Sunday, February 7, 2016

Evolve 54 Review

Evolve 54
January 23rd, 2016 | Orlando Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando, Florida

The tournament to crown the first ever Evolve Tag Team Champions continues, along with a second chance tournament, which is a pretty cool idea.

Second Chance Tag Team Tournament
Team Tremendous def. The Premiere Athlete Brand in 13:42
This tournament goes like this; the four losing teams from Evolve 53 meet in two tag matches. The winners of those matches meet the losers of the Semi-Finals tonight at Evolve 55. The winner of that four way gets a title shot down the line at whoever the first champions are. Team Tremendous was just as fun here as they were at Evolve 53. This worked because they followed a tried and true formula. The PAB are easy to hate and Team Tremendous is so easy to get behind, allowing the hot tag to big Bill Carr to work perfectly. Both teams did some cool stuff and the crowd was mostly hot. The finish was awesome, seeing Team Tremendous hit Book ‘em Dano (doomsday sliced bread) and advance to the four way. Like the rest of the tag matches so far, this was good fun. ***¼

After the match, the Premiere Athlete Brand attacked the winners. Caleb Konley got on the microphone though, saying that he doesn’t need this tag team stuff and he wants the Evolve Title. After he left, Nese continued the assault until Pete Kaasa made the save

Style Battle Round Robin Challenge
Matt Riddle (2-0) def. Fred Yehi (0-2) in 6:03
I mostly liked what I saw from Riddle in his short match at Evolve 53, while Yehi was great against Williams. Both guys impressed again here. They did some early grappling, fighting tooth and nail to try and eke out an advantage. Yehi went nuts, busting out three straight Germans, including one that flipped Riddle over. It garnered some “suplex city” chants. Riddle had to fight from behind, but eventually made Yehi tap out to the heel hook. Solid work from both guys involved. Even though he’s 0-2, I’d love to see more from Yehi. ***

Tommaso Ciampa def. Ethan Page in 17:42
The continuing saga of Ethan Page and his redemption story. Tommaso Ciampa earned massive points with me for having “Psycho Killer” as his entrance theme. I used to play that in Rock Band 2 all of the time. This got off to a really good start. Page was being aggressive but Ciampa had some viciously loud knee strikes that were hard to contend with. Watching Ciampa run all the way from the entrance and around the ring before hitting a knee was pretty damn cool. Now, things dragged a bit for me around the middle. It did pick back up in a furious finishing stretch though, culminating with Ciampa delivering multiple knee strikes to win. I think if they shaved a few minutes off, this could have been really good. The Page story continued to be handled well as he was gracious in defeat while putting up a good fight, like any good babyface. ***

Second Chance Tag Team Tournament
Catch Point def. Sami Callihan and Zack Sabre Jr. in 17:23
Catch Point consists of Drew Gulak and TJ Perkins. They lost to Galloway and Gargano the night before, while Callihan and Sabre lost a physical war to Hero and End. Last night, Sabre was kind of out of place in a match involving three other guys that hit pretty hard. Here, it was Callihan that was the hard hitter in the midst of grapplers. It gave this match, like their previous one, an interesting dynamic. For the first time ever, I was kind of interested in Gulak. He and Callihan went at it in a way I’ve never seen from Gulak. I liked nothing about Solomon Crowe, but as Callihan, he seems more motivated and interesting. I loved the aggression that he brought to the table here. Unfortunately, he and Sabre had multiple miscommunication accidents that led to their downfall. Callihan tapped out to an armbreaker from Perkins. After the match, Callihan was pissed at Sabre and spit at him before challenging him to a match at Evolve 55. Sabre wanted to go right there and they nearly did. Sabre slapped him down and walked off, but the match is set. This was the best bout of the night so far. ***½

