LIVE from The Orpheum, Ybor City, FL
EVOLVE Wrestling has returned after an almost 3 month break on a mission to crown inaugural Tag Team Champions. A 3-night tournament is being held for those tag titles while the Style Battle makes its return as well. Timothy Thatcher was a late scratch from the event due to a staph infection, with Sami Callihan taking his place as Zack Sabre Jr.’s tag partner while Ethan Page now faces PJ Black instead of Callihan. With no Thatcher lets see how the night
EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round Match: Caleb Konley & Anthony Nese with So Cal Val & Andrea vs. Harlem & Lancelot Bravado
Got home late because I was out with my girlfriend so I missed most of the match.
Tope Suicida doomsday device by Bravados, immediately followed by a Wheelbarrow Cutter combination for the near fall! The PAB comeback as Nese hit Harlem with a Pumphandle Driver and Konley connected with a Moonsault right after for a 2-count. Nese attempted a follow up 450 Splash but missed and got caught in Gentleman’s Agreement but kicked out! The Bravados sty on Nese and it takes a Gory Special/STO combo to finally put him down and advance to the next round!
I missed most of the match but that ending sequence was nuts. The Bravados have come a long way from their days in ROH, maturing in to a great tag team. Tough loss for the PAB who can’t seem to win the big one these days. However, it may open the door for a singles title challenge.
Winners: The Bravado Brothers
Jason Cade vs. Joe Coleman
Unannounced match as two standouts from the Evolve camp were given an opportunity to show their stuff in front of a live crowd. Cade was easily the standout in the match, starting things off quick with a Tope Suicida and a Tope Con Hilo. Coleman took control after a Uranage slam and spent a lot of time constantly pandering to the crowd with a lot of weight lifting taunts. Afterwards he delivered a really good Fireman’s Carry Cutter. But after back-to-back running knees by Cade and a Hurricarana off the top rope followed by a Frog Splash the match was won in an instant.
Winner: Jason Cade
Style Battle Round Robin Singles Tournament Match: Peter Kaasa vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle immediately brought Kaasa down and mounted him for an early chokehold, but Kaasa forced the break by getting to the ropes. Kaasa clotheslined Riddle out the ring for some separation, performing a Sasuke Special right after. Back in the ring Riddle caught a dropkick attempt but Kaasa turned it in to a triangle choke, just for Riddle to power him into a Gotch-style slam. Riddle brought out good Cradle Suplex right after, a move I’ve never seen him use until this event. Kaasa hit a surprise Angle Slam right after the Cradle Suplex and sprinted to the top rope, but he failed to connect on an insane dive I can best describe as a 630 Corkscrew! Riddle pounced right on top Kaasa after the miss, locking him in a Heel Hook for the submission victory.
Short match, but very effective. Riddle and Kaasa are two guys who will be major names in wrestling and this match showed why. Riddle matches are kept short since he is fairly new to wrestling, but his MMA background sells his quick matches as the “all it takes is one second for me to end this”. I say it every review; Kaasa is a genetic freak. His missed top rope dive was bad, but a small blemish in an otherwise stellar outing.
Winner: Matt Riddle
Bonus Match: Ethan Page vs. PJ Black
At the start of the match Page attempted to shake hands with Black, but is instead challenged to a test of strength and pulled down in to a sleeper hold. Black transitions into an armbar to keep Page grounded. Page gets to his feet but is brought right back down into another sleeper hold. Page eventual breaks free and connects with a nice Fallaway slam on Black. After a hard irish whip in to the corner and a release German Suplex both men trade strikes until Page follows up with a DDT. Black counters a hold and hits Page with a Superkick and than an Okada Roll in to a spinout Powerbomb for a 2 count. Both guys trade corner up-and-overs until Page utilizes his strength with a sick Sit-out Powerbomb where it looked as though Black landed on his neck. After a quick exchange and a Back Slide pin attempt, Black hits a springboard Moonsault for another near fall. The entire match Page has thrown great punches and keeps it up in the closing moments of the match as Black delivers a series of great kicks to the head. Once Page caught Black with an Outside-in Cutter he pulled out the Spinning Rocky for the win. Black’s foot was under the rope during the 3 count so Page made the ref restart the match so he could win the right way. Match restarted and Page lost on the 2nd consecutive roll up.
This was a match all about progressing the new Ethan Page character who is trying to make amends for his past misdeeds. Black was the quick competitor who actually slowed down the match while showboating often to draw pity for Page. Without the “All Ego” attitude Page has racked up losses and this was another example of his self-doubt hurting him.
Winner: PJ Black
EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round Match : Trent Baretta & Rocky Romero vs. Dan Barry & Bill Carr
Rocky and Barry started out the match trading submission holds. Japanese arm drags by Dan forced Rocky to bring in Trent who got some hard hits given to him by Carr. Both teams traded control of the match, utilizing double-team advantages regularly. The match picked up after a hot tag from Barry to Carr, who cleaned house before Rocky hit him with a knee and attempted the Forever Clotheslines but is plowed by Carr for a near fall. Trent and Barry came in to the ring as all men went at it. RPG Vice got a momentarily advantage and a near fall after a knee combo to Barry. The match broke down in to a Semi-Superkick Party! All men were laid out and it came down to Trent and Barry trading blows until Trent caught Barry with a Superkick when he attempted a Moonsault, but got hit with a Tequila Sunrise and running knee for another knee fall. Carr hit Rocky with a Spinout Sidewalk Slam while Barry hit Trent with a Spinout Body Slam for near falls.
Tremendous went for a Doomsday Device but it was broken up with a low blow and after a Strong Zero on to Barry RPG Vice picked up the win.
