The 205 Live Problem Isn’t As Big As You Think

“Huzzah!” they screamed, “for Triple H seized control of 205 Live from the nefarious Vince who is out of touch and doesn’t knows anything.”[1]

Maybe, just maybe, the above quote (which I made up) is happening enough for WWE to actually use optics and rumors to solve its 205 Live problems. Maybe, by convincing a certain section of WWE’s audiences that this is a Triple H Joint, and not a Vince McMahon Product, they can miraculously open eyes.

If that doesn’t happen? Let’s talk about the options on the table.

The Issue

If you’ve ever watched WWE’s 205 Live, you’ve probably realized the central problem with the show. It’s impossible to miss. The audience — by and large — spends most of the match sitting on their hands.

And a quiet crowd is deadly. Not only does it make it harder for the wrestlers performing, but it signals to the home audience that the show isn’t worth caring about.

In the more dire times of this show’s run, this malaise was credited to any number of things, starting with its bland original champion (TJ Perkins), and then the lazy repeated matches from Raw. Now, unfortunately, the show’s audiences have a new problem: the two-hour slog that is SmackDown Live.

And even though SmackDown Live has become as tepid as lukewarm tap-water, the paying crowd is there for that SmackDown Live taping and not for a 205 Live one. Tim Kail’s written about this, that this is a matter of how you perceive the show, and 205 Live’s most-boisterous supporter PastaSauca has concurred, that 205 simply doesn’t have its own audience.

And by having 205 Live exist as content piggy-backing on SmackDown and Raw — remember when audiences watched as WWE staffers taped purple tape on top of Raw’s red ropes — it branded the show as cheap. As “not what you signed up for.” It’s something the cruiserweight wrestlers have been working tirelessly to undo ever since.

But, still, the fans attending 205 Live do not obscure the fact that 205 Live is the veggies. It’s what they cannot skip, because of the dark match, a promised-off-air match that features SmackDown Live’s top-tier talent in a match exclusive to those in the arena.

For the vast majority of its existence, 205 Live required that fans tune from USA to the WWE network, after watching 2 hours of SmackDown Live, the night after those same fans likely watched 3 hours of Raw. Hell, some of the time, those same fans had also just watched at least 3 hours of a WWE PPV on the network. At a certain point, saturation kicks in.

And so that saturation used to be an excuse, until the Mixed Match Challenge started popping audiences from 10 to 10:30pm. And while that means it’s possible for 205 Live to not die on the vine at that hour, WWE just made it harder on 205 Live, by having it go on later.

But even while I don’t hold the 205 Live audience’s silence against it, I certainly want to change it.

I was there, the night that the poison[2] was injected into 205 Live

Screen Shot 2018 02 11 at 5 34 52 PM

See that guy in the 205 Live ring? That’s Neville, the then-king of the Cruiserweights, the night after SummerSlam weekend, being interrupted by Enzo Amore.

Since that moment, everything went kinda wrong and kinda right. On the darkest timeline side of the coin, Neville soon disappeared, leaving the spotlight on The Zo Train. While this sadly meant that The Geordie King may be done with the company, it also gave time for Drew Gulak to get over, and for the storyline of him betraying Tony Nese to be amazing stuff.

At times, 205 Live seemed like it was on the verge of ascending, thanks to how crowds could not get enough of Enzo Amore. If you went to a WWE house show during the end of 2017, you heard that crowds still popped big time for Enzo’s music and that people still wanted to chant along with him.

A few more months of that, there could have been a program leading to a big match at Mania. But we know how January 2018 went, and with Enzo’s evil past catching up to him, immolating his career.

205 Live was once again in trouble.[3]

What trouble, you ask?

I don’t think 205 Live is in jeopardy of being cancelled. WWE needs original, exclusive content on its network, and 205 Live is cheap to produce. The trouble, I’d say, is that its wrestlers are still being kept off in this tiny universe, and it doesn’t seem to help them.

Look at what being a 205 Live champ has done for the previous title-holders. Thinking about that past, minus Tozawa, you almost want to keep your faves from winning that belt.

A show where talented wrestlers go to be wasted and ignored isn’t good for anyone, so the 205 Live needs to overcome that baseline of expectation.

What Works:

And before I bang on about what’s wrong with the show, let’s talk about how there’s not much actually wrong here.

