Sunday, January 31, 2016

Evolve 52 Review

Timothy Thatcher defends the Evolve World Title against Drew Galloway, while Johnny Gargano takes on Drew Gulak!!

Evolve 52
Orlando, Florida 11/7/15

1.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Lio Rush: ***1/2

As I mentioned in my review of Evolve 51, Ethan Page is looking to redeem himself after all the horrible things he did throughout 2015. Once again, he’s in the opening match (per his request), and here, he’s taking on Lio Rush. I thought this was a really good opener. Of course, the wrestling was very solid from bell-to-bell, but we also saw interesting character work with Ethan Page. While he started the match in a calm mood, Rush frustrated him to the point where his heel tendencies began to show themselves once again. Very good stuff here. In the end, Page scored the victory with the Spinning Dwayne.

After the match, Page shakes hands with Rush and puts over his effort in defeat. He asks Johnny Gargano to come out. When he does, Page apologizes for what he did to Gargano throughout 2015, and wants to make amends. He offers to be Gargano’s partner in the upcoming Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament, but Gargano turns him down almost immediately, calling him a snake. A sad Ethan Page made his was to the back as Gargano calls out Drew Galloway, saying that they should team in the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament. Galloway was intrigued, and accepts his offer, since he has respect for Gargano (especially after their match at Mercury Rising 2015).

2.) Anthony Nese (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2

Peter Kaasa has really made a name for himself in short order since his debut with Evolve. After coming off a win over Ethan Page the night before at Evolve 51, he’s taking on Anthony Nese here at Evolve 52. I was actually pretty excited for this one, since both fit the bill of “muscular high-flyers”. This was another really good match. Kaasa continues to impress with his size and freakish high-flying ability. Nese looked really good here as well. Eventually, a distraction from SoCal Val led to Nese taking advantage and picking up the win. I could have done without the interference that led to the finish, but this was still very good.

3.) Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams (with Drew Gulak): ***1/4

At Evolve 51, Riddle defeated the teacher, but tonight, he takes on the protégé. While this match wasn’t quite as good as the Riddle vs. Gulak match, it was still pretty good. It was also a shorter match (around six or seven minutes), but they were able to pack in a fair amount of stuff in that time frame. Riddle continues to look impressive, while Williams took the fight to Riddle and held his own. In the end, however, it wouldn’t be enough, as Williams would tap out to an armbar from Riddle.

4.) Caleb Konley (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4

Konley comes into this match looking to rebound after a big loss to Drew Galloway the night before at Evolve 51. Meanwhile, Perkins actually defeated Nese on that same show, and he’s looking to sweep the P.A.B. here. I thought this was a really good match. While this technically was a matchup of heels (since Perkins recently joined Catch Point), these two put on a really entertaining contest. Perkins is so much fun to watch in the ring, and Konley continues to impress as a singles competitor. After some really good back & forth action, Konley is able to pick up the win over Perkins. The best match on the show up to this point.

I believe it was announced after this match that The Premiere Athlete Brand would be entering the Evolve Tag Team Tournament, meaning that we now have three confirmed teams for the tournament in January.

5.) Drew Gulak (with Tracy Williams) vs. Johnny Gargano: ****1/2

These two had a really good opening match back at Evolve 35 in the Fall of 2014. They are both coming off of losses at Evolve 51 (Gulak lost to Matt Riddle, while Gargano came up short against Timothy Thatcher in an Evolve World Title Match) and are looking to rebound. I certainly thought they would at least match their previous encounter, but they exceeded my expectations! This match was incredible! Gargano proved once again that is more than capable of hanging with the grapples in this new era of Evolve. Gulak looked great here as well, and this was easily his best outing of 2015. Just great back & forth action from start to finish. Gargano was, once again, so close to victory, but it slipped through his fingers, as Gulak locked in a chokehold, causing Gargano to pass out. Fantastic Match!

