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    Monday, December 30, 2019

    Live From the 205 (12/27/19): Where We Are, So Far

    How's it hanging, mga ka-205? For all my fellow cruiserweight division fans, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at where our favorite purple brand is standing after both a year and its three years of existence, as the show itself takes a break to bring everyone else 2019's best bouts. There's certainly quite a bit to discuss as this year has been the most volatile period of time the cruiserweight division itself has ever seen.


    One of the biggest issues the division's always had to contend with, in its first few years of existence, was the complete lack of effort on the company's part to put them somewhere in the ecosystem. The original cruiserweight division was very clearly a product of the SmackDown brand, and while they certainly tried to do the same for this new iteration (but with RAW), the existence of the 205 Live show held some unclear implications toward where these wrestlers really fit in on episodes of RAW. It felt like because they had their own show on the WWE Network, RAW writers wrote cruiserweight segments like 205 Live commercials—very much unlike how NXT handles them right now. (But more on that later.)

    After the RAW experiment eventually fizzled, the show would survive—and even thrive—on its own. Sure, they would still remain a bastion of the most solid WWE wrestling you could see outside of NXT. Even though cruiserweights existed on their separate plane (TJP even commented that this was the show's biggest problem) it didn't seem to matter, as it seemed most of them would be fine with that as long as they got to continue doing their own thing. Fans who were dedicated to the brand were fine so long as no one messed with the formula (except for moving the taping schedule to before SmackDown aired).

    Some would say that the show started falling into decline when Neville left and Enzo Amore was pushed to bring some notoriety to it. I'd say that might be true for others, but they were able to magnificently pick it back up with some changes both behind the scenes and onscreen, putting on the wonderful Drake Maverick Era that put some much-needed order in the division. No, I'd say the real decline was, ironically, when cruiserweights started blurring the line and did much "better" for themselves. 

    On December 11, 2018, Mustafa Ali would make his SmackDown debut—and you know how good the guy is, so the rest is history. Ali would eventually "get promoted," leaving the door open for the other top cruiserweights to also "get promoted" in the two WWE Drafts we've gotten this year. If some fans felt the cruiserweight division was just a pool of jobbers fighting among themselves, that's exactly what the Draft did for the wrestlers and their reps. While Ali got his own push in the Land of Opportunity, guys like Cedric Alexander, Buddy Murphy, Akira Tozawa, Drew Gulak, and whoever else were booked to either be cannon fodder or sit on the sidelines, waiting for to get the same opportunities they would've always gotten had they stayed in the purple brand.

    You can't do two WWE Drafts in one year and leave the cruiserweight division, with all the bonafide workers in that pool, untouched and unravaged. The April draft already crippled the show by taking Murphy and Alexander, but the October draft left the show with very few people—and though it was intentional as the division was going to be subsumed under the NXT umbrella, bolstered by the cruiserweights on the NXT roster, longtime fans (or at least, this longtime fan) really felt the damage the show took. Only Tony Nese, Jack Gallagher, Brian Kendrick, and Ariya Daivari (with Mike Kanellis nowhere to be found) were left. Even though the show would get a shot in the arm by having Lio Rush back, it wasn't really enough star power for the show. So much of the main cast was gone.

    For all intents and purposes, NXT treats the cruiserweight division the way it should've been treated when it was brought back three years ago. The division is part of a brand, and cruiserweights could face heavyweights and their titles without it being a big deal. For once, it isn't an isolated plane.

    But when you circle back to 205 Live itself, this setup just doesn't bode well for this one show. The cruiserweights work on NXT because you've got so many other attractions to draw viewers in; the division by itself doesn't hit the same way, especially when there's no clear order on the show (despite Drake Maverick being around). It's got a home, but it still isn't really must-watch TV.

    So you take those factors and you couple it with the fact that 205 Live gets cancelled on some weeks—either to make content for NXT or just because they don't feel like airing it live—you get the sense that this show really won't be around for long. It's still here as a vehicle to support a division that appears mainly on NXT now, and not the other way around, but that doesn't make it valuable. Not when NXT's got enough time to showcase the other guys, too.

    What's the verdict, then? I'll give it 'til WrestleMania; I'll be surprised if the show as it is continues to air next June. It's extremely sad that a show that's been sneakily good has to come to this, but at the same time you'd have to also be really blind to not see how much more they could have been doing with 205 Live. I love the show, but it certainly didn't mean it wasn't perfect, and I definitely knew it was the strange stepchild—and because I knew it wasn't the main priority, I understood it was always going to meet a fate like this. I suppose I didn't think it was going to be this soon.

    For now, though, 205 Live is still alive, and the cruiserweight division very much so both here and on NXT. If you love good wrestling like I do, let's enjoy the good stuff while we still can. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, maybe I won't, but here's to the brand that's worked the hardest under the radar.


    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry, one of the four hosts of the Wrestling-Wrestling 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, and he likes taking your wrestling questions over on his Curiouscat account.

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    Item Reviewed: Live From the 205 (12/27/19): Where We Are, So Far Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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