With the finalists in the cruiserweight championship tournament locked in a few weeks ahead of time, Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander mostly played second fiddle on Tuesday's edition of 205 Live.
A pre-taped video package detailing their respective paths to the finale and history with one another reiterated just how badly each wants the title as the final broadcast ahead of WrestleMania came to a close. The point is clear -- there is only a friendly rivalry between Alexander and Ali, and the two fan favorites will leave it all in the ring at WrestleMania.
The match has been relegated to the WrestleMania kickoff show for a second straight year, but that's all that the build for those matches have had in common. Last year, it was Neville and Austin Aries -- both long gone from 205 Live -- going to war on the microphone to set up a much-anticipated confrontation.
This time around, it's two guys who've fought a long way and upped the level of in-ring performance every time out. Alexander was the pre-tournament favorite, seemingly destined for this spot; Ali, the underdog who was never a serious player in the title picture to this point, was the breakout star of this tournament and competes in his first pay-per-view match on Sunday at WrestleMania.
This one is going to be remembered for a long time...@CedricAlexander vs. @MustafaAliWWE for the @WWE #Cruiserweight Championship THIS SUNDAY at #WrestleMania! #205Live pic.twitter.com/rvA4BXrrHc
- WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2018
The build for the match has been indicative of a shift of philosophy in the division compared to last year, when everything was built around the championship feud. Neville and Aries put on a show in the build-up, but the division lacked depth and storytelling beyond those two. Now, the division that remains has undergone enormous upheaval, and the results we've seen in the past few weeks in particular have been incredibly positive.
Take the main event on Tuesday's 205 Live, for example. Two wrestlers who weren't on the roster at this time last year, Kalisto and Buddy Murphy, put on an absolute WrestleMania week-worthy performance in the main event.
Despite the match having nothing to do with the title picture, at least not directly, the match and both performers connected with the crowd in a way that few other cruiserweight matches or storylines have.
Chants of "205," "Fight Forever" and "This is Awesome" punctuated the high points in the match. For a second straight week, fans were on the edge of their seats, instead of struggling to get through the show following two hours of SmackDown Live and 20 minutes of the Mixed Match Challenge.
Much like last week, when Murphy, Kalisto, Akira Tozawa and TJP threw caution to the wind, they took the opportunity and did everything they could to maximize upon it.
If this is the new face of 205 Live, where the in-ring action both sets up and occasionally supersedes storylines, it's a pleasant surprise. It makes the show a nice contrast from Raw and SmackDown, and makes the show a lot more like the Cruiserweight Classic, which is why the show and the division exist in the first place.
The crowning of a new champion at WrestleMania officially will usher in a new era of WWE cruiserweights, but they're already rolling with a nice head start.
Oh my GOODNESS. @WWE_Murphy just took this match against @KalistoWWE to a whole new level... #205Live pic.twitter.com/rzxfNyFx9O
- WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2018
Hits and Misses
-- Drew Gulak and Mark Andrews had their match delayed until next week. Despite the shift in philosophy, Gulak still has found a way to let his character shine with a focus on his in-ring ability. With a WrestleMania crowd winding down the weekend, it'll be interesting to see what Gulak and Andrews can do.
-- On the flip side is Tony Nese, who has struggled to develop a character throughout his 205 Live tenure. Nobody needed a squash match quite like Nese, and Jonathan Pierce delivered one in which Nese seemed to play a proto-babyface. It's a few months overdue, but the timing could be fortuitous.
-- The rivalry between Hideo Itami and Akira Tozawa, and Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado, keeps getting more intense. There was no forced story here either -- just repeated matchups with increasingly brutal levels of physicality. It feels gritty, it feels real, and I want to see where it leads.
-- Buddy Murphy has brought a new element to 205 Live with the innovation of his offense and the intensity with which he competes. I'm not sure where his character falls on the face-heel continuum, but he's throwing out solid matches every week.
-- His one major plot point to date, other than flashing some special skills in the ring, is the continued storyline of Murphy having to make weight. I like that they're treating the weight limit as a legit part of the division, but are we going to get a week where Murphy doesn't make weight and his match is canceled? Do we want that? Is that too real?
WOW! #205Live @WWE_Murphy @KalistoWWE pic.twitter.com/F1ii0pMWaj
- WWE (@WWE) April 4, 2018
Superlatives of the night
Move: Murphy's monkey flip, which threw Kalisto from the floor up onto the announce table, was another example of his innovative offense in play.
Line: "Because I could." -- Gulak's one-word PowerPoint presentation on why he kept the Gu-lock on Mark Andrews after the bell.
Match: Murphy and Kalisto made the 205 Live main event a must-watch for a second straight week.