The 205 Live Report Card (1/2/19): New Year, New Gulak?

Before we get started with this week’s show, it’d be remiss of me not to mention the passing of the great ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund. In a world of personalities and characters, Gene was truly in an elite category. This news is genuinely heart-breaking but the widespread reaction to it says a lot. This man’s legacy is incredibly unique and through his wit, charm and unmatched skill, Gene’s work will thankfully live forever.

Moving on as smoothly and respectfully as possible, I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year as at long last, we now move to a brand new year of hot rasslin action. It’s not live but regardless of allegations, it’s still 205 and with that in mind, let’s rock and roll pal.

DISCLAIMER: this show is in many ways, designed for my distaste. Take all critiques with a grain of salt as frankly, they are almost all misplaced and many even come with a disgusting bias. On the bright side, if I enjoy this programme, it bodes very well for your own enjoyment. In that sense, it’s ideal.

Drake Maverick welcomed us and run through this week’s show. His teeth looked white.

Kalisto vs. Lio Rush

Before we get to this actual match, I wanted to briefly discuss the concept behind it. The winner of this match will be added to a fatal-4-way Cruiserweight Title match at the Royal Rumble. While I know that the eventual match itself will almost certainly be great, I must concede that this announcement left me somewhat underwhelmed. Considering the level of talent under contract with WWE, I was hoping to see a fresh face in response to Buddy challenging Drake but nonetheless, here we are I suppose.

Inside the ropes, “Lio sucks” chants greeted the first bell and some acrobatic wackiness got us started. This culminated in Rush bailing as backstage, Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese watched on. Back ‘live,’ the evasive action continued until Kalisto finally tracked Rush down, scoring with some kicks and briefly taking control before Lio turned the tide. He did it in a big way too, wiping Kalisto out with a big dive before grounding the action back in-ring. Eventually, Kalisto fought to his feet, snatching a quick roll-up but then being floored for his troubles.

Rush continued to halt Kalisto’s comeback attempts from there, constantly cutting him off until a big springboard thingy finally shifted the momentum. It was a short lived comeback though, with Kalisto walking into two emphatic kicks as Rush headed up top to close the show. Kalisto halted him, landing another few kicks and hitting some form of flippy fall-away slam off the middle rope. That left both men floored but after they eventually made it upright, Rush seized, hitting his cool unprettier move for a big false finish.

A wild exchange then commenced, with Kalisto coming back in a big way before being hung over the top rope. This led to a huge count-out tease as Kalisto made it back in at 9.99 but Rush stayed aggressive, heading up top until the lucha fellows distracted him with their usual irritation tactics. This is flagrant cheating and Rush rightly lashed out, unfortunately he then turned into Salida Del Sol as out of nowhere, Kalisto had stole one and was now headed to the Royal Rumble.

I hate this kind of finish for a babyface, but the style matchup was rather exciting even if the match failed to really hook me from start to finish. Fun outing nonetheless.

Grade: B-

Following our opener, we got a recap of the main event tag match from a fortnight ago. This was followed by an interview with Gulak and Gallagher, as Drew dismissed the notion that he’s an underdog. Fair. Quick transition here nonetheless, next seeing footage of Tozawa striking mitts that featured Drew’s face on them. All hail.

Off to Drake’s office now as he breaks down what’s to come in 2019. He claimed that he’d been reaching out to other GMs and as a result, we can expect some new faces soon. Well, I knew that the WWF read my Report Card every week but it usually takes them a week to respond, not just a couple hundred words. Very impressive.

Drew Gulak vs. Akira Tozawa

Main event time now and it’s an old school little lad clash here as we go back to a pair of 205 Live originals. We are told that Maverick smartly banned any ringside presence, and I hoped this was in response to Rush’s struggles as if not, wow…what an oversight that was. Either way, these two quickly exchanged holds as we steadily eased into things. Gulak was having a whirl of a time here, making many noises in response to Tozawa’s usual cries as physically, things were heating up.

A flurry of strikes initially put Tozawa in control but he soon ran into Gulak’s trap, being forced into the barricade for his troubles. Drew took advantage too, slamming Tozawa onto the floor and attacking his back right away. At this point I briefly zoned out but as usual, Percy pulled me back in, mentioning Gulak’s supposed desperation for an action figure in a reference that caught me very much off guard. The action was getting pretty awesome here by the way, with Tozawa flurrying big to turn the tide in quite violent fashion.

This had a very refreshing feel to it, almost messy and I mean that as a compliment. After throwing some nasty strikes, Tozawa began to think senton but after Gulak cut him off, he changed his landing point, instead scoring it on Drew’s back in a move that hurt both. Drew was indeed back on top soon too, showing awesome power and launching Tozawa into corner before his Gu-Lock attempt was countered into a quick roll-up false finish. Gulak’s delightful lariat landed nonetheless, flooring Tozawa for 2.

A big power-bomb came next but Tozawa kicked out again, forcing Gulak to unsuccessfully engage in a wild brawl. This portion of action ruled and culminated in Tozawa stunning Gulak before snatching the *checks notes* Iron Octopus out of nowhere. Gulak countered though, applying a hold of his own in a wonderful segment of little lad rasslin. This was a legit great false finish but in the end, Tozawa fought to the ropes. He then created some space too, landing a beautiful back suplex and on one leg, heading up top before stumbling in a costly delay.

Gulak seized, catching Tozawa in a body-scissors and applying the Gu-Lock in what looked to be the finish until with Drew on his back, Tozawa scrambled to the floor. At this point, both men began to brawl on the floor, with Tozawa coming out on top before finally hitting his massive dive to the outside. The senton looked set to be next, but Gulak cut him off and unleashed a big slap before foolishly leaving his feet in what proved to be a costly move.

After heading up to the middle and then top rope, Gulak’s legs began to shake and he was quickly sent crashing back to the mat. This perfectly set up the senton and Tozawa seized, closing the show and securing his ticket to the Royal Rumble. Really physical, logical and hard-fought main event here that perfectly highlighted the skill-sets of both men. Drew is a wonderful submission grappler but the strike exchanges were my absolute highlight here and this match stylistically stood out from the 205 pack.

Really good main event to kick-off 2019!

Grade: A

Post-match, Brian Kendrick joined Tozawa for his celebrations and next week, we’ll find the fatal-4-way’s final participant as Cedric Alexander takes on Hideo Itami. With this in mind, we went off air with a pair of short promos from both. This included Cedric threatening a broken back, while Daivari mentioned Ali leaving, and Itami then put me over in Japanese.

Final Thoughts

While the opener wasn't really suited to my tastes, I enjoyed it nonetheless and with the main event, this show had totally won me over. I love when 205 Live is just two lengthy matches without hardly any fluff as frankly, that makes it a very easy sell for folks that don’t currently watch. Gulak/Tozawa made this show though, just a really unique match and an incredibly engaging one at that. Very strong start to the New Year and let’s hope that 2019 proves to be a successful one for the Cruiserweight division.

Grade: A

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