6.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Galloway: ****1/4

Originally, this was going to be a non-title match, but both men agreed to the title being on the line here. This is technically Galloway’s rematch for the Evolve World Title that he held for nearly a year. While this wasn’t quite as good as the match that preceded it, this was still an awesome match! These two took the fight to each other right at the opening bell, and they never once let up. Galloway just beat the crap out of Thatcher, but the Evolve World Champion never gave up. In the end, Galloway went for a move off the top rope (a rare thing to see from Galloway), but Thatcher caught Galloway with a headbutt right under the chin, and that was enough to keep Galloway down for the three count. I really how we Thatcher once again won a title match out of nowhere, but instead, he won with a nasty headbutt instead of his usual armbar. These two put on a great Main Event, and it’s crazy to think that this was only the third best match of the weekend.

After the match, Thatcher extended his hand to Galloway, but Galloway, who had his back turned to Galloway, rolled out of the ring and went to the back. They played it up (both here & later on) that Galloway may not have seen Thatcher extending his hand, since he was facing the other way, but it does seem like a slight hint at a Galloway heel turn down the road, but we’ll see.

Then, Catch Point comes out, and surrounds the ring. It looks like all three of them are going to attack Thatcher, but Matt Riddle comes out for the save! Drew Gulak challenges them to a tag team match, and it looks like we’re getting Thatcher & Riddle taking on Gulak & Perkins. The match goes for about a minute or two, but then Riddle shows his true colors, and turns on Thatcher. Riddle locked in an armbar and Gulak yelled at Thatcher to give up. Thatcher is eventually forced to tap, and Gulak says that Evolve belongs to Catch Point. He adds that his days as Evolve World Champion are numbered (reminding Thatcher once again that he’s never beaten him), while Riddle also promises to take the title from him. While I could have done without the quasi-match, it was good in the sense that it set up FOUR future matches for Thatcher, which is definitely a positive heading into 2016.

Overall: 9.5/10

Evolve closes out 2015 on a real high note with another amazing show! It was going to be a challenge matching the incredible show that was Evolve 51, but the fact that they produced a show that was just a great the very next night is simply astounding. From top-to-bottom, this show was just excellent from start to finish. While it didn’t have a Match of the Year Contender like Evolve 51, you still had two incredible Main Events, and a very solid undercard. They finished 2015 in the best way possible, putting a cap on arguably the best year in the history of Evolve.

Evolve 51 Review

Timothy Thatcher defends the Evolve World Title against Johnny Gargano, and Drew Galloway returns!!

Evolve 51
Ybor City, Florida 11/6/15

Before the action gets underway, we get an in-ring segment featuring commentators Lenny Leonard & Rob Naylor hyping up the show. They then introduce Trevin Adams (who I believe is the WWNLive Ambassador, or something like that). He announced that there will a three-night tournament on January 22nd, 23rd, & 24th to crown the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. He also announced that Roppongi Vice are the first entrants into the tournament.

1.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2

We properly kicks things off with Ethan Page, who’s coming off a devastating loss to Johnny Gargano in an I Quit Match at Evolve 49, and an upset loss to Matt Cage at Evolve 50. Page had cut a promo after that weekend saying those losses, as well as what Sami Zayn said to him, helped him see the error of his ways, and he wants to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of everyone (from the fans, to the wrestlers, to Evolve officials) with a fresh start. He requested to be in the opening matches on both shows this weekend, and says he’s going to work his way to the top with no shortcuts. Tonight, he’s taking on Peter Kaasa, a muscular high-flyer who had impressive showing in his debut on the previous Evolve weekend.

This was a really solid opener. It started off a tad slow, but it really picked up by the end. Page was not as self-confident as he usually was, and Kaasa certainly took advantage of that, flying all over the place. Despite his own personal issues, Page fought back, and we had some entertaining action here. Eventually, Kaasa was able to hit a really impressive 630 Senton to score the victory over “All Ego”.

