EVOLVE 56 was a fantastic wrestling show. How did EVOLVE follow it up? With another fantastic show! This time headlined by the first-ever EVOLVE Tag Team Championship match; champions Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano vs. Team Tremendous. Timothy Thatcher put his EVOLVE Championship on the line against Caleb Konley. Zack Sabre’s next leg in his “Best in the World Challenge” was against Drew Gulak and headlined the undercard.
March 20, 2016
American Legion-Floyd Bennett Post
Brooklyn, New York
Ethan Page def. Fred Yehi
Yehi and Page, though different in terms of personality and fighting style, each entered the opening match on a quest. Page for redemption; Yehi for respect. “All Ego” repeatedly offered Yehi friendly handshakes early in the match after a pair of tense exchanges. Fred Yehi didn’t want a pity show of respect. He wanted a fight and slapped Page in the face. Page glanced him for a moment and was obviously conflicted before he responded with a slap of his own.
The match was a brief affair, but the action was intense and neither man showed the other any quarter. Just like in his encounter with Drew Gulak, Yehi put in a splendid effort, but couldn’t put Page away, and for the second night in a row Page took home a victory thanks to a package piledriver. However, each man took home what he was searching for. Page got a win without hijinks and continued to prove he was on the path of the righteous. Yehi got a respectful handshake from one of the senior members of the EVOLVE roster. **1/2
Page’s jubilation was short lived. An irate Anthony Nese pulverized Page from behind and taunted the Canadian that his portly frame made him a disgrace to the company. Nese’s PAB partner, Caleb Konley, joined him in the ring to state his intent to win the EVOLVE Championship against Timothy Thatcher later in the night. Konley’s singular focus seemed to irk Nese. The PAB’s founder reiterated that they should focus on the tag team titles together.
TJ Perkins def. Tomasso Ciampa
Ciampa replaced Mike Bailey as Perkins’ opponent and the match turned out well, which isn’t surprising due to the considerable talent of both men. As much as I hate to use reviewer tropes, this was a good little match. The workers have good chemistry and each are one of the most dependable hands on the American independent scene. I thought they also effectively mixed a number of styles. My only gripe is that the camera angle showed Ciampa really close to the ropes when he tapped out to a knee by TJP; it made him look like a rookie. ***½
Matthew Riddle def. Chris Hero
A popular take on Twitter is that Matthew Riddle is a prodigy and while I don’t agree with that, he still is really, really good. For the most part, Riddle has been in matches with opponents he is familiar with and that accentuate his strengths. To my knowledge, this match was the first time Riddle had ever faced Chris Hero and the two worked perfectly together.
Riddle sells better than any relative newcomer to wrestling should and acted like he was fighting a tank against Hero. Watch the spots where Hero peppers him with elbows or big boots because in those moments Riddle looks like a boxer on his last legs. I thought that lended the match the kind of authenticity that EVOLVE is trying to cultivate.
As awesome as Riddle was, and trust me he put on a hell of a performance, Chris Hero proved why he is the most consistently entertaining wrestler on the planet. Hero chose a novel body part of Riddle’s to target, his feet. Since the former UFC fighter forgoes footwear in between the ropes I have been surprised no one has tried to target that part of his anatomy, but Hero did and it was really creative mat work.
Oh yeah, I should probably write about the match as a whole. This one had the same story as the Hero/Williams clash the night before, young wrestler takes everything Hero has to throw at him and more. Instead, this time Riddle reversed the cradle piledriver Hero uses as his fatality into a triangle choke and transitioned into a wicked arm bar. Hero tapped and Riddle got the biggest win of his career. ****¼
In between matches Johnny Gargano came to the ring and said that Drew Galloway’s flight was delayed and that he would be late to the show. Caleb Konley blindsided Gargano and demanded that Timothy Thatcher get to the ring for their title match. The champion obliged and was kicked in the face by Sami Callihan before the bell rang.
EVOLVE Championship Match
Timothy Thatcher (c) def. Caleb Konley
Oh boy, where to begin with this match? The pieces were there, Conley’s aggression and Thatcher’s prone state, for this to be fun little match where the champion fights from underneath. Honestly, it would have fit Konley’s story if he dominated the match, got overzealous and cost himself the match. Also, it potentially would have been a nice chapter in the ongoing saga of Thatcher playing a wounded bear hunted by everyone in the woods. That match would have been much better than what the audience got.
This match went over twenty five minutes. Caleb Konley was on offense seventy percent of the fight and it was excruciating to watch. I honestly felt bad for Konley watching the match. He’s improved as a performer but he can’t carry a title match. Thatcher won with a desperation submission and I sighed with relief that it was over because this is easily the worst title defense of Thatcher’s reign. *½
Thatcher didn’t have time to bask in the glow of another successful title defense. Matthew Riddle stormed to the ring and demanded another shot at the gold, and after the champion graciously agreed, Riddle still had to be a little shit and knocked him out with a flying knee.
Sami Callihan def. Tracy Williams
This match was a love letter to testosterone. Everything that Hot Sauce and Callihan did here was intense. Even the grappling. Yes, they even managed to make one of the tamer aspects of wrestling look violent. Callihan has been wrestling like a human tornado since his exit from NXT and this was one of his more fluid singles matches I’ve seen this year. And Christ is he potatoing people in the ring. His diving forearm smash, which is how he won here, is the only one I buy as a legitimate finisher. It would be an injustice if I excluded Tracy Williams from the conversation about the match. He is really starting to find his stride as the scowling, ultra aggressive shooter in Catch Point. ***½
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Drew Gulak
Warning, I’m going to gush about this match so if you are looking for me to rip a “grapple fuck” exhibition scroll down to the the rundown of the main event. I think that it is no secret that Zack Sabre Jr. is the most creative technician wrestling has seen in over a decade. What if I told that Drew Gulak, a man often accused of being dryer than toast in the ring, reached a higher level of wizardry than ZSJ in this match? Well he did and that’s what framed the crux of the narrative.
Sabre Jr. is rarely outworked on the mat and hasn’t fared in EVOLVE when that happens, see his title match against Timothy Thatcher as proof. So he had to find a way to overcome that in the spirit of his “Best in the World” challenger, and he did. Channeling the spirit of his arch-rival Chris Hero, ZSJ focused on softening up the neck of Gulak with kicks and stomps. Gulak responded with a vicious but beautiful to behold assault on ZSJ’s ankle. Zabre Sr. weathered the storm and went back to work on the neck, winning with an impossible to describe hold. ****½
After the match, Chris Hero came to the ring and talked about how he’d beaten the best wrestlers in the world and how ZSJ is not in the same league as them.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match
Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (c) def. Team Tremendous
This was a good match and on any other show would have been among the best on the card. It had a lot of competition on Sunday night and ended up being just another match. So, maybe that’s a little harsh but it is the truth. All four men put in a good performance in a serviceable tag match that included plenty of the usual tropes. Galloway got the win for his team with the Future Shock to end a match that had a historic billing but will only be remembered for that. ***¼
EVOLVE 57 is another fantastic show from the most consistent wrestling promotion in North America. I would not recommend watching this show in one sitting. It is extremely long and almost all of the matches go over 15 minutes. So take your time and enjoy this one, there is plenty of good wrestling and no reason to rush through it.