WWE 205 Live
20th March 2018
Commentators: Vic Joseph and Nigel McGuinness
We round out the semi-finals of the Cruiserweight Title tournament tonight, grapple fans, as Mustafa Ali tussles with Drew Gulak for a spot against Cedric Alexander on the WrestleMania pre-show. Last week’s bout between Alexander and Roderick Strong was a 205 Live classic; can Ali and Gulak deliver the goods this week?
We open with highlights of last week’s all-action semi-final, as Cedric pinned Roddy with an inside cradle and some hype for tonight’s Mustafa/Drew clash. Let’s get to it!
Lince Dorado (w/Gran Metalik & Kalisto) vs Hideo Itami (w/Akira Tozawa)
After Itami and Tozawa defeated the Luchas last week, a singles match between members of both teams seems a logical step forward in the feud. Straight out of the EWR booking playbook. With more cornermen than wrestlers, I expect some shenanigans at ringside. The question begs to be asked, however: how many of them have a manager’s license?
Lock up to start and we go into the corner. No clean break as Itami lands a forearm and takes control with a headlock. The pace quickens as Dorado sends Itami to the outside, fakes a dive and then dabs. Itami talks strategy with Tozawa at ringside as Lince then tries to get the crowd into it with some ‘Lucha’ chanting. Headlock takeover back in from Dorado before they ramp it up again and Lince sends Hideo to the outside following a standing dropkick and a hurracanrana takeover. Corkscrew plancha from Lince, as they take it back into the squared circle and Dorado again is in control with a side headlock. McGuinness keeps calling Lince the ‘Golden Links’. Not sure what I think of that as a nickname; sounds more like a golf course. Itami comes back into it with a boot to the face and disrespectfully slaps his Lucha foe. Dorado comes back with a slap of his own and then a flurry of strikes. Handspring back elbow attempt from Lince, but Itami avoids it, comes off the ropes and turns Dorado inside-out with a clothesline. Dorado responds with a superkick before sending Itami to the floor, where Hideo starts beefing with Metalik and Kalisto. Metalik shoves Itami into the apron and the ref calls for a DQ at 6:13.
Match rating: C- Damn, I was just getting into that! That had all the makings of an excellent match, but what a lazy finish. I can live with a DQ finish, but just a weak shove into the apron? More outside interference throughout the match, culminating in a frustrated ref throwing it out would have been more effective. This was just unimaginative stuff; the road agent responsible for this nonsense needs a talking to.
Metalik and Itami want to go at it post-match and are held back by their respective comrades. I smell more singles matches between these guys in the future.
A hype video for Drew Gulak, with some good character building stuff. It staggers me that 50-minute shows like 205 Live and nXt can find time to invest in their characters this way, yet the writers of Raw can’t manage it in 3 hours??
An ad for WWE 24 ‘Empowered’. Should be a good watch; WWE 24 is arguably the best series on the WWE Network.
Hype for John Cena vs Kane on Raw next week. Well, if I wasn’t going to be watching it already…
Cedric Alexander with a sit-down interview backstage. He jabbers on about competing at WrestleMania. Seriously, it makes all these guys look like suckers when they gush about competing at a WrestleMania being the culmination of their entire career. I mean, the show does happen every year and the average WWE worker will make at least 3 or 4 WM appearances throughout their run with the company. There’s a line between hyping a pay-per-view and just looking like a pathetic fanboy, and I’m afraid WWE has long crossed that line now. Leave the hype for the pay-per-view itself to the announcers; the wrestlers should be engaged in advancing their storylines and hyping their own individual matches, then the show will hype itself.
TJ Perkins vs Kenneth Johnson
TJP with a selfie-promo, suggesting he be first in line for a title shot after the tournament. We’re reminded we saw Johnson in the Cruiserweight Classic; I barely recognised him, he must have tasted defeat in the first round. Some mat work from TJP to start and a flying back elbow. Vertical suplex and a follow through into a belly-to-back suplex from Perkins. TJP is notably calling spots and trying to make sure Johnson keeps up. Senton splash from TJP. Kenneth comes back with a boot to the face but runs into a dropkick to the knee. Knee-breaker and a leglace from TJP. Detonation Kick from Perkins and he gets a tapout with a kneebar at 2:41.