Style Battle Round Robin Challenge
Tracey Williams (2-0) def. Peter Kaasa (0-2) in 14:55
Of the four guys in this challenge, Peter Kaasa had the least impressive showing on the first night and the same held true here. Something between these two guys didn’t mesh and it made for a very average performance. Kaasa nearly killed himself on a dive to the outside that didn’t quite come together the way he hoped. I felt like this went a bit long. Take a few minutes off of this and give it to the earlier Riddle/Yehi match, and things may have worked out better for both. Williams made Kaasa tap out via crossface. The worst thing on the show so far. **

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Finals
Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano def. The Bravado Brothers in 19:16
This time around, Johnny Gargano was there for the entire match. Despite one team having two cornerstones of Evolve, the other duo was super over. It seems like the Bravado Brothers won over the fans with their win over the Premiere Athlete Brand at Evolve 53. They were great here, not only once again showing off their fun offensive arsenal, but the Bravados took a beating like champs. Galloway got to play the vicious monster here and it worked even better than normal thanks to the Bravados selling it so well. It was nice to see a full on display of offense from Galloway and Gargano instead of only a few minutes. They managed to work in some really cool double team moves including a breathtaking series of them to end things. Gargano superkicked Harlem while he was held by Galloway. Galloway hit the reverse Alabama slam into the Gargano escape, making Harlem tap. Another really strong tag match. The right guys won as two key cogs of Evolve make it to the finals while the Bravados come out of this as winners anyway. ***½

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament Semi-Finals
Heroes Eventually Die def. Roppongi Vice in 28:34
The duo of Chris Hero and Tommy End have quickly shown that they have really strong chemistry. Roppongi Vice on the other hand, is an established tag team across numerous promotions. Early on, Roppongi Vice wisely took their opponents to the mat, knowing their opponents are two badass dudes. As things progressed, they unfortunately went away from that strategy in favor of a match that just moved along at a frantic pace. It has been a staple of the tournament so far, but the final few minutes were just pretty great. Both teams exchanged strikes and submission attempts to go along with near falls. Heroes Eventually Die ended up hitting Romero with a sick combination of elbows and knees, putting him down to advance to the finals. Again, I think this was good but not great. It also went a bit long for the work done. Still, this tournament continues to be strong. ***½

Overall: 7/10. Outside of the Kaasa/Williams match, I found everything on this show enjoyable. This was missing what Evolve 53 had, which was one or two great matches. Even without that, you can easily watch this show and come away satisfied. There is a good blend of styles throughout the show, most of it is pretty entertaining and I’d recommend giving this show a watch.

Random Network Reviews: King of the Ring 2001

King of the Ring 2001
June 24th, 2001 | Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey | Attendance: 17,777

The King of the Ring is always an interesting show to review. You have multiple guys pulling double or sometimes triple duty, and it can sometimes be excellent but it can also be awful. Take 1993, which was a really good show, but then reviewed 1995 which was pitifully bad. This one takes place during an odd time for the WWE. They were in the weird in between of the excellent Attitude Era ending WrestleMania X-Seven and the disappointing Invasion angle. Fun fact; I went to both Raw and Smackdown the two nights after this in Madison Square Garden.

The opening video package focuses on the WWF Title match on the show and the DDP/Undertaker rivalry. As we go to the actual arena, DDP opens this with a promo about the Undertaker and Sara. It was still surreal to see DDP in a WWE ring, but turning one of WCW’s best ever faces into a perverted stalker should have been a sign of how the Invasion angle would get booked. He has a ticket and will be sitting in the front row waiting for Undertaker. Commentary tonight is Jim Ross and Paul Heyman.

King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Christian vs. Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle is the reigning King of the Ring and is also slated to face Shane McMahon tonight. Christian had defeated Big Show and Kane to qualify so I remember REALLY pulling for him when I saw this live. Early on, Angle just throws Christian around the ring with some suplexes and has the crowd FIRMLY behind him. Christian smashes Angle into the steps, but when he goes to capitalize, Angle knocks him off the top rope. They trade shots in the ring, so I’ll use that time to point out that these guys are in a kayfabe stable of sorts. Team ECK wasn’t teaming up weekly but they were still friends at this point. Angle is in firm control throughout until a spinning heel kick from Christian. Shane McMahon strolls to ringside with a WCW shirt. Angle isn’t pleased but the distraction leads him to miss his beautiful moonsault for a near fall. They go into some finisher counters that Christian wins with the Unprettier, but Shane pulls him out of the ring when he covers Kurt. Christian goes back in the ring and is hit with the Angle Slam to end this.

