Sunday, June 12, 2016
Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor were in the ring to open the show. They ran down some of the big matches for the Ybor City crowd.
I just love that Yehi is introduced as “angry, pissed off and short”. He came just shy of making the Cruiserweight Classic at Evolve 61. Since the split of the Premiere Athlete Brand, Nese has turned over a new leaf somewhat. They went back and forth early on, showing they had scouted each other well. Yehi wasn’t just content working the leg or the knee, he even worked the feet at times. That was certainly interesting. It was smart to take out the leg, since Nese uses high flying stuff to his advantage. Nese wasn’t as interested in selling the work as Yehi was in doing it though. Yehi used his trademark stomps to really put the pressure on the ankles of Nese. Nese had Yehi’s Koji Clutch scouted expertly, avoiding or countering it at every turn. However, he missed the 450 splash and Yehi locked it in to pick up his first singles win. Good stuff from both men. I was more impressed by Yehi, but Nese did pretty good too.
Anthony Nese asked for a microphone and said he had been in a rut for about a year. He claimed that he wanted the Premiere Athlete Brand to be about the best athletes, but it became a group of assholes. He said that Valifornia was dead and he wanted to revitalize his career with the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Nese entered himself into the Cruiserweight Classic Flashpoint the next night and, after this show, it was announced that he was in the Classic.
This was a rematch from Evolve 59. Ethan Page had some new theme music. Allen was much different this time around, as getting mostly squashed in his debut seemed to have made him a little nuts. It really felt like Allen was resilient and determined to make up for Evolve 59. He started with some hot, fast paced offense, before Page press slammed him outside, where he took a rough landing. They sold it as if it could have ended things, but Allen got up and back inside. The match mostly slowed after that spot. Page hit the RK-Ego but Allen kicked out. Allen came close on a small package, but lost to a package piledriver as Page predicted. Fine little match here. Allen still has character work to do to nail it, but his ring work was mostly solid.
With him recently leaving ROH, Cedric Alexander made his Evolve debut here. Matt Riddle continued to be super over everywhere Evolve goes. They went to the mat, where Riddle had a clear upper hand, so Alexander went to using his speed for an advantage. Riddle came back with, as Naylor said on commentary, a German suplex that even Rick Steiner would be impressed with. Riddle locked in a Bromission only a few minutes in and I thought it could have ended there. That’s how well that move and Riddle in general, has been handled. Cedric came very close on a sick backbreaker but Riddle got his foot on the bottom rope. Alexander made a mistake on a high risk move, leading to another Bromission where he tapped out. Really good stuff. Riddle bumped and sold well for Alexander in his debut, Riddle continued to look like a star and Cedric had a good debut. All you could ask for.
The Bravados are fresh off of a heel turn. There was a rather long back and forth to open things. Neither team gained a real advantage for a while and though it wasn’t bad, it seemed to be taking a while to really get going. They weren’t doing anything bad, it just wasn’t anything too great either. There was an assisted back suplex spot that spawned a “better than Gable” chant. Thankfully, it didn’t catch on. They didn’t abide by typical tag formula, which was appreciated. The final few minutes were frantic, but I feel like they overdid it on the near fall barrage. The Bravados hit all of their fancy double team moves, though some didn’t come off as crisply as they probably wanted, but it was never enough. Finally, after almost a half hour, Williams used a top rope DDT to retain. There was certainly some good here, but it was rather uneven and definitely dragged at times. Cut it down and tighten it up and you’ve got a much better match.
Drew Gulak got on the microphone after the match and put over Catch Point. He then brought up the fact that he has the Evolve Title in the back and said that Timothy Thatcher, if he was a real champion, wouldn’t have let him physically take it. Drew wanted Thatcher to man up and give the Catch Point members the title shots they deserve. Thatcher showed up and knocked over the cardboard Evolve sign in the entrance. They seriously need to upgrade that. He said that he told them they would all get their shots eventually but tonight he faces Chris Hero and he tells them to leave his ring. Hero came out and called Catch Point the “kids” that will go to bed while the “men” fight.
Hero has been his usual great self in 2016 so far, while Thatcher has been a massive disappointment. Right off the bat, commentary sold it well that while Thatcher is champion, Hero might just be the best in the world. They also talked about his departure from WWE and what it would mean if he won the Evolve Title while partnered with the WWE. There was a methodical pace to this and it worked. Hero went after the elbow and used his vicious strikes, while Thatcher targeted the ankle. The shots delivered throughout this were almost all vicious. Hero abused Thatcher, including shots to his previously injured ear, but Thatcher manned up and wouldn’t go down. Hero stopped a headbutt with a sick elbow before nailing his own headbutt to the back of the head for a near fall. Thatcher finally struck with a big headbutt and applied the Fujiwara armbar. He perfectly transitioned it to the other arm to prevent Hero from grabbing the ropes and then into a different armbar variation to make him submit. Not quite as good as their BOLA match last year, but easily the best Thatcher showing of 2016. Physical, smart and all around great stuff.
Catch Point came back out. Tracy Williams said that they aren’t thieves and he likes to take things from people face to face. He requested a title shot at Evolve 63 the next night. Thatcher agreed and promised to hurt everyone who touched and disrespected his title while he was away. That includes Stokely Hathaway, who had the referee put it on him in front of Thatcher. He heard that and quickly got rid of it. Matt Riddle, who rubbed his junk on the title a while back, called Thatcher “trash” and they should be heading towards a third match.
This is pretty much the coolest story going in wrestling right now. Galloway and Carter represent the people who have a disdain for the WWE and their partnership with Evolve, while Gargano and TJP represent the other side. Seconds after the bell, EC3 knocked out the referee, really giving this an unsanctioned feel. The fight spilled through the crowd like a street fight should. EC3 was sure to take a beer and do his best Yoshitatsu, spitting it like Triple H. Then, it spilled outside where Gargano and EC3 fought on a damn pedicab. It was great to watch them battle and throw each other into lamp posts and such in front of confused pedestrians. Back inside, Gargano and TJP did the Pee Wee Herman “Tequila” dance on the bar after taking out EC3. After TJP got powerbombed through a table, Drew Gulak showed up to check on him. Chris Hero then ran out and laid him out. He also attacked Gargano and TJP, which led to TJP taking a Tombstone and losing. This felt like a non-sanctioned match, which a lot of them don’t always accomplish. It was wacky in the best possible way and the addition of Hero was cool.
Galloway grabbed the microphone after the bell and announced that Chris Hero was officially with them. He also stated that Cody Rhodes, who will be making his Evolve debut on August 19th, was on their side and will face Gargano in his debut. EC3 finished things off by plugging TNA Slammiversary, causing commentary to shout for the show to be shut down. Awesome stuff all around.
Overall: 2016 seems to be a year full of good, but not great shows. This was another. Nothing on the card is bad at all. Page/Allen is passable and the Tag Title match drags but everything else is really enjoyable. You get a solid opener, great debut for Alexander, excellent Evolve Title match and a really fun main event punctuated by a great angle.