WWE 205 Live: A retrospective on the show’s three year anniversary

Akira Tozawa and The Brian Kendrick faced off on the October 11, 2019 edition of WWE 205 Live. Photo: WWE.com
Akira Tozawa and The Brian Kendrick faced off on the October 11, 2019 edition of WWE 205 Live. Photo: WWE.com /

Last Friday, WWE 205 Live celebrated its third anniversary. From humble beginnings and a journey with more twists and turns than a roller coaster, here’s a reflection of the best hour on television!

After the success of the Cruiserweight Classic that aired in the Summer of 2016, the stars of the tournament started showcasing their talent on Raw slowly introducing the more casual fans to not only their personalities, but to a style of wrestling some had not seen in a long time. WWE seemed to have so much confidence in these wrestlers that the next best step was for these athletes was to give them their own show.

From there, 205 Live was born.

The first episode aired on Nov. 29, 2016 after SmackDown and this is where we were first introduced to the stars of the new purple brand. Superstars that included the likes of Akira Tozawa, Mustafa Ali, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, Tony Nese, TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, Ariya Daivari, Drew Gulak and then-champion Brian Kendrick.

The show started with huge promise showcasing a number of their talent in the first show including a tag team match between Drew Gulak and Tony Nese v the Bollywood Boyz, Jack Gallagher vs. Ariya Daivari and a match which saw Rich Swann defeat Brian Kendrick to become the new Cruiserweight Champion.

From then, it seemed as if the brand, unlike their WWE counterparts, was set on providing a show based predominantly on the wrestling and putting these independent names on the map. There were matches that could not be denied after putting on wrestling clinics with styles ranging from Lucha Libre to catch wrestling throughout.

However, something wasn’t clicking with the audiences in the arenas and some at home watching on the Network. There was no denying their talent, but crowds just didn’t seem to be interested or invested in the storylines and the wrestlers themselves.

Unlike the small crowds in Full Sail, a lot of members of the WWE Universe had no idea who these wrestlers were and, with nearly all of their appearances being exclusively on the WWE Network, they just weren’t able to connect to the wrestlers they were watching. This led to low crowd attendance (as many left straight after the main show), disrespectful chants and just a lack of crowd interaction.

But, in a time of darkness, a King came to change everything: King Neville.

Returning to WWE with a new heel persona, we saw some life injected into the WWE Universe and eyes suddenly coming onto the product. We saw some amazing high-profile matches including those between Neville and Austin Aries, the continuation of the feud between Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar and the start of the Brian Kendrick/ Akira Tozawa feud, even to this day, is one of my favourites! All of this alongside the brand’s prestige being increased through the consistent championship reign of Neville, 205 Live fans saw a beacon of light on the brand they’ve watched grow.

Unfortunately, every story has a part of history that they would rather keep quiet and the next phase for 205 Live was that. During the fallout of Summerslam 2017, a new opponent came to challenge the King: Enzo Amore.

At the time, The Certified G had been betrayed by his partner Big Cass and really had nothing to do. Initially, it seemed great having such a popular face on the brand to bring some new fans. But this didn’t last long and, before we knew it, it became the ‘Zo Show’.

Although we still had some amazing matches (and an amazing segment between the Fashion Police and Drew Gulak) during 205 Live’s darkest time, it became all about Enzo and his personality rather than the wrestlers themselves. This was especially prominent after he beat Neville for the prestigious title at WWE No Mercy. For example, I attended a taping of Smackdown solely for 205 Live. Rather than seeing an hour of amazing wrestling, I saw 20 minutes of beautiful wrestling and almost 30 minutes of Enzo shooting his mouth off.

Thanks to some unfortunate real life accusations against the champion in a case that was eventually dropped after his WWE release due to insufficient evidence, Enzo Amore was phased out of 205 Live and vacated the Cruiserweight Title in the process.

Afterwards, 205 Live was in the midst of the next step of its journey.

This came courtesy of Triple H taking over the running of the show and a new GM in the form of British wrestler Drake Maverick. Triple H and Maverick made it clear that this was a new start for the brand and a new start needed a new Cruiserweight champion. It was announced that on the 30th January 2018, there would be a new tournament that would culminate at Wrestlemania 34 where a new champion would be crowned.

The tournament included some 205 Live favorites like Kalisto, Drew Gulak, Tony Nese, Mustafa Ali, and TJP, as well as names from the UK like Tyler Bate and Mark Andrews. NXT Superstars like Hideo Itami, Buddy Murphy and Roderick Strong also got a piece of the action.

The tournament saw some amazing matches and reflected the new approach the show was taking where it was focused on the wrestling and producing matches that would shock the WWE audience. And that’s exactly what they did. Crowds started to become invested in the brand and ‘This is Awesome’ chants became the norm for 205 Live matches, something that should’ve been happening for a long time before this.

After a grueling tournament and some amazing matches, we had our final two: best friends Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander – the Heart and Soul of 205 Live. What better athletes to represent the brand at Wrestlemania because these two tore the house down putting on a match that could be seen as one of the best of the night, even though it was only on the pre-show. It really opened a lot of people’s eye and, as Cedric Alexander hit the Lumbar Check and pinned Ali, it was definitely a new start for the purple brand.

From then on, you could see the start of the real 205 Live and it was living in the Age of Alexander!

This really started the Golden Age for the brand and audiences were seeing the real essence of what 205 Live had wanted to since the Cruiserweight Classic.

During this time, we saw feuds between former best friends Tony Nese and Drew Gulak as well as Hideo Itami and Mustafa Ali, just to name a few.

We also saw new and some familiar WWE names making their way to the purple brand to try something new. Superstars including Japanese legend Hideo Itami and former NXT tag team champion Buddy Murphy. It was becoming THE brand people wanted to go too and the brand that could change lives. Take Buddy Murphy. He was floundering in NXT after he split from Blake. However, within months, Murphy had earned a shot at the Cruiserweight title and won the title in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia at Super ShowDown.

All of this alongside a change in programming to Wednesday night before NXT meant that the Cruiserweights were finally getting the respect and airtime they deserved.

Three years later and it has definitely been a turbulent journey for the brand.

We’ve seen some huge changes in the past few months including losing some of the star Cruiserweights like Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, Buddy Murphy and Drew Gulak to the main roster. We have also seen the show return to their post-Smackdown Live time slot. However, the roster has fought to keep their loyal fanbase and continue putting on some of the best matches of their lives. We’ve had some amazing champions in the form of Tony Nese, Drew Gulak and now Lio Rush all whilst keeping the core message of the show: showcasing some of the best wrestling the company has to offer.

The brand is continuously expanding its roster with additions from 205 Live and NXT UK making it one of the most diverse brands in wrestling.

With uncertain rumblings about the future of 205 Live and a sudden change for the title now being the NXT Cruiserweight Title, all we can do is cherish the brand as it is and hope that the company has enough belief in it to keep it on television. Maybe a change is needed for the brand to grow even more, and a move to Full Sail could be what it needs.

With uncertain rumblings about the future of 205 Live and a sudden change for the title now being the NXT Cruiserweight title, all we can do is cherish the brand as it is and hope that the company has enough belief in it to keep it on television. Maybe a change is needed for the brand to grow even more, and a move to Full Sail for tapings could be what it needs.

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My hope is that 205 Live remains its own entity rather than being merged into NXT because it would disregard the work so many put in to get it to where it is now! With the talent 205 Live possesses, it would be a shame to lose it and to lose a brand so many people, myself included, have become invested in!

The brand and it’s wrestlers have gone through so much and come out on the other side stronger and better than ever!

After three years of 205 live, here’s to another three!