In a scene from Major League 2, fictitious Cleveland Indian’s manager Lou Brown sarcastically congratulates his underachieving team on winning a game and said if they win another than they can call it a winning streak. EVOLVE was in that same position going into tonight’s show. So many times in the past two years the promotion has put on a great show, much like last night, only to turn in a disappointing sequel. A card featuring Drew Galloway vs. Ricochet and the return of Ronin seemed poise to deliver, but potential alone does not produce a win streak. Only performance does. Was EVOLVE able to equal or top the collective effort from Friday? Scroll down to find out.
Anthony Nese vs. Shane Strickland: Before the match Nese accepted So Cal Val’s offer to represent The Premiere Athlete Brand and relegated Su Yung to be her assistant. More on that later.
In my review of EVOLVE 36, I heavily criticized Strickland’s performance against Johnny Gargano. Strickland stepped up his game on night two of the tour in a surprising way. When Nese kept the match on the ground to curb his aerial game Strickland resorted to strikes and proved himself to have a much deeper repertoire than expected.
As the match progressed Nese continued to use a deliberate offense and focused on slamming Strickland to the ground with as much force as he could muster. The strategy worked and damaged Strickland to the point where quickly he submitted to a Half Crab giving Nese a win to close out his weekend.
The focus was not always on the match though. Both the commentary and camera teams spent much of the match on the diva like actions of So Cal Val as she berated and belittled the woman affectionately known as Secretary Su. This is the kind of distraction that ruins wrestling on Monday night and does not belong in a promotion that stresses wrestling over melodrama. A short segment after the contest would have served the same purpose and not hurt the in-ring product.
Ringside antics aside this was a fine effort from both men who sadly did not get the full attention they richly deserved. **¾
Roderick Strong vs. Timothy Thatcher: Thatcher was determined to stretch Strong in the early going. Roddy did not mind keeping the match on the canvass but focused his energy on ensuring Thatcher had a hell of a time getting up. Time and time again, Strong’s chops and stomps halted any barrages from the Englishman and kept him on defense for much of the contest.
A lot of credit for the quality of match goes to Thatcher for his selling. When he managed to finally get in a bit offense he could not pull himself off the canvass due to Strong’s ferocious blows. Then, out of nowhere, Thatcher’s forced ground position paid off. In that opportune moment, Thatcher tripped Strong up in the center of the ring and submitted him with an arm bar.
I did not care for the abrupt finish but other than that the match was very enjoyable. ***
Trevor Lee vs. AR Fox: What promised to be a good match, especially after a hot opening stretch, quickly turned into a scary situation. AR Fox took a terrible tumble on the outside and appeared to not know where he was while backstage personnel was attending to him. As a result the match was called early and awarded to Trevor Lee. NR
Uhaa Nation vs. Biff Busick: Uhaa Nation poses a formidable riddle to any wrestler — even to a dangerous shooter like Biff Busick. So, how do you beat a man who hits you with a moonsault one moment and then easily dispatches your attempt at a power bomb the next? Well, you can try battering his chest with your shoulder and using a running knee lift like Busick did. Did that do any real damage to Nation? No, not really, because moments later Nation was flying off the top rope to deliver an awesome splash.
With limited options for offense Busick had to be resourceful and pick his spot. Later in the match he got his chance when a counter gave him time to lock in a choke. Nation faded, but was not finished. After more back and forth, Busick was able to latch on the choke again. Nation had no choice but to tap, despite his dominance, and Busick answered the riddle of how to beat Uhaa Nation, simple patience and persistence.
Good performances from Busick and Nation coupled with a crisp narrative begat a fine wrestling match. *** ½
EVOVLE World Championship Match – Ricochet vs. Drew Galloway ©: Ricochet declared at EVOLVE 36 he wanted to become the first man to be the Open the Freedom Gate and EVOLVE World Champion. He looked to be a man of his word tonight — by any means necessary.
Ricochet nailed Galloway with a kick before the bell and opened the match with a close two count. When the fight spilled to the outside, Ricochet showed little regard for his well being by hanging from a basketball goal and turning it into a beautiful Hurricanrana. The Future of Flight targeted Galloway’s injured hand back in the ring. Not the most honest strategy, but an effective one. An even more questionable tactic was Ricochet mockingly slapping the champion and talking smack. The enraged Scotsmen rose to his feet and commenced to showcase the highland fury he is becoming famous for on the independent scene.
From that point on, neither man had an advantage. Every Galloway chop and slam was negated by Ricochet’s own strikes and gravity defying moves. Ricochet’s insistence on attacking Galloway’s hand led to him being exposed as a false prophet in the end. The splint protecting Galloway’s hand was broken and its sharp point combined with a Galloway punch temporarily blinded the smaller man. A Double Arm DDT and three motions of the referee’s arm preserved the title reign of the 3MB alumni.
Ricochet’s insistence on dishonorable tactics costing him the match made for a familiar but always fantastic narrative about karmic justice in the wrestling ring. Galloway’s performance continued a solid run as champion and further proved he can go on a roster filled with some of the best wrestlers on Earth. *** ½
Ronin (Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano) vs. The Bravado Brothers & Moose: The return of Ronin was definitely an exciting event. Still, it made no sense for the match to be in the main event nor was there any logic in the stipulation in the losing team having to disband. Such an emotional vehicle is best served for the end of a long run as a unit not their first night back together. And let’s be honest very few people will care if the Bravados and Moose disband their affiliation.
As for the six-man, it was not too shabby. Ronin still has great chemistry as a team and the fans were happy for their return. Moose had the best match I’ve ever seen him wrestle and watching him throw his opponents all over the place was great fun. A few miscommunications and an impressive stretch of offense from Ronin derailed The Bravado Bandwagon. ***
During Johnny Gargano’s show closing promo he proclaimed his title to be the most important in the WWN Live family. As one might suspect Drew Galloway sauntered to the ring to boast of his belt’s prestige and the end result is the rumored unification match is coming soon.
To answer my question from earlier I can safely say EVOLVE is on a winning streak. The promotion’s thirty seventh show contains five wrestling matches on par with the quality of the previous card. All are easy to watch and helped cement the company’s positive traction coming out of the weekend.
What is more important is that EVOLVE is on a winning streak on so many different fronts for the first time in years. The roster is deep and diverse, goofy storylines are being phased out in favor of an emphasis on quality ring work and momentum is carrying over from show to show. If Sapolsky’s crew can continue to deliver like they did this weekend, then the promotion is guaranteed to make waves in 2015.