Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Evolve 69: A Farewell To An Icon Review

Johnny Gargano competes in Evolve for the final time!!

Evolve 69: A Farewell To An Icon
Woodside, Queens, New York 9/11/16

Before the opening match started, they had a moment of silence to honor the victims of 9/11, and they had someone sing the national anthem.

1.) Darby Allin vs. Tony Nese: ***1/4

Nese is coming off a huge victory the night before at Evolve 68 against Matt Riddle and Ricochet in a Triple Threat Match. Here, he’s taking on Darby Allin, and as a whole, I thought this was a pretty solid opening match. Apparently, Evolve officials had told Allin that he needed to score a victory this weekend if he wanted to keep getting booked in Evolve. He lost to TJP at Evolve 68, so this match was his last chance. That story played into the match, as Allin was really in desperation mode trying to get that victory. Nese hit a number of his signature spots, but Allin just managed to stay alive. Eventually, Allin caught Nese in a cradle pin, and scored the huge upset victory, which caused the crowd to go wild! The result actually played well with Nese’s massive win the night before, as that moment might’ve made Nese a little overconfident heading into this match. Again, this was a fun opening match that featured a nice moment with Allin getting a much-needed victory.

After the match was over, Joey Styles came out and presented Darby Allin with his WWNLive Contract. Nese interrupted this presentation, snatching the contract, but then presented Allin with the contract, and welcomed him to Evolve. He then gave Allin a bit of a warning, saying that this would be the last time you saw “this version” of Tony Nese.

2.) Fred Yehi vs. Travis Gordon: ***

A big theme on the undercard of this show is new faces getting some opportunities in singles competition. With guys like Johnny Gargano & TJP leaving, Evolve needs new faces, and some of these guys could potentially become the future of the promotion. The first new talent to step up to the plate was Travis “Flip” Gordon, who took on Fred Yehi. This was a pretty solid match. It was a relatively short match, going only about five or six minutes, but they managed to fit in a fair amount of action in that short timespan. Gordon looked good here, but ultimately, Yehi would score the victory after getting Gordon to tap out to the Koji Clutch.

3.) Tracy Williams vs. Chuck O’Neil: **1/2

Chuck O’Neil has a similar background to Matt Riddle. He’s an MMA Fighter who’s attempting to make the transition into pro-wrestling. O’Neil mainly competes for Beyond Wrestling. This was an ok match, but it was definitely the weakest of the “new talent initiative” matches. The action was fine for most of the match, and while O’Neil did a solid job, but he didn’t blow me away. Granted, Matt Riddle didn’t necessarily blow anybody away when he first appeared in Evolve, so perhaps O’Neil just needs more time to (no pun intended) evolve as a performer. In the end, Williams would pick up the win via submission, which was the second submission victory in a row for a member of Catch Point.

After the match, Drew Galloway & DUSTIN attacked Tracy Williams, and used a chair to “Pillmanize” one of Williams’ legs. Drew Gulak & Fred Yehi made the save, but Matt Riddle was noticeably absent. This led right into our next match…

4.) Evolve Tag Team Champion DUSTIN vs. Drew Gulak: ***

These two have a very long history, as it was DUSTIN (as Chuck Taylor) who brought Drew Gulak into Dragon Gate USA & Evolve as part of The Gentlemen’s Club. For the most part, this was a solid match, but it wasn’t quite as good as I was expecting it to be. There was some fine action throughout, and both guys showed some intensity (which makes sense, given their history), but it never really reached that next level. Again, I’m not saying the match was bad (because it wasn’t), but it didn’t go beyond just being a good match. We did get some shenanigans towards the end, as Drew Galloway snuck a chair into the ring, and kept the referee distracted as DUSTIN hit a low blow followed by a DDT onto the chair for the win. The finish probably took away from it a little bit as well.

After the match, Galloway made some disparaging comments towards Gargano, saying that Gargano did a lot for Evolve, but he was the one who made it mainstream. Galloway added that while he took the traditional route on the independents, Gargano decided to hook up with “the machine”. He then promised that he & Chris Hero would “Delete” both Gargano & Cody by the end of the night.

5.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. David Starr: ***1/2

Out of all the new talents being featuring on this particular show, David Starr is definitely the most noteworthy, as he’s made a name for himself wrestling in places like Beyond Wrestling, CZW, and (most recently) wXw. I thought this was a really good match! Of course, we had some funnier moments (which no shock, given the personality of both guys), but once things got more serious, this match kicked into a whole other gear. In particular, the closing stretch was very strong, as both guys went back & forth. Ethan Page ultimately got the win here, but David Starr looks incredibly impressive here, and I hope we see more of him in the future. While it wasn’t the best match on the show, you should definitely check this one out.

