Wednesday 11 February 2015

EVOLVE 37 review

Despite being accidentally kicked in the head by Drew Galloway at the end of the previous evening’s show Heather Lynn was in the ring when the EVOLVE 37 stream started up. She introduced the show before coming over all woozy and in need of a sit down. Joanna Rose replaced her to handle the intros of the first match. If she wasn’t able to speak why did Lynn bother to turn up? I mean, yes, obviously it was to get over the kick she’d taken from Galloway, which in turn reminded everyone that Roderick Strong is a bit of a cad, but in real life terms why did she attend the show?  

Shane Strickland was in the opening match for the second night in a row. Also for the second night in a row he was wrestling a champion. This time it was a non-title contest with Open the United Gate champion Anthony Nese. Before the match Nese introduced the new Director of PR for the Premier Athlete Brand, So Cal Val. Then he demoted Su Yung to Val's assistant. Because that’s how business works in wrestling. Val would immediately start issuing order to Su and they would bicker throughout the match. I wonder if this development will lead to a match or feuding factions or anything...

Strickland and Nese had a good opening match. As was the case the night before Strickland was given plenty to do to make him look competitive. Nese won after flattening Strickland with a pump handle bomb and applying the single leg crab. At Val’s request Su Yung took a picture of the rest of the gang after the match. 

Timothy Thatcher v Roderick Strong was preceded by Strong being disingenuous with a microphone. He apologised to Heather Lynn for what Drew Galloway did to her the night before, failing to acknowledge it was his fault. But he’s a heel, that’s what they do. He said he wasn't going to kick Galloway around the building again but that he'd give Thatcher a kicking. Lenny Leonard explained that Strong and Galloway had been told they’d face heavy fines if they interacted in any way during the show.

Thatcher took Strong down to the mat and worked over his arm at the start of the match. Strong took Thatcher down and targeted his leg. They worked through pinning situations and submission holds, ending with a Strong dragon suplex which thatcher bridged out of and turned into an armbar. Roddy escaped that and took a breather at ringside.

Thatcher swatted aside a drop kick and connected with uppercuts before they went back down to the mat. Strong elbowed and kneed Thatcher, trying again and again to get a pin in place for the three count but not managing it. Thatcher tried a cross armbreaker but Strong quickly slipped out and ran Thatcher into a corner. Thatcher fought out and worked Strong down to the mat with armbar applied. Strong used the ropes to get a break then left the ring again. Thatcher followed and got run into a ring post.

A drop kick welcomed Thatcher back to the ring. He fired back with chops and uppercuts but another drop kick floored him for a two count. Strong went for the Stronghold but couldn't turn Thatcher over so he cornered him and hit him with a running knee and a forearm instead. Thatcher got up and went back to his forearms before dropping Roddy with a suplex. Strong slipped out of a Tower of London attempt and got a German suplex. Thatcher got back to his feet and hit more uppercuts before Strong floored him with a roundhouse.

Thatcher absorbed chops in the corner, hit an enziguri, then hit a superplex. Back on their feet Roddy battered Thatcher with punches before being spun down to the mat with an arm bar, which he floated through to apply the Stronghold. When Roddy turned Thatcher onto his back to drag him away from the ropes Thatcher kicked him off, rolling him up in a small package as he bounced off the ropes for a two count. That was a great false finish.

Roddy hit a high knee and reversed out of a suplex attempt to hit a rolling elbow. Thatcher hit a head butt, yet more uppercuts, and knees then blasted Strong with a butterfly suplex. Strong kicked out but he was immediately trapped in a Fujiwara armbar. Unable to make it to the ropes and trapped in a painful hold Strong could do nothing but tap out. It was a big win for Thatcher and was talked up as such by Leonard and Niemi on commentary.

After the match Thatcher reminded everyone that he won the style battle tournament last time he was in Florida for WWN. He asked for a match with Chris Hero, who’d kicked him in the head the same night he won the tournament. Hero wasn’t there to respond but I imagine we’ll be seeing that match.

