EVOLVE 27 on January 12th, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida
Opening Match: Caleb Konley vs. Lince Dorado
Konley was supposed to be in the FIP scramble, but he demanded a rematch against Dorado. The crowd uses balls of yarn as streamers for Dorado, which is awesome. It takes multiple ring crew members to remove the yarn. Konley could not be more impatient. Konley attacks at the opening bell with a shotgun dropkick and lands a dive to the floor. Back in, he follows with a missile dropkick. Dorado answers with a knockout kick and snaps off a satellite headscissors. He lands a series of dives to the floor. In the ring, Konley blocks a flying crossbody with a lungblower. He counters a reverse hurricanrana into an alabama slam of sorts and hits a german suplex. Dorado fights back by successfully hitting a reverse hurricanrana followed by a half nelson suplex. There are some strobe lights on the ring that are pretty distracting. Konley blocks a hurricanrana and hits a death valley driver. They connect with knockout kicks at the same time and fall to the canvas. Dorado tries the rollup he used to defeat Konley on the last show to no avail. Konley utilizes a rollup of his own for the win at 7:21. Strobe light problems aside, this was an effective opener with the crowd overwhelmingly behind Dorado. I’m not exactly excited for the epic rubber match between these two so maybe some of the booking was lost on me, but both men have raised their stock in EVOLVE this weekend simply be being apart of some solid matches. **Â¾
Match #2: Eddie Rios and Jay Cruz vs. Johnny Vandal and Maxwell Chicago
Chicago buys some time with a pre-match promo while staff members figure out how to turn off the strobe lights. Rios snaps off a hurricanrana on Vandal. Chicago spends too much time deciding if he should moonsault onto Cruz so Los Ben Dejos punish him with some tandem offense. Cruz lands a dive to the floor onto both of his opponents and Rios follows out with a moonsault. In the ring, Vandal catches Rios with a yakuza kick and he is isolated. He connects with an enzuigiri on Maxwell and makes the tag. Cruz lands a flying crossbody onto Vandal but falls victim to a backcracker. Cruz responds with double knees and a double stomp. Los Ben Dejos connect with stereo superkicks on Chicago. Cruz hits a standing sliced bread on Vandal and Rios follows with a springboard 450 for the victory at 9:56. The match was fine but without any reason for happening aside from just being an FIP showcase, everyone had a hard time caring. Los Ben Dejos had decent showings this weekend but they probably weren’t memorable enough to earn a full-time roster spot. **Â¼
Match #3: Jon Davis vs. Rich Swann
Swann low-bridges Davis to the floor but a dive attempt is blocked. Swann dropkicks Davis off the apron. Davis catches him on a plancha attempt but Swann manages to snap off a hurricanrana. Swann follows with a dive to the floor. Davis hits a powerbomb onto the apron and then swings Swann head-first into a barricade. In the ring, Davis hits an overhead suplex and takes control. Swann tries to fight back but Davis just boots away a leapfrog attempt and he’s back in control. The action goes to the floor where Swann is military pressed onto the stage. Davis hits a jackhammer, lifting Swann from the apron into the ring. Swann comes back with a desperation DDT but falls victim to a gory slam. Swann reverses splash mountain from the middle rope but runs into a powerbomb-german suplex combination. He ducks a lariat and connects with a superkick. Davis shrugs off a handspring ace crusher but Swann hits a crucifix bomb for a nearfall. Swann lands a frog splash for a nearfall. Swann follows with an impressive canadian destroyer for the win at 17:22. These two had good chemistry together. It’s always fun to watch Swann fight from behind and the brutality of his beatdown made the match work. Davis looks a bit foolish for losing this one, but it seems as though some progression will be seen with his character fairly soon. The match itself felt too long but I think they ended up accomplishing what they set out to do. ***
Match #4: Nick Jackson vs. Lance Bravado
