1. Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano (c) vs Caleb Konley & Anthony Nese
Unfortunately the stream was a near un-watchable mess for the first half of the match and was down the entirety of the second half. Not the best start to a huge WrestleMania weekend for WWNLive, but thankfully the streaming problems abated for the next match onwards and the rest of the show was unaffected. Apparently Gargano & Galloway retained.
2. Timothy Thatcher (c) vs Matt Riddle
This match was somewhat disappointing, even more so than their first encounter. I don’t think Thatcher is the guy to bring the best out of Riddle and this match leaned far too heavily towards the MMA side of this new grappling craze for my liking. Thatcher came in with a ton of anger and energy, but that quickly dissipated once they started rolling around on the mat. I think back to why I enjoyed promotions like BattlARTS, UWFi and RINGS and a large part of it was because the various rule-sets of those aforementioned promotions encouraged competitors to stand up and fight. Once Thatcher & Riddle picked up the pace, however, and it became more of a pro-wrestling match this wasn’t bad. I liked them trading off submissions in a game of “anything you can do, I can do better”, but then the finish happened with Riddle “snapping” Thatcher’s elbow in a cross-armbreaker and the match was declared a no contest. It was another flat ending to a match between these two, obviously they’re building towards a final confrontation but, as good as Thatcher is and as good as Riddle will be, I’m not terribly invested.
3. Marty Scurll vs Fred Yehi
I enjoyed this a fair bit, Marty’s so good in his role and was always one-step ahead of Yehi here. For his part, Fred showed off some of his strength as he manhandled Scurll into a suplex or two and put up a good fight against Marty on the mat, but eventually ‘The Villain’ was able to catch Yehi with the Orange Crush into a Chickenwing to force the submission. A good showing from both guys, but it definitely felt like there was a longer match brewing. Excited to see more of Yehi, he’s obviously very talented.
4. Ethan Page vs Sami Callihan
Another really solid match and an excellent performance from Ethan Page, who worked the smarter of the two here, always catching Callihan off-balance and showing great determination to gut through some of Sami’s vicious offence. After surviving a vicious Liger Bomb and the Stretch Muffler, Page rocked Callihan with a Liger Bomb of his own for a big nearfall and I was certain Page was on his way to an upset victory, but after escaping a Package Piledriver attempt Callihan absolutely nailed Ethan with a flying forearm for the three count. Good stuff from both men here, this was a very physical and exciting contest.
5. Ricochet vs TJ Perkins
This was such a confident and well executed match, Ricochet & Perkins are at the top of their games right now and really brought the best out of each other here. It started off in a fairly light-hearted manner, both guys joking around and testing each other on the mat before the pace started to pick up. Both are impressive high-flyers and showed some great agility, but as Ricochet’s incredible athleticism saw him coming out on top, TJ took the match in a vicious turn and began going after Ricochet’s leg. The pain and discomfort was evident as Ricochet tried to shake off the damage, but after landing on his feet from a 450 he tweaked his knee and Perkins trapped him in the TJP Lock for the quick submission, much to the crowd’s disappointment. Post-match, Stokely Hathaway came to the ring and handed Perkins a contract to sign, which he did so. Stokely then announced that Perkins was the newest member of his Dream Team and that, for marketing reasons, he was now known as TJP. He went on to address Triple H, saying that he needs a man like TJP for the Global Cruiserweight League.
6. Zack Sabre Jr. vs Will Ospreay
Well, this was certainly a memorable encounter for the third match of Zack Sabre Jr’s ‘Best in the World Trial Series’. As exciting a wrestling match as you’re likely to see, Zack and Ospreay brought the crowd to a fever-pitch and received a standing ovation before the match was even finished! It’s incredibly difficult to explain a match like this, but this was their third match this year and proved to be the best of the lot and a fantastic way to kick-start WrestleMania weekend. As the match wore on I began to wonder if young Will Ospreay could cause the upset. It seemed that Sabre wasn’t really focusing his offence on any one body part and, while he was doing damage (which Will’s screams will attest to), he wasn’t actually slowing down Ospreay. After only just kicking out of the Rainham Maker, Sabre seemed to be in real trouble but turned the tide in an instant when he got his knees up to defend a Phoenix Splash, before perfectly rolling Ospreay into his latest submission finisher (which I’m sure Kent Walton would’ve called a seated double-arm lever, or some-such) and forcing Will to tap. What an exciting, exhausting, roller-coaster of a match that has to be seen to be believed.
7. Heroes. Eventually. Die. (Chris Hero & Tommy End) vs Catch Point (Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams)
The unenviable position of following such a crazy match fell to these two teams and, while all performed admirably and gave the audience a match worthy of the main event on any other show, here the crowd seemed very drained in the outset. Hero & End absolutely dominated this match up with some brutal strikes and seemed to be too physical of a challenge for the smaller team of Gulak & Williams, but they persisted and eventually managed to isolate End (which is when the crowd really started to liven up again). After some great tag work from Catch Point, Tommy eventually managed to make the hot tag and Heroes. Eventually. Die. reasserted their dominance with some fantastically timed tag team offence (including an absolutely brutal release vertical suplex/knee strike combo). Williams bore the brunt of this and it seemed to be all over for Catch Point when he was the victim of a double-stomp spike piledriver, but Gulak held his own and caught Tommy with a deep dragon sleeper to force a quick tap. This was a good main event, although I personally would have put it on before Sabre & Ospreay. I also felt that, while the quick submission was a clever way to end it, the relatively long time Hero & End had spent in other potentially match-ending submissions earlier on somewhat diminished the finish.
Overall this was an excellent show, early streaming issues aside. I greatly enjoyed watching all the matches, with perhaps the exception of Thatcher vs Riddle, and was absolutely blown away by Will Ospreay & Zack Sabre Jr. stealing the show. That being said, Ricochet vs TJP deserves a TON of praise as well for the compelling story they told in their match, both guys are so absolutely amazing at what they do and (as with Zack & Ospreay) brought out the best in each other. The main event was great as well, but suffered for its placement on the card, and I enjoyed both Page vs Callihan and Scurll vs Yehi a whole lot. An excellent showing from EVOLVE and I can’t wait to see tonight’s event.