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    Sunday, December 16, 2018

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/16/18): The Renaissance of 205 Live

    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 2018 produced for us.

    205 Live was a completely different beast at the beginning of 2018. Former Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore was still a part of the company, and every week of the cruiserweight division's show was merely another day in the war Enzo waged against the true-blue competitors, the real wrestlers if you will, on the roster.

    Which is why the controversy surrounding him couldn't have come at a better time. Sure, some of it may have been trumped up against him, but getting rid of the cancer he just was, early as it was, proved essential to 205 Live's resurrection. After they got rid of the Zo Train, the Purple Show didn't waste any time—they got themselves a new general manager, a new creative head running the scenes backstage, and a shot in the arm of new talent ready to prove themselves.

    All of this manifested in a gold rush for the vacant Cruiserweight Championship, and around two months of pure wrestling talent culminated in the tournament finals at WrestleMania this year. Of course, they couldn't go any other way but to feature 205's two biggest stars: Cedric Alexander, the big babyface favorite, and Mustafa Ali, the dark horse who stole everyone's hearts.

    Even though this match was bogged down by the inconveniences of being a kickoff match on the WWE's biggest stage—like a quieter-than-expected crowd and having to play picture-in-picture second fiddle to a Ronda Rousey hype video—it was still a landmark bout for 205 Live and the cruiserweight division.

    First, the two proved that great action is still the key to get people to care. Sure, it had its structural issues, going for drama that they simply hadn't earned that night, but at the end of it, their big near-falls were still able to rile the audience up. It didn't matter that probably half the crowd had no idea there was a cruiserweight show on the WWE Network because these guys were pretty exciting, all things considered.

    The second and more important point is that this whole match was a culmination of the whole idea that yes, there is a God damned cruiserweight show on the WWE Network. Imagine if Enzo Amore were still around—this match would've been him versus Cedric Alexander, probably for the umpteenth time after battling so much on 205. For those who were unaware of 205 Live, it was a huge advertisement for the show that was currently experiencing a hard-earned renaissance in its own little bubble. 

    If you wanted to see more of this, the match said, you can catch it on the Network. And it would carry that momentum and make good on that promise for the rest of the year. Because for all of 2018, and for the foreseeable future, 205 Live was arguably the most consistent hour of wrestling on the main roster, putting out wrestling that was watchable at the very worst, and straight up exciting at its finest. 

    And it's worked its way up as well: now Drake Maverick is on RAW, now Lucha House Party is an entity on the RAW tag team division, now you've got guys like Mustafa Ali wrestling guys like Daniel Bryan on SmackDown, and now you've got Cruiserweight Championship matches on PPVs again. 

    Who knows what the limit will be for the revitalized cruiserweight division? All we know is that WrestleMania this year was just the beginning.

    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2018.

    Read our previous entries:

    1. Winnipeg Boys Conquer the Tokyo Dome (Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho, No DQ match for IWGP US Heavyweight title, Wrestle Kingdom 12)
    2. Roman Reigns Finally Becomes Universal Champion (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, SummerSlam 2018)
    3. The Man Is Last Woman Standing (Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch, Last Woman Standing match for SmackDown Women's title, Evolution)
    4. Kenny Omega, Finally IWGP Heavyweight Champion (Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega, 2-out-of-3 Falls match, Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall)
    5. The Resurrection of Daniel Bryan (AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship, WWE SmackDown Live 11/13/18) 
    6. Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa, Unsanctioned match (NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
    7. The Lightbringer Has Arrived (Ralph Imabayashi vs. Quatro for the PWR Championship, PWR Live: Homefront)
    8. The First Ever Women's Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble 2018)
    9. To Surpass God (Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi, G1 Climax 28 Finals)
    10. Wreck It, Rowdy (Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon & Triple H, WrestleMania 34)
    11. Pentagon Dark vs. Marty "The Moth" Martinez (Ultima Lucha Cuatro)
    12. King in the North (America) (6-Way Ladder match for NXT North American title, NXT TakeOver: New Orleans)
    13. A Dream Ricochets (Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream, NXT TakeOver: Chicago II)
    14. Of Queens and Empires (Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the SmackDown Women's title, WrestleMania 34)
    15. #ALLIN For Ten Pounds of Gold (Nick Aldis vs. Cody for the NWA Heavyweight title, All In)
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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/16/18): The Renaissance of 205 Live Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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