Ybor City, FL – 1.9.2015
Open the Freedom Gate Champion: Johnny Gargano
EVOLVE Champion: Drew Galloway
Open The United Gate Champions: The Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley)
Commentary is provided by Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi.
Johnny Gargano is introduced by hostess Joanna Rose. Gargano won the Open the Freedom Gate Championship back from Ricochet in Beijing, China. He considers himself the face of the WWN family and thanks the fans for their support. He puts over the young, hungry talent in the locker room that make EVOLVE what it is and mentions that more new talent is coming to EVOLVE. However, Gargano feels that instead of officials deciding who should get an opportunity, the established roster members who helped cultivate EVOLVE should endorse wrestlers to bring in from around the world. This brings out the current FIP Champion, Rich Swann. He remembers back in 2010 how it was him, Gargano, and Chuck Taylor who rose to the top when others tried to hold him down. Swann also remembers he and Gargno beating the hell out of each other at “EVOLVE 33”, and how Gargano had his back when he was jumped by the PBA afterwards. He knows Gargano was supposed to face Caleb Konley tonight, but since he’s unable to compete, Swann wants to endorse somebody to take his place: Shane Strickland. Not only does Gargano accept the challenge, but also opts to put the Open the Freedom Gate title on the line as well!
Open the Freedom Gate Championship
Johnny Gargano vs. Shane Strickland
Gargano has been champion since 11.16.2014. This is his second reign as champion and this is his first defense. Strickland grabs a wristlock, Gargano takes him to the mat and gets a one count. He locks Strickland’s arm and applies a facelock, kind of like the Garga-No Escape. Strickland rolls out, leading to a few nearfalls being exchanged. Gargano backs him to the corner and delivers a pair of chops. Strickland flips out of the corner and sends Gargano to the floor with a dropkick. Gargano avoids a dive. He goes for a suicide dive but Strickland cuts him off with a gamengiri. Strickland comes back in the ring with a high crossbody for two. After a chop, he snapmares Gargano into a boot to the head. Strickland jumps to the second rope. Gargano kicks his legs out and brings him down with a back cracker. Gargano locks him up in an arm hook/cross-legged stretch. He pulls on Strickland’s fingers and pushes him onto his shoulders for a two count. Gargano gets in a few left jabs and a chop. Strickland looks fired up. When neither man win a battle for a vertical suplex, they each land strikes against the ropes, ending with Strickland rolling up and dropping Gargano with an Ace Crusher. Strickland ducks Gargano’s left hand and throws some punches of his own. Gargano ducks a clothesline. Strickland ducks the rolling lariat, but Gargano trips him and double stomps his neck. Strickland pops him up into a release Code Breaker for two. Gargano avoids a moonsault off the apron. He superkicks Strickland and lands a suicide dive. In the ring he tries a slingshot DDT. Strickland stops him and drops Gargano with a twisting brainbuster for two. After strikes and kicks are volleyed between the participants, Strickland crotches Gargano on the middle rope and brings him down with a DDT. Strickland lands a Phoenix Splash for two. Strickland goes for a springboard 450 splash. Mid-air, Gargano nails him with a superkick! A lawn dart and the Garga-No Escape gives Gargano the submission victory at 14:28. This was a good showing for Strickland, and while I don’t think fans ever truly believed he had a chance to win, he looked good enough to return in the future. An impromptu title match, no matter the odds, always adds an air of excitement to it. This was a fun way to open the show and validate Gargano’s endorsement suggestion. ***
Out of nowhere, Moose jumps in and spears Gargano! Swann comes in and hits Moose with a 540 kick. The Bravado Brothers come to Moose’s aid. Apparently, Gargano called the Bravados jerks in China and they are miffed about it. Lancelot Bravado says they’re going to make Gargano’s life miserable in 2015.
