It’s not very often that we get the chance to watch EVOLVE – now they’ve made the move to FloSlam, that’s likely going to change.
Ah, the wonders of a web player that doesn’t crash my PC! We’re probably not going to go full on “backfill” (or should that be BackFlo?) with reviews of old EVOLVE shows yet, but to say the least this should make the WrestleMania weekend shows slightly more palatable for my wallet!
We’re going to start our FloSlam with EVOLVE 74 from earlier this month in Queens, New York. The show featured a main event between Dick Togo and Chris Hero – Dick’s first match in the USA in five years! For some reason, the replay doesn’t start with the live show, and we’ve got over fifty minutes of videos building up the show before we entered “we are live!” territory. There’s also a warning that our main event’s disrupted because of technical issues, so that’ll be on a separate video, Come on guys, this is a show that’s been up for over a fortnight – surely you could have edited out the 50 minutes and edited in the match in that time??
We’ve got Lenny Leonard as your host, with ring announcer Joanne Rose on hand also. Perhaps one day we’ll go back to that show which got some headlines for EVOLVE (for the wrong reasons)…
Jaka vs. Drew Gulak
Jaka has been around for a while, wrestling for the likes of Beyond, CHIKARA and the CHIKARA-esque promotions that existed during the latter’s hiatus. He’s got a big test here against WWE-signee Drew Gulak… who sadly, isn’t using his sweet 80s-inspired WWE theme, but instead, a muzak-version of Taylor Dane’s “Tell It To My Heart”.
Gulak and Jaka start off with some amateur-style wrestling that sent Jaka scurrying to the floor for cover. Back in the ring, Jaka’s having to fight out of a wristlock as my feed goes blocky and glitchy (on a high-speed connection too, which worries me).
The feed recovers as Jaka grabs a headlock and rolled with Gulak, who eventually hit Jaka low to mount a comeback, ending with an avalanche and a suplex for a near-fall. Another headlock takedown sees Gulak wrestle Jaka’s shoulder down for a series of two-counts, before again flipping Jaka down with another headlock takedown. Jaka mounts a comeback with some stomps in the corner, then with a suplex for just a count of one.
Gulak takes a back body drop then a series of strikes to the back, but doesn’t even get a one-count from it, as Jaka tries to take over with an arm stretch, only for Gulak to work free and toss Jaka to the outside. A tope suicida breaks the crowd railing, sending Jaka into the front row.
They returned to the ring as Gulak went airborne with a lariat off the top for a two-count, and that seemed to wake Jaka up as he took Gulak into the corner with some stiff chops, then almost a Jushin Liger-like Koppo kick for another two-count. Gulak countered a waistlock with a neckbreaker for barely a two-count, then followed with a grounded Dragon sleeper that nearly saw Drew pin himself, but in the end Jaka was able to reach out and grab the middle rope to free himself.
Jaka rolls onto the apron and strikes at Gulak from there, before teasing a superplex to the floor, but Gulak countered it and hit a butterfly superplex instead. Gulak gets up first and tries for an ankle lock, but Jaka fights out and hits a spinning heel kick, then a choke bomb for a near-fall. Another leg lariat from Jaka is blocked, before Gulak gets a near-fall from almost a Michinoku Driver. They trade paintbrush-like slaps back and forth, before Jaka swings and missed, which leads to him getting caught in the Dragon sleeper as the referee waved it off. A good opener, with nice back-and-forth action – rather than a one-sided outing for a veteran against a newcomer to the promotion. ***
After the match, Larry Dallas entered the ring with a microphone. Apparently this is his return, and apparently he’s an interviewer now? The sound was badly out of sync here. Dallas asked Gulak if Catch Point was dead, after Drew had previously declared it a failure. Gulak reiterated his prior comment, and said that he’s moving onto the next chapter of his career: the WWN title.
Tracey Williams comes out – another member of Catch Point – to challenge Gulak’s “failure” comment. Larry Dallas cuts off the interview as Williams said that Gulak couldn’t decide to “close” Catch Point, and instead told Williams that he was in Gulak’s shadow – further building up their match the next day. Williams noted how after he and Gulak lost the tag titles, he won them back with Fred Yehi because Gulak was apparently wallowing in defeat. Gulak then mockingly shoved Williams in the face and walked away, before eyeballing the defeated Jaka who was still in the aisle, as the segment came to an awkward end.
