‘Wrestle Mania Weekend’ is a special time for a wrestling fan. For fans of independent wrestling, like us, it’s a weekend to overload on as many hours of wrestling as possible and support the promotions trying to put on their best effort on their grandest stage of the year.
This year’s weekend was no different. After eight complete shows, I’ve assembled what I feel is the pick of the litter for your reading pleasure. Before we get down to it, I must give a special shout out to my better half for putting up with my absenteeism across the weekend with the many hours (and dollars) I pumped into independent wrestling.
As always, feedback welcomed, so if you have any please hit me up on twitter @hashtagtravisty
EVOLVE Tag Team Title: Johnny Gargano & Drew Galloway © vs. The Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley) (04/01 – EVOLVE) (*** ¾)
EVOLVE 58 – Dallas, Texas
This match is going to be remembered (if at all…) for 2 things. 1: No one watching at home was able to see it. 2: The finish had no ring bell ringing, causing mass confusion. The WWN More Than Mania weekend, despite producing a bunch of fantastic matches was a pretty epic disaster. Plagued with all sorts of streaming issues, it made for an incredibly frustrating experience for fans trying to watch at home. Starting the weekend out with a really hot title match seems like a great idea in theory. The actual result was fans not getting to see a marque match that they paid for. Sadly, this mistake would be made the very next day as well. WWN was thankfully prompt with getting the replay up and this turned out to be a great little tag match in front of a fired up crowd. Konley and Nese are two very solid wrestlers spinning their wheels in a stable that was going nowhere. The gimmick here was that a loss would disband the stable. For the sake of both men, that happened. It’ll be interesting to see if Gabe gives each guy a new direction or stops using them on these shows. Either way, a reinvention is definitely needed. Gargano and Galloway as champs was something I was really intrigued by giving the other promotions they work for but it seems to have limited shelf life. That coupled with the l extra stipulation gave the match some intrigue. A bunch of great sequences and a hot finishing stretch lead to… And incredibly awkward submission finish. There was no bell to ring so the crowd (and wrestlers) had no idea if the match was over or not. It was as cringe-worthy as it sounds. To his credit, the divine Drew Galloway made the best of it by bringing a fan into the ring post-match to recreate the finish with a bell ringing and a big babyface celebration. This match is going to forever fly under the radar given the circumstances of it. That, plus the quality work, makes it worth a look.
Ricochet vs. TJP (04/01 – EVOLVE) (*** ¾)
EVOLVE 58 – Dallas, Texas
Smart booking: Take two of the smoothest wrestlers going and let them wrestle each other. For a promotion not based around storylines, it’s that easy. This was as good as you would expect. TJ Perkins is the most underrated independent wrestler of the past decade, in my opinion. The guy is so good but has never gotten that real chance to shine. EVOLVE seems robe majorly behind him now giving him a number of big wins (including this one) and seemingly a spot in the upcoming WWE Cruiserweight tournament which hopefully finally gives him that platform to stand out. For a guy seen only as a high-flyer, Ricochet is game to go on the mat and strike so this was a fun mix of styles. These guys had a very solid, short match in PWG 2 years ago. Here they get a few more minutes and are able to have a better match because of it. This doesn’t get ridiculous with near/finishes and ends on the right note at the right time. A very easy, fulfilling way to spend less than 15 minutes of your time.
Best In The World Series Match #3 – The Flyer: Zack Sabre, Jr. vs. Will Ospreay (04/01 – EVOLVE) (**** ½)
EVOLVE 58 – Dallas, Texas
Man alive. These guys met up at the 16 Carat (review soon-ish!) and it was very, very good. This is on another level. It’s a similarly structured match. Sabre picks apart and grounds Ospreay until Will gets his openings to hit his flashy offended. It’s a tried, tested and true formula and it works amazingly well here. They had a dynamite crowd for this and this was the first match to scream “Mania Weekend”. This weekend was all about Will Ospreay, for my money, the best wrestler in the world right now, making a huge impact in front of tons of fans from all over the world. He crushed it all weekend. Had the man not have already signed a NJPW contract, he would have been offered a WWE deal of some sort from his performances in Texas. This match highlights him perfectly but Sabre also gets to show why he is oh so good as well in cutting Ospreay off and bending him in all sorts of disgusting ways. This match was a complete success in every level and the first (of multiple) MOTYCs that weekend.
Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero & Tommy End) vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams) (04/01 – EVOLVE) (****)
EVOLVE 58 – Dallas, Texas
This was curious booking. After an incredibly outstanding sub-15-minute match that fired up the crowd we get a slow-paced, gruelling, almost 30-min tag match to close the show. Man, was it ever good though. Heroes Eventually Die (what a name!) have very quickly become the tag team to watch, for my money. Chris Hero is in another world as far as putting together matches are concerned in 2016 and the way he and Tommy gel as partners that also sort of want to kill each other is a delight. They go really long here and the crowd isn’t totally with it after the Sabre/Ospreay match but this is a fight to the end. Drew Gulak is an amazing pro wrestler. He gets the little nuances so well. Tracy Williams is the perfect protégé working under him. Hot Sauce gets absolutely decimated for a lot of this match. My only criticism outside of the match placement is that Gulak gets the deciding fall and not Hot Sauce. That would have been a better conclusion to the story they were telling. This is a messy tag match. Tags get completely abandoned for a long, long stretch of time as all 4 guys hang out in the ring throwing bombs. The work is so violent though that it’s easy to overlook the logistic problems. This isn’t for everyone but 4 world class wrestlers hitting and stretching each other for almost 30 minutes is right up my alley. Good stuff and I hope we see a rematch for the titles before long.
Kyle O’Reilly vs. Matt Sydal (04/01 – ROH) (*** ¾)
ROH Supercard Of Honor X – Night 1 – Dallas, Texas
On paper, this was one of the best looking “just a match” matches of Mania Weekend. These two have been on an absolute terror both in ROH and elsewhere consistently for the past couple of years. This was a first time ever meeting and exactly the type of match ROH needed to book for the biggest wrestling weekend of the year. It delivers in that it is very, very good. It’s a hard match to review though in that it goes how one would expect and there’s nothing to separate it from any of the other 50 great matches happening in Texas that weekend. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. ROH followed up a great Philly show with a great Dallas show with quality matches top to bottom. As someone watching since 2002, ROH has lost a lot of its freshness and appeal to me in recent years. These 2 shows were great progress to get back to a level that will once again have me interested in he product. Matt Sydal is a gem, Kyle O’Reilly is a warrior. They mesh well and have a great match.
More opinions on more matches from this amazing weekend to follow.