Biff Busick vs. Trevor Lee
This is Lee’s first appearance on the main EVOLVE show (he won a tag team dark match back at “EVOLVE 33.”) Lee fights for a waistlock but Busick escapes. Lee rolls him into a front facelock. Busick backs Lee to the ropes and breaks cleanly. Some posturing leeds to Busick tripping Lee into a one count. Lee pops right out of Busick’s headscissors attempt. Busick is more aggressive with his side headlock. Lee has to get him to the ropes so he can shove him off. Even then Busick comes right back with a running shoulder block. Lee latigo’s Busick into a legsweep and then a standing moonsault for two. Lee follows Busick to the corner and delivers some chops. Busick violently whips Lee across the ring and follows in with a hard back elbow. He drops Lee stomach first onto the top rope. Busick dropkicks Lee to the floor. Lee gets back into the ring where Busick meets him with a vertical suplex. He puts on a seated abdominal stretch then gets two with a crucifix pin. Lee forearms Busick a few times. Busick cuts him off with a stiff clothesline which Lee kicks out of. Lee gives Busick a chinbreaker. Busick blocks a kick and tosses Lee out of a half-nelson suplex for two. He once again whips Lee into the corner. Busick throws two running back elbows. He goes for a third, but Lee catches him coming across the ring with a moonsault bodyblock! Lee throws a flurry of kicks before using his legs to roll-up Busick. Busick kicks out and crack Lee with an uppercut. Busick comes off the ropes. Lee hits a Mushroom Stomp for two. Busick goes for a German suplex. Lee escapes and kicks Busick in the side of a head. He deadlifts Busick into a German suplex of his own for two. Lee picks him. Busick backs him to the corner and slaps him across the face thrice. Lee blocks an uppercut and attempts a backslide. Busick swings him around into a rear naked choke! Lee turns him over into a crucifix pin. Busick ducks Lee’s kick and throws him back down in the rear naked choke. Lee taps out at 13:10. This was a great match, and I don’t even think either of them even showcased the best they’re capable of. It was highly competitive and gave Lee a good impression on first singles match in the company. Fun stuff. ***¼
AR Fox & Uhaa Nation vs. The Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado)
Moose is in the Bravado’s corner. Lancelot’s running shoulder blocks on Nation are useless. He gets Nation in a push-up contest. He tries to attack Nation, but Nation outsmarts him. The Bravados try a double team attack but Fox flies in with a springboard dropkick. Nation then takes down Harlem with his own dropkick. Fox hits him with a leg lariat and boot to the back of the head. Nation slams Harlem and lands a leaping elbow drop for two. Fox drives his body weight across Harlem’s back as Harlem lay across the middle rope. Fox bounces off the ropes into a wheelbarrow bulldog. Moose distracts the referee so that Lancelot can slam Fox off of the top turnbuckle and onto the ring apron! Lancelot tags in. He gets in a few shots before bringing Fox back in the ring. The Bravados isolate and wear down Fox, even booting Nation off the apron just for fun. Fox escapes a corner attack from Harlem and hits a springboard dropkick. He takes down Lancelot with a springback Ace Crusher and tags in Nation He splashes Lancelot in the corner and takes him down with a diving clothesline. He German suplexes Harlem twice. Harlem accidentally enzuigiri’s Lancelot when he fights out of a third German suplex. Nation enzuigiri’s Harlem himself and pulls off the third German suplex. The Bravados retreat to the floor, so Nation follows with a moonsault off the ring apron. Fox dives onto the Bravados with Lo Mein Rain. In the ring, Fox and Nation land a Swanton and top rope splash (respectively) on Lancelot for two. However, the Bravados catch Nation with the Gentleman’s Approach and Lancelot German suplexes him for two. Fox takes out Harlem with a springboard Code Breaker. Fox takes Harlem out of Nation’s Gory Gallows with a rolling Complete Shot. Harlem recovers in the corner. Nation and Fox assault Harlem with kicks in the corner, ending with Air Fox. Fox dives over the ring post onto Lancelot! Nation pulls up Harlem for a powerbomb. Fox springboards in for a back cracker/powerbomb combo. At the last moment, Lancelot jumps in to break the count. Nation misses a corner splash, leaving room for Harlem to suplex Fox onto Nation. Harlem gives Fox a Diamond Dust. Lancelot powerbombs Fox into an enzuigiri from Harlem, then onto Nation. Harlem pins Nation for two. They trade forearm strikes once they get back to their feet. Harlem tags Nation with a rolling forearm. Fox enzuigiri’s Harlem. Lancelot lariats Fox. Nation press slams him. Harlem yakuza kicks Nation. Nation stops his suplex and drops Harlem with a Death Valley Driver. A Swanton from Fox and the Uhaa CombiNation get them the pin on Harlem at 16:24. This followed your garden variety tag team formula, but enough rope was given to Uhaa and Fox to showcase their athleticism and agility. The Bravados were awesome foils for them, and it was a nice recovery match for them after losing the titles. The finish was awesome too. ***
Moose lays out Fox with a right hand. Nation stares him down, and the Bravados attack Nation from behind. They give him the Gentleman’s Agreement and leave with Moose.
