April 2, 2016
Eddie Deen’s Ranch
Having to live up to EVOLVE 58’s lofty standard is no easy take but EVOLVE 59 may have done it. The highs weren’t quite as high but there were little-to-no lows, my VOW flagship podcast Joe Lanza likes to call it the Kraetsch Special: a show where everything is at least good, nothing bad. That describes EVOLVE 59 beautifully. You may be wondering why this review is so late. I attempted to watch the show live on Saturday but streaming issues made that impossible. I spent a majority of the early part of the week refreshing WWNLive’s website waiting for the VOD of this show to drop. Unfortunately, some file issues with the first half of the show delayed its arrival until later in the week thus this somewhat delayed (but hopefully worth it) review of EVOLVE 59 from last weekend.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match
Catch Point of Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams def. Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway (c)
Don’t let the match order fool you (Gargano had to run to NXT immediately following this match), this was a main event level match, worked at a main event level pace. The good news: it delivered to a main event level. Gulak and Williams have really taken the EVOLVE tag division by storm as of late and work so well together. Their penchant for overdoing teamwork— most notably their stereo submission and pins—really adds an element few teams can muster these days. Despite Galloway and Gargano having their toes in many other bodies of water in the wrestling business, they still treat EVOLVE like a huge deal and this was no exception. Though Gargano was booked with EVOLVE’s much-larger overlords in roughly an hour, he didn’t take it easy, slow down or avoid dangers — in fact, he was one of the highlights of the match.
Gargano doesn’t get enough credit for his ring work and this was yet another example of just how good he is, going toe-to-toe with both Gulak and Williams on the ground game. The finish was very reminiscent of Catch Point’s finish at EVOLVE 58 but here it worked well. Williams isolated Gargano and hit a beautiful looking double-arm DDT. Gargano kicked out at two and instead of arguing with the referee or getting frustrated, Williams immediately transitioned into a front-face lock and Gargano immediately tapped, knowing there was no escape. Great start for EVOLVE 59. ***3/4
After the match, Drew Galloway cut a passionated promo about WWE “invading” EVOLVE and took it out on Gargano, hitting him with a low-blow and locking him in Johnny’s own Gargano Lock. Ethan Page came to the aid of HIS former partner Gargano. One fan smartly screamed “What about TNA, asshole?” to Drew — given that the bulk of his promo hinged on keeping independent wrestling pure and how he didn’t like guys doing EVOLVE and NXT double-shots. Again, Galloway was late to an EVOLVE show only a few weeks ago because he was taping TNA but that’s neither here nor there. This was a newsworthy angle and gives Galloway a much-needed edge as he was becoming a little complacent among the EVOLVE/WWN universe.
Chris Hero def. Fred Yehi
As if I needed more reasons to love Chris Hero, he came to the ring sporting a 1998-99 Toronto Raptors jersey, infamous for its tremor pinstripes (because, you know, dinosaurs, Jurassic Park) and the dino image on the front. That particular jersey still receives ironically love despite being pretty awful and being apart of what is easily the worst year in NBA jersey history.
This ended up being a really great match but not in the way I would’ve assumed at all. Going in I expected a nice back and forth match, Yehi getting some early hope spots before Hero eventually settled down the pace and pulled out the victory. Not today, pal. Hero was a pure bully throughout this match, destroying Yehi with vicious chops, stiff kicks and some verbal abuse including daring Yehi to hit him and telling him to “Make those shots count!” You would’ve thought Yehi skipped out on a booking or refused to do the job with the way this match started. No, it wasn’t Koko Ware/Patriot brutal but certainly felt different than a standard wrestling match. Then, because both these men are really great at what they do, the match completely turned as Yehi got hope spot after hope spot in hoping, praying and dying for just one three count to get him away from this beast. Time and time again Hero would escape, bring the assault back to Yehi and each and every time Yehi kicked out. Eventually fans bought into the idea of Yehi getting the victory and not a moment too soon Hero knocked him out with a spinning elbow for the win. This was a work of art. ****
As expect, Yehi got chants and cheers when he finally scraped himself off the mat. Mission accomplished.
Sami Callihan def. Anthony Nese
A surprisingly show match saw Anthony Nese get a little too cute for his own good while the focused and determined Callihan stayed the course, tapping Nese out quickly. **
After the match, So Cal Val berated Nese, mentioning that scouts were watching for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series and how he needs to shape up. Nese snatched the mic away and said he was going to handle business tonight.
Ethan Page def. Darby Allan
Darby Allen, a trainee of Buddy Wayne, received this match by attending (and standing out!) at a WWNLive training seminar before the weekend festivities. He’s only been in the wrestling for a little over a year so he’s still a baby in the industry. As you can imagine, he didn’t stand a chance and simply was in the match to get destroyed by Page. Allan looked good selling and Page hit a series of good looking moves on him, eventually finishing him off with a sick Package Piledriver. **
After the match, Page got on the mic and said despite people still not giving him a chance, he’s still going to try to win the fans and the wrestlers of EVOLVE over.
USA vs. Europe Series Match
Tommy End def. TJP
TJ Perkins is now officially named TJP and Stokely Hathaway has taken over as his manager. There seems to be a new focus on Per…TJP and that’s a good thing. He’s one of the more underutilized talents in the American wrestling scene. I’d love to see EVOLVE really put the rocket behind him and make the most of this new relationship with Hathaway. Speaking of TJP and underrated, he may have had the most overlooked great match of the weekend at EVOLVE 58 with Ricochet. It was immediately overshadowed by Zack Sabre/Will Ospreay—which is my match of the weekend—but shouldn’t be ignored.
