Yes, it’s THAT show. We’re going back to November for EVOLVE’s debut on FloSlam – and the show that ended a former ECW star’s career with the group.
The show emanate live from La Boom in Queens, New York… and we’ve actually not got a tonne of filler coming first! Joey Styles and Lenny Leonard open the show from the ring, before throwing to our first match…
Matt Riddle vs. DUSTIN
I didn’t notice on the last EVOLVE show I watched, but my God Riddle’s got such a butchered version of Regulate here. DUSTIN (aka Chuck Taylor) is one half of the company’s tag champions here, but he’s without Drew Galloway… despite what that nameplate says.
Riddle starts with a waistlock takedown as he instantly goes for a cross armbreaker, but DUSTIN wisely grabs the ropes early on, before doing the same to block a Kimura as DUSTIN is getting schooled. Riddle blasts some knees into a cornered DUSTIN, who had little answer for Riddle’s offence… and just as I typed that, he hung Riddle on the top rope.
A missile dropkick gets DUSTIN into the game, before the match descended into a striking battle which DUSTIN won out courtesy of some cheating. They go back to strikes as Riddle chops DUSTIN into the corner, before countering a piledriver into some rolling gutwrench suplexes. An exploder dumps DUSTIN onto the mat, ready for a back senton for a near-fall.
DUSTIN hits back with a DDT for a two-count, before landing another two of them for another near-fall. A powerbomb gets DUSTIN another two, as he tried to follow up with some kicks… which Riddle slaps away with ease. Riddle drops DUSTIN with the Bro to Sleep, then lands a Fisherman brainbuster for the win. Not a blowaway match, but a fine way to start the EVOLVE-on-FloSlam era. ***¼
During the first match, Joey Styles was already starting to grate with his ECW-esque “that’s right, I said it” shock-value comments and the ironic plugs of FloSlam, which were never going to be a fit with the EVOLVE product. By the end of that first match, we too were wondering why “Gabe brings (him) to these shows…”
Jason Kincaid vs. Fred Yehi
This was Kincaid’s third appearance in EVOLVE, after signing for them… he impressed me big-time in the ROH Top Prospect Tournament, but of course, they didn’t sign him, so now he’s with the WWN crew of promotions.
We get a fast-paced start as Yehi took the advantage early on, only for a headlock takedown to be nullified as Kincaid walked on his hands away from it. Kincaid then meditates and moves away from some stomps from Yehi, who then was dropped with a cartwheel powerslam and a diving blockbuster off the ropes.
Kincaid misses a forearm and Yehi takes over from there with a German suplex, before landing some forearms in the corner and then a stomp to the foot. A shotgun dropkick knocks Kincaid into the corner, but he ducks a discus punch before Yehi again goes down to punch the foot… which is a rather unorthodox tactic. Despite that, Kincaid tries to mount some kick-based offense, before utilising a baseball slide to trip Yehi… who recovers with a flip-over double stomp onto the apron. Kincaid no-sells and drops Yehi with a sunset flip into a guard wall outside the ring, before launching into a Coast-to-Coast dropkick to knock Yehi back into that wall.
Another double stomp from the ringpost gets Kincaid a two-count, but Yehi hits back with a spinning Air Raid Crash for another two-count. From there, Kincaid escapes a Gory Bomb, but ends up falling into the Koji Clutch for the submission. Some impressive stuff from both guys – with Yehi getting the important W as his stock in EVOLVE continues to rise. ***
Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin was meant to be next, but after Dickinson cut a promo expressing his anger at Allin getting a WWN contract after six months – rather than Dickinson – this was turned into a tag outing. Tony Nese came out to partner Allin,
Jaka & Chris Dickinson vs. Darby Allin & Tony Nese
Dickinson starts by going for a Burning Hammer on Allin, who flips out of the move as he’s left one-on-two in the early going. Unfortunately, a lot of this was overshadowed as Joey Styles wanted to make jokes towards gym-rats.
Jaka and Dickinson worked over Allin in the corner, before a stiff chop knocked the youngster down for a near-fall. A leaping headbutt from Jaka knocks Allin down for a near-fall as Nese makes a save, before a crucifix powerbomb by Dickinson is countered with a ‘rana… and finally Allin makes the tag out!
Nese clears house with clotheslines before dropping Dickinson with a spinning heel kick for a near-fall. A Matrix-style evasion helps Nese avoid a double clothesline, and ended up setting up Jaka to give Dickinson a stunner by way of a Nese leg-sweep. Is it me, or is the “accidental you-give-your-partner-a-move” spot slowly becoming the tag match’s version of an apron bump?
