Ever since the WWE launched 205 Live last year following the much heralded Cruiserweight Classic, the internet fan base has lauded the WWE for it’s handling of the Cruiserweight Division. And while some complaints were a tad trivial (i.e. the purple ropes), the feeling was that the division – while stacked with amazing international talent – lacked true star power to entice the casual fans to the product to witness such indie superstars like Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, or Noam Dar. And though the WWE has since added such names as Neville (whose “King of the Cruiserweights” gimmick has revolutionized his character and upped his stock in the WWE) and Austin Aries, neither had the intended boost that the WWE had hoped. Enter Enzo Amore.
ENZO AMORE: THE SAVIOR 205 LIVE NEEDED
205 Live has never suffered from a lack of talent. Right from the get go, the Cruiserweight Division on Raw – and by extension, 205 Live itself – has been filled with some of the best indie wrestlers of the past two years. Rich Swann, Cedric Alexander, TJ Perkins, Noam Dar, Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, Gran Metalik, Jack Gallagher and more all came highly regarded from such indie faves as EVOLVE, PROGRESS, CHIKARA, AAA and more. Brian Kendrick, a former WWE Superstar, returned as the initial star power following a buzz worthy run in the CWC, but even that failed to pull in the eyes the way they’d hoped. After all, despite the CWC drawing in great ratings for the WWE Network, it was a niche market – these were international indie superstars that have a limited audience. And losing out on two of the biggest names in the CWC – UK sensation Zack Sabre Jr. and Japanese star Kota Ibushi – probably had a hand in some eyes shying away from the new show. A lack in tangible storylines out of the gate also detracted some, who were hoping for more straight forward wrestling akin to the CWC than just another regular part of the WWE Universe.
As the storylines found their shape and lengths over the past few months, 205 Live has found strength in it’s numbers, but it’s still only occasionally popped into the Top 10 Most Watched Shows on the WWE Network. Simply put, the star power just wasn’t there. While many will say that adding Neville and then Austin Aries to the mix should have sealed the deal, it should be noted that while Neville and Aries are both huge names to indie fans, thanks to Neville’s work as PAC on the indies and Aries work with both Ring of Honor and TNA, neither ever really achieved huge mainstream success on a WWE level. While they may have brought a few more of the niche indie fan base on board, they did little to attract more of the casual fans who are more knowledgeable on the WWE Universe than the international or indie industry.
BADDA BOOM BADDA BING – REALEST GUY IN THE ROOM
Let’s get one thing straight. Although we are making a case that Enzo Amore will be the “savior” of 205 Live, that case is in strengthening 205 Live (and the Cruiserweight Division as a whole) as a brand in the eyes of the WWE Universe – as in, those fans who are strictly WWE fans and have no knowledge of the inner workings of the industry or follow indie wrestling (which is a larger percentage of WWE’s audience than many in the IWC will give credit to). And with that in mind, there is no one on the 205 Live roster at this point in time that is as over or well known to the WWE faithful as Enzo Amore.
It’s no secret that Enzo Amore has been a heat magnet of late. While still one of the most popular Superstars on the roster and a merch selling machine, his backstage antics have been well documented by many of late, that he is disrespecting the industry, he’s showboating his lifestyle, and rubbing many backstage the wrong way. But as Eric Bischoff once said (and Amore himself reiterated yesterday during his promo on Raw), “controversy creates cash”. While many dirt sheets were sharing photos of Enzo showing off his Mayweather-McGregor ticket and it’s $10,000 price tag as another example of Enzo flogging his lifestyle (and adding to his heat), the WWE was sharing the same photo to promote his “certified G” lifestyle. They were using the real life drama surrounding The Realest Guy in the Room to flaunt the very gimmick he was portraying on television (whether it was real or not) – similar to how the did the same with Ted DiBiase during his initial Million Dollar Man days. They actively promoting Enzo Amore as a street hustler from New York City who was flaunting his new found wealth – while with DiBiase “every man had his price”, with Amore it was more “everyman has his toys”.
THE UPSIDE OF ENZO AMORE IN 205 LIVE
Obviously, the first one is his draw. Enzo’s appearances since he was sent to 205 Live last week has already had a resounding impact – crowd reactions during Cruiserweight segments he is in are getting a far bigger and louder reaction than anyone previously. His debut appearance on 205 Live also made the Top 10 Most Watched Shows on the WWE Network last week – it was only beaten by last week’s NXT and the first 4 episodes of the Mae Young Classic (which most people binge watched as a complete set). 205 Live with Enzo’s debut actually surpassed SummerSlam replays as well. He was already drawing more casuals to the show than anyone else had yet.
Secondly, Amore offers a character that can be used as a vital component – a transitional champion that will not lose steam by a loss. While his character has been using underhanded tactics of late since arriving in the CW division – cheating to win, selfishly tagging himself in at the expense of his partners to pick up the wins – Amore can work from cheating heel to sympathetic face, and everything in between. His persona can fluctuate as the circumstances call for. Is Amore the best Cruiserweight on 205 Live? Not by a long shot. In fact, he’s hands down the least technically talented. But by being such a streetwise, underhanded crook, he can steal wins over the more talented wrestlers – perhaps against Neville even – which would help negate any downside to them losing to someone of Amore’s skill level. And being the weasel he is, when he drops the title next (perhaps to someone like Cedric Alexander), Amore would see no drop in his character’s momentum – he’s more akin to Spike Dudley or Crash Holly in that sense. People expect this lovable loser to lose more often than he wins, but when he does, they’re fun surprises. But he can offer big rubs to those who beat him – while indie purists will laugh and suggest of course someone like Alexander, Ali or Swann should beat Amore, to the WWE faithful, Amore is the star they know – the rest are guys that are simply “new” or peripheral. But by defeating someone established in their eyes like Enzo Amore, it will create a bigger moment to the WWE Universe than Mustafa Ali beating Ariya Daivari, no matter how good the match was.
While many seem to think that Enzo Amore is just one more selfie away from being future endeavoured, if 205 Live maintains it’s current momentum with Enzo Amore’s presence, don’t be surprised if the WWE keeps Enzo as the floating face of 205 Live to help build the brand beyond the niche indie fans and into the mind of the WWE Universe.