Take me down to the rematch city, where the show’s still green and the booking’s … not what it should be.
Previously on the Best and Worst of WWE 205 Live: WWE got themselves a shiny new cruiserweight show, and they celebrated the occasion by crowning a new Cruiserweight Champion! Rich Swann, the charismatic high-flyer who rose from his traumatic teenage years, defeated Brian Kendrick to win the title. Also, we got our first non-Full Sail taste of Jack Gallagher and the Bollywood Boyz.
If you missed this week’s episode, catch it on WWE Network here. Remember, With Spandex is on Twitter and Facebook, so keep up with us there. You can also follow me on Twitter! (NOTE: This week, “me” is Austin, because I’ll occasionally be tagging in for 205 Live. Yay!)
And now, the Best and Worst of 205 Live episode 2 for December 6, 2016.
Worst: Characters Not Welcome
Probably because we’re not on USA Network, am I right?
I’ll confess, I’m not the resident expert on WCW’s cruiserweight division. Brandon could probably elaborate on this better than I could, but even in my cursory knowledge of the division, I know that one of the things that made it stand out was the presence of strong personalities. Sure, the Jericho/Malenko feud was great in the ring, but people got invested in it because Jericho spent the better part of a year being a world-class butthole to Malenko. Most of WWE’s cruiserweights currently feel very flat, because the writers seem to be confusing actual character traits with Things You Do or Things You Have.
Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar are perfect examples of this. Cedric’s character is broken down into Things He Does (admittedly awesome and athletic moves) and Things He Has (a new girlfriend, Alicia Fox). Noam Dar is also defined entirely by Things He Has (Scottish accent, love of Britpop, a jacket he doesn’t know how to operate). These are only the most basic building blocks, people. You aren’t defined by the stuff you have. No one would ever define my character traits by saying, “He has a crappy 2005 Ford Taurus and a few thousand dollars of student loan debt.”
The division is still very new, but that hardly feels like an excuse. I mean, we were getting fully fleshed-out characters in the first season of Lucha Underground, right? The Cruiserweight Classic felt like a promise to make this overlooked crop of wrestlers matter, and I’m really hoping they can keep that promise.
A few more notes:
– Has anyone told Noam Dar that a supernova is a dying star? Probably not what you want to associate yourself with.
– How great was the hanging, dead arm on Cedric once Noam softened it up? He couldn’t even get a solid pin on Dar after the springboard clothesline. After all the nitpicks about the direction of this division, never let it be forgotten that Cedric Alexander is really good at wrestling.
– I’m really, really hoping that we’re pulling the trigger on Dar going heel. He’s been telegraphing it for a while, but the post-match interview after his win seems to be a good sign. I love that he dedicated the match to Alicia Fox! That’s a much-needed sign of swagger. I know he’s an Oasis guy, but it kind of reminded me of how Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys will occasionally dedicate “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” to the girlfriends of every guy in the audience.
– Speaking of Alicia Fox, if she doesn’t wrestle Aerial Monroe sometime in 2017, what the hell are we even doing here?
Best: Ali Bomaye
YES. ALL OF THIS.
Remember the second night of the Cruiserweight Classic? Remember the boos that Mustafa Ali got? Remember the guy in the audience locking eyes with Ali and gesturing at his Donald Trump shirt?
Ali remembers, and now he’s back to drag you six ways from Sunday for it.
I know I just exhausted the better part of 500 words explaining how there wasn’t enough character development in this division, but I guess they were just saving it all for Ali’s introductory vignette, in which he goes off on xenophobic fans. Spoiler alert: As a Pakistani-American, he’s pretty fed up with people bringing their warped misconceptions with them to wrestling shows. He doesn’t get shouty about it, he just looks you dead in the eyes and declares that he’s going to wrestle his ass off until you come crawling back, begging to buy his merch.
