205 Live has had some of the most exciting wrestling matches of the year on its program, but its viewership lags behind NXT and NXT UK on the WWE Network. The Cruiserweights were the best part of WCW programming from 1996 until 1999 without needing any involvement from the NWO storyline. There are many great elements to 205 Live already after almost three years of existence (as you can see above) but below are five ways to reinvigorate the 205 Live brand. In the comments below, share your thoughts on 205 Live and favorite Cruiserweight matches.
1. Cycle stars in and out of the brand
With Ali, Buddy Murphy, and Cedric Alexander now wrestling outside of the 205 Live brand it would be much more compelling to have more wrestlers cycle in and out of being on the 205 Live show every once in a while. It would be great to see Heath Slater, Sami Zayn, or Daniel Bryan spend a month or two in a feud on the show or have one of the Cruiserweights feud with a Heavyweight for a bit. Chad Gable is very much in that mix after being a two-time tag team champion and a King Of The Ring Finalist. Look for Gable to be looked at as someone who could have a great match with any weight class or wrestling style. WWE's roster is so deep now that the combinations are endless and are ripe for exploitation. Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn could highlight how great the talent in the Cruiserweight division really is by spending some time in the division for a spell. John Cena had some of the best matches of his career when he decided to drop down to the United States Title picture in 2015. He shined a spotlight on everyone who challenged him resulting in Rusev, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens breaking out from the pack at the time. If WWE doesn't have any compelling stories or matches for Daniel Bryan or Sami Zayn at the top of the card, their skills would elevate every Cruiserweight in the company. WWE has long been known as a company that favors big men but the past has shown that if timing and talent line up just right, smaller wrestlers can become top guys.
2.Revert to the sports-focused format of the Cruiserweight Classic
The Cruiserweight Classic set the wrestling world on fire in 2016, attracting the top cruiserweight talent in the world to showcase how good they really were. Mauro Ranallo & Daniel Bryan on commentary emphasized strategy, fighting styles, and wrestlers' backgrounds to tell the story of the matches since no personal feuds had been built yet. The lack of personal feuds didn't prevent deeply emotional stories from being told. Brian Kendrick's need for redemption brought people to tears when he lost to Kota Ibushi. Cedric Alexander's match with Ibushi also brought out so much emotion from the crowd that they chanted "Please sign Cedric!" until Triple H came out and gave the crowd a thumbs up and a wink letting them know that he would try to keep Cedric in WWE. Jack Gallagher was able to put together a hilarious comedy match with Akira Tozawa resulting in a loss for Gallagher but endearing both men to the crowd nonetheless.
Wrestling can ask a lot of its audience's suspension of disbelief, but grounding the cruiserweights in a more sports-focussed world will make it stand out from every other brand of wrestling out there. NXT & AEW both have made claims that their product is more grounded than RAW & SmackDown's products but 205 Live can go even further than that. Combat sports often use competitor's measurements and fighting styles as a way to set the story for the match and 205 Live can do that as well. The Cruiserweight Classic would compare height, weight, nationality, and wrestling styles for each competitor. 205 Live could use that information and include wrestler's reach and pedigree as well to help set up a story instead of emphasizing the theatrics that have become commonplace in WWE programming. Reality can often be more compelling than fiction and when it's coupled with the production value & graphics of WWE, it will stand out from all other wrestling programs.
3. Utilize WWE Chronicle type video packages to further storylines
The WWE Chronicle documentary series on the WWE Network has done more to show the character of WWE Superstars than any scripted promo has in years. The blurring of fiction and reality in the Dean Ambrose episode in particular is the most perfect example of how something like Chronicle can set up storylines and flesh out characters in a short amount of time. In 1997 RAW aired a series of interviews Jim Ross had with Goldust, Mankind, & Farooq to reframe the audience's views of the characters and it did so very effectively. The interviews would be shown in segments building to a change in each of the characters that felt organic. Utilizing something similar to the docuseries "Chronicle" on 205 Live would yield a similar result but with an entirely new presentation that would feel different than every other wrestling show. These mini-documentaries will create a bond between the viewers and the Superstars beyond what could be achieved with traditional in-ring promos. If 205 Live grounded itself more in reality than other wrestling programs, it would make itself stand out much more. The competitors themselves will never be as physically impressive as a giant but by tweaking their presentation, they would appear just as special.
4. Make Kyle O'Reilly the star of the brand
WCW's Cruiserweight division in 1998 had Dean Malenko, Syxx, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, La Parka, Ultimo Dragon, and Psychosis on their stacked roster but the presence of Chris Jericho elevated the Cruiserweight division to new heights because it finally had a heel that stirred the entire pot of the division. By 1998 the Cruiserweight division had firmly established itself as having some of the best wrestlers in the world, but their stories were somewhat lacking - mainly because there wasn't a heel strong enough to shake the entire division. In 1998 Chris Jericho turned heel on Rey Mysterio at Souled Out without even joining the NWO. Jericho would then take items from the men he defeated and wear them to his next match as trophies. It started with a title vs. mask match against Juventud Guerrera, then Jericho stole Prince Iaukea's Hawaiian garb, and a headband from Disco Inferno. Jericho's petulant and disrespectful character made the Cruiserweight division must-watch to see who would finally put Jericho in his place. Dean Malenko stepped in for a multi-month story with Jericho that cemented Jericho's status as a major star while elevating everyone in the division.
Kyle O'Reilly has the personality and wrestling ability to do for 205 Live what Chris Jericho did for WCW's Cruiserweight division. O'Reilly had short shots as Ring Of Honor World Champion and PWG Champion coupled with added experience he's had touring & training with NXT, he's knocking on the door of being "the guy" for a brand. As great of a performer as he is in tag team wrestling, O'Reilly has even more potential as a beatable heel champion in singles competition. If 205 Live wants to truly make itself must-see action, it needs a great heel. Kyle O'Reilly can be the man, he just needs the opportunity.
5. Let wrestlers wrestle in their style
One of the standout features in the Cruiserweight Classic was the emphasis on different wrestling styles: Lucha, British, Catch, Japanese Strong Style, etc. The matches were also structured differently than the average WWE match. 205 Live could really stand out as a brand by celebrating the different wrestling styles and embracing different match structures. Looking back to Rey Mysterio vs Ultimo Dragon at Spring Stampede 1997, you can see spots and moves that were on a completely different level than everything else that followed the match that night. When Rey and Dragon kicked out of finisher after finisher, it didn't ruin the believability of the danger of the finisher for larger wrestlers later in the show. The audience isn't stupid, they're willing to suspend their disbelief to see more dynamic action from Cruiserweights and still are willing to be excited by slower action from Heavyweights.