EVOLVE 61
May 7, 2016
La Boom
Queens, New York

Watch: WWNLive

EVOLVE 60 didn’t figure to be a unique show on paper. Sure the card looked good, but I don’t think anyone expected such a solid outing when several key players were absent for the weekend.

The next night of the tour in Queens, New York once again passed the eye test on paper: two Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers and the main event grudge match between Johnny Gargano and Drew Galloway. Just like in Joppa though, the show over delivered and produced a surprising match of the year candidate and a newsworthy closing angle that still has the wrestling world talking.

Matt Riddle def. Lio Rush

In my EVOLVE 60 review, I wrote about the potential Lio Rush has as a high flyer. Well, add another check mark to what Rush can do: grapple. Yes, that’s right, Mr. Rush is proficient on the mat as well. He and Matt Riddle had a fun little skirmish on the ground in the opening minutes of the fight.Riddle got the opportunity to show a different side to his game as well. He pressed his advantage in the size department and took Rush to Suplex City during the middle portion of the match. The closing stretch was superb. Rush and Riddle went through some eye-popping counters and reversal with Riddle winning the exchange and the match with an armbar. These two have chemistry and with enough time will produce a thrilling match against each other in the future. Until then, this tease of what is to come will have to suffice. **1/2

Riddle taunted “trashy” Timothy Thatcher with the EVOLVE World Championship and told him to come get his belt, even though Thatcher wasn’t in attendance. Stokely Hathaway slinked out the back and stole the belt while Riddle cut his promo.

The Bravado Brother def. Ethan Page & Chris Dickinson

The Bravado were originally supposed to square off against Milk Chocolate, but an injury forced a cancellation, so grandma’s boys took on the hastily assembled unit of Page and Dickinson. In the end, things worked out for the best. “All Ego” and the “Dirty Daddy” quickly gelled as a duo and as a result the match was a high energy ride with plenty of boss double team moves from both teams. The action tailed off a little bit at the end, but that didn’t hurt the overall presentation of the fight, which The Bravados won with a Gory Special/ jumping reverse STO. ***

The Bravados decided to publically shame Team Tremendous after the match. Dan Barry was in attendance and came down to the ring to accept the Bravados challenge. Harlem and Lancelot were not content with that and decided to attack Barry. Looks like The Bravados have broken bad again.

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match
TJP def. Fred Yehi

Watching Fred Yehi on offense is something to behold, mainly because he has such an unusual approach to technical wrestling. Sure he stretches joints and limbs with the best of them, but the area he really shines in are stomps. Yes stomps, a move usually reserved for Randy Orton’s plodding heel offense. Yehi, somehow, has managed to take such a simple move menacing by say twisting his opponent’s legs like a pretzel and then stomping on it like it is an unwanted cigarette. Small things like that make Yehi matches worth seeking out.

This match is another of his that is worth taking the time to sit down and watch. He and TJP wrestled an even, clean match. The kind where neither competitor gets an edge despite having a few fleeting moments where victory appears certain. Moments like when TJP whiffed on a frog splash or Yehi couldn’t corral TJP into a Koji clutch. The man who could make his gamble pay off would be the winner and this time it was the veteran, TJP, via a 450 splash which netted him the pin.

As good as TJP was here, Yehi gained more from defeat than his stablemate did in victory. Sure TJP is about to get one of the biggest opportunities of his career, but he has a long established reputation. Yehi is still making his mark, and his performance in the most high profile match of his career served notice that he is a name to match as the year goes on. ****

WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match
Drew Gulak def. Tracy WIlliams

When a man gives his all on the field of combat, he bares his soul for the world to see. If the same man falls short of his goal, victory, then his spiritual nakedness becomes a terrible beauty: the might have been. Sadly, that was the final line of Tracy Williams quest to write a heroic poem of the mat against his mentor Drew Gulak at EVOLVE 61.

