Friday , 24 October 2014
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EVOLVE 31 iPPV 08/08/14 Review

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Pre-Show Match: FIP Florida Heritage Championship: Chasyn Rance © vs. Trevor Lee
Wait, why is Trevor Lee not on the EVOLVE card? He’s in town?!? They trade control on the mat. Lee avoids an enzuigiri and hits a dead-lift gutwrench suplex. A distraction by Rance’s entourage allows him to hit the Chasyn Driver to retain his title at 4:00. I’m still trying to figure out why Lee is not on the EVOLVE shows this weekend. It’s going to take more than four minutes for me to figure that one out. This match accomplished nothing, felt incredibly rushed, and was not a good showcase for Lee. I guess this wasn’t apart of the EVOLVE reboot. *

 

Opening Match: Style Battle Tournament: Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher
Thatcher grabs hold of a wristlock and takes Gulak to the mat. Gulak does his best to avoid a cross armbreaker and gets to his feet. Thatcher applies a half crab while keeping his foot on the back of Gulak’s head. Gulak rolls through and snaps on an ankle lock. Thatcher reaches the bottom rope. Thatcher bridges out of a headscissors and applies a bow and arrow. He keeps going after Gulak’s left arm. Thatcher hits rolling suplexes and drives knees into the left arm. Gulak retreats to the corner after Thatcher yanks at his fingers. They trade holds as rope breaks prevent either man from gaining much of an advantage. Thatcher hits a dead-lift suplex and synchs in a fujiwara armbar. Gulak escapes and hits a desperation piledriver for a two count. Gulak reapplies an ankle lock and grapevines the leg for the win at 16:00. A very good opener that did just enough to start the EVOLVE reboot and Style Battle off on the right foot. A six-match card and new format does not mean that every match has to last over twenty minutes and these two were able to accomplish a lot in sixteen. The finish was less decisive and more of Gulak “catching” Thatcher with a quick submission, as it appeared as though Thatcher had the contest well in-hand. An interesting story that hopefully plays well into the new ranking system. I’m sure they could do better, but this was a great opener in context. ***¼

 

Match #2: Style Battle Tournament: Biff Busick vs. James Raideen
Busick backs Raideen into the corner but Raideen blocks his chop. They exchange boots and chops. Raideen hits a body slam and uses his size advantage to take control. Busick counters a torture rack into a rear-naked choke. Raideen slows him down with a huge lariat. Busick keeps going back to the sleeper and judo throws Raideen into a crossface. Raideen passes out, giving Busick the victory at 8:00. Not only was this contest inferior to the opener in isolation, the fact that this followed Gulak/Thatcher did not help the crowd response. Raideen looked semi-competitive but ultimately was not given much room to look too impressive. Busick gets points for being tenacious and continually attempting the sleeper, but on a six-match card we probably needed something more here. **½

 

Match #3: Jesus De Leon, JT Dunn, and David Starr vs. Lince Dorado, Cruz, and Rios
This is an FIP showcase match. Dorado and Los Ben Dejos get points for having matching tights. Rios lands a springboard crossbody onto Starr and they have an awkward exchange. Dorado snaps off a hurricanrana on Dunn followed by a headscissors. Cruz and Leon trade armdrags. Dunn lands a dive to the floor onto Dorado and reenters the ring with a missile dropkick on Cruz. He hurricanranas Rios on the floor. Starr powerbombs Cruz into Leon’s knees and the heels isolate him. Cruz hits a big tornado DDT on Dunn and makes the tag. Dorado and Leon trade chops. Dorado connects with a handspring back elbow and lands a flying crossbody. Leon accidentally takes out Starr with a dive. Dorado hurricanranas Dunn to the floor onto his partners. Dorado and Los Ben Dejos follow with dives. In the ring, Rios hits a springboard ace crusher on Leon. The Juicy Product hit a superkick-german suplex combination on Rios. Leon splashes Rios for a nearfall. Dorado hits a dragon suplex on Dunn and Cruz adds a swantan. Dorado kind of hits a reverse hurricanrana on Starr. Dorado hits another reverse hurricanrana on Leon for the win at 11:00. Gabe recently said during an interview that he wanted to do away with freestyles on EVOLVE cards because people forget about them two minutes after they happen. This is a match that I’ll forget about two minutes after it happens. The crowd really liked the action and commentary was blown away, but I found the action to be rather sloppy at points with little structure. Maybe I’m wrong, as the crowd is chanting “that was awesome” as I type this sentence. **¼
Match #4: Matt Sydal vs. Johnny Gargano
They battle over a knucklelock and Sydal connects with a dropkick. Gargano begins to target the left shoulder. Sydal fights him off with a dropkick and Gargano retreats to the corner. Sydal snaps off a series of armdrags and connects with another dropkick. Gargano creates an opening with a slingshot spear. He takes control with a basement dropkick. I recover from some stream problems with Gargano hitting a slingshot DDT. They battle on the apron. Sydal blocks a second slingshot spear with a knee strike. Gargano connects with a superkick. Sydal responds with a back heel kick. He lands double knees for a two count. Gargano hits a powerbomb and connects with a knockout kick. He lawn darts Sydal into the turnbuckles. I lose my stream and it is not reloading. When my stream comes back on, Sydal has won the match in 21:00. This was a great exhibition and an effective showcase for Sydal. The stream problems were unfortunate and I’d have to rewatch to give an informed rating. A few logistical problems. Firstly, no believes that Sydal is “out of gas” as Lenny Leonard kept claiming. We all know he can still have great matches. Secondly, Gargano’s character is a mess right now and hopefully something interesting happens with Rich Swann on Sunday.