Chris Dickinson vs. DUSTIN
DUSTIN is better known elsewhere as Chuck Taylor, whilst Dickinson is another veteran of the North East indy scene.
At the start of this match, Lenny Leonard made reference to how the referee here was given a try-out after impressing in a seminar. Given that the same weekend, EVOLVE were somehow having trouble getting guys to attend a seminar with Dick Togo, you can’t help but wonder if that was meant to be a shot at trainees who don’t go to those things?
Dickinson started by sending DUSTIN rolling to the outside after a release German suplex, before returning to the ring to get choked with a boot. A big boot and a flying rana gets Dickinson a near-fall, but DUSTIN turns the tables with a missile dropkick as he tries to kick away at a seated Dickinson, before going back to the eye rake.
DUSTIN takes a slap and scurries into the corner as the much larger Dickinson tried to regain the advantage, only for DUSTIN to catch him in a Million Dollar Dream… a hold that Dickinson slipped out of and countered with a back suplex. A series of avalanche clotheslines in the corner looked to have weakened DUSTIN, who then took a series of knee strikes before slipping out of a Fireman’s carry and dropping Dickinson with Sole Food (Gail Kim’s Eat De-Feet).
Nevertheless, Dickinson hit back immediately with a scoop slam for a near-fall, but DUSTIN fish-hooks his opponent and lands a trio of DDTs for a near-fall. DUSTIN tries to end it with another cobra clutch, but Dickinson fights out and kicks away at DUSTIN, who tries to fight back, before an enziguiri and a Falcon arrow gets Dickinson a two-count. A death valley bomb gets another near-fall for Dickinson, who then sets up for a superplex, but DUSTIN climbed over and drops Dickinson with an Awful Waffle (back suplex into a piledriver) out of the corner for the win. A good outing again from these two, keeping it simple and saving the big stuff for when it mattered. ***¼
Darby Allin vs. Brian Cage
Billed as David vs. Goliath, Allin has developed a bit of a reputation – and a fanbase – for taking insane bumps. Cage is the same guy from Lucha Underground, and his match started on the back foot as Allin flew into the aisle with a cross body off the top rope.
Allin followed up with a Nestea plunge off the turnbuckles to Cage on the floor, before pulling off as springboard armdrag… only to leap into the arms of Cage, who turned his dive into a powerslam. Cage took over for a spell, popping up Allin into a flapjack then kicking him, and hitting a pair of slow-mo tiltawhirl backbreakers – one for each knee.
Allin gets ragdolled into a German suplex for a near-fall, despite Allin folding in two. Cage hits a high belly-to-back suplex and follows with a standing moonsault for a near-fall as the onslaught continued. Cage gets a near-fall from his GMSI – pumphandle sit-out facebuster – but then misses a corner charge that lets Allin get back into things… only to be shoved off the top rope and into the crowd railings.
Cage brings Allin back in with a deadlift superplex from the apron, before he spends too much time posing with Allin – using him as a weight for some reps – and gets caught in a crucifix bomb for a near-fall. A discus lariat knocks Allin down, who then takes a pair of powerbombs and an F5, but instead of making the cover, he instructs some fans to move away, so he can press slam Allin from the ring and onto the stage… and that’s how this one-sided squash ended, when Allin tried to dive back to the ring to beat the 20 count, but he fell short of the ring and took the count-out.
An impressive showcase for Cage’s strength, and Allin’s human-crash-test-dummy abilities, but apart from that, there wasn’t much meat on these bones. **
Ethan Page and his Gatekeeper came out after this, cutting a promo to say that “that was a lesson to anybody on this roster”. Page paid off Cage for his destruction of Allin, and started to talk his upcoming match with Cody. Yep, no last names can be mentioned here. Page mentions that Cody’s living out his fantasies as a wrestler, and referred to Cody’s New Japan vignette as “the American Nightmare”.
Page’s promo seemed to be aimed straight to get reactions from those who aren’t fans of Cody’s indy career, calling him a “waste of money”… and our match is on now!
