205 Live has undergone an evolution. Not only have the cruiserweights stepped up their game to a new peak, but fans have found a reason to care about what goes down once SmackDown Live is off the air. 205 Live was on the brink of total irrelevancy about a year ago: Outside of the pay-per-view classics put on by the likes of Buddy Murphy, Cedric Alexander and Ali, the 205 roster were barely paid attention to.
Even the live audiences would seem completely apathetic towards the incredible lengths the cruiserweights went to. This was no fault of their own, after having watched two and a half hours of mainstream wrestling, I too would find myself burnt out on chain wrestling and suicide dives.
Although the tide seems to be changing, and with less actual wrestling taking place on the two A-shows of the WWE, fans are turning to 205 Live for their fix. This past week’s episode saw a huge debut from Chad Gable, plus two action-packed matches; including an insane fatal-four-way main event to determine Tony Nese’s new number one contender. 205 Live became one of the most discussed shows overnight, with this single episode going to show the dire lack of watchable content on both Raw and SmackDown Live.
So what does this mean for the cruiserweight roster? 205 Live has acted as a subtle developmental brand for these light heavyweights, giving exposure to certain names that could never have seen the light of day on NXT, let alone the main roster. Fans now care about the likes of Oney Lorcan, Drew Gulak and Humberto Carrillo, with former main roster superstars finding greener pastures performing beside them. Developmental brands are used for the production of homegrown talent, giving them cult status that could later be transferred onto the big stage.
NXT would typically be the brand that’s referred to as WWE’s stomping ground, but these days, it’s hard to find a performer that hasn’t already gained a reputation for being a future main-eventer. Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, and Matt Riddle are all names that quite frankly don’t need developing as WWE stars. Of course there’s a rough transitional period from wrestling the independent style to suddenly having to adapt to the structure of a WWE style match, but quite frankly, they don’t need to find a fanbase — their name alone brings in fans.
However, you look at the names on the 205 Live roster and there’s a lot of work that is being to establish these performers as top-tier talent. Being labelled a cruiserweight was once considered somewhat of a discredit to your future in WWE, but after seeing the sheer amount of effort each of the talent are putting into their matches, it’s hard to think of them as nothing less than workhorses. These are the hungry kind of guys that are going to bring some credibility back to WWE.
NXT is absolutely fantastic and has built some marquee stars for the main roster, but there’s no need for this show to relegate itself by being ‘developmental’. NXT can thrive as its own product whilst still being under the WWE umbrella. 205 Live, however, still needs that connection to the big stage to keep themselves in the spotlight. But should they continue on the path they’re on then I see no reason why they couldn’t branch out into their own live event tours, their own training centre, their own rebellion against the main roster.
Arguably, the stars of 205 Live should start being considered to spice things up on Raw and SmackDown. With two former cruiserweight champions being drafted to respective brands during the Superstar Shake-up, it’s great to see them be given that recognition for being worthy of a run outside of 205 Live. Despite not making many waves as of yet, Murphy and Alexander should hopefully start picking up a bit of momentum thanks to the reputation of their home-brand of 205 Live.
WWE tend to misfire with the majority of their call-ups, with most developmental stars eventually succumbing to being lost in the shuffle. Perhaps it’s time that WWE loses the developmental process altogether and start allowing these superstars to thrive as part of their own environment. Thinking of all of the balls that have been dropped in Shinsuke Nakamura, EC3 and Tyler Breeze, it’s hard to justify them ever coming up onto the main roster. Should they have stuck around on NXT, they could have potentially evolved into being bigger stars than ever before.
The same goes for the cruiserweights. Maybe instead of eventually calling-up cruiserweight champions, they should let them remain on a successful 205 Live, allowing them to continue to innovate the cruiserweight style of wrestling and offer a new genre of wrestling for the mainstream fanbase.
I truly hope that 205 Live continues to run on the streak they’re on. The entire cruiserweight roster have been excelling in what they do, and if you’ve never had the chance to check out 205 Live on the WWE Network, then make sure you watch this week’s episode as a starting point. Perhaps it’s time for NXT to start building themselves as more of a full-time brand, instead of being considered a step-down from Raw and SmackDown Live. 205 Live has done a much better job of creating and maintaining stardom, so they should try to learn a thing or two from the Tuesday night graveyard shift.