After taking Dallas by storm during WrestleMania Weekend, EVOLVE set up shop in the shadow of Charm City, USA (Baltimore) with a slightly different look. A beautiful new ring canvas and stage awaited fans at the MCW Arena. The roster for the evening lacked familiar faces as well. Gone were Timothy Thatcher, Sami Callihan, Will Ospreay, Tommy End and Ricochet. Replacing them were with the likes of the Bravado Brothers, Devastation Corporation and Lio Rush, names that might tickle EVOLVE fans fancy but talented wrestlers looking to make their mark.
Speaking of Rush, opened the show with a promo thanking the Maryland fans for always supporting him. Caleb Konley, in a rare moment of good character, let Rush say his peace before coming down to the ring.
May 6, 2016
Lio Rush def. Caleb Konley
Watching Lio Rush compete is such a treat. He is in total control of himself at all times, even when he is in the air, an attribute that takes many high flyers years to perfect and here Rush has done so in the short amount of time he has been in the ring. At the rate he is progressing Rush could easily be one of the top ten aerial wrestlers in the world by the year’s end.
Rush was in top form and brought out the best in Caleb Konley. The FIP World Heavyweight Champion wrestled like gaijin bruiser, suplexing and slamming Rush with a newfound vigor. Konley’s bully offense perfectly suited the atmosphere and soon the fans at the MCW Arena were on their feet screaming for Rush to make the comeback. Rush took everything Konley had to throw at him and finally outlasted him, winning with a sky high frog splash.
The opener could not have been better. There was little downtime, both men played to their strengths and looked great doing it. Rush deserves more EVOLVE bookings after his performance, and if Konley continues to wrestle like this, he will be back in the main event in no time. ***1/2
The Bravado Brothers def. Devastation Corporation
Neither the Bravados or the Devastation Corporation are known for working a straight gimmick. The Bravados played the Bo Dallas delusional heel gimmick years before the former NXT Champion and did it much better. In CHIKARA, the Devastation Corporation portray a parody act of powerhouse teams from the late 1980’s. Truthfully, these teams in a comedy match would have killed in a comedy match, but they took a different route instead. Like the previous match, this one had a frantic pace and no filler, just two teams in a human demolition derby inside and outside the ring. Harlem and Lancelot have learned to work a crowd in their year or so away from the spotlight, and that kept the match juiced all the way until they hit a Gentlemen’s Agreement to get the win. **¾
Matt Riddle def. Anthony Nese
In my preview, I wrote that Matt Riddle’s charisma might be the only way to rescue this match from tomb quality silence, and The Bro’s personality did shine. So did Anthony Nese. Harkening back to the days when he regularly stole the show in DGUSA, Nese finally forsook rest holds and flexing in favor of showboating with his god given athleticism. What ensued was a melee where both men traded submission, strikes, and suplexes until Riddle finally got an opening and submitted Nese with an armbar for the victory. ***¼
Johnny Gargano def. Marty Scurll
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that instantaneous chemistry does not exist. I offer this match as proof of its existence. From the seamless sequences on the mat to their ability to feed off each other’s taunts, Gargano and Scurll danced like two partners with several decades of familiarity.
After the initial standoff, Scurll managed to move ahead by a nose. Anytime Gargano would get an advantage Scurll had a cheap trick waiting halt his momentum. Occasionally, the two detoured from a serious fight and dipped into some lighthearted wrestling. While that gave the match a somewhat uneven pace, it did not produce a moment where Gargano chopped the living hell out of Scurll all in the name of the Red, White, and Blue. Bless Cleveland’s favorite son for defending the honor of our great nation.
The finale came at the perfect time. The jazzed crowd saw Gargano rip off one of Scurll’s favorite cheap deceptions to set up a Lawn Dart/Garga-No-Escape combination to pick up a big win going into his grudge match with Drew Galloway at EVOLVE 61. ****
After his victory, Gargano got on the horn to give the people of Maryland some good news: EVOLVE would return to the area later in the year! That wasn’t all Gargano wanted to do. He invited Drew Galloway out to the ring so the two could face off since the betrayal in Dallas. Gargano gave Galloway a tongue lashing and said that the EVOLVE/WWE relationship was good for wrestling. To add salt to an old wound of Galloway’s, Gargano stated that the Scotsmen blew his opportunity with the company. Galloway told Gargano how that comment meant to him in the only logical way possible: by punching him in the face.