A tope from Nese takes out Jaka and Dickinson, before Allin sets up for a trademark dive of his own – except he slipped at two separate attempts to hit a corkscrew moonsault to the floor, as he ended up in the front row. This is the kind of slip-up that easily gets pointed to by detractors of Allin’s style of wrestling…
Nese returns to the ring with Dickinson, and he calls for a 450 Splash… but Allin tags himself in, which leads to an argument between the two, and a release Dragon suplex from Dickinson. That was the end as a dazed Allin fell to the Total Elimination as Jaka scored the win. A basic match that was highlighted by a botched dive, unfortunately. **
Ethan Page vs. Zack Sabre Jr
Before the match could get going, Page needed some help in getting a working microphone as he tried to calm down Sabre following an attack from Page and his Gatekeepers on the last EVOLVE show.
Sabre starts with a drop toe-hold and he looks to torture Page with his array of submission holds, including an STF and that torquing wristlock that he likes to use. A version of an Anaconda Vice leads to another armbar, this time with Page’s head caught in headscissors, before Sabre continued his offence with an Octopus hold in the ropes. I’m not going to Wikipedia for the name Zack gives it just yet…
Sabre gets knocked to the outside after releasing the hold, with Page targetting Sabre’s left arm as he sends it into the guard rails, then the ring post. From there, Page takes over in the ring as he continued to wear down on Sabre with an armbar, before a Pele kick from Sabre ended that offence. Page counters a guillotine by ramming Sabre into the corner, but again Zack hits back with a PK for a near-fall.
Page throws Sabre off of a tornado DDT, before a uranage’s caught and turned into a triangle armbar. This is where Joey Styles threw in some more annoying FloSlam references, before Page freed himself and dumped Sabre with a tiltawhirl into a facebuster. A trapped-arm powerbomb gets Page a near-fall, but Sabre counters an attempt from Page to hit the RK-Ego… and gets a short-lived armbar.
Sabre finally gets his Octopus hold on Page – or as he calls it, annoyingly, Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness – but Page works free and gets the shock win with a trapped-arm uranage (or as he calls it, the Spinning Dwayne)! A great match, with a rather abrupt finish, but Page getting the win without any interference should boost him up towards the top of the EVOLVE card. ***½
Page cut a post-match promo to issue a challenge to Cody (Rhodes) at EVOLVE 74 – and that seemed to turn “All Ego” all babyface.
Tracy Williams vs. Chris Hero
This came a day after Hero had wrestled against Katsuyori Shibata for Rev Pro in England… so yeah, Hero’s gotten some air miles and some jet lag for this one!
Williams jumps Hero at the bell with a German suplex, then a Saito suplex for an early two-count as “Hot Sauce” tried to end this early. From there, it descended into a striking battle as Hero and Williams traded forearms and chops, before Williams ended a brief flurry with a Dragon screw in the ropes, then a tope suicida to Hero on the floor.
A big splash from Williams lands a little short as Hero grabs a cravat on impact, then threw him overhead with a cravat suplex as a discus boot knocked Williams down. On the outside, Hero waffles Williams with a forearm against the crowd barriers, before he broke the crowd barriers with a big boot through a seated “Hot Sauce”.
In the ring, Hero uses Williams’ t-shirt to chop him, before another forearm earns him another two-count. Williams makes a comeback with a missile dropkick and a lariat in the corner, before Hero just walks away and punches Williams… who instantly hits back with a brainbuster for another near-fall.
Hero blocks an Irish whip out of the corner for a while, but Williams eventually succeeds as he followed in with a superplex and a crossface, holding on until Hero eventually rolled into the ropes. A series of lariats rocks Hero, but doesn’t send him down… and eventually Hero replies with a rolling elbow and the running back senton for a two-count. Williams takes a headbutt but surprises Hero with a backslide for a near-fall, before a sunset flip is rolled through and turned into a Styles Clash Piledriver… but again, Williams kicks out!
After the kick-out, Hero rocks Williams with another forearm, but Williams fired back with chops and forearms of his own, before they then traded big boots. A lariat takes down Hero for just a count of one, so Williams hits a second, and this time gets a two-count. From the kick-out, Williams catches Hero in the crossface, and there’s your submission. A fantastic match between many folk’s pick for wrestler of 2016, and a guy who’s really flown under the radar. ****¼
The show gets an edit here as the infamous Joey Styles segment happened here live. It’s nearly two months since it happened, so we’ll just say this: in any job, if you ignore your boss, you get reprimanded. Simple as that.
Squared Circle of Survival Match for EVOLVE Championship: Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher (c)
The “Squared Circle of Survival” was effectively a no-rope match. Thatcher received a pretty negative reaction, and it’s clear that this fanbase doesn’t want to see Tim as champion anymore.
A dropkick from Gulak almost takes Thatcher out of the ring at the bell, as both men tease throwing the other from the raised part of the ring. Thatcher tries a side salto suplex to throw Thatcher out of the ring, as we got a reference to that deleted Joey Styles incident, before a Fujiwara armbar takes down the challenger in the opening minutes.
