We're in the season of ticket punching, and after last night, the first two spots in the semifinals of the cruiserweight championship tournament were punched.
In no surprise, Cedric Alexander defeated TJ Perkins in a match that kept TJP's slow, technical pace. Alexander escaped an attempt at the Detonation Kick and immediately hit his own Lumbar Check to finish it off. Of the four quarterfinal matches, this one seemed the least in doubt. Alexander's status as a future champion, somewhat protected and not taking many losses, has dated back for months. Meanwhile, TJP entered this tournament with a losing stretch being his gimmick.
But what Alexander does in the semifinals will be really telling for where the cruiserweight division is going.
That's because in the other semifinal, Roderick Strong, moving over from NXT to participate in this tournament, defeated former cruiserweight champion Kalisto in a solid match. With Perkins' and Kalisto's losses, no former cruiserweight champions remain alive in the tournament.
Strong played an interesting role in this match, seemingly the heel to counter Kalisto's high-flying maneuvers. He wrestled aggressively, especially mid-match, and taunted Kalisto's "Lucha" chants.
There was no shortage of action either, both inside and outside the ring. Strong hit a release vertical suplex onto a table while Kalisto put Strong into the barricade with a hurricanrana.
Late in the match, Strong went for a superplex, but Kalisto was able to change momentum in mid-air and sent Strong flying to the mat. Strong favored his shoulder from that point on, but was still able to put together a great finish -- a backbreaker combo followed by the End of Heartache.
This really puts the rest of the tournament in an interesting spot, as the next three matches (the only ones we know so far), will feature a previously established member of the 205 Live roster up against somebody brought in specifically for this event, and possibly part of a relaunch of the division.
It's already clear that WWE wanted to rebrand 205 Live. During this tournament, storylines and promos have been at a minimum. Part of that might be that 20 minutes of the show have been trimmed off due to the Mixed Match Challenge, but with no cruiserweight representation on Monday Night Raw, it also seems like we're getting a totally different view of the division.
That gets the division back to where it initially thrived, during the Cruiserweight Classic, but it's important to have characters that the crowd can either get behind or boo voraciously, and therein lays the challenge that will face the division coming out of this tournament.
But, the first challenge is to get to WrestleMania and provide a match worthy of that stage and that will be the high point of this relaunch. Who best to lead the evolution of 205 Live is up for debate, and the "brass ring" left to be grabbed.
Hits and Misses
With no Monday Night Raw representation for the cruiserweights, why not try a little NXT and United Kingdom representation, and mix those rosters more than we already have?
TJP added a backwards trucker hat to his ensemble. Hey, if that's your look and gimmick, go big or go home.
Mustafa Ali and Buddy Murphy had some backstage comments to break up the two quarterfinal matches. I've bought in to the backstage, self-shot videos as a more natural way to meet the competitors. Much like the Mixed Match Challenge, the seemingly less-scripted format has turned into a more fun way to meet the competitors, and if it looks better on the third or fourth take, then I'm cool with it.
Superlatives of the Night
Move: Kalisto's mid-air reversal of a superplex was a move I had to go back and watch a few times. I still don't know what to call it though.
Line: Not a full line, but the crowd chanting "205" during Strong-Kalisto was a cool moment that I don't remember ever happening during the show.
Match: Strong and Kalisto had a number of high spots and we witnessed a different side of Strong as he advanced to the semis.