205 Live – 20th February 2018

Quick introduction, grapple fans.  I’m John, I’m from the U.K., and I’m looking forward to bringing you my thoughts on 205 Live every Wednesday morning.  Here’s this week’s show review, from next week I’ll hope to settle into a Wednesday morning at approximately 10.00am G.M.T. posting routine.

WWE 205 Live

20th February 2018

Phoenix, Arizona

Commentators: Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness

We are now firmly entrenched in the HHH Era of 205 Live, with more emphasis on what goes on in the squared circle, and less on sports-entertaining people.  So far so good as the Enzo Debacle (and I mean the sexual assault allegations, not his general ring work) has worked out for the best for the viewers; and this week the Cruiserweight Title tournament rolls on.

We begin with a recap of last week’s first-round action, with Mark Andrews rolling up Akira Tozawa for the pin, and Drew Gulak besting Tony Nese with a Dragon Sleeper.  Hype for tonight’s bouts follows, as we get Jack Gallagher taking on Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy tangling with Ariya Davairi.  Should be a good night of cruiserweighting!

After the standard intro video, Vic and Nigel welcome us to the broadcast as we head straight to the squared circle for action.

Cruiserweight Title Tournament, first round match

Ariya Davaira vs Buddy Murphy

We’re told that Murphy has cut 20lbs to enter this thing and Davairi heels it up in his selfi-promo.  Nice short skit from Daivairi there, although slightly marred by a ‘WrestleMania Moment’ reference.  I’m all for a five-year ban on ‘WrestleMania Moment’ quotes and pointing at the sign.  Why not just talk more about winning?  Murphy is making his 205 Live debut and we get a flashback to yesterday as Murphy has a weigh-in with G.M. Drake Maverick and the WWE medical experts.  The doc tells us he weighs 200.9lbs, for those interested in stats of that nature (although we don’t quite see the reading on the scales, so we have to take the trained physician’s word for it).  Refreshing to see a simple segment like this, which focuses on the sporting element of the grap game.  McGuinness tells us that things could change in 24 hours and he could always put some back on.  Too right he could – I remember Yokozuna gaining 18lbs after eating a huge bowl of rice during his lunch break on the U.S.S. Intrepid before being bodyslammed by Lex Luger!

A routine exchange of headlocks and shoulder tackles to start before Murphy takes over with an impressive standing rana.  They brawl to the outside and Daivari downs Murphy with a falling scorpion deathdrop on the apron, amusingly called as a ‘slop drop’ by McGuiness (somewhere Henry and Phineas are smiling).  More back and forth in the ring as Daivari hiplocks Buddy into the corner, with the commentators rightly noting he’s focusing on the back.  Rear chinlock with a knee to the back from Ariya as he keeps up the simple but effective strategy.  Murphy comes back into it with some boots to the face and a dropkick from the middle rope.  Flashy offense from Murphy and a picture-perfect somersault plancha to the outside follows.  Back inside and Daivari is back in control with a stiff looking forearm to the face and the Persian Lion frog splash for a near fall.  Daivari hits the hammerlock Lariot, but again Murphy gets the shoulder up, as Daivari sells disbelief.  The commentators do as well, but less convincingly than the Persian Prince.  Murphy flips out of a back suplex attempt and hits a flurry of strikes, before finishing Daivari off with a pump-handle death-valley driver at 7:46.

Match rating – C+: Decent, if fairly routine action here.  The match did exactly what it needed to do; both guys got a showcase and it sets Murphy up as one to watch throughout the tournament.

Drake Maverick talks us through the tournament brackets backstage, as below:

Cedric vs TJP

Roderick Strong vs Kalisto

Mustafa Ali/Jack Gallagher vs Buddy Murphy

Drew Gulak vs Mark Andrews

And we’re on the hype-train for next week, as that broadcast will feature Alexander vs Perkins and Strong vs Kalisto; should be an episode well worth catching.  For what it’s worth, this reviewer’s money is on Strong to take the whole kit and caboodle.  TJP and Cedric both walk into shot to take clearly scripted, but fairly well delivered, shots at each other.

Ad for Elimination Chamber.  #ReignsWinsLOL

The action rolls on, as we’re now set for a tag team contest.

Lince Dorado & Gran Metalik (w/Kalisto) vs Evan Daniels & Horezon Degado

Degado looks like a mini-Low Ki (quite an achievement to be a diminutive version of Ki, who is no giant himself).  High flying offence from Dorado to start and he gets a two count from a standing moonsault.  Degado and Daniels briefly take over on Metalik and Daniels plays to the crowd too much, tasting a dropkick for his folly.  Dorado with a turning facebuster on Degado and a cross body from the top for a near fall.  The jobbers take over but both get downed by an excellent springboard double stunner from Lince, a contender for spot of the night.  Metalik and Dorado both hit planchas to the outside and Dorado finishes off Degado with a shooting star press.  The resemblance of Degado to Low Ki so surprised me that I forgot to time this one; call it approximately 3 minutes.