After the match, Page shook hands with Kaasa.

2.) Drew Gulak (with Tracy Williams) vs. Matt Riddle: ***1/2

Matt Riddle went undefeated in his debut with Evolve during the recent shows in New York. This time, however, he’s got a tough task ahead of him as he faces off against Catch Point. While he’s facing Tracy Williams at Evolve 52, he’s facing off with Drew Gulak here on Evolve 51. This was much longer than Riddle’s two debut matches (it went around 12 Minutes), and it ended up being better than expected. Gulak was very good in this match, as he showed a lot of fire & intensity going against the former UFC fighter (even busting out some dives to the outside, which is a rare thing to see from Gulak in Evolve). While I’m sure Gulak played a big factor in this match being good, Riddle played his part well. His heel character is so good, as he’s just an arrogant prick (and his entrance music reflects that), and he showed that he could go the distance in a longer match with someone like Gulak. A really good match that sees Riddle get the submission with an armbar of Gulak.

After the match, Gulak cut a promo, complementing Riddle on the win, and thanked him for the match. Riddle then basically blew Gulak off, saying that he was just a stepping stone to better things. Tracy Williams then takes out Riddle with a cheap shot (setting up their match at Evolve 52 the next night), and Gulak reminds Riddle that anything can happen in wrestling.

3.) Lio Rush vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4

The next match features two standouts who are set to make a splash heading into 2016. I’ve heard more & more about Lio Rush as someone who can breakout in 2016, and while I haven’t heard as much about Yehi, I’ve definitely seen buzz surrounding him as well. These two had a pretty good match. A fine showcase for both competitors. Lio Rush would get the win with a big Frosh Splash, but Yehi looked impressive in defeat. I went into this really having no idea who either guy was, and after the match, I was left wanting to see more of their work.

4.) Tracy Williams vs. Martin Stone: ***

Stone made a few appearances for Evolve earlier in the year, and has also appeared in NXT this year as well. Unfortunately for Stone, he’s been used as an enhancement talent by both promotions. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he’s way more competitive in a place like Evolve, as he had a solid match here with Tracy Williams. Stone got the chance to shine, but it was Tracy Williams would pick up the victory, building some momentum before his match with Matt Riddle at Evolve 52.

5.) Anthony Nese (with Andrea) vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4

SoCal Val won’t be on this show, as she cut a video promo saying she didn’t want to be in the same building as Drew Galloway, who was making his return on this show from suspension, following the events that took place at Evolve 46 (where SoCal Val was nearly mauled by an irate Galloway). She would be back for Evolve 52, but for now, it’s just Andrea in the corner of Anthony Nese. He’s taking on TJ Perkins, who recently joined up with Catch Point at Evolve 50. I thought this was a really good match, bordering on great. Perkins continues to showcase his amazing wrestling ability, and I thought he worked very well with Nese here. It was pretty even for the most part, but eventually, Perkins gets Nese to tap out for the win.

After the match, Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher came out and attacked Perkins, getting a measure of revenge after what happened at Evolve 50. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams come out to help Perkins to the back.

6.) Drew Galloway vs. Caleb Konley: ****1/4

So this is the first time we’ve seen Drew Galloway in Evolve for a few months. His last appearance was Evolve 46 in July, where he had an incident where he took out the entire Premiere Athlete Brand (including Andrea), took out a referee, and scared the crap out of SoCal Val. He’s taking on Caleb Konley, who been on a bit of a winning streak in singles competition over the last few months. As far as this match is concerned, it was great! While the previous match was more focused on wrestling, this one was an all-out brawl, as they fought all over the building. Galloway excels in this environment, but Konley more than kept up with him, playing a very good heel in the process. Just great back & forth action from both guys here. Eventually, Galloway puts away Konley with his Future Shock DDT to score the win in this fantastic match!

