Usually the success of a segment in pro wrestling can be gauged by the in-house reaction. Did it capture the attention and fuel the enthusiasm of the live crowd? On Tuesday night, it seemed like the 205 Live audience (or at least the SmackDown Live audience that stuck around) didn't seem to appreciate the storytelling that closed the night.
Sure, it was easy to be disappointed that the main event ended in a disqualification before the two competitors even made contact. But the story took precedent over anything Enzo Amore and Tony Nese would've done in the ring -- and the turmoil and eventual begrudging decision forced upon Drew Gulak made for captivating television by pushing him further toward an eventual split from Amore's gang.
For those watching at home, committed to Gulak and the story being told, all of the players involved embodied their roles expertly, which made it all the more evident that the audience hadn't bought into the moment. Gulak, when forced to turn on his only true ally in the cruiserweight division, Nese, realized it was in his best interest to stay on the Zo Train and attacking his longtime friend in increasingly brutal and desperate fashion.
Gulak continues to grow as a performer by the week; his facial expressions and body language when Ariya Daivari first attacked Nese to earn the disqualification told a story without Gulak having to verbally or physically object. In the backstage segment that led to the Amore-Nese "match," Gulak's attempts to diffuse an increasingly paranoid Amore were unsuccessful.
- WWE (@WWE) December 13, 2017
Finally, the moment when Gulak joined in the attack, and the intensity that he followed up with, gave a clear picture of his emotions.
On both Monday and Tuesday, Gulak's reactions to Amore starting to bash his beloved Powerpoint presentations and his overall character were gold. The facial contortions, while a little exaggerated, show a slow build of resentment against Amore. And those feelings are countered by the financial gain and stability of being a loyal follower of the cruiserweight champion.
Nese also took a big step as a performer on Tuesday. What started simply as Nese sticking up for his comrade Gulak, telling Amore he couldn't talk to him like that, resulted in the best character development we've seen for "Tony Abs" since his WWE debut.
Nese sold the mix of disappointment and confusion beautifully, too upset to even count his abs. His reluctance to start the match with Amore told us more about his character than we've seen in months. This could be a turning point for Nese, one of the most physically gifted athletes on the roster, and maybe the one that most helps him display his power, technical ability and high-flying prowess.
As for Amore, he continues to develop as a character as well. Still the annoying, self-aggrandizing hype man he's always been, he's starting to become a megalomaniac, obsessed with keeping power without realizing his iron grip is slowly choking out support. Without a set number one contender, he's beginning to suspect the Zo Train of colluding behind his back.
The WWE writing staff has taken steps to make this a nuanced, slowly developing story centering on Gulak's unlikely rise and Amore's resulting annoyance. Hopefully this will end with a title match between the two at the Royal Rumble, but first Gulak needs to get by Cedric Alexander next Monday on Raw.
It seems likely that Gulak will find a way to get the victory, especially since Alexander was only a minor character on 205 Live this week despite a victory over Daivari. Gulak is the far more interesting character in the moment, and unless Amore (or Nese) directly costs Gulak the match, the storyline gets ten times more interesting with Gulak fighting the internal battle of how he'll approach a match with his benefactor.
Even if the live audience wasn't buying into it, this was a major success for 205 Live -- and hopefully a sign of things to come.
Hits and misses
- With 205 Live down a man with Rich Swann suspended for the foreseeable future (if not gone for good), along with Noam Dars knee injury and the uncertain status of Neville and TJP, just adding Hideo Itami might not be enough of an add to the roster. But it will be a step in the right direction.
- The Zo Train has its own handshake? I'm on board.
- They're completely isolated from the title picture, but credit should be given to Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher. Gallagher had a good match with Kalisto, proving he can work a variety of styles. Kendrick's promo reminded everyone that his commitment to character makes every feud he's in a little more meaningful.
- The injury came at the worst time for Dar, who could've gained from either staying on the Zo Train (and beating up Nese), or being thrown off for his losses.
Superlatives of the night
Move: Gallagher's ankle lock, followed by him wrenching a hamstring out of the tree of woe, which was innovative.
Line: "You are on the Zo Train. Which I built with this fist from the ground floor. And I rebuilt 205 Live from the ground up. You are sitting at my table, enjoying the fruits of my labor." - Amore, continuing his descent into paranoia.
Match: Gallagher-Kalisto was totally removed from the title picture, but they merged their styles into a fun contest.