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-From Dallas, TX. Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor do an in-ring introduction announcing that this is the highest attended EVOLVE show in history. Ah, the wonders of getting into business with WWE.
EVOLVE Tag Team Championship:
Johnny Gargano and Drew Galloway © vs. The Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese and Caleb Konley, with So Cal Val and Andrea)
Drew Galloway rallies the troops with a promo putting over EVOLVE for his life after WWE. Gargano surprises Drew and the fans by bringing out Kota Ibushi
for their corner. Apparently, if Nese and Conley lose, they can never team up again. The PAB kick things off with a good old fashioned cheap shot from behind. Galloway catches Konley in a dive and slams him on the apron. Nese cartwheels over Drew but gets caught by Johnny's tope. Gargano goes on a chopping spree and nearly finishes Nese with an Ace Cutter. Gargano gets isolated and plays a nice face in peril. Drew gets a hot tag and gets to play a big man role, plowing through Nese and Konley. The match breaks down, and Konley blocks Gargano's spear, leaving him in a draping position for Nese's flying crossbody! Konley gets caught with stereo enziguris on the top rope and sets Drew in a tree of woe. Drew sits up and powerbombs Konley off the top! DDT by a sneaky Johnny earns a 2 count and "This is awesome" chant. All four men trade super kicks and near falls for a standing ovation. The PAB hit a nasty neckbreaker combo but Gargano implausibly kicks out. Nese prepares to use string, but Ethan Page runs in to neutralize him. Konley powerbombs Galloway into the buckles and drops Gargano onto him. Galloway uses a wheelbarrow suplex to set Konley up for the GargaNo Escape for the apparent submission, but the ref isn't calling for the bell at 13:01. The fans chant "this ref sucks" while the match is award to Gargano and Galloway after all. That confusing finish hurt what had been a tight spot-fest, ***.
Winners and still EVOLVE Tag Team Champions: Drew Galloway and Johnny Gargano
-Galloway cleverly asks the fans to pretend that the match isn't heading to "Botch-a-mania" and has them applaud while Gargano recreates the finish. This gets over in a huge way and reclaims the positive vibes in the building.
Timothy Thatcher © vs. Matt Riddle
This is a rematch from a recent title match in New York and Thatcher is eager to keep punishing Riddle. Both men are gifted technical wrestlers and settle into some mat grappling. Thatcher grabs Riddle by the leg and knees him in the gut, but Riddle reverses onto the back and elbows the rib cage. Thatcher applies an ankle lock while some fans chant "tap!" Riddle looks for a choke, but Thatcher reverses into a particularly sick ankle lock. Matt reverses into a Stretch Muffler, but Thatcher rolls into a bro-mission (don't look at me, that's what Leonard called it) and slaps the head. Thatcher mounts Riddle for a flurry of MMA-style strikes while the fans are quiet but attentive. The champ hits knee strikes while locking on a Dragon Sleeper. Riddle leaps over Thatcher's head but gets dropped awkwardly onto his head. Riddle desperately nails a Fisherman suplex and running knee to the ribs. Thatcher rebounds with rolling Saito suplexes! Thatcher works a Fujiwara armbar but it's reversed. Riddle follows with a cross armbreaker and trades reversals to do further damage. Thatcher gets the ropes but Riddle wrenches even deeper, prompting the referee to call for a DQ at 15:48! Thatcher sells an arm injury like death while Riddle poses with the EVOLVE title. The official decision is no contest. Thatcher might be the best independent wrestler to emerge since Bryan Danielson and Riddle has come out of nowhere to keep up with him. That finish hurts in the context of following a ref botch in the opener, but is a good middle chapter in a longer story ***1/2.
-The fans chant "these refs suck" while Thatcher, bad arm and all, attacks Riddle from behind. It's not a good sign when the fans are booing the referees and not the wrestlers.
Fred "Angry, Pissed Off, and Short" Yehi vs. "The Villain" Marty Scurll
I don't usually include monikers in my reviews, but these two were just too amusing not to include. Scurll is a cane wielding, fur coat sporting, Englishman. They lock up and sprint though a chain-wrestling sequence for a stalemate. They run the ropes and Yehi trips Scurll up, allowing a suplex. Scurll hits a super-kick from the apron and adjusts his hipster man-bun. Scurll grabs the nose and ears in a surfboard position, which is rather villainous if you ask me. Yehi improvises by grabbing the wrist and rapidly hitting two dozen kicks to the chest. Discus forearm by Yehi as the fans rally behind him. Scurll fakes Yehi out on a super-kick to the head and goes for the knee instead. Yehi stomps the hand and lifts Scurll into a slam. Scurll avoids a chickenwing and huts himself delivering short-arm clotheslines, and Yehi pops the crowd by almost breaking Scurll's hand. Scurll survives long enough to nail a chickenwing slam for the win at 9:58! Really enjoyable exhibition match, both guys belong on this roster, ***.
