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    Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Live From The 205 (7/18/17): Ali Bomaye

    For weeks I'd been complaining about the endless nature of the Drew Gulak vs. Mustafa Ali feud, whining that all they do is fight each other for a cause that seems to be forgotten. It's like a war that stretches on for a thousand years—you eventually forget what it is you're fighting for because the fighting never stops.

    To say that about Gulak vs. Ali is a disservice to the feud, however, because they've never actually lost and forgotten what they were fighting about. Gulak always stayed true to his messaging, and Ali, as dynamic as ever, played along with it. It's just that the single-mindedness of the booking—with Gulak always badgering just Ali, when there are many other cruiserweights in the division flying around, sometimes even more than Ali does—made it feel like they were merely going around in circles.

    Luckily, the feud finally ended in this week's two out of three falls match, and it goes out with enough of a bang to more than erase all of this story's past sins—it establishes Mustafa Ali as a special young talent in the cruiserweight division, and it proves that 205 Live can actually be a home for the cruiserweights to flourish. They just need that political will.

    This match tells one hell of a story. Before this entire feud, Ali was just known as a guy who flew around; he earned his first real win against Gulak in this story by staying on the ground and pinning him with a fancy hold. The way Ali wins the first fall in this match—via another fancy pinning combination—shows that he's evolved into more than just a high-flyer. You now have to watch out for his offense on the ground, and to be fair, that's something Gulak should be proud of.

    The second fall reestablishes just how good Gulak really is on the ground, and how much better he is at it than Ali or anyone else in the division (save for TJP). He hasn't won with his dragon sleeper in a long time, and Ali instantly tapping out to it makes Gulak look the strongest he's honestly ever been in this rivalry.

    The third fall is where it gets really good. After showing that he could win just as well on the ground as he can in the air, Mustafa Ali heads back to his bread and butter. He shows Gulak that he's really just afraid he can't handle the aerial supremacy, and the added risk and danger is simply just another way to win a wrestling match. Gulak even seems to understand this as he tries to go for a top-rope move again as a Hail Mary, as the commentators put it, but his hesitation proves to be his own undoing as Ali is just more comfortable up there.

    At the end of the match, it truly feels like Ali's earned a spot to play for the Cruiserweight Championship again. He comes out of their story an even more well-rounded wrestler, and definitely a more over superstar. Gulak's loss gives him something to work with as he has to go back to the drawing board and find a way to get over his fear of heights, and I hope his next feud touches on that theme further (because you know he's just gonna go after another high-flyer; I hope it's Gran Metalik).

    The big-picture bottom line, though, is with matches like these and last week's I Quit, and next week's mystery tag between TJP and Rich Swann (with Vacant on both sides) 205 Live is finally hitting its stride of being that special cruiserweight show. Yes, they still feel like an afterthought when you consider that they're still all a part of the RAW roster, but the show is hustling enough to try and come close to recreating that Cruiserweight Classic feeling. You'll find most of the guys here on this hour after SmackDown, and they're putting on one hell of a show. I hope this keeps up moving forward.

    205 Live 7/18/17 Grade: The two out of three falls taking up the entire first half of this week's episode is enough to propel the show's rating; I just wish we could do away with this cringeworthy Brian Kendrick/Jack Gallagher feud. This episode gets another TJP Heel Turn, or A-; next week's looks to get even higher from here.

    Short stops

    • Pretty much every ongoing cruiserweight story had been touched on this week, save for Neville. Tozawa is slowly veering toward a personal angle with Titus O'Neil, which is underrated in its own merit (more on that later) but it strangely leaves the champion out of the loop. I hope this is setting up a multi-man match for the title at SummerSlam, though, as quite a few stars have been getting big rubs as of late. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali are now waiting in the wings.

