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    Friday, February 16, 2018

    Live From the 205 (2/13/18): Murder On The Drew-Drew Train

    One of the most refreshing and pleasantly surprising things about the Drake Maverick-era 205 Live is how much the action makes the previous era's booking look straight up inferior.

    This week's main event saw a friendship torn apart as Drew Gulak took on Tony Nese in their first-round match of the Cruiserweight Championship tournament, and neither of them were messing around. Gulak dropped any and all PowerPoint antics and returned to his ways of being a bruiser, while Nese skewed toward his truer calling of being a more sympathetic phenom of an athlete.

    It's a joy to watch—not because Drew's presentations were unwelcome, but because it's great to know that Drew can go back to this level of barbarism, the kind of wrestling he was really signed on for. And he deserves it for all the hard work he's put in the past few months, transforming himself from generic heel to Enzo Amore henchman to low-key sleeper hit. It just shows that your boy truly is well-rounded.

    And that versatility is going to be what Gulak needs in order to establish himself as the division's new top heel, after the departures of Enzo and Neville, and Brian Kendrick's injury. It's like he knew exactly what he had to do, and how he had to bring it this week. (It also helps that Nese gravitated toward the high-flying babyface role he was really meant to portray.)

    Think about it—without Enzo and Neville, who's left to be the big bad guy? TJP, while good, crooked, and magnetic, isn't as charismatic enough as Gulak to anchor the show yet opposite a lot of hot babyfaces. Itami has to be rebuilt. Jack Gallagher could very well give Gulak a run for his money, but he's gonna need to beat Mustafa Ali next week the same way Gulak beat Nese, and that's a bit of a tall order given Ali's popularity. Gulak may have just stamped his ticket to the finals at WrestleMania, and the dude deserves it.

    Gulak's real ascendance wouldn't be possible, too, without 205 Live's new two-match formula (at least, for the duration of the tournament). The way things are set up right now allows for a lot more time to be put into each bout, and you'd really be surprised with what upwards of 10 minutes can do for guys who need a real boost from the previous regime. Sure, you can say that Drake was the guy responsible for, say, Tony Nese and Drew Gulak being incensed enough to step up, but they wouldn't be able to do that if they weren't given room to pull out all the stops. Even Akira Tozawa brought out a side of him that we haven't seen in a couple of years, a side that doesn't make him look like the goof who's been meandering around for a while after losing horribly to Neville.

    I really hope this level of care and thought remains after the tournament's over, because these guys could definitely use it. As it stands, they're getting a fairer shake than they normally do on RAW, better than most guys on RAW and SmackDown. It's not always sustainable—sometimes you do need to rush some matches, even if it means distilling a wrestler's true self (even NXT still does so, and did so for guys like Shinsuke Nakamura)—but I would at least trust Drake Maverick 205 Live to give the spotlight where and when it counts.

    205 Live 2/13/18 Grade: The matches in this week's episode aren't as great as the previous weeks', but that's not to say they sucked. It just means the bar has been set really high ever since Drake Maverick took over, and everyone's bringing their A-game. A-

    Short stops

    • I'm not quite sure what to feel about a good number of the NXT/UK guys beating the OG cruiserweights. Of course, some of them definitely do, but I kinda feel like a lot of the more talented guys, like Itami and Tozawa, deserved a boost up for all the muck they had to endure under Enzo's reign. I'm sure there's a plan in place somewhere, but Itami doesn't even get some storyline progression after getting beaten by Roderick Strong last week. I thought his tweet would be played up into an angle.
    • That said though, Mandrews deserved a win. I guess it's just a matter of both guys deserving the win in that match. Hell, everyone who's been in 205 Live in 2017 really deserve a win.
    • Buddy Murphy's inclusion is a little surprising, but him being NXT's Best-Kept Secret isn't far-fetched. He was the more solid member of BAMF during their heyday, and he's been working too hard for too long under the radar to not get this chance.
    • Also, Murphy's introduction to the division via a televised weigh-in may look like an arbitrary affectation to you, but it goes a long way in making the show look compelling. It's these little but rich details that weren't carried over into the show from the Cruiserweight Classic, and they're not even hard to produce.
    • (Let's see if Ariya Daivari steps up like the rest of his batchmates.)
    • I loved watching Tony Nese bust out his EVOLVE chops. Nothing like a solid ground and grappling game to legitimize a wrestler.
    • Really, though, this match was such a good face turn for him, and a good way to entrench Gulak as a heel. I hope they still keep his dweeb self—I could still see him come out with the PowerPoints and then really turn it up when he gets pissed. That's how you book a top heel, fellas.
    Photo from WWE


    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry, one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and is associated with Philippine Wrestling Revolution. 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 (2/13/18): Murder On The Drew-Drew Train Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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