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WWE 205 Live recap & reactions (Nov. 29, 2016): One to grow on

WWE’s attempt to resurrect an old WCW gimmick there’s some nostaligia for while tying up a bunch of international & independent wrestlers, aka the cruiserweight division, gets a new show dedicated to it on the Network. 205 Live debuted on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 with pretty big online push and a big championship match main event.

How was it? Let’s discuss!

205 Live Quick Recap for Nov. 29, 2016

- Mauro Ranallo, Corey Graves & Austin Aries are our commentary team. Aries teases he’s only in this role until he’s medically cleared, then he’s going after the Cruiserweight title.

- The roster (Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, Jack Gallagher, HoHo Lun, the Bollywood Boys, Noam Dar, Tony Nese, Drew Gulak, Ariya Daivari, Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, Akira Tozawa, Mustafa Ali, Gran Metalik and Brian Kendrick) are introduced from the stage.

- Harv & Gurv Shira, the Bollywood Boys, are introduced via video package.

- The Bollywood Boys def. Tony Nese & Drew Gulak via pinfall in approximately seven minutes following stereo superkicks to Gulak

- Nese & Gulak are interviewed while the victors dance in the ring. They complain about their opponents and the ring conditions.

- Noam Dar is introduced via video package.

- Cruiserweight champ Kendrick is interviewed in the locker room, and says he’ll retain tonight when he faces Swann. Perkins cuts in to remind us he never got a rematch from when Brian beat him for the title.

- Gran Metalik is introduced via video package.

- Jack Gallagher def. Ariya Daivari via pinfall in approximately five and a half minutes following a series of dropkicks

- Lince Dorado is introduced via video package, followed by one for Swann.

- Rich Swann def. Brian Kendrick via pinfall in approximately thirteen and a half minuted following a series of spinning heel kicks to become the NEW Cruiserweight champ

- The new champ spoke about his deceased mother from the ring, while the old one was interviewed on the ramp, blaming the loss on Perkins and vowing to get the belt back.

What I liked

The slightly more restrained Mauro from the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) is back! Pop culture references were minimal and the focus was on calling the action in the ring. His excitement was a clear guide to what wrestlers, moves and moments were important.

The line-up looks how you’d expect an international roster to look. Both in terms of who was on the stage and the guys booked to wrestle - and win - tonight, 205 Live’s talent represents the global span of pro graps. It also gives fans in a bunch of markets crucial to WWE’s growth stars who look like them to cheer and/or boo. Personally, I’m not a huge Bollywood Boys fan, but there could be something there, and I get why they want Harv & Gurv a shot.

Jack Gallagher is a bloody star. I was not feeling optimistic about this show until the Englishman’s bout. He was really the only guy on the whole episode who flashed a style we don’t see on your average episode of Raw or SmackDown, and the flair with which he performs woke up a crowd that seemed at that point to be wondering why they’d stuck around.

The main event pretty much ruled. It wasn’t a “five star classic” or even the best WWE match I saw this week, but the work they did on Raw the last couple weeks and with produced segments here had myself and others invested in Swann and pissed at Kendrick. It took a little while to get that to translate to the ring, but once it did - around when Rich beat the ten count following that neckbreaker off the top turnbuckle. From there, he played the never-say-die babyface to perfection and delivered a crowd-pleasing moment which clearly delineates a fresh start for the 205 Live era.

What I didn’t like

The “line-up on the stage” introduction. Only thing which would have been more generic would have been to start with an authority figure in the ring (who will preside over the action here? Mick Foley, I presume, seeing as they again spelled out how the cruisers are Raw talent, and we should follow their exploits on Monday nights). Sure, the greater WWE Universe needs to get to know these cats, but that’s what the video packages are for... and it’s not like they’re gonna be in front of this crowd every week like it’s NXT and Full Sail or something.

Wrong opener. I’m on board with a Bollywood Boys push and like Nese & Gulak just fine, but this immediately felt like more of what hasn’t been working on Raw. Absent a cruiserweight tag title, what’s the point? It ended up being a fine match, but I have to wonder if some folks didn’t tune out thinking this was what the whole show would be like.

Not everyone needs to talk. Tony’s speech ended up being okay, but Drew’s was pretty much a disaster. I doubt I’m alone in thinking I could go a long time before I hear this TJP character speak again. If we’re introducing more traditional pro wrestling elements, why not consider managers? These guys aren’t used to delivering WWE scripted remarks, and they didn’t get to go through promo class at the Performance Center (that we know of). Don’t set them up to fail.

Code of Honor. The cruisers aren’t really about pure athletic exhibition like they were in the CWC any more, and the handshake doesn’t need to be enforced at the start of every bout. It was worth it tonight to hear two time Ring of Honor (ROH) champ Aries ask “what’s with the shaking hands?” but this tradition should be saved for tournament time.

A lot of talent sitting on the bench. They went well over the reportedly planned 45 minutes as it was, but maybe give us Metalik, or Tozawa, or Alexander for the big premiere?

How are the cruisers different? Aside from Gallagher, this was standard WWE-style wrestling. Swann & Kendrick amped up their work and got the crowd fired up, but still with stuff we could get from Owens/Rollins or Banks/Flair. It doesn’t have to be ALL FLIPZ, but the division needs to stand out in some way other than having a weight limit.

The jury’s still out

Another three man booth, and A-Double’s place on it. Another great thing about the CWC was just having Ranallo and Daniel Bryan calling the action. Sounds like Aries isn’t long for this job, so maybe this won’t be an issue for long, but while both he and Graves had their moments, the team struggled to find a rhythym. We got a few periods of silence amidst times when they talked over each other. It was hard to hear Aries at times and others (the “they’re just happy to have running water” crack about the Shiras) it probably would have been just as well if we couldn’t. I laughed when he called them Herp & Derp, and he got more comfortable as the night went along, but...

Filming after SmackDown. Live is great, and something the title indicates they’re committed to... but there were a couple times the camera panned across sections of empty seats that were heartbreaking. The plus side is, the folks who stuck around looked like an indie audience and got sucked in as business picked up in the ring as you’d expect from such a crowd. But if you’re wanting to grow the audience for wrestling product, shouldn’t they be trying to convince mainstream fans they want the Network to see more of this on a regular basis? And wouldn’t the cruisers be aces for firing up a crowd before the blue brand’s show starts?

Despite a slow start, the premiere of 205 Live delivered a fun show. There are lots of signs this could develop into an interesting product, but a lot of people have already made up their minds about WWE’s cruiserweights, and they need to generate buzz quickly if they’re going to survive as anything other than a niche within a niche. Swann as champ is a step in right direction, but they can’t afford many missteps going forward.

What about 205 Live did you like? Not like? Are there things you’re still deliberating?

Sound off below.

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