Well, for us anyway, WrestleMania weekend got going with EVOLVE’s first show with Zack Sabre Jr as champion – and my word, this was a great way to start the weekend!
EVOLVE opens up with lasers… and Drew Galloway interrupting Lenny Leonard. He takes over the intros, cutting an impassioned promo about fans who’ve congregated in Orlando to share their love of wrestling. In the middle of this, Drew talks about a series of shows “under one banner”, as he’s standing underneath a massive FloSlam banner. Product Placement! Drew still wants to beat Matt Riddle, but right now Drew’s just throwing a fit about a Bro… who heads out with a referee, and their match is jerking the curtain! I guess Drew has another booking later?
Drew Galloway vs. Matt Riddle
Drew headbutts Riddle at the bell and lays into him with shots, but Riddle comes back with a flying forearm and an Exploder out of the corner.
They head outside for a spot of brawling, which leads to an insane slam off the ring steps as Riddle lands on the apron, before he’s dropped throat-first across the crowd barriers. Back and forth chops echoed around the building, at least until Riddle blasts Drew with a Bro to Sleep and slumps right in front of Papa Hales and family! A table comes into play, but Galloway trips Riddle on the apron to cut-off his offence, then kills a Bro with a piledriver off the apron through the table! That was insane and oh so nearly went wrong! Drew rolls Riddle back in to follow up with a Futureshock DDT and a piledriver in the ring, and that’s your lot. Short and sweet, but bloody intense! ***½
After the match, Catch Point hit the ring to protect Riddle, as Galloway left to get a chair… but he leaves as Riddle’s helped to the back.
Chris Dickinson vs. Timothy Thatcher
Joanna Rose does properly introduce Thatcher as “the current, erm, Tim Thatcher”. You know the drill here – lots of grappling, and I just watched Thatcher vs. Darrell Allen from Freedom’s Road before this, so I’m not expecting too much deviation here.
The pair exchange holds in the early going, Thatcher trying for a half crab whilst Dickinson actually gets the inverted figure four. Hey, he figured out the Allen key! They quickly move to strikes, before Dickinson goes all Jushin Liger with a pendulum swing, batting Thatcher’s head into the bottom turnbuckle.
Thatcher grabs a leg and gets an ankle lock on Dickinson, who ALWAYS seems to have the drawstrings on his gear come undone in every match, before a gutwrench suplex leads to a series of knees on “Dirty Daddy’s” ribs. A butterfly suplex gets Thatcher a near-fall, but Dickinson comes back with a back suplex that almost dumps Thatcher on his head. Timmy almost does a WALTER with a sleeperhold before slapping away the rope break, but it’s Dickinson who hits the German suplex.
After absorbing some strikes, Thatcher grabs a sleeperhold, then turns it into the bully choke for the instant tap-out. Eh, it was a Timothy Thatcher match. Not horrible, but if you’re not into him, this won’t have turned you. ***¼
Jaka vs. Jason Kincaid vs. Lio Rush
Rush was added literally just before the bell for his EVOLVE re-debut after… shall we say a forgettable stint in ROH. Lio gets thrown outside early as Kincaid targets Jaka.. but this is going to be one of those two-in, one-out three-ways it seems.
Rush slides under a clothesline then drops Kincaid with an enziguiri… but Jaka obliterates him with a clothesline then an elbow drop as the three-way stipulation almost cost young Lio. Jaka continues with a plancha to wipe out Rush and Kincaid, but Jaka keeps his sights on Kincaid with a kick into the corner, then a release Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall. Kincaid retaliates with a slingshot neckbreaker, but he’s caught by Rush who tries to suplex him to the floor. That’s blocked back-and-forth until Jaka saves Kincaid, before giving him a German suplex and bringing Rush back in the hard way in the process. Impressive strength from Jaka there!