7.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Johnny Gargano: ****3/4

Gargano is coming off his feud-ending victory over Ethan Page in an I Quit Match at Evolve 49. The next night, at Evolve 50, Sami Zayn said that Gargano was the face of WWNLive. He was then confronted by Timothy Thatcher, the current Evolve World Champion, who took offense to what Zayn had said, which helped set up this match.

Before this match could begin, Gargano is interrupted by Ethan Page, who asks for forgiveness, after all the horrible things he’s done. Gargano responds by telling him to get out of his ring, which Page does.

As far as this Main Event goes, there’s a lot that can be said. The story is very important. On one side, you have Johnny Gargano, the guy who became the face of Dragon Gate USA and was “the guy” for a number of years, during the time when high-flyers like Ricochet, AR Fox, & Rich Swann were the “it” thing. He’s facing off with Timothy Thatcher, who’s become the face off this new grappling based style that Evolve has now based itself around, and has subsequently, put focus on other guys of that style, like Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, TJ Perkins, and Zack Sabre Jr. In that sense, this was a big match for the WWNLive brand as a whole, as the guy who had been “the face” of the promotion took on the guy who was arguably the “new face”.

With regards to the actual wrestling, it was incredible from start to finish. Gargano, who’s arguably been the “ace” of WWNLive since the rise of Ronin, went right after Thatcher and tried his best to wrestle the Evolve World Champion at his own game. He showed that he could hang with Thatcher, and it produced and fantastic bout that was full of drama and emotion. Gargano came close to beating Thatcher on a number of occasions, but in the end, Thatcher got the victory and retained his Evolve Title. This was easily one of the best matches, if not the best match, from Evolve in 2015. Not only was the action great, but it was a big “passing of the torch” moment, as Thatcher officially became the new face of WWNLive.

After the match, Drew Galloway comes out, and talks about Timothy Thatcher as well as all of the positive things going on with Evolve (including being mentioned by Triple H). He then asks Thatcher to make their match at Evolve 52 the next night for the Evolve World Title. Trevin Adams comes in and says the match is a go if Thatcher agrees to it, which he does!

Overall: 9.5/10

This was easily one of the best outings from Evolve in 2015. From start to finish, this was an amazing. The Main Event was such a great experience when it came to both the in-ring action, and all of the backstory that surrounded it. Thatcher vs. Gargano is a match well worth seeking out. Don’t forget about the undercard, because there was a lot of great stuff throughout this show, and some solid variety as well, which is always good in wrestling. When not a single matches goes below ***, you know you have a really good show on your hands, and Evolve truly delivered on this night.

Evolve 50 Review

Roppongi Vice takes on The Premiere Athlete Brand in the Main Event!

Evolve 50
Deer Park, New York 10/18/15

1.) Tracy Williams vs. TJ Perkins: ***1/2

The show kicks off with two men who are looking to bounce back after losses at Evolve 49 (Williams in singles action, Perkins in tag team action). I thought this was a really good opener. Perkins is such a breath of fresh air in Evolve, as his unique style makes these “grapplef*ck” matches way more interesting. Williams looked good here as well, and in the end, Williams picks up the submission victory with a crossface out of nowhere. Although it did kind of neglect the work Perkins had done to the arm of Williams earlier, that’s just a minor complaint. A very solid match, and a good singles win for Williams, who now owns submission victories over Biff Busick and TJ Perkins.

Afterwords, Drew Gulak comes out to celebrate with Williams, and tells Perkins that if he has issues with Thatcher, then they should talk.

2.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. “Money” Matt Cage: ***

Page is coming off a devastation loss to Johnny Gargano in an I Quit Match the night before at Evolve 49. Despite this, Page still appears to be cocky, attacking Cage before the bell. This was a pretty solid match. It’s nice to see Matt Cage getting more opportunities with Evolve, and he worked well with Page here. Cage eventually caught Page with a backslide, after Page was arguing with the fans, for the pin and the win! Page snaps, and attacks Cage immediately after the fact. They seemed to be pushing the idea that Page wasn’t focused following his big loss to Gargano, which cost him the win here, and that makes sense.

