Friday, April 8, 2016
They got right into things as Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor introduced the show. They brought out the first and only Evolve Tag Team Champions, Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano. Gargano’s shirt said his name though it was stylized to look like it does on NXT. According to Galloway, they set an attendance record here and he thanked the fans for putting him and Evolve on the map. They call this “wrestling week”, not “Mania week”. Gargano brings out a special corner man for them and it’s Kota Ibushi, who was on the first ever Evolve show.
If the Premiere Athlete Brand, Caleb Konley and Anthony Nese, lost they would be forced to never team again. With high stakes like that, it made sense for the Premiere Athlete Brand to attack early. I saw the official call for the opening bell twice but never heard it. Everybody bawled outside for a while but once inside, Gargano started to take the heat. Galloway came in hot, hitting everything that moved. The Premiere Athlete Brand overcame that to bust out some cool double team moves. The heels tried to cheat but good guy Ethan Page showed up to stop them. That set up the finishing sequence, where Galloway hit a wheelbarrow slam into the Gargano Escape. Konley tapped out but the referee didn’t call the match. There was confusion so Galloway put Konley in the hold and he tapped again. More confusion as the official didn’t call for it again, only to raise Gargano’s hand anyway. Kudos to Galloway and Gargano, who tried to save it by playing out a version of what could have been a “dramatic finish” to make the fans happy. The match itself was good but got hurt by the bad finish.
Commentary discussed the current top five in the rankings for Evolve right now. I wasn’t able to hear much of this unfortunately. That lasted a while though it may have been to stall for some tech issues. I heard there were a fair few. Matt Riddle came out and called out Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher, leading to a match.
Timothy Thatcher handed Matt Riddle his first loss in an Evolve Title match a few weeks earlier at Evolve 56. I didn’t see it but I hear disappointing things about that match. There was a good story being told by commentary here. They said that Riddle wants to be signed by the WWE but was told by William Regal that he needs to win the Evolve Championship first. These two wrestled the kind of match you’d expect from them as we saw a ton of grappling. By the way, leg submissions look great on Riddle since he competes barefoot. They traded holds and strikes but none of it really seemed to get the crowd into it. It fell flat for the most part. Then, to make matters worse, we got another confusing finish. Riddle seemed to injure Thatcher’s arm when he should have broken the hold. Riddle grabbed the title as the bell was called but the referee deemed it a no contest. A disappointing match with a bad finish.
Both of these guys were involved in some great matches already this year (Scurll/Ospreay from RPW and Yehi/Williams from Evolve 53). Scurll started hot and did some of his signature stuff. He seemed to be the more aggressive competitor until Yehi laid into him with relentless stomps. It was a nice turnaround in the match. Yehi had the chicken wing well scouted early and tried to do it to Marty at one point. I’ve mentioned before that I like the fact that you can hear a lot during Evolve matches and it came into play again as it sounded like Marty broke Fred’s wrist and fingers on two occasions. Shortly after that, Scurll locked in the chicken wing and Fred tapped. This was a good match that I wanted to like a bit more. Both guys did well though and it was my favorite thing on the show to this point.
For those unaware, Ethan Page is in the midst of an angle where he is trying to win back the fans’ support after a heel turn a while back. His character work in this time from what I’ve seen has been really good. Callihan started quickly, aggressively attacking from the start. In a flat out disgusting moment, he spit on his hand, showed the fans and then chopped Page. Surprisingly, things slowed down when the babyface took over, which you don’t see often. I liked it here for that reason. They picked it back up as they neared the conclusion. Callihan survived the Spinning Dwayne and won with the cinder block. Solid enough match. I keep enjoying the Page angle but also not really enjoying much of Callihan’s post Solomon Crowe run. Something about this pairing was off.
Perkins used to wrestle as Puma, while Ricochet wrestlers for Lucha Underground as Prince Puma. Ricochet got his named chanted in the style of “New Day rocks” and did a little gyrating himself. Commentary hyped Ricochet as a big deal, saying they took him for granted a while back and considered themselves lucky for having him on early shows. He used his athleticism to his advantage before paying homage to the Rock and Steve Austin. Perkins wasn’t amused and decided to ground Ricochet. Going after the legs of a high flyer is always a great strategy. The leg work was well done and Ricochet sold well at times. At other times, he still hit big offensive moves. However, the leg work played into the finish as Ricochet’s knee buckled after coming off the top and Perkins made him tap to a heel hook. The crowd (and myself) was surprised at the outcome and I thought it was great.
Stokely Hathaway of Ring of Honor fame showed up. He handed TJ Perkins a contract, which TJ instantly signed. Hathaway had a message for Triple H, saying that if he wanted the best cruiserweights for the Global Cruiserweight Series, he needs to call TJP (which he seemed to now be rebranded to). He told HHH to call soon because they have options.
Zack Sabre Jr. is out to prove that he’s the best in the world, so he asked for a series of matches. So far he beat the “icon” Gargano and the “technician” Drew Gulak. This is the “flyer” (his last two are against Riddle and Hero). Ospreay is a prodigy as one of the best flyers in the world at just 22 and already set for a big Jr. Heavyweight Title with NJPW in about a week. Although Sabre is the superior mat worker, Ospreay had the upper hand in that category at times before using his athleticism to take an even bigger advantage. Sabre didn’t stay in trouble for too long and turned it around by twisting Ospreay like a pretzel. Sabre’s confidence when in control was great as he’d taunt Ospreay and to the crowd. Some of the things these guys did would honestly be too tough to explain in detail. I found myself wowed several times as the match progressed. A highlight came when Sabre caught a standing shooting star press into a triangle choke. The finishing stretch was fantastic and saw Sabre nail a Liger Bomb. Ospreay kicked out at one, but Sabre held on for an absurdly badass double arm submission that made Ospreay tap out. An incredible, must see match between my two favorite British pro wrestlers. Up there with Sabre/Strong last year as my favorite Evolve match ever.
Chris Hero and Tommy End came out for their match while Sabre was still in the ring. Hero put Sabre over but said that he still hadn’t beaten him. Sabre tapped him on the cheek and said that he would tomorrow.
After the amazing match that preceded the main event, this had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it fell way short. That’s not me saying this was bad, because it was actually a really solid tag team match, it just didn’t come anywhere near the level of the previous two matches. Heroes Eventually Die held serve early with their hard hitting offense. Hero is fantastic in his role as the badass of the indies. Catch Point rallied with their strong suit, going to the mat. That worked to wear down their bigger opponents. The last few minutes were great as both teams utilized their teamwork to go to war. When all seemed lost, Gulak applied a dragon sleeper on End that finished it off. The finish came from out of nowhere and I feel like the match went way too long. It was solid but felt underwhelming as a main event.
After the match, Hathaway came back out to take TJP away from his Catch Point buddies.
Overall: This was a really good show that had some issues to keep it from being great. Right off the bat, the bad and confusing finishes to the first two matches really got things started on the wrong foot. The show turned around and finished with a bang. The last three matches are all good. Sabre/Ospreay is absolutely must see and can’t miss, while Ricochet/Perkins was also great. Most of the show is definitely worth a look.