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RAW Deal: TJ Perkins and company find a new home

If you missed the weekly piece of pro wrestling greatness that was the Cruiserweight Classic, then 205 Live is exactly the show for you.

It’s almost everything the Cruiserweight Classic earlier this year was, just without the sense of urgency each wrestler had to face in the single-elimination tournament. Almost everyone is there, save for the bigger or older names that felt they wouldn’t benefit from weekly WWE exposure, such as NJPW/DDT’s Kota Ibushi, and highly-regarded independent wrestler Zack Sabre Jr from the UK. 

The biggest plus is that the hour-long WWE Network-exclusive show gives the lightweights much more space and time for their work to breathe and be digested by fans the way it should have been since the very beginning—the way it was actually digested during the tournament. Anyone who missed the straight drama that led to each person putting on the performance of a career will find a lot to appreciate about 205 Live, even though the Cruiserweight division getting its own brand kind of douses that fire. 

Nevertheless, it’s good wrestling at the end of the day, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The show is off to a good start with new #1 contender Rich Swann making the most of his opportunity, winning the purple title from laconic, ruthless champion Brian Kendrick. It’s a move that is ultimately good for both the division and the show, as it needed someone fresh, dynamic, and exciting to carry it as it finds its footing. 

Our homeboy TJ Perkins should have been that guy—and he still has a claim to the championship—but his admittedly lackluster post-CWC booking on RAW as the inaugural champion has tarnished his shine a little bit, and he’s gonna need to put in some work again on looking every bit like the contender he was back in September. (READ: Fil-Am pro wrestler TJ Perkins on Filipino pride, chasing your dreams)

Despite the great wrestling on 205 Live, though, there’s still a little subtle problem with the system it’s trying to fit into. By confining the Cruiserweights on a show all to themselves, the WWE makes sure that they’re getting the most of them, but when you look at the bigger picture, it’s a lazy, almost superficial way of getting their money’s worth. Instead of enabling their new signees to work well with anyone on the roster regardless of weight class, they corral them into their own little space, a dystopic utopia, if you will. The matches against each other will be great, but you effectively bar them from any further glory beyond their little world. It’s like the Matrix, and these talented wrestlers certainly deserve better.

Consider this: if Daniel Bryan came to the WWE now instead of 6 years ago, he’d be immediately slotted into the Cruiserweight division. Under the current setup, he most likely would have never been able to reach the level of glory that he did in his in-ring career, no matter how much support he would have gotten. In fact, he might not have even reached the point where he could rally breakthrough support to propel him as a major player. He might have succeeded as Cruiserweight Champion, for sure, but that would’ve been the end of it; he would have probably not been considered to go through the obstacles a heavyweight singles star would have gone through in pursuit of glory.

There’s no easy solution for this, as we don’t seem to be in a position where we can shout at the company and demand they treat our new favorite wrestlers better. While technically, we are and always will be, they’ve got leverage by giving us something to happily chew on with 205 Live. We can reject it, but we’ll end up looking like hard-to-please grouches, already balking at great wrestling unfolding before our eyes. On the other hand, should we just be happy that they get their own space to shine, uncomplicated by the harsh ways of the main roster? But shouldn’t everyone deserve that chance to at least try and see if they can turn the system on its head?

It’s certainly a tough debate, one with no easy and obvious answer. If you’ve got an opinion, let us know and we’ll talk. 

TLC 2016

TLC is this Monday morning Manila time, and if you didn’t already know, it’s a SmackDown-exclusive PPV. Because SmackDown is the better-written show between the two main shows in general, TLC has suddenly become something of a must-see event where it was merely perfunctory before this, ever since they started running it some seven years ago. I know I’m pretty stoked for it, if only because it’s SmackDown, but you really should be too.

Let’s run down the card really quick:

 

Kalisto vs Baron Corbin in a chairs match

Baron Corbin has been a pain in Kalisto’s side for a while now, but you can also say that Kalisto has been a pain his Corbin’s side for longer. Not a lot of people like the chairs match, and it’s not hard to understand why: fighting with only a chair legal is pretty unimaginative. But this may be the kind of matchup that could utilize the chairs stipulation well—I fully expect Corbin to just try and beat Kalisto down, and the latter will be the agile foil for the former’s roughhousing. I think they’re both skilled enough to make it work, and because Kalisto has been getting the spotlight recently, Corbin is getting this one to make up for his lack of heat.

Winner: Baron Corbin

 

Nikki Bella vs Carmella in a no disqualification match

Carmella needs this more as the up-and-coming star in the SmackDown Live women division. It’s a loss that Nikki Bella can take and easily recover from. The only way I don’t see this happening is if Becky Lynch retains her title.

Winner: Carmella

 

Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton vs Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship

Winning the tag titles and getting a contract was a great story for Heath Slater during that storyline, but now that he’s achieved what he was seeking, he’s not so compelling anymore. Both Wyatt and Orton need something to revitalize their kayfabe careers, and Orton joining the Wyatt Family (even if only as an espionage mission) is already doing that. It’s time to take it a step further by solidifying the team, and if they choose to feud with Slater and Rhyno after, it gives the latter pair one more compelling story before they go their separate ways.

Winner: Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton (new SmackDown Tag Team Champions)

 

Dolph Ziggler vs The Miz (with Maryse) (c) in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship

Miz winning the title right before Survivor Series just felt like a quick band-aid fix to have the Intercontinental Championship match featuring Sami Zayn be more compelling. But that didn’t really work, and Ziggler isn’t quite done with the championship just yet. He needs it in order to justify a spot in the upper midcard and work his way back into the WWE Championship scene. It’s fine for Miz to lose the title here, and this ladder match should signify finality.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler (new Intercontinental Champion)

 

Alexa Bliss vs Becky Lynch (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

This one could go either way. For all the losses Alexa Bliss, now the clear top heel of the SmackDown women’s division, has been racking up in pursuit of the title, now would be a good time to reward her and pull the trigger on another starmaking moment. SmackDown doesn’t shy away from them, anyway. On the other hand, there are more compelling heels in the division than there are faces, and Lynch could still use a longer reign to set herself up as a force to be reckoned with. If Carmella is to beat Nikki Bella, then Becky Lynch should retain to set up her next feud. But I’ll be happy with either result.

Winner: Becky Lynch

 

Dean Ambrose vs AJ Styles (c) in a TLC match for the WWE World Championship

It’s finally time to put this one to bed. What began after SummerSlam feels like it’s been running forever, and subtly clever booking at Survivor Series managed to extend it long enough to comfortably reach TLC. But it’s been heavily focusing too much on James Ellsworth, and I feel like once Ambrose is done chasing the title, the SmackDown main event won’t have to feature Ellsworth so much anymore. Styles as the anchor of SmackDown is doing wonders for the brand, and with a lot of other possible matchups (which don’t necessarily have to be championship storylines) he could help elevate people who need elevating. Let’s keep this run going a little longer, and make SmackDown really must see.

Winner: AJ Styles

 

What are your predictions? Let me know and let’s talk about them! – Rappler.com

Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys are complete again, and discuss the implications of 205 Live!