Thursday, May 12, 2016
Evolve ran their first shows in Maryland (at least I think so) over the course of two days for their Evolve 60 and 61 events. This was an interesting weekend as a lot of big names weren’t available (Callihan, Thatcher, etc.) and we even got a fancy new stage and ring canvas. I’m a sucker for a canvas with logos on it. The show looked very pretty.
Rush is a home state boy here. He’s only been wrestling for a very short time, but is very good, especially evidenced by his excellent ROH World Title match against Jay Lethal about a month prior. He cut a short promo, putting over the Baltimore area beforehand. Konley, the clear heel, started aggressively. Konley was good here but most of my praise is going to Rush. He’s so fluid with everything he does, even when taking to the sky for his impressive aerial offense. He had the crowd firmly behind him and played the plucky underdog role well, doing a good job of bumping, selling and getting in hope spots. Lio overcame Konley’s bully offense and won with a frog splash after some really good back and forth. Exactly what I want from my opener. No real downtime, a hot crowd and two guys giving their all, while not overdoing it so some stuff could be saved for the guys later in the card.
The Devastation Corporation are rather well known in CHIKARA, though this is my first exposure to them. I’ve seen the Bravado Brothers before, including as part of the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament earlier in the year. It was the Evolve debut for the Devastation Corporation. Things got physical quickly and the teams brawled on the outside. The size advantage of the bigger Devastation Corporation came into play as they took control. The Bravados rallied and showed off impressive strength as they nailed a powerbomb/lungblower combo for a near fall. Blast McMassive missed a huge dive outside and fell to the Gentlemen’s Agreement. This was solid tag team wrestling and a good debut for the Corporation.
If you haven’t seen Matt Riddle yet, you need to. We got an interesting clash of styles here. Riddle loves the mat game, while Nese is quick and chose to showcase his athleticism here. I was glad because he hadn’t shown off enough of that in recent matches. Riddle’s personality shined through. He hit a springboard knee and you thought he was going to show off his own athleticism, only to slide out of the ring and slap Nese. He does the little things that put him over the top so well. Nese survived and countered the Kimura twice, the second with a suplex that got him a near fall. He countered it again, only for Riddle to counter that and put the submission back on, causing Nese to tap. A really good match that was better than I expected. Good back and forth that allowed both guys to look good. Nese was on his game and Riddle almost always delivers. My favorite Nese match since the one with TJ Perkins last year.
Scurll has been great in a lot of his recent work, including some excellent matches with Will Ospreay this year. Gargano is still considered the icon of WWN. The fans chanted “I enjoy this” as the two men exchanged holds on the mat. Scurll, being the villain that he’s so well known for, resorted to kicking Gargano when he couldn’t get the upper hand. I liked both guys going for their respective finishers early and talking shit to each other, about their countries after. Scurll began to soften up Gargano’s arm in preparation for the chicken wing, which was sold very well. Extra points to these two for it being their first match and managing to have seamless sequences to the point where you’d think they wrestled a ton. I never like people shouting the name of their move before doing it, so I was happy to see Gargano block the Chicken Wing each time Scurll was guilty of this. Their final few minutes were great. Gargano got out of Cattle Mutilation before nailing a lawn dart and making Scurll submit to the Gargano Escape. As I said, this was really fluid and crisp for two guys that aren’t used to each other. Scurll played the villain well, as usual, having a cheap shot ready for almost all of Gargano’s stuff. Just a really well executed pro wrestling match.
Johnny Gargano got on the microphone and said Evolve would be returning to Joppa, Maryland later in the year. He called out Drew Galloway to come face to face with him for the first time since Galloway turned on him. Galloway obliged and Gargano ran him down, saying that the Evolve/WWE partnership is good for wrestling. He also shot that Galloway blew his change with the WWE. Galloway responded with a cheat shot and beat on Gargano until Ethan Page made the save, leading to the next match.