The show’s got a ton of interesting drama, with the bitter rivalries between Tony Nese and Drew Gulak and Jack Gallagher and Hideo Itami, as well as the friendly competition of Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali.

Granted, the crowd doesn’t give a damn about Itami, but let’s get some pre-taped segments together to show on the screen, stuff where he and Jack are interviewed elsewhere, and give the crowd a story, so they can care about him.

We’ve only started to see what Drake Maverick, the former Rockstar Spud, is adding, with slight dashes of comedy and monologues that press the importance of 205 Live. His earnestness is definitely worth considering. Also, he’s led to Akira Tozawa’s Vince McMahon impression, which has me nearly crying tears of joy every week.

Everyone has their own solutions for how to fix the show, so I thought it would be best to run through their pros and cons and explain what I’d do.

Don’t change the name

Considering Rich Swann’s arrest, Enzo being a complete dirtbag, Austin Aries leaving, Kalisto flopping, Neville’s unknown status within the company, and everyone hating TJP for his own extracurriculars, 205 Live’s championship lineage is troubled to say the least.

Some fans have argued that 205 Live is cursed and that the cruiserweights are seen as secondary citizens. Fans have been passively instructed to think this purple brand is filled with talent meant to be kept away from the main roster.

The issue here? A massive rebranding risks tossing out what good is associated with the show. For example, when I think of excellent wrestling within WWE, 205 Live is one of the few shows I jump to.

Maybe that’s not the case with all — it likely isn’t considering the way crowds react — but to build a new brand up from nothing is harder than it is to fix a lagging one.

Don’t get rid of the show all together

After Enzo’s trouble came out, people flat out said “okay shut it down, kill the 205 Live thing, it’s over. Folding them into the bigger brands would give these guys more importance.

But, you think this division, which isn’t in the best health as it is, could have a chance of surviving without dedicated time? Go find a Delorean and talk to the Divas. There’s no moral imperative for equality it comes to the cruiserweights, so WWE would never have a reason to listen to pushback about the 205 and under guys having less of a presence.

As it is now, 205 Live is a good thing, because matches on Raw directly promote content on the the WWE Network, which certainly needs all the original programming it can get.

I wish you could film 205 Live at Full Sail

This is one of the better ideas. Take 205 Live out of the basketball arenas they film SmackDown Live in, because this brand and roster did best in the smaller scale of Full Sail during the original Cruiserweight Classic.

The only issue here is likely a deal-breaking one: moving this show to Full Sail probably increases the budget for the show, taking away one of the perks for WWE: that it’s cheap to pull off.

Taping at another venue on means paying for a whole new filming and touring crew, rather than simply adding an hour onto the existing schedule.

You also gain the spoiler problem if you decide to move 205 Live to Full Sail, as evidenced by people who skip NXT TV and just watch TakeOvers.

Instead, let’s do more live shows

Remember that short-lived 205 Live Tour? The one that also had Bray Wyatt vs Matt Hardy? The weirdest thing about it, at least for me, was that it was booked in far-off cities, nothing convenient. Reports suggested it was a hell of a time.

Run monthly live shows that are barn-burners in more populous areas — stay away from Poughkeepsie, NY — but stay working smaller venues, which that show did.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from attending indie shows is that those more intimate venues allow for a potentially-deeper connection between wrestlers and talent.

Next, Let’s Get Weird

Yes, I know that 205 Live’s motto is that Wrestling Comes First, but the pairing of Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt on the 205 Live tour has me thinking they were onto something. What if, on top of 205 Live pushing its tournament — which is seen as of paramount importance in righting the ship — one smaller Raw segment per week gave more time to its new GM Drake Maverick, in a pre-taped moment backstage.

He doesn’t always have to be talking to 205 Live talent, but this could highlight Maverick’s character work (proven when his Rockstar Spud character made segments of TNA worth watching). Spud and Matt Hardy worked together in TNA, so I’m sure His Woken Brilliance could work with Maverick to produce vignettes that make audiences want to see more of the man at the helm of 205 Live.

Wondering why I want WWE to get weird? Mixed Match Challenge thrives by breaking outside of the boxes that confine its wrestlers on other shows. And a mixture of tournament wrestling and bonkers sports entertainment has a better chance than an hour of pure pro wrestling, especially when it’s being pitched at an audience who came here for pro wrestling.

