Commentary on the in-ring or mike prowess of anyone named in the #SpeakingOut scandal should not be taken as support for that performer generally. I believe her.
Time for cruiserweight focus. It’s the 7th May 2019 and we’re in the KFC Yum! Centre (yes, really) of Louisville, Kentucky for an episode of 205 Live! Your main event tonight: Akira Tozawa vs Mike Kanellis in a no-DQ match!
This is from the tail end of the period when I was really into 205 Live, which lasted from the moment they stripped Enzo Amore of the Cruiserweight Title and went through to when that same championship was changed to an NXT strap. In that time 205 Live remained the marginalised ugly step-sibling of Raw, Smackdown and NXT, but consistently had some awesome wresting and some surprisingly good story-telling. Drake Maverick, Cedric Alexander, Hideo Itami, Drew Gulack, Mustafa Ali, Buddy Murphy, Brian Kendrick, Akira Tozawa, Jack Gallagher (ugh), Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari and Tony Nese were on top of their game in that roughly 20 month period, even if they constantly got shafted by WWE management in terms of promotion and PPV screen-time. I’m not so much into 205 Live anymore, with it reduced to less than a half-hour and essentially just on the level of Main Event, but I will always look back on this period fondly.
WWE Forever, and here’s to the greatest, greatest, love I’ve ever known as the Kanellis’ address their adoring public. You’re about to witness a changing of the guard, as Mike is going to prove he’s better than the best. In order to do that, Mike will face and beat former champ Tozawa. Brian Kendrick is bared from ringside, and the match is no-DQ. In response, Tozawa and Kendrick outline that Maria has interfered in too many of Mike’s matches, has cost Tozawa title opportunities and that the no-DQ stip is to Tozawa’s advantage. Mike, “you’re screwed”. Tozawa smiles.
I always liked what they did with the Kanellis’ on 205 Live, even if the two were apparently super unhappy backstage. The Tozawa/Kendrick team-up was a bit random, and one couldn’t help but think that they just wanted to give Tozawa a mouthpiece.
THIS IS WAR, NOW THIS IS WAR. Always loved that theme tune. Aiden English, Nigel McGuinness and Vic Joseph on commentary. English backs Tozawa in the main event, McGuinness Kanellis. But first…
Ariya Daivari vs Noam Dar
Daivari is the #1 contender for Tony Nese’s Cruiserweight Championship, taking him on at Money In The Bank in a week or so. We get a brief clip of Daivari confronting Nese backstage, but doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on this contest. Dar is recently returned from a fairly serious legit leg injury, and will soon be off to NXT UK to be a fairly decent heel there.
But wait! Tony Nese is also here, and the crowd goes mild. I like Nese, but he never really cut it as the Champ for me. He makes it a four man commentary team while Daivari jaws at him. Away we go.
Lock-up, wrist-lock chains and Daivari on top early. Slightly lame spot early where Daivari goes super slow on a dodged charge. Followed up by a slightly ridiculous backslide duel where both guys spin around trying to lock it in. Then what looks like a miscommunication where Daivari was expecting a kick to the head but got a drop-kick instead. Daivari to the outside, jawing with Nese, but has the wherewithal to drop toe-hold Dar into the commentary table.
Back in, Daivari commences the beatdown. Nese a real limp fish on commentary, trying to make himself out as a fighting champion with no great enthusiasm in his voice. In the ring, Daivari going for some kind necktie throw off the top but Dar resisting. Both men on the second rope, Daivari knocked off, then dodges a charge but Dar rolls through. Daivari locks in a Million Dollar Dream sleeper-hold, Dar fighting out of it, and in a series of transitions Dar hits a reverse DDT for two. Daivari to the outside to jaw with Nese again, and Nese sounds so lame with his “Worry about me at Money In The Bank”.
Back in, Dar with a sudden roll-up for two. Trips Daivari on a run, but then eats an elbow on a corner charge. Daivari to the top but knocked off, Dar with a big uppercut, then a Northern Lights Suplex for two. Some dueling roll-ups, Daivari looking for his Hammerlock Clothesline finisher but Dar able to put in an Ankle-Lock on the counter. Daivari out of it quick enough. Dar dodges another finisher attempt, and soon has the Ankle-Lock in again. Daivari able to flip out of it, lands a super-kick. Daivari to the top, lands a splash, Hammerlock Clothesline, always looks pretty devastating, and that’s it in around eight minutes.