The reformation of Ethan Page continued here. He spent last year as the guy going after Gargano, but now defended the honor of his former friend against Galloway. Galloway was great as the aggressive monster heel again, shouting trash talk at Page throughout. I also enjoyed Page being resilient and doing his best to go blow for blow despite his size disadvantage. Their slap exchange near the end was just brutal at times. Galloway used a low blow behind the official’s back and the Future Shock to win. This accomplished everything it needed to. It mostly felt like a personal fight, showed that Page can be a solid babyface and got Galloway a win to further the bigger angle.
This time, it was Drew Galloway who grabbed a microphone. He said that he doesn’t need a machine behind him and that he didn’t blow it himself. Drew Galloway made Drew Galloway. He called everyone in the back, especially Gargano, pathetic for accepting the WWE into Evolve. He called them all hypocrites because they used to just talk about supporting indy wrestling. Drew said the WWE doesn’t deserve credit for anything in Evolve. He went for another Future Shock on Page but Gargano ran him off with a chair. Gargano still refused to help Page up and instead left on his own. Page seemed to break down into tears. He struggled to get up and leave, but did so on his own, to a round of applause.
All four men are part of the Catch Point stable. I love that these guys have no issues wrestling one another. It’s refreshing. Gulak showed up also carrying Timothy Thatcher’s Evolve Championship. Also, the following night on Evolve 61, these four would compete in Cruiserweight Classic Qualifiers, against their own partners. Hathaway got on the microphone beforehand and put over TJP as the star of Catch Point. Gulak had to cut him off, saying this is about competition and kicked him out. Cath Point is all about the mat wrestling, so you knew what you were getting coming into this. All four men worked the mat, adding in their little strong suits, like TJ’s flashiness or Gulak’s no nonsense approach. Some great back and forth in this one as it was done in a way to show that the Catch Point guys are very close in terms of skill. Outside of one spot just before the finish, everything was smooth. Gulak caught TJP in the dragon sleeper to retain. Once again, the Catch Point guys came to perform.
Drew Gulak cut a short promo, calling out Timothy Thatcher. He said that the Evolve Title was staying with Catch Point until he got the balls to give them a title shot. Matt Riddle made sure to come out with his Catch Point buddies and say that he would be the one to get the shot. If that happens, I pray Riddle and Thatcher find some chemistry.
The rivalry continues! Hero has defeated Sabre on two separate occasions in Evolve, as he seems to be the hurdle that Sabre can’t quite overcome. I love their matches because Sabre really feels like an underdog. He’s small but so good that he always seems to be in control, except against Hero. They began with some technical wrestling that saw them bend each other in painful ways. Hero got tired of that and just started laying into Sabre, which has worked for him in the past. Both guys went after the arm. Hero’s work wasn’t as technical, but looked brutal. Sabre was great at pulling out the hope spots despite taking a beating. You felt his desperation. Any time Sabre seemed to take control, Hero was ready with an elbow that dizzied the Brit. “You may be their favorite, but you ain’t shit to me!” Hero’s trash talk was on point. Sabre survived some badass piledrivers, while throwing in pinning combinations in between that you believed would end it. Finally, the abuse from Hero became too much as Sabre succumbed to one of the sickest piledrivers I’ve ever seen. The fact that Sabre didn’t break his neck is a miracle. Of the three matches I’ve seen from these two, this was my favorite. Sabre just continues to throw everything at Hero and, even at his most desperate, is just unable to best him. When he finally does beat Hero, it’s going to feel incredibly earned.
Overall: Textbook Evolve. You get a spectacular match surrounded by a bunch of really good ones. Nothing on this card is bad as everything gets at least three stars. They advanced the Galloway/Gargano angle very well, introduced Lio Rush to solid fanfare and the Catch Point stuff was a lot of fun. The main event added another chapter to the great rivalry between Hero and Sabre, and is a must see match. Evolve continues to deliver and is probably the best booked company right now.