To this point, the rivalry between Neville and Austin Aries hasn't had much in the way of mistakes. Neville has been a thoroughly dominant champion and his seriousness has been am anchor in the cruiserweight division, while Aries, as the surging top contender, has been presented as the first true "challenger to the crown."
After a shocking turn by TJ Perkins and a frenetic few weeks, there was bound to be a hiccup or two along the way as the Neville-Aries rematch at Payback draws near. This week's edition of 205 Live didn't quite measure up in the in-ring department, and yet, thanks to an emotional beat-down to close out Tuesday's broadcast, the cruiserweight title feud picked up plenty of positive momentum.
The main event, which pitted Aries against Perkins as the former sought vengeance and an opportunity to deliver some comeuppance, felt a bit rushed at times. There was some nice back-and-forth action early on were highlighted by some impressive reversals and solid chops and slaps by Aries, and Perkins' use of a mixed offense with submissions, strikes and aerial maneuvers, all now punctuated with a little extra 'stink' to accentuate evil undertones.
The match turned when Aries went for a 450, but jammed his knee when Perkins rolled out of the way. Perkins immediately locked Aries in his knee bar submission, but Aries was able to get to the ropes. For how good of workers both Aries and Perkins are, the match did have a few sloppy moments, most notably when Perkins' attempt at a double chicken-wing gutbuster ended with Aries collapsing to the mat.
After Aries hit a nice shinbreaker into a belly-to-back suplex, he connected with the 450. But in another odd spot, Perkins rotated Aries into the ropes, breaking up his own pin attempt. The match ended abruptly with Aries giving Perkins a double ear clap, and then clobbering him with the Discus Five-Arm for the pinfall.
Perkins' heel turn did a lot to re-legitimize him after a drop in stature following his being crowned the winner of the Cruiserweight Classic and first cruiserweight champion.
Despite his apprehension in supporting Perkins (and his disgust for dabbing), Graves put Perkins' turn in perspective. "This mean streak, this confidence, dare I say, this cockiness, that TJ Perkins has lacked in the last several months is obviously what he was missing."
While this loss could have overturned a lot of the good that wins over Aries and Jack Gallagher last week earned him, Perkins' post-match actions helped him maintain and even accumulate some additional credibility.
Neville rushed the ring after the match, but the worn-down Aries gained the advantage until he was attacked from behind by Perkins. Perkins showed his place in the pecking order by taking a backseat to Neville once Aries was down, but then hit the Detonation Kick upon orders from his king.
The lasting image of the night came when Neville had Aries locked in the Rings of Saturn, with Perkins smugly sitting nearby. A king and his loyal subject.
It also hinted that Aries was in need of back-up to handle the Neville/Perkins combination. Gentleman Jack seems like a candidate, despite his absence this week, and a tag match in the final night of action before Payback seems likely.
Hits and misses
-- Luckily, the love triangle (or rectangle if you include the injured Cedric Alexander) between Rich Swann, Noam Dar and Alicia Fox appears to have finally come to an end. To recap, the face attempting to steal the heel girl from the heel guy was actually leading on the girl to break up with the guy, only to thwart her advances to atone for her misdeeds against his injured friend.
Got it? Me neither. But Fox hated it when Dar called her "Fooooooooox"? That was my (and most of the internet's) favorite part of their relationship.
-- Mustafa Ali's biggest motivation has been battling stereotypes, but until Tuesday, it was more about how people perceived him. This week, it took on a more literal meaning in his match against Ariya Daivari, who took on the appearance of a more stereotypical rich Middle Eastern businessman, complete with a bright yellow sports car and open, expensive shirt; showing "Persian Privilege," as Graves put it.
-- Akira Tozawa taught Brian Kendrick another lesson as Tozawa defeated Tony Nese and left Kendrick to take the beating. The feud has told the same story for the last few weeks, as Tozawa has continuously turned Kendrick's plans on their head. I enjoy these two in the ring together but am eager for the story to move to the next step.
-- Drew Gulak might be using the same sign guy as Bo Dallas. Gulak and Ali have such conflicting styles that it'll be interesting to see what kind of match they have. Eventually, Gulak needs to take this character he's been building up as "conservative" anti-high-flyer and re-establish himself as an in-ring threat to actually beat Ali. This week was another nice step, though, and he's got the look down with the sharp suit and American flag lapel pin.