August 10th, 2014
Opening Match: Anthony Nese vs. Lince Dorado
EVOLVE does not pick the best venues. It feels like we’re at King of the Deathmatches as the show is being held outdoors with fans just kind of sitting anywhere. Dorado uses his agility to frustrate Nese early on. He lands a springboard crossbody and hits a wheelbarrow bulldog. Nese gets sent to the floor with a hurricanrana but cuts off Dorado from diving. Nese locks in a half crab for the win at 3:51. Well I’m just confused. EVOLVE wanted to have a reboot to give matches more time to develop and to not have matches that you forget about two minutes after they happen. This opener had no time to develop and I will forget about it in two minutes. *
Caleb Konley announces that Su Yung has been kicked out of the Premier Athlete Brand. He calls out Chris Hero, leading to…
Match #2: Caleb Konley vs. Chris Hero
They trade control on the mat with Hero using his power advantage to gain an edge. Hero lays in some strikes and talks trash. What’s this I see? A DISTRACTION FROM NESE ALLOWS KONLEY TO TAKE CONTROL. Man, the Premier Athlete Brand just cannot get behind the reboot either. Hero attempts to fight back but Konley connects with a basement dropkick and lands a lionsault. Hero comes back with a series of chops and a rolling neckbreaker. He hits a cravate suplex. Konley answers with a springboard dropkick and counters the Deathblow into a spinebuster. Nese gets involved again but Hero boots him off the apron. Konley hits a michinoku driver for a nearfall. He follows with his double-jump moonsault for another two count. Hero blocks a springboard moonsault with a flash kick and connects with a roaring mafia kick. Hero adds three roaring elbows for the win at 15:20. There are times when it’s unclear why the poor booking of the Premiere Athlete Brand will hurt them in the long run but I think this match was a good example. If Konley (and the Premier Athlete Brand as a whole) was more credible, their characters would fit well with Hero and quality matches would result. The fact that Konley has been winning this weekend via distractions and cheating did not give off the vibe that he could go toe-to-toe with Hero. The action was decent and I’m glad this contest received time, but something was missing. **¾
Match #3: Style Battle Tournament: Timothy Thatcher vs. James Raideen
Both men are 1-1 heading into their last match. They block each other’s strikes but Raideen is eventually able to overwhelm Thatcher with a body slam. Raideen follows with a vertical suplex and remains in control. Thatcher blocks a lariat and applies a fujiwara armbar for the victory at 6:44. I understand that an important element of these styles is that all it takes is one submission to put an opponent away. However, that doesn’t imply that the matches are any good. I’ve liked Raideen less and less as the weekend progressed, so perhaps the shorter duration was for the best. *½
Match #4: Style Battle Tournament: Drew Gulak vs. Biff Busick
Both men are 1-1 coming into their last match. Apparently, if Gulak wins, he’ll win the tournament because he defeated Thatcher. But if Busick wins, we’re not sure what will happen, even though Thatcher defeated him? I am so confused. Thatcher comes out to watch this match. Lenny Leonard goes into his “styles make fights” speech for the seventieth time. Busick hangs onto a side headlock until Gulak makes him retreat to the ropes by applying a heel hook. Busick goes back to the side headlock but Gulak continues to find ways of transitioning into an advantageous position. Gulak rolls through a pin attempt and synchs in an ankle lock. Busick is able to reach the bottom rope. The action starts getting more intense. Busick violently irish whips Gulak into the corner. Gulak lands a flying crossbody but Busick applies a rear-naked choke. Gulak escapes the hold and starts tying for quick rollups to no avail. Busick catches him with a backslide for the victory at 16:22. I don’t think this match came close to topping their outing at last year’s Style Battle tournament. The biggest reason for this was the lack of crowd response. When you have one hundred people watching a wrestling show outside in “sweltering heat” I really can’t blame them for not being vocal for the action. At the end of the day, Busick vs. Gulak will always be enjoyable to some extent, but they’ve certainly had better matches in the past. ***
We get the official announcement that Thatcher wins the Style Battle tournament by virtue of defeating Busick at the last show. Now, if Busick was clear on the rules (and why shouldn’t he be?), shouldn’t he have known that he had no chance of winning the tournament going into his match against Gulak? How did they screw up the style battle this year? It was so simple. Chris Hero interrupts Thatcher’s victory speech and boots him in the face. Hero throws down the referee and attacks Gulak with a roaring elbow. Busick challenges Hero but Hero just retreats to the back.
