Sunday, Drew Gulak pinned Akira Tozawa to become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion for the first time – an accomplishment that seems long overdue for the Philly native.
Drew Gulak has been on a quest to become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion and change the face of the brand for close to two years. At Stomping Grounds, he finally raised the title in victory for the first time. To tell the truth, it feels like it should’ve happened at least a year ago.
Gulak has been the most consistent heel character on 205 Live since he debuted his “No Fly Zone” gimmick in 2017. It was an effective update to the politician/activist character he introduced during his time with CZW.
Initially, one of the few drawbacks to the Cruiserweight division was that there weren’t many memorable characters. There was no shortage of great matches, but there weren’t nearly enough interesting stories or personalities.
Gulak managed to buck that trend with a unique and potent persona, that elicited the proper reactions from the crowds. His promos and character work made him stand out and his mat-based styles complimented them perfectly.
His first feud with Ali, which culminated in a Two out of Three Falls Match, was an early classic on the fledgling brand. It’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. In fact, Gulak’s heel work was instrumental in Ali’s growth as a top face. One could say the same for his feud with Akira Tozawa because he did so much to help get Japanese’s star’s chant over.
It’s hard to deny how much Gulak was overlooked. He put on some great matches and he seemed like the only heel on the show who regularly generated heat and cheers for his opponents. In addition, he had proven on more than one occasion that he can be incredibly versatile. He has masterfully switched between legitimate comedy bits and more serious intimidating material when he needed to.
No one shined brighter during Enzo Amore’s reign as Cruiserweight Champion. Gulak upstaged Amore, who was heralded for his entertaining promos, on more than one occasion. Their chemistry together and the potential story built around their inevitable split was the only noteworthy reason to continue watching 205 Live at the time.
Unfortunately, fans never got to see Gulak face the former leader of the “Zo Train” for the title. In December of 2017, he was scheduled to compete in a number one contender’s match but his opponent, Rich Swann, got suspended. Swann’s replacement, Cedric Alexander, went on to defeat Gulak on Raw. However, WWE released Enzo in the following month and eventually revamped the show.
It seemed like Gulak was primed to become the top heel in Enzo’s absence. He had a strong performance in the 16-man tournament to crown the next champion, but he ultimately lost to Ali. Drew ditched the “No Fly Zone” campaign and PowerPoint presentations for his submission specialist role, but he was still just as an engaging.
His stable with Jack Gallagher and Brian Kendrick had so much untapped potential, but it never panned out. He returned earlier this month a darker persona, his third character change in two years.
It took him as long to accomplish his goal to become the face of the Cruiserweight division and he plans to lead by example. It’s hard to understand why WWE waited so long to pull the trigger on such a deserving contender. Still, there is clear void on the roster since Buddy Murphy moved up to SmackDown Live and Drew Gulak is just the man to fill it.