Saturday, April 9, 2016
The World Wrestling Network hosts a slew of wrestling promotions from Evolve to SHIMMER to FIP to SHINE. In 2015 they ran Mercury Rising, a super show that showcased a little bit of everything they had to offer. This was the sequel and it ran the night before WrestleMania 32.
Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor opened the show again but quickly got to things and brought out Zack Sabre Jr. He got on the microphone and wanted to waste no time in taking on Chris Hero.
The fifth and final match of Sabre’s “Best in the World” challenge saw Sabre face one man that has had his number in the past. Hero even beat Sabre at Evolve 48 in a match that ranked 46th in my Top 100 Matches of 2015 list. Sabre was 3-1 entering this in the series, losing to Matt Riddle at Evolve 59 earlier in the day. I found this to be similar to the Evolve 48 match in a good way. Sabre is always in control when he wrestles, but something about Hero and his hard hitting style messes him up. There was a lot of fighting around ringside which helped it be different from their last encounter. We even got to see Sabre get a little hardcore and bring a steel chair into play as he aggressive targeted Hero’s arm. Sabre did everything he could to power up and take the strikes like a man, showing he could hang with Hero. He fought valiantly but a sickening series of elbows to the back of the head put Sabre down for the count. This was a great start to the show, though I’m unsure what this does for Sabre. He still can’t beat Hero and doesn’t really get to call himself the best in the world after it. Maybe Hero wins the Evolve Title down the line and Sabre dethrones him. This was on par with their previous match and not on the level with Sabre/Ospreay from Evolve 58.
Surprised to see TJP with Catch Point still considering he signed with Stokely Hathaway. Gulak and Tray Williams won the Evolve Tag Team Titles earlier in the day at Evolve 59. I’ve never really gotten into Gulak but I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve seen from Yehi. They had a match at Evolve 56, where Gulak refused to shake Yehi’s hand because he had not earned his respect. They spent the entire match grappling on the mat which worked to the strengths of both competitors. The style isn’t for everyone but I liked most of what we got here. Gulak destroyed the leg and Yehi sold it like a champ for the most part. Gulak caught Yehi in a dragon sleeper and made him tap. I wish the finish involved a leg submission but that’s not a huge issue. While it wasn’t stellar, I found this to be a good match that told the story it needed to.
After the match, Drew Gulak offered Fred Yehi a spot in Catch Point, showing that he seems to have found some respect for him. Yehi accepted to a big pop, though I thought they were heels. Anyway, this sounds cool as it gives Yehi something to do.
Catch Point stayed at ringside but since both participants are part of the group, I didn’t list them accompanying anyone. Riddle has beaten Tracy before so Tray wanted a shot to beat him. This followed a similar style to their past for the most part, but I really liked Williams going outside of his comfort zone outside of desperation. He did a dive off the top to the outside which is very uncharacteristic for him and showed how much he wanted to win. Things picked up near the end as Riddle hit a badass knee and fisherman buster. Williams and Riddle were competitive throughout and their chemistry is tremendous. Williams scored the huge win by making Riddle submit to a crossface, which was the first clean submission loss for Riddle. A damn good match from two guys that are certainly on my must see list for the rest of the year.
Williams and Riddle shook hands afterwards because Catch Point is all about competition. I dig friendly rivalries.
Anthony Nese has been a dick and called Ethan Page fat, leading to this. Commentary played up reformed good guy Page working with anti-bullying foundations in Canada. A chair was the main weapon of use in this thing. Nese nearly killed Page when he hit a moonsault that crushed Page’s skull into the chair. The problem here was that there wasn’t much heat for Nese’s offense. They brought a ladder in as Page started to turn things around. I appreciated that they worked their way up to bigger spots as the match advanced. Page powerbombed Nese onto a ladder and then followed with a package piledriver to win. Commentary incorrectly said the move was done onto chairs but it wasn’t. I liked this match. They did good with the stipulation and it turned out better than expected. My main gripe is that the crowd didn’t seem to hate Nese enough. Their lack of care for him led to some of the heat not getting the response they wanted. The two men hugged it out post-match.
