By John Moore, Prowrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
WWE 205 Live on the WWE Network
Aired Live in Louisville, Kentucky at the KFC Yum! Center
The teaser of the show was led by 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick. Maverick set up the theme for this episode which was the gauntlet match which will set up the challenger for Cedric Alexander at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Maverick set up the wrestlers of the gauntlet which included Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Kalisto, TJP, and Mustafa Ali. Each of the wrestlers cut their own promos hyping up their match. The 205 Live intro theme aired…
John’s Thoughts: One of the better cold opens that we’ve seen on this show. All of the promos were good and separated each wrestler into different personalities. TJP’s was good but didn’t stand out. I liked how Tony Nese focused more on his superior conditioning rather than be a meathead. I liked that Kalisto looks like he’s having fun these days. Mustafa Ali shines in his own self-produced promos. Drew Gulak is a perpetuating “most improved player” as every time he gets a chance to showcase something he takes full advantage of it.
Vic Joseph, Nigel McGuinness, and Percy Watson checked in on commentary (YAY! Nigel’s back!). Joseph congratulated Nigel for being a new father. Nigel dropped the knowledge on how the Gauntlet was set up and he said there was a “random drawing” to determine the order. Nigel also clarified what a Gauntlet Match was which is a series of matches until all of the wrestlers have matches. Mustafa Ali made his entrance in his Sub-Zero gear…
John’s Thoughts: The Glacier/DJZ entrance was fine at WrestleMania, but it’s starting to get old the more he does it every week. As confusing as the Kamen Rider chest protector was, I think that was a better look. This one just screams try-hard.
1. Mustafa Ali vs. TJP in a Gauntlet Match. Perkins and Ali started off with a lockup. Perkins did a dab in the middle of the lockup which fired up Ali. Perkins had some sweet transitions in the ground game until he was slowed down by an Ali armbar. Perkins and Ali had an exchange where they traded chain wrestling and pin attempts. Ali had a fun move by faking out a basement punch and catching Perkins in the back of the head with a basement dropkick off the front block. Ali had some fun by giving a playful retaliation dab.
Ali maintained control with a spinning wheel kick. Perkins decided to regroup which drew boos. Perkins baited Ali into a feint punch. Perkins then locked in an octopus hold on the ropes which Charles Robinson forced him to break after the count. Watson noted that Perkins specializes in submission wrestling. They cut to Dasha Fuentes in the middle of the match who interviewed Cedric Alexander. Dasha asked Cedric about what kind of “Statement” Buddy Murphy made a few weeks ago by interrupting his celebration. Cedric said the only statement Murphy made was missing the weight limit. Cedric talked about how Buddy’s loss is another’s gain to make a statement. Alexander said this is the “Age of Alexander” and he’s ready for competition.
John’s Thoughts: Is the Australian Buddy Murphy not able to make it to Saudi via Visa issues? I’m not 100 percent sure how travel visas work for foreigners (I can always ask some of my family members about that), but why else are we getting this filler gaiden story arc with an alternate challenger at GRR?
Perkins locked Ali into a straitjacket back stretch. Ali flipped out. Perkins responded with a shove and Russian Leg Sweep. Perkins then locked in a reverse Koji Clutch. Ali escaped and hit a flurry of fast paced and signature moves. Ali caught Perkins with a rolling X-Factor for a nearfall. Ali reversed a driver into a rollup. Ali gave Perkins a haymaker as he was perched on the top rope. Ali was shoved down and Perkins hit a missile dropkick to Ali’s knee and Ali sold the knee like he just earned a million bucks. Perkins targeted the knee with his finisher, the kneebar. Perkins grapevined the kneebar.
Ali managed to get the rope break by grabbing the bottom rope. Perkins milked the five count to inflict more pain. TJP went back to the bar but Ali made it to a vertical base. Perkins carried Ali into the corner. Ali got a lot of air after hitting a springboard Tornado DDT. Ali went for and hit the inverted 450 for the win.
Mustafa Ali defeated TJP via pinfall in 9:47 to advance in the Gauntlet Match.
Nigel noted that it might not have been too wise to go for the 450 with a bum leg. Ali sold the leg after the match. Joseph and McGuinness cut to the replay of the injury which happened during the missile dropkick and kneebar. Drew Gulak was Ali’s next opponent. Nigel sold this as a huge disadvantage for Ali due to Gulak’s submission style. Gulak walked to the ring wearing his purple silk boxer robe…
John’s Thoughts: That was a great encounter and there’s more to come. I’m not a huge fan of them not protecting TJP’s kneebar as well as they did during the CWC, but hopefully this leads to a character shift for him. Perkins wrestles like a main eventer (I keep referring y’all to the Perkins vs. Nakamura match from last March), but he still hasn’t found it as a character. I say he should be an excited babyface. I know he’s Asian-American, but would Perkins be allowed to join the Lucha House Party? Those guys are having a blast.
