205 Live, the cruiserweight-focused show on the WWE Network, has turned into a consistently good program over the last few weeks, and a major reason is because of how neat they are keeping the playing field. Currently, it feels like there is a lot going on, but not so much that it is hard to keep up with storylines or who the players are. It helps that the show is only an hour long, while using its three to four segments on Raw to push the bigger storylines and draw fans in. Each segment feels like it has a purpose, as illustrated by Alicia Fox and Cedric Alexander’s backstage interaction on last night’s episode. Video packages are constantly reminding fans of the wrestler’s motivations and character traits, as happened last night with Tony Nese and Akira Tozawa. Various wrestlers are inserted into situations with other stars, which makes the show feel lively and open-ended, and that everyone can interact with anyone at any time, as shown with Brian Kendrick getting sprayed by the returning Tajiri. Things take their time to breathe a bit, like not having Alexander attack Noam Dar during his match, but instead allowing “Mr. Steal Your Girl” to cut a short promo and restate his intentions. As well, recaps like the duel from last week are kept brief and show some of the most important or entertaining parts of previous programming.
The most important thing though might be that each superstar seems to be on an even playing field. Between Raw and 205 Live there’s only an hour and change per week devoted to the cruiserweights, so nothing feels padded with throwaway matches, and because it’s still new, there’s not yet a clear demarcation between upper, middle or lower carders. Every cruiserweight that wrestled on the last two episodes feels like they could have a shot at winning the belt and representing their division, with each coming across as skilled, capable and hungry. Okay, maybe the booking hasn’t been as generous to Drew Gulak, but everyone else feels relatively equal so far. There are no real squash matches, each person gets in a fair bit of offense, and, with the possible exception of Tajiri’s match, every loser last night looked like it still took a lot to put them away.
Some credit to this has to go to the announce team as well, particularly the freedom afforded to Corey Graves and Austin Aries to talk about specific wrestlers’ prowess in the ring or their experiences wrestling with them. They do this while keeping to their own character and letting Mauro Ranallo drop facts. I liked that several tidbits about Sean Maluta’s skill set and lineage were displayed before his match; it made him seem significant, and I had to second guess if they would put him over a returning legend, even if only for a moment. And I’m glad to see you back, Tajiri, but please grow the goatee again.
All of these factors prove that the show runners are keeping things neat and on course, and not putting too much attention on one aspect of the show or division. They’re trimming the parts that need it, while feeding the elements that have room to grow. Shows like this are a lot like tending to a garden, maintaining the good while not losing sight of the overall presentation in the landscape, and if it stays this way, 205 Live is going to remain a nice place to visit.
Stephen Wilds is a freelance author with a flair for retro videogames, old cartoons, and bad movies. He has written for Playboy, Unwinnable and others.