With time to spare before the next big Raw-branded event to build toward the next cruiserweight championship match, which could happen on either the Raw 25th Anniversary show on Jan. 22 or the Royal Rumble on Jan. 28, WWE had an opportunity to showcase new talent and a relatively clean slate to work with in selecting Enzo Amore's next challenger.
The result was a Kurt Angle-sanctioned minitournament, starting with a pair of Fatal 4-Way matches on consecutive editions of RaW and culminating with the winners squaring off in a singles match.
The combatants for the other Fatal 4-Way, Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali, Drew Gulak and Tony Nese, tangled in a, to quote Teddy Long, "straight-up tag team match" as a preview during Tuesday night's edition of 205 Live.
The team of Gulak and Nese, known as Team Powerpoint (to everybody's delight), was a combo in the early days of 205 Live, and they reunited again Tuesday. The match followed the basic tag team script, with the faces getting exciting offense in early, the heels taking midmatch control and the faces getting the comeback late.
But Team Powerpoint got the last laugh. Gulak made the save after Ali hit a top-rope crossbody on Nese off the shoulders of Alexander. Nese tossed Ali into Alexander, who was standing on the apron, and then rolled him Ali for the victory.
Although the match followed a script early, the nuances of the match told a deeper story -- one of tensions starting to develop between Ali and Alexander just six days before they face off against Gulak and Nese, who seemed to work as a cohesive unit.
It was a somewhat surprising result, given that the Zo Train had been showing signs of struggles, despite standing tall to end last week's 205 Live. Earlier in the night, Dar lost one-on-one against Swann and got chewed out by Amore, and we all remember Gulak and the turkey suit. It was a happy ending for the second week in a row, though, as Amore closed the show celebrating with Gulak and Nese.
What the match did was effectively send us to next Monday's Fatal 4-Way, as it checked a couple of key boxes. First, it set up some dissension between Ali and Alexander, who argued in the ring after the finish and continued to spar backstage.
- WWE (@WWE) November 29, 2017
Second, it legitimized the only player in the match who didn't seem like a key contender for next Monday in Nese, who picked up the pinfall and had his music playing to end the night.
As former top contender Kalisto takes a back seat, after a bad run-in with Jack Gallagher and Brian Kendrick, let's rank the contenders for next week by the likelihood that they win, from least to most likely.
Despite picking up the win, Nese hasn't been booked consistently enough as a solid competitor to put him in the No. 1 contender slot, especially if that match takes place at a big show like Raw's 25th Anniversary or the Royal Rumble. Although his match with Swann would be tremendous, there would seemingly be little doubt to the eventual outcome.
Early in Amore's tenure on 205 Live, Ali seemed like the next competitor to take a shot. But with a face already in this match, choosing one of Swann's cohorts to meet him seems the less-likely scenario...
...especially compared to Alexander. For me, it's a toss-up between Alexander and Gulak. A friendly rivalry matchup between Swann and Alexander could provide incredible action between two of the best high-flyers and physically gifted athletes under WWE contract. But you wonder how Alexander would fare in a verbal showdown with Amore, who's chastised Alexander for his lack of charisma.
Which brings us to "Gabba-Gulak." Gulak has been the most highlighted of the four riders on the Zo Train, and he's been the breakout star of 205 Live over the last couple of months. A win followed by a win over Swann could accelerate a face turn, while advancing to the final and losing could result in a slower burn as Amore voices his displeasure with Gulak for not getting the job done. Either way, Gulak's getting cheered, and he can only object to the chanting for so long.
Superlatives of the night
Move: Ali's crossbody on Nese off the shoulders of Alexander was the high point of a main event with some fun
Line: "What day is it? It's ab day" -- Nese, for whom every day is ab day. But would he get an argument from Rusev, for whom every day is Rusev Day? Can they share?