Deer Park, NY – 3.8.2015
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 Rob Naylor and Trevin Adams.
Biff Busick vs. Martin Stone
Stone may be best known for his short tenure as Danny Burch in NXT. He takes Busick to the corner in a lock-up, shoving Busick in the chest upon breaking it up. Busick returns in kind with a slap to the face after breaking the second lock-up. Stone pummels Busick with uppercuts. He snapmares Busick into a firm chinlock. Busick backs him to the corner. Despite some shots to the ribs, Stone suplexes Busick and wrenches on his neck. Busick trips him into a side headlock. Stone transitions to an overhead wristlock and punches Busick in the head. They trade uppercuts. Stone ducks a clothesline. He German suplexes Busick and lays him out with a lariat for two. He applies a crossface. Busick gets his foot on the ropes to break the hold. Busick drops Stone on his head with a half-nelson suplex. He goes for the rear-naked choke. Stone Judo throws his way free and nails Busick with a haymaker.Busick brings Stone to the mat with a bodyscissors and rear-naked choke, and Stone taps out at 5:14. Stone was someone I felt never got a fair shake in NXT, and I think his style fits right in with EVOLVE. He and Busick had a great, hard hitting match with some nice mat wrestling weaved in. