This was the opening show of the 2016 WWNLive Experience at Eddie Deen’s Ranch in Dallas, Texas, which was the site for WrestleMania 32. WWNLive was putting on several shows over the course of this big weekend, featuring promotions like Evolve, CZW, SHIMMER, and Kaiju Big Battel. The weekend would conclude with a WWNLive SuperShow, but before we get to some of those other shows, let’s get to Evolve 58!
Dallas, Texas 4/1/16
1.) Evolve Tag Team Titles – Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (with Kota Ibushi) vs. The Premiere Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley with SoCal Val & Andrea): ***3/4
Before the match begins, Galloway & Gargano cut a promo about the huge crowd that’s turned out for the event. It was easily the biggest crowd for a show that Evolve has ever had. Gargano then introduces Kota Ibushi (who was going to be wrestling in the Main Event of the WWNLive SuperShow: Mercury Rising 2016) as their corner man for this match. While the Evolve Tag Team Titles are on the line here, there was also the stipulation that Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley could never team again if they won the titles here. Now this match was marred with pretty bad streaming issues during the live iPPV itself, which I think hampered any and all initial opinions of the match. However, when watching it back, with no streaming issues, I actually thought it was a really good match. Galloway & Gargano continued to improve as a team with each match. Plus, for what proved to be their final outing as a team, Nese & Konley looked very good here. The match was hurt a little bit, however, by a very weird finish. Apparently, they forgot to have the ring bell set up at ringside, so when Gargano made Konley tap out to the GargaNo Escape, the bell never rang. This caused a ton of confusion, and Gargano just put Konley in a hold again, and made him tap out again. There was still no bell, and the referee just raised Gargano’s hand anyway. It was a weird finish, without question, but it was still a really good match. I’m just happy that The Premiere Athlete Brand is evidently finished.
After the match, Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway brought a fan (who just so happened to be a particularly well-known wrestling Twitter personality), and re-enacted the original finish of the match in hilarious fashion.
Matt Riddle then came out, and demanded that his match against Timothy Thatcher for the Evolve Title take place right now! Thatcher comes out, and it looks like we’re getting out second title match of the night in the second match on the show!
2.) Evolve Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Matt Riddle: **3/4
This was a very….interesting match, to say the least. Firstly, I’m happy that this match got more time than their first encounter at Evolve 56. I thought the first half of the match was fine, but relatively uninspiring. They did their grappling and whatnot, but it was just kind of there. The second half of the match, however, really picked up, and it looked like we were going to get a very good match between these two. Unfortunately, the finish was an absolute downer. Basically, Riddle had Thatcher in a submission hold. Thatcher got the ropes, but Riddle wrenched it in even harder. He screamed in pain, and rolled to the floor. After checking on Thatcher, the referee called for the bell, and signaled for medical help for the Evolve Champion. Riddle grabbed the title and began celebrating as if he had won, but apparently, he hadn’t won. The match was declared a no contest by the referee, with his reasoning being that Riddle didn’t abide by the rope break. They had something positive going, and then they absolutely ruined it with the finish. The match was still relatively ok, but it was another poorly booked Timothy Thatcher title defense.
3.) Marty Scurll vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4
Also known as “The Villain”, Marty Scurll is making his Evolve debut here. Of course, he’s become a big name in the exploding UK independent scene, along with Will Ospreay. Here, Scurll has a very unique opponent in the form of Fred Yehi. These two had a pretty solid match, in my opinion. Both guys really stand out, and I think they meshed well here. It wasn’t a very long match (going just under ten minutes or so), but it featured some good action throughout, and it was a solid debut for Marty Scurll. As a whole, it was just an enjoyable match. No real complaints from me. In the end, Scurll would get the submission victory with the Crossface Chicken Wing.
4.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Sami Callihan: ***1/2
Page is still trying to redeem himself in the eyes of fans, Evolve officials, and more specifically, Johnny Gargano. He’s taking on Sami Callihan, who will be challenging for the Evolve Title at Mercury Rising 2016. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from these two, but they ended up putting together a very good match. It was pretty much a sprint right from the opening bell, as Callihan went right after Page. I think that ended up really helping this match, as I think a sprint plays more to Callihan’s strengths. It was just a very entertaining match as a whole with some very good back & forth action. The only negative aspect of the match was that (I think) Callihan added some disgusting loogies to some of his chops, which was just gross. Callihan would eventually get the win here, building momentum towards his upcoming shot at the Evolve Title.
