On 1/6, Gabe Sapolsky announced on Twitter that beginning with EVOLVE 25 on 1/10, all future WWNLive events would be streamed in high definition, which probably would have gotten far more attention had WWE not made their streaming network official roughly 72 hours later.
Talk about having your thunder stolen.
What some may not know or others may have forgotten, is that WWNLive announced plans for their own streaming service (in the form of a Roku channel) some eight months before the WWE announcement. We asked Sapolsky to comment on the status of the project.
“We are in the final stages of the WWNLive Roku channel being built.” Sapolsky said.
“This will be very exciting with the successful transition we made last night to HD widescreen with the amazing EVOLVE 25 card.”
As for that first go around with HD, the roll out was smooth. There were scattered reports of issues with iOS operating systems (which had more to do with the website end of things as opposed to the stream itself), but aside from that we didn’t see a single major (or minor, for that matter) complaint regarding the feed. My feed was clean, crisp, smooth HD with nary a hiccup or a single moment of buffering or lag. Tonight, the much maligned wWWNLive, which was a very reliable service until running into problems during WrestleMania weekend 2013 and having repeated issues ever since. This had frustrated me to the point that I stopped giving them my money, and I was a regular customer who purchased nearly all EVOLVE and DGUSA events before the issues. With Evolve 25 though, WWNLive hit an absolute home run — both with the gorgeous HD feed, and an excellent bell-to-bell show.
With Roderick Strong pulling out of this weekend’s triple shot due to injuries suffered on a botched AJ Styles Styles Clash last weekend, tonight’s card had to be reworked on 24 hours’ notice. It may have been a blessing, as EVOLVE delivered a neat and tidy, two hour and twenty minute five match show where every match delivered, and more importantly, everything had time to breathe and sink in. A major flaw of EVOLVE/DGUSA (and all indie shows, really) is that at times, the shows are packed with too many matches, making it hard for things to get over and resonate with the viewer. This abbreviated five-match card was a nice change of pace. Longer matches and angles that stood out as something special, as opposed to a nine match show where everything feels rushed and blends together.
1. FIP World Heavyweight Title: Trent Baretta (c) vs Tony Nese – Not Trent?, not Baretta, but announced as “Trent Baretta”. I notice more and more indies are following the PWS trend of “fuck it, let’s see it they notice” when it comes to WWE trademarks. Sometimes “Tony”, sometimes “Anthony” Nese was accompanied by Su Yung, but no Mr. A (east coast indie giant Appollyon). This was a battle between a New Japan part timer (Baretta) and a Dragon Gate part timer (Nese). Some cool mat work early, with a series of side headlock takedowns and head scissors as neither man could gain an edge and they did the “these guys are so evenly matched!” deal. Trent went for his top rope swinging DDT a bit early, and Nese yanked him off the ropes. Instead of the usual flat back bump, Trent took a unique bump where the back of his head landed on the top turnbuckle. This was a cool way to transition into the heel control period. Nese dominated for several minutes, in what turned out to be a great heat-building portion of the match. Yung hopped on the apron for some reason, and argued with Nese, planting the seeds for some sort of turn because Lenny Leonard was going on and on about how Nese didn’t need her help and he didn’t want it. This allowed Baretta to hit the tornado DDT and make his comeback, which included a DVD on the ring apron, and a deadlift German for two. Trent came off the ropes but a groggy Nese caught him with a superkick. Nese followed up with a Gotch lift buckle bomb that looked amazing and a pump handle slam for two. At this point it was obvious they were clicking and this was a special match. Nese went up for a moonsault, but Trent caught him and delivered a German off the top. A KENTA/Daniel Bryan baisku knee got him another two, and now the crowd was going nuts. Nese hit another superkick, and missed his 450, which Trent countered into a quick roll up. Trent went for the Dudebuster, but Nese countered with a flying head scissors and planted Trent’s head into the mat. Nese went for an O’Connor roll, but Trent rolled through and got the three. Great match, and an early MOTY contender. Everything here just clicked, and this was easily Trent’s best match since hitting the indie scene. ****1/2
