July 10 2015 in Ybor City, FL
Evolve had major booking issues to overcome as they lost two upper level stars (Biff Busick and Davey Richards) to injury just days before this show. The entire card got shuffled around to make up for their absences, and “hotshotting” of big matches that were previously being saved for future shows was promised.
Opening interview: The Premier Athlete Brand comes to the ring, including Trent Barreta’s return to Evolve after over a year. So-Cal Val sings their praises and riles up the crowd, but is interrupted by Gary Jay who wants his long awaited opportunity now.
Match 1 – Gary Jay vs FIP Champ Caleb Konley (non-title): ***
Good match with Jay showcasing some dives to the outside and impressive strikes in between being beaten down by Konely. PAB of course get involved, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Konley reverses a superplex attempt into a faceplant then hits a double jump moonsault to finish. Gary Jay with a strong showing making the most of getting on the card due to the aforementioned injuries. Would be nice to see him return.
More gloating from Val, and here comes Rich Swann. He has a lot of history with Nese and Konley (including having lost the FIP title to Konley), but tonight he’s here to settle unfinished business with someone else…
Match 2 – Trent Barreta vs Rich Swann: ***1/2
Back and forth match with Swann playing the beloved babyface to perfection and Barreta doing his best to smother Swann at every opportunity. Insane half-nelson suplex on the apron to Swann in the middle of the match. After a crazy sequence of trading signature moves, the Dudebuster finishes. Solid return for Barreta that leaves him looking strong going into his next match with current Evolve/DGUSA champion Drew Galloway. Nice to have him back.
The PAB resume their celebration, but there’s one member left to wrestle and on cue here’s Andrew Everett.
Match 3 – Anthony Nese vs Andrew Everett: ***
I like the flow of sequential PAB matches since they’re already out, but the drawback is the PAB members wrestle so similarly 3 matches in a row is a bit much. Methodical attack from Nese with occasional athletic counters from Everett. Crowd got quite into it towards the end. Slight callback to Konley’s match, as Everett reverses a superplex attempt into a faceplant and hits a shooting star press to pin Nese. Good, but both are capable of more.
After his victory Everett goads Konley into putting the FIP title on the line in their impending match the next day. Teased dissension in the PAB but no fireworks.
And the PAB portion of our program has concluded.
Match 4 – Trevor Lee vs Chris Hero: ****
Great story with Lee going after Hero super-aggressively after coming up just short in their last encounter. Hero’s looking a bit big but still moving great in the ring and clearly in great shape conditioning-wise. Incredible strike exchanges (and think of the matches still to come in that regard). Lee’s constant countering of the piledriver played nicely on the ending to their first match. Lee’s backflip belly-to-belly is a thing of beauty. Hero with four brutal rolling elbows in a row for the win.
Hero takes exception to fan comments about Zach Sabre Jr. being better than Hero to hype a future match.
Match 5 – Zach Sabre Jr. vs Roderick Strong: ****1/2
Sabre is the proverbial hot commodity right now and there was a ton of anticipation for his return to Evolve / the states. Strong isn’t a personal favorite of mine, but he’s a solid performer that can mix it up with numerous styles and is a great opponent for Sabre. Match built beautifully, from careful (and even) counter wrestling to more intensive submission wrestling to crazy strike exchanges. Roddy of course also worked in some vicious backbreakers as well. Sabre’s wonderfully innovative offense is intense and exciting. Sabre wins with an incredibly painful looking arm submission after working the arm all match. Fantastic stuff.
Sabre brings a different kind of energy to Evolve and is a treat to watch. If possible this raised anticipation for the remainder of his matches even more.
Main event – Timothy Thatcher vs Evolve and DGUSA Champion Drew Galloway (non-title): ****
Thatcher is my favorite active wrestler. He throws out a challenge to Galloway to put the Evolve title on the line. Galloway recounts his own impromptu opportunity and the pride he has in competing, and puts BOTH titles on the line. Intense back and forth match here, with both basically just trying to beat on the other until he stays down. Wonderfully simple. Thatcher wins with a high angle Fujiwara armbar! A lot of attention has been made of Galloway’s foot being under the rope during the hold and the ref not seeing it, but Thatcher pulled him to the center before the tapout and I’ve seen many rope breaks where one wrestler doesn’t fully let go of the other before reapplying something, so this didn’t bother me at all. Result was a big surprise given the rebooking and ends with a great moment of Thatcher becoming double champion and the new “face” of WWNLive.
Overall: What a recovery in the face of adversity. The forced rebooking of the entire card didn’t hurt Evolve at all as they deliver an excellent show from top to bottom. No bad matches, several great ones, praise worthy performances from everyone and huge developments setting up future shows.