge how bad they are, and then deliver in their statement of absolute change. I know Impact has less margin of error, but it always seems that pride gets in their way. Sorry I’m going on an Impact tangent, but the shows got new creative teams at around the same time and Triple H is showing that he’s 2-0 on hard resets. Heck, Billy Corgan is 2-0 on hard resets too with 2016 Impact and NWA. Get with the program, Scotty D.
Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness checked in on commentary. Joseph said his contractually obligated line of calling 205 Live “The most exciting hour in television” (and for once, even though it’s not exactly “the most”, I might actually agree with that hyperbolic statement. I look forward to this show now. It’s a Christmas F’n Miracle). Joseph and McGuinness hyped up the advertised matches. Akira Tozawa made his entrance first, thankfully not doing the Vince McMahon impersonation he’s been doing the past month. Tozawa managed to start a light “ah” chant.
In the Gorilla position area, Dasha Fuentes interviewed “The High Fiving and Stage Diving” Mark Andrews about coming to California all the way from the UK for an opportunity at the Cruiserweight championship. Andrews said he was really excited. Andrews said people all around the world in places like the UK and Japan have been talking about the 205 Live Tournament. Andrews said he’s going to high five and stage dive all the way to WrestleMania (which he said in the Vince McMahon voice. Lots of random Vince impersonations all of a sudden). Mark Andrews made his entrance to the entrance theme he performed called “Fall To Pieces”…
1. Akira Tozawa vs. Mark Andrews in a first round Cruiserweight Championship Tournament match. Nigel noted that the band Andrews is a part of is Junior, a pop punk band. Andrews and Tozawa had a stalemate during the traditional chain wrestling sequence. Andrews dominated with an Indian Deathlock into a reverse ankle lock. Drake Maverick was shown watching the match at a 90-degree angle (seriously, who watches TV like that? Only in WWE!). Tozawa made it to a vertical base which forced Andrews to adjust into an octopus hold. Andrews blocked an armdrag with his core strength into an armdrag of his own.
Andrews hit Tozawa with a somersault into a dropkick. Tozawa and Andrews had a chop battle. Tozawa caught Andrews with his signature fakeout punch. Tozawa hit a running senton and then locked in a half nelson body stretch. Andrews tried to fight out but Tozawa locked in an arm stretch with an arm trap. Nigel noted that Tozawa is taking an unorthodox approach by attacking the upper body of a high flyer who uses his feet. Tozawa tried to toss Andrews outside but Andrews used the throwing momentum to hit Tozawa’s gut with a 619 (Tiger Feint Kick).
Andrews locked Tozawa in an Indian Deathlock. Andrews tried to lock in the Octopus stretch again but Tozawa hulked up with “ah” chants. McGuinness noted that it was surprising that Andrews is showing proficiency in submission wrestling. Tozawa hit a Shining Wizard and went for his finisher senton but Andrews rolled outside. Tozawa didn’t relent as he hit Andrews with one of his nice-looking Cannonball Suicide Dives.
John’s Thoughts: Even though El Hijo Del Fantasma has what many would consider as the best suicide dive in professional wrestling, Tozawa’s may be my second favorite Tope Suicida to watch. It’s different too. Where Fantasma looks like a flying blur due to his speed. Tozawa looks like he’s a human brick being thrown in the air.
Tozawa tried to set up Andrews for his signature senton. Andrews recovered. Andrews hit a meteora, Northern Lights, and corkscrew standing moonsault on Tozawa for the nearfall. Tozawa recovered and hit a Saito Suplex on Andrews. Tozawa hit Andrews with some “ah” forearms. Andrews hit a kick combo on Tozawa. Tozawa caught Andrews with a boot. Andrews reversed a Tozawa suplex nicely into a Stun-dog Millionaire. Andrews got Tozawa to the top rope. Tozawa initially blocked a Frankensteiner with his core strength. Andrews used the power bomb’s momentum to hit a frankensteiner. Tozawa dodged Andrews’s signature Shooting Star. Tozawa went for La Magistral Cradle but Andrews shifted the momentum into a pinfall victory.
Mark Andrews defeated Akira Tozawa via pinfall in 12:27 to advance in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament.
Tozawa sold the shock of the rollup. Joseph and McGuinness agreed that this was an upset win for Mark Andrews. Andrews stood on the turnbuckle and pointed at the WrestleMania sign.
