From the moment Enzo Amore debuted as part of the cruiserweight division, he promised that he was going to make 205 Live the "realest show in the room." While the phrase doesn't quite flow like "realest guy in the room", the spirit is still there -- and in the closing moments of the go-home edition of 205 Live before Sunday's No Mercy pay-per-view, Amore proved again that he's a catalyst for change.
Amore and Neville went face-to-face in the middle of the ring for a final showdown before their cruiserweight championship match on Sunday in the final segment of the show. While Amore is clearly not up to the caliber of Neville's in-ring skills, on the verbal battleground it was a far fairer fight as their contrasting personas continued to clash in as entertaining a moment as 205 Live has had that wasn't between the bells.
Neville started in the ring plugging the megacard that No Mercy has turned into. Along with Roman Reigns-John Cena and Brock Lesnar-Braun Strowman, we're set to get what Neville called a "comedic performance" as Amore tries to take the title away from "the conquering king of the cruiserweights, in what can only be described as the most ridiculous decision of his pathetic little life."
Amore, selling the previous night's attack from Strowman, emerged from the back with most of his body taped up. He proceeded to accuse Neville of being jealous of what he's brought to 205 Live and his superstardom, with Amore claiming he's "twice the superstar that you will ever be."
At this point, the crowd's standing on both competitors seemed to waffle. The reactions for Amore were more mixed, his "style over substance" having numerous detractors among the Oakland crowd, while Neville's claims of being miles ahead of Amore in the ring were met by approval.
And really, that's where the money lies in this feud. Compelling storylines in the current state of professional wrestling revolve around characters that the crowd has mixed, but strong, feelings for. Reigns, Cena, Strowman and Lesnar are headlining the No Mercy card, and none is a true heel or face in their current feud.
With the cruiserweight title, we have an ultra-talented Neville going against Amore, whose strength is his talking and appeal to the merchandise-buying public. There's underlying resentment, both from the crowd and the alluded-to issues with the locker room that have been pervasive of late.
Whether real or just written into the storyline, WWE has done a good job rolling the rumored animosity into this storyline. You could feel Neville's reaction to Amore saying he was envious.
"I wanted to make this quick, but now, I'm going to make an example out of you," which elicited cheers, as real life and storyline became intertwined. "Treat me like a game, and I'll show you how it's played."
Even as "Evil Neville," his character has been so well-played, and his in-ring work so exemplary, that he's gained the respect of the crowd. And Neville has played himself into the role of the anti-Enzo.
"Do you honestly, genuinely believe for one second that I care about merchandise sales? That I care about celebrity relationships? Enzo, do you think I care about being a superstar?"
"Come Sunday, none of that matters. Because you, lad, can't fight."
- WWE (@WWE) September 20, 2017
That would've been a reasonable place to finish if Amore was playing the loveable underdog character. But he's not. He's playing a showman who's cut corners to get into this spot, as we saw when he pinned Cedric Alexander by grabbing a handful of tights. So, naturally, Amore gave Neville a kick to his "crown jewels," leaving Neville in pain, but defiant.
And that's what makes Sunday's match so compelling. They're two personalities at far different ends of the spectrum, but both in their own way suited to lead the cruiserweight division -- albeit in far different ways.
Whichever way this one goes, I expect it to carry forward into the fall months.
Hits and misses
-- I'm in on ultra-serious Jack Gallagher and his relationship with Brian Kendrick. Without a tag team division, it's hard to tell what a duo would do, but so far it's made for a compelling start. Especially if Gallagher can keep delivering lines like, "I can stomach going through life with a scar, but not as a joke."
- Drew Gulak's emergence continues with new entrance music. I've started looking forward to his performances each week, and at this rate, we'll get to see the end of his PowerPoint presentation by February 2021.
- WWE (@WWE) September 20, 2017
-- The predictable TJP return to the true darkside happened, as he reacted poorly to Rich Swann blowing off a fourth match and attacked Swann's scheduled opponent, Lince Dorado, backstage. As Swann walked back to check things out, he ate a TJP superkick, and it looks as though we're not done with these two by a longshot. It's not the heel turn that's frustrating, it's how he inexplicably was temporarily viewed as a good guy for a few weeks with little change in attitude or a defining moment to make him seem that way. Regardless, it sets up more matches between the two, which is a good thing.
Superlatives of the night
Line: "The treatment and conditions I experienced in Fashion Jail were unspeakable." - Gulak, after being brought in last week by Breezango (although any of the back-and-forth from the Neville-Amore showdown would've qualified as well).
Match: On a night with only two matches, I'll give the nod to Kendrick and Cedric Alexander. Kendrick's attention to detail is always a treat to watch.