By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
The WWE 205 Live television series was a bust. The cruiserweight exclusive show was disappointing out of the gate and things somehow just kept getting worse. The creative forces behind the show treated it like an afterthought most weeks and it was a huge letdown in terms of serving as the follow up to the highly entertaining WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
The division seemed to be at a crossroads when then WWE Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore was released from his WWE contract. The show and the entire division were in such a bad place that it would not have been unrealistic to think that WWE might simply pull the plug and get out of the cruiserweight business.
Instead, WWE opted to shake things up creatively. Paul “Triple H” Levesque and his crew took over the booking of the Tuesday night show. They had their work cut out for them in that it felt like every character on the show was left damaged to some extent by the previous creative approach.
Their first move was introducing Drake Maverick as the first 205 Live general manager. You’d be hard pressed to find a better talker than the man who was previously known as Rockstar Spud. Maverick announced a 16-man tournament to crown the new WWE Cruiserweight Champion with the finals taking place on the big stage at WrestleMania.
The championship tournament concept was logical and predictable. Creative clearly realized that a tournament involving the same cast of damaged characters was only going to get them so far. Thus, they introduced Roderick Strong to 205 Live, used UK standouts Tyler Bate and Mark Andrews, and will have NXT veteran Buddy Murphy in a tournament match this week.
Meanwhile, improvements are being made to the damaged cast of regulars. Jack Gallagher was one of the few bright spots in the early days of 205 Live. Eventually, even he fell victim to the poor booking. It may seem like a small thing, but Maverick ordering Gallagher to ditch the suit he’d been wearing during his recent matches in favor of reverting to standard ring gear is a welcome change.
Maverick also scolded the duo of Drew Gulak and Tony Nese in a backstage segment. Gulak, Nese, and Ariya Daivari were cemented early on as glorified enhancement wrestlers. Think back to how many times you saw them lose singles matches or one of seemingly countless and meaningless six-man tag matches. Gulak broke out a bit with some quirky comedy in recent months, but that’s just not what the damaged division needs right now. The Maverick character lit a fire under both characters and booked them against one another in a tournament match. And while it’s going to take time for these characters to recover, the mere fact that I didn’t roll my eyes and blow off their match should be considered a small victory.
One can only hope that the new creative forces recognize the need for strong heel depth. The previous regime had a strong heel champion in Neville and then whatever the hell Amore was, but there were never any truly meaningful heels beneath them. Thus, it was impossible for the babyfaces to score meaningful wins or gain any sort of momentum since they were beating wrestlers who lost to everyone else.
There is still plenty of work left to be done with the cruiserweight division. However, the first three weeks of the tournament have provided a sense of hope that has not existed since the natural optimism that was present during the first weeks of 205 Live. Wrongs are being righted and it feels like the division may finally have a chance to live up to its potential.
If you are one of the many fans who gave up after seeing what 205 Live became under Vince McMahon’s vision, it’s time to give the show a fresh look. Ideally, you’re one of the lucky folks who is off for President’s Day in the United States. Take a few hours of your holiday by starting with the introduction of the Maverick character at the top of the show on January 31, then skip ahead to the following week and watch the next three weeks of television that included the six tournament matches. You won’t see perfection, but you will see some good wrestling, course correction, and a foundation being laid for what could grow into something special down the road.
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The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Will Pruett on the Roman Reigns whodunnit angle, WWE heading into SummerSlam, AEW's October 2 premiere on TNT, the New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax Tournament through Day 11, and more (77:45)...