Winner: Marty Scurll
Ethan Page vs. Sami Callihan
Sami is fresh off an unsuccessful stint as Solomon Crowe in NXT, while Page has overhauled his image since the last time I saw him. Page looks like a TV-ready star now, a big improvement over the indie-riffic scrub of the past. Bell rings and Callihan leaps into a bicycle kick, but Page bounces back up for a lariat. Callihan no-sells a slam onto the apron and nails a suicide dive (all before the one minute mark). Sami spits and his hand and lets the saliva drip before delivering an open hand slap (yuck). Page sets Callihan on the guard rail for a butterfly back breaker! Sami comes back with a running boot in the corner, but Page avoids the second dose with a bicycle kick. They exchange bicycle kicks until they both go down, fishing for a standing ovation that doesn't happen. Sami scores a Samoan Drop for 2, and this is starting to feel really labored. Page's Liger Bomb only gets 2, to the surprise of no one. There's some clapping, but the crowd is mostly dead. Sami gets two on a Liger Bomb but transitions right into the Stretch Muffler while fans chant "tap!" at the babyface. Page shows some fire, defiantly chokeslamming Sami for 2. Callihan counters back to the Muffler, but has to stomp Page to retain control. A running lariat to the face gets the win for Sami at 10:38. This was mostly just moves for the sake of moves, though just when I lost hope for it, they turned up the intensity for the final two minutes, **1/2.
Winner: Sami Callihan
-Sami gives the fans a "thumbs down" on his way out. I could be mistaken, as it was sort of a thumb in the middle, leaning down, but I get the impression that Callihan doesn't like the EVOLVE fans. Not that it matters, as he's on his way out to the cool, but sinking ship that is Lucha Underground.
TJ Perkins vs. King Ricochet
Ricochet gets a hero's welcome from the fans, as he's been busy on his world travels as of late. It looks like Perkins spends his free time in the Fountain of Youth, as I don't think he's aged or slowed down one bit in all the years he's been floating around the indies. They feel each other out and play mind games with quick kip-ups. Ricochet nails a head scissors and fakes Perkins out on a dive for the exclamation mark. Ricochet pays homage to Stone Cold while stomping a mud-hole, and I'm amazed at how physically imposing Ricochet looks these days. Ricochet sets up a Peoples' Elbow, but surprises with a Peoples' Standing Moonsault! TJ has enough of this nonsense and traps Ricochet by the leg and rolls him into a slam and Indian Deathlock! Perkins applies a Roman-Greco knuckle lock to force a pin, but Ricochet reverses while still in the hold, whipping with a knee scissors takedown! TJ retains control with a double stomp to the knees. TJ heels it up, putting Ricochet in a tree of woe and putting his boot on the groin to tie his laces. Ricochet survives a beatdown to leap into a cutter, but remembers to sell his exhaustion! Someone is clearly auditioning for WWE. Ricochet sprints through a comeback, landing a standing SSP for 2. A kicking contest leads to TJ blasting Ricochet in his injured knee. Ricochet desperately nails a Blue Thunder Bomb and Norther Lights Suplex into a Brainbuster! For two, of course. Ricochet misses a 450 splash and lands on his bad knee. TJ capitalizes by rolling into a knee-bar for the submission win at 14:24! This was just excellent professional wrestling at it's highest level. Smart contest and big athleticism and drama down the stretch, ****1/4.
Winner: TJ Perkins
-Stokely Hathaway makes a surprise appearance and offers TJ Perkins a contract. Perkins signs without hesitation. Hathaway announces himself as TJ's new agent and immediately rebrands him at TJP. Hathaway then boldly calls out Triple H, declairing TJP for the WWE Network's Global Cruiserweight series! Hathaway says HHH better get back to them quickly, because they can go anywhere they want.
Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
This match is the reason I ordered EVOLVE 58 on VOD. This is the first time in the past 3-4 years that I can remember any particular match coming out of WWNLive or ROH creating any sort of "you must see this" buzz. Many have declared this the best match of 'Mania weekend, so expectations are running high. This will be my first time seeing Ospreay in action, and only the 3rd or 4th time I've seen Sabre.
