Welcome back to the countdown of ten of the best Cruiserweights to have performed under the umbrella of 205 Live. We are now slap bang in the middle of the series, and things are starting to look interesting. While it has been fun so far reminiscing about the great work put in by entrants ten and nine, then eight and seven, only the true cream of the crop join the list from hereon-in.
6) Jack Gallagher
In this series’ previous entry, Brian Kendrick made the countdown at number seven. It should come as no surprise, then, that the “Gentleman” with whom he has shared a considerable amount of screen and ring time makes the cut also. It admittedly be their more recent run as a team which pairs Kendrick and this entry, Jack Gallagher, so closely together. Nevertheless, the Englishman’s overall contribution to the show’s history is what puts him just ahead of his peer.
Jack Gallagher was a welcome attraction in 205 Live’s embryonic stages. His unique character – and even more distinguishable wrestling style – in the Cruiserweight Classic had those impressed by him eager for a return to their screens of “Gentlemanly Jack”.
Gallagher’s affable personality, coupled with a callback to the very technical British style of wrestling, put a smile on fans’ faces. That self assured grin hiding under his vaudevillian moustache was infectious and somewhat disarming. But take Gallagher at face value, as his opponents would tell you, and you would be in for a pleasant surprise.
For a man as slight as Gallagher, his grapple heavy offense grounds men with ease. So much so that anyone he faced would be figuratively laid bare to the point of ridicule, as they were literally tied up in knots with the deft skill of a balloon animal artist, much to the enjoyment of the WWE Universe.
To describe Gallagher as quirky would be an understatement. These idiosyncrasies would be accentuated to the extreme by way of challenging his opposites to “duels” or, in keeping with his properness, including a variety of weapons in a self coined “I Forfeit” match that wouldn’t look out of place as furniture in a gentleman’s club. And who can forget his prized possession which would come to his aid when the time required. If HHH was synonymous with the sledgehammer, and the Dudley Boys with their tables, then it would hard to picture this incarnation of Gallagher without his umbrella, so spiffingly named “William III”.
When the matter called for it however, Gallagher could roll up his sleeves and get serious. His interactions with Neville throughout the Spring of 2017 saw Jack shake of the unflappable and charming persona in a desperate bid to wrest the Cruiserweight Championship from Neville’s greedy grip. Although his own bid was ultimately unsuccessful, Gallagher’s support of Austin Aries in his own rivalry with the King of the Cruiserweights told viewers that Gallagher still harboured feelings of bitterness towards the dominant champion.
This more earnest persona was a precursor to what would become of Gallagher as he was pulled, scratching and clawing, to the dark side thanks to the psychological warfare bestowed upon him by Brian Kendrick. Gallagher was far removed from the lovable fellow that joined 205 Live, and Kendrick’s incessant attacks upon his good will were the final straw.
What greets us now is, simply put, a dangerous individual. Gone are the endearing foibles and, in their place, an unmitigated desire to inflict pain upon his victims.
Like a recently converted before their new leader, Gallagher was loyal to Kendrick, doing his bidding without question. Then, along came Drew Gulak, who scouted them based on their similar mindset and wrestling style. Gallagher’s loyalty would begin to shift towards the stable leader over Kendrick. A perfect example of this transition was displayed on the go-home show before Summerslam 2018, where he mercilessly tenderised Cedric Alexander’s neck and shoulders in anticipation of Gulak locking in his Dragon Sleeper submission (Gulock) to devastating effect in his Championship opportunity that upcoming Sunday.
With the most recent 205 Live episode, Gallagher’s attachment to Kendrick was completely severed at the behest of Gulak, whose full devotion Gallagher now has. Kendrick was the one who turned Gallagher to evil. So comfortable in his role is Gallagher now, that his effectiveness, and worth to Gulak, has superseded that of Kendrick’s. This latest act from Gallagher is a profound contrast to the man we were introduced to two years ago. No other Cruiserweight has walked the path of moral alignment, from one extreme to the other, with as much credibility as he. As Gulak’s sole henchman, much is possible. He may share the same no frills wrestling vision as his master, but ironically for Gallagher, the sky’s the limit.
