With former Cruiserweight Champion Cedric Alexander making a name for himself on Raw and former Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy accidentally ending up a major player and having a TV match of the year candidate on Smackdown Live, it’s a good time to be a cruiserweight in WWE. It’s like somebody finally realized that these guys from 205 Live might be good at wrestling.
One of the first men to make that transition was Ali, who was primed to be Kofi Kingston’s part of the gauntlet and Elimination Chamber matches that birthed KofiMania before an injury sidelined him at the worst possible time. Over SummerSlam weekend, Danielle Matheson had a chance to talk to Ali about the differences between 205 Live and Raw or Smackdown, and what makes the purple and orange brand so special.
“So the transition on the stage was actually, I’m very happy the way it happened. 205 Live was actually like enemy territory in the sense of it was so hard to perform under the circumstances. We were on later. Jack Gallagher actually put it the best way. He said, ‘We’re the opening act that goes on after Metallica.’
“The expectation’s very real. People didn’t come to the arena that night to watch 205, they came to watch Smackdown. So for them to watch 205 after the fact, we sometimes had to really fight to get their attention, to get a reaction out of them. Having that mindset of like, ‘Okay I have to reintroduce myself every night,’ because there’s a lot of guys performing it, that they know they’re going to get a reaction when they go out. You know what I mean? It’s kind of like, ‘And then I’ll go out to this huge pop.’ 205 was not the case, so we had to work really, really hard each night to one, get the crowd invested, and then perform, and then do these matches. And two, if you look at the main event of 205, these are 20, 25-minute matches every week. When’s the last time you’ve seen the 25-minute match on Smackdown?
So yeah, the intensity is … yeah. The intensity is a whole new level. I’m so thankful for my time on 205 because going through that enemy territory, through that warfare prepared me for Smackdown, so that when I walked onto the Smackdown stage I go, ‘Oh man.’ Not that the pressure isn’t there to perform out, but it’s definitely a different environment. The crowd is there, the reactions are, I don’t want to say simple, but you can bank on when they’re going to react. So it’s just a whole new thing. So yeah, anyone that performs on 205, they’re definitely earning their stripes.”
Ali also let us know who the next man to make that transition should be.
“I don’t even think it’s just 205 Live. I think the most underrated guy in the company right now is Ariya Daivari. I don’t just say that because he’s a friend of mine. I say that because if you listen to him cut a promo, it is impeccable. The way he enunciates, his way of driving certain points home … He does such a [great] job on his promos and his intensity in the ring is second to none. I think the only guy that’s as intense as him in the ring is Oney.
“So I think Ariya Daivari is extremely underrated. But honestly, the entire roster really is like … anytime there’s a main event spot, anytime they have 20, 25 minutes with no story, no production, no nothing, they go out there and they kill it at the end of the night. It’s such a testament to how hard these guys work. So if I had to pick one guy that deserves more, it’s definitely Ariya Daivari, but I wish more everything for everyone on 205. I want them to be put in the best position possible, and I feel like there’s not a group of harder working guys in this company than them.”