Match rating – D: Nothing particularly wrong with this, but lucha squash matches don’t often translate well, as the offense isn’t particularly high impact or anything.  Just a match to give the luchas some airtime and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that.  Dorado, Metalik and Kalisto celebrate and all inexplicably point at the WrestleMania sign; I think every contracted regular worker is now under firm instructions to do so for the next 6 weeks.

Drew Gulak gives us a selfi-promo, bemoaning suggestions he went too far last week.  As for Mark Andrews, all his high-flying panache won’t count for anything when he’s being tied up on the mat.

Andrews fires right back with a selfi of his own as he won’t be in the No Fly Zone; Mark does a standing backflip (I assume) while holding the phone in a pretty cool visual.

Gallagher is shown shadow boxing backstage, as his tussle with Mustafa Ali is NEXT.

A plug for tomorrow night’s episode of nXt, with Johnny Gargano putting his career on the line against champion Andrade Cien Almas (is there a worker in the company more improved than Almas this last year?  He’s really got it together now).

Cruiserweight Title Tournament, first round match

Jack Gallagher vs Mustafa Ali

‘Gentleman Jack’ is out first in three-quarter length green tights and carrying a purple umbrella, which is apparently a new look.  Ali is out next, looking like a Power Ranger who’s lost his mask.

Tidy grappling to start as both man trade wristlocks, takedowns and hammerlocks.  ‘Gentleman Jack’ generally gets the better of things, as Murphy watches on backstage, scouting both of his potential quarter-final opponents.  Samoan drop into a Fujiwara armbar from Gallagher, as Ali’s facial expression suggests he may be realising that a mat wrestling approach might not serve him well.  Headlocks from Ali as he comes back into it.  Pace picks up and Mustafa locks in a half crab.  More back and forth, criss-cross action and both guys trade roll-ups in a fun exchange.  We get a shot of the WrestleMania sign, as if we might have forgotten it’s coming soon.  Ali sends Jack to the outside with a spinning heel kick and goes for a baseball slide, but Gallagher traps him between the ring and the apron and unloads with a barrage of right hands and boots to the body.  A fun spot that fits well with Gallagher’s character.  Back into the ring and Jack is on top, hooking an arm and applying a chinlock.  Snap suplex from Jack, bringing with it the obligatory Dynamite Kid reference from McGuinness.  Ali gets a second wind and a flurry of offense, culminating with a facebuster.  Mustafa goes up top, but Jack meets him and they jockey for position.  Jack drops to the outside, clotheslining Ali’s arm on the top rope, before sending Mustafa crashing shoulder first into the ringpost.  Gallagher is well on top here and keeps going to work on Ali’s left arm.  Gallagher almost pins himself while applying a double wristlock, as McGuinness comes out with the most boneheaded call I’ve heard in a while:

“That’s the difference between MMA and sports-entertainment.”

Just say “wrestling”!  By directly comparing both disciplines and referring to them in this instance, it almost gives the impression that cage-fighting fans would sit there and call wrestling ‘sports entertainment’.  In over 20 years of watching this stuff, this may be the dumbest use of the phrase ‘sports entertainment’ I’ve come across.  But I digress…

Ali comes back into it as he knocks Gallagher to the outside and then appears to botch a corkscrew plancha.  Ali appeared to stop rotating and just crashed down to the outside.  Hard to tell, even after a replay, if it was execution or positioning problems, or actually planned.  The commentators, sensibly, discussed it as a sporting error in the context of the match rather than simply ignoring it.  Back in the ring and Ali goes for a springboard crossbody, but Gallagher catches him in another Fujiwara armbar.  I’d have thought that was it, but Ali gets his foot on the bottom rope.  Ali is on the top rope, but Gallagher sends him flying outside and into the barricade with a dropkick.  Ali is selling the hell out of his left arm, as Gallagher mercilessly targets it, throwing Mustafa into the barricade once more.  The ref thinks about stopping it, but Jack wants to finish it in the ring.  Hammerlock bodyslam into the corner from ‘Gentleman Jack’.  A succession of elbows to the face from Gallagher for a near fall.  Gallagher tries for a back suplex from the top, but Ali flips out onto his feet and hits a superkick.  Tornado DDT from Mustafa and the 054 splash from the top finishes it at 17:08.

Match rating – B: Strong action from both guys, with a good story of Gallagher getting the better of the technical wrestling, targeting the shoulder, but Ali having the heart and desire to overcome it.  Fans of Gallagher will no doubt be disappointed with his first round exit, but he’s so proficient in the ring and such an entertaining character, that he’ll get over this in no time.  He’s the kind of worker that can’t avoid getting over.  As for Ali, an impressive showing from him, and he’ll be back in action again in two weeks against Buddy Murphy in the quarter-final.  And as Gino Monsoon used to say, that match is a real ‘pick ‘em’!

The commentators plug next week’s quarter-final bouts (Cedric vs TJP and Gulak vs Andrews) and we’re out.

Overall rating – C+:  Good stuff this week.  Solid tournament matches (the main event is worth a look) and fans of lucha squash matches might enjoy seeing Dorado and Metalik in action.  I’m looking forward to next week already, as Alexander/Perkins and Andrews/Gulak could, given the time, be excellent matches.