San Jose, California 3/26/15
1.) Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher: ***1/2
Before the opening match got underway, Drew Gulak cuts a promo. He says that wrestling has “lost its way”, but guys like Biff Busick, Timothy Thatcher, and himself are here to rectify that with their style of wrestling. The only things that matter are effort and victories. A nice little promo from Gulak.
As for the match itself, I though it was pretty good. Some people don’t like this style (referred to as “Grapplef*ck”), but I feel like it’s fine if they can keep it at a certain time limit, per say. This match is good example, as it only went about 12-13 minutes. These two actually had a British Rounds Rules Match at the Wrestling Odyssey during ‘Mania Weekend in New Orleans in 2014 that I heard was amazing. This encounter was, I’d say, on par with their match at Evolve 31 during the 2014 Style Battle Tournament. Eventually, Drew Gulak would get the win with a quick cradle. I’m not sure what the record is, but apparently Gulak is undefeated against Timothy Thatcher, which should be an interesting storyline to follow going forward.
2.) Biff Busick vs. Tommy End: ***1/4
This might be the first time we’re seeing Tommy End in a major North American independent promotion, but I’m honestly not sure. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with Tommy End, he’s a wrestler from The Netherlands. Of course, most of his time is spent wrestling in England & Continental Europe (his home promotion is WXW in Germany). He’s known for his kickboxing background, as wrestles a style that’s heavy on strikes. End was “endorsed” by Chris Hero, and he’s got a tough challenge in his first match as he’s facing Biff Busick. Another pretty good match. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but the work was really solid. You can always count on a good match with Busick, and I think End looked good in his debut for Evolve. Busick would score the victory with the Saka Otoshi.
After the match, Busick called out Chris Hero. He said that he just choked out Hero’s “endorsement” (Tommy End), and that he was going to do the same to Hero at Evolve 40.
3.) Chris Hero vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page: ***1/4
Another endorsement that were getting on these shows is “All Ego” Ethan Page, who is being endorsed by Johnny Gargano. It’s nice to see Page getting a shot in one of the bigger independent promotions, as his run in Ring of Honor didn’t work out for him. He’s had a few matches in the past with Evolve, and here he’s getting another shot. Before the match, Page cuts a promo, thanking Gargano for endorsing here. As far as this particular match goes, once again, we had another solid match. It wasn’t anything great, but just solid effort from both guys. Page looked good here, but in the end, it would be Hero who would pick up the win. It may have gone a two minutes or so too long, but that’s a minor gripe.
Afterwords, Hero cuts a promo in response to Biff Busick. He says that he’s not afraid of Busick, and that he hasn’t earned the right to say his name. This brought out Busick, who once again said he was going to choke Hero out. Busick wants to fight Hero now, and offers a free shot. Hero thinks about it, but says he’s wants to kick his ass tomorrow. Busick then goes for his choke, but Hero escapes. Really good build for their upcoming match.
4.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley, Brian Cage & TJ Perkins with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. The Inner City Machine Guns (Ricochet & Rich Swann) & Uhaa Nation: ***3/4
Anthony Nese isn’t on any of these shows, for some strange reason, so Caleb Konley & SoCal Val had to seek out some extra help for this weekend. They seemed to have found good help in the form of TJ Perkins (currently Manik in TNA), and Brian Cage (who’s recently made waves in Lucha Underground). Here, they’re taking on Ricochot, Rich Swann, & Uhaa Nation (who is likely making his last appearances for WWNLive, since he would be bound for WWE). The babyface trio comes out to “All Night Long”, which is always fun. I thought this was a really fun trios match. It wasn’t nearly up to the standard of trios matches in the WWNLive Universe that we’ve seen in Dragon Gate USA, but for what it was, it was entertaining. Its good to see guys like TJ Perkins & Brian Cage get more booking in promotions like Evolve (since they’re with TV Promotions and are mainly wrestle on the West Coast). Everyone looked good, and the interactions between the two big guys (Cage & Uhaa Nation) were nice to see as well. Eventually, Uhaa Nation would get the win for his team.
After the match, Andrea (the former Rosie Lotta Love, who had a very brief stint in TNA, now much leaner & with more muscle), hits low blows on Rich Swann & Uhaa Nation. Brian Cage & Caleb Konley joined in on the attack. SoCal Val was then yelling at TJ Perkins, since he lost the match for the Premiere Athlete Brand. Perkins then just bailed on them, I guess signaling that his tenure in the Premiere Athlete Brand is over pretty quickly.
5.) Open The Freedom Gate Title - Johnny Gargano (with Ethan Page) vs. AR Fox: ***3/4
These two had a match for the Open The Freedom Gate Title at Evolve 13, which I recall being pretty great. While I don’t think this match topped their previous encounter, it was still a really good title match. One of the highlights was when Gargano went for a dive to the outside onto AR Fox, and hit his knee on one of the guardrails. He seemed hurt, but he toughed it out, and in the end, was able to successfully retain his Open The Freedom Gate Title. Even though everyone knew Gargano was going to win, I don’t think it hurt the match that much.
Afterwords, Lacey comes out to interview Gargano (she played a similar role during the WWNLive Tour of China in November of 2014). Gargano said he would defend his Open The Freedom Gate Title against Drew Galloway at Mercury Rising 2015. He added that if Galloway retained his Evolve Title in tonight’s Main Event, then their match would be a title unification match! He then put over Galloway and WWNLive as a whole.
6.) Evolve World Title - Drew Galloway vs. "Darewolf" PJ Black: ***1/4
The Main Event features two former WWE Superstars, as Drew Galloway defends his Evolve World Title against PJ Black, the former Justin Gabriel. Black challenged Galloway to a title match at the end Evolve 38, and Galloway accepted. The match itself was fine, though I don’t think it should have been the Main Event. Again, the match wasn’t bad by any means, and I get why this was the Main Event (as I said earlier, both spent time with WWE), but there were a few matches on the card that were better than this match. Personally, I would have switched this match with the Gargano/Fox Open The Freedom Gate Title Match. Still, solid work from both guys. Galloway would get the win and successfully retained his Evolve World Title.
After the match, Lacey interviews Galloway. He complemented Black, thanked the fans, and said he was going to become a double champion. Gargano then came out, and said that while he respects Galloway, this rings belongs to him, and that he earned that for busting his ass for nearly six years in Dragon Gate USA & Evolve. Galloway said that he would kill Gargano if he truly needed to prove himself to him. They got into a bit of a scuffle, leading to Ethan Page & Rich Swann having to pull Gargano away.
Like I said earlier, this wasn't a blow away show by any means, but it was a relatively solid show. After the second watch, I still feel some of the criticisms are a bit unwarranted. Everything (for me) was at least ***1/4 or better, but nothing went above ***3/4. It wasn't great, but it was good...definitely a step up from their previous two Thursday Evolve Shows on 'Mania Weekend.