5.) Ricochet vs. TJ Perkins: ****
There were so many awesome matches scheduled during this massive weekend in Dallas (as a whole, not just in Evolve/WWNLive) that I think a number of matches got overlooked, or didn’t exactly get the buzz that it deserved. This was definitely one of those matches. I didn’t realize how excited I was to see these two go at it until they were in the ring for the start of the match. I thought this was a great match. These two are just so amazing, that it’s impossible for them to have anything less than a really good match. Ricochet, of course, was super entertaining, with his personality and high-flying, while TJ Perkins showed off his incredible technical ability. There was some really good action throughout this match. Both guys just make things look so smooth and so easy in the ring. TJ Perkins worked over one of Ricochet’s legs over the course of the match, and that paid off in a very cool finish, as Ricochet’s leg buckled on a Shooting Star Press attempt, and TJ Perkins quickly capitalized, getting a shocking submission victory over Ricochet.
After the match, we got another shocker, as Stokely Hathaway (who was still part of ROH as the manager of Moose) came out with some paperwork in a binder. TJ Perkins signs the papers, and Hathaway announced that TJ Perkins has just signed on to The Dream Team (which I guess is supposed to be a “talent agency”). He then calls out Triple H, and says that he needs to sign TJ Perkins, who Hathaway is now referring to as “TJP” (for marketing purposes) for the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series/Cruiserweight Classic. It wasn’t really made clear whether this meant that TJ Perkins was done with Catch Point or not, but it would be cleared up later, as he would (essentially) be part of both Catch Point and The Dream Team. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this whole thing at the time, but as we would all see over the next several months, the pairing would prove to be a big hit.
6.) Best In The World Challenge Series – Match #3– Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay: ****3/4
This is the third match in Zack Sabre Jr.’s Best In The World Challenge Series. He’s 2-0 thus far, earning victories over Johnny Gargano and Drew Gulak at Evolve 56 & Evolve 57, respectively. Here, he’s taking on fellow British sensation in Will Ospreay. I thought this was as awesome match!! It was filled with incredible action from start to finish. These two have amazing chemistry with each other, and it really produced and unforgettable match. The action was breathtaking from start to finish, and the crowd was going absolutely berserk. This was easily one of the best matches of the entire weekend in Dallas, and one of the best matches in all of 2016. If you haven’t seen this match already, you need to go check this match out. Zack Sabre Jr. would eventually get the submission victory over Ospreay, moving to 3-0 in his Best In The World Challenge Series.
After the match, while Zack Sabre Jr. & Will Ospreay are embracing in the ring (to a thunderous applause), Chris Hero & Tommy End interrupt them. Hero congratulates Zack Sabre Jr. on his performance, but reminds him that he has yet to beat The Greatest of All Time. Zack Sabre Jr. responds by slapping here, and says that will change tomorrow. After he leaves, Tommy End takes the mic, and talks about how great of a striker he is. He says that he’s going to beat TJ Perkins, before going on to be known as the man who knocks out Kota Ibushi. Hero then calls out Catch Point for the Main Event.
7.) Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End) vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams with TJ Perkins): ***3/4
Catch Point is getting a shot at the Evolve Tag Team Titles the next day at Evolve 59, but before that, they overcome a big obstacle here in the form of Chris Hero & Tommy End who, in their few appearances as a team, have proven to be an absolutely brutal tandem. As a whole, I thought this was a really good match, with some solid action throughout from all four guys. However, I did have some minor issues with it. Firstly, the match went a lot longer than I think it needed to. This didn’t need go twenty-seven minutes. Secondly, I don’t believe it was the right decision to put this on last. As I said, the match was really good, but it had no chance of matching the incredible Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Will Ospreay match that came before it. Finally, I thought the finish seemed to come a bit out of nowhere. I don’t have any issue with Catch Point winning, as they were challenging for the Evolve Tag Team Titles the next day, but it just seemed odd that Heroes Eventually Die had been hitting these devastating double teams, only for Gulak to just get the victory over End with a dragon sleeper. Still with all of that being said, this match was still really good, and for all of its faults, I enjoyed it.
After the match, Chris Hero seemingly walked out on Tommy End, while Stokely Hathaway told TJP (who was out at ringside with Catch Point) to come to the back with him while Catch Point was celebrating their victory.
Evolve, as a whole, had a relatively good start to their WrestleMania Weekend in Dallas. The show did get off to a shaky start, with issues in two title matches that opened the show, as one was hampered by a missing ring bell, while the other was ruined with really questionable booking. Both of those matches weren’t necessarily bad (the opener was actually very good), but those issues did overshadow them, without question. Fortunately, the show got gradually better from there. Scurll/Yehi was good, Callihan/Page was really good, Ricochet/TJP was great, Zack Sabre Jr./Will Ospreay was a legitimate MOTYC, and Heroes Eventually Die/Catch Point was also really good. Even though I think the last two matches should have been switched around, this was still a very good show from Evolve, and I would say it’s (for the most part) worth checking out.