2. FRAY: Chuck Taylor vs Lince Dorado vs Jon Davis vs Caleb Konley vs Uhaa Nation – That was also the order of entry. Dorado is a cool flyer who they always use in Florida. Nobody was eliminated until everyone entered. Uhaa is using his Dragon Gate 70’s inspired theme, which is beyond awesome. Konley shows good babyface fire, and I’m getting comfortable with him as a mid-card single who makes the heels look good. This was your typical FRAY, with lots of cool spots, but the falls weren’t rapid fire like usual and each fall was decisive and had impact. Davis, the bully, was ganged up on and pinned by all four men. Taylor took out Dorada with the Awful Waffle. Konley was pinned by Uhaa following the Uhaa Combination. Uhaa then finished off Taylor with a great looking triple powerbomb. Uhaa looked strong here, and it may be time for the big push he would have gotten in 2012 before he blew out his knee. ***1/4
3. Ricochet vs Chris Hero – Ricochet was showboating early, and every time he did, Hero would level him with a KO blow. This was good, right at the level of the great Chris Hero vs Ray Rowe match from Inspire Pro on 1/5. Hero has come out of NXT working a more controlled, methodical style, and appears to be on the brink of perhaps the best run of his career. Lots of innovative stuff in this one, which was no shock with two of the more creative guys on the indie scene. Solid work from both sides and hey had the crowd eating from their hands. Ricochet needed the 450, shooting star press, and 630 to finally score the hard fought pin. So Hero puts him over, but losses nothing in doing so. Everybody wins. Hero did a promo putting over Ricochet as “the most athletic guy I’ve ever faced”. Hero’s promo style has improved tremendously since his last indie run, too. His cadence & delivery has improved in many of the same ways his work has, much more controlled & clean. Trent came out, annoyed that Hero didn’t mention him when running down how talented the rest of the locker room was. ****
4. The Young Bucks & Rich Swann vs The Bravado Brothers & Johnny Gargano – Five of the guys here came out with titles. Gargano is the Open the Dream Gate champion, Bravado’s hold the Open the United Gate, and Swann is one half of the FIP Tag champs. Got all that? It managed to confuse somebody else (more on that later). This started slow, and really dragged when the Bravado’s were in. They aren’t very over. The Bucks are much better as heels, but they did a double turn with the Bravado’s on the last swing. The second half picked up, and this ended up being another great match. The Bucks used More Bang For Your Buck on Lance Bravado for the win. I’m just not feeling the Bravado’s, and neither was this crowd. The failed to get over in ROH & NOAH as well. Gargano attacked Swann post match, but Swann was saved by Roderick Strong & Uhaa. Strong picked up one of the half a dozen belts lying around, and vowed to win the “Open the United Gate” from Gargano. Welp. We knew what he meant. ***1/2
5. EVOLVE Title: AR Fox (c) vs Davey Richards – The story here, is after helping establish the company and being the early star after original co-founder Bryan Danielson left for WWE, Davey quit EVOLVE on bad terms, so they were pushing on commentary that he could win the title and then disappear again. What really happened was, ROH offered him a contract, as did New Japan, and in combination, he stood to make more money than working EVOLVE/DGUSA/Dragon Gate. Therefore, he took the better offer and left Sapolsky high & dry. This ushered in the “contract era” on the indie level, as ROH & WWNLive began to wisely lock up their stars. When ROH parted ways with Richards in December, Sapolsky pounced, and playing off the real life friction from years ago, they are doing an outsider/loose cannon gimmick. The match was a typical Davey match, which means if you like Davey, you loved this. If you’re the other half of the universe, you hate Davey, so you probably wouldn’t like it. I fall in the “I like Davey” camp. In fact, I think he’s pretty damn great. I really liked this. Lots of good counters and fast paced action. Fox did his dangerous flying and nearly killed himself on a springboard 450 to the outside. Hey, it’s his body. Davey put a solid beating on him and worked hard like usual. Fox won it with the Lo Mein Pain. Davey started to cut a babyface promo, but heeled and spit on the belt. Then he stormed out. Seems like he’ll be back and they’re going to run with the outsider deal. ****
This was a great show, with decisive finishes, and a bunch of effective post match promos and angles. The last minute changes very likely made for a more focused and interesting show. If you’re on the fence, buy this.