    • Speaking of Tozawa, I'm enjoying the nuanced dynamic he has with the rest of Titus Worldwide. On one hand, it's honorable for him to not quit, but on the other, Titus's reasons for protecting him are still dubious. We still don't know if he genuinely cares for Tozawa or whether he's just protecting an investment, and the writing is smart enough to play on that ambiguity. Whatever it is, though, every side of this is making sense, and everyone involved (yes, including Apollo Crews) is set to come out of this more fleshed out. It's really the little things.

    • I just don't know what to make of Ariya Daivari's sudden push, and this new gimmick of honoring Iranian amateur wrestlers. If it's another change, it would mark the second gimmick change Daivari's had in a couple of months. It sort of feels like a mini-Jinder Mahal push, where the guy who isn't exactly quite deserving is getting a spotlight, but it depends on where he goes from here. Tozawa carries him to arguably his best match, but Tozawa can do that with anyone. That said, why couldn't this spot have gone to Tony Nese instead?

    • The Brian Kendrick stuff is really just getting cringeworthy at this point. Granted, it's one way to get heel heat in this day and age, but it's just... so... uninspired. Instead of a character story they could do with Gallagher, they're stuck in a feud that doesn't really mean anything. At least Kendrick was trying to teach Tozawa some things.

    • An important point: 205 Live is really promoting matches on the next episode! If someone from Creative is reading this review, please have TJP subtly shout me out in one of the next episodes.

      The Cruiserweight Division Power Rankings (as of 7/20/17)

      Stories are being wrapped up one by one as we head toward SummerSlam, and the Smarkometrics Experience Xtreme (tm) is trying to adjust to these status quo shakeups:

      • 1. Akira Tozawa, #3 last week — No Neville at all this week leaves him open to fall down one spot, which is highly unusual. Tozawa doesn't actually do much this week, losing to Ariya Daivari on RAW before he takes his win back on 205 Live. However, Daivari manages to punk him out still after their match, making Tozawa's hold on the top rather shaky.

      • 2. Neville, #1 last week — Cedric Alexander not getting an actual appearance after winning against Mustafa Ali cushions Neville's fall from the top. Hope the champion can get back next week.

      • 3. Cedric Alexander, #2 last week — Doesn't even get an interview to keep his momentum going, but at least his win from the week before was recapped.

      • 4. Mustafa Ali, #7 last week — Beats Gulak twice—one in a tag match on RAW and another in this week's monumental two out of three falls match. If this doesn't get him (and Alexander) into championship contention, we'll have a real problem here.

      • 5. Jack Gallagher, #6 last week — Beats Brian Kendrick in that tag match with Mustafa Ali.

      • 6. TJP, #4 last week — Has a big tag match against Rich Swann with mystery partners next week, but at least drops by 205 Live to talk some trash. Really love the way he's being written here; he's acknowledging his friendship with Rich Swann but chooses to be an arrogant dick about it. This is perfect TJP.

      • 7. Rich Swann, #5 last week — Nowhere this week after getting humiliated by TJP. Well, "humiliated."

      • 8. Ariya Daivari, #9 last week — Has a new thing dedicating his matches to Iranian Olympic wrestlers, and getting a win out of it. Hope this meaner streak leads to better performances from him.

      • 9. The Brian Kendrick, #8 last week — Coasting along on a lazy story, but he wins so that's something.

      • 10. Drew Gulak, #11 last week — Loses the big two out of three falls match, but that was his best match in a long time.

      • 11. Noam Dar, #10 last week Off licking his wounds somewhere.

        • 12. Tony Nese, no movement — Doesn't appear, but doesn't fall because the three below him don't appear either.

        • 13. Lince Dorado, no movement — See Tony Nese.

        • 14. Gran Metalik, no movement — See Tony Nese.

        • 15. Devin Bennett, new — The "English" jobber who lost to Brian Kendrick is here because we're still missing active roster members in the cruiserweight division.

        Photo from WWE


        Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his Curiouscat account.
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        Item Reviewed: Live From The 205 (7/18/17): Ali Bomaye Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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