March 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY
1) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs Fred Yehi **
On the short side, basically establishing Yehi as a threat to the larger opponent for a while then moving into endgame. Page’s moral journey continues as he offers a handshake several times mid-match to cops in response. Another win though for Page with the package piledriver as his quest for redemption starts to get some traction. Respect show after the match but Nese attacks Page (and then gets cheered for his crack about Page’s weight). He does turn up the heel heat after that. Konley out to send Nese home and with Andrea not there Konley will apparently be going alone later tonight in his title match.
2) TJ Perkins vs Tomaso Ciampa ***1/2
Tomaso Ciampa is replacing “Speedball” Mike Bailey, who had travel issues that ended up with him barred from the US for 5 years. Nice reception for Ciampa. Perkins is in his normal gear, with nothing tying himself to Catch Point. He gets big cheers and chants to open. Lenny does a good job of trying to smooth it over on commentary, but Perkins (and really all of Catch Point) needs to play the heel better. On the subject, the whole angle / stable would benefit from being more consistent about supporting each other as a ringside entourage. TJP (and later Riddle) being out alone is odd given the gimmick.
Ciampa knows how to work and pop a crowd. His sequence of destroying TJP’s cap was great. Just the right amount of comedy then back then back to action. Good back and forth as the match goes on, and it’s nice to see some extended offense from Ciampa. These two have good chemistry and I enjoyed this much more than other recent TJP matches. Insane spot from Ciampa where he catches TJP on his back with one arm, climbs the turnbuckles, and hits an Air Raid Crash. Project Ciampa near the end for two, which seemed unnecessary and undercuts his finisher. TJ Clutch for the submission win as TJP’s push continues. He gets a hero’s ovation for the win. Ugh. Good match though.
3) Matt Riddle vs Chris Hero ****1/2
Odd this is on so early – could have easily been the semi-main. Crowd’s firmly on Hero’s side. Show of respect to start. Double ugh. Why the hell is the cocky, back-stabbing, detested Riddle shaking hands?
Like the previous night night the crowd is completely obsessed with Riddle’s lack of footwear. Hero eventually attacks the exposed foot and makes it the focus of his offense to the crowd’s delight. Riddle’s coming along extremely well in a short period of time and does a great job looking like a legitimate threat to the larger man.
That said, as the match goes on Hero puts him in the most trouble he’s seen so far in Evolve. Hero’s strikes are incredible and look absolutely brutal. It makes Riddle get more and more serious as they progress, including pulling out a sweet fisherman buster. Riddle’s lip is bloody from Hero’s elbows. Hero regains control and Riddle looks to be out after a pile driver, but Hero goes for Death by Elbow. Riddle kicks out, shocking the crowd. Gotch Piledriver attempt is beautifully countered into a triangle, then converted into a vicious arm bar for the victory! Riddle still needs to work on late match selling of early legwork, but overall he’s great from his experience level. Excellent match, and a big win for Riddle that’s properly driven home by the commentary.
Galloway’s delayed this time, so the tag title match will be on later. Konley jumps Gargano then demands Thatcher comes out immediately for his championship match. As Thatcher complies, Callihan lays him out from behind. Way too few actual faces in this promotion.
4) Evolve Title Match: Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Caleb Konley ***1/4
Konley tries a quick pin to steal the title after Callihan’s attack. Thatcher fights back despite the cheap shot and we go back and forth for a while. Konley tries to go toe to toe with Thatcher in holds, leading to several great, innovative counters from Thatcher. He escapes the O-Face with kicks to the head. “Take it home” chants from a few unappreciative fans. I adore Thatcher style personally, but he is polarizing and has trouble engaging portions of the fanbase.
Late in the match Thatcher’s shoved into the ref after they fight on the top rope. Surprising no one, Andrea is indeed here and runs out to help. She hits a kick and Konley follows with a double jump moonsault, teasing the finish that worked the night before. Thatcher kicks out and is PISSED. Konley distracts the ref and Andrea slaps Thatcher, only to eat a headbutt. Fujiwara armbar, goodnight Konley. Fine match with an awesome show of fortitude from Thatcher, but the shenanigans detracted a bit.
