Ybor City, Florida 4/17/15
Before I start this review, I should make note of an important development that occurred in the weeks leading up to this show. AR Fox left the promotion after there were some disputes regarding travel (I don’t know the full details, but it had something to do with that). It’s a very intriguing departure, as AR Fox had been a big part of WWN (Dragon Gate USA/Evolve) for a number of years, including being the first Evolve Champion. His departure is also interesting in that it comes at a time when Evolve is becoming more based around grapplers, and less on high-flyers (though there are still some present, as we will see on this card).
1.) Open The United Gate Champion Anthony Nese (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. Martin Stone: ***
Anthony Nese cut a scathing promo on Su Yung before the match, blaming her incompetence for all of the issues that occurred during the WWNLive Experience in San Jose (neither Nese nor Su Yung were even at those shows). Nese then says that he & Caleb Konley will take care of their competition tonight, before facing Ronin in a Street Fight at Evolve 42. In this match, Nese is taking on Martin Stone, who made an appearance at Evolve 38, and has wrestled in places such as NXT & RPW. A solid opening match here. Some may be a bit more down on this one, but I like it for what it was. Nothing too much to complain about. Nese would get the submission victory here over Stone.
2.) Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. Rey Horus: ***
After Nese’s victory in the opening match, Caleb Konley looks to make it a 2-0 night for The Premiere Athlete Brand, as he takes on Rey Horus, who had an impressive showing in the King of Indies Tournament during the WWN Live Experience in San Jose. Another really solid match here. Konley has been slowly growing on me in the last two years. As far as Rey Horus goes, this was my first time seeing him, and I think he had a really solid performance here as well. In the end, however, Konley would pick up the win in this match, making The Premiere Athlete Brand undefeated on the night.
After the match, Su Yung announced that she would be representing The Premiere Athlete Brand in an upcoming SHINE Title Match against the current champion, Santana Garrett. However, SoCal Val quickly took away Su Yung’s title shot and awarded it to her bodyguard, Andrea. They went on to humiliate Su Yung even further after this revelation.
3.) TJ Perkins vs. Biff Busick: ***3/4
These two were part of a Four-Corner Survival Match at Mercury Rising 2015, which saw TJ Perkins get the win, though not over Busick. I thought this was a really good match. It’s hard for either of these two to have a bad match against anyone, and it proved to be an exciting affair. It was an interesting match stylistically, as the smooth, technical nature of TJ Perkins went up against Busick’s smash-mouth, hard-hitting style. Lots of cool action here from both guys. The finish was a rather interesting one, as Perkins got the win over Busick via referee stoppage (Perkins had an armbreaker in while stomping at Busick’s head). After the match, Busick contested the referee’s decision, claiming he was not knocked out. He then stormed off.
4.) "All Ego" Ethan Page vs. Rich Swann: ***1/2
One of the big stories of the WWNLive Experience in San Diego is that Ethan Page turned on his friend and mentor Johnny Gargano. In his first match since that attack, Page is taking on Rich Swann, one of Gargano’s best friends and fellow member of Ronin. This was a pretty good match. It was easily better than all of Page’s efforts in San Jose. I think it pretty easy to see that Ethan Page works much better as a heel. He definitely felt more determined in this match, as he held his own against one of the stalwarts of Evolve in Swann. Eventually, Page would get the victory over Swann in an impressive showing.
5.) Davey Richards vs. Johnny Gargano: ****1/4
Back at Evolve 38, Richards made his return to the promotion with a victory over Anthony Nese. Gargano, however, is coming off of a sour ending to the WWNLive Experience in San Jose, not only losing his Open The Freedom Gate Title to Drew Galloway, but suffering an attack at the hands of Ethan Page. I believe these two had a match in PWG around a year or two ago that I recall really liking. I ended up really liking this encounter as well! Gargano & Richards are both incredible wrestlers, so it should be no surprise that this was a great match. Some have soured on Richards since his peak of popularity in 2010-12, but I think he can still put on incredible matches, when given the right opponent. Very good stuff from these two in this match. There was a lot of great action, and it was fun to watch from start to finish. Richards would get the victory in this encounter.
After the match, Gargano cuts a promo hyping up his Open The United Gate Title Street Fight with Rich Swann against The Premiere Athlete Brand at Evolve 42, saying that it’ll be a war, but that they’ll take those titles. He chose not to make any comments about his issues with Ethan Page.
6.) #1 Contender's 2/3 Falls Match - Timothy Thatcher vs. Roderick Strong: ****1/4
The winner of this match will receive a future shot at the Evolve World Title. This isn’t the first time these two have clashed, as Thatcher actually defeated Strong back at Evolve 37. I thought this was a great Main Event! Strong continues to have an incredible 2015, and I think he put on a really entertaining match here against Thatcher, who’s also having a really good year of his own. It was a certainly a brutal affair, as Strong won the first fall, Thatcher won the second, and eventually, Strong would the third and final fall to score the victory. Strong has earned a future shot at the Evolve World Title. Again, a great Main Event between two incredible competitors.
After the match, Strong announced that he’ll be challenging Drew Galloway for the Evolve World Title on May 31st. Thatcher congratulated Strong on the win, but then Busick came out (for some reason) and complained about the questionable call by the referee earlier in the night. Strong bailed, and then Busick had a stare-down with Thatcher to close the show.
I though this was a really enjoyable show. The two top matches, Strong/Thatcher and Gargano/Richards, really delivered, and all of the undercard matches ranged from solid to very good. Evolve continues to put consistently solid shows throughout 2015, and this particular show is certainly one worth checking out.