Former allies turned bitter enemies. It's a tale as old as time. The Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak will defend his title against the Premier Athlete, Tony Nese, at WWE Extreme Rules. Since his return to 205 Live last month, Gulak has been a whole new monster, revealing a more sinister side than we'd previously seen.
And even though he used this newfound aggression to rise to the top of the cruiserweight division, he didn't beat Nese to win the title. Therefore, the former champion believes he still has to prove himself.
Former friends will fight like enemies when @DrewGulak defends his #Cruiserweight Title against @TonyNese this Sunday at #ExtremeRules, streaming LIVE on @WWENetwork! pic.twitter.com/ttrLHvPNHg— 205 Live (@WWE205Live) July 11, 2019
Gulak and Nese have been at each other's throats since the Zo Train dissolved back in 2018. Since then, both men have been obstacles for one another, as we've seen them knock each other out of championship tournaments twice now. The second time saw Nese win the tournament, defeating Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania.
For months, Gulak felt that he was robbed of his Wrestlemania moment by Nese and that he was the rightful champion all along. At Stomping Grounds, he finally captured the title, pinning Akira Tozawa in a triple threat match. At Extreme Rules, he'll finally get the chance to prove, once and for all, that he's better than Tony Nese.
#5 Tony Nese goes to sleep
The Premier Athlete and the Submission Specialist have had a long and storied rivalry, spanning back to 2017 during their time together in the group known as the "Zo Train." However, when that stable ended, the two former allies were forced to face off in the first round of the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament.
With a chance to prove themselves in a new, competitive 205 Live, the two men went at it. Tony Nese had a chance to show off his hard-hitting high-flying style, while Drew Gulak proved why he was one of the best technical wrestlers on the roster. No one expected this match to be the war that it was, but the performance of both men solidified them as two of 205 Live's best athletes.
In the end, Gulak advanced, putting Nese to sleep with the Gu-Lock. This match was where he really let loose, unleashing his frustration and beating his former friend into near unconsciousness. Near the end of the match, Gulak could have easily pinned Nese, but wanted to send a message, locking in the Dragon Sleeper. In this match, Nese was completely outclassed.
Though Nese has beaten Gulak twice since then, going back and watching the matches will reveal that Gulak wasn't the devilish psychopath that he is now or was in their first bout. Now, with the gold around his waist, and his abandonment of the "Make 205 Live Great Again" campaign, the champion is totally focused. And just like their tournament match last year, he'll be looking to make a statement to prove he's a deserving champion. What better way to do this than to put the former champion to sleep?
#4 Tony Nese beats himself
Those who don't regularly watch 205 Live may not know about Tony Nese's darker side. The former champion has a pretty nasty mean streak that has come out on rare occasions. We've seen it only a few times, most recently in his feuds with Buddy Murphy and Noam Dar.
His rivalry with Dar, specifically, is where we saw how far Nese is willing to go to put away an opponent. After weeks of months attacks and cheap shots, including an incident which saw Nese suspended for several weeks, the two men finally battled each other in what's considered one of the best No DQ matches in the past few years from the WWE.
We saw Nese tear apart Dar here, even at the expense of his own leg, which Dar had damaged earlier in the match. Nese even capped Dar's knee with a chair, severely injuring him before destroying him with a Running Nese through the barricade.
Nese's actions here were mortifying, and we've seen worse from him in the past. If Gulak is able to stay ahead of him by a few steps, forcing him to change up his game plan, he may have to turn to more drastic measures. However, unlike Gulak, Nese has a harder time controlling himself, and with his high-risk offense, tends to look for spots where the cons heavily outweigh the pros.
Gulak is a master manipulator after all, and also prides himself on anticipating mistakes from high-flyers. One missed Fosbury Flop or Running Nese could take him out of the game completely, leading to an easy win for Gulak.
#3 Double count-out
The bad blood between Drew Gulak and Tony Nese may see an odd non-finish when it comes to their match at a PPV called Extreme Rules. With their pure hatred for each other, it's pretty obvious we'll see some pretty dangerous offense from both competitors.
A powerbomb through a table, perhaps. Maybe even a Running Nese through the barricade like we saw with Nese vs Dar earlier this year. However, this time around, neither man would be getting up in time to beat the ten-count.
Gulak's pride is obviously centered around keeping the championship to maintain his claim that he's the greatest cruiserweight on the planet. To do that, he'll do anything to keep the Premier Athlete down, even if it means sacrificing himself in the process. With two opponents that know each other so well, it's expected that some of their patented offense won't be able to connect properly, or that both men will know exactly how to avoid the other's moves.
That's when the imagination of a superstar begins to run wild. A dive off the turnbuckle onto the table, a powerbomb from the apron sending both men crashing into the floor below, there are many ways in which we can see this play out. If we're going to get a few more matches out of these two, this is probably one of the most likely finishes.
#2 Tony Nese reclaims his throne
Since Drew Gulak won the Cruiserweight Championship, Tony Nese has repeatedly stated that he's not the true champion, as he never beat Nese for the title. It's a claim that holds water, especially since Nese has beaten Gulak two times now in back-to-back singles matches. With the score between the men tied at 2-2, it's anyone's game.
That being said, Nese has pulled off some unbelievable moments in the past, doing what few other cruiserweights failed to do. In 2018, he became the second person to defeat Cedric Alexander, who's nine-month winning streak had just come to an end. Follow that up with his incredible victory over Buddy Murphy at WrestleMania, and it's hard to think there's anyone on the roster he can't beat.
Gulak, on the other hand, has let several opportunities slip through his hands. Prior to winning the Cruiserweight Championship, he racked up a series of losses in some pretty epic and hard fought battles. Matt Riddle, Kushida, Jordan Devlin, and Cedric Alexander were all taken to their limit by the Submission Specialist, but he could never pull out the win when it mattered most.
His latest attitude change definitely turned his luck around, managing to finally capture the title that evaded him for so long. Still, old habits die hard, and when it comes down to him and Nese in a one-on-one situation on a grand stage, one has to wonder if history he'll be able to maintain his momentum.
#1 Mike Kanellis ruins the Cruiserweight Championship match
Mike Kanellis's life is in shambles at the moment. Maria has publicly humiliated him twice on national TV, and has only picked up four wins on WWE 205 Live, bringing his total record on the brand to 4-13. His lack of success in the ring lead to his problems with his wife, and he believes that both his personal and professional problems have all been caused by 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick.
Maverick has gotten into heated arguments with the Kanellis's countless times, as they believe he fails to see Mike's true talent. Though Maria has set her sights on her husband's in-ring skill, Mike Kanellis still believes it's all Maverick's fault.
On the latest 205 Live, Kanellis interrupted a match between Devin Justin and Gentleman Jack Gallagher. He rushed through the crowd, leaping over the barricade, and tore apart the ringside area. Maverick immediately sent security after him, and Kanellis exclaimed that he would continue to ruin Maverick's life as he escaped.
Later backstage, Maverick met with Kanellis and said that he would have to be fined for his actions. Furious about being docked money with a second child on the way, Kanellis said that this wasn't over, and next week would bring serious consequences.
Though he's set to compete on 205 Live next week, what better way to hurt Maverick's professional career and ruin something he holds dear than to interfere in the Cruiserweight Championship match at WWE Extreme Rules? Drew Gulak and Tony Nese are in the middle of a vicious and personal feud, and Kanellis robbing the WWE Universe of its conclusion would definitely upset the 24/7 Champion.