An underrated element that is essential to the success of any pro wrestling television show is a sense of urgency. A sense that the thing you are watching is essential in that moment. Without that, a show just feels aimless. It feels as if what’s happening doesn’t matter. And the audience can always sense that immediately. That’s been a huge problem for the first month of 205 Live.
Every single undercard match has been wrestled like this show is essentially an overhyped version of Superstars or Main Event. And that was perfectly fine for those shows because they were filler and rarely ever considered otherwise. But 205 Live is hyped as the “most exciting” hour of television every week. And rather than fulfilling that promise it’s more often than not underwhelming television matches playing out in front of an audience twiddling their thumbs.
The show has frequently featured enjoyable main events that serve some role in advancing a story but even then they often fell relatively flat. And occasionally there’d be an enjoyable undercard performance from somebody like Lince Dorado before then he’d go and inexplicably lose to Ariya Daivari. Much of 205 Live’s run time to date has been Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, Ariya Daivara, Drew Gulak, and Anthony Nese having utterly dull matches. Nothing felt like it mattered.
That changed when Neville arrived at Roadblock: End of the Line. Part of the reason that’s Neville attack (after a tepid Kendrick/Swann/Perkins three way) landed with such impact was because he was everything that 205 Live hasn’t been so far. He was focused, he was intense, he was aggressive, he was explosive. He didn’t feel like he was killing time or meandering – he felt like he was trying to make a statement. He was everything Brian Kendrick has been trying and failing to be as the lead antagonist of the division.
And most importantly of all Neville felt believable. While his over-reliance on his mean face is at times amusing, his anger is understandable. Neville has wallowed on WWE undercards for 18 months without achieving pretty much anything of note. Now he is sick of being overlooked and he wants to take what he feels he deserves. And in doing so he is willing to hurt people. And for the first time in the show’s one month history it feels like it has a pulse.
That leads into another major issues with 205 Live.
It’s storytelling is at best mediocre and at worst utterly contrived. I have been rallying against STORIEZ for a while now. STORIEZ are to pro wrestling storytelling as MOVEZ are to pro wrestling matches. Inessential, shoehorned in and at the end of the day generally devoid of substance.
205 Live has been full to the brink with STORIEZ. I have long been an advocate for pro wrestling telling different kinds of stories, most notably love stories. Sadly, 205 Live’s idea of a love story is the frankly stupid love triangle between Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar and Alicia Fox. It’s less a love story than two dopey men being idiots over a woman. The reason Cedric connected so strongly during the Cruiserweight Classic (great matches with Kota Ibushi aside) was because he felt real. He, like many of his CWC compatriots, felt like rounded human beings with drives and ambitions, flaws and ideals. They didn’t feel like caricatures. They didn’t feel phony.
When TJ Perkins accidentally kicked Rich Swann and as the audience we’re meant to go “OMG DID TJ DO IT ON PURPOSE!?” I just groan because it’s such empty storytelling. The only interesting outcome in that scenario is if Perkins did in fact kick Swann on purpose, and going in that direction would be acknowledging the failures in his presentation as a character since the considerable goodwill he generated while winning the CWC. It’s one of those boilerplate WWE stories that does little but make people look petty or small and undercuts them as likable characters.
Turning these wrestlers, many of whom aren’t the most dynamic personalities by themselves, into interesting well rounded characters should be 205 Live’s main priority (also actually delivering on that “exciting television” moniker a little more often would help a great deal too). Neville is a step in the right direction but without support from the people around him he won’t be able to carry the division by himself in the long term.
- Austin Aries is still a particular highlight. Managing to be entertaining and establish his own personality on commentary without detracting from the wrestlers and action in the ring, a feat few other wrestlers achieve on commentary.
- I never ever need to see another Ariya Daivari match ever again. I can’t even fathom looking at the talent WWE has available for the Cruiserweight division right now and choosing to feature Daivari so heavily above the rest.
- It’s a shame TJP gets generally gets so little reaction when he comes out because he has a cool entrance.
- So far on this show we’ve been told Akira Tozawa, Tajiri and Gran Metalik are “Coming Soon!” The sooner we see at least one of them the better.
- Featuring The Bollywood Boyz right out of the gate on the first episode of 205 Live seems like an even more questionable decision in hindsight considering they haven’t been seen since.
- I’m disappointed that Rich Swann has joined the seemingly endless ranks of WWE babyfaces whose only setting for conveying emotion is smirking at all times.
- I’ll be interested to see how WWE handle Neville. In theory he should probably claim the Cruiserweight title sooner rather than later while he has a little juice, but Swann deserves a better opportunity to grow into the role of champion – something he has yet to really do since dethroning Brian Kendrick.
Rather than looking at 205 Live weekly I’ll be popping in once a month to take a more broad look at the show and the Cruiserweights division. If you’re looking for a weekly review we recommend checking out our friend Larry Csonka over at 411 Wrestling.