This is the first show of the "2nd Chapter" of Evolve. It was announced before these shows that Evolve would be going back to it's roots, focusing on some kind of rankings system (at this point, it had not been clearly defined) and putting the emphasis back on the in-ring action, especially after the fiasco that occurred during WrestleMania Weekend in New Orleans. Let's see how the first show of this "reboot" went.
Ybor City, Florida 8/8/14
1.) Style Battle 2014 - Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher: ***1/2
The show opens up with the first match of the 2014 edition of the Style Battle Tournament. This was actually the first time that I had seen Timothy Thatcher, but I had heard of him from some of his work earlier this year. These two had a really good opening match. Their styles obviously meshed really well, with lots of grappling & submission exchanges. Drew Gulak would eventually get the win over Thatcher in a really solid opening match. We're off to a good start.
2.) Style Battle 2014 - Biff Busick vs. James Raideen: **1/2
James Raideen was someone who I was not familiar with at all. He's a big dude from New Zealand (in terms of size, think of Rob Terry) who spends a lot of time in ZERO-1 in Japan. This was a decent match. Compared to the previous match, we saw a bit more when it came power moves. At the same time, the fact that this followed Gulak/Thatcher definitely hurt this one. Biff Busick gets the win in this one.
3.) Six-Man Tag - Los Ben Dejos & Lince Dorado vs. The Juicy Product & Jesus DeLeon: ***1/4
This is a match that features a bunch of guys from FIP. Jesus DeLeon is the only guy I'm not familiar with. He came out looking like someone from Dragon Ball Z (including a scouter). This was a fun little Six-Man Tag. Everyone got to hit their stuff and the crowd was pretty well into it. Dorado & Los Ben Dejos would get the win.
4.) Matt Sydal vs. Johnny Gargano: ***3/4
I believe this is Matt Sydal's first match in a major US Independent Promotion since being released by WWE. As you would expect, this was a really good match. Gargano was awesome as always, and Sydal looked very good in here as well. Lots of really solid action from both guys. The only real downside is that Gargano has seemed directionless since losing the Open The Freedom Gate Title (aside from the feud with Rich Swann). Sydal would get the win in what was probably the Match of the Night.
5.) Tag Team Match - The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with Su Yung vs. The Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet & Rich Swann with Ivelisse): ***1/2
Gargano tried to attack Rich Swann before the match, to no avail. This led to Nese & Konley jumping Ricochet & Swann before the match, with Ivelisse coming out to fight off Su Yung). This was a pretty solid tag team match. You're always guaranteed to get a good match whenever you get these four guys involved. The involvement of Su Yung & Ivelisse, and the match going a little long, did hurt the match a bit, but the match was still good. Nese & Konley would get the win.
After the match, there were some shenanigans where Nese & Konley we're treating Su Yung properly, and Swann tried to get Su Yung to leave The Premiere Athlete Brand.
6.) Evolve Title - Chris Hero vs. Drew Galloway: ***1/4
So Trent Baretta was originally supposed to be on these shows, but the injury he suffered at Beyond Wrestling's Americanrana a few weeks prior forced him off. This led to this match being the Main Event. It was originally a non-title match, but Hero said he wanted to prove why he was one of the best by defending his title, and offered Galloway (who was making his Evolve debut after getting released by WWE) a title shot. Galloway accepted. Commentary notes that Hero had suffered an injury over the Summer and was in a wheel chair for a brief period. Hero looks really out of shape. He just doesn't look good at all.
As far as the match goes, it was fine, though it wasn't the best on the card. That doesn't mean they didn't work hard. There was some solid action in this one. In the shocker of the night, Drew Galloway pinned Hero clean with his Future Shock DDT to win the Evolve Title!!
Afterwords, Drew Galloway cuts a promo really putting over Evolve, saying that they have the best wrestlers in the world. He said he wants to be Evolve's leader and is proud to be their new Evolve Champion!
A solid show from an in-ring perspective, but ultimately a forgettable one, aside from Drew Galloway's shocking title win. You had a few good matches, particularly Gargano/Sydal & Gulak/Thatcher. While some of the matches went a little too long, the quality of the card was still relatively decent. The new direction with Drew Galloway as Evolve Champion is an interesting one, and it will be interesting to see his direction in the coming shows. A mixed bag to start off Evolve's reboot.