The gauntlet match on 205 Live had the potential to tell five different and superb stories, no matter who came out on top. No matter who they tapped to face Cedric Alexander at the Greatest Royal Rumble, they could be an acceptable contender based on the narrative told. The bottom line is, despite all of the possible outcomes, WWE took one that left us deflated and disappointed. What could have been differently?
Kalisto was probably the least likely challenger for the title in my opinion. He’s already popular with the fans as is Alexander. Face vs. face matches can definitely work (WrestleMania 34) given the proper build. Kalisto is embroiled, along with his Lucha House Party brethren, in a feud with Hideo Itami and Akria Tozawa. He also was the last man to enter the gauntlet match. That is a great spot for the opportunistic heel, not a popular Kalisto.
Tony Nese has been showcased in recent weeks, his turn to face thanks in part to Drew Gulak’s aggressive actions. Nese has, to quote Drake Maverick, “loads of untapped potential.” He is the epitome of a freak athlete and we haven’t really seen him use that to his advantage. During the montage before the gauntlet match, Nese commented on this match being all about cardio. Why that wasn’t explored in the match is beyond me. He would have made the perfect candidate for the proverbial iron man, lasting the entire match.
TJP has been hanging his hat on him being the inaugural Cruiserweight Champion since he lost the belt. His arrogance has been backed up by his pedigree, but countered by his booking as of late. Of the two heels in this match, the final entrance spot would be perfect for TJP. He could have come in to take advantage of a weakened face who had been in since the beginning. It was a perfect spot for his character work.
Mustafa Ali winning would have set up a rematch of Wrestlemania 34, something that 205 Live has teased since the initial match. While face vs. face, the match, as we saw at Wrestlemania, can be amazing. Ali would also have been the sentimental favorite to be the iron man of this match. He is a great underdog babyface and generates all sorts of sympathy with his willingness to take crazy bumps and sell better than most on the roster. Ali winning would be more of a popular decision with the fans than Kalisto. Plus, being the first WWE wrestler of Pakistani descent, the tie in with the region of the Greatest Royal Rumble would have been apropos.
Drew Gulak was my obvious choice in this match when I saw the lineup. The most established heel in this match with such an aggressive streak as of late, he pairs up the best with Cedric. Drew would have been another great option for an iron man type run. His submission heavy style always counters the high flying Cruiserweight action in a very positive way. His change in demeanor since the Cruiserweight Championship tournament has been a breath of fresh air and completely believable as well. He sets up well for a long term program against anyone, taking advantage of injuries and prior matches with his mat based strategy. Plus, his overall work since January has been the absolute best on the 205 Live roster.
The match itself had booking issues, and not just with the winner. Ali being the first entrant was perfect, he could have been the iron man. TJP was more suited for the final entrant, either taking advantage of a weakened opponent for the win or falling just short. Nese could have been an iron man as well, although not as believable as Ali. Kalisto and Nese both felt like simple add ins, filler for the other 3 to go through. Gulak was really the only person in the match that I feel like was billed properly. To capitalize off of the amazing run from the tournament through Wrestlemania, 205 Live needs to have a good showing at the Greatest Royal Rumble. While Kalisto and Cedric Alexander should have an entertaining match, there seems to be almost no narrative to it.
If WWE is viewing this as just a glorified house show, then this matchup should be just fine. If proper story and forward momentum is the goal, 205 Live has some work to do in the coming weeks. I am a huge fan of 205 Live, and the direction it has taken in the past 3 months. I hope that this is nothing more than a speed bump and the show returns to the form I’ve grown to love. If you haven’t seen the show lately, it’s time to check it out!