Union City, NJ – 5.20.2011
Commentary is provided by Lenny Leonard and Rob Naylor.
Tonight’s show is revolved around the Style Battle, an eight person tournament in which each participant is representing a different “style” of professional wrestling. The EVOLVE records will not be affected by this tournament. The participants, with their corresponding style, include:
AR Fox (High-Flying)
Austin Aries (Hybrid)
Bobby Fish (Puroresu Jr. Heavyweight)
Brodie Lee (Super Heavyweight)
Jon Davis (Power)
Rich Swann (Rich Swann Style)
Sami Callihan (Hard-Hitting)
Tony Nese (Standing Combat)
Style Battle Quarter-Final Round
AR Fox vs. Rich Swann
This is a rematch from “EVOLVE 7” where Fox defeated Swann in an incredible six minute sprint. Each guy goes for a quick pin. Fox sole butts Swann into a spinning suplex for two. Fox gets two with a split-legged moonsault. Fox kicks Swann in the face after Swann blocks an Ace Crusher. Fox hits a fall-away Ace Crusher for two. Swann kicks Fox from the corner. He hits a standing shooting star press for two. Swann kicks Fox in the back of the head before hitting Rolling Thunder for two. Fox enzuigiri’s Swann to cut off his momentum. Fox leg drops Swann on the ring apron. In the ring Fox brings Swann out of the corner with a diving reverse STO. Fox gets two with a flying legdrop. Fox sends Swann back to the floor. Swann sunset flips Fox to counter a dive. He superkicks Fox and hits the Chicken Fried Driver for two. Swann follows with FIREBIRD for two. Fox slams Swann and heads up top. Swann catches him with a tornado kick. Fox pushes Swann off the ropes. Fox comes down with a Code Breaker for the pin at 5:23. These guys set the bar high with their first encounter and unfortunately could not match it here. It was essentially that match toned down with a less enthusiastic audience. **1/4
Lenny Leonard interviews Fox, reminding him he has won both of his matches against Swann. Fox puts over Swann as and says he will be watching to see who his opponent in the next round will be. Swann pulls his hand away when going for a handshake. Fox shrugs it off and says he will stay focused on the tournament.
Style Battle Quarter-Final Round
Tony Nese vs. Jon Davis
Nese kicks away at Davis’ leg. It has little effect, so he starts kicking Davis’ mid-section. Davis shoulder tackles Nese to the mat. Nese evades a stomp and goes back to kicking away at Davis. Davis tosses Nese up, causing him to land on his chest and face. Nese hits a springboard quebrada for two. Nese’s knee strike gets him one. Davis goes for a powerslam. Nese slips off his shoulders and then runs into a powerslam anyways. Davis whips Nese hard to the corner. Nese comes off the ropes, only for Davis to nail him with a back elbow. Davis then gets two with a delayed vertical suplex. Nese fights up from the ground. Davis shoves Nese chest first to the corner before suplexing him for two. Nese leg lariats Davis as Davis comes off the ropes. Davis shakes Nese in a Bear Hug. Nese fights free and gives Davis a series of kicks to the head. Nese back elbows Davis in the corner, then drives his knee into Davis’ head for two. Davis and Nese fight on the top rope. Nese super huracanrana’s Davis for two. Davis blocks a strike with a rolling elbow. He nails a shotgun lariat for two. Nese recovers. He lights up Davis with kicks before German suplexing Davis for two. Nese comes off the second rope. Davis catches him with a spinebuster. Davis hits the 3 Seconds Around the World for the pin at 10:02. I’m not sure if “Standing Combat” or “Power” are styles exactly, but they stuck to basically what you would think of when you hear those terms. The crowd dynamic was much better here, with Nese getting a lot of support from his local fans. I never expected Davis to lose but there were a couple moments there where Nese had me convinced. Good stuff. ***
Lenny Leonard asks Davis if he has anything left after his performance. Davis says he promised the fans he wouldn’t disappoint them again and assures us he will keep that promise. He tells AR Fox he’s on deck and for him to get ready.