John’s Thoughts: What a really fun match. Remember when this show was the center of mental pain and despair for me? For that matter, remember when Mark Andrews used to annoy the hell out of me prior to 2017? This was just pure fun and it told a unique story. Andrews is something special. His primary “style” is Lucha Libre, but we got to see some of his American, Strong Style, and Submission all in this match. Tozawa is 205 Live’s complete package and he needs a bit of rebuilding after being kept out of the spotlight after his feud with Neville many months ago. Again, I’m freakin’ shocked that 205 Live, the show considered the worst form of human torture both by me and (via a YouTube video) Hangman Page, is actually g-damn fun…
Cut to backstage where Dasha Fuentes was interviewing Jack Gallagher about his match next week. Before Gallagher could get a statement out, Drake Maverick showed up and complemented Gallagher on a nice “John Philips. London” suit. Maverick then made a hilarious shade throwing aside by saying “I have two myself” (dammit Spud! I almost had a spit take with my tea). Maverick yelled at Gallagher that wearing a suit was not appropriate attire to wear in the ring. Maverick said this is a “New 205 Live” and he expects Gallagher to return next week in appropriate “wrestling!” attire. Maverick said Gallagher isn’t just one of the best on 205 Live, but one of the best in WWE. Maverick said “sort yourself out, mate”. Maverick flashed Dasha a smile and walked off. Gallagher looked a bit peeved and walked away too…
John’s Thoughts: Last week Maverick cuts the same angry rant that I have against Tony Nese’s wasted potential and now he cuts the Jason Powell anti-Low-Ki-wrestling-in-a-suit promo on Gallagher. Personally, I don’t mind Low Ki or Gallagher in a suit. Despite my likes, I do like that Maverick is being the vessel of change to display creative changes on screen. I’m also happy that the former Spud is shining bright on the WWE main roster stage. Little nuances like throwing shade at Gallagher’s inferior suit collection to his, the Spud is a stud on the microphone and we haven’t even got to his great selling ability in the ring. He offers everything Enzo had but 10 times better, as I’ve been saying for months. With more good mic performances, it might be hard for Vince to keep him on the 205 show.
Nigel McGuinness said that Andrews’ win over Tozawa might be the biggest of his career and might lead to his biggest win at Mania. Vic Joseph hyped up next week’s tournament match. It is going to be Ariya Daivari vs. (oh mah goodness, he’s alive) Buddy F’n Murphy. A Buddy Murphy vignette actually aired. Murphy got a haircut. He now looks like Curt Hawkins. Murphy talked about how he was the King when he was the NXT Tag Team Champion. Murphy said it’s now time to create who he is going to be. Murphy talked about how he’s not regularly 205. They showed a montage of him in the gym losing weight. They cut to Drake Maverick’s “official” 205 Live weigh-in of Buddy Murphy. Murphy walked on the scale and made it at 204.4 Pounds.
John’s Thoughts: I got a bit of a chuckle with the scale because I believe Austin Aries mentioned in an interview recently how dumb he thought “Weigh-ins” are in pro wrestling. Moving along, I’m rooting big time for Buddy Murphy, who was a decent tag team wrestler but when Alexa Bliss became Blake and Murphy’s valet, she stole the show and destroyed that tag team with her strong personality. I’m rooting for him because NXT crowds can be so cruel. I was in attendance in San Jose that one taping I keep referencing. I look at other NXT reports. NXT crowds totally shiz on him and Murphy and don’t even give them a chance. Murphy did show me signs of being a strong heel, but not much in the ring. Here’s hoping the main roster call-up can equal a positive reset for him.
Drew Gulak was shown shadow boxing and training in the hallways. Tony Nese was doing oblique workouts in the locker room heading into the commercial… [C]
Drew Gulak was out first with a new look. He wore blue tights. He also grew out his beard after being clean shaven last week and the past year. Tony Nese made a slightly shorter version of that long ass entrance I hate so much where he counts his abs and makes muscle puns with a promo that you can’t even hear…
2. Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese in a first round Cruiserweight Championship Tournament match. Gulak wanted to start the match with a code of honor handshake but Nese kicked Gulak’s had out of the way. Nese shoved Gulak to his knee and showed off his bicep flex. Gulak came back with a high guard into a sleeper Gulak maintained control like an alligator. Nese fought out and went for a half crab. Gulak converted to a kneebar and pin attempts. Nese ate a few feet to his face during the hold.
Nese flipped away from the corner and did a cool matrix kip up to dodged Gulak which fired up the quiet crowd a bit. Nese locked in an innovative leg scissors headlock and knee hold. Nese sent Gulak outside. Gulak dodged a plancha. Nese kept up his momentum with a cartwheel and gave Gulak a forearm. Gulak caught Nese by the knee and gave him a belly to back suplex. Nese made it back to the ring to beat the ten count. Gulak worked on Nese’s left leg and left arm. Nese gained a bit of breathing room with an axe handle forearm. Nese hit a kick combination on Gulak with a spinning wheel finish. Nese hit a running elbow for a nearfall.
