Continuing our run-down of WrestleMania weekend shows, is EVOLVE’s show from last Saturday afternoon. Well, this one is almost a week in the making, since I’d been one of the many who’d encountered endless streaming issues that made this show utterly unwatchable. Now that WWN have been able to get the On-Demand version going, its time to see what I missed…
EVOLVE Tag Team Titles: Catch Point (Tracy Williams & Drew Gulak) vs. Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (c)
They’ve remembered the ring bell this time, and they openly admit that this match is on first so that Gargano can go down the road and appear at the NXT TV tapings taking place later that day. A really good match, with a lot of ground work involving everyone but Galloway – and there’s lengthy silences as Lenny Leonard is solo on commentary (and presumably getting mixed messages over the stream itself).
Galloway flattens both members of Catch Point with clotheslines, including one from the middle rope, before we get a weird bit where the commentary sounded really re-recorded, with a minimum of crowd noise. I’m guessing this is a result of the streaming issues. It’s awkward to listen to, as we hear crowd noise or commentary, but never a mix of the two.
Galloway catches Gulak as he tries to run between his legs, and picks him up for a sitout powerbomb that leaves both men drained. Gargano misses a blind tag from Tracy Williams, who comes in and floors him with a lariat as Gulak had him trapped in a sleeperhold. They follow that up with a nice series of submissions, with the champions trapped in ankle locks before switching it into crossfaces – before changing partners after realising that the legal men weren’t paired up.
After a rope break, Gulak and Gargano slug it out on their knees, before Gargano wipes out Gulak with a tope suicida. Back in the ring, his superman spear is caught by Williams, who flattens him with a brainbuster for a near fall, and then a facelock for the win by tap out – Catch Point win the titles!
Post-match, Galloway takes the microphone and salutes the new champions, then starts going on a rant about how he was cheated out of his EVOLVE title. Johnny Carhampton tries to calm him down as he goes off about how NXT is taking over EVOLVE… he then kicks Carhampton low and locks him in the Gargano Escape to add insult to injury.
Fred Yehi vs. Chris Hero
Yehi’s nickname is “Angry, Pissed Off and Short”. This match could be described as slow, plodding and basic. Despite Yehi being something of a rising star, nobody in the building seemed to take him as a credible threat, and that resulted in a deafening silence for a large chunk of this match. And no, it wasn’t the re-dubbed commentary this time.
Yehi scored a near fall with an Exploder suplex, before a stiff forearm scored him another two count. Hero retaliated with a knee strike to the head, and an old school piledriver for a two count. Hero thought he’d won it with a Roaring Elbow, followed by an elbow to the back of the head, but Yehi kicked out, and in the end a ripcord Roaring Elbow (think Rainmaker-style) got the win. Mercifully, this one ends.
Anthony Nese vs. Sami Callihan
They start off quick, exchanging dives from the ring to the floor in the first minute… now how do you top that? Two topes through the bottom ropes by Callihan, before the pair exchange strikes on the floor. Nese misses a 450 Splash and staggers into a pop-up Death Valley Driver by Callihan… now where do you go after all of these spots so early on?
They move onto trading kicks, before Nese drops Callihan with a buckle bomb, but no pinfall attempt. More reversals as Nese goes for a pumphandle powerslam, which Callihan switches into an effort at a tombstone package piledriver, but Nese rolls through and drills Callihan with a double stomp… which doesn’t keep Callihan down long as he connects with the tombstone package piledriver before locking in an armbar for the win.
This was all-action, but not to my taste. Way too many big moves in quick succession – like the Young Bucks on steroids.
Darby Allen vs. Ethan Page
This is the result of Allen impressing at a series of tryouts that was overseen by WWE officials, and apparently he was trained by Buddy Wayne… the same guy who also trained Bryan Alvarez back in the day.
I cannot take Ethan Page’s gear seriously – the front of his trunks look like a cartoon. Allen takes a back body drop with a full frontal flip (don’t think Buddy Wayne’ll have taught him THAT!). Page turns a fireman’s carry into a fallaway slam, but stays on top of Allen, following up with an RK-Ego through the ropes, before flattening him with a tight package piledriver for the win.
Well, that was the closest you’ll get to a squash in EVOLVE.
TJP vs. Tommy End
This will be fun – TJP’s flipping, against Tommy End’s striking – in the first of the USA vs. Europe series. Once they got the evasions out of each others strikes out of the way, there was a fair bit of wrestling here, with TJP tying up End in a butterly-come-leglock combination, before a stepover toe told kept the Dutchman grounded.
All of the leglocks wore down End’s knee to the point where he had trouble running the ropes, and that led TJP to catch him in a kneebar, only for End to go to the well and pull out his striking combo, flooring TJP with a back elbow. TJP escaped an armbar and went back for a kneebar, but End escaped and turned a leapfrog over TJP into a double stomp which scored a near fall. The finish came pretty much out of nowhere, as End missed a double stomp off the top, leading to a missile dropkick from TJP, who was unable to follow up, and quickly took a knee to the head as End got the flash pin.