Winner: Ariya Daivari and the, ahem, “big” push for the MITB match
Verdict: Short by 205 Live standards, and had some sloppy moments at the beginning. It was OK.
Nese insists Daivari’s win doesn’t bother him, then takes to the ring. He and Daivari face off briefly. “I just want you to know that I could have taken you out at anytime, but I didn’t,….but I could have”. Daivari is annoyed, I’m just more bemused. Their MITB match would be fairly straightforward as I recall.
Backstage Oney Lorcan, splitting his time between 205 and NXT, outlines how his loss to Nese last week will not be his last opportunity. He’s going to train harder and next time nothing will stop him. Well, except being subsumed back into the NXT Tag Division that is.
The Singh Brothers (Samir and Sunil) vs David Kaufmann and Kevin Lee
Bali, Bali, Bali. English calls the Singh Brothers the love child of the Hart Foundation and Demolition, which outrages McGuinness, and I’ll admit that for a heel commentator I do have a soft spot for Nigel, he’s heel without being obnoxious or idiotic. The Singh’s were never able to get anything out of being Jinder Mahal’s hype men, aside from being asked to take crazy bumps in stupid gimmick matches. They are on a hiding to nowhere in 205, which has never been a fruitful place for tag team wrestling, but I still enjoy this Bollywood gimmick. Their opponents tonight are two nobodies, so you know how this is going to go.
The Singh’s lost on their 205 debut last week, but McGuinness helpfully explains that they were distracted because their latest film release has been pushed back, before discussing the finer points of the Singh’s two year winning streak on 205 (they went two years between appearances). Samir beating up jobber #1, Sunil in and double suplex. Sunil with a spinning heel kick and jobber #1 tags in jobber #2. He gets beaten up some more, the Singh’s hit their backbreaker/second rope leg-drop combo and that’s it in less than two minutes.
Winners: The Singh Brothers
Verdict: Remember when there were rumours they were going to introduce Cruiserweight Tag Titles? Now that would have been a waste of time.
The Singh’s dance and gyrate to celebrate. On the mike, Samir tries to get the crowd to shut up. Sunil says the Lucha House Party ruined their return “to the 205 Live” last week, and “Uno, Dos, Tres”, they want a rematch, which leads McGuinness to proclaim them to be multi-lingual.
Backstage the Kanellis’ are heading to the ring when they run into Drake Maverick. Maria thanks Drake for banning “that cheater” Brian Kendrick from ringside, but surprise! Maria is also being banned from ringside. “This is a tragedy!” says a distraught McGuinness, and Mike looks very upset. This all leads up to Drake’s first match in WWE as I recall.
A promo for WWE’s work with Make-A-Wish, and then an announcement that next week will have an inter-brand fatal 4-way with NXT UK, and one of the participants is…Gentleman Jack Gallagher, at time of writing recently sacked for predatory behavior. He looks sweaty tonight. He runs down his opponents who are Mark Andrews (yeah!), Humberto Carrillo (yeah!) and James Drake (woo?) before Carrillo himself shows up for an awkward handshake. I’d wash that hand after Humberto. Onto the main event.
Akira Tozawa vs Mike Kanellis (No-DQ)
As is typical of 205 Live the main event is going to get plenty of time, even if the crowd cannot be compelled to get excited. Kanellis is a grumpy guss without his wife at his side.
Tozawa in hard and fast with strikes and a Cactus Clothesline to the outside. Fighting on the ramp and Kanellis shoved into the titantron. Kanellis with a few shots of his own but Tozawa back with an octopus, but no good as the match has to finish in the ring. Regardless Kanellis reverses into a Sidewalk Slam, and the crowd ohhhh’s. About all they do really.
Kanellis grabs a few chairs from under the ring, then a table, and that gets the crowd going. Table set-up outside the ring, and delivers a thumping Scoop Slam on Tozawa at ringside. Kanellis grabs another table and sets it up next to the first. Someone is coming off the top and into it later. Back inside Tozawa hits a rana and Kinellis sent outside, but Mike counters a tope with a head kick. Nice timing. Eventually back in for a two count. Big suplex, then another. Setting chairs up next to each other, but Tozawa fighting out of a suplex onto them, they go back and forth, literally spinning in a circle at one point, and eventually Tozawa hits it through the chairs, though looks like Kevin Dunn worked his patented magic and cut away at just the right moment.