Jaka tries for a choke bomb, but Kincaid turns it into headscissors to send him outside, where he takes a low dropkick from Rush. Lio follows up with a reverse ‘rana to Kincaid, but Jaka stops him going up top, and instead we go to a three-way spot on the top rope which looks dangerous… and ends with a double top rope ‘rana by Kincaid! The camera focuses on Jaka as we miss some near-falls, but we do get to see him land a double clothesline off the ropes.
A pair of superkicks knocks Jaka to the outside, allowing Kincaid and Rush to go at it again, at least until Lio hits Rush Hour (Spanish Fly) to Kincaid, then a tope to aka. One frog splash later to Kincaid, and Lio’s marked his return with a win. A fun outing, and a fine platform to build off of! ***½
After three matches, this FloSlam live stream is impressively holding up… hopefully that’s not jinxing it!
Black, Blonde and Neon (Facade & Michael Richard Blade) vs. The Gatekeepers
You know the drill here. Bald Gatekeeper and Not-Bald Gatekeeper are here for a squash, I’d guess. Bald clubs down Facade, but Facade comes back with a Matrix evasion and tries for a strike which doesn’t have much effect. Facade hits a rope-walk leg kick, but then eats a Truck Stop (Bossman Slam) from Bald. Blaze tags in and gets clotheslined by Not-Bald, who then follows up with a powerbomb after some kicks. Bald tags back in to hit an elbow-drop-assisted back suplex, and the Gatekeepers win this fun squash.
Ethan Page gets the microphone to introduce himself, then demands to be put in the EVOLVE title picture. Looks like Page’s match is next…
Ethan Page vs. Austin Theory
Theory’s fairly new to the WWN family, having some some stuff for FIP and Style Battle this year. He’s young, but fairly impressive for his experience level.
Theory ducks a couple of punches early as he takes the fight to Page, but Ethan catches him on the top rope with a forearm, and brings him down with an Iconoclasm. A punch takes down Theory, as does a back body drop with Page keeping the youngster down with a rear chin lock to boot. Austin hits an enziguiri to free himself, but Page quickly takes him up for another Iconoclasm… this time it’s blocked and Theory slingshots into the ring for a dropkick that leaves Page in the aisle. A tope follows, as does a running shooting star press in the ring, with Theory getting a near-fall out of it.
Eventually Page catches Theory with a clothesline from the apron, before slingshotting himself into the ring for an RK-Ego for a near-fall. Theory elbows out of, then spins out of a Spinning Dwayne, but has no answer to a series of kicks that set him up for the Tanned Sheamus. Finally the Spinning Dwayne follows, and that’s all. A basic match, but it worked well to get Theory across and keep Page strong. It did what it needed to, I guess. ***
Ethan gets the microphone again, calling Theory a “young boy” who drove all the way to Orlando only to have his big moment ruined. Page orders Theory to the outside, and Theory does as he’s told… as for some reason the camera focuses on Priscilla Kelly in the aisle. Page threatens to ruin things on the PROGRESS vs. WWN show tomorrow, but he too spots Kelly, who seems to have a thing for “All Ego”. Which confuses him.
Smoke fills part of the arena, and out comes half a dozen people dressed like medics but painted up like zombies, carrying a bodybag… the Gatekeepers attack the zombie medics, throwing one onto the other five outside the ring, before Ethan orders they throw the bodybag like the Spirit Squad used to. The bodybag’s press slammed to the outside, but the Gatekeepers drag it back into the ring.
The bodybag gets propped into the corner, and they finally open it to reveal Darby Allin! And a lead pipe! The pipe’s used to kill the Gatekeepers as Page scrambles for safety… Allin challenges Page to an anything goes match at EVOLVE 81 tomorrow, promising “as long as my heart’s beating, there’ll never be an Era of Ego”. I think that’s been accepted… I’m not going to lie, until Darby made his reveal, this was awkward and seemed to die live.
Keith Lee vs. Ricochet
Well, Keith Lee is massive and agile. We all know what Ricochet can do… this could be quite special!
