The show opens up with Johnny Gargano thanking the fans for their support. He then starts putting over EVOLVE as the place for hungry young talent. Though the next bit was mentioned in WWN Live Newsletter, they make it sound like Gargano is the one who came up with having current EVOLVE wrestlers bring in young wrestlers. Rich Swann comes out and brings up Ronan as young wrestlers taking a spot. Swann is the first wrestler to bring in a younger wrestler and he has chosen Shane “Swerve” Strickland. The opening match is now Strickland versus Gargano and Gargano makes it for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.
Johnny Gargano vs Shane Strickland for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship
Johnny Gargano won the title on the final night of WWN’s China tour. This is Strickland’s return to EVOLVE with his last appearance being in September of 2013 if cagematch.net is to be believed. The match is very much a standard indie undercard match. They work pretty even throughout. Probably the neatest thing that happened in the match was Gargano turning a double arm submission into a pinning attempt. Seemed like they really wanted to make Strickland look even with the face of WWN. Could not manage to get a connection with this match. Never found myself rallying behind either wrestler nor getting engrossed with the action. Hope Stickland gets brought back simply so he can work even more with some of EVOLVE’s high flyers.
Result: Gargano by submission.
-Post match Strickland and Gargano shake hands. From the back comes Moose, the former NFL player and Bravado Brother’s bodyguard, and spears Johnny Gargano. Harlem is not happy with Lancelot.
Trevor Lee vs Biff Busick
This is Trevor Lee’s debut for the main EVOLVE show though he has wrestled on WWN through FIP. Biff Busick has cemented himself in EVOLVE through two years of putting exciting matches on in EVOLVE’s Styles Battle. Both wrestlers came to fight and they delivered a rather rad contest. Busick dominated early on even running through Lee. I loved how they stayed active in holds. That makes it so much harder to look away when they are struggling into the next submission. Busick had some wonderful cutoffs which feels like something you see less and less of in independent wrestling. One was a brutal lariat that made me cringe and one was a half nelson suplex. It established a pecking order and got me excited for the Lee comeback. The comeback did not disappoint. The fact that Lee ran through Busick with a forearm strikem much like he was ran through earlier was fantastic. Lee’s sweet striking barrage fit in well in there with Busick. Little too much empty space for me to love this but I certainly enjoyed it. There was a real grit to this match and that is something I hope to continue to see in EVOLVE.
Result: Busick by submission
Bravado Brothers vs Uhaa Nation & AR Fox
This match had some things I like but on the whole this really is not my kind of match. I love the Bravado Brothers when they are working heavy on the schtick but this was more worked in the workrate style of things which was sorta expected given the babyface team of Nation and Fox. I thought it was fun for what it was and things like Harlem Bravado cutting off a Uhaa comeback on Lancelot and creating a double team opportunity. Honestly, their streaks of double team offense may have been my favorite parts of the match. One glaring issues I have with this type of match is a spot where Fox does a giant dive to the outside has to have the ref check on Fox but as soon as he gets there he pops up and goes for a double team.
Result: Fox and Nation by pin
Timothy Thatcher vs Ricochet
Looking forward to this show most on the card. Ricochet made his name across the planet last year while Thatcher just started to find himself in some of the more covered independents. These two represent opposite ends of the style spectrum. Thatcher is a throwback grappler with a few new age wrinkles while Ricochet is a dynamic high flyer. While I did not absolutely love this, it was fun simply watching how this would work. Thought this match was most enjoyable when Thatcher was on the offensive. This was not simply because I like Thatcher working over an opponent but I thought Ricochet ate the offense well as well. Favorite moment was easily Ricochet missing the Shooting Star Press as Thatcher slips out of the way and then he slips back into a Fujiwara Armbar. Ricochet was doing a good job selling the job that really drew me in as a possible finish. They built to a big moment and including the styles clash concept in that sequence. The only real downpoint for his selling was going for the Regalplex when it used his injured arm for most of it. One notable flub by Thatcher but really both things didn’t bother me too much. Crowd did not do the match much favors and this is definitely in need of rewatch.
Result: Ricochet by pin
Rich Swann vs Anthony Nese-10 Minute Flash Match
In concept this match is already working against itself being essentially a 10 minute “ironman” match. It continued to do itself no favors by jampacking ironman cliches into 10 minutes. Flash pin that wouldn’t work in any other situation? You got it. The heel eating a DQ so he can get fall? Definitely there. Time expiring as the tying submission is latched on? You get the point. I sorta liked the work in between which saves this from being a bit of a dud. Only person who I would feel comfortable criticizing in this one is whoever decided to include those moments or who decided on doing this type of match.
Result: Swann over Nese 2-1
-Post match the Bravado Brothers and Moose come out. They stare down the Premiere Athlete Brand but they back away. Moose and the Bravados beat up Rich Swann until Gargano comes out. This segment was hard to watch but what comes out of it is Bravados and Moose will wrestle Rich Swann, Johnny Gargano, and Chuck Taylor. Also, the losing team will never be able to team again. Yeah, can’t make sense of that either.
Roderick Strong vs Drew Galloway
Before the match even begins, Roderick Strong is trying to apologize to Galloway in the most unconvincing of manners. Honestly, it was a really good promo to get into this. The match itself felt like a really good ECW tribute match and I mean that in the best way possible. Of course, easily the FUNNEST match on the card and the most intense ends in a a double DQ which is something I will get back to. Both guys just took it to each other with stiff chops. These two brawl around the building. The camera crew annoyingly can’t catch the action though at the same time there is a charm to the cameras running around trying to get an angle for the fight. Strong looks baby-esque in Galloway’s arms and there is a couple times where he is just tossed into things including the outside of the building. taking this match to the front of the building could easily have come across as dumb but these wrestlers were going at it in such an uncontrollable manner. When they get back inside the building they exchange chops on top of the bar which is another signature moment in this match. The finish is both wrestlers swinging chairs at each other in the middle of the ring with the referee saying enough is enough. The logic that they seem to want us to buy is that once they took this stuff into the ring that it was too far. Really, it does not make much sense at all and was a poor way to end what was a really good fight.
Result: Double DQ
It should be noted up front that the crowd for this show was rather bad which on a live viewing makes many of the matches come off flatter than they probably should. I don’t know if they were simply unethusiastic individuals or what. Half of the card was at least good and each had a different feel. Two of said matches certainly felt like matches that said “EVOLVE” with Busick against Lee and the clash between Ricochet and Thatcher. Incredibly disappointing ending aside, the main event felt like a big time match. The other matches were nothing offensive and I can definitely see some getting more mileage out of Uhaa & Fox versus Bravados than me. Show moves quick and a match that strikes your interest is probably around the corner.