Saturday, May 14, 2016
Evolve 61 Review
The back half of this Evolve weekend that saw them debut some new acts in the wake of some established ones having to miss the shows. This is quite the historic show as it features two WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifiers. I liked the look of this show, but it wasn’t as nice as the Maryland one a day earlier.
Everyone’s favorite “bro” Matt Riddle came out with the Evolve Championship. Lio Rush has quickly become known for his aerial ability but did well in staying with his accomplished mat wrestling opponent. He spliced in some of that athleticism before Riddle showed him who the boss was with rolling gutwrench suplexes. Rush got in a hopeful moment near the end, but missed the frog splash and was put into an armbar. The finish was a cool idea, but didn’t come off looking as well as it could have. The match was fine for what it needed to be. Riddle is the man and Rush, while good, couldn’t quite match him so soon.
Matt Riddle called out Timothy Thatcher for a future title shot and threw the Evolve Title overhead. Of course, Thatcher isn’t there, but Stokely Hathaway took the opportunity to show up and take the belt.
This was pretty much thrown together at the last minute thanks to an injury. Dickinson and Page are not a regular tag team. I saw Dickinson face Brian Cage in PWG earlier this year and it was better than expected. The Bravados were popular but got booed hard after doing a back rake. Seriously, that had to be the most heat for that move ever. Dickinson mostly ran wild, while the Bravados busted out their sweet double team offense. Page got a near fall after a top rope rana from Dickinson that forced one Bravado to land on the other. After some good back and forth, the Bravados took it home with a Gory special/STO combo to a fair amount of heat. Like the match before it, this was solid but unspectacular. I’ve enjoyed the Bravados’ recent appearances in Evolve, while the story of Ethan Page continues to work as he was really good as a babyface here.
The Bravado Brothers got on the microphone after the match and were perplexed at the reaction to their win. One of them told the fans not to boo Page and Dickinson because they fought hard. He said that Team Tremendous robbed them because they should have gotten the first shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles and not them. Dan Barry, one half of Team Tremendous, was in attendance as a fan. He got in the ring, made some jokes about the Bravados that came off as awkward, before saying Team Tremendous would accept a tag match against them. The Bravados respectfully accepted and shook hands, before attacking Barry. They laid him out with the Gory special/STO combo.
Before the next matches, Trevin Adams (WWM Ambassador) addressed the audience. He wanted them to be loud, but asked that they refrained from profanity and inappropriate things so that the match, or clips from it, could be seen on WWE’s YouTube channel and allow for more eyes on their product. The same thing was done before the qualifiers in PROGRESS.
Fred Yehi knocked over the Evolve cardboard cutout thing near the entrance. He wasn’t the only guy to bump into it throughout the night. No Stokely with TJP, which I liked. It felt like TJP was out to prove that he was the man, even without his manager. While working the mat early, TJP threw in a “dab”, which is part of why I like him so much. He does all of the good wrestling, but adds some flair to it. Man, I loved the progression of this match. It began with the two of them doing what Catch Point guys do best and that’s work the mat. As it went on, they tried bigger moves, leading to more excitement. TJP missed a frog splash and got caught in a fantastic Koji Clutch, but reached the ropes. Yehi also came very close on an Oklahoma roll and you believed he might have had it. TJP got the victory with a 450 splash in a match that is must see. Props to Yehi, who looked great in defeat. He did a lot of little things throughout this to keep it interesting, like his awesome stomps or making sure to grind his elbow during submissions. I’ve been a fan of TJP for a while now, especially recently, and am pumped for him to get this chance. Excellent counter wrestling leading to a great finish. They embraced after the match because that’s what Catch Point does.
Again, two Catch Point members got a big opportunity. Also, if you didn’t know, these guys currently hold the Evolve Tag Team Titles. Similar to the last match, this one started on the mat. I expected it to stay there much longer, but within minutes, Williams’ had already hit a dive to the outside. That stuck out to me and would continue to do so as Williams took risks throughout knowing the importance of this match. As things progressed, Gulak seemed to get motivated by the split crowd and his partner taking it to him. He got more aggressive and that allowed things to get more physical. He survived Williams’ crossface on more than one occasion before catching him in a fantastic dragon sleeper, complete with body scissors, to earn the win. Hands down, the best Gulak match I’ve ever seen. Hell, it was the best from both guys. If the Cruiserweight Classic is anything like this, we are in for a treat. A top notch blend of wrestling, hard hitting strikes and drama.
I first saw these two wrestle in the Battle of Los Angeles last year in a match that was overly long and disappointing. Thanks for their vast knowledge of one another, they wrestled to stalemates in the early stages. While I really like both guys, something about their matches together has never really clicked for me. Don’t get me wrong, this was good. They did a lot of counter grappling and worked very fluidly. I don’t know if I can put my finger on it but it was kind of just there. I did think this finally got really good in the final stretch as they pulled out a crazy series of rollups before beating each other up with uppercuts. For some reason, some of the early arm work was mostly forgotten about. Scurll caught Sabre in the Chicken Wing, finally managing to latch it on and make Sabre tap. It continued Sabre’s struggles. Since starting his “Best in the World” Series 3-0, I believe he’s 0-4. Solid match, but it never got great.
Ring announcer Joanna Roa informed everyone that Scurll has earned a shot at the Evolve Title when they return to Queens. Stokely Hathaway came out with the Evolve Title around his waist and called TJP the uncrowned champion. He said that he was rudely interrupted by Drew Gulak last night and called TJP a wrestling god. Gulak showed up, picked up the title off the ground and left without speaking. Scurll was confused by all of this but said that the hot potato with the belt will end when he wins it. Weird segment.
We were treated to more back and forth on the mic from both guys beforehand. They talked about the WWE partnership, as Galloway called Evolve and their fans “sheep”, while Gargano discussed the advantages of the partnership. As one would want from a program as heated as this, there was no fancy grappling. I liked that since it was different from the rest of the card. Galloway beat up Gargano, shouting “I TOLD YOU I WAS GONNA FUCK YOU UP” while doing so. There were some cool moments throughout, highlighted by a defiant Galloway flipping off Gargano, only for Gargano to spit in his face later on. After Gargano survived some of Galloway’s biggest shots, he applied the Gargano Escape. Ethan Carter III then made a surprise run in and attacked Gargano, causing the DQ. This was a good match that gave you the feeling that these two men really disliked each other. I know a lot of people won’t like the finish, but it more about the angle than the match.
I would recap the scathing promo from EC3 but I don’t think it would do it justice. He mentioned Bill Demott, NXT Redemption and several other things. It’s a good promo made great by EC3’s passion and delivery. You can just watch it here. TJP, Gulak and Page all ran out, with Page and a chair finally running them off and setting up some matches for upcoming Evolve shows. At Evolve 62, EC3 and Galloway will face Gargano and TJP (Page wanted to be Gargano’s partner, but knew Gargano couldn’t trust him and suggested TJP) and at Evolve 63, Galloway takes on Page in an Anything Goes match.
Overall: Another Evolve show, another really good effort. While things got off to a bit of a slow start with a decent first two matches, the two Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers were outstanding. Seriously, two stellar matches from four of the best around. The last two matches are good but not great, however the closing angle is excellently handled. The appearance of EC3 was a great surprise that generated a lot of buzz and really set things up for the future.