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EVOLVE 15: Gargano vs. Taylor on June 29th, 2012
Opening Match: Tony Nese (1-3) vs. Mike Cruz (0-2)
They have a fast-paced exchange ending with Cruz connecting with a dropkick. He follows with a dive to the floor. In the ring, Cruz finds success with a flying crossbody but runs into double knees. Nese hits a backbreaker and lands a lionsault. He takes control until Cruz fights back with a series of kicks. Nese halts his momentum with a one-arm bucklebomb followed by a facewash knee strike. Cruz responds with a springboard enzuigiri. He goes up top but gets crotched on the top rope. Nese hits a spider german suplex and lands a 450 splash for the win at 7:49. This match featured a great display of athleticism from both men to start the show. Now that Nese has a sense of direction, I think he could easily become one of the main players in EVOLVE. I wasn't too interested in Cruz coming into this weekend, but he's been more than serviceable thus far. **¾
After the match, Nese tells Lenny Leonard that he's tired of waiting around for his opportunity to come. He's going to take his opportunity. Nese demands that Johnny Gargano accept his challenge for EVOLVE 16.
Match #2: Style Battle Tournament Match: Bobby Fish (4-4) vs. Tommy Taylor (0-1)
Taylor holds onto a japanese stranglehold and transitions into a finlay roll. He headscissors out of a wristlock and seems to be out-wrestling Fish early on. Taylor escapes an early Fish Hook attempt. They trade quick pin attempts to no avail. Fish connects with a dropkick and hits a slingshot senton. Taylor answers with a tornado DDT and a neckbreaker. Fish lays in a series of kicks but misses a diving headbutt. Both men are down. Taylor connects with a shotgun dropkick and hits a TKO. Fish tries to lift him but can't hold him. Fish recovers by trapping Taylor in the Fish Hook for the victory at 9:51. The action got off to a terrific start, as they were showcasing some unique mat wrestling and the crowd was getting behind both men. I thought the match had at least five more minutes left when the finish happened. It looked like Fish couldn't lift Taylor, so he just quickly applied the Fish Hook to pick up the win. Maybe I'm missing something but the finish felt like it came out of nowhere. Still, Taylor continued his successful return to professional wrestling with another solid performance. Part of me thinks that Fish finally obtaining a winning record should have been treated as a bigger deal than it was here. **½
Match #3: Style Battle Tournament Match: AR Fox (4-2) vs. Jon Davis (2-3)
Fox has trouble getting around Davis' power advantage early on. Fox lands his kick-flip moonsault to the floor and hits two guillotine leg drops from the top rope. Davis slows him down with a big chokeslam. He blocks a stunner from Fox and just throws him across the ring. Davis maintains control until Fox comes back with a springboard ace crusher. Fox connects with a springboard dropkick and hits a shooting star cannonball in the corner. He follows with a slingshot dropkick. Davis fights off Lo Mein Pain and jackhammers Fox from the apron into the ring. Fox hits a codebreaker and lands a swantan. Davis kicks out at one! Fox dropkicks him to the floor and follows out with Lo Mein Rain. Back in, Fox lands a springboard 450 for a nearfall. Davis comes back with a bucklebomb but gets caught by a pele kick. Fox tries a victory roll but Davis reverses into Three Seconds Around the World for the win at 13:42. It's always fun to watch how different wrestlers approach Davis in the ring. Low Ki, for instance, tried slugging it out with him and barely snuck out a victory. Fox tried something different here, attempting to catch Davis off-guard with his aerial offensive maneuvers. They told the story that I tried to summarize excellently and Fox has been on an absolute roll this weekend. Davis should also be complimented for really putting over the fact that he was fighting for his career during this contest (he's said that he'll walk away from wrestling if he doesn't sweep the Style Battle Tournament). This match had the awesome exchanges you would expect from these two while getting the message across that styles matter in the “Style Battle Tournament.” ***½
Bobby Fish comes out to confront Davis in the ring. They will be meeting in the Style Battle Tournament finals tomorrow at EVOLVE 16. Both men tell each other why they need to win the tournament.