Lenny Leonard brought out Terry Funk to a great reaction. They’re paying tribute to him and he’s soon joined by Sabu, Mick Foley and I Dream of Jeanie. Foley said that he could be at the Hall of Fame but decided not to go so he could pay tribute to Terry. Earl Cooter and Larry Dallas showed up and talked some smack. Obviously, it wasn’t going to go well. They attacked Foley and the legends turned it around, though it was mostly Funk. Sabu got to throw a hair and Foley busted out Socko. It was a fun little segment.
They took an intermission here as some of the talents were just arriving after WrestleCon and needed a break.
Originally, Ivelisse was scheduled to face Taylor Made for the title but suffered an injury. Latasha, who I’ve never seen before, was going to step in. She’s undefeated in Shine but won most by countout and such according to commentary. Andrea kicked her ass and former SHIMMER Champion Nicole Matthews stepped in to get the shot, which I loved because I truly love Matthews. She’s my favorite female wrestler not signed to the WWE. Matthews attacked right at the start. Her ring gear is certainly odd. She hit a decent looking dive to the outside and I’d say that was the highlight. This never clicked the way that I hoped. Taylor Made didn’t impress me and I wouldn’t consider this one of Matthews’ better outings. Matthews had things in hand with a Liontamer but Andrea and Val got involved, opening the door for Taylor to win with a cutter. Disappointing to say the least. The first thing on the show that really lacked.
I remember seeing the FIP Title get defended in matches involving Roderick Strong, Erick Stevens, Go Shiozaki and Necro Butcher. Good times. A commentator from FIP took over and constantly pushed that the title is considered a “world” title. It got rather annoying. Like, we get it. I did like them mentioning past champions like Bryan Danielson, to hype the prestige. Chicago is an interesting character who did a lot of comedy throughout. Some of it was good and some of it was lame. The star of this match was Cade. I liked what little I saw of him before this, but he stood out as the clear cut guy to see in this. Konley retained after a second rope Michinoku Driver on Chicago. This worked as a fine little showcase for FIP but isn’t a must see match.
I mostly enjoy Timothy Thatcher’s work but Sami Callihan has been rather lackluster since coming back from his NXT run. Commentary reminded us of Thatcher’s arm injury and he was sporting a pad. Proving he’s tough, Thatcher used the bad elbow to lay out Sami at the bell. Sami worked the arm and some of what they did was smart but man, it just dragged on. Hero and Sabre went for 20+ minutes before it started to feel long but this felt that way after about five minutes. It came off as dull, which is really disappointing since I really liked a lot of Thatcher’s stuff usually. He survived the Cuerno Killer and retained with a headbutt in an anti-climactic finish. I wasn’t feeling this and it’s a shame that after a great 2015, Thatcher’s 2016 has lacked.
Catch Point came out and Drew Gulak got on the microphone. Gulak put over the Evolve Title and said that as a champion, Thatcher is a disgrace. Gulak holds several wins over Thatcher. Thatcher said that he will defend the title against each member of Catch Point and laid down the title. It seemed like he dropped the belt but apparently, he just won’t physically hold the belt until he beats them all.
Well this was just pure fun. Everyone that worked together put on one hell of a performance but the show was stolen when we got to see Will Ospreay take on Kota Ibushi. The reaction of the commentators, crowd and other wrestlers when they realized it was going to happen was special. Honestly, there was so much going on that it would be too hard to cover everything. Just know that all six guys worked their asses off to produce a spectacular main event. They managed to turn things around after a soft middle of the show. Near the end, things truly picked up and we even got to see Ibushi and Ospreay dive off of a stage near the crowd. The finish came as Gargano had the Gargano Escape locked in while TJP and Ibushi both took out Ospreay. Ibushi finished him off with a powerbomb. This was a great way to end the show and truly defined what a fun match could be. I’ve really missed Kota Ibushi and it’s great to see him back in action in 2016.
Johnny Gargano closed things with a promo on Drew Galloway turning on him at Evolve 59. He then put over the match and Evolve, saying it was special because he, TJP and Ibushi competed at Evolve 1.
Overall: The two shows that I ordered from WWN over WrestleMania weekend were both really good shows that fell just short of being great. This one got off to a very hot start as Hero/Sabre and Riddle/Williams were both damn good, while Yehi/Gulak and Page/Nese were good and brought something different to the table. The show hit a rough patch after intermission and headed downhill before ending with a major bang. Well worth a look, especially since the good on the show happens to be really damn good.