Ybor City, Florida 1/9/15
I should note very briefly that Caleb Konley was supposed to be on these set of shows, but suffered some sort of injury that forced him off the card.
The show kicks off with Open The Freedom Gate Champion Johnny Gargano coming out! After thanking everyone for their support in 2014, he talks about Evolve’s newest concept, where current wrestlers on the roster “endorse” an non-roster member to get a regular spot in the promotion. Gargano then brings out his friend (and former foe) Rich Swann, who talks about the need to give younger wrestlers opportunities. He then endorses “The King of Swerve” Shane Strickland, who comes out to face Gargano. In a surprising move, Gargano then asks for this to be a title match!
1.) Open The Freedom Gate Title - Johnny Gargano vs. Shane Strickland: ***1/2
For those who don’t know, Strickland is a regular in CZW. He’s made some WWNLive appearances before (including teaming with Rich Swann on a Dragon Gate USA show against The Premiere Athlete Brand) so the endorsement makes sense, in that regard. As far as the match itself, I really enjoyed it. Very solid stuff from both guys here. Strickland looked very impressive against Gargano, but in the end, Johnny Wrestling picked up the win to retain his Open The Freedom Gate Title.
After the match, Gargano & Strickland shake hands, but then Moose comes out of nowhere and spears Gargano! The Bravado Brothers make their way out, and say that they’re going to make Gargano’s live a living hell.
2.) Biff Busick vs. Trevor Lee: ***1/2
Now this was a match I was really looking forward to going into this show. This is actually Trevor Lee’s debut in Evolve, after having a breakout year in PWG in 2014. Another entertaining match. Whenever you get these two guys in a match, you know it’s going to be good. Lots of really good stuff from both guys. Eventually, Busick would get the victory with the Saka Otoshi (one of Minoru Suzuki’s submission finishers). A very impressive showing from both.
3.) The Bravado Brothers (with Moose) vs. AR Fox & Uhaa Nation: ***3/4
I might have rated this a little more highly than others, but I really enjoyed this match. A lot of really solid action throughout this match. Seeing the team of AR Fox & Uhaa Nation was really cool. Speaking of which, AR Fox nearly killed himself on a few occasions. At one point, he went to hit his running dive over the turnbuckle to the floor to take out one of The Bravado Brothers, and he nearly took out one of the light stands in the process (I think he actually made contact with it mid-air). That man is insane. Anyway, like I said, I liked this match a lot. In my opinion, it was actually tied for the best match on the show (2nd/3rd best if the Main Event had a finish, but I’ll get to that later). AR Fox & Uhaa Nation would get the win here, but they would be attacked after the fact by Moose.
4.) Ricochet vs. Timothy Thatcher: ***3/4
I was incredibly intrigued to see this match, because it’s an insane clash of styles. Probably the personification of a clash of styles if there ever was one. It started slow, which makes sense, since they’ve never faced each other before. Great stuff from both guys in this one. Ricochet continues to expand his horizons has a wrestlers, and Thatcher was impressive here as well. A really good match here, that sees Ricochet score the victory over Thatcher.
5.) 10-Minute Flash Match - Open The United Gate Champion Anthony Nese (with Caleb Konley & Su Yung) vs. Rich Swann: **3/4
Before this match began, SoCal Val (formerly of TNA) came out and offered her services to The Premiere Athlete Brand. For those who many not be aware, a “10-Minute Flash” Match is essentially a 10-Minute Iron Man Match. Honestly, I’m not a fan of that. Iron Man Matches really don’t work in this short environment, and I think it showed in this match. The match itself was decent, but I think it would have been just as good, maybe a little bit better, if they just had a normal match. Swann would end up winning the match 2-to-1.
Right after the match, The Bravado Brothers come out with Moose and attack Rich Swann. Johnny Gargano then runs out to make the save! What we get out of this is a challenge for Evolve 37 the next night in Orlando: The Bravado Brothers & Moose vs. Ronin!! The challenge is accepted and the match is set!
6.) Non-Title Match - Evolve Champion Drew Galloway vs. Roderick Strong: ***1/2
If you’ll recall, these two had a really great match at Evolve 35, but Strong has been denied an Evolve Title shot due to not being in the Evolve Rankings yet. Strong tried to apologize for his actions at Evolve 35, and then tries to jump Galloway before bell, but Galloway catches him. This match is something else. They went all over the building. We saw them brawling in the crowd, on top of the bar, and even outside the building and onto the streets of Ybor City!! Some pretty insane stuff here. Galloway & Strong had really great chemistry, and they showed it again in this match. Galloway, I think, broke his finger or something, as he had blood coming from his hand. I was really getting into it, but then they threw chairs in the ring and started swinging them at each other, before the referee has enough and calls for a Double DQ (I should note that this was supposed to be a regular match, but you wouldn’t have thought that with all of the brawling). The crowd wasn’t happy, and neither was I. This was going really well until the finish. If it had an actual ending, it probably would have been the Match of the Night without a doubt. The fact that there was no finish hurt this match a good deal in my eyes, but that’s just my opinion.
They continued fighting after the match. Galloway went for a running kick, but Strong pulled Heather Lynn (the ring announcer) in the way, and she takes the brunt of Galloway’s kick! The two are eventually separated, and Galloway cuts a promo to close out the show.
This show was chugging along really nicely through those first four matches, but then it fell apart slightly with the last two matches (the stipulation in Nese vs. Swann, which hurt that match, and the finish of the Main Event). Still, I'd say the show was still an enjoyable one. Nothing outstanding, but an entertaining night of wrestling. A good start to 2015 for Evolve.