Style Battle Quarter-Final Round
Brodie Lee vs. Sami Callihan
Callihan charges at Lee right away. Lee smacks Callihan right in the face. Callihan hits an enzuigiri after blocking Lee’s corner charge. Lee mows him down with a running forearm strike. He follows Callihan to the floor and lays in various strikes. As they get back to the apron, Callihan kicks Lee. Lee cuts off Callihan’s clothesline attempt. Lee suplexes Callihan and whips him to the corner. Lee catches Callihan coming off the second rope. He rams Callihan back first into the corner and suplexes him overhead for two. Lee goes for another suplex, but Callihan is able to turn it into a sleeper hold. Lee reverses it and shoves Callihan to the corner. Lee pump-handle suplexes Callihan for two. Callihan and Lee engage in a killer chop battle. Callihan unleashes kicks to bring Lee to one knee. Lee comes back with a big boot. He big boots Callihan in the corner two times. Callihan flips out the referee when he asks Callihan if he wants to quit. Callihan evades a third big boot, sending Lee to the floor. Callihan suicide dives Lee into a guardrail that collapses. Callihan accidentally chops a ring post. Lee throws Callihan back first onto the ring apron twice. Lee throws Callihan into the crowd in the hopes of earning a count out victory. Callihan however crawls back into the ring just in time. Lee gives Callihan the Truck Stop for two. Lee picks up Callihan for a second Truck Stop. Callihan kicks out again. Lee picks up Callihan, who is able to hit a Saito suplex out of nowhere. Callihan knocks Lee to his knees and hits the Forearm 2 Remember for two. Callihan goes for the Stretch Muffler. Lee kicks Callihan to the corner instead. Callihan evades a corner charge but eats a superkick from Lee. Lee Liger Bombs Callihan for two. Callihan bicycle kicks Lee. He manages to hit a Death Valley Driver for two. Lee chokeslams Callihan as Callihan comes off the top rope. Lee goes for another chokeslam, but Callihan prawn holds Lee to counter. He puts Lee in a Stretch Muffler. He kicks Lee while holding the submission, causing Lee to tap out at 12:36. I may be the last one to have figured it out, but it is so much better watching Callihan fight from behind than to be the guy winning on offense. Much like him and Sabre, Callihan and Lee went to war here and woke the crowd up. It was a bit too nearfall heavy in the end, which caused for some spotty selling in the process, but overall it was very entertaining and a pleasant surprise. ***1/4
Lenny Leonard interviews Callihan. Callihan says he managed to make the largest guy in the tournament submit and that he’s just getting started. While he knows he’s not the biggest dog in the fight, he believes that he’s the scariest.
Style Battle Quarter-Final Round
Austin Aries vs. Bobby Fish
Neither man is able to get control on the mat. Fish shoulder blocks Aries and Aries comes back with a pair of armdrags. Fish foolishly puts Aries in a headscissors. Aries escapes and applies a side headlock. Fish breaks free and hits a dropkick. Aries blocks a hip toss. Fish manages to backslide Aries into a modified knee bar. Aries immediately crawls to the ropes and then to the floor. Back in the ring, Fish tries a sunset flip. Aries rolls through and dropkicks him. Aries kicks out the inside of Fish’s leg. Aries bulldogs Fish out of the corner for two, then applies a Stump Puller. Fish leans back in a pin to escape. After a forearm exchange, Fish kicks Aries all over. Fish hits a slingshot senton for one. Aries fires some forearms, but Fish sole butts him to keep his control. Fish suplexes Aries for one. After Aries breaks out of Fish’s bodyscissors, Fish shoves him forcefully chest first into the corner. Fish dishes out punishment to Aries’ knee. Aries torques Fish’s neck in an abdominal stretch. Fish hip tosses his way out. Fish tries to jump to the top rope but Aries shoves him to the floor. Aries comes off the top with a Randy Savage-esque double axe handle. Fighting on the ring apron leads to Aries giving Fish a neckbreaker in the ropes. Aries hits a slingshot senton, transitioning right into the Last Chancery. Fish grabs the ropes