Gulak fires back with a Dragon sleeper, but Thatcher rolls out of the hold and eventually tries for a single-leg crab. That hold’s relinquished as Gulak pushes free and sends Thatcher to the outside, before giving onto him with a forearm from the… I guess the apron! For some reason, Thatcher tries to get into it with a fan after taking a chop from Gulak, but that’s quickly nullified as Gulak rolls into the ring and hits an elbow suicida.
Gulak throws a turnbuckle pad at Thatcher, before an attempted cross body is turned into an attempt at a lawn dart into the post. They return to the ring as Gulak hits a gutwrench suplex for just a count of one, as Joey Styles makes his second Bloodsport reference of the night. An armbar attempt from Thatcher ended when Gulak pushed the champion, who took a nasty spill out of the ring.
Thatcher blocks a package piledriver as Gulak changed his focus to a series of strikes before using a modified abdominal stretch on the champion, before slapping Thatcher’s rear end en-route to a gutwrench suplex. After standing up, Thatcher tries for a hammerlock, but Gulak switches it into a German suplex that sent the champion rolling to the floor after impact. From there, Gulak decides to turn things up a notch, by dismantling the ring canvas, then uses the bungee cords to punch Thatcher down on the floor… with the hook of one of those cords literally being used to pull away at Thatcher’s mouth. Good Lord, that’s disturbing.
After firing back with some strikes, Thatcher throws Gulak into the ringpost, before finishing off Gulak’s dismantling job. One of the bungee cords is wrapped around Gulak’s wrist as Thatcher eventually ties his challenger to the ringpost, with some added help from Stokely Hathaway at ringside. With Gulak helpless, Thatcher pounds away with some forearms, before Thatcher and Hathaway roll away the ring canvas and the padding, leaving the planks of the ring exposed.
This is a great match to watch if you like to see how a wrestling ring is really constructed!
With the canvas cover and padding on the floor, Gulak and Thatcher return to wrestle on the boards… and Gulak takes the first bump, courtesy of a body slam on the wood for just a count of one. A choke sleeper from Thatcher is quickly powered out of, but Thatcher cinches it in to take Gulak back to the mat. Gulak finally powers out and dumps Thatcher with a back suplex on the wood, before he does his best BUSHI impression, as Thatcher gets choked with the remnants of Gulak’s own t-shirt.
That choke’s turned into a slow-mo reverse slam for a near-fall, but Thatcher goes back to the choke sleeper… a hole which is eventually broken as Gulak crawled out of the ring, sending both men to the floor. Gulak gets to his feet first and pulls away the boards, showing just the steel skeleton of the ring.
Both men try to dump the other on the beam, but it’s Thatcher who throws Gulak in the space between the steels, and then traps him between some boards before locking in another choke sleeper. Gulak breaks it up with a stunner from the floor, before rising from under the ring as both men again resume the strikes from earlier. A headbutt and a backfist from Gulak rocks Thatcher, and sends him into the gap in the ring, which leaves him wide open for a Dragon Sleeper.
Thatcher manages to drag Gulak down with him to free himself, then hits back with a backdrop driver on the wooden boards for another two-count. More strikes lead to Thatcher trying for a German suplex, but its reversed as Gulak throws Thatcher onto a loose board for a two-count. The champion replies with some stiff headbutts, before a gutwrench suplex gets another two-count. Another backdrop driver gets another two, before Gulak suplexes Thatcher into the hole in the ring!
Gulak removes some more of the boards to get to Thatcher, before the champion hits some more headbutts to block a suplex from the ground up. The end finally comes when Thatcher hits a back suplex for the pin – a flat ending, but that was one hell of a war: a war that actually ruled Thatcher out for several weeks with concussion. ***¼
After the match, the rest of Catch Point joined Gulak in the ring. Gulak took the mic and declared the group a failure since they’d not managed to win the EVOLVE title. Drew Galloway came out with DUSTIN to challenge Matt Riddle, calling Riddle a disgraced UFC fighter. Galloway’s looking to save EVOLVE, and he sees the next step in that as exterminating Matt Riddle.
Riddle just walked out after telling Galloway to chill… which sent the Scotsman into a rage as the show came to an end.
What Worked: The Squared Circle of Survival stipulation – as this hadn’t been done to death, it was a unique setting that was certainly memorable. It was unlike any other match I’ve ever seen, with only WWE’s debut of the Nexus coming close to the imagery of this.
What Didn’t: Joey Styles. Even with his faux-pas edited off, this was not a career highlight for the ECW alum. Hokey, annoying commentary, and somehow being able to drag this show down is not. I guess we can also stick Darby Allin’s dive here for the hell of it.
Thumbs: Up! Just remember to ignore one of the two commentators, and you’ll be treated with two hours of bloody fantastic wrestling.