Lance immediately starts going for cheap shots. Harlem appears at ringside to watch the match. Nick lands a springboard crossbody. Harlem grabs his leg from ringside, allowing Lance to take control. Nick comes back by punting Harlem from the apron and hitting a slingshot facebuster on Lance. The Bravados start teaming up on Nick and the referee calls for the bell at 3:09. Matt comes out to make the save for his brother. The Young Bucks superkick the referee when he tries to break up the brawl. Both teams brawl around ringside. Matt spears Lance into a barricade. Nick superkicks Harlem as he slides down a railing. The Young Bucks land stereo dives. Nick hits Harlem with a chair but Harlem is able to drop toe hold him into it. The Bravados military press Matt into the stage floor. Nick lands a dive off the stage onto the Bravados. The brawl goes into the crowd. Nick moonsaults off the bar railing and onto Lance. The Young Bucks setup a row of chairs. Nick superkicks Harlem off the railing and through the chairs. Lance powerbombs Matt into the apron and lariats him on the floor. The Young Bucks hit a tandem tombstone on Lance onto a chair. The Young Bucks announce that they want a shot at the Open the United Gate Titles during WrestleMania Weekend. This ended up just being an extended brawl. The crowd appeared to enjoy it and this is booking that we’ve seen in the old days of Ring of Honor. If you can buy that the Young Bucks and the Bravados have a legitimate reason for feuding (other than the crowd turning on the Bravados and forcing the double turn), then you’ll probably enjoy this segment.
Match #5: Chris Hero vs. Chuck Taylor
This is the first singles match between these two. They begin with some chain wrestling. Hero takes the lead but Taylor does a good job of scouting Hero’s unorthodox mat wrestling. They take a break so Hero can address an offensive fan. Taylor snaps off an armdrag and connects with a dropkick. Hero responds with a sliding dropkick and takes over. Taylor comes back with a uranagi and a slingshot senton. He starts targeting Hero’s left leg and applies a half crab. Hero kicks out of the hold and connects with a dropkick. Hero blocks Sole Food and lays in a knee to the head. He hits a hangman’s suplex for a nearfall. Taylor counters the Deathblow and hits Sole Food. He follows with a blockbuster for a two count. Taylor moonsaults into a cravate. Hero hits a cravate suplex and connects with a roaring mafia kick for a nearfall. Hero synchs in a cravate for the victory at 16:24. Taylor looked competitive, which was important here, but the crowd never gave him a chance and a better reaction from them could have taken this match to the next level. It was very entertaining watching these two create counters for each other’s offense. Anyone who has been disgruntled with the way Taylor has been booked over the past year will find this match to be a breath of fresh air. Hero has been booked excellently this weekend, wrestling three worthwhile yet completely different matches. ***Â¼
AR Fox comes out after the match and says that Hero has earned a shot at the FIP World Heavyweight Title after his performances this weekend. Fox proposes a match next month. Trent Baretta interrupts and claims that he has earned a shot at the title as well. Then they awkwardly transition into the next matchâ€¦
Match #6: Anthony Nese and Trent Baretta vs. AR Fox and Ricochet
Nese and Baretta attack before the opening bell. Fox and Ricochet dropkick them to the floor and both tease dives. Fox attempts an actual dive but Su Yung distracts him. Nese dead-lifts Fox and throws him to the floor onto Ricochet. In the ring, Fox is isolated until he hits a twisting brainbuster on Nese and makes the tag. Ricochet hits a neckbreaker on Nese, causing him to DDT Baretta. Ricochet escapes a german suplex from Baretta and hits a regalplex. Fox walks up the ropes and headscissors Nese. He takes out Baretta and Nese on opposite sides of the ring with dives. In the ring, Ricochet lands a standing shooting star press onto Baretta. Fox follows with a springboard ace crusher for a nearfall. Baretta double stomps Fox out of the corner. He catapults Ricochet into a gamengiri from Nese. Fox hits a springboard codebreaker on Baretta but finds knees on a frog splash. Nese and Baretta hit a tandem DDT on Ricochet for a nearfall. Fox and Baretta trade forearms. Fox lands a swantan onto Baretta and Ricochet follows with a shooting star press for a nearfall. Nese intervenes with a pumphandle powerbomb on Ricochet. Baretta adds the Dudebuster for a nearfall. Nese blocks Lo Mein Pain and Baretta german suplexes Fox from the top rope. Nese lands a 450 splash onto Fox for the win at 16:03. Nese and Baretta pretty much had to win this contest, but I’m looking forward to them teaming on future shows. This was a great tag team match as expected, but I don’t think the crowd has recovered from the Young Bucks/Bravados brawl before intermission. Everyone involved in this match had a fantastic weekend as far as in-ring quality was concerned, and this match was an effective way to highlight everyone. ***Â½
Chris Hero comes out after the match. He challenges Baretta to a match at WrestleMania Weekend.
