Mustafa Ali making a statement in the cruiserweight tournament

Mustafa Ali advanced to the semifinals of the 205 Live tournament with a victory over Buddy Murphy. Courtesy @WWE

After Cedric Alexander, Roderick Strong and Drew Gulak punched their tickets to the semifinals in the Cruiserweight Championship tournament, the fourth spot seemed to be just a formality.

You had Buddy Murphy -- a brand new arrival in the division with a catchy nickname, The Best Kept Secret -- and a storyline of him trying to cut weight from his previous fighting weight of 220-225 and successfully getting all the way down to 197.

On the other side was Mustafa Ali, who was coming off a grueling effort in his first-round win over Gentleman Jack Gallagher. A match that could've been used to explain why Ali just couldn't overcome Murphy's physical advantage.

Like many others on the roster, Ali had struggled to develop a character early in his WWE run. He was a sugary-sweet babyface who was seeking to overcome any preconceived notions people might have based on his appearance and name. But a funny thing happened during that development, Ali began to stand out based on his selling ability and offense, which blends high-flying ability with creativity and innovation.

The growth begs an interesting question: Could Ali fill the top babyface role that it seems like Alexander was destined to play at the start of the tournament?

Both have been squeaky clean in their characters since the beginning of 205 Live, battling against the division's top heels. Both have struggled somewhat to find a character besides a "do the right thing, work hard and you'll have success" 1980s style of face.

But while Alexander's offense can be impressive, it can also be repetitive. The neuralizer kick, the springboard forearm, the Lumbar Check for the victory. All impressive moves, but during his time on 205 Live, you've feel like you've seen it before.

On the other side, Ali has the uber-impressive 054 (reverse 450) as a finisher, but he modified it this week, went standard 450, but directly onto the arm of Buddy Murphy, causing an injury that he worked the rest of the match.

Ali threw in a reverse hurricanrana and a big-time DDT off the ropes, and eventually won the match with a crucifix roll-up. An ending that's befitting of an underdog babyface.

And the problem of developing a character? Ali's cell phone videos, combined with his backstory of being a Chicago police officer, have started to develop a persona for Ali slowly but surely.

If the goal for the cruiserweight championship match at WrestleMania is to have fans chanting somebody's name, or giving a "This is Awesome" nod to the competitors, Ali seems to be the more fitting choice.

Alexander is the prototype, and cut a quick interview to say this is the time where nothing will go wrong and it's finally his time to come through and win the big one. But the better story at this point might have Ali dispatching of Gulak, this week's other quarterfinal winner, overcoming another physically dominant opponent, to take on his friend Alexander in what seems to be the last step in Alexander's slow-but-sure rise to the top of the division. Then Ali pulls one last upset, putting more stress in the underlying cracks that have occasionally shown in their relationship.

Of course, while that would be the most-interesting storyline, the best possibility for a show-stealing match of the potential matchups might be Ali and Roderick Strong, who have both been having high-quality matches in the first two rounds.

Hits and misses

  • No matter what role he's been playing, Gulak has been killing it. He got himself over in an unlikely comedy role as a sidekick to Enzo Amore. Now, he's playing a borderline-unhinged physical beast and and he's owning the character again.

  • Drake Maverick paired Hideo Itami and Akira Tozawa as a tag team, and did a good job as explaining his reasoning without using the fact that they're both Japanese. In a related story, the three masked wrestlers in the division are also a mini-faction.

  • Mark Andrews pulled off a semi-surprising upset in the first round, but tapped out to Gulak's dragon sleeper. Still, I think his introduction to the mainstream WWE audience, outside of the U.K. tournament, was a positive one.

Superlatives of the night

Move: Ali's 450 onto Murphy's arm was a different twist to Ali's aerial moveset.

Line: "I haven't opened my copy of Microsoft Office in weeks," Gulak, with a nod to his Powerpoint presentations and the fact that he's adjusted his character.

Match: Ali's win over Buddy Murphy was a surprise, but it was also a fun matchup with creative offense and match psychology.