Riddle’s out to challenge Thatcher to a rematch in Dallas. “You’re trash bro, just like the rest of these people.” Thatcher accepts, then after claiming to be upstanding and above cheap shots, nails Thatcher with one in the form of a jumping knee, knocking him out. NOW he’s acting like a heel. Bravo.
5) Sami Callihan vs Tracy Williams ***
Aggressive start for Williams, which sets the stage nicely. Callihan tries to slow things down, but Williams gets the better of the grappling. Williams begins to get on a roll so Callihan bailing to stall makes sense, but he does it too much and really disrupts the flow of his matches. Once things settle down Williams gets a long offensive advantage targeting Callihan’s arm. Williams has looked great recently and I enjoy his work.
Nearing the end, and the Cuerno Killer gets one(?!). I understand this makes Williams look like a beast, but I have an issue with using any sort of “spike” tombstone piledriver for a nearfall. It’s a move that should be treated like a career threatening experience. Williams with a nice counter to the stretch muffler for a nearfall, but Callihan hits the Cinder Block for the victory. He needed the win desperately given his building feud with Thatcher, but I was pulling for Williams.
6) Best in the World Challenge Series: Zack Sabre Jr. vs Drew Gulak ****
“This is awesome” chant from the crowd in anticipation of the lockup. Evenly matched in the early going, fluidly trading fantastic holds and counters. As I mentioned before, one thing I love about Sabre’s style (and Thatcher’s) is that he’s ALWAYS fighting and gives the impression he’s trying to win every second he’s in there. Gulak matches that feel well here and it’s impressive to watch them go hold for hold throughout the match, peppered with equally impressive strikes and throws.
Sabre’s ankle in trouble later on and Gulak completely picks it apart. One simply but incredibly effective sequence saw Gulak slam Sabre repeatedly making sure his injured ankle hit the ropes each time. Sabre trying to keep Gulak at bay and away from the ankle with palm strikes. They go into a series of rollups and reversals, which ends with Gulak in a seat position with Sabre essentially sitting on his neck facing the opposite direction. Zach gets a wild look, grabs Gulak’s arms and leans back into a crazy submission hold for the win. I find Gulak hit or miss, but he was totally on tonight and had a great contest with Sabre here.
Hero comes out to taunt Sabre. He name drops several people who’ve been called the Best in the World, and says he beat them all. Says he’s beyond that, and is instead the Greatest of All Time. “You haven’t beat me.” “You’re right. But I’ll see you in Dallas.” Gulak gets in Hero’s face after Sabre leaves and tells him he should be more worried about his unfinished business with Catch Point. Face promo from Gulak and the crowd chants for him appropriately. Forgive my harping, but CATCH POINT ARE HEELS. Sigh.
7) Evolve Tag Team Title Match: Johnny Gargano and Drew Galloway (c) vs Team Tremendous (Dan Barry and Bill Carr) ***1/4
Heel tendencies showing from Galloway, as he ends a pre-match promo joking about just making it on time and changing in the back of the cab with a cheap shot on Dan Barry to jumpstart the match. Team Tremendous won the Second Chance portion of the tag title tournament, resulting in this opportunity. Odd choice, as they aren’t Evolve regulars, lost their match the previous night, and weren’t scheduled for the subsequent Wrestlemania weekend shows in Dallas. They’re a good team that are well loved by the crowd, and Evolve at least tried to cover by stating they be added to the Dallas shows if they won the titles, but this has a total foregone conclusion feel. Shame Galloway’s delay made it the main event.
That said they put up a nice fight against the super-team of Gargano and Galloway. They have great chemistry as a team and displayed some innovative double teams. Things wrap up when Galloway nails Barry with a kick to interrupt a springboard moonsault in midair then scoops him up for the Futureshock DDT. Decent main event, but Team Tremendous never felt like serious threats to Gargano and Galloway’s reign and it never quite reached the levels it felt like it could have.
I’m growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of good face/heel definition in Evolve, leading to muddled angles and very few people to really get behind to cheer. But the ideas behind the rivalries are good and the action is top-notch as always. This show was great despite its missteps and Hero vs Riddle is easily Riddle’s best match so far and well worth seeking out.