With just five days to go before Enzo Amore defends the cruiserweight championship against Cedric Alexander on the New Year's Day edition of Raw, 205 Live didn't feel like it raised the stakes much for a title feud. Rather, it seemed about the third- or fourth- most important thing going on during Tuesday night's show.
With Amore appearing at a Madison Square Garden live event, and a date with Nia Jax on the books, Alexander was limited. Instead of hyping that he was going to be the next champion, Alexander was having a face-to-face with Gulak -- asking if he saw the way he was being mistreated by his fearless leader. Alexander reminded Gulak that Amore called him a Sugar Plum Fairy the previous night, and while Gulak resisted, you could see the doubt he had about his "best friend" in his face.
Alexander had his motivation for stirring up dissention on the Zo Train, obviously trying to keep Gulak and Daivari out of the picture for next week's match in order to give him as fair of a shot as possible. But it almost feels as though Alexander, despite his number one contendership to the cruiserweight title, is simply a piece of the puzzle that's leading up to the breakup of the group.
The fact that the title match is taking place at next week's Raw, and not the 25th Anniversary Show or the Royal Rumble, also suggests that this isn't the time for Alexander to take away the title.
- WWE (@WWE) December 27, 2017
Another element that felt more important than the upcoming cruiserweight championship match was Tony Nese's return. Although he didn't miss too much time in selling the attack that sent him out, the mental toll was seemingly harder as Gulak, his closest ally, turned his back on him.
Still, Nese was noncommittal about whether he would seek revenge or forgiveness. He said he wanted to punch the remaining Zo Train members in the face, but also said he realizes how much they did to improve his career and bank account in recent months.
A more effective return for Nese, whichever way he decided to turn, might have been to wait for a big moment for Amore or Gulak and have Nese run in, but at least the storyline is being continued rather than brushed aside -- and we're seeing a kind of depth to Nese's character that hasn't yet been explored.
Add in Hideo Itami's early run through Brian Kendrick (running his knee through Kendrick's face, in fact) and Gentleman Jack Gallagher, and it feels like Alexander's long-awaited title shot is inexplicably far down the cruiserweight storyline depth chart.
The title match may seem secondary, but if it's all part of a build to a payoff involving Amore, Gulak and Nese come Rumble/WrestleMania season, it'll be an example of a long-term, drawn-out storyline that we don't get often enough on 205 Live.
Only time will tell.
Hits and misses
Itami's repeated screams of "Respect me," coupled with his high-impact strikes, cloud whether he's a heel or face. The in-ring work has been eye-catching, but I'm wondering where he'll fit in the 205 Live landscape. It's also interesting to note that one night after breaking Kendrick's face with a GTS, Itami won his match against Gallagher with a submission. It remains to be seen if the move goes the same way as the piledriver, curb stomp and muscle buster.
If Nese turns face, I'm really interested to see his moveset, as he'll be able to work in more aerials to his already impressive array of ground moves and strikes.
If we're going to get an Enzo-Nia love mismatch storyline, can't it be Drew Gulak who inadvertently plays the foil each time? That was the only part of that story I liked.
Alexander yelling "Good night" before he hit his big reverse elbow was a nice touch.
Superlatives of the night
Move: Nese started to show signs of what he could do as a face, but his cutting off Akira Tozawa's first attempt at a dive stood out, as did he palm strike when Tozawa was on the top rope.
"Who's in charge of music here?" - Nigel McGuinness, when we got Alexander's music instead of Gulak's powerpoint presentation.
"Why would Sasha Banks call me?" -- Gulak, when asked if he had heard from "his boss".
Match: Nese and Tozawa had a fun match that set Nese up for growth moving forward.