Match three pitted Trevor Lee against AR Fox. They had a lightning quick two minute exchange before the match was called to a halt when Fox took a nasty fall outside the ring and started bleeding from the eye. It's a shame it didn't get to go longer based on the first few minutes but it was a legitimate injury so they did the right thing calling the match off (it was announced prior to the main event that Fox was fine). A rematch on one of the 'Mania weekend cards would be nice to see.

On paper Biff Busick v Uhaa Nation looked like an unappealing clash of styles. It practice it was a lively, enjoyable encounter. They began with Uhaa getting the best of some lockups and then beating Busick in a test of strength (which Busick had foolishly instigated). They traded the advantage throughout the match, building towards a marvellous final few minutes.

Uhaa hit a Death Valley driver and started the Uhaa Combination. He made it all the way through the sequence but was met with Busick’s knees as he performed the standing shooting star press. Busick rolled him up for a very convincing two count. Uhaa was immediately locked in the rear naked choke as he kicked out. Uhaa staggered to his feet with Busickstill clutching at him and threw up over his body to break the hold.

A pop-up power bomb and a second, regular, power bomb got Uhaa a two count. Busick rolled onto the apron and got caught with a deadlift second rope suplex, hooking Uhaa for another pin as they landed. Uhaa again kicked out and levelled Busick with a bicycle kick. Busick slipped out of a gorilla press and pulled Uhaa down to the mat in a rear naked choke for a submission victory. The result, like many across the weekend, did Busick a lot of good. That’s what happens when wrestling shows don’t casually dismiss the importance of winning and losing. Take note WWE and TNA.

They shook hands after the match. The crowd changed "We will miss you!" at Busick, acknowledging the rumours that he’s heading to WWE. Busick downplayed the chant and announced that he had a problem with Timothy Thatcher calling out Chris Hero. His beef seemed to be that he’s proven he can beat Thatcher so Thatcher should be concerned with him, not Hero. He challenged Hero to a match at WWN Live in San Jose. Something tells me that will be accepted.

A non-title victory over EVOLVE champion Drew Galloway at EVOLVE 33 had earned Ricochet a title shot. He got it here, kicking the match off with a bang as he super kicked Galloway during the ring introductions. Galloway floored him with a big boot seconds later, just as he had done to Strong the night before.

They went out into the crowd, fighting beyond the guard rail and over to the wall of the arena. There they did a fun little spot with Galloway back dropping Ricochet only for Ricochet to hold onto to a basketball hoop, spin around, and hurricanrana the champ. Continuing the flashiness Ricochet ran up the wall for a body block on Galloway. But Galloway caught him and smacked him into the wall. Sooner or later the EVOLVE roster will pick up on the fact that Galloway is larger than all of them and they’ll stop trying to brawl with him.

Back in the ring Ricochet kicked Galloway’s hand, which had been injured the night before, and then started targeting it with stomps, heelish twisting and a shooting star press. Taunting earned Ricochet a series of forearms and lariats. Galloway blocked a Regalplex and German suplexed ricochet into a turnbuckle. Ricochet came back with a roundhouse kick, the Regalplex and a running SSP for a two count.

Galloway was pulled into position for a top rope shooting star press but he got to his feet and crotched ricochet on the top rope before he could hit it. He belly-to-belly suplexed Ricochet down into the ring before hitting him with an inverted Alabama Slam. Ricochet countered the double arm DDT into the floatover northern lights suplex, followed by a brainbuster, but it wasn't enough to earn him a three count.

Galloway avoided another attempt at the top tope SSP, blocked a Benadryller and then backhanded Ricochet with his splinted finger. He screamed at the referee that it wasn't intentional before very much intentionally booting the challenger in the head and giving him a double arm DDT for the win. The champion tried to check on Ricochet after the match but Ricochet shrugged him off. Galloway clearly wasn't that cut up because he immediately started posing with his belt and started yelling into the camera.