Winner: Kurt Angle in 8:17
Solid opening contest here. Kurt Angle looked great like he needed to, while Christian was resilient and nearly had this won. **¾ 

Steve Austin and Debra are backstage when Jonathan Coachman comes in for an interview. All Austin cares about is finding out where Vince McMahon is. Coach gets past that and asks about the rumor that if Chris Benoit or Chris Jericho beat him tonight, they’re taking the WWF Title to WCW. Austin is shocked.

After a recap of the Undertaker/DDP rivalry, Paul Heyman interviews DDP about his actions. As DDP responds, a video airs on the Titantron of DDP eating earlier today. Someone has been recording him now. GEE, I WONDER WHO IT IS?

King of the Ring Semi-Final Match
Edge vs. Rhyno

So, remember how I said that Team ECK was a thing? Well, Rhyno is really good friends with Edge and Christian, meaning that these final four guys were all intertwined somewhat. Here we have a clash of styles that leads to the match going outside, where they brawl for a bit. Once back inside, Rhyno exposes the middle turnbuckle and sends Edge sternum first into it. I liked that as it is something we don’t’ see often. Rhyno continues to target the midsection, looking to set up of the Gore. Rhyno surprises with a big splash from the top for two. Edge begins to rally but makes a mistake up top and Rhyno stops him. Edge fights through with a top rope sunset flip for two. Heyman plants the seeds of jealously between E&C on commentary. As Rhyno tries the Gore, Edge comes with the Spear and they collide in a cool spot. Rhyno tries a second Gore but Edge dodges and he hits the exposed buckle. Edge nails the Edgecution and is able to advance.

Winner: Edge in 8:52
I’m surprised to say that I enjoyed that more than the opener. It had a slower pace but the midsection work was well done by Rhyno, the finisher collision was great since they such similar moves and having the exposed buckle play into the finish was really good. All around well done. ***¼

WWF Tag Team Championship
The Dudley Boyz (c) vs. Spike Dudley and Kane

On Sunday Night Heat before the show, Spike Dudley challenged his brothers for the titles and chose a mystery partner. He wisely chooses the Intercontinental Champion Kane. Spike is hell bent on getting to his brothers so this starts hot. Bubba press slams Spike into Kane, who catches him and throws him back in a fun little spot. Kane should go down as one of the best tag team wrestlers in history. He had so many different partners and was successful with them all. D-Von plays possum to turn things around. They beat down on Spike for a while until Kane comes in and slams him onto both Dudleys outside. He follows with a flying clothesline for two. Spike hits the Dudley Dog but the pin is broken up. He tries it again, but eats the 3D to finish this.

Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The Dudley Boyz in 8:32
Another solid match on this card. When you look at it, you probably wouldn’t think much of it, but these guys went out and delivered. I don’t think it was great, but that’s three for three in entertaining matches. **½

The Dudley Boyz go to put Spike through a table after the bell, but Kane intervenes and takes out both Bubba and D-Von, putting the former through a table. Next, we see more stalker videos of DDP.

King of the Ring Finals
Edge vs. Kurt Angle

I feel like this is the earliest that the finals of this Tournament have ever gone on. Kurt Angle gets on the microphone before the bell, asking Edge to lie down for him. Edge obviously declines with a right hand. Edge’s hot start is stymied when Angle belly to belly suplexes him over the top and to the outside. Angle takes to wearing Edge down, but the future “Rated R Superstar” slips free for a school boy. Unfortunately for him, he just runs into another belly to belly for two. Angle goes back to a chinlock and it makes sense here. Commentary does a good job reminding us that Angle has a third match scheduled tonight, so rest is important. Each time Edge seems to find an opening, the veteran Angle has an answer. Edge snaps off a top rope hurricanrana for two. Angle tries the Olympic Slam, but it’s countered. Edge tries the Edgecution, which is reversed into the Ankle Lock! Edge gets free, nailing the Edge-o-Matic, but Christian runs down to help. It backfires as it just distracts the official. Angle gets two on a rollup before a ref bump. Edge taps to the Ankle Lock but there’s no referee. It’s funny how Christian just walked away within ten seconds. Shane appears and Spears Angle. Edge hits the Edgecution to become the King of the Ring.