Nese slid into a pumphandle but Gulak reversed. Nese blocked a leapfrog with a shove. Gulak was staggered with a forearm. Drew Gulak hit Nese with a dropkick which caused Vic Joseph to flip out for some reason. Joseph said he was shocked at Gulak left his feet. Nese intimidated Gulak with some boots. Gulak responded by pulling down Nese’s beard and giving him some Japanese strong style palm strikes to Nese’s head. Gulak locked Nese in a Guillotine and Body Scissors. Gulak used the body scissors control to prevent Nese from getting a rope break. Nese had to use a suplex hold to put Gulak on the apron so he can hit him with a low sweep kick. Nese then woke up the crowd with a corkscrew Tope Con Hilo on Gulak.
Nese executed a 450 but went splat on his face due to Gulak rolling away. Gulak went for a Dragon Sleeper but Nese converted a pump handle into Vampiro’s Nail in the Coffin. Vic Joseph noted that Tony Nese has the moveset of a video game character with all of his variety. Nese hit Gulak with a reverse buckle bomb. Nese then hit Gulak with a deadlift regular buckle bomb to the bottom buckle. Gulak rolled away from the “Running Nese”. Nese gave Gulak a strong style slap in retaliation for earlier. Gulak had a look of focus (nice call by Vic Joseph) leading to a shoulder tackle sending Nese off the apron and into the announce desk. Gulak asked Nese “where are you going” and said “we finish what we started”.
Gulak showed an aggressive side to himself with repeat tosses of Nese into the announce desk. The referee warned Gulak to stop and enter the ring. Joseph pointed out that Gulak could get himself disqualified. Gulak took Nese in the ring and turned Nese inside out with a stiff clothesline. Gulak then gave Nese a double power bomb. Nese let out a primal (and slightly nerdy due to it being Drew Gulak) yell. McGuinness noted that Gulak was being sadistic. Gulak locked in the Dragon Sleeper with the body scissors on the mat. The referee quickly stopped the match after seeing Nese passed the hell out.
Drew Gulak defeated Tony Nese via ref stoppage in 16:09 to advance in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament.
Nigel McGuinness pointed out in the monitor that Tony’s free arm was kinda just dangling there lifeless which prompted the referee to call the bell. Nigel also noted that the lock was called “The Gu-Lock”. Gulak was still a bit tense but then calmed down. Joseph and McGuinness noted that Drake Maverick’s words from last week influenced Gulak. During the replay, Joseph noted that Gulak could have gone for the pin several times but instead went for a sleeper. Gulak rolled to ringside and held up the title. Vic Joseph advertised Mustafa Ali vs. Jack Gallagher as well as Buddy Murphy vs. Ariya Daivari for next week…
John’s Thoughts: Color me impressed. It wasn’t quite the performance that could rehab Nese and Gulak from their loser ways, but they put in one hell of an effort with Gulak gaining the most out of the match from a credibility end. Nese was solid too. I wasn’t sure who was heel or babyface though. Nese acted heel in the first five seconds but was doing all of the high-flying moves to wake up the crowd. I was never a fan of boring old Drew Gulak, but he improved here showing the mean streak that he never had in my experience watching him prior to WWE. It also helps that via the haircut and coloring as he doesn’t remind me of comedian Tom Green and I’m not a Tom Green fan. It was smart to get this match out of the way, especially with Nese being the most damaged of all of the 205 Live roster. Nese was great here, but I hope he changed up the look and maybe some new entrance music to reset like the rest of the show. Gulak didn’t need the reset because he was one of 205 Live’s success stories, but the serious turn helps.
Last week’s show could be considered a bigger show due to the magnitude of the matches. This week wasn’t as hot but it had two surprisingly good matches. My nitpick from last week’s show also got directly addressed here with the match finishes. The nitpick I pointed out with CWC type matches was that they all had to be high workrate, with kicking out of finishers leading to predictable finishes. This week we got two unorthodox and more “realistic” finishes. The quick ref stoppage was a refreshing MMA call. Speaking of calls, the commentators continue to be very good. Nigel has been phoned in on the show for a while but Vic Joseph has gotten very good in the new setting. I was never impressed by his work in House of Hardcore and thought his work on 205 Live was mediocre. That 205 Live sucked so Nigel could phone it in and Joseph could too, it’s fine. I’ll be back later today with my 205 Live audio review for the Dot Net Members.