205 Live Debut Review (11/29/16)

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It was only a few weeks ago that WWE revealed they had plans for a brand new Cruiserweight centric program for the WWE Network, to be called 205 Live (a nod to the weight limit for the division, of 205 lbs.). The plans indicated that the show would emanate live from the same venue as Smackdown Live on Tuesday nights, bumping the popular recap talk show SmackTalk later in the hour. When it was announced that Cruiserweight Champion Brian Kendrick would face Smackdown Live‘s Kalisto at Survivor Series recently that Kalisto would bring the Cruiserweight division over to Smackdown to facilitate the transition, as per the announced stipulation. So it was a bit of a shock when Kendrick retained following interference from Baron Corbin and the division remained on Raw.

Regardless, 205 Live debuted live tonight from Columbia, South Carolina. Let’s see how the debut episode fared!

The show kicks off with Mauro Ranallo from Smackdown Live joined by Raw and NXT’Corey Graves on colour. Sitting next to them is Austin Aries, who appears to be the third man on the broadcast team. This could be a blessing in disguise. Aries gets to remain on WWE television while he recovers from the surgery, and he not only does he have a working knowledge of most of these guys, he’s very comfortable on the mic.

They bring out the entire division and introduce them to the crowd. Pretty much the entire CWC tournament except Tyson Dux, Zack Sabre Jr., and Ibushi. Cedric Alexander got a solid crowd reaction again tonight, after one of the loudest yet last night at Raw in Charlotte. Nice to see the WWE Universe starting to get behind the division.

We get a little intro package introducing viewers to Canadian tag team The Bollywood Boyz, who have competed for Canada’s ECCW as well as holding the tag titles in GFW.

THE BOLLYWOOD BOYZ vs. “THE PREMIER ATHLETE” TONY NESE & DREW GULAK

Tony Nese is on a great run with the WWE right now. He may not have been on their radar in the early stages of the Cruiserweight Classic, but he seems to be high on their list now. He’s got a great look and he can move. And for a smaller guy, he’s got some power. Drew Gulak is like a Modern Age Dean Malenko – he’s serious, methodical, and is funnier as the straight man. Both have had great runs in Evolve the past year.

Gulak and Nese work over the Bollywood Boyz early on, tagging frequently and working on them relentlessly with ground holds to keep the high flyer brother tandem from getting momentum. Harv Bollywood finally gets the hot tag on Gurv to a decent pop. The Smackdown Live crowd still has some energy following sitting through one show, which is nice. Following nicely on the livelier crowd from Charlotte last night.

Things even out with a few high spots and reversals, until the Bollywood Boys do a double Superkick on Drew Gulak for the pin.

205 Jive: Surprised by the end. Nese and Gulak – especially Nese – has been pushed hard. But nice to see the Bollywood Boyz get a push out the gate. Both teams had a solid debut for the show. If rumours are true and Steve Corino is headed to the WWE in January to work at the Performance Center, it may be worthwhile to put him on NXT commentary, just so he can yell “SUPPPPPERRKIIIIIICK” for the Bollywood Boyz. You’re welcome Trips.

Another video package intro, this time for Scotland’s Noam Dar

Backstage Segment: BRIAN KENDRICK INTERVIEW

Smackdown Live and NXT’s Tom Phillips is backstage to interview Kendrick on his chances against Rich Swann. Kendrick goes on a big spiel until Nathaniel reminds Kendrick that it’s not just Swann he needs to be concerned about. Behind him, Kendrick sees TJ Perkins. He wishes Kendrick “good luck” with a smirk.

ARIYA DAIVARI vs. JACK GALLAGHER

‘The Extraordinary Gentleman’ Jack Gallagher, who’s been one of the top UK talents of the past few years, makes his WWE television debut as an employee, following his appearance in the CWC. He’s paired up with Ariya Daivari, younger brother of former WWE Superstar Shawn Daivari.

Both men put on a solid match, with some great little spots, but the crowd definitely felt a little quieter than the opening match. While I’m a huge fan of Gallagher’s work in Progress and other UK indies, part of me is worried that his style is best appreciated in smaller rings with more intimate crowds. It’s compact combat theatre. A lot of the nuances can be lost on the crowd if they can’t see it live.

Some great hold work back and forth from both men. One thing’s for sure. So far, every wrestler in both matches has been given some offensive time to show some nice previews of their arsenals. Daivari looked strong against a hyped Gallagher debut after being used more as enhancement in NXT. Gallagher pulled out the win at the end and somewhere I bet William Regal is smiling ear to ear.