It was after this match that we have another Sami Zayn segment for the live crowd only, where Zayn confronted Ethan Page.

3.) Andrew Everett vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2

Peter Kaasa had an very positive showing in his Evolve debut the night before in the opening Four-Way Match, and here, he’s taking on another high-flyer, and the man who won that Four-Way Match, Andrew Everett. These two had a really entertaining match. Everett is such a good high flyer, and we got to see more of what Kaasa can do. Exciting stuff from both guys here. In the end, Kaasa was able to take advantage of a missed Shooting Star Press attempt from Everett, and got the victory! Looks like they’re going to be doing more with Kaasa going forward, and I’ve got no complaints with that.

4.) Chris Dickinson vs. Matt Riddle: **1/2

Up next we have Matt Riddle’s 2nd match of the weekend, as he takes on Chris Dickinson. While this wasn’t quite as good as Riddle’s match from Evolve 49, this was still decent. It only went four minutes or so, but they did some interesting stuff during that period. Riddle would end up getting the win over Dickinson with a big knee strike.

After the match, Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams (now know as Catch Point, if I forgot to mention that earlier) come out and congratulate Riddle on his win. They then announce they will both be getting singles matches against Riddle at the next set of Evolve shows in Florida.

5.) Drew Gulak vs. Willie Mack: ***1/4

Since Gulak was already in the ring, we go right into our next match. This was basically a consolation prize for Gulak, who came up short in a #1 Contender’s Match with Trevor Lee at Evolve 49. This was a solid match. It wasn’t the most appetizing matchup on paper (I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to it), but they put on a pleasantly good performance. The match wasn’t amazing by any means, but it was a fine undercard match. Gulak picks up the win here over Willie Mack.

6.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Trevor Lee: ***1/2

Trevor Lee defeated Drew Gulak the night before at Evolve 49 to earn this title shot. I was wondering how this match would work out, given the styles of both men, but I think they had a really good title match here. The action was very solid, and it was very interesting to see two guys mix it up who don’t normally interact with one another. While it was a bit odd that Lee was dominating a portion of the match, it didn’t take away from it too match. Thatcher eventually locked on an armbar from out of nowhere for the victory, retaining his Evolve World Title!

After the match, Catch Point of Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams come out and Gulak reminds Thatcher (one again), that he’s never beaten him in Evolve. Things got a bit heated, but then TJ Perkins came out, and turned on Thatcher, attacking the Evolve World Champion, and aligning himself with Catch Point. 

7.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with SoCal Val) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta): ***3/4

This is the continuation of the beef that Baretta has had with The Premiere Athlete Brand in recent months. I thought this was a really good Main Event. Things started slow, but the match built to the point where it got really exciting in the closing stretch. This has to be one of the most entertaining tag team matches that The Premiere Athlete Brand have had in quite some time. One of the highlights of this match involved Trent Baretta’s mother, who was sitting at ringside. At one point, SoCal slapped Baretta in front of his mom, and later, Baretta brought Nese over, and his mom slapped him a couple of times, with Nese added to this madness by saying that Baretta’s mom made him pasta once. Entertaining stuff, and it got the crowd into the match. In the end, Baretta & Romero win the match after hitting the Strong Zero.

After the match, Roppongi Vice celebrated with Baretta’s mom, and declared that they want to see the creation of, and wanted to come after, the Evolve Tag Team Titles.

Overall: 7.5/10

While this show didn’t have anything amazing, this was still a very solid wrestling show from top to bottom. In terms of match quality, I’d say this was a bit more consistent than Evolve 49. The Main Event was definitely the best match on the show, but you also had some other really good matches in Thatcher vs. Lee for the Evolve Title, Kaasa vs. Everett, and Williams vs. TJP. We also got some other developments, including TJ Perkins joining Catch Point, and Matt Riddle gearing up for matches with Gulak & Williams on the next set of show. Once again, another solid outing from Evolve.

