I thought this was going to be a fairly straightforward SummerSlam preview for the cruiserweight division. I foresaw a 205 Live that featured Neville telling Akira Tozawa he'd be just another unsuccessful challenger to dethrone the "King of the Cruiserweights." Tozawa would make a case that he'd be the one to end Neville's reign.
Maybe a scuffle would ensue, a short brawl that would see Tozawa standing tall and presenting doubt that Neville would escape Brooklyn, New York, with the championship.
In an impromptu, unannounced early title match (the reason given that Titus O'Neil requested the match be moved up), Tozawa got a clean victory over Neville, ending his championship reign at 197 days.
In a way, it's understandable to make a totally unexpected move on the Raw before Sunday's SummerSlam. With the mega-card looming, this decision created buzz for a match that could get lost in the shuffle.
I thought the story entering SummerSlam would be whether it would be more beneficial for the division to have an infusion of fresh blood, or would it be better to continue Neville's reign as the division's most compelling character, with him excelling on the microphone and in the ring.
But the question is largely the same, even with the title swap.
The rematch will still take place at SummerSlam, likely taking the cruiserweights' usual spot on the pre-show. If Neville is to take the title back, it will set up another meeting, but it will also be a signal that WWE still needs Neville in a prominent role. If Tozawa is the victor, Neville's status will be in the air, whether he works other programs in the cruiserweight division or branches out.
One thing the title change did accomplish was changing up this week's edition of 205 Live, which closed with Tozawa's championship celebration. O'Neil's introduction and opening remarks were met with "Delete" and "What" chants from the audience, but Tozawa was better received. That could be a sign that a Tozawa title run might be able to capture some momentum.
But Neville's arrival showed why he was still such an asset to the division. Appearing on the ramp looking like he hadn't slept since losing the title, Neville ran down Tozawa's celebration.
"I brought honor, dignity and respect to that championship," he said. "It was I that made that title prestigious. And in one day, one day, Tozawa, you have made a mockery of everything that I have achieved."
Neville makes an interesting point in that he did make the division. For the sputtering the division has had in the just over one year of its existence, Neville has been a highlight. He's one of the best in-ring performers and one of the premier heels on the entire WWE roster.
The cruiserweight division has largely been put in a position not to succeed. Its segments on Monday Night Raw are mostly in isolation from the rest of the show (some integration with the main roster could help), and 205 Live's positioning after SmackDown Live (causing a worn-out audience) does no favors.
Neville carried that challenge; now, it's Tozawa's turn. But then again, maybe it'll still be Neville after Sunday.
Hits and misses
While the headline, deservedly so, was Tozawa and Neville, the night opened with a tag-team match between Cedric Alexander and Gran Metalik versus Tony Nese and Drew Gulak. The match had everything you'd want out of a cruiserweight tag-team match, featuring four wrestlers with distinct styles. There were hard strikes, high-flying maneuvers and Nese's abs. I thought it would be a challenge coming off SmackDown's shocking ending to come out firing, but this match was a high point of the entire Tuesday night.
Metalik has gone from largely absent on 205 Live to looking great the past couple of weeks. Hopefully WWE finds a slot for him regularly on the show.
The Brian Kendrick continues to bring the best out of his opponent. This time, it's Gentleman Jack Gallagher, whom he's turned from talented comic relief to a more serious, fists-taped, no-tie-wearing fighter.
Superlatives of the night
Move: Take your pick of Metalik's rope-walking maneuvers. There was a moonsault and an arm drag, performed only as he can.
Line: "That was English. I think he meant sayonara." Vic Joseph (I think) on O'Neil saying he had been working on saying it in Japanese, and then saying bye-bye to Neville's title reign.
Match: The opening tag match might've been the best match on SmackDown, and 205 Live on Tuesday was the Neapolitan ice cream of the cruiserweight division. Little tastes of all the flavors.