2. Mustafa Ali vs. Drew Gulak in a Gauntlet Match. Ali struggled to make it to his feet so he used the ropes as a crutch. Nigel called this matchup “the worst hand in poker”. Gulak taunted Ali by asking him if he was sore. Ali managed to get a rollup attempt but Gulak quickly regained control by body slamming Ali into the ropes. Ali managed to slow down Gulak with a drop toehold but was still favoring the knee. Ali fended off Gulak with a slap but Gulak rolled Ali’s high risk move into a half crab. Ali escaped and got a rollup attempt. Gulak turned Ali inside out with a hard lariat. [C]
The commercial actually aired in a cut-in window just like they do on Smackdown. Gulak was torturing the knee of Ali as the Greatest Royal Rumble commercial aired. Gulak used a flapjack to inflict more damage on Gulak. Gulak worked on Ali’s knee by digging in the elbow into the knee joint. Gulak reversed a huracanrana attempt into a half Boston Crab. Ali pulled out a desperation enziguri. Ali went for the rolling X Factor but he rolled into a power bomb and Half Crab. Joseph acknowledged that Gulak may be the best submission specialist in WWE. Gulak turned the crab into a modified bow and arrow submission.
John’s Thoughts: A part of me doesn’t want to say it. Because I remembered being so bored at this guy before WWE, but Gulak’s new style reminds me a bit of both Kurt Angle and Zack Sabre Jr?
Ali escaped again with a rope break. Gulak maintained focus. Gulak yelled “you like high flying huh?” as he put Ali on the top rope and bitch slapped him (great!). Gulak yelled “it’s dangerous” in a mocking way. Ali retaliated at Gulak with an ear slap. Ali then pulled out an innovative rope tangled half crab. Charles Robinson was forced to break that apart. Ali captivated the crowd with a high crossbody on Gulak to the outside. The crowd fired up with “Ali” chants. Gulak played possum a bit and surprised Ali with a chop block to the injured knee of Ali. Ali managed to hit his signature Tornado DDT. Ali went for the inverted 450 but his leg gave up on him. Ali was tripped off the top rope and his head few right into the steel steps.
John’s Thoughts: Oh my word! I know Ali’s great at selling and they have shown him doing this move in the past as a well-hidden front martial arts bump. I hope this was one of those and he’s just that damn good at selling because that was sick (sick in both the good and bad way).
Robinson went outside to follow up despite referee Charles Robinson protesting. Gulak locked in the Gu-Lock and Robinson had to call for the end of the match.
Drew Gulak defeated Mustafa Ali via ref stoppage in about 10:50 to advance in the Gauntlet Match.
Gulak demanded that Robinson raise his hand. Joseph noted that this was a personal rivalry due to the aftermath of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. Another referee helped a limp Ali up the ramp as Gulak continued to trash talk Ali in his mind. Tony Nese was the next opponent which surprised Gulak a bit. Nese didn’t do his unnecessarily long entrance and was all business…
John’s Thoughts: My one criticism would have been the length of the match, but that would be too much nitpicking due to it leading perfectly into the finish. Ali’s character is his heart, therefore Gulak had to beat up that heart into the heart stopped. The match was pretty much one-sided, Ali had the huge out by wrestling TJP in a serious war. This is what I like about NXT and new-205 Live, you can have a match finish were both wrestlers benefit rather than it being binary gain-loss, or parity.
3. Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese in a Gauntlet Match. Nese started the match with ground and pound on Gulak. Nese followed up with various stomps to Gulak. Nese went on to gut punches. Nese kept up the pace with a flurry of strikes. Gulak gained some breathing room with some chops. Nese landed a handstand matrix dodge and caught Gulak with a roundhouse kick into a low sweep. Nese hit Gulak with a clean Fosbury Flop to the outside. Nese manhandled Gulak while taunting him on the outside. Nese tossed Gulak right into Vic Joseph. Thankfully, Joseph got out of the way.
John’s Thoughts: One fun thing about having McGuinness back is seeing his fun reactions to action at ringside.
The crowd wanted one more and he gave them one more by tossing Gulak into the side of the announce table. Nese kept yelling at Gulak “I’m not at your level?!?”. Nese ran through Gulak with a crossbody axe handle. Gulak tried to gain breathing room with a toss to Nese but Nese held on to the ropes and gave Gulak a kick. Gulak dodged a springboard moonsault. Nese didn’t relent by hitting Gulak with a running elbow. Nese tried to yell at Gulak that Gulak wasn’t at his level. Gulak tried to pull what he did a few months ago and pull at Nese’s beard. Nese escaped and hit the running Nese on Gulak. Nese had the match won but the camera focused to what Nese was focused on, the turnbuckle. Nese took down the kneepad for another Running Nese. Nese said Gulak deserved it. Gulak rolled aside and baited Nese into the Gu-Lock to give him the win.
Drew Gulak defeated Tony Nese via submission in 6:29 to advance in the Gauntlet.
Nese yelled and threw a personal tantrum after letting his emotions cost him the match. The crowd showered Nese with “you tapped out” chants (poor guy… he didn’t deserve that). Kalisto was the next gauntlet opponent.