Focus on Audience Members Who Are Here **For 205 Live**

As I’ve noted, the WWE audience has seen a lot of wrestling in back to back nights by the time 205 Live hits the air. So, one thing to do (that isn’t enough to fix this) is to do you do?

Give fans the opportunity to get up and get excited. Promote 205 Live as the people’s show and create a standing-area only area closer to the ring, to give them a better view, regardless of where their SmackDown Live tickets are for. Give this show the feel of an indie show, where fans are hyped to be there.

Accentuate the positives

One issue with 205 Live is that its smaller wrestlers don’t look as big in these larger arenas. Well? Stop filming 205 Live in the same way you do everything else. This show’s talent is of a different size, so they shouldn’t be shown in the same ways.

Rethink the angles you can use for this show, and create a new intimacy with closer-in spots. Maybe put the commentary desk somewhere else, like Raw does. Make it feel special.

Flesh out the Lucha House Party

Right now, Kalisto, Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik currently make up a faction known as The Lucha House Party. And while that sounds 1990’s Cool on paper, we know nothing about these guys, unless you’ve got a decent memory and realized that announcer Vic Joseph was making a wisecrack when talkin about the Lucha Things that Kalisto would be doing during a cruiserweight tournament match last week.

So, while the tournament matches are taking a lot of the time up on 205 Live now, please develop characters for these masked men. Otherwise, they’re generic jobbers to the stars.

Oh and one other thing

Sorry, but Vic Joseph isn’t working. Tom Phillips needs to take that spot. And give Drake Maverick gets a spot on commentary during the bigger matches. Maybe they’re trying to prevent oversaturation on him, but it feels to me like he’s barely getting any time on screen.

It’s Wow Time

In the coming weeks, 205 Live will see 6 more matches in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament, building towards a WrestleMania 34 match. So, during these matches, it’s time to put on even better matches that are more-must-see than anything 205 Live’s seen before, because you need to build the hype for Mania.

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to see that the best-case scenario for the tournament’s finals match is, sadly, that it steals the Kickoff Show, as it will likely not make the main card for WrestleMania.

Why am I so … down on the odds for this? Because we’re less than 2 months away from WrestleMania and I can’t see a match in these brackets that can make it into the constantly-dense Mania card. Not during a night where Ronda Rousey has her first WWE PPV match.

The wrestlers in this bracket that I can see with a hope of making it to the finals are Cedric Alexander, Roderick Strong, Mustafa Ali, Drew Gulak, and Mark Andrews. And as much as I respect those wrestlers, I’ve seen Dean Ambrose fight on the pre-show, and I’ve seen the Usos never make it to the main card.

But, if the simmer of the tournament builds to a boiling-hot Cruiserweight Championship match that lights up the boards on social media? A match filled with emotion and impact and crazy moves, that drives people to scream about how good it is, then you’ve got a solid foundation for 205 Live to be on stable ground after Mania. Stable enough ground for the Raw talent to not be afraid of being seen on screen with the cruiserweights.

Yes, I’m downright hopeful about the future of 205 Live.

 

[1] This blog will never be a Vince McMahon apologist platform, but I think that we as fans — myself certainly included — love to believe our own head-canons, and often allow it to lead us astray. Nothing is likely as simple or straight-forward as wrestling fans will argue it is, especially when it comes to behind the scenes incidents and personalities.

[2] *Eric Bischoff Smile*

[3] 

Watch This Wrestling 49 (12/10—12/16)

Hello friends!

As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey .

What I Watched

  • Beyond Wrestling: Cold Brew, 12/10
  • Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Fight Club Pro: Infinite, 12/10
  • Monday Night Raw, 12/11
  • SmackDown LIVE, 12/12
  • 205 Live, 12/12
  • NXT, 12/13
  • Death Match 7, 12/13
  • MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13
  • Impact Wrestling, 12/14
  • Progress Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not, 12/15
  • House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16

Upcoming Watch List

  • WWE Clash of Champions 2017, 12/17
  • Monday Night Raw, 12/18
  • SmackDown LIVE, 12/19
  • 205 Live, 12/19
  • NXT, 12/20
  • Progress: Live at the Dome (12/13), 12/22