Ethan Page then ran down to make the save and the next match was on.
Drew Galloway def. Ethan Page
With the angle leading into this match, there was no it would be anything other than a fight, and that is exactly what it is. Page and Galloway traded bombs and power moves for a little over ten minutes with neither yielding the advantage. It took a low blow and a Future Shock DDT from Galloway to defeat the game Page. Sometimes all a match needs to do is to serve its purpose and nothing more to be entertaining, which is what happened here. Page proved he is a changed man, and Galloway cemented his heel turn.
Galloway gave Page another Future Shock for good measure. Then he demanded a mic and proceeded to cut the best promo of his life. I don’t want to spoil it, but the gist is that Galloway justified his turn to the dark side by pointing out the hypocrisy of guys like Gargano, ones who profess undying love for indie wrestling, are suddenly buying what is “best for business.”
To put an exclamation mark on his point, Galloway went for a third Future Shock on Page before Gargano sprinted to the ring with a chair in hand. Gargano blew off Page when he his former rival wanted to shake his hand. ***
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship Match
Tracy Williams & Drew Gulak def. TJP & Fred Yehi
Catch Point is a cold drink of water in the otherwise barren desert of wrestling factions. They battle each other on a frequent basis in the ring and then shake hands afterward. A group of wrestlers that support each other but aren’t afraid to kick their allies in the teeth, what a novel concept!
With the four of the best mat wrestlers in EVOLVE meeting in the night’s first main event, it wasn’t hard to see how this contest would unfold. There was plenty of chain wrestling and grappling. The unique thing about the Catch Point style, as demonstrated in this match, is that they all are finding new catch sequences and variations of traditional submission holds. Whether you as a fan like this style or not, I think it is appropriate to tip your cap at the group for resurrecting technical wrestling on the independent scene.
The finish of the title bout, Gulak submitting TJP with a dragon sleeper, felt abrupt but in the context of the style is okay. Submissions are supposed to come from nowhere and instantly end a fight after all.
With Timothy Thatcher’s EVOLVE Championship in hand, Gulak proclaimed that Thatcher owed a member of Catch Point a title shot. Out came Matt Riddle and the former UFC fighter wasted no time declaring that would be him. ***½
Chris Hero def. Zack Sabre Jr.
The main event was an enthralling continuation of the best rivalry of 2016. At the Mercury Rising in Dallas in the final test of his best in the world series, ZSJ tried to go blow for blow with Hero. A mistake on his part because the much larger Hero decimated him with what else but elbows. In fact that has been the story of the entire feud, Hero keeps knocking the Englishmen out despite ZSJ’s best efforts.
Not much changed in the rematch, at least early on. Hero used his reach and girth to maximum effect. ZSJ went down again and again. The tide turned when the technical marvel drilled his rival with a vicious running kick, and while he didn’t have advantage long the playing field was level for the remainder of the fight. Hero abandoned his pursuit of the knockout and focused on finishing things with a piledriver. It didn’t work. ZSJ stuck to the ground and almost won with a few truly breathtaking pinning combinations. He even finally locked in the Ode to Breaks but Hero was able to reach the ropes. Finally, Hero finished the match with a deadly ripcord elbow, a cringe worth spinning knee and the mother of all spike piledrivers.
I just don’t see how it is possible to hate this match. The story is simple and excellent in its execution: ZSJ tries everything in his arsenal and still can’t beat the guy who has his number. Great, great stuff here and a surefire match of the year contender. ****3/4
The second chapter to an epic saga makes EVOLVE 60 a show worthy of any fan’s attention. A solid undercard makes it a textbook example of how to properly pace a show. Overall, another Chris Hero like knockout of a show by the best independent promotion in North America.