Evolve 49 Review

Johnny Gargano & Ethan Page go to war in an I Quit Match, plus NXT's Sami Zayn appears!

Evolve 49
Woodside, New York 10/17/15

There was a lot of buzz going into these Evolve shows. The big story was that NXT’s Sami Zayn was making appearances on both shows, signing autographs, and appearing in front of the live crowd only (he was still injured at this time, plus, even if he was healthy, I don’t think WWE would have allowed him to wrestle anyway, due to his contract). Of course, this was a big moment, as it continued to fuel the speculation that there is some kind of partnership between WWNLive & WWE (specifically NXT). We’ll see that story develop further in the coming months (and continue on certain parts of the show), but for now, let’s get to the action.

1.) Four-Way Freestyle – Andrew Everett vs. Anthony Nese (with SoCal Val) vs. “Money” Matt Cage vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2

We kick off the show with a match filled with high-flyers. The only one I’m not familiar with is Peter Kaasa, who looks like Chris Sabin, except he’s really muscular. This was a really fun match, as you would expect. Non-stop action from start to finish. All four guys got their stuff in, and it was super entertaining. Kaasa looked impressive, as he can do a lot considering his size. In the end, Everett would score the victory with the Shooting Star Press.

2.) Matt Riddle vs. Jonathan Gresham: **3/4

I mentioned earlier how we were going to see the effects of the rumored WWE/WWNLive relationship going forward, and right here is a perfect example. Matt Riddle is a former UFC Fighter. He came up through The Ultimate Fighter, where he apparently delivered one of the most devastating knockouts in UFC history. He was on a winning streak in the UFC, before getting cut from the promotion after having two of victories overturned due to testing positive for Marijuana. He’s transitioned into pro-wrestling (I believe he’d been a fan or wrestling prior), and had garnered interest from WWE. Supposedly, WWE told Riddle to get booked with Evolve to get some seasoning before being offered a potential contract, so that’s what leads us to this match.

In his debut with Evolve, Riddle (who’s wrestling in MMA shorts and is barefoot) is taking on Jonathan Gresham, a guy who I think is underrated, and deserves to be booked elsewhere. As far as the match itself goes, it was relatively solid. It was on the shorter side, but it was fine. Gresham did a good job, and Riddle showed promise here. A good Evolve debut for the former UFC Fighter.

After the match, Chris Dickinson, who is Riddle’s opponent at Evolve 50 the next night, came out and cut a promo running him down, but Riddle big-leagued him by saying he didn’t know who Dickinson was, and that he would go through the Evolve roster. Dickinson slapped Riddle, and then Larry Dallas (yeah, he’s still around) came out and tried to sign Riddle but Dickinson takes him out. The two need to be separated, but Dickinson says in the ring, as now he has a match next…

3.) Chris Dickinson vs. Tracy Williams: ***

Tracy Williams was originally scheduled to face Willie Mack, but Mack is running late to the show due to issues with his flight, so Williams is taking on Dickinson instead. This was a good match. It could have been a bit shorter, but the action was fine here. Dickinson got the win here, which gives him some momentum heading into his match the next night with Matt Riddle.
After the match, Drew Gulak came out a berated his protégé Williams for losing. He then calls out Trevor Lee for their match…

4.) #1 Contender’s Match – Drew Gulak vs. Trevor Lee: ***1/2

So the winner of this match is going to challenge Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve World Title the next night at Evolve 50, while the loser will have a singles match with Willie Mack. I was wondering how this match would turn out, considering the fact that these guys have pretty different styles, but they ended up having a very good match. Gulak tried to ground Lee by working on Lee’s legs, but in the end, Lee was able to overcome the pain and was able to defeat Gulak for the win! I was a bit surprised by the result, since I figured Thatcher vs. Gulak was the natural matchup to do (since Thatcher has never beaten Gulak in Evolve). I guess they’re saving that for a future date. That being said, Thatcher vs. Lee and Gulak vs. Willie Mack are two very intriguing matches.

