Tony Nese has more abs than he’s won major titles.
Over the Premier Athlete’s nearly 14-year career, the highest pinnacle he’s reached is winning the DGUSA Open the United Gate Championship alongside Caleb Konley as the Premier Athlete Brand. And not for lack of opportunities— a year in TNA, six years in WWN, multiple appearances in PWG, and yet the Dragon Gate USA tag titles were his ceiling.
Not that he hasn’t won accolades, of course— in his home promotion of New York Wrestling Connection, he’s done just about everything there is to be done, and he’s a 3-time heavyweight champion. But on the bigger stages… no dice.
And up until now, it didn’t seem like his time in WWE would be terribly different. Nese was a perennial second banana, first to Drew Gulak, then to Enzo Amore, and most recently to Buddy Murphy, content to stand in the shadows and apply a bit of muscle for his allies here and there.
All the pressure that’s been building up
Which brings us to the Cruiserweight Champion and his quest for a worthy challenger. He’s had Drake Maverick bringing talent in from NXT and NXT UK, big new additions left and right, in singles and in four-ways, and he beat every one of them. So when it came time to create a challenge for WrestleMania, Drake had to think sideways.
And so we got an eight-man #1 contender’s tournament, featuring six top stars of 205 Live and two new roster additions in the form of Humberto Carrillo and Oney Lorcan. And Tony Nese, who initially seemed happy for an opportunity to safeguard his friend’s title— win the tournament, have a friendly match at WrestleMania, high five and admire each other’s abs before calling it a day.
Y’know, normal guy stuff.
So Nese competed, and he defeated Kalisto in the first round, his former ally Drew Gulak in the second, and former Cruiserweight Champion and overall babyface ace of the division Cedric Alexander in the finals.
Cracks appear, the frame starts to distort
Late in the tournament, Murphy began openly doubting Tony’s ability and seemed confident that Alexander was the man he’d face at WrestleMania. Nese was able to shrug it off and focus on victory, but after he won, Buddy came down and laid him out with a wicked knee strike.
Murphy ran off to the Performance Center in Florida and tried to play it off like he just wanted to make sure Tony knew what he was in for, but the Premier Athlete had enough and jumped him. A second brawl followed on the go-home the week after, Buddy attacking just moments after Nese admitted that he knows nobody expects him to win.
But, critically… he believes that Murphy knows he’s the guy that can beat him, and he’s counting on that to be his in. And god bless him, I’ve never been Tony’s biggest fan, my Evolve recaps show that, but I believe him.
Will the Premier Athlete seize the gold or will the Juggernaut steamroll him to retain the title?
Who will win?
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