EVOLVE 61 5/7/2016
Written by: Brian Bayless
May 7, 2016
La Boom in Queens, NY
Lenny Leonard is your host
Lio Rush vs. Matt Riddle
Riddle comes out holding Timothy Thatcher’s EVOLVE Title. Riddle grounds Rush to start. Rush escapes then puts Riddle in a body scissors until Riddle breaks out of that. Rush hits a kick but Riddle hits a German suplex. Riddle then hits rolling gutwrench suplexes and toys with Rush until he escapes and puts on a guillotine choke. Riddle deadlifts Rush to hit a Fisherman’s Bomb for a nearfall and they work a sequence that ends with Rush getting slapped down. Riddle is gloating but Rush gets up and hits a one-man Spanish Fly. Rush then tries a frog splash from the top but Riddle ends up catching him with a cross armbreaker for the win (5:00) **1/2. After the match, Riddle asks for the mic as he calls out Thatcher and says if he wants his belt, then come and get it while he tosses the belt over his head as Stokely Hathaway grabs the belt and leaves, with Riddle following.
Thoughts: Really good action for five minutes. Riddle has a ton of star potential and Rush is one of the best opening match guys on the independent scene today. Rush is really small but his offense looks great and he can sell. The intrigue of a Riddle & Hathaway pairing is pretty cool as well. I do like how Hathaway is causing conflict within Catchpoint.
Ethan Page & Chris Dickinson vs. The Bravado Brothers
Originally, the team of Milk Chocolate (Brandon Watts & Randy Summers) were supposed to be here but Watts was injured as Page & Dickinson, who were supposed to face each other, ending up taking their place. Match starts with Harlem and Dickinson on the mat. Harlem gets trapped in the wrong corner for a bit but escapes as he makes the tag. The Bravados are now in control as they stomp Page in the corner. Page eventually fights back then hits Harlem with the RK-EGO and eventually makes the tag. Dickinson runs wild as he hits a bunch of clotheslines until Harlem cuts off his mounted punches with a back rake. Dickinson is on Harlem’s shoulders then hits a reverse hurricarana then follows with a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall. Page tags as everyone is stalling now then Dickinson gets sent to the floor with a double clothesline. The Bravados hit Page with a few double-team moves for nearfalls but he fights back then Dickinson hits Harlem with a top rope rana onto his brother as that almost gets the win. The match breaks down as its getting pretty sloppy here then Dickinson takes out the Bravados with a plancha. Back inside, Harlem gets hit with a double team rack slam but Lancelot breaks up the pin. Page gets dumped outside as Harlem hits Dickinson with a bicycle kick before the Bravado Brothers get the win with a Gory Special/STO combo (8:38) **1/4.
Thoughts: I thought this fell apart the last few minutes. Seeing that it was an impromptu pairing between Page & Dickinson, its understandable.
After the match, Harlem put over their opponents as the fans boo them. Harlem then tells us that Team Tremendous robbed them and that they should be receiving a Tag Team Title shot. Dan Barry of Team Tremendous comes into the ring in street clothes as Harlem makes fun of how they dress and that his partner, Bill Carr (former WWE Developmental Talent Bobby Dutch) is a drunk. Barry then calls the Bravados “garbage” and how they do not have any talent nor do they deserve anything. However, if they want to issue a challenge a year from now, they certainly can. They end by shaking hands until Lancelot kicks Barry in the face as the Bravados beat him down. I’m fine with another tag team feuding in EVOLVE. Their tag division needs more actual teams involved rather than singles guys pairing up.
Leonard is in the ring, putting over the importance of those getting a chance to be part of the WWE Network Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. He even says that due to the fact this will air in clips on WWE YouTube, he encourages them not to swear as doing so will prevent this clips from being shown, thus hurting the talent. He does want the crowd to be loud and into the match though. Basically, he is telling the crowd to act PG when they get into the match. Honestly, I am perfectly fine with that as you want to showcase these guys on WWE social media accounts and their website. That’s the point of these qualifiers.
