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The Orpheum – Ybor City, FL – Friday, January 9, 2015
Before you watch the show, make sure to check out the EVOLVE Top 10 Post WWN Live! in China.
Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi are on commentary.
~Johnny Gargano Promo~
Gargano comes out as the new Open the Freedom Gate Champion, having defeated Ricochet in China to win the title for a second time. The new champ puts over the young talent in the back, and proposes the idea that established roster members should be able to endorse new talent coming into EVOLVE. This brings out Rich Swann, who won the FIP World Title in China. Swann runs with this idea and endorses Shane Strickland. Gargano offers Strickland a shot at the Open the Freedom Gate Title, Strickland quickly agrees, and away we go.
Open the Freedom Gate Champion Johnny Gargano defeats Shane Strickland (w/ Rich Swann) at 14:28 to retain the title. Gargano has been the Champion since 11.16.14, and this is his first defense. They start off on the mat but things quickly escalate as Strickland is eager to show the Champion what he’s made of. Strickland flies around a bit and gets cocky until Gargano cuts him off by going after the leg. They go back and forth, as this is much more of an even matchup than I would have expected. Strickland is making a great showing here. He tries a springboard maneuver but Gargano catches him with a superkick. Gargano then hits the lawn dart and slams Strickland right into the GargaNo Escape to force the tap out. I got more than I expected out of that match, with the challenger putting up a heck of a fight and meshing very well with the face of the WWN Family. Nice choice for an opener here, and a good way to kick off 2015.
After the match, Moose comes out and hits Gargano with a Spear! Swann steps in to save Gargano, and the Bravado Brothers come out to stand with Moose. Harlem and Lancelot are upset because Gargano called them jerks on one of the China shows, so eventually they’re gonna wanna fight about it.
Biff Busick defeats Trevor Lee at 13:09 in a Special Challenge Match. I hear a lot about Lee but this is actually my first time seeing him. Lee and Busick chain wrestle in the early going and both show off their skills. Lee has a lot to prove here in his EVOLVE debut, and for that reason Busick doesn’t want to let his guard down for even a moment. Busick controls the bulk of the match but Lee hangs on and shows a little bit of why he’s been so hyped up in recent months. In the end, Busick is able to trap Lee in the Choke to induce the quick tap out. Lee looked good here, but I’m told he can do even better so I’d love to see more. Busick definitely had the upper hand through most of the match but he kept it from looking like a squash or anything like that. Good stuff.
AR Fox & Uhaa Nation defeat The Bravado Brothers (Harlem Bravado & Lancelot Bravado) (w/ Moose) at 16:34 in a Grudge Tag Team Match. Forgive me if I’m ignorant on this matter, but I don’t recall a connection between Fox and Nation that would necessitate them teaming up here. Not that I mind, because they’re both good and I think they’d make a great team, so no complaints. Fox and Nation prove me right by dominating the opening minutes and showing impressive teamwork in the process. The Bravados need Moose’s interference to take control, which happens when Lancelot grabs Fox off the top rope and slams him down on the apron. Ouch. Harlem and Lancelot control Fox for several minutes, but of course the comeback is made and Nation gets the hot tag. The referee loses control and all four men fight it out in the ring. After several minutes of back and forth action, Nation hits Harlem with a Death Valley Driver and the Uhaa Combination (with an assist from Fox in the form of a perfect 450 splash) to get the pin. I got way more out of that than I expected to, as both teams showed off impeccable teamwork and kept the action moving at a fast pace. The Bravado Brothers can be pretty hit and miss, but they were definitely on point this night.
Moose attacks Fox after the bell, and when Nation comes in for the save he gets attacked by the Bravados. Harlem and Lancelot hit Nation with the Gentleman’s Agreement and then bail.