Winner: Edge in 10:21
The streak continues as we get another good but not great match here. Kurt Angle as the veteran who had an answer for everything worked here and Edge looked resilient. I think there were a few too many shenanigans in this one to put it on the level of their 2002 series of matches. ***

Backstage, Tazz interviews Chris Benoit about the WCW rumor. Benoit gets pissed, before laughing and saying the rumor is a pretty good one. I didn’t mention it but he also interviewed Chris Jericho about it, and he also was shady about it. Edge gets interviewed by Jonathan Coachman. They just plant more seeds for the E&C split, which would be held off for a few months because of the Invasion angle. More backstage stuff as Angle complains to random security guards about what just happened.

WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
Jeff Hardy (c) vs. X-Pac

Due to being part of the X-Factor stable, X-Pac had that weird Uncle Kracker theme. Putting the Light Heavyweight Title on Jeff Hardy was a good move because the belt was almost never on PPV, but a guy like Jeff was pretty must see around this time. After a relatively quick start, X-Pac slows it down with an abdominal stretch. He uses the ropes for leverage, which is always appreciated by me. He hits a spinning heel kick for two. When he tries the Bronco Buster it fails, which thankfully doesn’t rip his ass like it would about a decade later. Jeff begins the rally but they miscommunicate and collide in the corner in ugly fashion. It seems like X-Pac wins shortly after, but Jeff’s foot is on the bottom rope. He tries the X-Factor, only for Jeff to counter into a jawbreaker. He climbs up and, after getting crotched, regroups to hit the Swanton Bomb and retain.

Winner and Still WWF Light Heavyweight Champion: Jeff Hardy in 7:11
Decent but rather disappointing. I would have loved to see 1994 Waltman against Jeff Hardy in his prime. Regardless, this wasn’t bad though I wish they weren’t as sloppy. **

In the back, Steve Austin barges into William Regal’s office to call Vince McMahon. He complains about the WCW rumor and urges Vince to show up. While the “Austin loves Vince” thing hurt his tough guy character, it was funny as hell sometimes.

Another voyeur video of DDP airs, which pisses him off and makes him call out the Undertaker again. A final video airs, revealing Sara was recording them. The “pissed off” Undertaker shows up but instead of going right to fighting, he just calmly puts on his gloves. He gets in the ring and they brawl. Want to know how it goes? DDP gets in shots, Undertaker no sells and beats the hell out of him. He even pretty much no sells a nut shot and a chair shot. Sara comes out to record the whole thing. There you go folks, DDP is already dead in this feud and it was a preview of how the Invasion angle would be booked.