John’s Thoughts: Should 205 Live just give up on backstage skits? They are doing a fine job telling stories of glory, sorry, rage, revenge, pride, fun, and despair all in the ring. This is fun to see. Nese had one of his best matches to date in that 6-minute window and the story was powerful. Nese had the match won but Gulak planted the seed of despair in Nese a few months ago by holding on to that Gu-Lock. Gulak looks bad ass heel by steaking out the MMA-like submission victory. Nese followed up with a good agony of defeat sell.
4. Drew Gulak vs. Kalisto in a Gauntlet Match. Gulak rolled to ringside and tried to use the announce table as a resting bed. Kalisto did his Lucha thing in the ring. Nigel argued that Kalisto should stop pandering to the crowd. Percy Watson tried to argue that Kalisto wasn’t pandering but rather using a war cry because “Lucha” means “fight” in Spanish. Gulak stalled for a few minutes to recover from the last match. Kalisto tried to yell at Gulak to enter the ring but Gulak was focused on recovery. Nigel noted that Gulak was noticeably more energetic the more time he’s allowed to recover. Nigel and Percy agreed that Kalisto is making a mistake by allowing Gulak to recharge the batteries.
Kalisto managed to hit a dropkick on Gulak and slam him into the barricade. Kalisto did his Lucha thing and hit Gulak with a step-up Enziguri. Gulak countered a Suicide Dive from Kalisto by redirecting Kalisto into the barricade similar to what Chris Jericho did to Daniel Bryan in Bryan’s WWE debut. Gulak sat aside for more recovery. Gulak rolled in the ring to try to get a countout. Joseph cut to Dasha Fuentes interviewing Tony Nese. Nese responded to Dasha’s inquiry about the prior match with silence and seething. Dasha was left hanging.
Drew Gulak almost locked in the Gu-Lock in the ring but Kalisto rolled away. Gulak hit a snap suplex on Kalisto for a nearfall. Gulak hit a few side forearms and went into a side headlock. Kalisto fended off Gulak with a high boot. Kalisto took down Gulak with a huracanrana and staggered him with a superkick. Gulak blocked a tornado DDT by ricocheting Kalisto off the top rope. Gulak put Kalisto in the Gu-Lock hold but Kalisto wouldn’t allow Gulak to grapevine the Dragon Sleeper by keeping his hips at Gulak’s side. Kalisto sent Gulak’s head into the second turnbuckle. Kalisto pulled out the surprise Salida del Sol on Gulak for the victory.
Kalisto defeated Drew Gulak via pinfall in 7:05 to run the gauntlet and earn a WWE Cruiserweight Title shot at the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik ran out with wooden Puerto Rican and Mexican Flag noisemakers. In a comical botch, Lince Dorado had so much fun with his wooden noisemaker, that it broke apart and flew somewhere (hopefully a fan didn’t get a flying piece of wood in his eye and or skull). Dorado’s face was precious. Dorado and Metalik shot out mini-streamers. The Lucha House Party did their Lucha Things until Cedric Alexander walked out to applaud Kalisto for winning. Nigel noted that Cedric Alexander’s last match was at Mania and wondered if this run will end at the GRR event. 205 Live closed after the copyright signature…
John’s Thoughts: First of all, that was a smart match between Kalisto and Gulak. Gulak just wrestled two hard fought wars. Gulak was seen as smart for doing what he did with the stalling and it wasn’t “boring” due to the story they were telling. Nice touch to have heel and babyface announcers Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson agree that Gulak was just being smart. I like that they are not turning Gulak into a chickens–t heel because sometimes WWE can get lazy by assuming that all heels can only get heat for being a chickenshit. Kalisto didn’t get to show too much here but she showed enough and he seems to be having a lot of fun with Dorado and Metalik as the Lucha House Party. This Lucha House Party gimmick seems corny as hell and very shallow, but the natural reactions of the trio are making this thing work. It helps when Kalisto looks like he’s having fun rather than working.
This was a must-see show and one of the better 205 Live shows after a few weeks of pretty average ones. All four components of the Gauntlet were better than the singular WrestleMania Cruiserweight match, probably due to differences between how Vince McMahon likes to see matches and how Paul Levesque likes to see them. I like that Paul understands that sports tells stories. There’s a reason why NFL, UFC, NHL, MLB, and other sports personalities can have deep character depth and story arcs. Look at the NBA playoffs and you can see a ton of stories being told. I’m going on a sports tangent, but it makes sense because what we just saw on this episode of 205-Live and the preceding Cruiserweight Championship Tournament was intricate stories being told without extraneous vignettes.
Back to this show, Drew Gulak was the MVP for wrestling three opponents in nearly 30 minutes more or less. Everyone gained here. Kalisto and TJP gained the least but they still gained something. Go out of your way to see this if you need your fix of good wrestling. Also go out of your way to see why this show is weekly appointment viewing for once. I’ll be by later today for the Dot Net Members with my 205 Live audio review.