Ethan Page vs. Cody
Depending on who you speak to, both of these guys could be in the same bucket re: over-hyping and under-delivering. Cody’s wearing a Bullet Club t-shirt around his backside, and is throwing streamers back at the crowd… so if he’s a heel, and Ethan Page is a heel, who do we cheer? Well, it seems the crowd were backing Cody as a babyface, but a sizable number also chanted “Ego” for Page too.
Cody does a back roll for some reason, then jumps to the floor to “too sweet” a fan as Ethan winds up for a back roll… and flips off Cody in the process. When the match gets going, Cody hauls up Ethan for a hanging vertical suplex, before Page retaliates with one of his own, turning it into a Jackhammer on the way down. Cody gets into it with a fan, who helps provide a distraction, then hold up Cody as Page takes some cheap shots… before flipping off said fan who’d looked to have spent some money at the merch table earlier that night. Shame! A step-up dive sees Cody get nothing but the guard railings, allowing Ethan to hit a butterfly backbreaker on the floor, complete with more Bullet Club mocking.
Page whips Cody chest-first into the turnbuckles, before Cody fought back with some strikes, only to run into a big boot. Cody tried to take Page off the top, but Ethan jumped over him, before Cody sprung off the ropes with a Disaster Kick. More back-and-forth strikes ended as Cody strung together a combination, before going for a Cross Rhodes, with Page blocking and hitting a reverse tiltawhirl for a near-fall.
A reverse DDT sees Cody get a two-count, before he goes to flip off the same fan Ethan did earlier… which left Cody distracted for the RK-Ego. Cody replied with an STO into the middle turnbuckle, then a moonsault that barely grazed Ethan as Cody seemed to hurt his knee on the way down. After getting the near-fall there, Cody went back up top, but was caught by Page, who hit a slam off the middle rope for another near-fall as Cody looked to make a comeback.
That “comeback” saw Cody back up Page into the referee, before accidentally knocking him out with a punch, then hiptossing Page into him. By that point, you’d question when it was no longer accidental… From there, Cody went to hit the Cross Rhodes, but things got a little spotty: the Gatekeeper distracted Cody, who then got attacked by Brian Cage’s discus lariat, as Darby Allin returned to take out Cage.
Allin and Cody high-fived each other, only for Cody to throw him to the outside, then fall into a uranage by Page… but there was still no referee as the crowd chanted “ten” from that visual pin. Page tried to shake the referee back to life, but turned back around into a low blow, then a Cross Rhodes as the referee woke up to count the pin. Well, this was as WWE style as you’ll get here, and I still don’t get why Cody had to play Bullet Club cool heel here. Decent, but that’s about it… with the run-ins at the end not helping Cody shed off those shackles of the “he can only do WWE style” criticisms. ***
Page had a go at the Gatekeeper after the match for not blocking Darby Allin… but to be fair, the bulk of the damage had been done by Cody!
Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle
If this isn’t great, I’m shutting the site down This was Cobb’s debut for EVOLVE, and they started with ground wrestling as Cobb thwarted some of Riddle’s takedown attempts. Cobb finally got a waistlock, but Riddle countered out and looked to grab a rear naked choke, only for Cobb to work free as both men squared off again.
Finally, Riddle scored a waistlock takedown on Cobb, who replied by grabbing a waistlock and ragdolling a gobsmacked Riddle into the ropes. Riddle tried to get an armbar, but he rolled Cobb into the ropes as both men eased towards some kind of advantage, before Riddle started to utilise a striking game, blasting a knee into Cobb on the mat.
A series of kicks sends Cobb into the corner, before a leaping double knee strike led to an Exploder suplex and a pair of leaping back sentons for a near-fall. Cobb finally catches a kick and captures Riddle into a T-bone suplex, then throws him again with a pumphandle fallaway slam for a two-count. Riddle sinks to the mat after getting headbutted, but he’s dragged back up for a snap suplex as Cobb tried to neutralise any chance of offence with a tight waistlock.
