205 Live has moved away from long promos and backstage segments over the past couple weeks.
The obvious difference (aside from the addition of DRAKE MAVERICK as the kayfabe hand guiding the proceedings) is the absence of the released Enzo Amore. Since joining the brand last Summer, Amore was the focal point of almost all the stories in the Cruiserweight division. Without him, and needing a new champion since he was holding the purple belt when he was let go, episodes have revolved around longer matches and less talking segments. Many have remarked these episodes of 205 Live feel more like the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC), the Network tournament from 2016 which spawned the show in the first place.
According to a new report from PWInsider, the reason for the change is more than just a lack of Zo. Per that site, as of last Tuesday, “Vince McMahon has stepped aside and is no longer personally putting 205 Live together.”
Triple H is now overseeing things, Insider says, along with lead writer Jonathan Baeckstrom and lead producer Adam Pearce. The report doesn’t clarify how long Baeckstrom’s been working on 205 Live (they say he’s been on the company’s creative team since 2013 and a lead writer since 2016), but Pearce has been producing the brand for a while - including their January house shows in Massachusetts and New York.
Sources told Insider the new vision for 205 Live is to return to the competition-based stories and reliance on in-ring action fans saw in the CWC and which were originally planned for the show before McMahon got involved. Vince allegedly believed a character-driven show was the way to go, and that’s why 205 Live didn’t look and feel like the tournament that established the division. Another group backstage “pushed for a return to the CWC presentation” because “having smaller talents echoing Raw and SmackDown personalities wasn’t going to showcase what made the Cruisers different and unique and it wasn’t going to help 205 Live grow beyond being an hour of WWE TV on the Network.”
As someone who’s been following WWE’s cruiserweights from the start, this is welcome news. There’s a lot of truth to the new regime’s critique of the series - but returning to “CWC presentation” is not something which is going to in and of itself fix 205 Live. Certain players shined under Vince’s vision, and the idea that someone like Drew Gulak is going to return to being a dour technician (as was teased on the Feb. 6 episode) after gaining popularity as an over-the-top comedic heel is disappointing. Cutting back on character-driven bits shortly after debuting a performer known primarily for his personality like the former Rockstar Spud is odd timing, as well.
Hopefully, Triple H and team won’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to the 205 Live roster, and will work to emphasize the talents’ various strengths. The only options for the division shouldn’t be Raw-lite or CWC. Whether or not they’re open and authorized to try other things beyond those two extremes could determine whether or not the cruiserweights ultimately succeed or fail as the fourth brand WWE wants them to be.