Match #7: Open the Freedom Gate Title: Johnny Gargano Â© vs. Uhaa Nation
Nation asserts his power advantage early on. Gargano lays in a kick to the head but it has no effect. A punch-chop combination has similar results. Nation connects with a dropkick and lands a moonsault off the apron. He catches Gargano on a plancha attempt and rams him into the stage. Gargano uses the railing to powerbomb Nation into the apron. The champion takes control in the ring until Nation comes back with a springboard crossbody. Gargano slows him down with a slingshot spear. Nation fights back with rolling german suplexes and a top-rope splash. Gargano hits a slingshot DDT and spits at Nation. He receives a right hand for his troubles. Nation connects with a bicycle kick and hits a german suplex. He elevates Gargano into a lungblower, hits a death valley driver, and lands a standing moonsault for a nearfall. Gargano hurricanranas Nation off the middle rope. Nation blocks a second slingshot spear and hits a gutwrench powerbomb. He adds a bucklebomb and a spinning sit-out powerbomb. Gargano escapes the Uhaa Combination and lawn darts Nation into the turnbuckles. He applies the Gargano Escape. Nation is able to reach the ropes. The action goes to the apron where Nation hits a death valley driver. The referee accidentally gets bumped and Gargano takes out Nation’s knee with the ring bell. In the ring, Nation connects with a shotgun dropkick and hits a tombstone, hurting his knee in the process. Gargano connects with three superkicks but runs into a powerbomb. Gargano reapplies the Gargano Escape. When Nation gets near the ropes, Gargano traps the bad leg and synchs in the Gargano Escape once again to retain his title at 22:11. Nation was a unique challenger for Gargano, as this match was more about the champion just trying to weather the storm. I thought Gargano cheating was perfectly fine because 1) there was minimal interference all weekend and 2) the bell shot did not prove to be decisive, though it certainly influenced the finish. A sensibly-booked title match to cap off the weekend. I would call this my match of the night but a lot of the reasons why this contest stood out were due to the success of the weekend as a whole. ***Â¾
After the match, Gargano tells the crowd that he loves them. Ricochet interrupts and gives Gargano a contract to sign for their Open the Freedom Gate Title match. Gargano tries to leave but Rich Swann stops him. Jon Davis comes out and reveals that heâ€™s been taking money from Gargano to attack his opponents. Davis tells Gargano that heâ€™s done working for him. Gargano signs the contract but charges at Swann. Swann superkicks Gargano and Ricochet holds up the title to end the show.
Overall: Despite EVOLVE 27 being the weakest of the three shows this weekend in regards to in-ring quality, I still donâ€™t think anyone would be disappointed if they ordered the replay of this show. It feels great to start 2014 off with some positivity. This weekend has done so much to restore my faith in EVOLVE and DGUSA. The booking was simple, the match quality was high and consistent, and they managed to setup some exciting matches moving forward. However, concerning EVOLVE 27, over half of the matches hit three stars and there was an effective brawl between the Young Bucks and the Bravados before intermission. Like I said, I would go with EVOLVE 26 or 25 before this show, but I think this triple shot as a whole is well worth ordering.