Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE 205 Live: WWE held the first-ever Cruiserweight Classic, a 32-sub-205-pound-man tournament that showcased unique talent from around the world, integrated itself into popular independent promotions via qualifying matches and individualized its presentation in the hopes of finally, finally teaching WWE audiences what great junior heavyweight wrestling is. It was a huge success, so they put all the guys from the tournament you liked but didn’t love on Raw and had them wrestle like littler heavyweights in front of audiences that did not give a shiiit.
But hey, we’ve made it to the first episode of 205 LIVE, WWE’s long-rumored cruiserweight show. They’re taping it after Smackdown — there was a whole thing at Survivor Series, don’t ask — and (apparently) trying to bridge the gap between a main roster production and the spirit of pro graps competition that made the Classic so good. So let’s give it a shot!
If you missed the episode, you can watch it on WWE Network here. Future episode recaps (if this post gets any clicks) will be found on the Best and Worst of 205 Live tag page.
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And now, the Best and Worst of 205 Live episode 1 — think we’ll get to 205? — for November 29, 2016.
Best/Worst: The Roster Introduction
Before we begin the episode, we get a WrestleMania Hall of Fame Waving segment introducing the folks we’ll be seeing wrestle on 205 Live. It’s mostly the same crew we’ve seen on Raw:
– Cruiserweight Champion and depressed fashion pirate (?) Brian Kendrick
– Fake Gamer Girl TJ Perkins
– Cedric Alexander, who lost 22 pounds and and somehow became 22 times better
– Rich Swann, who honestly should’ve been Cruiserweight Champion the second the CWC ended
– Ariya Daivari, who is not from here and has his own customs, look at his crazy passport
– “Bad at Jackets” Noam Dar, whose current gimmick is “loves Oasis but can’t legally say ‘Oasis’ on WWE TV”
– Lince Dorado, who answers the question, “how much cooler would Sin Cara be with fur on his mask?”
– the helpless loser bad guy team of Tony Nese and Drew Gulak
Also Gran Metalik is back after showing up on Raw like once and disappearing. They’re supplemented by Additional Cruiserweight Classic Guys who have made scattered appearances elsewhere, including:
– Jack Gallagher, who looks and acts like Conan O’Brien had a baby with Simon Gotch
– Akira Tozawa, best friend of Apollo Crews who already has more character development than Apollo Crews by posing with determination once
– Mustafa Ali, named after your favorite boxer and your second favorite Gangsta
– The Bollywood Boyz, who promise butter chicken beatdowns, which is a threat (?)
Missing is Sin Cara, who split up with his tag team partner to be in the cruiserweight division. Also his tag team partner, and while I know Kalisto is a Smackdown guy and the cruisers are Raw exclusives, come on, the dude is literally in the locker room in the same building as these tapings. Let him go out there and flip with his own kind. Oh, also missing is Neville, still, because Nevile not being in the cruiserweight division is some kind of cosmic joke. Like Neville!
Gallagher, Tozawa and Ali were the three best guys in the Cruiserweight Classic not named Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr., so we start the first episode of 205 Live with … uh, the Bollywood Boyz. Sure, okay, that’s … also fine.
Worst: Why Are We Starting With This?
You’re putting on a cruiserweight show advertised with a bunch of slow motion clips of dudes backflipping, and you’re taping it in front of a Smackdown crowd that may or may not watch Raw, probably hasn’t formed a great opinion about cruiserweights based on what they’ve seen there and just sat through two hours of WWE featuring guys they recognize. The first thing you’re going to give them is a ground and pound tag team match? Technically Gulak and Nese vs. the Bollywood Boyz is a perfectly cromulent, efficiently wrestled match, but it features one (1) high spot, and that comes 17 minutes into the episode. It’s Harv Shira doing a springboard crossbody. When your other two matches are Rich Swann fighting for a championship and Jack Gallagher existing as weirdly as possible, you’re gonna start with this? We JUST saw Tozawa and Gran Metalik standing up there. They ain’t doing shit.
The worst part has to be the post-match celebration, with the Bollywood Boyz pretending they’re getting a Hulk Hogan response and taking too long to pick which side they’re gonna do their Kid N Play dance to. Which is funny, because they hop in a circle. And then Drew Gulak’s on the outside cutting a promo about how he doesn’t know where Bollywood is and getting very close to a good, good, good technical thing.
1. If we’re gonna have a team from Ring Ka King on WWE TV, can it be the Mumbai Cats?
2. If Nese and Gulak are going to work as the technical bruisers of the division, they need to be The Revival, or something close to it. They need to be like, technically obliterating these flippy guys. No flips, just fist. Get some attitude, get a presence. Right now they’re less Dawson and Wilder and more “Steve Cutler and Elias Samson if he could do a backflip.”
Best: Austin Aries
The announced announce team was Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves, but Austin Aries showed up for some reason and overshadowed them both. He was funny as hell all night, put himself and the wrestlers over, shaded Mauro and Graves as much as possible and calls the Bollywood Boyz “Herp and Derp.” I hope he sticks around, because he’s great at this, and because Mauro really needs to be the Byron Saxton of this outfit. The WCW Mike Tenay at best.