Ricochet defeats Timothy Thatcher at 17:00 in a match between two of the top ranked wrestlers in EVOLVE. This is an interesting clash in styles, but both men are ranked in the top five, so they must do battle. Lenny Leonard has taken to talking about wrestlers’ “dance cards” in reference to their bookings, and it’s pretty annoying. It’s a feeling out process to start, as they battle both in and out of the ring in the opening minutes. Thatcher obviously tries to keep a slow pace and keep the high-flying Ricochet grounded. He starts off on the ankle, and then switches it up to go after the arm. Ricochet fights back and uses his varied offensive attacks to try and subdue Thatcher, who is just tenacious in his attacks on the arm. Thatcher tries a Fujiwara Armbar several times, but Ricochet is able to escape or reach the ropes. Ricochet lands a kick to the head, and then scores with a Shooting Star Press to get the pin. I liked this more than I thought I would, as the two disparate styles ended up going very well together. Both men showed off a sound strategy and Ricochet just happened to catch the right move at the right time.
Before the next match can start, SoCal Val comes out to tell Nese and Konley that they could use some better management than Su Yung, and it’s pretty obvious she means her.
Rich Swann defeats Anthony Nese (w/ Caleb Konley & Su Yung) at 10:25 in a 10 Minute Flash. This is supposed to settle the question of who is the best athlete. It’s basically an Iron Man match, just done in 10 minutes. I admit I don’t really like this idea, so let’s see what they can pull off here. The pace is quite fast right from the bell, as 10 minutes isn’t a ton of time to work with. Swann scores the first pin with a rollup in less than a minute. He stays in control and wears Nese down. Nese makes a comeback but Swann is difficult to score a fall on. A frustrated Nese brings in two chairs, and hits Swann with a Con-Chair-Toe to get himself disqualified and go down 2-0. Nese immediately locks on a half crab and gets a quick tap out to earn his first fall. He continues trying to get a tap out win, but Swann doggedly fights him off, even surviving past the 10-minute time limit, since the bell doesn’t ring until 25 seconds after for reasons unknown. What they did was fine here, but they were so handicapped by the match gimmick that it just ended up falling flat for me.
The Bravado Brothers and Moose make their way out, and the Premier Athlete Brand leaves to let them do their thing. Johnny Gargano comes out with a steel chair to make the save! Gargano challenges the Bravados to a match tomorrow, and asks Swann to team with him. Swann agrees and says he’ll bring back Chuck Taylor to even the score! Harlem accepts the match, proposes that the losing team will never be able to team again. Of course Ronin accepts that, and we have tomorrow’s main event set.
EVOLVE Champion Drew Galloway and Roderick Strong wrestled to a no-contest at 8:25 in a non-title Grudge Match. Strong delays the start of the match with a promo, asking Galloway to put their issues from EVOLVE 35 aside and shake hands. He wants to have a technical match and not a brawl, but then of course after the bell he attacks right away and we’re going to get a fight! They quickly spill out to the floor and brawl all over the Orpheum, and then take it outside the building. Back inside they fight over by the bar area and Galloway takes a shot. This is just out of control. They head into the ring finally and both bring chairs and swing them at each other, so the referee calls for the bell and it’s a no-contest. Strong uses ring announcer Heather Lynn as a human shield and Galloway accidentally kicks her right in the face! Leonard is so upset on commentary that he blasphemies, which even though I’m Jewish I find annoying. Galloway brings Lynn to the back and then comes back out to continue the brawl. Jobbers and referees come out to break it up. In the past I’ve complained that in EVOLVE there were no good feuds, but this has certainly rectified that complaint. This was a great brawl and it really feels like they don’t like each other. I’m fine with no finish in this match because it gives a good reason for the feud to continue, and it’s pretty rare for EVOLVE to do that kind of finish so it feels special.
~Drew Galloway Promo~
Galloway yells at Strong and calls him a pussy. He then puts over EVOLVE, and mentions that he has defended the EVOLVE Championship all over the world, so he is now the EVOLVE World Champion.
This was an excellent way for EVOLVE to kick off 2015 – a remarkably consistent show with good performances from everyone and some great angle development. The Strong v Galloway feud is so simple but it works so well and it definitely gives EVOLVE a spark from up top that trickles down to the rest of the card. You can purchase this Blu-Ray at the EVOLVE Store.
Tags: drew galloway, evolve, johnny gargano, Ricochet, Roderick Strong