Match #4: Alex Reynolds (3-1) vs. John Silver (2-1) vs. Jake Manning (1-2) vs. Lince Dorado (0-1) vs. Caleb Konley (2-1) vs. Scott Reed (0-1)
Dorado catches Silver with a handspring elbow. They wrestle to a stalemate and tag out. Reynolds connects with a series of strikes on Manning. Konley and Reed get tagged in and are forced to wrestle each other. After a few leapfrogs, they try the fingerpoke of doom but everyone comes in to break up the pin attempt. Reynolds and Silver land dives to the floor. Dorado follows with a swantan from the top rope onto everyone. Back in, Dorado catches Reed with a seated senton. He takes out Konley with a corkscrew press but eventually falls victim to the numbers game. The Scene wheelbarrow slam Dorado. Manning tries to form an alliance with them to no avail. Reynolds and Silver hit stereo german suplexes on the Scene. Manning elevates Reynolds to the floor and hits a backbreaker on Silver. Reynolds reenters the ring with a 2k1 stunner on Reed. He superkicks Silver, which causes Silver to hit a backcracker on Konley. Manning hits his backbreaker-flatliner combination on Reynolds. Dorado hurricanranas Manning and hits a tornado DDT. Dorado follows with a shooting star press for the victory at 10:40. This match had some fun moments amidst times where the action was all over the place. I never felt as though the action found its rhythm like in the four-way from EVOLVE 14, for instance. Nevertheless, I’m glad that Dorado was able to obtain his first win, as he has improved quite a bit in the ring. **½
Match #5: Cheech (1-0) vs. Colt Cabana (0-1)
It's the usual affair to start as Cabana frustrates Cheech with his various submissions. Cheech hits a flapjack along with a corner spear. He adds a slingshot senton and takes over. Cabana catches him coming off the top rope with two boots to the face. Cabana hits the flying asshole. Cabana gets Cheech in a fireman's carry position and drops him across the top turnbuckle for the win at 5:35. Cheech looked stupid while Cabana showcased his offense for five minutes. It wasn't an unwatchable match by any means, but you've seen this many times before out of Cabana. **
Match #6: El Generico (2-2) vs. Samuray Del Sol (0-3)
This is a rematch from last night at EVOLVE 14 where Generico came out on the winning end. They exchange armdrags and wrestle to a stalemate with Generico looking flustered. Del Sol keeps beating him to his feet. Generico connects with a leg lariat and hits a backbreaker. Del Sol catches him with a headscissors and applies an indian deathlock. Generico is able to reach the bottom rope. Del Sol hits a finlay roll and connects with a basement dropkick. Generico quickly gets to his feet and slams Del Sol to the canvas. Del Sol attempts a springboard maneuver but gets yakuza kicked to the floor. Back in, Generico hits another backbreaker. Del Sol avoids a corner yakuza kick and lands a corkscrew plancha to the outside. In the ring, Del Sol hits a code red from Generico’s back. Generico blocks a reverse hurricanrana but Del Sol switches things up with a standard hurricanrana. Generico answers with a blue thunder bomb, but he had to hold Del Sol’s tights to perform the move. Del Sol blocks a yakuza kick and hits a tornado DDT for a nearfall. He follows with Rising Sun (a springboard reverse hurricanrana) for a two count. Del Sol goes up top but Generico follows him up. Del Sol pushes him to the canvas but finds knees on a 450 attempt. Generico connects with a corner yakuza kick. Del Sol fights off a top rope brainbuster and hits a reverse hurricanrana from the middle rope for the victory at 16:28. It wasn’t going to be easy for them to top their previous match together, especially with the rematch happening the next night, but they somehow managed to do it. Del Sol has improved in a huge way and that’s what makes these matches so great. It’s completely believable that Generico would become frustrated with Del Sol, as Generico may feel as though he’s looking at a new and improved version of himself. The icing on the cake was Del Sol learning from last night and having an answer ready for the top rope brainbuster – an answer that won him the match. I know some people questioned the rematch happening so quickly, but after seeing this incredible display from both men, I think that it was the right call. Del Sol has to be considered a main player in EVOLVE after this weekend despite his 1-3 record. ****