Street Fight
Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon

Showing how personal this is, Kurt Angle attacks at the bell. He then toys with Shane, getting into position to allow Shane to mat wrestle with him. Shane takes the bait and gets obviously outworked. Angle has a cut from some of Shane’s right hands. I never got the reasoning behind this rivalry. It seemed so random. Angle beats the hell out of Shane, then dares him to wrestle again. Shane is wise this time, kicking Angle in the ribs. Things move outside as Shane leaps off a guardrail to take down Angle. Shane brings out a kendo stick before they spill into the crowd. They brawl until they’re back inside, where Angle kicks out by bridging up on his neck. Shane brings in some weapons, wailing on Angle. Angle kicks out of a pin and just pounds on Shane. He tries an enziguri but Shane ducks and puts him in the Ankle Lock. I’ve now seen it all as Shane applies a Sharpshooter. Angle breaks it with a kendo stick but Shane uses some right hands for a near fall. Shane is really reaching into his bag of tricks, trying a damn Shooting Star Press but Angle moves and he lands on a trash can. The fight now goes up the aisle, where Angle suplexes Shane on the concrete. Now comes the infamous moment where Angle tries to German suplex Shane through glass but it doesn’t break and Shane lands on his damn head. Angle goes for it again, breaking glass this time. Angle goes for it from the inside to the outside but again it doesn’t break twice. He finally decides to just throw him through it and Shane is a bloody mess. Shane is so lifeless that Kurt has to put him on a cart and roll him to the ring. He pins Shane but only gets two! My goodness. A low blow from Shane, some trash lid shots and an Angle Slam from Shane get two. Kurt sets Shane up on the top, using a wooden board as a platform and mercifully ends this with a top rope Angle Slam.

Winner: Kurt Angle in 26:00
An absolute war. Kurt Angle wrestled two matches prior and still went all out here. Easily the best match in Shane McMahon’s career. He has an unreal amount of guts. He took some sick bumps throughout this. It’s seriously a match that you should definitely go out and see. ****¼

WWF Championship
Steve Austin (c) vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit won the Tag Team Titles form the Two Man Power Trip a while ago, setting this up. Benoit and Jericho go on the offensive early, leading Austin to try and escape through the crowd. When they get to the ring, Canadians light up Austin’s chest with double chops. Things finally go south for the partners as Jericho inadvertently takes out Benoit with a heel kick, leading to them fighting. As usual with Triple Threat matches, it breaks down into two guys fighting while one guy is laid out, that guy being Jericho here. Austin and Benoit go at it, which is fitting after their Smackdown classic in Edmonton a few weeks prior. Austin tries the Stunner but is shoved off into the official. Benoit then hits the Stunner himself but the ref is too hurt to count in time. Jericho now takes out Benoit before going at it with Austin for a bit. Their exchanges are awesome, as Austin hits a great looking spinebuster. Jericho breaks a sleeper hold and they trade shots before a flying forearm from the Canadian. Benoit tries to come back in but eats a springboard dropkick. Jericho tries the Lionsault but Austin gets his knees up. His Stunner is blocked, but he comes back with a Lou Thez Press. RIGHT HANDS! RIGHT HANDS! THE RATTLESNAKE STRIKES! Benoit brings a chair into play, laying out Jericho but he gets hit with a Stunner. He falls outside, so Austin pins Jericho for two. Austin nails back to back superplexes, which look like they take a ton out of someone. He sets for a third, but Benoit interrupts with FIVE GERMAN SUPLEXES! Shortly after, Austin gets locked in the Walls of Jericho and the Crippler Crossface at the same time, in a call back to a few weeks earlier. Austin taps but nobody wins since they can’t tell which move caused the tap out. This leads to Benoit and Jericho going after each other. Suddenly, Booker T hops the guardrail and attacks Austin. He puts him through the announce table as the crowd pops. This added to the rumor of one guy leaving with the title and going to WCW. He’s chased off by security while Benoit and Jericho perform their usual excellence inside only hurt when Jericho botches a Lionsault. Austin is brought back inside, only for Benoit and Jericho to each hit top rope moves and have their pins broken. Jericho hits a top rope back suplex on Benoit that would put him out of action for nearly a year. Austin slowly crawls over to pick up the pieces and retain.

Winner and Still WWF Champion: Steve Austin in 27:52
Excellent main event. The fact that Steve Austin did two superplexes before taking five Germans is insane. Tons of bumps and drama in a match that delivered. I’m not 100% on the finish but it’s still a great match. ****

Overall: 7.5/10; Very good. That was much better than I remembered. I watched it a while back and didn’t think much of it but nearly everything delivered. The main event is fantastic and the Angle/Shane brawl is a must see classic. Everything else is decent to good, meaning there is nothing bad on this card at all. Next up on “Random Network Reviews” looks like it’s going to be No Mercy 2007!