Ricochet unwisely tries to score a leg takedown on Lee early on… and Keith just nonchalantly throws him into the corner. Plan B sees Ricochet try to use dropkicks, but that barely registered… unlike a massive dropkick from Lee, which sent Ricochet reeling into the corner. Lee gives Ricochet a biel throw across the ring, and that kid comes down with snow – that’s how high he was flung!
More impressive biels keep Lee well on top, but this seems to be where Ricochet comes back with a flying ‘rana off the top rope. A drop toe hold sends Lee into the corner for a 619, as a springboard uppercut sends Lee to the floor – a dangerous place, as Ricochet proved with a tope con hilo… but he’s caught and eventually has to make do with an apron superkick, then a Space Flying Tiger Drop!
Ricochet’s comeback comes to a screeching halt when he tried for a Fireman’s carry, but he avoids a scoop slam and instead flips inside out from a shoulder tackle from the monster Lee. To his credit, Ricochet avoids a powerbomb and delivers an Ace crusher, then a standing shooting star press for a near-fall, before he tries for a Benadryller again. Yep, Lee blocks it and this time sees his powerbomb turned into a reverse ‘rana. Third time was lucky for Ricochet, who connected with an impressive Benadryller, then landed an axe kick for a near-fall. Ricochet goes up top to finish him off, but Lee avoided a shooting star press and hit a pop-up flapjack of sorts that left both men laying. They trade some shots, with Lee winning out, before hitting the Spirit Bomb (sit-out pop-up powerbomb) for a near-fall. This match may not be insanely high-paced, but this is mental stuff.
Lee looks to finish off with something off the top, but he misses a moonsault, which allows Ricochet to his a springboard 450 splash for another near-fall. A shooting star press follows, but Lee powers out at two, before he takes another shooting star press… and grabs Ricochet by the throat! He powers to his feet, but eats a knee strike and some kicks, before Ricochet heads up top again… this time for a 630 splash, and that’s enough to give Ricochet the W. Absolutely phenomenal stuff. Keith Lee will be a major player in this business, mark my words! ****½
Not the result I’d have gone with, but Keith Lee can withstand a loss or two here. For now.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship: Michael Elgin & Donovan Dijak vs. Tracy Williams & Fred Yehi (c)
The challengers came out to Elgin’s New Japan theme, and despite his size, Elgin looked tiny compared to Dijak here.
After a tie-up, Elgin and Williams exchanged a lot of blows in the early going, before upgrading to shoulder tackles, which saw Williams take the first bumps. More blows follow, but Williams suckers Elgin into a rope hung armbar in the corner as the champions snuck into an advantage… which Elgin powers out of as he blocks a shove into the corner.
We move to Yehi and Dijak, and yes, the size difference is noticeable… but some stomps to the feet can quickly neutralise that! Yehi’s swung across the ring with a side slam, but the champions mount a comeback with double-teams to Dijak then Elgin. Dijak dives onto the champions on the floor with a Fosbury flop, allowing Elgin to slingshot back into the ring with a big splash as he started to wear down Williams. Williams gets caught in a heavily-delayed stalling suplex, only for Dijak to come in and continue the assault. Dijak goes for a splash off the middle rope, but he gets Williams’ knees, before Elgin tags in to take a Dragon Screw as Yehi gets tagged in. A basement dropkick takes down Elgin, but an enziguiri gets Elgin back in it, at least until Williams lands a missile dropkick to assist a Yehi German suplex for a near-fall.
Elgin drops Williams with a Falcon arrow, but both men crash to the mat as Elgin’s forced to tag in Dijak for some more offence, including a throwing suplex to Williams and a Yakuza kick. Williams comes back by DDTing Dijak onto the top turnbuckle for a near-fall. Williams blocks a Feast Your Eyes and counters with an ankle lock… Dijak easily pushes free and goes for a chokeslam, only for Williams to counter it into a crossface.
Elgin superkicks Williams out of the hold, then gets thrown to the outside… where he drags Yehi out and into the barriers. Back inside, a big lariat drops Williams, before Yehi makes the save after a chokeslam backbreaker. Yehi gets targeted with a superkick, then a Blue Thunder Bomb to put him out of commission, which leaves Williams alone for a top rope sit-out powerbomb… but still, that’s only good for a near-fall!