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match: Fred Yehi vs. TJP
These two teamed the previous night for a shot at the Tag Team Titles. TJP hits a dropkick to start. TJP maintains control as Leonard talks about he was homeless while partaking in the first-ever EVOLVE show six years and has been able to make a career since. Yehi ducks a kick and takes TJP down as he works the neck. Yehi then starts stomping the legs but TJP comes back with an octopus hold then works a Muta Lock. The crowd starts a dueling chant then Yehi yanks TJP down as he tried a leapfrog. Yehi stomps the chest of TJP then chops him down hard. Yehi uses a bodyscissors to ground TJP as he yanks him back for a chinlock. TJP rolls through to work a surfboard variation as they then work a wonderful slower paced mat-reversal sequence. TJP counters a waistlock with a victory roll then they start exchanging strikes until TJP hits a leg lariat as both men are down. TJP dodges a charge in the corner then hits a neckbreaker for a nearfall. TJP almost puts Yehi away with a double-underhook facebuster on the knees as the crowd is now behind Yehi. TJP hits a pair of suplexes then heads up top but Yehi rolls way from a frog splash. Yehi works a submission as the bell accidentally rings, pissing off the crowd. TJP is able to make it to the ropes. Yehi hits a pair of German suplexes but TJP fights out of a third. TJP is tossed into the ropes but holds himself up as Yehi misses a charge. TJP hits a springboard missile dropkick then heads back up top but misses as Yehi almost gets the win with an Oklahoma roll. Both men are down then get up and trade strikes until TJP hits the Lights Out then follows with a 450 splash from the top rope to get the win (13:50) ****1/4. The crowd chants for TJP at the end as he goes over to offer Yehi a handshake then they hug.
Thoughts: Awesome match. TJP is incredibly smooth in the ring and Yehi is an underrated young talent. I forgot how good TJP was due to the fact he was stuck/wasted with the Manik gimmick in TNA for yearsThese two went all out and sold the importance of getting the chance to enter the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. At the very least, I’d seek out the highlights of this match, if not the whole thing.
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying Match: Tracy Williams vs. Drew Gulak
They end up in a stalemate after fighting over a lockup. After that they fight over a test-of-strength for a bit until Williams sends Gulak to the floor with a dropkick. Williams flies out with a tope as Gulak is sent into the railing before rolling him back inside for a two count. Williams works the arm for a bit then Gulak counters as they end up in a stalemate. Williams ducks his head for a backdrop but Gulak stops then hits Williams with a powerbomb. Gulak starts stomping away then start chopping the chest. They fight on the mat as Williams works a bodyscissors then an armbar. Gulak counters and works the leg before Williams escapes and hits a wheelbarrow slam. Williams heads up top and hits a splash for two as the crowd starts up dueling chants. Williams chops Gulak in the corner then goes back to attacking the arm. Gulak chops back until Williams blocks it then hits the Divorce Court and follows with a basement dropkick for two. Gulak fights back and tries for a superplex but Williams blocks and DDT’s Gulak on top of the turnbuckle then hits a brainbuster for two. Williams applies a crossface as Gulak is struggling. Gulak tries a rollup for two then Williams attempts a rear naked choke but Gulak reaches the ropes. They struggle as Williams hits a backdrop suplex then heads up top Gulak dropkicks him in midair then hits a clothesline as both men are down. Gulak is up first and works the arm until Williams blocks a diving clothesline before applying a crossface. Gulak is able to escape. They have a reversal sequence that ends with Williams hitting a discus clothesline. Williams then hits another basement dropkick but Gulak crosses him up and gets two with a sunset flip then applies a Dragon Sleeper as that gets the win (17:54) ****1/2. The crowd applauds as the two shake hands afterwards.
Thoughts: One of the best technical wrestling matches I have seen all year. Despite the fact that Gulak won, Williams came out of this looking like a star, IMO. This was the best I have seen from him ever. He really made an impression with this performance. Gulak himself is a really good technical wrestler and should be able to make an impression in the Cruiserweight Classic. Another match that is definitely worth seeking out.