5) Hideo Itami
In comparison to the majority of wrestlers in this top ten, and in 205 Live altogether, Hideo Itami is a relatively fresh face on the Purple Brand, debuting towards the tail end of 2017. Nevertheless, so effectively has Itami been portrayed during his shorter time on the show, that he leaps high up the rankings without much deliberation.
Through lengthy injuries, Itami was personally never able to find his true footing in NXT. A fan favourite he certainly was, but being able to connect with him was a hard ask for me due to the unfortunate stop-start nature of his WWE career. Even with a return to full fitness, NXT had evolved in his absence, and there was seemingly no place for him to call his own.
Fate came calling with a move to 205 Live for Itami. His impending introduction to the show was eagerly anticipated thanks to name value alone, but the hype-video treatment with which his debut was teased showcased his mindset of “act now, ask questions later” with great effect.
Not long into his 205 Live tenure, an unfortunate injury to Brian Kendrick’s orbital bone by way of Itami’s Go To Sleep finisher potentially derailed any immediate plans WWE management may have had for him. Thankfully however, Itami adopted the “art imitating life” approach, apparently apologetic for his being labelled an unsafe worker, all the while delivering his redress with a subtle hint of threat and, quite frankly, satisfaction.
The seeds were sown for what Itami would quickly morph into over the coming months.
The Japanese Superstar would carry this air of malice with him into a tag team program alongside his compatriot, Akira Tozawa. Stereotypical though the pairing may have been, the duo worked well together, sharing a tenacious will to punish their opponents – namely the Lucha House Party – as brutally and as clinically as possible. This would be when Itami’s vocal demand for respect, as originally seen in his latter NXT days, would become a frequent – and possibly overused from a character standpoint – signature cry. So demanding for appreciation was Itami, his own ego would not allow him to see the tyrannical mindset he flaunted in the ring often resulted in careless losses for him and Tozawa. Itami’s partner would unfairly find the blame laid at his feet. Whether just or not, Tozawa would feel Itami’s wrath, setting in stone the transformation of Itami into a cold blooded assassin.
Since then, Itami has unceremoniously laid waste to a number of poor souls. Whether enhancement talent, Akira Tozawa or, more recently, Mustafa Ali, Itami is winning matches in a frighteningly dominant manner. In fact, adding to the “win” column isn’t even the driving force behind him anymore. His thirst for violence is so unquenchable, the decimation of those before him results in matches being stopped due to the unacceptable levels of punishment inflicted just as often as a legitimate three-count victory.
The danger Itami poses couldn’t have been made clearer recently when, in his own words, he stopped the “Heart of 205 Live” in Mustafa Ali, another casualty of Itami’s matches going too far. It is not often, if at all, where the ever resilient Ali is unable to fight back from the brink of adversity. To see a hero to many fall so far, literally and figuratively, at the hands of this killer, should be a warning to everyone on the 205 Live roster.
Roughly four years into his WWE career, and Itami’s character has been honed to perfection as that of an executioner who strikes fear into the hearts of those unlucky enough to stand in his way. Number five on this list is a very respectable entry for Itami. It wouldn’t surprise me though if, after another hundred episodes of the Purple Brand, that he has climbed more places.
We’re getting to the meat of the bones of this series now, and I’m very much looking forward to exploring the remaining four Cruiserweights. Let me know, wherever you read this, how you feel about the latest entrants as we pass this series’ half-way mark.
In the meantime, if you want to hear more WWE opinion from “Clive” outwith the 205 Live bubble, check out my podcast, “The Ricky & Clive Wrestling Show”, on the Social Suplex Podcast Network.. Clive runs it solo this week with Ricky being a late drop-out. Nevertheless, Clive soldiers on with your go-to preview of this Saturday’s WWE Super Show-Down in Australia. He looks at the card in its entirety (so far), how the build has been for this show, and what, if any, surprises we may get. A shorter episode than normal this week, but Clive covers all you need to know for the super duper house show. He even manages to do a solo quiz!
Top 10 205 Live Superstars So Far:
9) Akira Tozawa
8) Cedric Alexander
7) Brian Kendrick
6) Jack Gallagher
5) Hideo Itami