After the match, Tracy Williams took the mic and turned the tables on Gulak a bit, berating him for losing. Both guys then agreed that they need to get better.

Up next, Caleb Konley comes out with the rest of The Premiere Athlete Brand, and is upset that he’s been undefeated in singles action over the last few months, but has yet to receive a shot at the Evolve World Title. He is then interrupted by Milk Chocolate (who are probably most well known for appearances in Beyond Wrestling), and we have ourselves a tag team match!

5.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with SoCal Val) vs. Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts & Randy Summers): **1/2

This was a relatively short match, but it was entertaining for the time they had. Milk Chocolate got some offense in, but for the most part, The Premiere Athlete Brand dominated this match, and picked up the win here.

6.) Willie Mack vs. Earl Cooter: *1/2

The good news is that Willie Mack made it to the show! The bad news is that he’s wrestling Earl Cooter. The only major critique I have is that Cooter got too much offense in on Mack, but that’s really it. Mack got the win, and that’s how it should have been.

7.) Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta) vs. Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher & TJ Perkins: ***1/2

Another big news item coming into this weekend (not WWE/WWN related) is that Roppongi Vice is appearing in Evolve for the first time as a team. They’re of course, a regular team in New Japan’s Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Division, but what’s interesting is that they’ve wrestled in ROH a lot in 2015 (in fact I think their first match as a team was in ROH). Very interesting, to say the least. Here, they’re taking on a “super team” (or a team made up of two top singles wrestlers) consisting of Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher & TJ Perkins. The Premiere Athlete Brand watched from the stage while this match took place, since they’re facing Roppongi Vice the next night. I thought this was a really good tag team match. It was fascinating to see Roppongi Vice in the setting of Evolve, and they were, as you would expect, very solid as always. The team of Thatcher & Perkins were entertaining here as well, but unfortunately, they had one too many miscommunications, and Roppongi Vice got the win.

After the match, Perkins & Thatcher had some words, before Perkins left. I guess we’re not seeing those two team up anymore.

8.) I Quit Match – Johnny Gargano vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page: ****1/4

In what might possibly be one of the greatest troll jobs in recent memory, Ethan Page comes out to Triple H’s music, and does his whole entrance (including the spitting of water). He’s also dressed in a tracksuit similar to what The Rock wore for his I Quit Match with Mankind from Royal Rumble 1999. How great is Ethan Page as a heel? For Gargano, the stakes are really high for him, as if he loses, then he must leave Evolve. I feel like that stipulation really added to this match, because Gargano had been appearing on NXT TV (along with Tommaso Ciampa) in the month or two leading up to this show, and I think there were a lot of questions as to whether Gargano was getting signed to NXT. I thought this was a step up from their Anything Goes Match at Evolve 47. There was a lot of brawling, as you would expect, and it was just really entertaining from start to finish. It had the intensity of match ending feud, and both guys showed a lot here. In the end, Gargano was able to fight back, and locked in the GargaNO Escape with an actual hook, getting Page to say “I Quit!” for the win! Gargano celebrates to close the show.

After the match, we had a segment (for the live crowd only), where NXT’s Sami Zayn comes out and cuts a promo in the ring with Johnny Gargano.

Overall: 7.5/10

This was a relatively solid show from Evolve. For the most part, there really wasn’t anything bad on the show, which is always good, but besides the Main Event (which was a great match), nothing else really stood out. I would say that Roppongi Vice vs. Perkins & Thatcher and the opening Four-Way were pretty good, and seeing Matt Riddle for the first time was certainly interesting. At the end of the day, the Main Event is the big attraction, and it definitely delivered.