6.) Matt Riddle vs. TJP (with Stokely Hathaway): ****

Before this match could get going, Drew Gulak & Fred Yehi came out. Gulak questioned where Riddle & TJP were earlier in the night when they had to take Tracy Williams to the hospital. Stokely Hathaway interrupted on the behalf of TJP, and said that they weren’t worried about any war, since TJP was on his way to RAW. Riddle then took the mic, and simply said that he was here to wrestle, and was ready to take on TJP. As for the match itself, I thought it was great! There was incredible action throughout, with both men utilizing some of their biggest strengths in an attempt to defeat the other. Both men are so awesome, that there was no way this wasn’t going to be good. In particular, the final few minutes were especially great. In the end, Riddle managed to pick the victory over TJP after getting him to tap out to his “Bromission”. Again, this was a great match that featured some incredible action throughout.

After the match was over, TJP & Stokely Hathaway embraced in the ring. Hathaway said that he showed the world that TJP is special. Now, it was time to celebrate. He brings a few ladies and some champagne to the ring. The ladies “make it rain”, throwing cash at TJP. Hathaway says that he can’t imagine Evolve without TJP, but then again, he can’t imagine RAW without TJP either. Instead of saying goodbye, Hathaway says “Thank You”. TJP then makes snow angels with the money in the ring before leaving with Hathaway and their ladies.

7.) Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ****1/2

These two have a few times before (including PWG), but I’m pretty sure that this is their first encounter in Evolve. I had a feeling that this was going to be a great match, and it delivered on all levels. This was an awesome match!! There was incredible back & forth action from start to finish, and it was so entertaining to watch. Unlike Johnny Gargano/Zack Sabre Jr. from the night before, this really had an epic feel to it, and I don’t think the length of the match hurt it too much (it never felt overly long). Similar to the previous two matches, the closing stretch was particularly great, and put a cap on what was, as a whole, a fantastic match. Eventually, Ricochet managed to outlast Zack Sabre Jr., and got the victory following his signature 630.

8.) Evolve Tag Team Champion Drew Galloway & Chris Hero vs. Johnny Gargano & Cody: ***3/4

Gargano got an incredible reaction from the crowd when he came out for this match, which was his last in Evolve. Cody, meanwhile, got a “Thanks for the pizza” chant (he threw a surprise pizza party before the show). By the way, he’s now going by just “Cody”, and not Cody Rhodes. I thought this was a really good main event. It wasn’t as awesome as some of the other matches on the show, but still, it delivered. Galloway & Hero made a very good bully team. Cody was fine here, and I’m not surprised that his best outing in Evolve was a tag team match (as it hides some of his weaknesses). Johnny Gargano is always great, not matter what kind of match he’s in, but I thought he showed here just why he’s a phenomenal tag team wrestler. That’s something we’ve gotten to see through his tag team with Tommaso Ciampa in NXT. He plays a great sympathetic babyface when he’s getting beaten down by the heels, but he can also be awesome in the comeback role, and that’s pretty much how this match went. After managing to fight back against the heels, Gargano got Hero to tap out to the GargaNO Escape to win the match for his team. Again, this was a very solid main event, though it wasn’t necessarily the best match on the show.

Now bear with me, because there’s a lot that happened after the match. Cody gave complements to Gargano before leaving. It looked like Gargano was about to say something, but then Ethan Page showed up and attacked, proving that this whole “asking for forgiveness” shtick was all a big ruse. Page said that he plotted everything, and was just waiting for the perfect moment to strike, which was (apparently) right now. He said that everyone will always remember Gargano’s final night in Evolve, and when they do think about it, they’ll always think of Ethan Page. He then brings out two huge men who he refers to as his “Gatekeepers” (who are Blaster McMassive & Flex Rumblecrunch from The Devastation Corporation in CHIKARA). The basically stood guard and prevented the likes of Darby Allin and the referees from getting involved. Page did a mock interview with Gargano, and then said that if anyone wants Gargano, they can come have him….

This brought out Drew Galloway & DUSTIN. They covered Gargano with an Evolve banner, and it looked like they were going to finish him off for good, but Matt Riddle came out. He teased joining Galloway’s side, but it was another ruse, as he attacked Galloway & DUSTIN, making the save for Gargano in the process. After the heels had been chased off, Gargano took the mic and proclaimed that Riddle was the guy to carry Evolve into the future, and the two celebrated as the show came to a close.

That was the best description I could give, but fortunately, Evolve put up a video covering this whole post-match segment, which was great.

Overall: 8.5/10

Obviously this was a big night for Evolve, with the departure of two of their biggest stars, and as a whole, I thought they delivered a great show. The two talents that were on their way out (Johnny Gargano & TJP) both had strong outings on their final night with the promotion, while a bunch of new talents got the chance to shine on the undercard. Ricochet vs. Zack Sabre Jr. was easily the Match of the Night, but Matt Riddle vs. TJP, Gargano & Cody vs. Hero & Galloway, and Ethan Page vs. David Starr are all matches worth checking out. The final segment was very well done, and it really added to the show. It firmly established Ethan Page as Evolve’s next big heel, while also setting up Matt Riddle to be the new face of Evolve. After running through a rough patch with their events in August, Evolve was able to get back on track in a big way with this show, as they said goodbye to not only one of 2016’s breakout stars, but also the icon of the entire Evolve/WWN Family.

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