For the first time in months, the primary focus of Tuesday's edition of 205 Live featured little in the way of a direct build in the cruiserweight title feud between Neville and Austin Aries, three weeks out from their match at Payback.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Instead, this week's episode took advantage of the three-week window ahead of the Neville-Aries rematch at Payback and used that time to add another player to the main event scene, and this rivalry in particular -- former cruiserweight champion TJ Perkins.
Perkins, who made an abrupt heel turn on Monday Night Raw by blindsiding Aries (after pinning the No. 1 contender, no less), solidified that move to the dark side Tuesday night on 205 Live.
Perkins defeated "Gentleman" Jack Gallagher in the main event in a solid, back-and-forth match, and then formally aligned with Neville with a celebration at the top of the ramp as the episode ended. This was particularly relevant because, Neville, the self-proclaimed "King of the Cruiserweights," finally picked up an ally -- a member of the "King's Court," as it were.
Neville sowed the seeds of doubt and dissension just before the Aries-Perkins clash on Monday night during a backstage segment, and accomplished a number of positive things in watching Perkins' hate bloom. Not only is he a new ally, but Perkins got a serious dose of character infusion and made himself a major player for the first time since becoming the inaugural cruiserweight champion by winning the Cruiserweight Classic.
While neither Neville nor Aries were featured in the ring this week, they've seemingly taken a "less-is-more" cue from the fellow WWE Network-exclusive show, NXT. There's a recipe for success in not putting every feud on display in a similar way every week with only one weekly hour, plus one or two matches on Raw. With three match spots to work with on Tuesdays, shining a light on the depth of the cruiserweight roster can be a dual blessing by allowing the top rivalries not to get stale.
This week, Perkins and Gallagher were the beneficiaries of that strategy as both got a chance to shine in the main event.
The match itself was exciting and served as a reminder of just how good (and different) both competitors are in the ring. Gallagher needed this after falling down the card and into more of a comedic role following his unsuccessful title match. The "Extraordinary Gentleman" got a chance to showcase the kind of mat skills that made him a standout at the Cruiserweight Classic and a quick fan favorite on 205 Live.
Perkins didn't need to do much tweaking of his in-ring style to go full heel, as he was already fixing his hair and over-dabbing (and yes, dabbing will now be a great way to rile up the crowd) to begin with. NXT color commentator Corey Graves put it perfectly when he said that Perkins, "has a face that can be best described as punchable. A haircut best described as criminal."
Gallagher shined as well, hitting a nasty-looking belly-to-back suplex off the top rope that sent Perkins to the mat on the back of his head and neck. But the move that stood out most was trapping Perkins between the ring apron and canvas and hitting him with a vicious headbutt.
The finish also completed the story of the match. Gallagher's knee, which had been targeted by Perkins throughout, gave out on him in the closing moments. Perkins sent him to the ring post and hit the Detonation Kick for the win, giving Perkins a clean victory that didn't hurt Gallagher's reputation for being tough to finish off; at the same time, it did a lot for Perkins to win clean for the second night in a row after a string of losses. Before his win over Aries on Monday, Perkins hadn't won a singles match on TV since January.
Now, it makes all too much sense for Aries to add an ally in the weeks to come. The actions of this week will make this confrontation a heated one, and thus another competitor who could need a boost by being brought into the main event picture will get that chance.
Hits and Misses
- Perkins being able to finish matches with the Knee Bar, Detonation Kick or a collection of aerial moves gives his matches a lot possibilities. 205 Live is doing a lot to end the "single finisher into pin" style of match.
- "Now if you excuse me, I'm going to finish my banana." Don't ever change, Austin Aries.
- Rich Swann got another squash match while Noam Dar heals from his injury, but it's becoming increasingly clear that it doesn't make much sense for a pure face like Swann to have an angle where he's attempting to steal a bad guy's girlfriend.
- "A Phoenix Splash into Ocean." Corey Graves continues to shine on commentary, referring to Swann's victory over Johnny Ocean (the "defender of the sanctity of love," and perhaps the best set of crazy eyes I've seen on 205 Live.)