It would be unfair to Gulak to say that Williams wanted the match more because both wrestled their hardest, but Williams went above and beyond in his quest for qualification. “Hot Sauce” slapped, suplexed and even flew through the air with his now trademark intensity. He had Gulak locked in his crossface not once but twice only to have his foe slither out of the hold. Perhaps if he had a few seconds more than the win would have been his. Alas, Gulak won in a moment of pure randomness, Williams tried to scoot away after he kicked out of a Gulak roll-up and seconds later found himself locked in a dragon sleeper. Though near the ropes, and most likely in a state of panic, Williams tapped.

Fancy language aside, this was as muscular a technical match s you will ever see. It was hard hitting, drama filled and accomplished its mission: establish Gulak as a dangerous submission wrestler for the WWE audience and continue the tale of Williams rise up the card. This contest was easily the match of the night and one of the best outings from both men all year. ****½

Marty Scurll def. Zack Sabre Jr.

Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. is one of the rare matches I’ve seen in over two years of reviewing wrestling shows that has a universally good star rating but little enthusiasm to accompany it. I can understand why. There is nothing wrong with it. Scurll and ZSJ worked hard, and the match had a nice flow. None of the spots they used were awkward and in fact most of them were beautiful to behold. Even the booking, Scurll submitting ZSJ with chicken wing, was on point. So why the Marge Simpson “Meh” on the match?

The issue I think is a matter of perception. If a fan has seen these two tear the house on a VOD of a show from Europe or heard the buzz about how well they work together, it is logical for them to be disappointed. Watching this match for them is a lot like hearing about a great play, going to see it and only getting dress rehearsal caliber acting. For fans seeing these two wrestle for the first time without expectations, I wager they’d rate this higher and think this was a pretty neat thing to have witnessed.

Personally, I’m in the middle. Could they have done better? Sure, but the same can be said of many talented wrestlers. I thought this was a nice cool down match that kept the crowd from losing their energy before the main event, and it was entertaining. So I’ll tip my cap to both men. ***½

After the match, Joanna Rose had some good news for Scurll, he gets the next shot at Timothy Thatcher for the EVOLVE Championship. Scurll celebrated by giving a speech about how he is the best wrestler in the world. Stokely Hathaway, with that very belt around his waist, came out to espouse the virtues of his client TJP. Then Drew Gulak came out and with a word snatched the belt from Hathaway. Really weird segment overall.

Before the main event, Galloway and Gargano continued their pro-WWE vs. anti-WWE banter from the previous night. It’s some good stuff and is worth sitting through.

Johnny Gargano def. Drew Galloway

In a manner befitting a fight to settle an intensely personal grudge, there was no beauty in the dance between Gargano and Galloway. Just the smack of fists and the salty verbiage of trash talk between two men who reckon they ought to try and maim one another for the hell of it. The battle extended equally into the closing seconds of the match. Gargano and Galloway fighting over the same submission, an over the shoulder chickenwing/crossface. Johnny Gargano appeared to be on the verge of beating Galloway. Then Ethan Carter III, shocked the wrestling world and put his boots to Gargano, ending the match in a disqualification.

One day, Gargano and Galloway will have a match that won’t be cut short by time or angle. When that day comes I suspect it will be a high quality contest. Not to say this one was terrible. It was in fact a good match that sacrificed critical acclaim to set up the much talked about ending of the show. ***¼

EVOLVE has the promo and closing angle up on their YouTube page where fans can view it for free. As a result I won’t spend much time describing it in detail. I will say this on the subject: the closing speech by ECW felt a little hammy with all the “smark” references, but he cut it with such passion that it rescued the angle from being lampoon worthy. I’m interested to see where a WWE vs. TNA feud goes in an independent promotion with close ties to New York goes.

Final Thoughts:

Okay, so I’m aware that I’m a bit of an EVOLVE homer, but trust when I say that this is another outstanding production from the promotion. The two Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers got the most time, as they should, and were superb in their own respective ways. The rest of the card was entertaining as well. Of course, the last fifteen minutes of the show overshadow everything though. It is still a surreal feeling to think about what unfolded by as a wrestling fan my curiosity is piqued. Buy this show and the one that preceded it. I promise you they are well worth the investment.