Cobb continued to ragdoll Riddle with a gutwrench suplex, but Riddle comes back with a Bro to Sleep and a tombstone piledriver for a near-fall, before pounding the back of Cobb’s head with punches to set-up for the Bro-mission. Riddle struggled though, and Cobb rolls free, before catching a crossbody from Riddle and countering into a Tour of the Islands for the win. Well, this site’s safe! I liked how it was kept slow-paced and deliberate, but the only thing I didn’t like was how the feed kept pixelling and stuttering (and no, it’s not my internet!) ****¼
Stokeley Hathaway came out as Jeff Cobb was basking in his victory. Hathaway was wearing the EVOLVE title – since the champion, Timothy Thatcher, was out with concussion – and offered Cobb a place in his Dream Team. Cobb turns down Stokeley, saying that the only deal he wants, is for a shot at the EVOLVE title… interesting!
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Ricochet & Peter Kaasa vs. Catch Point (Tracey Williams & Fred Yehi) (c)
Last time I saw Kaasa in EVOLVE, he was far from impressive. Good news, he’s still resembling an upper-class 1990s WWF jobber, complete with mullet. In 2016!
Williams and Kaasa start out with a basic sequence that saw Kaasa jack-knife Williams without being able to get as much as a count of one. Kaasa’s kept grounded with a toe hold, but he escapes then finds a leapfrog caught and turned into a roll-up as Williams retained the advantage. Kaasa clotheslines himself and Williams to the outside, before skinning the cat to bring himself back in to tag Ricochet, whilst Fred Yehi came in for the champions. Yehi and Ricochet worked another technical sequence, as Yehi worked an amateur style, forcing Ricochet down with waistlock takedowns as he collected pinfall attempts. Neither man seemed to be able to get an advantage, as headscissors and stomps were blocked, until Ricochet took down Yehi with a dropkick.
Kaasa returns and takes down Yehi with a tiltawhirl slam, then gets a two-count out of a standing moonsault, before bringing in Ricochet for a springboard somersault senton off the ropes for just a count of one. Ricochet tied up Yehi and smashed his head off the underside of a turnbuckle as the challengers looked to keep Yehi away from a tag, only for Yehi to take down Kaasa with a discus lariat. Williams was able to tag in as he went back to work on Kaasa, landing another discus lariat for a near-fall as the champions took over once more.
Yehi traps Kaasa with a stump pulled, then rolled him back into a leglock, eventually sending Kaasa into the ropes for a clean break. Kaasa almost Sabu’d himself in taking a flapjack as Williams tied him up in an Indian deathlock that Ricochet tried to break up with a running kick… but Williams just went to a butterfly lock instead. Another tag brings in Yehi, who lands a single underhook suplex for a one-count, before Kaasa surprised Yehi with a powerslam. Ricochet then tagged in and went to work on the champions, with a spot that saw Yehi DDT Williams as he took a neckbreaker at the same time, before almost snatching a win with a Regalplex.
Ricochet used Kaasa as a battering ram, but failed as Yehi posted Kaasa and went to work on Ricochet, who took a backbreaker and a shotgun dropkick for a near-fall. Again, Ricochet tried to fight off the champions, and managed to knock down Williams with a dropkick before tagging Kaasa back in, who went straight to Williams with forearms. Williams ate a series of kicks and knees, before Kaasa got a near-fall out of a Blue Thunder bomb, then went into Williams with some mounted punches in the corner.
The pair traded more forearms back and forth, before Ricochet threw himself in to drop Williams with an Ace crusher, then with a standing shooting star press before Kaasa’s standing corkscrew splash got a near-fall. Williams fought back, but had to roll away from a Kaasa elbow drop, before Yehi came back with some German suplexes… but Ricochet again came in and attacked the opposition for the hell of it. Isn’t that worthy of a DQ by now??
Ricochet was dropped with a forearm, before Kaasa took down Williams… who then pulled off a running brainbuster before he was caught by a Ricochet backbreaker. Still, Ricochet hadn’t left the ring, and we ended our parade of moves as Kaasa landed a powerbomb on Williams to leave all four men on the mat. More back and forth shots from Kaasa and Yehi ended with a crossbody from Yehi took both men to the outside, leaving Williams to take a 619 in the corner from Ricochet.
Ricochet then followed up with a Dragon suplex after slingshotting himself back in. Both men tagged in, and out of nowhere Fred Yehi grabbed a guillotine choke onto Kaasa, who powered out and into a Northern Lights suplex, before rolling through into a brainbuster as Ricochet again jumped in with a shooting star press off the top. That’s a DQ by now, right?