to escape. Aries stops an onslaught of punches with a gut buster. He decides to climb up top instead of hitting the Power Drive elbow. He hits a Savage-esque elbow drop for two. Aries builds momentum by hitting the ropes. Fish catches him with a backbreaker. He overshoots his target on a moonsault, and Aries pulls him near the corner. Aries misses a frogsplash. Fish tries to tackle Aries but misses and hits his shoulder into the ring post. Aries dives after him with the Heat-Seeking Missile. Aries heads up top when Fish gets back in the ring. Fish avoids a missile dropkick. Fish targets more of his offense on Aries’ leg. Fish hits a diving headbutt for two. Aries gives him a shinbreaker/suplex combo. Fish counters the IED with a gutbuster. He kicks Aries a couple times in the head for two. Aries O’Conner Rolls him for two. He sends Fish into the corner with a Japanese armdrag. Aries hits the IED twice and then the brainbuster. Fish kicks out at two. Aries lands on his knee when going for a 450 splash. Fish tries to get control but Aries manages to hit another brainbuster for two. Aries floats over into the Last Chancery. Aries punts Fish in the head when Fish escapes. Fish brings Aries to the mat in the Fish Hook. Aries taps out at 22:35. The crowd still isn’t too involved with Fish, despite this being his third appearance in Union City. It might just be that the crowd figured out that the match would be going a long time amd saved their energy for the Savage spots and finish. There was a few awkward moments, but the work these two put in can’t be denied regardless. The finish was smart and Aries really got the crowd motivated at times. ***1/2
Leonard asks Fish how long he was working on his submission. Fish agrees with Leonard that this was his biggest match in EVOLVE. He said the Fish Hook became an important tool in his arsenal when Bryan Danielson (who Fish faced at EVOLVE 4) told him to utilize it more. Leonard then tells Fish that he won’t have a lot of down time before his next match. This does not bother Fish in the slightest.
A video package for “EVOLVE 5: Danielson vs. Sawa” is shown. You can read my review of that show here.
Lenny Leonard introduces Larry Dallas and Reby Sky. Leonard reminds the crowd of Reby Sky throwing in the towel during Johnny Gargano and Chuck Taylor’s match at “EVOLVE 7”. Leonard says that because of that, EVOLVE now has a rule that anyone who is ringside at an EVOLVE show must be a trainer or licensed manager. Leonard says that means that if Sky or Dallas get involved in a match again that they will be fired. Sky shoots her mouth off about being perfect. Dallas says that his newest acquisition will be involved in the FRAY match tonight and will make his way into Dragon Gate USA. He reveals that his person has drawn the last number in the FRAY. Leonard gets them to leave the ring and get behind the guard rail.
Style Battle Semi-Final Round
AR Fox vs. Jon Davis
Davis shoulder blocks Fox in the corner. Fox ducks a clothesline. He hits a dropkick and a huracanrana. Fox gets two with a quebrada. Davis pulls Fox into a Blue Thunder Bomb. Davis chops Fox in the corner. Fox fights out. Davis throws him overhead and boots him in the back for two. Davis gives him the Oklahoma Stampede for two. Fox is able to trade forearms, even when visibly weaker, with Davis. Davis powers Fox into a vertical suplex. Davis misses a shoulder tackle with his momentum sending him to the floor. Fox kickflips into a moonsault on the floor. In the ring Fox gets two with a springboard 450 splash. Fox misses a corner splash. Davis pounces him to the corner. Fox avoids a corner attack. He comes off the second ropes with a Code Breaker for the pin at 7:16. Davis has all the potential to be a force in EVOLVE. I’d like to see a rematch on another show when it’s not just another match in a tournament. The action didn’t get the appropriate chance to build and the finish came out of nowhere. **1/4
Jon Davis cuts off Lenny Leonard. Davis says he didn’t expect to lose, but since he did, he wishes Fox luck in the finals. Fox finds that humbling and promises to take his energy from the victory into the main event.