Dijak goes for Feast Your Eyes, but Yehi makes the save before blasting Elgin with a Destroyer! Yep, the challengers accidentally hit each other, but Elgin rolled to the outside from said Destroyer, before a double-team powerbomb got a near-fall as the champs nearly lost Dijak. From the kick-out, Williams goes straight into a crossface, but Dijak stands up from it… Yehi dropkicks him back down, and the champions retain. A pretty good match, but they took a long time to get the crowd into this. Some fun double-teams, and I’d like to see more of the Elgin/Dijak “superteam” here. ****
Now, because this show’s got to be dragged into the gutter, we have Larry Dallas and his bodyguard, “The Big C”. Dallas is trying to stir stuff up between Catch Point, saying that they were absent for his match against Drew Galloway. The crowd pointing out that (Riddle) “he’s right there” kinda derailed this a bit, as we continue the build to Yehi/Riddle tomorrow.
Chris Dickinson commandeers the mic and asks when he and Jaka are getting their tag title shot, but there’s no definitive answer as the camera goes back to the dopey faces of Larry and Big C. Because WWN hate us.
EVOLVE Championship: ACH vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (c)
Sabre only had his EVOLVE title here, as I guess Rev Pro and PWG didn’t want their belts on show? *shrugs*
A dropkick immediately sends Sabre to the outside, as ACH starts off like a house on fire, knocking the champion down with a PK on the apron in the opening minute of this contest. ACH follows up with a neckbreaker for a near-fall, as he cranks away on Sabre’s neck, before Sabre replies with an Octopus… sending ACH falling into the ropes for a break.
When ACH returned to the ring, he was caught in a submission, before Sabre snapmared him down for a neck twist. Ouch. Sabre intentionally makes himself defenceless for some chops, but he snaps back as ACH spat at him, taking the anime-lover down with a single leg crab. A heavily-torqued wristlock follows as Sabre stamps on the forearm of ACH, before hitting a single underhook suplex… only for a missed PK to put ACH right back in it with a double stomp and a low dropkick!
A single-leg Codebreaker off the middle turnbuckle gets ACH a near-fall, as does an ushigoroshi, but Sabre kept looking to get back in it, countering a slingshot cutter into an arm triangle… but they’re way too close to the ropes and so ACH gets an immediate break. Sabre counters a backslide into a PK, before a half-nelson suplex gets him a two-count… so he goes into a guillotine on the top rope. Which ACH escapes via a front suplex.
ACH lands a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall as the pair fight back to their feet, throwing in shots along the way. Sabre strikes again, sending ACH into the corner with uppercuts, before grabbing a guillotine and rolling ACH into the middle of the ring. A PK just riles ACH though, as he hits a brainbuster for a near-fall, before hitting a 450 Splash and landing right into an arm triangle. Sabre slips out and puts in a double armbar, and that’s a successful defence for Zack! ****¼
After the match, Sabre gets the mic to remind us that pro wrestling is for everyone, “even you dickheads over there” (pointing at some fans who chanted USA during his match), before putting over upcoming matches with Mark Haskins and Michael Elgin. That brings Big Mike out, who seems aggrieved that his match isn’t for the title… Elgin gives Sabre a spinning backfist, and I guess their match tomorrow might just be for the EVOLVE title?
This was a damned fine show to kick off WrestleMania weekend. Take the Gatekeeper’s squash out of this, there was nothing below three enjoyment snowflakes, with the final three matches all being ****+. If the rest of the weekend keeps up at this pace, then we’ll have had a bloody great weekend of the wrestling. This show alone was well worth my $20 FloSlam subscription for the month – and there’s so much more to come here over WrestleMania weekend!
As an aside… Keith Lee. ACH. Michael Elgin. Lio Rush. Donovan Dijak. ROH had all these guys, but let them walk. That’s quite an eye for talent there, huh?