Best: The Liege Of Extraordinary Gentleman
Jack Gallagher is fucking delightful. He’s the best wrestler in the world if you pretend he’s Sheamus’ inner child. If you’ve never seen him before, he’s a little borderline albino ginger guy with underpants made out of the parachute you used to play with in kindergarten who wrestles like a World of Sport greatest hits and cuts promos like he’s the human under Jervis Cottonbelly’s mask. Listen to him. If you don’t want to hug him and ride around on penny farthings with him, something’s wrong with you.
He wrestles Ariya Daivari, and if you want proof that the cruiserweights can get over by just being unique as hell, here you go. Gallagher comes in cold to most of these people and they start popping for everything he does. He gets an actual reaction out of a crowd. That’s gotta be great news for him professionally. I think the crowd just wants to see something they don’t see all the damn time with the cruiserweights, instead of unfamiliar versions of stuff they’ve already spent two hours and a lifetime watching. That’s what made the WCW cruiserweights work, you know? They were usually just a diversion, but they were usually weird and fun about it, and the truly great ones made an impact doing it.
The best and worst part of the match is when Gallagher does his signature “tie you in a knot with your butt in the air, make you look like an idiot for a few minutes and then punt you in the asshole” spot. It’s a great move, especially in a WWE context where nobody ever does it — pour one out for Saturday Morning Slam — and Mauro says he’s never seen it before. Here’s Mauro also saying he’s never seen it before during Gallagher/Tozawa in the Cruiserweight Classic.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Jack Gallagher rules, and should absolutely be the breakout star of this show. Never let him wrestle on Raw. I don’t want to see that dude relegated to chinlocks and one shitty suicide dive.
Worst: TJP, For Now
I know a lot of you like TJ Perkins, to the point that even reasoned criticism can make someone a “hater.” I’m sure at least five people dropped down into the comments to give me shit for calling him “fake gamer girl” in the intro. But the truth of TJP is that I don’t necessarily hate him, I hate the WWE main roster version of him.
Here’s what I wrote in the Best and Worst of NXT when he showed up to be Kota Ibushi’s replacement partner in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic:
If you’re a regular reader of the Best and Worst of Raw, you know I watch TJ Perkins promos like a high schooler watching slow motion footage of car accidents. He’s got the acting ability of a cardboard box and the most insincere gimmick on the main roster. He likes video games! That means he can only ever talk about video games! HERE’S A DAB, YOU LIKE DABBING, RIGHT?
That said, dude had what I consider the best match of the entire Cruiserweight Classic and presumably actually likes video games, he just can’t deliver video game dialogue written by WWE Creative. Those guys haven’t played video games in 20 years, so he and Kendrick are like, “this is like WWE 2K17, only we don’t have any extra lives! We need to hit RESET on our problems! Pause, bro! All your face are belong to us!” On NXT, TJP gravitates back toward the CWC version of himself, where even with his flaws his matches are generally fast and entertaining (and not just WWE main events in miniature), and aside from the dabbing, he feels like an actual guy.
Perkins showing up backstage with pixelated glasses on his forehead to remind us of his feud with Brian Kendrick wasn’t a great start, but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and see if CWCJP shows up and does anything for me. He limited the dabbing to the intro video, so that’s a start.
The first main event of the first episode of 205 Live is a Cruiserweight Championship match between Brian Kendrick and Rich Swann, and it does everything right. It’s the match the division needed, featuring the result it needed even more, and while it might not serve as the “hard reboot” a lot of us have been asking for, it’s a massive, massive step in the right direction.
First of all, shout-out to the production team for the “better know a wrestler” videos between the matches. We learned about the Bollywood Boyz making their blind grandfather in India happy when he heard them become WWE stars (oh my God), we learned that Noam Dar thinks he’s the world’s most creative human for only zipping up his jacket partway and holding his hands behind his back after he hits moves, and we took a deep dive into Rich Swann’s troubled life. Michael Cole hits the “he loves to have fun” thing a little too hard — a lot too hard — but Swann becomes dynamic as hell when you realize his wacky dancing and constant smiling is overcompensating for his brutal fucking life. He talks about losing his parents, we see pictures of him holding up championship belts when he was younger … it’s the story TJP kinda wants to tell, but actually compelling, and more tragic than “I had to do stuff wrestlers often have to do to make it in wrestling.”
Second of all, this match. WWE’s been real into great main events this month, and this was the next in the series. It’s EASILY Kendrick’s best match since returning to WWE, and the kind of match that will seriously make Swann a superstar. I love (love love) that the show started with everybody sitting on their hands, but ended with cutaway shots to the crowd putting their hands on their heads and making o-faces at nearfalls. That’s how you know you’re doing it right. Swann hits a somersault plancha off the guardrail, eats a bunch of nasty suplexes, sells his ass off and gives it back to Kendrick every step of the way. Kendrick keeps targeting the neck to set up the Captain’s Hook, and Swann keeps going for knockout blows until he’s able to hit three spinning kicks to the face for the win. And if all that wasn’t enough, they tie it together with a post-match promo and Swann thanking his mom. Holy shit.
Meanwhile, Kendrick’s on the outside complaining about Perkins playing mind games with him backstage and that costing him, basically making the worst and least believable excuses ever, especially coming from the guy who built an entire pay-per-view program around “you should let me win because I’m sad.”
Great, great stuff. I really hope 205 Live succeeds, and becomes sorta the Smackdown to NXT’s Raw. Or the Raw to their Smackdown, I guess, since the days are reversed. And the cruiserweights are exclusive to Raw. You know what I’m saying.
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