EVOLVE presented a lead-in for NXT on Saturday afternoon, with another stacked card including an indy dream match between Chris Hero and Cody Rhodes.
#TLDR: Well, this was a major letdown. Streaming issues disrupted the show for those watching at home, whilst EVOLVE’s insistence on pushing Timothy Thatcher as champion led to a rotten title match that the show never recovered from.
The Full Review: After Friday night’s mixed show, EVOLVE will be looking to reach the heights they’ve become known for. What we ended up with was some good matches, but an awfully sour taste by the end of the show.
EVOLVE bust out a surprise at the start of the show by introducing Joey Styles. He’s doing play-by-play for the main event here, and gets in his predictable “it’ll be the best commentary you’ll hear this weekend” line.
Kobe Durst vs. Ethan Page
Page starts with a headlock, and gets whipped into the ropes for a shoulder block takedown. A back body drop keeps Page on top, but he’s cut off with a back elbow from Durst, but a lariat from Page quickly puts him back in it. Durst drops Page with a Rough Ryder and heads to the top rope, where he get caught with a boot to the head and then an Iconoclasm. Page follows up with a package piledriver, and that’s the win. Very, very short, but effective squash. **
Page gets the microphone after the match, and is still waiting for forgiveness from Johnny Gargano before he leaves EVOLVE next month.
Peter Kaasa vs. Tony Nese
Good lord, Kaasa’s music is ultimate distortion. This was going to be a theme of the entire evening, sadly… Nese starts with a headlock, but they roll around to reverse back and forth as neither man gets an advantage. Kaasa’s kept on the mat with a headlock, but he breaks free by leaping to the top rope and flipping free, but Nese ends things with a big back bodydrop.
Kaasa returns the favour, then they descend into some forearm shots, as Nese gets some kicks and a legsweep to score a near-fall. Nese whips Kaasa into the corner, but he takes a Flair bump and rebounds with a springboard hurricanrana, before clotheslining Nese to the outside, where he follows up with a tope con hilo. A running shooting star press inside the ring gets Kaasa a two-count… at which point a bunch of WWE guys (including Daniel Bryan, Cesaro and Tyler Breeze) walked into the building and distracted the entire crowd. After the crowd focussed on the show, we saw Kaasa go for a suplex, but it was countered with Nese dropping Kaasa onto the ropes, before launching into him with a knee to the head. Nese stays on top with a forearm in the corner, then Irish whips him to the corner… which prompts Kaasa to bump to the floor, and then take a pair of topes from Nese.
Nese rolls Kaasa back inside, and connects with a missile dropkick for a two-count. As Nese grabbed a rear chinlock, my feed died, resumed, and died again as they stayed in the chinlock. When it resumes, we see Kaasa cut off on the top rope, and the stream jumped to when the two of them were on their knees trading forearms. Nese misses a double stomp and gets dropped with a Kaasa powerbomb for a near-fall.
Nese slips under Kaasa and drills him with a pumphandle into a Michinoku driver, before missing a 450 Splash. Kaasa went to the top himself, then missed a shooting star press as the battle of the big guys going airborne continued, before Nese wins with a 450 Splash. Decent match, which felt like it was going a little long. Two matches in, and I’m not sold on Kaasa at all. **½
Tommy End vs. Matt Riddle
End starts by teasing some kicks to Riddle, who kept backing away as they continued a real tentative start. Riddle takes down End, and grabs a waistlock as End reaches for the ropes to break it up.
A shot from Riddle sent End to the mat, as Riddle kept up with knees and punches in the corner, before a leapfrog from End leads to… frozen stream. We resume as a straight right from Riddle drops End again, and once the referee checks on End, the Dutchman’s again taken into the corner and dropped with more strikes.
Riddle hoists up End in a gutwrench suplex and throws him around with a pair of suplexes, and then goes for a cross arm-breaker. That ends with Riddle standing up and repeatedly stomping on End, before a triangle choke takes End down once more. Riddle punches away at End, but that wakes up the Dutchman who drops Riddle with a knee.
A kick to the chest puts Riddle on his back, but he comes back with a Fisherman’s buster. Back to their feet, the pair trade strikes, and End gets the upper hand with a knee that sends Riddle down once more, leaving him open for a double stomp to the elbow.
End capitalises on Riddle’s injured elbow with an armbar, but Riddle makes the ropes, before catching a kick and turning it into a kneebar. Which End breaks up with a solid kick to the head, before climbing up top, and misses a double stomp. Riddle lands some strikes, with a leaping forearm from Riddle getting returned with a kneestrike from End, then a top rope double stomp and a roundhouse kick for a near-fall… as my stream jumped again.