Ricochet vs. Timothy Thatcher
They take to the mat where Ricochet actually holds his own against the technical master that is Thatcher. Ricochet gets the ropes when Thatcher goes for his shoulder. Ricochet dropkicks Thatcher to the floor. Thatcher walks away to avoid a potential dive. From the apron Ricochet kicks him in the chest. Ricochet drives his chest and back into the canvas. Thatcher drives Ricochet sternum first into the apron and twists up his ankle. Ricochet throws some kicks before elbowing him in the skull. Thatcher takes over with some uppercuts. Back in the ring he works on Ricochet’s left arm. Ricochet manages to send Thatcher to the apron. Thatcher pulls Ricochet out and drives his left arm into the canvas. Ricochet kicks out of a pin attempt. When Thatcher approaches again, Ricochet headbutts him in the stomach and uses his good arm to elbow drop his back. Thatcher uses his legs to try and kick Ricochet away. Ricochet goes for the legs but Thatcher bars his arm. Ricochet gets the ropes. He throws an uppercut and some punches to the forehead. Angry, Thatcher stomps down Ricochet in the corner. He stomps Ricochet’s arm into the mat. He bends back Ricochet’s arm and digs at his fingers. Ricochet gets the ropes. Thatcher kicks and throws a knee at his stomach. He suplexes Ricochet for a two count, then puts on a cross armbreaker. Once again Ricochet puts his foot on the bottom rope. He gets in a few desperation shots to the back. Ricochet locks his leg around the ropes to avoid being whipped across the ring. This leads to both men striking one another off the ropes and Ricochet catching Thatcher with a bodyslam. He tries for a Regalplex. Thatcher resists, but after an enzuigiri Ricochet is able to pull it off. He takes over Thatcher with a Northern Lights suplex. Thatcher blocks a second attempt by going for a Fujiwara armbar. Ricochet escapes, so Thatcher gives him a butterfly suplex and re-applies the hold. Ricochet maneuvers to his feet, axe kicks Thatcher in the forehead, then delivers a standing shooting star press for two. He heads to the top rope. Ricochet has to knock Thatcher back down with a kick. He goes for a shooting star press. Thatcher moves and puts the Fujiwara armbar on when Ricochet crashes against the mat. Ricochet gets his foot on the bottom rope. Thatcher attempts the Tower of London. Ricochet kicks Thatcher in the head to break free. Ricochet successfully connects with the shooting star press for the pin at 17:00. Thatcher stuck to working the arm, Ricochet went for the mid-section, and it paid off with a big shooting star victory. I was curious as to how these two different styles would mesh, and it ended up working really well, with Ricochet working to Thatcher’s strengths while playing into his own. Ricochet picks up some momentum heading into his match against Drew Galloway for the EVOLVE Championship tomorrow. ***¾
10 Minute Flash
Rich Swann vs. Anthony Nese
Su Yung and Caleb Konley (with arm in sling( of the Premier Athlete Brand are in Nese’s corner. This is ostensibly a 10 minute Iron Man match. Before the match, So Cal Val tells the PBA they need proper management to get to the next level. Su Yung is obviously offended. Val hangs out at ringside for the match.