Style Battle Semi-Final Round
Bobby Fish vs. Sami Callihan
Chops and kicks are thrown to start this match off. Fish sole butts Callihan and goes for a sunset flip. Callihan sits down on it, punching Fish in the head. Callihan quickly grabs the ropes when Fish goes for the Fish Hook. Callihan enzuigiri’s Fish in the corner. Fish blocks a clothesline with a Falcon Arrow. He forearms Callihan and suplexes him out of the corner. Fish’s diving headbutt gets him two. Callihan responds with a Saito suplex. Fish kicks Callihan in the back of his head twice. Callihan double hand chops Fish in the side of his head multiple times. He rocks Fish with the Forearm 2 Remember for one. Callihan hits it again for two. Callihan traps Fish’s arms in his legs. He rains down with forearms to back of Fish’s head. Referee Mike Kehner calls for the bell at 4:10. I actually think this would have been better suited if Callihan just dominated the entire time. Allowing Fish to have hope spots in a four minute match is kind of pointless. He did do a tremendous job selling his beating, though it’s odd that he got made to look so weak after his victory earlier. *1/2
Callihan makes sure Fish is okay after the match. Fish is disappointed, but shakes Callihan’s hands and puts him over. Fish says he wants a rematch which Callihan says he will give him anytime. Callihan turns his focus to AR Fox, saying he will be the first Style Battle winner later tonight.
The New Havana Pitbulls (Ricky Reyes & Alex Colon) vs. The SAT (Joel & Wil Maximo)
Colons ends Joel out with a huracanrana. Joel kicks Colon from the apron and gives Colon and Ace Crusher off the apron. Reyes and Wil come in. After some back and forth, Joel sends Reyes out with a headscissors. Reyes kicks Wil to cut off his dive. Back in the ring the Pitbulls take charge, isolating Wil in their corner. Wil makes a comeback by hitting a diving DDT on Reyes. Joel tags in and strikes both Pitbull members. He powerslams Colon. Reyes hits an enzuigiri and a neckbreaker. Reyes forearms Will. Wil blocks a neckbreaker and hits a superkick. Colon turns a waterwheel slam into a Go 2 Sleep on Wil. Reyes gives Joel a backbreaker. Colon comes off the top with a knee strike for two. Wil drags Colon to the floor. He cuts off Reyes on the top rope. The SAT hit the Spanish Fly for the pin at 5:29. That was fine, but the crowd could not have cared any less about these guys. As far as I know, this was the only New Havana Pitbulls match, which is the best for Colon since he is far too talented to be stuck in a team like that. He just needs the platform to perform and he will succeed. The SAT weren’t too shabby, but certainly not as impressive as they were in their CHIKARA outings. *3/4
Scott Reed vs. Cheech Hernandez vs. Brian XL vs. Blain Rage vs. Kory Chavis vs. Pinkie Sanchez vs. Derek Ryze vs. Ahtu
The winner of this match will be a part of Dragon Gate USA’s upcoming triple shot during the first weekend of June. Cheech and Reed start out trading wristlocks. Cheech tries a few roll-ups but can’t get a two count. Reed hits a clothesline STO. XL enters the match next with a springboard crossbody on Cheech. He flubs a huracanrana on Reed. XL almost kills Cheech with a sloppy tornado DDT and a Fosbury Flop. Reed beats on XL back in the ring. He whips XL to the corner for a one count. Reed back suplexes XL for two. Rage is the next participant. He has “WINNING” on his tights which makes me hate him already. His bland offense isn’t doing him any favors either. He gets two on XL with a Falcon Arrow variant. Stereo huracanrana’s see Reed land on XL’s chest. Rage dropkicks Cheech to the floor. XL crossbody’s onto Rage as Chavis makes his way to the ring. XL suplexes Rage for two. Chavis hits an inside out driver on XL for the pin at 5:45. Rage tries to buddy up to Chavis. Chavis nails a shotgun lariat on him instead. Chavis turns Rage from a suplex position into a slam for the pin at 6:30. Chavis pounds on Cheech. Sanchez is the next participant. He springboard dropkicks Reed and Cheech simultanesouly. He baits Reed into some butt based offense. He suplexes Chavis. Chavis goes to the floor and Sanchez follows with a springboard tope con hilo. In the ring, Reed gives Cheech a