Riddle invites extra kicks to the chest, so End obliges, before Riddle lands an overhead kick and a tombstone piledriver for a near-fall. End blocks an armbar then goes for a kneebar with a leg grapevine, but Riddle fights free and into a modified sleeperhold, which forces End to submit. A fine submission style match, but I’d have enjoyed it more had my feed not had a load of split-second pauses all over the place. ****
Cedric Alexander vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Another Cruiserweight Classic Spotlight match here, and apparently this is the last one from what was basically “you could have had this match, but the brackets didn’t work out…”
Sabre scrambles away from a waistlock, but falls into a hammerlock, which he easily escapes, as we have the standard Sabre technical opening. Alexander grabs a wristlock, but an armwhip is countered as Alexander rolls to his feet for a stand-off. A full nelson is reversed by Alexander, who is snapmare’d to the mat for another stand-off. A leapfrog from Alexander is cut off as Sabre grabbed the leg, before his attempt at a bow and arrow hold is blocked by Alexander for a one-count.
Alexander flips over Sabre in the corner, takes him down with some headscissors and connects with a dropkick, before he takes Sabre into the corners for some chops and stomps. A leaping stomp sees Sabre kick out before there’s even a one-count, before a forearm shot sends Sabre back to the mat. Sabre comes back with an uppercut to stop a springboard from Alexander, and then grabs a single leg crab with a heel hook added to it. That looked painful as all hell. After releasing the hold, Sabre boots away at Alexander in the corner, before doing the leg spin to twist at Alexander’s neck.
Live, my feed died here… on second watching, Sabre mouthed off to the crowd , before a cravat kept Alexander at bay. Sabre walked away from a dropkick by Alexander, before laying into Alexander with a bunch of uppercuts. The crowd started to turn on Sabre here, not unlike how they did for Sabre against Jeff Cobb at Rev Pro a week earlier. Sabre tied up Alexander with a double arm crank, before Alexander rolled free to boot Sabre away.
Sabre went for an Octopus hold as Alexander was caught in the ropes following a missed shoulder charge, but a knee to the head of Sabre in the ropes, then a PK and a tope took the Brit into the barricades outside. After throwing Sabre back inside, Alexander landed a springboard enziguiri from the corner for a near-fall, before Sabre rebounded from an Irish whip into the corner with a tornado DDT. A Dragon sleeper from Sabre gets switched as the Brit rolls up Alexander for a near-fall, but Alexander fought back with a series of forearms to the jaw, sending Sabre dropping to the mat every time.
Sabre locked in a triangle armbar as Alexander rebounded off the ropes, but Alexander powerbombed out of it, and nearly lost the fall with a bridging cradle. A cool counter to another European uppercut followed when Alexander caught Sabre in a backslide driver for a two-count, with a Michinoku driver getting a similar result. A springboard from Alexander’s cut-off with an uppercut from Sabre, before the PK gets him him a near-fall. The pair traded forearms, before Sabre landed a pair of uppercuts, before leaping onto Alexander with a guillotine, which got turned into a brainbuster for a near-fall.
The end came after Sabre locked in the Octopus hold, bringing Alexander to the mat. Just like Marty Scurll with the chicken wing, Sabre adds in some kicks to Alexander, and just like that, it’s over. Zack Sabre Jr. picks up another unpopular win. ****
Post-match, Sabre cuts a promo, but like with the rest of the sound here, it was massively distorted. Perhaps move the crowd mics away from the speakers? Looks like he’s gone heel in a Bret Hart “face in the UK, heel in America” deal…
Chris Hero vs. Cody Rhodes
Hey, Hero’s got his gear! And more buffering… Cody Rhodes has his extra distorted Downstait theme music in addition to his aviator jacket… and yes, the stream dies again for one of the most anticipated matches on the card. The curse of iPPV strikes again! The feed picks up as Hero sucker punches a handshake and gets taken to the corner with some chops. Rhodes pulls up Hero in a hanging vertical suplex, before Hero’s sent out into the crowd barrier right by Papa Hales. The pair of them trade chops and forearms around the ringside area, with Hero sending Rhodes into the crowd.
Hero picks up a part of the crowd barrier (not a typo), and gets punched through it as the pair continue to fight through the building. A right hand from Hero dazes Rhodes by the merchandise tables, and they end up fighting on the tables, before a headbutt from Hero sends Rhodes down once more.
Hero places Rhodes onto a chair, and dumps an elbow through Rhodes and the chair. Finally back in the ring, Hero lays into Rhodes with forearms to the back, but Rhodes fires back with chops before Hero takes a flip over the top onto the apron, and then drops to the floor as he sells a knee injury.