Tracey Williams broke up the count and dumped Kaasa with a backdrop driver, before Ricochet was caught with a top rope DDT onto the turnbuckle and then a lariat. Williams then tagged in and tripped Kaasa down into a crossface, but it was easily rolled out of, as Kaasa hoisted up Williams for an Angle Slam. The Kaasa Tornado then followed – a shooting star press – but he completely missed and fell into a crossface as Yehi neutralised Ricochet for long enough to force a submission. Thank God.
This just felt like it never ended, and not in a good way. I couldn’t buy into the random team of Kaasa and Ricochet as a threat, and this was one of those matches that reached a crescendo with the Regalplex… and just kept going. And going. I’d mentally tuned out long before the end – and that’s saying something! **½
When I wrote this (on December 22), FloSlam still hadn’t fixed the video issues that the live stream experienced; so in watching this, we had a video with 50 minutes of filler before any wrestling, and a main event that cut-out because of the technical issues. But hey, they were able to “save” the main event and put it in a separate file… it’s just merging the two and cleaning out the pre-show stuff is too much, eh?
Dick Togo vs. Chris Hero
We started with Togo grabbing a headlock, before Hero nonchalantly stood up and dumped him onto the top turnbuckle. That was quite the visual…
After a knuckle lock, Hero wore down Togo into a cravat, before Togo slipped out and grabbed a headlock, then a wristlock as Hero switched things around to work over Togo’s heel. A vicious ankle hold tore apart Togo’s foot, but he countered out into an armbar… and then tried for a shoulder tackle that Hero just laughed off. Instead, Togo demanded that Hero go for a shoulder tackle, but his attempt at a bicycle kick cheapshot was caught as Togo took over.
A snapmare led to a missed slingshot senton from Togo, who ran into a big boot and a back senton from Hero, which led to a crowd that chanted “we want Dick”. Context, folks! They spilled outside where Hero waffled Togo with a right hand, then with a chop by the ring, but Togo fired back… and walked into a right hand from Hero.
Togo took some more forearms by the stage as the referee almost reached his 20 count, so Hero and Togo finally returned to the ring. Hero pulled up Togo just to knock him down with another right hand for a near-fall as Hero continued to wear away on the Japanese veteran, but only scored a near-fall from an incredibly lackadaisical lateral press.
After sweeping Togo’s legs, Hero went for another back senton, only for Togo to get his knees up and hit back with an attempted suplex… but Hero fought out and slapped hm before Togo finally landed that suplex. He then blocked a ripcord elbow and picked up a near-fall with a roll-up on Hero before switching it into a crossface, but Hero crawled to the ropes to break up Togo’s submission.
Togo followed up by chasing Hero to the outside with a diving senton, then a slingshot senton back into the ring for another two-count, as he measured up Hero for a kick to the head… but Hero caught it and replied with a bicycle knee. A rolling elbow followed for a two-count, as Hero tried to end things with a piledriver, but Togo again kicked out at two!
Another elbow shot rocks Togo, then another, before Togo rolls through a tombstone into a near-fall, only to take a short piledriver… which he popped up from and landed a dropkick to take Hero down! Hero recovered to slap Togo on the top rope, then rock him with a big boot, as Hero looked to nearly kill him with a middle rope piledriver… but Togo again knocked Hero down and flew in with a tornado DDT.
Togo looked to finish off Hero with a Pedigree – how ironic – but Hero countered with a rolling elbow and a tombstone for a two-count. More kicks followed to a lifeless Togo, who fired back once more and exchanged more strikes, blocking a ripcord elbow and nailing the Pedigree for just a one-count. That won’t get you a job! Hero flips off Togo and takes a trio of superkicks to the head, before a second Pedigree and a leaping back senton off the top rope got the job done. That was superb – plenty of back and forth – and on the uninterrupted on-demand feed, this was a classic. ****
Well, that was certainly something. A good show, with only one hateful match on the card (I thought we were past the point of indy matches at this level going on for so long they ceased to be enjoyable?)… but that brings us to an argument that was first raised when WWE introduced the Network. If I’d paid for this show under the old WWN system, I’d have been harsher on it – but as part of a $20 subscription with other content and archives, it’s better value for money. As long as you didn’t “just” subscribe to FloSlam for this, then you’ll be okay.