205 Live is only on its second week, but it hasn’t been as promising as the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC) has been. Far from it, in fact. What made the CWC such a hit was that there was a simple arc for all 32 participants—winning a tournament made up of international participants—while the show put out great wrestling matches on a consistent basis. 205 Live doesn’t have the luxury of a single goal for all 16 of its Cruiserweights to vie for. But unlike the CWC, 205 Live is not time-bound to a particular duration or season.
That’s why 205 Live needs to start telling stories, and I’m not just talking about the main event picture, which revolves around Rich Swann and the Cruiserweight Championship. Turning it into a triple threat feud involving both The Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins is a great way to tie all of their characters’ respective loose ends together. But if we’re going to get some permutation of these three guys mixing it up every week, then it’s going to get really boring really quickly.
The best solution is to have 205 Live emulate NXT and Lucha Underground’s storytelling format. While there’s a primary story being told surrounding the top title, there are also significant stories being told in the upper midcard and so on.
Keep every character busy with something so that every time someone thinks of a particular guy on the roster, you know what he’s dealing with at the moment. Lucha Underground, in particular, has been very adept at this because they’re able to give multiple feuds and characters an equal amount of focus, which makes the payoff bouts seem important each time.
Another thing that’s worked well for both NXT and LU is the fact that they push stories forward every two weeks. That means if, for example, NXT Tag Team Champions Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa appear on television this week, then they’ll most likely have their next match or promo in two weeks. This works because NXT—like LU and 205 Live—only has one hour of programming, and to push the same story week after week after week will encourage viewer fatigue because it won’t be long until we see the same matchups over and over again.
That’s exactly what we got on 205 Live’s second episode, which featured a second rematch between Ariya Daivari and Jack Gallagher—only it was the third time they’d faced each other in the last week. They already had their first rematch on RAW, and Gallagher came away the victor again, as he did on the 205 Live pilot.
You could argue that the Gallagher/Daivari match on 205 Live was different because Gallagher was already selling the knee injury and because Daivari finally got the win, but couldn’t that have happened next week? There are at least 10 other guys we haven’t even seen on the show yet. How much longer do we have to wait until we see Lince Dorado and Akira Tozawa on television?
I get that 205 Live is doing some things similar to NXT and LU, particularly in building up the Cruiserweights that haven’t debuted. The video packages are honestly nice.
But to the hardcore fans who followed them through the CWC, or even before that, they’ve gotten pretty redundant. Why not just give them a quick backstory and incorporate that while putting them in a feud with a familiar Cruiserweight? How hard could it be to have Tony Nese and Drew Gulak bully Akira Tozawa for his quirky behavior and weird primal screeches?
That being said, there’s a difference between introducing these characters into the canon and then just force-feeding a storyline to the audience. Upon tuning in to 205 Live this week, we find out that Cedric Alexander and Alicia Fox are now an item. What’s more confusing is that she’s all lovey-dovey and normal around Cedric, when just the previous night, she was a crazy heel against Bayley on RAW. Where’s the consistency in that? And aside from Cedric Alexander and Alicia Fox being a good-looking couple, is there another reason I should get behind their on-screen pairing?
You can see that there’s a bit of effort going into 205 Live and how they’re telling stories. But at this point, it’s clearly not enough, especially for its status as a new show. Their Creative team better step it up because they have more new characters to introduce (ugh HoHo Lun), plus they have to make the audience actually invested in these guys.
Match-wise, we’re getting closer towards the CWC level of ring outings (relative to what the Cruiserweights get on RAW), but not by a lot. These guys still need to be given enough time to do their work and producers who understand their style so they can construct better matches around them.
At the end of the day, 205 Live can very well be the litmus test for viewer fatigue in this new era of WWE programming. With the brand split bringing about two distinct shows in RAW and SmackDown Live once again, plus a pay-per-view every two weeks, on top of Talking Smack, NXT, and now, 205 Live, WWE has to keep giving us a reason to tune in to every show. Every episode has to feel like a can’t-miss event, and they’re only going to do that by making us invested in all of these Superstars that they themselves have invested in.