Welcome back to part two of this five column series looking at WWE’s ten best Cruiserweights in celebration of the upcoming one hundredth episode of 205 Live. Before reading on however, for those who may have missed it, you can read about the tenth and ninth entrants here.
8) Cedric Alexander
It may come as a small surprise that the current Cruiserweight Champion of nearly six months is so far down this list of WWE’s top Cruiserweights since the birth of 205 Live. The reason is fairly straightforward. When all is said and done, there are personally more engaging characters on the show whose overall performance satisfies me more than Alexander, regardless if he has now built upon a respectable winning streak with the Championship in tow. Having said that, there are still some redeeming qualities to Alexander that warrant his inclusion in this best ten.
Alexander has come under criticism for his lack of character, or a lack a relatability that fans can truly sink their teeth into. However, as evidenced in his headline making match against Kota Ibushi in the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic, Alexander was adopted as a favourite by the Full Sail crowd through his industrious workrate and unsquashable desire to win. Unfortunately, he came up short in that match, as he did also in 205 Live’s early days, when regular number one contender opportunities arose.Nevertheless, despite the “also ran” status in his early WWE career, Alexander’s no nonsense approach to wrestling a high impact and rapid fire style was enough to elicit positive responses, and garner a loyal following from the WWE Universe that still exists today.
In a division full of colourful characters all vying to be the loudest in the room, that straight laced attitude has arguably worked out well for Alexander throughout the entirety of his time as a 205 Live roster member.
Firstly, the future Cruiserweight Champion quickly became aware that the distractions of a relationship with the tumultuous Alicia Fox would not benefit any upward trajectory he envisioned for himself. Fox’s weak loyalties would see her side with Noam Dar in this particular program for Alexander. But upon being rejected by Fox, Alexander was less focussed on his ex’s frivolous exploits, more-so intent on exacting revenge upon Dar for bringing him down to this level of foolish mischief in the first place.
Once returned from a lengthy injury, and after putting the threat of Dar to bed, Alexander would have to contend against two tiers of unconventional adversity in Drew Gulak and his “‘Zo Train” faction leader, and Champion at the time, Enzo Amore. Gulak has made it his career goal to turn 205 Live into a purely ground based game. This movement is against many ideals that Alexander stands for, whose acrobatic offense is a big part of wrestling identity. Alexander defeating this “mid-level boss” in aerially aesthetic fashion was a personal victory. It was the perfect “level-up” in his ultimate mission of removing the Cruiserweight Championship from Amore, whose disrespect for the fundamental rules of wrestling in general, not just the cruiserweight sub-category, were becoming a genuine concern for fans of 205 Live.
With unforeseen circumstances surrounding Enzo Amore curtailing any potential reward for Alexander in January 2017, Alexander had to climb the bottom rung of the ladder once again in the form of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament. With the focus on several other entrants and their own journeys, Alexander’s quiet ascent through -and the eventual victory in – the tournament was typical of his humble and undeterred manner. So much so, in fact, that his Wrestlemania victory was considered a disappointment by many who felt Mustafa Ali was the right man to carry the brand forward.
As was the case throughout early Spring, Alexander’s unfaltering mind-set in his now lengthy title defence has been met with a frustrated desire for change among fans of 205 Live. So resolute is Alexander’s mindset that he has become, in the eyes of many, “boring”. This could very well be the case. It’s hard to argue otherwise, as he methodically sweeps aside a posse of more compelling characters in Buddy Murphy, Hideo Itami, and Drew Gulak. But in a world full of these larger than life wrestlers, perhaps someone to help balance the scales is necessary. If anything, his unassuming manner allows his opponents to shine under the spotlight. For that reason, Cedric Alexander should be applauded.
7 – Brian Kendrick
At thirty-nine years of age, “The” Brian Kendrick is the oldest member of the 205 Live roster.
Though his best years may be behind him, with that agedness comes experience and
knowledge that, by default, grants him the unofficial title of “locker-room leader”; a vital role in helping mould the potential future of the company. Add to that the fact that Kendrick has already worked under the WWE umbrella for a sizable chunk of the 2000s on several separate occasions, and any nuggets of wisdom he can pass on to his peers is a valuable currency.