205 Jive: Nicely worked match. Fans of high spots or serious technical wrestling probably hated it, but Gallagher is superb at making incredibly technical submission moves look like they were devised by John Cleese. He paired up nicely with Daivari, who is showing to be a solid worker in the ring. Very dependable.

Next video package intro is for Lince Dorado.

Cruiserweight Championship Match: BRIAN KENDRICK (C) vs. RICH SWANN

Kendrick comes to the ring and we hit an intro package for Rich Swann. Incredibly charismatic dude. He was a highly sought after indie sensation for years, it’s no surprise he ended up in the WWE. He’s really managed to keep his energized indie persona intact so far, and the crowd is clearly warming up to him. This video package is a little too much on the heartstring pluck. In the sense that it feels like it’s endearing you to him just enough to feel let down if Kendrick retains. Which is entirely fine. Good storytelling has to invest you first.

Swann comes down to the ring to his sweet, sweet boogie jam, much to the chagrin of an unenthused Brian Kendrick. Kendrick has done a great job with making the Cruiserweight title feel special. His passion for getting it and keeping it has really made the belt feel important.

Incredibly refreshing to have a show without commercials. Much like it works better for NXT, the lack of long breaks helps the faster action keep it’s momentum for the whole show.

Kendrick controls the early part of the match, keeping the ring mostly close to avoid Swann getting to much room to move. Swann reverses a Slice Bread attempt from Kendrick into a wheelbarrow reverse pin, but Kendrick rolls out of the ring to take a breather.

Swann joins him, hops on the barrier wall and does a flip onto Kendrick, before picking the Champion up and throwing him in the ring for a pin attempt. Kendrick kicks out at two.

They trade blows before Kendrick suplexes Swann then goes for a submission attempt with the Captain’s Hook. Swann gets to the ropes and the ref breaks the hold. Kendrick goes for a Dragon Suplex but Swann lands on his feet and suplexes Kendrick himself. With Kendrick in the corner reeling, Swann circles the champion.

He ends up pulling a stunned Kendrick up to the top rope, but Kendrick fights out and pulls off almost a Rude Awakening off the top rope, hitting the back of Swann’s head off the top turnbuckle. Kendrick returns to the ring as the ref starts the 10 count. And it appears the Tye Dillinger “10” chant that the Toronto audience started is gone viral.

Swann climbs back in and Kendrick goes back at him, with another Dragon Suplex, into another Captain’s Hook attempt. Swann fights out, but gets caught in the Straightjacket submission. Kendrick is relentless.

Swann hits a modified Michinoku driver out of nowhere on Kendrick, but he’s exhausted. Kendrick runs at him and Swann catches Kendrick with a kick to the face. Kendrick goes down. Instead of the pin, Swann goes for a top rope flip but is caught by Kendrick’s knees.

Kendrick rolls Swann over into a third Captain’s Hook, but Swann again gets the rope. They both trade tired blows, before Swann tries to wrangle a beaten Kendrick to the top ropes again. Kendrick fights out of it and hits a second Sliced Bread on Swann, who kicks out AGAIN! What a beating! What a match!

The fans in Columbia, South Carolina break into a “This is awesome!” chant as Swann gathers steam and catches Kendrick with a trio of kicks to the side of the head to Kendrick and goes for the pin.

1-2-3! Rich Swann is your NEW WWE Cruiserweight Champion!

205 Jive: Great episode. First two matches were solid, but the main event was a great match. Kendrick showed you don’t have to to be a flippy guy to tell a story in the Cruiserweight Division and Swann showed that even though he wasn’t as high flying as he may have been in the indies, he still had a great match with lots of emotion. He’s adapted well to the WWE style without losing too much of what made him Rich Swann. Great moment and you could see Swann was taken by the win.

Solid debut. It wasn’t the best thing ever done by any means, but for a debut it was a great start. Everyone got a solid chance to show their stuff, Nese & Gulak helped put over the Bollywood Boyz to add some more characters to the division, and Daivari and Gallagher had a fun romp. But Swann over Kendrick is indeed the right move – the crowd was behind Swann and loved the finish. 

Kendrick will get his rematch, and hopefully TJ Perkins gets added to make it a Triple Threat. This will give the chance for Swann to retain and for Kendrick and Perkins to continue their feud, while Swann gets a run in the main event for a bit. My ideal candidate for his next opponent would be “The Premier Athlete” Tony Nese. 

So what did YOU think of 205 Live‘s debut episode? Let us know in the comments below!

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