Damn fine match between two great teams. RPG Vice underestimated Team Tremendous and had to cheat when they realized how good they were.
Winners: RPG Vice
Style Battle Round Robin Singles Tournament: Fred Yehi vs. Tracey Williams
Williams started off working a number of arm holds on Yehi. Both men ended up trading strikes and than take it to the ground with Yehi maintaining momentary control until Williams catches him with a knee to the head. Good Necklock Suplex by Williams in to another sleeper hold. Hits a backbreaker and holds on for a Back Suplex combo for a near fall on Yehi. Hard chops by Williams who was in complete control of the first part of the match. Things got really physical as Yehi mounted a comeback back with a few Suplexes. Multiple hard chops are exchanged between both men. Williams connected with a Shoulder Breaker and immediately snapped on a Crossface but Yehi got to the ropes. Hard elbow strikes, especially by Yehi, become the theme of the final portions of the match. Yehi thought he won the match after a number of Rolling Elbows, but Williams ended up making him tap after a High Angle DDT and a Piledriver followed up by a chokehold.
This was a wrestling match that quickly turned into two guys beating each other up with stiff shots. Both men kept taking hard shots but came right back to deliver their own or take another. Williams continues to impress while Yehi made a major statement in this match as a guy on the rise.
Winner: Tracey Williams
*The next match was suppose to be Gargano & Galloway vs. Catch Point, but Galloway came out and said Johnny hadn’t made back yet from his NXT match in Orlando. He even tried calling Gargano on his phone while in the ring but got his voicemail. WWN allowed for their match to be moved to the main event so that Johnny could be given more time to get back.*
EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round Match: Sami Callihan & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Chris Hero & Tommy End
Sabre and Hero grappled a bunch in the beginning of the match. Callihan came in a worked a headlock on Hero a bit until Hero hit him with Running Senton. Once in the match, End brought out some insane kicks on Callihan. When Sabre got back in the match he and End got in to some great grapple exchanges and strike dodging. Sabre eventually gets kicked in the face and has to fight out of the corner, but Hero gets in and gives a boot to Sabre and an Elbow to Callihan. Sabre is mercilessly double-teamed as he found himself in the corner while Hero and End hit him with kicks and chops! Callihan kept getting taken out by a Hero to prevent him from helping Sabre! Callihan finally comes in off a hot tag and delivers some great offense to Hero & End. The teams go back in forth with some of the best wrestling I’ve seen in my life. Hero used a Release Suplex on Callihan and End caught Callihan with a knee as he fell! End even pulled out a Spinning Knee in to a German! All men were in the ring fighting with near fall after near fall. Sabre was able to get an Armbar synched in on End while Callihan had a Rear Naked Choke on Hero before Hero got out and broke up the Armbar. The match reached its conclusion when Hero & End sandwiched Sabre in between an Elbow and Spinning Heel Kick.
Likely the best tag team match in EVOLVE history and damn-well one of the best tag matches I’ve ever seen in my life. Hero & End were a perfect team. Their striking abilities complemented each other so well and gave the match the feel of major fight. Sabre took a beating, but refused to go down and pulled out some amazing counters that at many times made people believe his team was pulling out the victory. Callihan was a substitute, but his energy and rough style provided a great counter to that of Hero & End. My words barely scratched the surface of this match; it needs to be seen by all fans. I don’t know who wins this tournament but it should be Hero & End, watching them tag together must become a regular occurrence for fans.
EVOLVE Tag Team Title Tournament First Round Match : Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway vs. Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins
Gargano still hadn’t arrived yet so Galloway was getting set for a handicap match when Ethan Page came out and offered to be his partner. Galloway declined the invitation, saying he didn’t trust him and is better off on his own.
Once alone Galloway double clothesline both men and begin hitting them with some hard chops. Galloway got out of a Gulak sleeper and caught Perkins in a Tilt A Whirl Slam, tossing him in to Gulak right after. Overall, Galloway was doing a great job holding his own against two great wrestlers. Catch Point were able to gain an advantage after Gulak dealt some damage to Galloway on the outside. Once back in the ring Galloway is worked over. At one point Drew fights back, catching TJ with a reverse Alabama Slam on to Gulak, but TJ regains control. After a Powerbomb to Perkins on to Gulak Gargano finally arrives and gets the tag in. Slingshot DDT, Super kick, Tope, Gargano is did it all once he got in to the match! All men were in the ring and ended up laid out after some back and forth offense. Galloway gets hit by a 3-D-esq Facebuster with Gulak and Perkins both locking in ankle locks on Gargano and he. Both mean get out of the holds, with Gargano and Perkins taking their battle outside of the ring. Inside of the ring it’s Gulak and Galloway, and Gulak gets hit with 3 Future Shock DDT’s for the win.
Drew Galloway spent a good portion of this match on his own and he looked like a star. He tossed Gulak and Perkins around, showing off his power in a big way. Gargano got in to make the miracle save, but this was more Galloway’s moment, especially with how he left Gulak when the match was over. Good drama and match to end the night.
Winners: Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway
All of the tag matches delivered in a major way tonight, with the Hero/End vs. Sabre/Callihan ready to go down as an Evolve classic. Unlike past Evolve shows there were less in the way of promos, but the wrestling and small bits of promos did well enough to advance story in a great way. This show was a really good show. All I can think about is that amazing tag match; it was that good and what’s amazing is that it could have been better if Thatcher were in the match. I’m pumped and anxious for Evolve 54.
MOTN: Chris Hero & Tommy End vs. Zack Sabre Jr. & Sami Callihan
Wrestler of the Night: Zack Sabre Jr.
Personality of the Night: Drew Galloway
Show Rating: 8.5/10