The third episode in the new era of 205 Live continued a theme from last week -- focusing more on in-ring wrestling, some character reboots and a surprise advancement.
While it wasn't a surprise that Drew Gulak was among the eight competing in the cruiserweight tournament, it was a surprise that he will be moving on after a victory on 205 Live.
However, it's a new Drew Gulak.
Gone is the Gulak who unexpectedly got himself over by promising a better 205 Live by using the PowerPoint presentation and the protest sign. His groundswell of crowd support seemed to stem from a departure from Enzo Amore's faction, but that storyline ended with Amore's WWE departure.
Last week on 205 Live, Gulak and Tony Nese were both challenged by general manager Drake Maverick to up their games and live up to their full potential. Tuesday's main event saw both up their in-ring game, but Gulak displayed a new persona, serious to the point of crazed, physical to the point of cruelty.
The announcing crew and booking team did a good job of setting these two longtime friends up for a match without forgetting about the recent history between them. Gulak, first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, participated in a beatdown on Nese when they were both members of the Zo Train.
Gulak went for the prematch handshake, but Nese kicked the hand away, setting a tone for the rest of the match. Nese showed glimpses of his offensive arsenal, which he wasn't able to do as a pure heel. His athleticism and ingenuity were on full display, cartwheeling off the apron and hitting a Fosbury Flop over the top rope onto Gulak.
The match offered a great clash in styles. At one point, Gulak used Nese's beard as a handle, holding him in place while he hit repeated palm strikes, and finally an Electric Chair drop. But it was the end of the match that really set the tone for where Gulak seems to be going as a character.
After throwing Nese headfirst into the announcers' table multiple times, he turned him inside out with a clothesline. With a crazed look in his eyes, Gulak hit Nese with a double powerbomb, let out a guttural scream and locked in a Dragon Sleeper to finish the match.
If this is the end of the Gulak who built himself up with several months of delightfully dorky promos, then he'll be missed, but if the same dedication is shown in making Gulak a feared competitor in the division, then he's about to become one of the biggest players on the show.
205 Live was led for months by a brutal, merciless heel champion in Neville. With Neville still nowhere to be seen, Gulak could possibly fill that role.
Hits and Misses
For a second straight week, there was a new face on 205 Live advancing at the expense of an established face in the division, as Mark Andrews defeated Akira Tozawa. We only got glimpses of what Andrews could do on Tuesday, as the match had a slower, technical pace that didn't seem to fit either competitor. Meanwhile, Tozawa, who was the only cruiserweight to put a dent in Neville's run until Neville lost the belt for good, was one-and-done. Tozawa connected with the audience after his debut and through his brief title run. But he quietly left Titus Worldwide and hasn't been near the championship since. After last week's fun backstage promo, he seems underutilized.
Next week finishes the first round. One match will feature "Gentleman" Jack Gallagher and Mustafa Ali. Maverick, much as he pushed Gulak and Nese before their match, seemed to be doing the same, demanding Gallagher ditch his formalwear for more traditional ring gear. The attire was a part of Gallagher's sinister heel character that he has owned since his flip to the dark side, and hopefully new clothes don't remove that edge.
Meanwhile, anyone hoping for Neville, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Pete Dunne or anybody else to make a surprise appearance in the tournament will be disappointed, as the final match will be Ariya Daivari and Buddy Murphy. Murphy has basically been a nonfactor on TV since his breakup with Wesley Blake. Why not move this match up in the tournament and have somebody like Roderick Strong or Tyler Bate as a surprise entry?
Superlatives of the Night
Move: For anybody not familiar with Andrews, his Slumdog Millionaire (think turning getting suplexed into a stunner) was an impressive moment.
Line: "More strikes and submissions, and, unfortunately, less PowerPoint presentations." --Nigel McGuinness, ushering in a new era of Gulak
Match: Gulak and Nese provided a great starting point for showcasing what Nese can do, and moving Gulak into becoming an unforgiving technical brawler.