Match #5: Drew Galloway vs. Ricochet
Now it’s completely dark outside and difficult to see the ring from the hard camera at times. Galloway does his best to ground Ricochet early on. Ricochet connects with a basement dropkick and starts targeting the right leg. Ricochet hits a springboard senton and takes control. Galloway gets sent to the floor by an enzuigiri. He catches Ricochet coming off the apron and hurls him at the wall of the building. In the ring, Ricochet finds an opening to connect with a pele kick. He follows with the Benedryller and a standing shooting star press for a nearfall. Galloway blocks a springboard maneuver with a big lariat. They battle on the apron and Ricochet gamengiris Galloway back into the ring. Ricochet lands a 630 splash for the win at 13:53. I really do not want to be pessimistic all of the time, but I thought this match was decent but nothing special. I’m still waiting to see that standout, blow-away match from Galloway. His speeches are excellent and everything, but that only goes so far. I also found it odd that Galloway is determined to be a fighting champion but did not put his title on the line here. Why not? Well, because it was inconvenient for the booking. Again, not a bad match by any means, but EVOLVE made some pretty lofty claims throughout this weekend and the match quality is not reflecting that. ***
Match #6: Evolution’s End: Johnny Gargano vs. Rich Swann
Swann charges at the opening bell and reigns down punches. Gargano crotches him in the ropes. Gargano blocks a standing hurricanrana and hits a suplex into the turnbuckles. Swann lures him to the floor and follows out with a dive. Gargano wins a dueling chair battle on the floor. He continues to lay in chair shots. Swann creates some space with a superkick. Back in the ring, Gargano hits a slingshot DDT. The action quickly moves to the floor again. Gargano throws Swann into the wall of the building. Swann runs up the wall and delivers a kick. He follows by hitting an implant DDT into a pyramid of chairs. Gargano hits a powerbomb in the ring and connects with a knockout kick. Swann responds with a swinging neckbreaker. Gargano retreats to the floor and throws mulch into Swann’s eyes. He lawn darts Swann into the wall of the building. Back in, Gargano hits two more lawn darts for a nearfall. They go to the floor where Swann gains some revenge by using mulch. He hits Gargano over the head with a beer bottle and throws multiple chairs at him. Gargano hits a tombstone off a platform onto a chair. BUT WAIT! Su Yung is out screaming at Swann to get up. The crowd rallies behind Swann to recover. He spin kicks a chair into Gargano’s face and hits a piledriver onto some chairs. Swann places Gargano onto a horizontal ladder and connects with a double stomp. In the ring, Swann lands a frog splash for the win at 22:25. This match reminded me of the Ricochet/Fox broken ring match in that they used their unique surroundings to put together some memorable exchanges and moments. That doesn’t justify the venue choice or Evolution’s End as a stipulation. This feud has been going on for too long, so I may have been more invested in the action a couple of months ago. Still, EVOLVE let these two go out in the main event and do their thing, a formula that should have been used more often this weekend. As a result, we received an extremely solid main event that would be worth checking out if you’re a fan of either of these two men. ***¾
Su Yung kisses Swann after the match and they celebrate. Hold the phone. Yung low blows Swann and the Premier Athlete Brand attack Swann. Thank God. Now Yung can continue to interfere in matches as a heel. Gargano makes the save for Swann, which hopefully means he can start winning matches or something. Swann will receive a title match against Drew Galloway.
Overall: The first half of this card was completely forgettable, with a three-minute opener and a six-minute style battle tournament match. The action picked up somewhat with Gulak/Busick and Galloway/Ricochet, but neither of those matches gave me anything to write home about. The main event tried its best to provide something memorable, but if you’re going to order any show from this weekend I’d still go with 32. One thing is clear: the reboot did not alter the atmosphere of EVOLVE shows nor did the new format erase the numerous booking problems. That’s the biggest takeaway from this weekend.