Marty Scurll vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
These two take it to the mat to start as Sabre wins that exchange. They then counter standing holds until Sabre takes Scurll down with an armdrag. Sabre toys with Scurll for a bit then puts on a bow-and-arrow lock. Once again they work a counter sequence that was incredibly smooth, if not a tad contrived. They quickly escape from each others finishers then Scurll takes Sabre down. Sabre rolls outside for a breather but Scurll connects with a super kick from the apron. He drops Sabre on his back on top of the apron then slides in to break the count as he heads back out to hit a chop. Sabre blocks a chop and tries a kimura but Scurll grabs his hair. Scurll misses a chop and hits the post as Sabre lands a few shots. Back inside, Scurll takes control and hits a backbreaker for two. He then breaks Sabre’s fingers and toys with Sabre on the mat before slapping his face. Sabre becomes irate and yanks Scurll down then hits a stomp. They trade strikes in the corner until Scurll hits a running forearm for a nearfall. Scurll works a Japanese Strangle Hold as Sabre attempts to escape. Sabre breaks out then they run around for a bit until Sabre puts on an octopus hold. Scurll counters and attempts a Tombstone but Sabre is able to re-apply the hold in an amazing spot. Sabre is in control here as he hits a running uppercut. Sabre gets two with a Dragon Suplex then goes back to the arm. Scurll starts breaking the fingers as the two are in a struggle. Scurll fakes out Sabre with a super kick then kicks his shin but runs into a few slaps. Scurll blocks an enziguri and hits a knee strike before getting two with a super kick. Sabre blocks a chicken wing attempt then drops down to tease a monkey flip as he puts Scurll in a cross armbreaker. Scurll counters that as he picks Sabre up and places him on the top rope. Scurll cuts Sabre off with an uppercut then heads up top as they fight and that ends with Scurll hitting the Tower of London for a nearfall. Scurll is in disbelief as he hits a few forearm smashes before chopping Sabre down. They then work a reversal sequence in which they are moving to fast for the referee to even begin counting as that ends with Sabre getting two off of a bridging pin attempt. Both men are down then get up as the crowd are applauding. They run into each other a few times until Scurll takes Sabre down with a knee to the gut. He gets two with a backslide but Sabre trips Scurll up then hits a Liger Bomb for two. Scurll counters a stump puller and gets two with a rollup. They trade strikes from their knees as Scurll wins that battle after hitting a super kick. They use more counters until Sabre finally puts on a cross armbreaker. They counter some more moves as Scurll catches Sabre with the chicken wing but was not able to properly apply the hold. Scurll breaks the fingers again then after a struggle he applies the chicken wing as that gets the win (23:20) ****.
Thoughts: Another awesome match. These two have also wrestled each other numerous times and have fantastic chemistry together. My one complaint is that they lost me a bit towards the end and the match would have benefited from being a few minutes shorter.
After the match, we are informed that Scurll will face Timothy Thatcher for the EVOLVE Title on July 16th. Scurll then takes the mic and talks about Sabre being too modest to declare himself the best wrestler in the world. He then says that he will prove to be the best in July but Stokely Hathaway comes out. Hathaway lets Scurll know that the title is around his waist because his client, TJP, is the uncrowned EVOLVE Champion. Gulak comes out then takes the title before walking out. Hathaway follows as Scurll picks up the mic and continues his promo without missing a beat as he promises to become the EVOLVE Champion. I love how everyone is staking claim to being the #1 challenger when Thatcher returns. Its a great way to build up guys within the promotion.
Before the Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano match, Galloway comes out and calls the fans “sheep” for applauding guys like Johnny Gargano, who work for NXT. He then says he is saying EVOLVE from itself then Gargano speaks. Gargano reminds Galloway how the fans realize how special the Crusierweight Classic qualifying matches were and that two underrated talents like TJP and Gulak finally get recognition. Gargano points out how they have a new ring and turnbuckle pads and how that is not a bad thing. He talks about this is about the fact Galloway is jealous about guys like himself getting opportunities because they are different. Gargano tells Galloway he is not a savior but rather a “bitter douchebag.” I’m loving this feud between Galloway and the guys working and wanting to work for the WWE/NXT. Galloway is bringing it on the mic and Gargano is hanging right there with him.