This match on the other hand, while not bad, never quite hooked me. They started with some solid grappling, mostly focusing on TJP working over End’s knees and legs. End rose up a few times throughout the match but TJP kept countering and keeping the pace of the match down. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, End hit a flying knee and got the pinfall. The crowd (much like myself) seemed very surprised this was the ending. Decent effort by both men but there was definitely something missing. **¾
USA vs. Europe Series Match & Best In The World Challenge Series:The Fighter
Matt Riddle def. Zack Sabre Jr.
Like the previous match, this one featured a ton of grappling and submissions but was far more engaging. Sabre is obviously one of the best in the world so the story here worked when Riddle (the former UFC fighter) was able to sneak out of Sabre’s innovative holds. Throughout the match Riddle would get too cute with a move—or with his verbal beatdowns including a hilarious “What are you gonna do, bro?!” when he had Sabre in a particularly devastating submission—and Sabre would make him pay. Sabre eventually got tired of Riddle’s shit, a slap fight ensued followed by a huge soccer-style kick from Sabre. Just as it appeared Sabre was ready to finish Riddle off, the youngest 30-year-old you’ll ever see countered into his Bro-Mission and got the surprisingly tap out victory. This was a situation where the surprise finish still shocked the crowd but not in a “Huh, that’s it?” way. This was really awesome and if you aren’t on the bandwagon for either of these men, you’re really missing out. ***3/4
USA vs. Europe Series Match
Marty Scurll def. Timothy Thatcher
Like EVOLVE 58, this match seemed to focus almost exclusively on Marty Scurll. Unlike EVOLVE 58, Scurll wasn’t in there with someone like a Fred Yehi or a trainee but rather EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher. Thatcher sold his arm throughout and seemed uneasy in the ring constantly attending to his arm and allowing Scurll to control much of the match. This, of course, is follow-up to Riddle busting up Thatcher’s arm in their polarizing match the night prior. The crowd had a nice 50-50 split throughout this match which added some juice to the match. Though it wasn’t a quick match by any means, it seemed to fly by as a result of Scurll having the advantage throughout working over Thatcher’s arm and generally being the smarter, better wrestler of the two. In the end, Scurll locked his Chickenwing submission in and Thatcher immediately tapped not wanting to do extra damage to his already hurt elbow. ***
Post-match, Callihan’s music played. Callihan then cut a promo presumably from backstage and said he has Thatcher trained, every time they play Callihan’s music he thinks he’s going to get knocked out. This was yet another build to WWN Mercury Rising which saw Callihan and Thatcher battle for the title in the main event.
USA vs. Europe Series Match
Ricochet def. Will Ospreay
As if there was any doubt these two would have a spectacular main event. While I preferred Ospreay/Sabre from the prior night, this was every bit as good at certain times if not lacking a little in terms of consequences and importance. These two are so smooth in the ring it’s almost criminal. What they are able to do, in such quick fashion while still making it look as silky smooth as they do, I’ll never be able to wrap my head around it. It’s nothing short of amazing. The match started with both trying to out flippy shit the other, a game of anything you can do I can do better which would become the theme later in the match. Eventually, things did slow down for a bit as they both tried to work the other over and prove they are more than just spectacular high-flying.
The last few minutes of the match saw both men go back to their roots and literally pull everything out of their bag of high-flying tricks: shooting star presses, phoenix splashes and my favorite spot of the match a Reverse Hurricanrana reversed into Reverse Hurricanrana. It was nuts, folks.
Interestingly enough, throughout this stretch they never left the ring. It’s easy to immediately fall to the outside and start hitting suicide dives to get the crowd going but these guys kept their spectacularness contained within the squared circle, a subtle but really cool aspect to this match. Kickout after kickout had the crowd going absolutely insane before Ricochet finally ended it with a Benadryller. This isn’t a match of the weekend contender and probably won’t end up on any Match of the Year lists but it should not be skipped. This was yet another chapter in the coming-out party of Will Ospreay. ****1/2
This tied up the USA vs. Europe series at two apiece—who books a 4-game series anyway, Gabe? The astout Zack Sabre Jr realized the series was tied and proposed a tiebreaker right “fucking” now. This led to members from both sides storming the ring, all hell broke loose and only Chris Hero and Tommy End remained in the ring. Hero said the tiebreaker would take place tomorrow night. Hero ate kicks from Ospreay and Ricochet for his troubles leaving only Tommy End left in the ring. End, who called out Kota Ibushi during the show, got his wish as a shirtless (not sure why but whose really complaining) Ibushi jumped into the ring. End immediately beat him down but Ibushi stormed back with a huge kick to knock End out. Left in the ring was Ospreay, Ibushi and Ricochet — a monumental in-ring moment featuring all of wrestling’s nearly undisputed best high-flyers over the last decade. Ibushi reached his hand out to Ospreay who refused to do it — they are on opposite teams at the upcoming WWN Supershow afterall. This man respect kayfabe (he also wrestled a stuffed animal the night prior but let’s just ignore that, k?).
Lenny Leonard was trying to sign off when Ricochet grabbed the mic and let the fans know as soon as he can he’ll be back in EVOLVE and WWNLive but he’s a busy man. This was your classic CIMA “did you enjoy the show?” promo but it’s a nice touch, especially from someone like Ricochet.
EVOLVE 59 isn’t the best show of WrestleMania weekend but it’s damn good with almost everything on the card delivering to some level.