Not the kind of match I was expecting going in, but still ultra enjoyable despite End not utilising his strikes as much as you’d have thought.
Matt Riddle vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This should be interesting, with ZSJ coming off the indy match of the weekend the prior evening against Will Ospreay. They start following Riddle’s UFC-background with mat based grappling, before going to a stalemate after a well worked knucklelock sequence.
They go back and forth with increasingly-painful looking holds, as Riddle does a British Bulldog, taking down ZSJ with a stalling suplex. A capture suplex follows after Riddle caught a kick from ZSJ, but the Brit counters back with an Octopus hold that Riddle somehow escapes and turns into an ankle lock, and then a belly-to-back suplex as the hold kept coming.
Riddle switches a kimura with the body scissors into a death valley driver on ZSJ, before this descended into a slapping match, before Riddle made ZSJ tap to the Prohibition armbar.
A surprisingly good match, even if the crowd were seemingly unsure on who to cheer for – plenty of innovative counters, making this well worth going out of your way to see.
Marty Scurll vs. Timothy Thatcher
Thatcher’s EVOLVE title isn’t on the line here, and the story is that Thatcher’s elbow is questionable at best after Matt Riddle “dislocated” it the night before. Scurll targets the bad wing in the early going, but Thatcher does a pretty good job of wrestling one-armed.
Thatcher blocks a superkick off the apron by Scurll and turns it into an ankle lock, just after he’d gone to strike Scurll with an uppercut using the bad arm. Scurll goes for the chicken wing, but Thatcher immediately makes the ropes, as he then goes after the injured arm. Somehow, Thatcher manages to hit two suplexes and a Fujiwara armbar despite having a bad elbow, but Scurll rolls through into another chicken wing attempt.
Scurll catches Thatcher off guard with a “just kidding” superkick, eventually drilliing the bad elbow, as Thatcher is reduced to headbutts for his offence once Scurll had tweaked his fingers. Thatcher has trouble picking up Scurll for a deadlift gutwrench suplex, and when he does succeed, Scurll switches it into a chicken wing and gets the tapout victory.
That’s two of Thatcher’s matches I’ve seen, and in terms of connecting with the crowd, I’m really not sold. His match with Matt Riddle on Friday night’s EVOLVE 58 was pretty bad, and Scurll carried most of this one, kayfabe injury or not.
Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay
Well, unless both of these guys have an off day, this is going to be easily the match of the show. Unfortunately, there’s a “this is awesome” chant before they even touch. Shark. Jumped.
Ospreay gets the first cheer of the match with a repeated kip-up to escape a wristlock, and Ricochet manages to save what could have been an ugly landing on a handspring as they ended up neutral after the opening exchanges. Ricochet follows up with a submission move that looks like he hit pause whilst doing a shoulderbreaker on Ospreay, before locking in a grounded abdominal stretch.
A People’s Moonsault sees Ricochet miss and eat the mat, but Ospreay’s attempt to mimic the mimic resulted in him land on Ricochet’s back. Ricochet followed up with another People’s Moonsault (third time lucky!) as a standing corkscrew splash from Ospreay got him a near fall (I have no idea what to call it!).
Ricochet and Ospreay trade reverse huracanranas, and for the first time this afternoon, the crowd in Dallas are on their feet. A series of trading kicks and punches on the apron ends with Ricochet dropping Ospreay with a death valley driver on the apron, before going back for a 450 Splash that gets a near fall. Ospreay connects with a springboard cutter, running shooting star press and a Phoenix Splash for another near fall. Pay attention Messrs Callihan and Nese – this is how you do high spots without it turning into a video game!
Ricochet misses with a 450 Splash before a Spanish Fly and an Essex Destroyer earns Ospreay another near fall. They trade a series of near falls from high impact moves to build to the finish, featuring a deadlifted Michinoku driver from Ricochet, but in the end, it was a Benadryller (fireman’s carry, popping up into a head kick) that got Ricochet the win!
What do you know? I was right! Easily the match of the night! Just a shade below Ospreay vs. ZSJ from the night before, but that by no means is no bad thing. Watch. This. Match.
Zack Sabre Jr and Marty Scurll come out after the bell and demand a tie-breaker – since the USA vs. Europe series ended at 2-2 – but TJP and Matt Riddle came out not dressed to compete, and instead we got Chris Hero (in for Timothy Thatcher) out to face off with ZSJ, but Hero’d partner Tommy End cleared out his fellow Europeans as Chris Hero built towards his match with ZSJ at the Mercury Rising show later in the evening (review of that one to follow much later!)
EVOLVE 59 was plagued live by technical issues – some of which unfortunately carried over to the on-demand version. Still, the top three matches are well worth your money, and the hour-or-so combined it’ll take out of your time.