 

Match #5: Anthony Nese and Caleb Konley vs. Ricochet and Rich Swann
Gargano tries to attack Swann before the match to no avail. The Premier Athlete Brand then attack before the opening bell. Thankfully, Ivelisse is here to stop Su Yung from interfering. Swann connects with corner punches on Konley. Ricochet lands a slingshot senton onto Konley and Swann adds a rolling splash. Ricochet lands a standing moonsault onto Konley while mocking Nese. Su Yung distracts Swann, allowing Nese to attack him from behind. The Premiere Athlete Brand isolate Swann, targeting his left knee. Su Yung provides another distraction to allow the Premiere Athlete Brand to stay in control. Ivelisse and Yung exchange words at ringside. Why do I do this to myself? Swann hits a neckbreaker on Konley and makes the tag. Ricochet hits a leaping russian leg sweep on Nese and a powerslam on Konley. He follows with an ace crusher on Nese. Ricochet takes out both of his opponents with a dive to the floor. In the ring, Konley hits a german suplex on Ricochet. Nese bucklebombs Swann and connects with a running knee strike. Swann hits an inverted DDT on Nese and transitions into a dragon sleeper. Nese superkicks Ricochet but runs into an enzuigiri from Swann. All four men are down. Ricochet lands a standing shooting star press onto Nese after a series of strikes. Konley blocks a hurricanrana from Swann and hits a michinoku driver. The Premiere Athlete Brand hit a pumphandle slam-neckbreaker combination on Swann. Nese lands a 450 splash onto Swann for the win at 22:00. While this tag team match had a lot more structure than the six-man earlier in the show, this contest suffered from being too long. Even the overly generous crowd was dying out down the stretch. Ricochet and Swann controlling for the first seven minutes or so of the match went nowhere as did the knee work on Swann. Additionally, while Su Yung and Ivelisse didn’t have a cat fight, they still made themselves known throughout. After the match, Swann even tries to talk Su Yung out of aligning with the Premiere Athlete Brand, an angle that I have zero interest in. This wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t the standout match that the card needed. ***

 

Match #6: EVOLVE Title: Chris Hero © vs. Drew Galloway
Hero puts the title on the line before the match. Very AR Fox-esque of him. They trade control on the mat with Hero having the edge. Hero connects with a dropkick and a sliding kick. He hits a senton and remains in control. Galloway finds an opening with a quick lariat and hits a snap suplex. Hero crotches him on the top and Galloway falls to the floor. Hero continues the attack with a straight right hand and an elbow strike. He throws out the first Three Man Band gesture. Galloway hits a northern lights suplex but Hero responds with a cravate neckbreaker. The action goes to the floor where Hero connects with a roaring elbow. Hero attempts a second one but connects with a pole. Back in, Hero goes back to the roaring elbow for a nearfall. Galloway hits a double-arm DDT to become the new EVOLVE Champion at 17:00. It makes sense to start an EVOLVE reboot with a title change I guess. This match was just as cerebral as Gulak/Thatcher but not nearly as interesting. The action consisted of them throwing strikes and bombs at each other. Galloway eventually just won out of nowhere at the seventeen-minute mark. Once again, the crowd was behind the title change and admittedly the result is intriguing, but the match itself didn’t do anything for me. **¾

Galloway gives a post-match speech where he literally tries to start a revolution. He goes on about how EVOLVE has the best wrestlers on the planet and reminds us how good the show was tonight. Again, not doing it for me.

 

Overall: Let’s try something different:

Positives
+ A very good opener from Gulak and Thatcher
+ No intermission
+ The in-ring quality of Gargano vs. Sydal
Negatives
– The duration and placement of Busick vs. Raideen
– The FIP showcase match failing to make a statement
– Gargano continuing to be directionless
– Stream issues (others on Twitter experienced them as well)
– Su Yung and Ivelisse still getting involved in matches
– The main event under-delivering
– A lack of something to set EVOLVE apart and give the promotion identity
– Galloway’s post-match speech
Ultimately, this did not feel like a reboot at all. Galloway tried extremely hard to make me believe that EVOLVE was going to revolutionize pro wrestling with his speech. However, not only did the wrestling quality on this show not warrant a recommendation, I didn’t notice any intangibles that set the show apart. There wasn’t anything on this show that had me in an uproar, but ultimately I found more negatives than positives on EVOLVE 31, despite the super enthusiastic crowd thinking otherwise.

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About Ryan Rozanski

Ryan Rozanskii has been a professional wrestling fan since he was six years old. His first memory of it comes from witnessing Scott Hall win a sixty-man battle royal at WCW World War 3. Of course, that was before alcohol became a problem for Scott. Speaking of alcohol, Ryan is a youngster…not even old enough to consume alcoholic beverages. However, Ryan has used swear words to describe how much he loves Pro Wrestling Ponderings. That is something he’ll never try again, due to the risk of possibly being grounded by his parents. Some people compare Ryan to Butters from South Park. Currently, that comparison has yet to have any legitimacy.

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