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.
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.