The Bravado brothers and Moose v Ronin was the main event. The stipulation was that the losing team would never ever get to team again (like, for total realsies). It was a peculiar ruling to have. The Ronin trio hadn't teamed (on a WWN show at least) in years and the Bravados and Moose aren't really known for being a trio. It lessened the impact the stipulation could have had, unless of course it was meant that no combination of the losing team could team could compete as a double or triple act. But that wasn’t made clear, which was probably a deliberate booking choice.

The match started with all six men brawling around ringside. The highlight of this portion was Moose power bombing Swann at Gargano and Taylor. The match was disappointingly light on moments that got over Moose’s power.

Swann was the first man to get isolated. A good decision considering his ability to draw people into his performances and make them believe he’s hurt. Once he tagged out the pace quickened and the tag aspect of the bout was quietly dropped for a bit so that everyone could work in their “cool” spots. Again the highlight of this part of the match involved Moose: he gave Gargano a Samoan drop at the same time as giving Swann a fall away slam.

The beginning of the end came when Harlem tagged himself in as Moose ran the ropes for a dive onto Ronin. ‘The Offensive Line’ stared at his charge, they had a few words, and then Harlem lashed out with a slap. Moose Death Valley bombed him onto Ronin, who were still chilling at ringside, then took out both Bravados with a dive from the ring. It wasn't made clear whether Ronin had moved or if Moose had been aiming for the Bravados. This set up Harlem to take a double stomp onto an assisted DDT, followed by a Hurts Donut from Gargano and a match-winning frog splash from Swann.

After the Bravados had limped backstage Gargano announced they'd never be allowed to team again. Again, this wasn’t made clear before the match so I’m fully expecting a Grandma Bravado mention that results in Harlem and Lancelot being allowed to continue teaming. Then he retracted his statement from the night before that he was the face of WWN. Apparently in the time since that statement he’d realised that every member of the roster and every fan is the face of the company. The Open the Freedom Gate champ finished up by saying he'd do everything he could to make his prize the most meaningful in wrestling. 

That caught the attention of Drew Galloway, who sauntered out to the ring to join Ronin. He announced that he shared Gargano's sentiment about the faces of WWN but disagreed about the title situation. He said DGUSA was dead and his belt was more important. The two champions held their belts up and glared at one another. Then they stopped. Then they took turns holding their belts up and got in one another's faces. Champion versus champion seems like a safe bet at this point.

Despite only having two shows to work with a lot was packed into the weekend and several threads were left dangling, ready to be picked up again in San Jose during WrestleMania weekend. The talk of there being a face of WWN felt like it could go somewhere, with Galloway, Gargano and Ricochet all having been established across the weekend as men who could stake a claim to the title. As part of that I’d expect the san Jose shows to feature Galloway and gargano in a champion versus champion match.

The behaviour of Drew Galloway across the two shows and the situations he found himself in felt like the start of a textbook Gabe Sapolsky storyline. I hope it gets to play out and isn't hindered by Galloway's debut for TNA. Whether it’s going in the direction of Galloway turning bad or being thought of as a fluke champion or somewhere else entirely I’d like to see it play out in full.

Stuff with Busick, Thatcher and Hero was also set up for the San Jose shows. Plus there’s the question of what the Bravados will do after their split-enforcing loss and where the Premier Athlete Brand will go with So Cal Val and Su Yung at one another’s throats. With only two shows to play with to set up a big block of shows I think Gabe Sapolsky outdid himself. And I think the roster did well with everything they were given. As they almost always do.


Results summary:
Anthony Nese defeated Shane Strickland
Timothy Thatcher defeated Roderick Strong
Trevor Lee defeated AR Fox via referee stoppage
Biff Busick defeated Uhaa Nation
Drew Galloway defeated Ricochet to retain the EVOLVE championship
Ronin defeated Moose and the Bravado brothers

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