Rhodes poses to the crowd as Hero takes a breather, and of course it was a ruse! Hero sends Rhodes to the floor, and drops him with a bicycle kick by the entrance way, but Rhodes returns by dropping Hero from behind, sending him into the cameraman.
Back inside again, Hero catches Rhodes with a discus forearm for a near-fall, before using the ropes to force Cody back into the ring. Rhodes goes onto the apron and takes a bicycle kick that drops him back into the ring, which somehow leads to the two of them trading shots. Another Hero forearm drops Cody in the corner, and Hero then goes after a fan in the crowd with a big Dusty Rhodes face. Hero smashes Cody with the Dusty face, then gets cut off as he tried to use it for a top rope headbutt, as Cody instead went for a superplex.
Rhodes goes back to work with a clothesline, before he catches a rolling elbow, then turns a bicycle kick into a Flatliner for a two-count. A rolling elbow drops Rhodes after a moonsault, but he still kicked out at two, before a backslide got Rhodes a near-fall. Hero lands another forearm, only for Rhodes to turn a ripcord elbow into a Side Effect for another two-count.
Hero gets dazed with some headbutts, before Rhodes unloaded on him with a flurry of strikes, only to run into a bicycle kick. Rhodes returns the move, and lands a springboard enziguiri. Hero rolls out of a reverse DDT, and drops Rhodes with a piledriver for a near-fall. Another ripcord elbow attempt connects from Hero, but again for a two-count.
They go back and forth with Cross Rhodes attempts, but Rhodes is the one who actually lands it for a near-fall after flipping back from Hero’s effort. The feed dies again, during which point Drew Galloway apparently came out to interfere, and the stream comes back when Hero drills Rhodes with a pair of rolling elbows in the corner. A third rolling elbow sends Rhodes out of the corner, before a rolling elbow to the back of the head drops Rhodes as Chris Hero takes the win. That was… something. A much better match, stylistically better than Friday against Sabre, but I’ve a feeling that Cody Rhodes indy career is going to have quite a millstone around its neck. ***¾
Drew Galloway cut a promo on Rhodes after the match, talking down to him for thinking he could just go on the indy circuit and become a “phenom”. Drew Gulak rushes out to cut-off Galloway, and that sends evil Drew G to the back.
EVOLVE Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher (c)
Gulak’s already out, so we get our second main event… with Timothy Thatcher and his incredibly distorted music.
They go head-to-head as the referee struggles to separate them for their introductions, and Joey Styles joins on commentary here. Gulak pounds away on Thatcher to start with, and tries for a crossface, but Thatcher blocks it and tries for a Boston crab, only to switch it up and go for a cross armbreaker instead. Gulak goes for a toe-hold, but Thatcher reverses it and gets shoved to the mat.
Thatcher takes Gulak down with an armbar attempt, but Gulak blocks it and takes Thatcher into the corner, then gets shoved out of it. We see a really slow-motion armbar from Thatcher, but Gulak makes the ropes to force a break, only for Thatcher to go back to the armbar, and score a two-count as he rolled Thatcher to his back as he tried to fight free.
Gulak gets a crossface, but Thatcher’s too close to the ropes, before regaining the advantage with some headscissors. Thatcher fights free with a heel hook to break the headscissors, as Gulak tried to force Thatcher’s shoulders to the mat from a knuckle-lock. Thatcher flips over Gulak in the knuckle-lock, then strikes Gulak with some mounted strikes and then goes back to a heel hook.
From a hammerlock, Thatcher throws Gulak with a suplex, but he keeps hold of the hammerlock as Gulak eventually made the ropes. Thatcher goes back in with a chinlock, but Gulak fights free and drops Thatcher with some dropkicks that send him to the floor, with Gulak following through with a tope through the bottom ropes.
Thatcher’s forced to let go of an armbar on Gulak in the ropes on two separate occasions, and then tosses Gulak into the ringpost. Thatcher breaks the count so he can keep beating on Gulak outside, but Gulak tries with some chops that stoic Tim doesn’t respond to, at least facially.
Back in the ring, Gulak takes some forearms and knees in the corner before the crowd pops as he fires back with forearms, only for an armwhip to get Thatcher a one-count. Another arm bar from Thatcher’s broken, as he sends Gulak into the corner for an uppercut. Gulak pulls up Thatcher, then gets a near-fall from a Saito suplex as the crowd almost gets interested in this after being bored to sleep by the champion.