After trading punches, Swann hits Rolling thunder for two. He grabs a Gedo Clutch and scores a pin at 0:39! Nese is frustrated. He goes for a clothesline. Swann ducks and headscissors Nese into a dropkick. Nese hits the floor. Swann kicks him from the apron and follows with a somersault senton. Swann chops Nese against a pillar. In the ring he delivers ten punches to Nese in the corner. He snapmares Nese into a back kick. Swann sets up for a reverse DDT. Nese muscles up Swann into a Rikishi Driver for two. Swann flips and crashes due to a backdrop from Nese. Swann gets in a punch. Nese takes out his legs and comes in from the apron with a slingshot lionsault. Nese flips out of Swann’s suplex attempt and double stomps his chest. Nese becomes increasingly frustrated after a couple of failed pinfall attempts and decides to throw some chairs into the ring. Su Yung distracts the referee. Nese places a chair under Swann’s leg. The referee says he will DQ Nese, but Nese uses the second chair on his leg instead. The referee issues a DQ at 7:19, and Swann leads 2 falls to 0. Nese then puts on a half crab, which Swann taps out to at 8:02. Swann still leads 2 falls to 1. Nese grabs his leg, but Swann cracks him with an enzuigiri. Swann’s twisting neckbreaker gets another two count. Both men throw kicks, ending with a superkick from Swann. Swann tries to take Nese off the top with a Frankensteiner. Nese blocks and brings him down with a half crab. Swann turns it into a cradle. He then hits the ropes. Nese catches him with a one-armed corner powerbomb. Nese reapplies the half crab. The “10 minute” time expires at 10:26, making Swann the winner with 2-1. I really don’t care for stipulations like this, as I feel it inhibits what the wrestlers can do, but both performers made it work as best they could. **½
The Bravado Brothers and Moose make their way out. They went to attack Swann, but Gargano made the save by attacking Moose with a chair. Swann then gave Moose an Ace Crusher on a chair while the Bravados retreated. Gargano says he wants to settle their issue with the Bravados tomorrow night in Winter Park, FL. Swann suggest that he uses some miles he accrued on his trip from China to fly in Chuck Taylor for a one night Ronin reunion and they have a trios match against the Bravados and Moose. Harlem Bravado likes the idea. Harlem claims that he and Lancelot ran off the Young Bucks, and he wants to do the same with Ronin. He proposes that they do Ronin vs. The Bravados and Moose tomorrow night and that the losing team can never team again. Swann and Gargano agree.
Drew Galloway vs. Roderick Strong
This is a rematch from “EVOLVE 35” where after Galloway won, Strong attacked Galloway and hit him with the EVOLVE championship. Strong insists that Galloway shake his hand before the match to put their issue aside. Because Strong won’t start the match without doing so, Galloway briefly and angrily does so while the referee holds him back.
Galloway is smart enough to see Strong’s sneak attack coming. He catches him with a lariat then absolutely annihilates Strong with chops and punches in all four corners. Strong hits the floor. He drags out Galloway, but the plan backfires as Galloway keeps control as he fights Strong around the bar area. Galloway throws Strong back in the ring. Strong comes back with a running boot between the ropes. He chops Galloway against the stage and cracks him in the face with a knee strike. They fight up on the stage exchanging forearms. Galloway throws Strong into a temporary wall. As they come off the stage, Strong enzuigiri’s Galloway and throws a trashcan onto him. Galloway sends Strong into one of the building doors and takes him out to the street where he tosses Strong into a brick wall. Strong takes back control and throws Galloway onto a bench. Back in the building Strong places Galloway on the bar. Galloway moves his way inside the bar and drops Strong onto it with a Gourd Buster. Galloway spits a shot of unknown alcohol into Strong’s face. They chop one another as they stand atop the bar. Strong kicks Galloway’s knee. He takes a big swig of a shot, but Galloway kicks him in the face before he can spit it. Galloway hits Strong in the back with a chair. Strong reverses a whip, sending Galloway into some stools and chairs. On the apron Strong drops Galloway with a belly-to-back suplex. In the ring both men swing chairs to the point where the match is thrown out and ruled a No Contest at 8:26. That may be the end of the match itself, but Galloway and Strong continue to beat each other senseless outside the ring. Back in the ring Galloway goes for a big boot. Strong throws ring announcer Heather Lynn in the way and Galloway boots her instead! Galloway helps her to the back. Strong gets ready to talk on the microphone, but Galloway jumps him and reigns down the punches. Referees and young boys alike have to break up the fight and try to keep these two separated. Galloway gets in the ring while Strong remains on the floor. He wants to finish the fight. Strong flips out off some people as he makes his way to the back. Galloway calls him a pussy and then moves on to put over EVOLVE.
This was an awesome follow up from the last EVOLVE show. Given what happened there, it made sense that this would be a chaotic brawl that resulted in a No Contest. It brought out a really aggressive side in Galloway while Strong had to be a bit more sneaky and underhanded to stand a chance against his larger opponent. I really enjoyed watching it all unravel and look forward to what comes next. ****