The crowd is completely jazzed for this one, chanting for both men as they feel each other out. They have a particularly fluid exchange leading to a clean break. The match restarts and Sabre scores some punishment on the shoulder of Ospreay. Reverse wristlock by Ospreay, followed by a somersault armdrag off the ropes. The fans chant for Ospreay to the "Ole" chant. Sabre ends Ospreay's momentum with a cravat. Ospreay leap frogs but Zack grabs him by the leg in mid-air for a slam! Ospreay springboards into Sabre's Full Nelson Suplex! Sabre is in full control and works over the neck. Sabre applies a modified octopus with a boot pressed right on the neck, and manages to flex his muscles along the way! Zack pretzels the legs and mockingly dodges Ospreay's shots and wrenches back for extra punishment! Ospreay escapes a bow and arrow and springboards into a shot to the head to buy an opening. Ospreay rallies with a standing SSP and back handspring dive to the floor! Ospreay continues to roll with a springboard Diamond Cutter for a 2 count. Sabre avoids the 630 splash and catches Ospreay in mid-air for a Tiger Suplex! Ospreay escapes a Dragon Suplex and nails a running SSP and Phoenix Splash but Sabre kicks out!! Cue the standing ovation. Sabre comes back with a tornado DDT, but Ospreay bounces to his feet for another running SSP, but Sabre counters in mid-move for a triangle choke! Ospreay nearly passes out but muscles into a buckle bomb! Ospreay leaps to the top but gets enziguried into a tree of woe! This leads to a risky top rope battle, resulting in Ospreay shoving Sabre into the ropes for a flip slam called the Essex Destroyer. Sabre blocks another Phoenix Splash with his knees, and hits a rapid fire Liger Bomb into a nasty double arm submission, sitting on Ospreay's head, for the submission win at 16:26. I was really skeptical heading into this, but this was the purest high level professional wrestling match I've seen since the days of Bryan Danielson tearing up ROH (hell, this might have even topped anything Bryan did in those days). I think this was even better than Zayn/Nakamura as these guys made a serious statement. If they weren't stars before, they are now. *****
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr.
-Sabre is still soaking up the victory when the team of Heroes Eventually Die, consisting of Chris Hero and Tommy End, interrupts. Hero cuts a disingenuous promo putting over Sabre's victory and stating he's never defeated Hero. Sabre says that all changes tomorrow and heads out without any further incident. End takes a turn putting over his goals for the weekend, which include knocking out Kota Ibushi, and it's main event time. These guys have a tall order following the Ospreay/Sabre bout, but here it goes.
Heroes Eventually Die (Chris Hero and Tommy End) vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams, with TJP)
I raise an eyebrow at TJP accompanying Catch Point, because I thought the whole point of him signing with Hathaway was that he was ditching his old running mates. I hope this isn't leading to a "swerve." End and Williams lock up, and this is my first time seeing Williams so I'm interested to see what he brings to the table. He does a nice job taking End down with an armbar. Williams continues to outwrestle End, who shakes him off with a stiff kick attempt. Hero and Gulak enter the match and play a game up one-upsmanship. Hero is looking more like Dusty Rhodes than his old skinny self, but keeps a mean pace, keeping up with an efficient Gulak. A distraction allows Hero to boot Williams into End's electric chair at ringside and Williams suffers a second kick off the big man. Williams is your official babyface in peril and takes an extended beating. Williams is repeatedly disrespected with open slaps to the head. Williams fires back but Hero yells "You can't hurt me" and no-sells the chops and elbows the head. Tracy surprises with a Teardrop Suplex! Catch Point go crazy and put End through a vicious sequence of power moves. End's suffering continues with quick tags by Catch Point and lots of chopping. I guess End is a heel in peril as he eats a variety of suplexes. End strikes his way out of a bad situation and Hero goes crazy on a hot tag. Hero puts on a great one-man show, making Gulak and Williams look like a couple of jabronis. Catch Point attempt a double team, but End returns for a save. Williams suffers a knee strike/suplex combo for 2. Tracy eats a kick to the head and KO punch, but survives another pin attempt. Tracy clocks End in place for Gulak's flying uppercut. Gulak stops Hero from breaking up Williams' rear naked choke, at least until Hero counters with a suplex for the break. The match breaks down with stiff shots being thrown left and right. Heroes Eventually Die hit stereo brainbusters! They look for stereo piledrivers, but Catch Point counter into stereo submission holds! A double pinfall kickout leads to Hero being the last man standing after rolling KO punches. Heroes Eventually Die hit a double stomp spike piledriver and continue to overwhelm Gulak with shots from all directions. After taking otherworldly punishment, Gulak still kicks out and traps End in a Dragon Sleeper for the win at 27:38. They were never going to top the prior match, but they stuck to their game plan and built up an exciting, memorable main event in the process, ****.
Winners: Catch Point
Final Thoughts: This featured one of the best trio of matches I can remember seeing back to back in a long time, including a well timed five star match smack in the middle. EVOLVE is really benefiting from their relationship with WWE, as all the stars heading to the Global Cruiserweight series have some extra wind in their sails and are on more of a journey. This was also a big step up over previous 'Mania weekend EVOLVE shows, as the crowd was much bigger and enthusiastic than usual. Thumbs up for a great show that left me feeling optimistic.
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