Match #7: Open the Freedom Gate Title: Johnny Gargano © vs. Chuck Taylor
Jake Manning and the Swamp Monster accompany Taylor to the ring. Gargano connects with a dropkick at the bell and lawn darts Taylor into the turnbuckles. Gargano lands a plancha to the floor. He tries to lawn dart Taylor into the ring steps to no avail. A little girl trips running away from Taylor. Tremendous. Gargano back drops Taylor onto some chairs. Gargano inadvertently superkicks the timekeeper. Taylor slams Gargano onto the ring steps and takes control back in the ring. Taylor begins working over Gargano's back, which Tony Nese tried to injure last night. There's a nice spot where Taylor reverses Gargano's slingshot spear into a backbreaker. Gargano then comes back by finally hitting the slingshot spear. He hits a sit-out powerbomb and synchs in the Gargano Escape. He has to break the hold due to the pain in his back. Taylor blocks a slingshot DDT and overhead suplexes Gargano into the turnbuckles. Taylor hits a uranagi and lands a lionsault. Gargano fights off a half crab and sneaks in a small package for a two count. He connects with a discus lariat and both men are down. Taylor rolls out of the Gargano Escape and applies a half crab. Gargano barely makes it to the ropes. Taylor pulls the referee in the way of a dropkick. He low blows Gargano and starts counting his own pin attempt. Taylor holds up the Open the Freedom Gate Title like he's just won it. Gargano ducks a belt shot and hits Hurts Donut, but there's no referee. A new referee runs into the ring but Manning pulls him to the floor. Gargano takes out Manning with a dive. Back in, Taylor hits the Awful Waffle for a nearfall. The Swamp Monster holds Gargano in place. Taylor accidentally hits the Swamp Monster with the belt. Gargano connects with a superkick and hits Hurts Donut for a nearfall. Gargano locks in the Gargano Escape to retain his title at 21:01. The brawling around ringside to start the match was a welcome change of pace and highlighted the hatred between these two in the right way. Once the action settled down, Taylor smartly took advantage of Gargano's back injury and we were headed on the right path until the final few minutes of the match. I understand that Taylor is a light-hearted wrestler. That's fine. However, if there was ever a time to buckle down and become serious, this was it. He was able to defeat Gargano at EVOLVE 9 by taking advantage of his familiarity with Gargano's offense. Instead of doing that here, Taylor decided to rely on interference from Manning and the Swamp Monster and it all left a bad taste. At the end of the day, this was still a very good match that was worthy of being the main event of this show. But if you're looking to watch a Gargano/Taylor match, I would watch their EVOLVE 9 encounter for the reasons listed above. ***½
Gargano tells the crowd to wave goodbye to Taylor. He accepts Tony Nese's challenge for tomorrow and talks about his upcoming match against Akira Tozawa. Gargano thanks the crowd to end the show.
Overall: EVOLVE 15 was able to maintain the momentum created by the previous night’s EVOLVE 14 and deliver another worthwhile show. While I preferred EVOLVE 14 due to its consistency, there’s still a lot on this show to get excited about. AR Fox and Jon Davis had an excellent match that played to their strengths, El Generico and Samuray Del Sol topped their previous encounter in the match of the night, and the main event was highly enjoyable despite a rocky finish. If you’re only picking one EVOLVE show out of the whole weekend to order, my vote is still with EVOLVE 14. However, after a slow 2011, the promotion is picking up some real momentum in 2012. EVOLVE 15 earns a