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    Monday, December 18, 2017

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/17/17): The Beginning of the Zo Train Era

    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2017 produced for us.

    Announced in November 2016, 205 Live received mixed reactions from fans. On the one hand, giving the lads from the Cruiserweight Classic a bigger platform without relegating them as one-match wonders in the main roster was welcome. The show was also expected to give fans a break from the main shows by giving more focus on top-notch action week-in and week-out.

    On the other hand, it was feared that putting cruiserweights on a WWE Network-exclusive show would make them more niche than they were in the indies. Placing them in a “WWE-style” show also ran the risk of exposing their weaknesses on the mic and relegating a handful of talents to stories that may never put them in line for the Cruiserweight Championship.

    A year later, 205 Live survived the odds and is enjoying something of a renaissance period—in no small part thanks to Neville and Enzo Amore.

    Neville in particular is credited with rejuvenating interest in the show. His turn at Roadblock: End of the Line and his promo afterwards on RAW began his metamorphosis from an afterthought to a man who earned the right to be called the King of the Cruiserweights.

    (^^ with permission ^^)

    Apart from creating a formidable character and a forceful moveset to match, Neville raised the stock of every opponent he faced. His feuds with Rich Swann, Jack Gallagher, and Akira Tozawa gave all three chances to refine their characters and endear themselves to the crowd.

    Meanwhile, Neville’s feud with Austin Aries was a main roster-worthy rivalry that gave him an opponent that can stand toe-to-toe with him in-ring and in promos, and lead to a WrestleMania match — its placement in the pre-show notwithstanding.

    By the time he ended his rivalry with Tozawa, Neville built his reputation back up to the point that the very same fans he loathes now want him back on the main roster. And while its ratings remain dire, Neville’s rise to power has been nothing but a boon for the division and an incentive for his foes to step up their game.

    Enzo’s entry into the Cruiserweight division after the Tozawa feud was the best move for Neville and 205 Live.

    While Neville was proving his worth in 205 Live, Enzo was repeatedly made the butt monkey on RAW. From inexplicably being the designated good guy in an infidelity angle against Lana and Rusev, to losing repeatedly in tag matches, and shimmying out of a shark cage half-naked, Enzo’s late 2016 to mid-2017 was, to quote him, S-A-W-F-T.

    Enzo gunning straight for Neville was not only an attempt to give 205 Live a ratings boost, but his way of seeking redemption and proving that he can thrive without a big man behind him.

    Instead of rising as a beloved jokester against the Mad King Neville however, Enzo remained a man who, by all accounts, should be hated for passing off as a star through crude jokes, cruder actions, and straight up cheating, but instead is lauded as a hero.

    This did earn him a title shot, and with that shot he eventually won—via cheating—the Cruiserweight Championship off Neville in No Mercy though.

    Neville and Enzo’s match at No Mercy itself was not a highlight of either man’s career. Neville easily took control of the match from the get-go, nailing Enzo with big kicks, throwing him out of the ring and into the barricade, and toying with the contender in a way that Enzo is well-accustomed to.

    Enzo stayed as the babyface in peril until an ill-fated Phoenix Splash from Neville opened him to a top-rope DD-G. Neville kicked out at two and tossed Enzo outside after another fierce kick. Unfortunately for the champ, this allowed Enzo to grab the Cruiserweight Title to distract the referee with and open Neville for a low blow, leading to Enzo’s first run with the championship.

    What made this match important, and worthy of inclusion in SH’s #31DaysofWrestling, was its significance for the show and the characters themselves. Neville and Enzo’s clash at No Mercy began a new chapter for 205 Live: it introduced a new obstacle for the Cruiserweights to struggle against and rebuild their existing narratives around.

    It also served to turn Neville face again without losing his character development and allow Enzo to return to his roots of being a loudmouth heel.

    Their segment on RAW after No Mercy also threw into stark contrast their dynamic with 205 Live itself. Both were obviously brought in to generate attention, but their reasons for staying are completely different.

    Eminent 205 Live scholar and Cruiserweight Mom Justine a.k.a. pastasauca put it best:

    Enzo's like a medium sized fish who chooses to stay in a smaller pond because it's easy pickings. Neville is like a bigger fish in the same pond who can't break the surface; there's more freedom (in it), but it's still a small pond.

    Given that Neville has been incommunicado since Enzo officially turned heel by assaulting him with a crutch, it remains to be seen whether this dynamic can be paid off. It’s almost a shame that he disappeared before they can get their feud off the ground, as it would’ve been nice to see Neville pay Enzo back for their match in No Mercy with, well, a merciless beatdown.

    Whether Neville returns or not, Neville vs. Enzo at No Mercy effectively set the course of 205 Live and the Cruiserweights for 2018.

    (And hopefully, that course will be navigated on the Drew Train. Droo droo.)

    (If you’re tentative about starting 205 Live, let pastasauca’s list of top matches slide you in. If her handle seems familiar, she’s designed gear for Big E and earned her nickname of Cruiserweight Mom through amazing fanart and analysis. Follow her for the art, the wrestling, and the occasional amazing job-seeking tips!)


    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2017.

    Read our previous entries:

    1. The Okada/Omega Trilogy
    2. Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania 33)
    3. The Mae Young Classic Finals
    4. Billy Suede vs. Jake De Leon (Wrevolution X 2017)
    5. WarGames
    6. Prince Puma vs. Pentagon Dark (Ultima Lucha Tres)
    7. Fatal Four Way for the WWE Universal Championship (SummerSlam)
    8. Manami Toyota's Retirement
    9. Jinder Mahal Wins the WWE Championship
    10. Roman Reigns Tries To Take The Torch (No Mercy 2017)
    11. Hanzello Shilva vs. Aldrin Richards (MWF Balikbayan 2017)
    12. Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (G1 Climax 27 Finals)
    13. The Implosion of #DIY
    14. Ubusan ng Lahi
    15. The First (and Second) Women's Money in the Bank
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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/17/17): The Beginning of the Zo Train Era Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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