Last night’s announcement that former Impact Wrestling and UK indie star Rockstar Spud – under the Darkwing Duckian alias of Drake Maverick – was taking over the reigns as the GM for 205 Live and the WWE Cruiserweight Division may have stolen the headlines, but the action last night proved that Daniel Bryan‘s comments of bringing back the action that the fans craved from the 2016 WWE Cruiserweight Classic may be more truthful than WWE is usually known for. After Maverick announced the creation of a new 16-man tournament to crown the next WWE Cruiserweight Champion at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans this April, the show featured two solid first round match-ups, in Cedric Alexander vs. Cruiserweight Classic finalist Gran Metalik (with Cedric advancing), followed by former UK Champion Tyler Bate losing to Cruiserweight Classic winner TJ Perkins. Both matches were longer than usual and featured more risks than usually showcased on WWE programming (other than NXT).
The announcement that it’s a 16-man tournament is an interesting one. If you do the match, there aren’t 16 men available in the WWE Cruiserweight Division at the moment. There are exactly 16 men on the 205 Live roster at the moment, but for differing reasons, several are unavailable. Neville is out on a hold out, Rich Swann has yet to be reinstated following the dismissal of his charges on domestic abuse, and Noam Dar and Brian Kendrick are both out with injuries that will keep them out beyond the first round. That leaves 12 active members for the tournament: the aforementioned Alexander, Gran Metalik, and TJP, plus Hideo Itami, Akira Tozawa, Drew Gulak, Mustafa Ali, Lince Dorado, Ariya Daivari, Jack Gallagher, Kalisto, and Tony Nese.
This leaves open four wild card positions in the tournament, which is essentially a new Cruiserweight Classic, disguised as a tournament to find a new Champion following from Enzo Amore‘s “abdication”. We’ve already seen one of the wild cards, in UK talent Tyler Bale, and another was announced last night. Next week’s show features two more opening round matches, with Lince Dorado vs. Kalisto, and then Hideo Itami facing NXT Superstar (and former ROH World Champion) Roderick Strong. This marks Strong’s official debut on the main roster.
— Hideo Itami / 伊丹英雄 (@HideoItami) January 31, 2018
So that leaves two open spots for “surprise” entrants, with the understanding now that UK and NXT talent are potential slots for the tournament. So who could the other two contenders be?
Probably the person most fans would like to see injected, especially seeing as how fellow UK wrestler and British Strong Style stablemate Tyler Bate just had a spot in the tournament. Dunne has defended his UK title against non-UK competitors, so it’s only fair that he get a shot at a non-UK title. His appearance on Raw late last year against Enzo Amore showed that he’s got star power untapped.
While he’s still very much a focal point of NXT for 2018, giving Gargano a taste of the main roster – and on the flipside, the WWE Universe a taste of Johnny Wrestling – would be a solid choice should they chose another NXT Superstar to join the hunt. They’ve even got an easy out for him to lose without damaging his brand, with his ongoing feud with Tomasso Ciampa.
Another of the UK standouts and highflyers, he’s the only other one of the most predominantly used UK Superstars who’d make the weight cut (Trent Seven and Wolfgang exceed the 205 cut off). Andrews could have a great match with anyone, so even if he was a first round knockout, he’d still be worth adding.
Sure his Royal Rumble return was only a one-off, but with the YouTube video of Mysterio’s return on the WWE YouTube channel sitting at 8.5 million views (trouncing Ronda Rousey‘s debut by over 6 million), WWE may smell the chance to bring the King of the 619 back for at least one appearance, if not at least a small run through WrestleMania to potentially put over the new champion in New Orleans. And Rey’s presence would help draw a lot of eyes to 205 Live, which, if they plan on moving in more of a CWC style programming, wouldn’t hurt to include the 8x WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
He’s in an odd spot on NXT right now as the midcard stabilizes with the shifting of new talent, but giving him a match or two in the tournament would help boost this 23-year old’s confidence and show him just what he could be missing out on if he doesn’t mature himself to the industry. Putting him against guys more his size and style would only benefit in showcasing him to the world.
Another Royal Rumble return who got a huge pop (as well as one of the rumored possibilities for the 205 Live GM role), adding a veteran like The Hurricane would be a nice nostalgic addition to the tournament (should Mysterio not be available). Not to mention, Helms is also the longest reigning Cruiserweight Champion in WWE history. Although he’s probably no longer in the 205 weight class, I’m sure we can make an exception for The Hurricane…
WWE does love their heel authority figures, so maybe the Artist Formerly Known As Spud decides to enter himself into the tournament in the last first round match-up? After all, he is a former 2x Impact X-Division Champion in his own right.
There’s also the very distinct possibility that WWE reinstates Rich Swann within the timeframe of the first round, now that all charges were dropped in his case. With no charges, the WWE have no cause for holding up his suspension. Returning for this tournament would be a great place for a return, but WWE may be weary because of any negative feedback his return may garner.
Yes, it’s a long shot. A very, very long shot. Every report indicates that Neville has long since headed back to England and the WWE is freezing his contract until he returns to work. But so far, denial has been the new kayfabe in the WWE – denying the Hardys return to WrestleMania last year, Molly Holly denying she was going to be involved in the Rumble, Triple H and Rousey both denying they were close to a deal. It’s very possible that perhaps the King of the Cruiserweights returns to 205 Live for this very tournament (if for nothing else than to work off the remainder of his frozen contract).
Last but not least, what better way to showcase their new Superstar signing than to give him a quick showing on the main roster? Ricochet has proven time and time again that he can’t have a bad match with anyone and with 205 Live seemingly giving them a bit more space for this tournament, adding Ricochet into the tournament, even for one match, would be a great way to show off their future Superstar, but advertise NXT as well.
Who do you think the last two spots will be? Let us know in the comments below!