These earlier stints in WWE, and how they effectively fizzled out to nothing, were the motivation Kendrick used to advance to a respectable quarter-final placing in the Cruiserweight Classic. His story in said tournament was an inspiring tale, one of a wrestler using his last throw of the dice to gamble on the path his active career would take, if it even progressed at all.
One would think this reborn respect bestowed upon Kendrick by the WWE Universe would humble him upon his addition to 205 Live. That, however, was not the case. Beneath that
reverential veneer was a man with a chip on his shoulder. A man who considered himself physically and mentally superior, compared to those around him. A man who would stop at nothing to drag his
opponent down into the murky depths of bitterness that Kendrick now wades through in the twilight of his career.
Kendrick wears that discontent as a badge of honour, flaunting it to trick and trap his enemies at every turn. TJP was the first victim of the insidious mind games Kendrick is now famous for. Concerning the Cruiserweight Championship, TJP, as the hero in this story, was simply unable to cope with the psychological warfare Kendrick subjected him to. Ironically, this could have been a foreshadowing of things to come for TJP, whose moral leanings are now more in line with Kendrick; a skin he looks for more comfortable in than that of a “babyface”.
Once Kendrick fell out of the title picture over the following months, his mission changed somewhat upon the arrival of new recruit, Akira Tozawa, in that he would supposedly focus his energy on mentoring his peers, rather than browbeating them. Unfortunately for Tozawa, Kendrick’s method of tutelage amounted to nothing more than reminding Tozawa that he was his better. Although Tozawa was savvy to Kendrick’s intentional ignorance, his character’s resolve was frequently tested to breaking point.
Despite falling short in his quest to break Tozawa’s spirit, Kendrick’s misanthropic war raged on unhindered. By process of elimination, Kendrick would convert someone to his cause eventually, and who else could be more shocking than the diametrically opposed Jack Gallagher to become ensnared in Kendrick’s trap? The phrase “when opposites attract” comes to mind in this instance. So ideally opposed was Gallagher’s purpose in comparison to Kendrick’s, that “Gentlemanly” Jack’s mettle being unable to withstand such an onslaught of hatred was an ample prize in his hunt. So content with his find is Kendrick, that he and Gallagher have formed quite the formidable duo in their time together. Hardly a motion is wasted as they either methodically dissect their opponents, or bend the rules to their advantage.
These strategies inevitably caught the eye of Drew Gulak, a like minded individual who shares a similar disdain for the world around him. Gulak made his intentions clear early on that he would be more than happy to publicly associate with Kendrick and Gallagher. Since then, with Gulak centre stage of the trio, Kendrick has moved to the back seat and taken on the role of a disciple in Gulak’s ongoing quest for dominance.
Perhaps this was what Kendrick was looking for in the early stages of 205 Live, when his hate was on the one hand focussed on certain individuals, but on the other thrown around aimlessly. Perhaps all Kendrick was looking for was someone to share that hatred with. He seems comfortable in his position now. And as has been talked about above, Kendrick doesn’t have to be the main event focus of 205 Live anymore. His knowledge and experience for others to take on is more important in this stage of his career. And for that, your resident 205 Live super-fan is truly grateful.
What are you opinions on this week’s picks? Do either of the above choice run concurrent with your own rankings? Would you rank them higher, lower, or at all? Let me know your thoughts wherever you read this.
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.. On the most recent episode, Ricky & Clive celebrate a quiet week in WWE with some nonsense, fun ‘n’ games. With no PPVs to review or preview, we introduce new segments to the show, with best and worst case scenarios, awful thrown together tag team name ideas, and a new gimmick for “shoot fighter”; Brie Bella. As ever, we finish with our traditional quiz.
Have a look at all of my 205 Live Lords of Pain reviews to date.
Top 10 205 Live Superstars So Far:
9) Akira Tozawa
8) Cedric Alexander
7) Brian Kendrick