Gulak again has to block a crossface, then lands a backbreaker for a two-count. A screwy piledriver sends Thatcher down, but he comes back with some shots as Gulak lands up on the apron. Thatcher tries for an armbar in the ropes, but instead sets up for a gutwrench superplex, and gets a two-count from it.
Gulak fires back with more shots, which finally drop Thatcher, and he leaves himself open for some shots from above, and then a Dragon sleeper as the crowd finally wakes up. Thatcher gets the rope break as the crowd boos. On their feet, the pair trade more shots, before a Gulak backfist is countered with a series of headbutts from Thatcher.
After kicking out at one, Gulak hulks up… and the two collide with headbutts like they were in New Japan, before another headbutt from Thatcher drops Gulak for the win. That was horrifying. Technically fine, but these guys had their match and didn’t waver from it despite the crowd having given on. Sorry Timothy, but you’re earning a place on those “most over-rated” ballots with performances like this. **
After the match, Gulak got a microphone and followed through with his promise by giving Thatcher his title belt back… but Timothy ended up booting him in the face and locking him in a rear naked choke before putting on another mean face. Tracy Williams comes out to break it up, but DUSTIN, Drew Galloway and EC3 come out to beat them up.
Drew Galloway demands to talk to Joey Styles, since he’s a “hot free agent”. Looks like Galloway wants a mouthpiece, but before Styles can respond, the other half of our main event rushes the ring. Joey doesn’t give his answer, and instead hides behind the EVOLVE banner.
Drew Galloway, EC3 & DUSTIN vs. Fred Yehi & TJ Perkins
Well, technically a six-man tag, but Tracy Williams went to the back after getting injured by the heels, and this turns into a no-DQ match. Perkins and Yehi jump the heels, with a senton from Yehi at the bell, as Perkins and DUSTIN fight up the aisleway.
Yehi headbutts EC3 until Galloway breaks it up, and Yehi ends up being dumped across the barricades. EC3 tries to grab a chair from the crowd, whilst Galloway dumps Perkins with a powerbomb in the ring for a two-count. Galloway stomps on Perkins’ hands in the ring, but Perkins lands a missile dropkick from the corner. EC3 and Galloway tackle Perkins to the canvas, before he’s thrown to the outside.
Yehi gets chopped by Galloway by the ring apron, and all of a sudden, Ethan Page comes out to even up the numbers in this no DQ affair. Galloway and EC3 try to go after Page, but he takes them out on the floor with a tope, and a six men continue the fight around the ring.
Finally Galloway’s taken into the ring by Page, who lands the RK-Ego through the ropes for a two-count, but a flapjack from EC3 dumps Yehi to the mat. An Angle slam from EC3 drops Yehi, before he catches a missile dropkick from Perkins… and this has completely fallen apart.
A leaping tornado DDT out of the corner sees Perkins take down DUSTIN, as EC3 tries for the One Percenter, only for Yehi to counter it with a Koji Clutch. Galloway breaks it up with a steel chair to the throat of Yehi. Page drop toe holds Galloway into the chair, only to be shoved into the chair from the RK-Ego, as a double arm DDT gets Galloway a near-fal.
Galloway chops away Perkins, before tossing him into the ropes. Perkins dumps Galloway to the floor, before meeting him with a slingshot plancha, as DUSTIN goes airbone with a tope con hilo. Back inside, DUSTIN gets sent into the middle rope as a springboard dropkick from Perkins sends him back inside, only for Galloway to throw a title belt at Perkins on the top rope.
The referee screwed up the count as Perkins took the Awful Waffle, but a piledriver on the tag title belt from DUSTIN was enough to end this abomination. The after-effects of the Thatcher/Gulak match meant that this crowd didn’t have any time to get themselves fired up for the main event. Totally skippable. **¼
Cody Rhodes came out after the match and took down Galloway with a Disaster Kick. Joey Styles followed next, and responded to the offer from earlier in the show. Styles ripped into the heels with some comments that’d be eaten up by the internet, including a cease and desist reference to Chuck Taylor, and two anti-TNA lines. Styles books some matches for EVOLVE’s September 11 show, with Gargano and Rhodes taking on Galloway and Chris Hero.
Cody took the microphone and babyfaced himself to the crowd by saying that “I was born a wrestler and I’ll die a wrestler”.
Sabre/Alexander and Riddle/End were a sight to behold – and will be even better when the video doesn’t stutter every ten seconds, but my word, this show died after the Rhodes/Hero match. I guess that’s what happens when a performer, and to an extent, a promotion, sticks with a style of wrestling that was flavour of the month, and now is no longer palatable. Thanks Timothy!