Roll of the Dice for the pin at 8:13. Ryze is the next person in. He enzuigiri’s Reed into a boot from Chavis. Chavis pins Reed at 9:03. Sanchez sends Chavis out with the Shiney Hiney. He stomps Ryze when Ryze tries to slingshot into the ring. Ryze comes out on top of a DDT/Blockbuster combo. Chavis however catches Ryse with a spin-out facebuster for the pin at 10:19. The last participant is Ahtu (Larry Dallas’ man), who is a very large guy. He slams Sanchez against the ring apron. Ahtu spears Chavis for the pin at 10:52. Sanchez throws a flurry of slaps. Ahtu however tosses Sanchez to the floor. Sanchez manages to make it back to the ring apron before the twenty count. Ahtu hip tosses Sanchez in from the apron. The fans cheer “you can’t wrstle” at Ahtu, which is unwarranted considering all he’s done is power moves and a spear (which is all he should be doing). Ahtu clobbers Sanchez with a corner clothesline. Rob Naylor wins my heart by making a Devo reference. Sanchez kicks Ahtu from the top rope. Sanchez dives off into the Snakes Revenge (a bodyscissors DDT) for the pin at 14:56. This is far and away the worst FRAY of them all. There were more pointless and bland wrestlers in here than ever before. Ryze did nothing, Rage was boring and XL screwed up almost everything he attempted. Chavis and Sanchez deserve a ton of credit for the moments that were truly worth watching. Sanchez was incredibly over and the audience’s roar from his victory made the finish seem like a big deal. **
Sanchez tells Lenny Leonard that the fans won’t forget his name. He tells the crowd he will see them in Dragon Gate USA.
A video package of “EVOLVE 6: Aries vs. Taylor” is shown. You can read my review of that show here.
Style Battle Final Round
AR Fox vs. Sami Callihan
Fox ducks Callihan’s initial clothesline. He bicycle kicks Callihan in the corner and already calls of rhte Lo Mein Pain. Callihan shoves him to the floor instead. Callihan follows with a suicide dive. He tosses Fox back in the ring. Fox has the time to recover and hit a springboard 450 splash before Callihan can come back in. Fox then has time to hit a tope con hilo. Callihan clotheslines Fox off the ring apron. Fox blocks his dive attempt. Fox comes off the top with a legdrop on the apron. Callihan avoids the kickflip moonsault and throws Fox with an exploder suplex onto the arena floor. Back in the ring Callihan chops Fox repeatedly in the corner. Fox eggs on Callihan, so Callihan chops Fox in the side of his neck. Callihan pushes Fox to the floor with his boot. Fox makes his way back in, so Callihan suplexes him for two. Callihan puts on a sleeper hold. Fox breaks free. Callihan cuts him off with a bicycle kick and slingshot splash for two. Callihan whips Fox forcefully across the ring. Fox blocks an Irish whip with a chinbreaker. He springs back off the ropes into an Ace Crusher for two. Fox fights Callihan off the second rope. He hits a swanton bomb. Fox gets greedy going for a moonsault, which Callihan gets his knees up to block. Callihan nails the Forearm 2 Remember for two. Callihan slips on the ropes going for a clothesline. Fox is able to hit his flying Code Breaker that won him his first two tournament matches. Callihan manages to kick out. Callihan catches Fox on the top rope. He drops Fox with a super Saito suplex. He delivers another on their feet. Callihan only gets two with his second Forearm 2 Remember. Fox enzuigiri’s Callihan on the top rope. He hits the Lo Mein Pain for the pin at 10:13. I’m annoyed at how much ofense Fox took right before the finish, as to me it was unbelievable that he would be able to recover that quickly from all that punishment to his head. To Fox’s credit, the crowd seemed mostly pro Sami and yet were chanting Fox’s name after he got the victory. It was a fun match, and Callihan kicking out of the Code Breaker was nice touch, but I’ve seen these guys have better and more logical matches against each other. ***
Callihan shakes Fox’s hand and then bails to let him have his moment. Lenny Leonard says he knows Fox will have many great moments in the future, but tonight the high-flier reigns supreme. Fox reaffirms that he has a bright future. The show ends with the fans chanting Fox’s name.