Non-WWE Match of The Week:

Mark Davis vs. Jordan Devlin vs. MK McKinnan vs. Omari (Infinity 2017 – Final)

Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017

Fight Club Pro — one of my favorite new promotions to watch this year — came to a raucous crescendo with its Infinity 2017 tournament. And so while I wanted to give the point to one of the many other good matches from that week (wow, see below), this elimination based-fourway was so solid. Not only does it offer a chaotic scramble style, but you practically got a whole other great match when it was down to the final two. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Walter vs David Starr, Beyond Wrestling: Cold Brew, 12/10
  • Darby Allin vs. Keith Lee vs. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Jaka vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. © (Evolve World Championship), Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Matt Riddle vs. WALTER (No Rope Breaks Match), Evolve 97, 12/10
  • Omari vs. Millie McKenzie (Infinity 2017 – First Round), Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017, 12/10 VOD
  • Kay Lee Ray vs. Mark Davis (Infinity 2017 – First Round), Fight Club: PRO: Infinity 2017, 12/10 VOD
  • Ospreay/Okada vs Naito/Takahashi, NJPW World Tag League Final, 12/11
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Chuck Taylor in a Falls Count Anywhere No Ring Match, Death Match 7, 12/13
  • MJF vs Joey Ryan, MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13 
  • Shane Strickland & John Hennigan vs Jimmy Havoc & Darby Allin, MLW: Never Say Never, 12/13
  • Grizzled Young Vets (Zack Gibson & James Drake) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis), Progress Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not, 12/15
  • EYFBO (Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik) vs Private Party vs House Of Gangone vs Brian Burgundy & TJ Marconi, House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Amazing Red, House of Glory: Se7en, 12/16

Non-WWE Segment of The Week

A Wild Chris Jericho Appears… And Then

NJPW World Tag League Final, 12/11

What started as a fantastic surprise now has some teeth to it, thanks to these two segments. Just, bravo. 

Also, gotta love the subtle trolling from Jericho, in the lines saying this match will end Omega, he specifically suggests it’s the end of Omega’s run in New Japan. 

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Roman Reigns vs. Cesaro – Intercontinental Championship Match

    Monday Night Raw, 12/11

    Ah Cesaro. Remember what I said about his former fellow King of Wrestling in WTW 48? Same goes here. 

    And this match allowed him to show management that he’s ready as hell for a singles push if and when Sheamus retires.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    “Don’t talk to Drew like that.” – Tony Nese / Tony Nese vs Enzo Amore

    205 Live, 12/12

    It pissed off many that Enzo Amore got the cruiserweight championship, but wow has this situation helped Drew Gulak. While the below segment focuses on the match between Nese and Amore, I’m only bringing it in as contextual info to a clip WWE’s YouTube doesn’t have, a backstage segment where Gulak’s Team PowerPoint buddy Tony Nese — maybe Drew’s one true friend — stuck up for Drew. 

    The sadness of the betrayal, though. Not since Festival of Friendship has WWE hit this note so well.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Watch This Wrestling 44 (11/5—11)

    Hello friends!

    And here we have the second week WWE having awakened from slumber. Also, just one non-WWE thing. As I’ve said, I’m trying to change that. NJPW Tag League is coming up to help out, and I may be giving TNA another shot now that it’s employing The Hottest Free Agent in Pro Wrestling: Ethan Page.

    As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey .

    What I Watched

    • NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
    • Monday Night Raw, 11/6
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/7
    • 205 Live, 11/7
    • NXT, 11/8

    Upcoming Watch List

    • Monday Night Raw, 11/13
    • SmackDown LIVE, 11/14
    • 205 Live, 11/14
    • NXT, 11/15

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Marty Scurll vs Will Ospreay © for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship

    NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

    This is a fun match, and I think it’s the best either have had during their runs in New Japan. Sure, Ospreay match’s against Ricochet is iconic, but it at times felt too much like a routine and not like a fight.

    And even if Scurll and Ospreay have wrestled a ton of times before, this match didn’t smell at all of two guys going through the motions. Scurll actually fought despicably and Ospreay had to deal with him in mostly non-flippy ways. Good times.