Full disclosure: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ali before, when I refereed a match he had here in Texas. Having had the best seat in the house to watch him work, I can tell you without hesitation that he is legit. We’re talking young Rey Mysterio here. But when you talk with him one-on-one, you realize he doesn’t want to be the next Rey Mysterio … he wants to be the first Mustafa Ali. I’m going to pull a Corey Graves here and let you know that there is still limited room on the bandwagon. In fact, if you’re in the Chicago area this Friday night, I’d recommend going to see his final independent show. He’s going to be Cruiserweight Champion one day, and you’ll want one of those “I was there when … ” stories when it happens.
Worst: Once, Twice, Three Times A Gentleman
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t love seeing Jack Gallagher wrestle, but if you’re expecting me to be okay with three Gallagher/Daivari matches in the span of seven days, then I don’t know what to tell you. Jack’s got one of those infinite Mary Poppins bags full of tricks, there’s gotta be another heel he can bamboozle, right? He should be tying Tony Nese into Windsor knots by now.
Much like Cedric Alexander, Gallagher is killing it right now because of his attention to detail. Look how he doesn’t vault the ropes to enter the ring, because he’s still banged up from last night on Raw. I promise you, it’s the smallest stuff that ends up making the biggest difference. Of course, big stuff helps too, especially his headbutts. Those are some satisfying headbutts. Let’s all thank Jack Gallagher for proving that you don’t have to be insane like Katsuyori Shibata in order to make a headbutt look good.
Anyway, Gallagher’s still banged up from last night’s post-match assault, and Ariya Daivari spends the whole match zeroing in on the injured knee. It’s pretty standard fare, improved only by Gallagher’s small touches. There’s a point where he wants to go for his running corner dropkick, but he realizes that he can’t get a full head of steam, so he just pathetically limps from one corner to the opposite one. The spirit was willing, but the body was weak.
Best: Handled It
Glory be, it looks like we’re doing the right thing and letting Rich Swann be the face of the cruiserweights for the time being. Swann’s going to be a great champion, I can feel it. But let’s not cast aside Brian Kendrick, because he’s still probably the anchor here. If I’m going to equate him with anyone on the main roster here, I’d kind of want him to be the Miz of this division. If he can continue to put his crippling ego at war with his under-the-radar workhorse quality, we’re golden. That’s the kind of complexity you need. A good villain has to have a warped sense that they’re doing the right thing, e.g. “MY WIFE WILL STARVE IF I’M NOT CHAMPION.”
Much like last week’s match, this starts with very little reaction and escalates to a crowd full of “Whoa, did you see that” faces. Things really pick up after Swann’s tumbleweed to the outside, in my opinion. He spends an eternity locked in The Captain’s Hook… for real, I thought he might tap out for a while. But hey, credit to 205 Live so far for giving us matches that aren’t afraid to take us on these rides where we’re uncertain of the outcome. That’s when wrestling is the most fun! Eventually, Kendrick gets inadvertently pushed into T.J. Perkins, who’s been providing commentary. He lets his ego get the best of him, takes his eye off the ball, and takes the pin.
I’m really hoping this is foreshadowing and not just a coincidentally great shot, especially when you consider the ensuing brawl that sees Perkins accidentally kicking Swann in the face.
Lesser Best: Zingers From Austin Aries
I’m not really an Austin Aries fan. I think the TNA “Option C” angle was probably his best stuff, and even then, he struck me as someone who gets a little too much joy out of being confrontational. He’s basically Todd Ingram – the rare example of vegans being intensely disagreeable. Todd was about a foot taller, but you get the idea.
That said, I’ll fully admit that Aries made me laugh pretty hard (not once, but twice) on this show. Granted, the easiest way in the world to make me laugh is to make fun of TJP, but I’m letting it stand. The first time, he straight-up tells him to his face that he’s disrespecting him, because Perkins can’t seem to tell when people are picking fights with him. But the second time, we get a Hall of Fame diss.
“Why are you even out here? Are you out here scouting the match, or are you trying to find a Pikachu?”
Beautiful. If by some miracle that’s on Aries’ next shirt, consider it a Day 1 pre-order.