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EVOLVE 53 1/22/2016

Written by: Kevin Pantoja

Evolve 53
January 22nd, 2016 | The Orpheum in Ybor City, Florida

After catching a fair amount of Evolve last year and enjoying, I made it a point to make sure I saw more in 2016. That brings us here, to their first show of 2016. This is the first of a triple shot weekend and I hope that I can review them all. It’s a historic show due to the start of a tournament to determine the first ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. As with my PWG Battle of Los Angeles reviews last year, I’m not 100% familiar with everyone on the card.

Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher opened the show to cut a promo since he would be unable to compete due to a staph infection. He was scheduled to team with Zack Sabre Jr. as part of the tournament. He promised that when he returned, he’d settle scores with numerous wrestlers. The Premiere Athlete Brand (Caleb Konley, Anthony Nese, SoCal Val and Andrea) interrupted. Caleb complained that he never got a title shot. Thatcher said people are tired of them talking and wanted to see wrestling. This brought out the Bravados to start the tourney.

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round
The Bravado Brothers def. The Premiere Athlete Brand in 12:57

I love that the Premiere Athlete Brand are introduced and we heard about their combined abs rather than their combined weight. According to commentary, the Bravados, Lancelot and Harlem, haven’t been in Ybor City in over a year. There was a point early o where they picked up the pace and ended up getting stuck, leading to an awkward moment of nothing. The Bravados were the more impressive duo, looking extra motivated to be back. They did the only tope doomsday device I’ve ever seen. There were some good close calls in the end, giving the Bravados a chance to show off some sweet double team moves. A great gory special/STO combo won the match for the brothers. Really solid opening contest. ***¼

Jason Cade def. Joe Coleman in 3:47
Here are two guys that have apparently had some tryouts recently and earned a match on this show. Jason Cade was clearly the more popular guy, but props to Coleman for carrying around “brotein” with him. Cade nearly killed himself at the start, with a tope dive that sent him into tons of chairs. This was short and worked more as a showcase for Cade, who flew around the ring. He won with the shooting star press. For what it was, this was a fine sprint. **

Style Battle Round Robin Challenge
Matt Riddle w/ Drew Gulak def. Peter Kaasa in 4:47

The Style Battle Tournament certainly sounds intriguing to say the least. I’ve never seen Matt Riddle before but apparently he’s a former MMA fighter. Peter Kaasa, from what I’ve heard, is a freakish high flyer. He showed off some of that here, hitting some nice dives to combat Riddle’s grappling style. It didn’t last very long and had one standout moment, though not for the best reasons. Kaasa tried a spiral tap like move from the over but horribly overshot it and just planted on the mat. Riddle made him tap to a heel hook, earning the win. It was short and was fine until that miss. Side note, Riddle has a really cool theme, though he loses points with me for wrestling barefoot. **

PJ Black def. Ethan Page in 9:59
I recently interviewed Ethan Page and I have to say, he’s a pretty cool guy. PJ Black is the former Justin Gabriel. Page is seemingly trying to redeem himself after a 2015 full of heelish antics. He tried to be Johnny Gargano’s partner in the tournament, but Gargano declined so Page asked for a series of matches to prove himself. This was worked at a similar pace and style to a lot of Black’s WWE stuff. It featured relatively fine work but seemed a bit uninspired. Like something was missing. There were some nice spots, like a scary looking powerbomb from Page. Page hit the Spinning Dwayne and scored the win, or so he thought. Black’s leg was under the bottom rope. Page didn’t want to win that way and asked for a restart because that’s what Johnny Gargano would do. Black rolled up him and stole it away. The match itself was solid but the real success of this was as an angle, selling the Page redemption story very well. **½

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round
Roppongi Vice def. Team Tremendous in 15:33

Team Tremendous consists of Bill Carr and Dan Barry, both of whom are completely new to me. Carr is sporting IRS like attire, while Barry is rocking a Hawaiian shirt. I liked what these two teams id here. Roppongi Vice is usually a pretty popular duo with the Evolve crowd and that’s how it was early on. Team Tremendous looked good during that time but once Roppongi Vice got in control, they showed off a pretty brash attitude. That really helped the fans rally behind Team Tremendous. They did a good job of that on their own with their fun style of offense. There were more than a few times where I bought in Team Tremendous scoring the upset. Trent hit Barry with a low blow and then Roppongi Vice advanced following Strong Zero. Really solid match that told a good story of RPG Vice acting like heels. ***¼

Style Battle Round Robin Challenge
Tracy Williams def. Fred Yehi in 14:51

Tracy Williams’ nickname is “Hotsauce” like he’s an AND1 baller from the early 2000’s. He’s also part of the same stable as Matt Riddle it seems. I’ve never seen either guy coming into this, but consider me a fan of both after this. This was a war. They began working the mat, building to something bigger. Once things got to the physical part, this was beautiful. Both guys hit each other with strikes that made the fans cringe at times. It’s like they wanted to really hurt each other, which is something I always appreciate. Neither guy wanted to budge, so Williams decided to go to great lengths for the win. He reeled off a piledriver, Brainbuster and a choke which mad Yehi submit. Maybe I gave it a higher score than most, but this is my kind of match. ****

Drew Galloway shows up for the next match but Johnny Gargano is not in the building yet. He worked NXT earlier in the day and raced here. The main event tag is moved up to give Gargano time to arrive.

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round
Heroes Eventually Die def. Sami Callihan and Zack Sabre Jr. in 28:13

Consider this show stolen. Heroes Eventually Die is the name for the duo of Chris Hero and Tommy End. Originally, this was to be Sabre and Thatcher teaming up but Callihan replaced the Evolve Champion. That did nothing to negatively impact this as it was great. I’ve become a huge Sabre fan and his match with Chris Hero last year in Evolve was great and really showcased him having to fight from behind in a manner I had never seen before. He was in a similar position here, taking a beating throughout the match from both End and Hero. My only major issue with this match is that I think Sabre could have played the face in peril a bit better. It also may have gone a tad long but other than that, this ruled. Callihan fit right in, matching Hero and End with hard strikes throughout. The finishing sequence in this was spectacular and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one in a tag match this year. There were some great close calls before a sick knockout combination on Sabre ended it. Fantastic stuff and an early contender for tag match of the year. ****¼

The four men shake hands after the match and help Zack Sabre Jr. to the back.

Evolve Tag Team Championship Tournament First Round
Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano def. Drew Gulak and TJ Perkins in 15:31

Gulak and Perkins are members of Catch Point, along with Riddle and Williams from earlier. Gargano still hadn’t made it to the building, so Galloway was alone. Ethan Page came out and offered to be his partner instead but Galloway told him to fuck off due to his past. Galloway was great as the badass monster going it alone. He’s really good in that role, which works on the indies because he is big compared to a lot of guys. This is my second time seeing Drew Gulak and I’m still not sold. He just doesn’t click with me. As Galloway looked to be in big trouble, Gargano made it to the apron. The question and anticipation of his arrival added a fair amount of drama to this thing. That sparked his team to victory and Galloway nailed multiple Future Shock DDTs to seal it. A pretty good tag with the added benefit of the Gargano drama. ***¼

Overall: 7.5/10. I found this to be a very good show. A lot of the time, I see these one or two night tournaments and it can eventually drag on. Evolve did a good job mixing in other things, like the Style Battle stuff and the Ethan Page angle, which seems to be going masterfully well. The Williams/Yehi match was dope and I loved the Hero and End/Sami and Sabre tag match. A strong effort from Evolve, who I’m definitely going to continue watching.

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