Welcome everyone to the first edition of a series of posts I’m dubbing the March to WrestleMania 35, wherein my goal is to frame the scenery around all of the championships heading into the biggest show of the year.
This is three-fold: 1) a recap of how we got to the situation we’re currently in for those who haven’t been following the product as much lately but want to tune in for Mania, 2) a discussion on the possible plans for WrestleMania in the works as best as I can speculate, and 3) a look into the future of how things may go once WrestleMania has concluded.
To start things off, I figured it would be good to put the focus on a title most people are completely unfamiliar with, the Cruiserweight Championship.
Let’s jump in…
Who is the current champion?
Buddy Murphy has held the Cruiserweight Championship since defeating Cedric Alexander at Super Show-Down on October 6, 2018.
Whether he won the belt because of the location of the event (his hometown of Melbourne) or if that was just a coincidence WWE planned around and had considered making him champion regardless has been made a moot point, as Murphy has held the title long enough that he’s certainly not a transitional champion.
In fact, Murphy is in the midst of the third-longest title reign for the Cruiserweight Championship from this modern lineage of the belt, falling short less than 40 days of Alexander and 50 shy of Neville.
Since moving to 205 Live, Murphy has made it clear he was an underrated performer in the ring and his size advantage over the rest of the roster has also illustrated how dangerous of a champion he is, as nobody’s been able to topple him.
Who will challenge for the title at WrestleMania?
It was announced that there will be a tournament to crown the No. 1 contender and today, the official bracket was released. Admittedly, it’s something I didn’t expect, as it’s both smaller than I had anticipated, has a different lineup of matches than I would have thought, and incorporates people I wouldn’t have thought were the narrowed down options a month or so ago.
Currently, we already know two of the semi-finalists as on last week’s episode of 205 Live, Tony Nese defeated Kalisto and Drew Gulak eliminated The Brian Kendrick from the tournament. Those two will likely face each other in two weeks (March 12th). I was surprised about this, as I figured WWE’s tendency to have heel/face matches would have dictated Kendrick beating Gulak to fight Nese. In fact, I had Kendrick as one of my top picks to face Murphy, so my bracket has already been busted from the start.
Next week, the right side of the bracket will take place with Oney Lorcan facing Humberto Carrillo and Cedric Alexander against Akira Tozawa. Again, surprising, as technically, all four are babyfaces, so we’re getting heel/heel with Nese/Gulak and then two babyface vs. babyface matches next week.
Carrillo has been somewhat associated with Gentleman Jack Gallagher and Drew Gulak, though, with a tease that he could turn heel to fully align with them. Since he has much more going on, he can be assumed to beat Lorcan, who is more of an NXT and NXT UK guy than anything else. However, that could be the point. Maybe WWE wants Lorcan to win so Carrillo can lose and prove that there aren’t benefits to working with Gallagher and Gulak. I’d bank more on a win, though.
Alexander and Tozawa seems clear to me to be an Alexander victory. Tozawa just had two matches for the title at Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, so why bother trying to make it seem like he’s going to get another shot?
This sets up Nese or Gulak against Carrillo or Alexander, and honestly, I’m not thrilled with any of those options, even if I’m fond of the wrestlers themselves (to varying degrees). I really want to see Gulak win the title at some point, but he’s a heel and wouldn’t be a good fit to fight Murphy right now. Nese vs. Murphy is a story of two friends fighting each other, yet can you really see WWE turning Nese babyface for this feud? I can’t.
Carrillo isn’t getting over with the crowd in any capacity and if he turns heel, it’s even less of a reason to book him against Murphy, but as a babyface, nobody is going to care anyway. And then, when Alexander, we’ve seen that match before and it’s just not all that enticing for the WrestleMania card.
I was really hoping Murphy’s opponent for WrestleMania would be someone who could bring actual attention to the brand, but I feel like the complete opposite has happened and they aren’t even doing the title, the brand and the talent justice by booking the best possible 205 Live match. I don’t think any of these options are leading to something that would be interesting for 1/10th of the viewing audience for even a B-event like Fastlane, let alone WrestleMania.
So here’s what I’m hoping happens. I hope this is all a farce and someone gets taken out of the running to be in the tournament before being replaced by someone else.
I’d love to see Chad Gable or Xavier Woods or someone else who is fresh and a bigger name brought into the mix to fight Murphy for the title, rather than any of these remaining guys get the title shot. If they just go with Gulak, Nese, Lorcan, Carrillo, Tozawa or Alexander, you can bet your house that the Cruiserweight Championship match at WrestleMania will be the opening part of the kickoff and not a peep will be spoken about it ahead of time, as nobody will be hyped for it.
Who do I think is winning, though? I think it’s Alexander, and despite being a big fan of his, I think WWE is overestimating how much of an investment there is in him right now.
What happens at and after WrestleMania?
With all of these underwhelming options, I’m assuming Murphy retains the belt to start the kickoff, WWE sweeps it under the rug as something that just filled time while people were finding their seats, and virtually nothing at all is made of it.
Then, on the 205 Live after WrestleMania, Murphy will have some sort of grand celebration (or more than likely, just an in-ring promo with no pomp and circumstance) about how great he is and how he’s the best cruiserweight on the planet because he beat the winner of the tournament and proved there isn’t any competition.