Drew Galloway vs. Johnny Gargano
Gargano starts by firing away. Galloway takes him down with a big boot then hammers Gargano in the corner. Gargano dumps Galloway and flies out with a tope then he starts throwing punches. Galloway stops the attack with a headbutt but Gargano escapes a powerbomb then flies off of the apron with a senton. Back inside, Galloway blocks a slingshot DDT attempt then launches Gargano into the corner. Galloway hits a suplex but refuses to cover as he wants to inflict more pain onto his opponent. Galloway tries an Air Raid Crash from the top but Gargano escapes and hits a powerbomb. Gargano gets two with a spear from the apron as the fans chant “fuck that guy” at a fan cheering for Galloway. Gargano is sent into the corner and ends up getting slammed down. Gargano fights back and gets two with a super kick. Gargano mocks Galloway with a 3MB chant but ends up getting kicked in the face while trying another spear. Galloway then applies the Gargano Escape as Gargano is trying to make it to the ropes. He does then Galloway heads up top and takes his time but that allows Gargano to counter the attack and apply his own hold. Galloway lifts Gargano up and hits a Tombstone as that gets two. He takes his time then hits the Future Shock but Gargano kicks out as Galloway is beside himself. Galloway picks Gargano up and ends up hitting the Air Raid Crash from the top but Gargano also kicks out of that move. Gargano refuses to quit when asked by the referee then takes Galloway down for the Gargano Escape. He even throws knee strikes while maintaining the hold but Ethan Carter III runs in and starts attacking Gargano for the DQ (16:10) ***1/4. He beats on Gargano then rips off his shirt.
Thoughts: The match was good but the real story was the surprise run-in by ECIII. They’ve now added outside guys to carry out Galloway’s mission of “saving” EVOLVE and Independent wrestling.
ECIII grabs the mic and says he is here for war. He tells Gargano that by saying Galloway “blew it” then he did too but they both became world champions on their own, meaning those people up North in Stamford, CT were the ones who blew it after all. ECIII acknowledges the officials coming out and mentions how he is sorry but takes them out until only one is left standing. Galloway and ECIII toy with him until ECIII decks him with a forearm. ECIII tells EVOLVE to put their soldiers on the front line to “take the bullet” then makes jokes about pissing all over the turnbuckles and shitting in the ring. ECIII mocks EVOLVE for having great matches as he puts over how being a survivor is what makes you a star, not cool moves, as he says the Independent Scene is succedding even with the machine. Gulak runs out as they take him out while ECIII hunches over him and says “This is a microphone. This is how you create box office and put asses in seats, not flips and false finishes.” ECIII says that Galloway was chosen for a reason and promises to shoot with us as he tells a “fat sociopath” named “Bill” (Bill DeMott) that he won. TJP flies out to hit a crossbody but he gets beaten down. ECIII talks some more until Ethan Page comes out with a chair and cleans house, using some really pathetic chair shots. Gargano then takes the mic and says since Galloway and ECIII like talking, then at the next EVOLVE show they can have an unsanctioned match. Galloway and ECIII tease entering then back away laughing as Gargano proposes that he and a partner of his choosing take on Drew and “Derrick Bateman” as ECIII is pissed. The crowd chants “Derrick Bateman” Page grabs the mic and says he would love to be Gargano’s partner then says EVOLVE has everything, including someone good with a microphone like himself, as he tells Gargano he cannot forgive himself what he did to him and will not stab him in the back because they have to worry about Gargano. Page says he has a lot to prove to the crowd and company but especially Galloway as he wants a rematch after the tag match in an anything goes match. Page closes by saying this place holds the best athletes in the world and this place is called EVOLVE.
First off, ECIII’s promo was incredible. This segment highlighted how he was underutilized in the company because his mic skills were phenomenal and he carried himself like a total star. Both Galloway and himself have really re-invented themselves since being let go by the WWE. My one complaint is the focus on Ethan Page at the end. The guy is just not talented enough compared to the rest of the roster but appears to be another Gabe Sapolsky pet-project for reasons unexplained. Making him a sympathetic figure last night and now trying to win over the trust of Gargano and the rest of EVOLVE might work if he turns on them but super-babyface Ethan Page is nothing I want to see. I will say that he at least cut a solid promo here, even if some of what he said could be considered laughable. Regardless, this promo by ECIII was money and everyone should go check it out.
Final Thoughts: Overall, a tremendous show. The angle at the end was incredible and the company has all sorts of compelling storylines to go along with great in-ring action. Having a feud between guys let go by the WWE against those working for NXT is a cool idea and so far, the execution has been near-perfect. The Cruiserweight Classic qualifiers were great and if any of the matches in the actual tournament can match up with these, then we are in for a real treat. For those wanting to check out EVOLVE, order this show. It was one of the best wrestling shows of the year.