Match rating: D Routine win for TJP against a fairly uncoordinated looking Johnson. The latter could do with going back to wrestling school; the least you expect from a jobber is that they have the basics down and don’t have two left feet. Perkins held onto the kneebar for some time after the bell until eventually releasing it. The ref should have disqualified him if you ask me.
Now we get a hype video for Mustafa Ali. Some good background info as we get detail about his former career as a police office in Chicago, and explanation from Ali that how he wanted to put his work as an activist to practical purposes. The commentators have been subtly waffling on in past weeks about how Ali doesn’t want to be “labelled” and wants to “change perceptions”. Mustafa expands on this and tells us he wants to change the mindset of people that would “automatically boo when they hear the name Mustafa Ali”. Personally, I find that a little insulting to a 21st century, educated audience, but then I don’t live in the U.S., so if there’s a fair proportion of the audience that would automatically boo an Asian character, then good on him for trying to change that (although it wouldn’t help that WWE have almost exclusively portrayed such ethnic minorities as dastardly heels in the past). Nevertheless, more good character building work. I now feel I know more about Ali; his fleshed-out character combined with his flashy in-ring offense gives me a wrestler I’ll look forward to watching.
Drake Maverick is fuming backstage about the earlier DQ finish in Dorado vs Itami and proceeds to book a fatal fourway for next week involving Kalisto, TJP, Akira Tozawa and Buddy Murphy. He then tells us that’s what he does, “turns a positive into a negative”. Did he fluff his lines again? Either way, he’s no Alan Partridge.
Cruiserweight title tournament, semi-final match
Drew Gulak vs Mustafa Ali
As Ali comes out, Vic tells us “he’s fighting for all those that have been held down by labels”. They might end up treading a fine line with this guy; rather than being booed “because his name is Mustafa Ali”, they risk him being booed because he’s bringing politics into a wrestling show. Hurracanrana takeover and a dropkick to the face from Ali as he takes control early. Opportunistic elbow to the face from Drew and a devastating lariot to the back of the neck. Fallaway slam from Gulak and he bridges back into a pinfall attempt for two. Ali comes back with some overhand chops and a spinning heel kick. Clotheslines from Mustafa and a flurry of rights on the mat, followed by a facebuster for a near fall; shades of X-Pac. Gulak takes control again and tries to lock in a dragon sleeper. Ali knees out of it but tastes a clothesline for his troubles. Short-arm clotheslines from Drew, but Ali locks in a Koji clutch. Gulak gets to the ropes for the escape and rolls to the outside. Ali goes up top and lands a beautiful somersault plancha on the outside. The fans are chanting for Ali as he goes up top, but Gulak knocks him off the top and to the outside, where Mustafa lands face-first on the apron.
Gulak recuperates in the ring as the ref starts the count on Ali. Drew breaks the count himself by going to the outside and sending Mustafa crashing into the barricade. Ali throws Gulak across the announce table as the clowns at the booth keep using the words “WrestleMania”, “championship” and “opportunity” like they’re going out of fashion. Both guys are on the announce table and jockeying for position, before Gulak sends Ali crashing onto the floor below with a backdrop. Gulak ramps up the intensity and rams Ali face first into the ring post, before slamming him over the barricade and into the timekeeper’s area. Ali breaks the ref’s count and 9 and three-quarters but finds himself locked in the dragon sleeper. Gulak lifts him up, perhaps for a Curtain Call attempt, but Ali turns through into a tornado DDT. Ali then goes up top and hits the 054 for the 1-2-3 at 15:11.
Match rating: B Strong match here, with a good clash of styles, culminating in Ali overcoming some high-intensity offense from Gulak during the closing stages. I’m a bit gutted to see Drew leave the tournament at this stage though, as I feel a face vs heel dynamic would serve the WrestleMania pre-show best.
Ali is interviewed mid-ring and Dasha asks him how it feels to be going to WrestleMania. The lack of any tangible crowd reaction to that question should tell WWE the fans are getting a little sick of the incessant WrestleMania hype. Mustafa tells us it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what colour your skin is, it’s what’s in your heart that counts. Good passion, and certainly more effective than marking out over a WrestleMania pay-day.
Overall rating: B- Decent show with a strong main event, although the brain-fart that was the DQ in Dorado vs Itami still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Worth watching for the main event.