    Honorable Mentions:

    • Kenny Omega vs Trent Beretta, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
    • Kota Ibushi vs Hiroshi Tanahashi © for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5
    • David Starr vs Anthony Gangone © for the FBW Championship, Five Borough Wrestling, A Savior Among Us, 11/10

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    A New Challenger Appears for Kenny Omega

    NJPW Power Struggle, 11/5

    Yep: Jericho vs Omega will happen at WrestleKingdom 12 this year. And if the match alone (and the social media dick measuring contest) didn’t seal the deal on your excitement, check out this promo:

    Also, gotta love that Jericho uses a countdown clock for this debut moment, just like he did when he came to WWE. Another smart touch? Jericho is silent for the first few moments of the promo, so the crowd and announcers can lose their collective shit.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Match of The Week:

    AJ Styles vs Jinder Mahal © for the WWE Championship

    SmackDown LIVE, 11/7

    I haven’t hated Jinder’s run as champ. First: it irked fans enough to make this match matter a lot, and second: this match didn’t illogically tweak the role of the Singh brothers, Mahal’s not at all-secret weapon, so that AJ could win.

    Not only did Styles systematically take down the flopping boys, but his subsequent return into the ring used reversals and ring-awareness so he wouldn’t go down like all the rest.

    Honorable Mentions:

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    Enzo Introduces the UK Division to the British WWE Fans

    205 Live, 11/7

    This gets a best for giving Tyler Bate on the mic, and for continuing to validate the Enzo Experiment. Sometimes you need to get guys over by pairing them with others who already matter.

    This segment also won be over by putting Mark Andrews and James Drake on screen. It also showed that WWE is smart enough to not give Joseph Conners a microphone.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Watch This Wrestling 28 (7/16–22)

    So, so much wrestling. 

    As always, if I’m missing anything that can be accessed without too much trouble, @ me on twitter: henrytcasey.

    What I Watched

    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
    • Monday Night Raw, 7/17
    • AAW: Take No Prisoners Occurred 5/6, hit AAW VOD on 7/17
    • SmackDown LIVE, 7/18
    • 205 Live, 7/18
    • A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR TALKING SMACK, REST IN POWER
    • NXT, 7/19
    • Lucha Underground, 7/19
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 2, 7/20
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

    Upcoming Watch List

    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 5, 7/23
    • Monday Night Raw, 7/24
    • SmackDown LIVE, 7/25
    • 205 Live, 7/25
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 6, 7/25
    • NXT, 7/26
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 7, 7/26
    • Lucha Underground, 7/26
    • NJPW: G1 Climax Day 8, 7/27

    Non-WWE Segment of The Week

    RIP Daryl

    NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

    Hiromu Takahashi – along with the fans of New Japan Pro Wrestling – loved Daryl, the stuffed kitty cat that The Ticking Time Bomb carried to the ring. So, as you might expect, Daryl got shredded. The Bullet Club’s Underboss Bad Luck Fale did the dirty work, and it got the biggest heat reaction out of the NJPW crowd I’ve heard in months, maybe years. So, Fale made the most of this, by tweeting the following video.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Non-WWE Match of The Week:

    Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi

    NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17

    Prior to its start, the big story of the G1 was the return of Kota Ibushi as Kota Ibushi in NJPW. What does that mean? 

    1. Ibushi isn’t still stuck doing Tiger Mask work.
    2. Ibushi isn’t fighting blowup dolls in Japan’s DDT Pro-Wrestling either.

    Why was Ibushi doing all of that, rather than the brilliance we see legit-great stuff under his own name? Well, remember Ibushi’s time in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic? The way Kenny Omega – Ibushi’s long time rival – makes it sound in an interview, Ibushi’s decision negatively effected the chances they had of working more Japan. 

    Now, though, Ibushi’s back in Japan and putting his life – specifically his neck – on the line in matches like this Week 1 stand-out with Naito.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Some notes about the below. If there’s a close-second place match, I’ll bold it, as I do below. And yes, Zack Sabre Jr. Elgin was available a while ago, but its price as a rental on AAW’s VOD service is much more affordable.