Tozawa with a shining wizard, Kanellis to the outside, and the commentators need to dodge quick as Tozawa flings his opponent over the table. Crowd deader than dead when weapons aren’t involved by the way. Tozawa grabs a trash can, sticks it on Kinellis, then nails a tope for a super-gimmicky spot that the locals barely react to. Back in, Tozawa to the top, missile drop-kick but only two. Tozawa tries, and fails, to throw the trash can into the ring, but this crowd is too uninterested for a “You fucked up”. Looking for a German onto the can, Kinellis blocking, switching, then transitioning to a fireman’s carry, but Tozawa out. Kinellis dodges a kick, gets Tozawa up again and this time hits a slam into the can, but only two.
Both men slowly back up, exchanging chops, Tozawa getting the best of it but then eats a boot. Exchanging kicks, boots and spinning kicks. Snap German from Tozawa gets a near fall. Tozawa to the top, intercepted with a big right and dropped to the apron. Dueling strikes, kicks on the apron, and then Tozawa with another German, dumping Kanellis to the outside. A low, but welcome, “This is awesome” chant.
Tozawa drags Kinellis to the tables, sets him prone and goes to the top, but Kinellis rolls off before he can do anything. Tozawa eats a super-kick when he hops back down, and now he’s set prone. Kinellis to the top but intercepted. Both on the second rope, Tozawa going for a superplex, Kinellis trying to get in a fireman’s carry, and Tozawa reverses it into a rana that sends them both crashing into the tables. Looked ugly as sin, especially for Tozawa. Crowd didn’t even pop, the morons. Tozawa rolls Kinellis in, throws a few chairs on top, then hits a top rope Senton for the 1, 2, 3 in just over 16 minutes.
Winner: Akira Tozawa, and the ungrateful crowd that now gets their damned dark match.
Verdict: Good hardcore affair where the weapons were used as punctuation marks, not as the only thing available. The table spot was crazy looking.
Maria out to console her man, and Kendrick to raise Tozawa’s hand. The commentators speculate that Tozawa must be line for a title shot, and that’ll be all.
Best Match: The main event was a well constructed affair with some entertaining spots.
Best Wrestler: Tozawa is an under-appreciated gem. Look how high this guy can kick, and he can do mat stuff, spot monkey work. A better company would recognise that and push him to the moon.
Worst Match: The tag squash.
Worst Wrestler: Pick a jobber, though Daivari wasn’t far behind with the mess-ups.
Overall Verdict: Fun hour of television. The opener was solid, the squash at least led to something else and the main event was great. It’s a good example of the work 205 Live could do. If only the crowd could be compelled to wake up and appreciate what they were seeing, but cest la smarks.
Quick Thoughts On Clash Of Champions 2020
Artists/Lucha House Party: Cesaro and Nakamura on the kickoff makes me sad. Standard tag, had a few iffy moments, and the Artists’ tag finisher looks very clumsy. Skippable.
Styles/Zayn/Hardy: Not sure of the point of these spot-fests in the absence of crowds, and I do wince anytime I see Hardy take a big bump. His fall to the outside was especially bad. I did like Zayn’s shenanigans though. Watchable.
Asuka/Vega: Good to see someone fresh in a title program, but Vega looked rather green for the level. Looks like it will run though. Not essential.
Lashley/Crews: Feels like a very burnt out feud considering how red-hot the Hurt Business are. Match was unspectacular. Bit of a dud.
Street Profits/Andrade & Garza: Standard tag, with an unfortunate ending. Nothing to get too excited about.
Bayley/Asuka: Thrown together, and just long enough to not seem like a waste of time. Just a countdown to Banks showing up. Meh.
McIntyre/Orton: This one had some fire to it, and I liked the general theme of Orton’s sins coming back to bite him with the interference. Other than that, standard brutality and the right winner. Check it out.
Reigns/Uso: Loved this feud, and I loved this match. Told a great story of Reigns dismantling his cousin, and that not being enough for his own drunken sense of dominance. Must watch.
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