    • Zack Sabre Jr. vs Michael Elgin, AAW: Take No Prisoners 5/6, VOD on 7/17
    • Hirooki Goto vs Tomohiro Ishii, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
    • Zack Sabre Jr vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
    • Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 1, 7/17
    • Prince Puma vs PJ Black, Lucha Underground, 7/19
    • Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 3, 7/21
    • Large Michael Elgin vs Kazuchika Okada, NJPW: G1 Climax Day 4, 7/22

    WWE Match of The Week:

    Mustafa Ali vs Drew Gulak, 2 out of 3 Falls

    205 Live, 7/18

    I don’t give 205 Live a ton of awards, but that’s possibly going to change. Now that the going will get the full 10 to 11pm Tuesday night hour (RIP Talking Smack), they’re clearly looking to give that extra time to matches, such as this barn-burner that went a while.

    This match continues to tell the story of Gulak’s risk-averse style as a counterpoint to Ali’s high-flying tendencies. Fortunately, the big nasty bump in the match (Drew took a poison ‘rana on the top of his head) doesn’t break the structure of the match, as it could make you think Gulak has a point.

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    The Redemption of Seth Rollins

    Monday Night Raw, 7/17

    I have been waiting for this moment forever.

    Not only did Seth give Dean get an apology, but also a free shot (which Dean didn’t take!). This is the kind of long-overdue character development that you want from WWE, but rarely expect or get.

    Honorable Mentions:

    Don’t Miss This 5 (2/3 – 9)

    WWE Match of the Week:

    The 205 Live Fatal 5-Way Elimination Match

    205 Live, 2/7

    As should be the case more often, the best wrestling in the last week in the WWE happened on 205 Live. The show, designed to be a path to superstardom for performers from the Cruiserweight Classic, was struggling to find its sea legs until around the time that Neville returned from injury with an undercut hairstyle and complete badassery. This match took the five most-over other guys in the division: Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher, and T.J. Perkins, and let them shine.

    From submission holds to high-flying moves, this match let each performer show off why they are on the WWE roster. While the surprise victory probably doesn’t mean anything (I doubt he’s beating Neville, this match gives hope for those who worried about the division. Shows all they need is time and stakes. Oh, and the dickishness of Noam Dar. That’s essential.

    Non-WWE Match of the Week

    Donovan Dijak vs. Chris Sabin vs. Alex Shelley vs. Lio Rush vs. Jay White vs. Jonathan Gresham

    ROH Wrestling, 2/5, available on the FITE app for free.

    So, it wasn’t a great week for televised (or even streamed) matches outside of WWE this week, but watch this match to enjoy a good spectacle of frenetic wrestling. Not only should you know Lio Rush’s name by now, but check out the big man Donovan Dijak, who is as big and agile enough for Vince to have signed him years ago.

    Also, a fun fact about Dijak: he’s left ROH. Expect to see him in Evolve in March and probably in NXT by the year’s end.

    WWE Segment of the Week:

    Nikki, Natalya, and John Cena

    The Natalya vs. Nikki Bella storyline taking place on SmackDown Live (which arguably started at Survivor Series) is one of the better but least buzzed about feuds in the WWE at this moment. It’s been driven by Natalya, who finally found that she can be compelling on the mic, though only as an utter savage.

    So it’s great to see this scene, which ties everything together for Survivor Series. From Nikki talking about John letting her fight her own fights to Natalya’s BRU-TAL run-in to Cena almost convincingly act like he didn’t know what happened while he was off camera. It sets up the Elimination Chamber match as well as future stuff between Nikki and Cena.

    Honorable mention: NXT, 2/8 Points to Bobby Roode for laughing his ass off after saying “no wait, of course I’m the kind of guy who loves to point out he was right.

    Non-WWE Segment of the Week

    The Broken Hardys Expedition Of Gold

    Impact Wrestling, 2/9

    So you’ve probably heard that Broken Matt Hardy has been threatening to take the tag titles from teams in other promotions, such as ROH’s Young Bucks. And while that’s actually booked for Mania weekend this April in Orlando, he’s also made less-likely challenges to WWE’s The Wyatt and New Day.

    So while this all seems unlikely, the Hardys managed to surprise again on Impact, using a new and improved Vanguard 1 drone. Jeff got to play the role of the doubter this week, asking Matt to explain his plot to jump over to other promotions, which is based around using Vanguard 1, the sass-mouthed drone that can now teleport the Hardys. I’ll shut up now, so you can watch and find out their first stop.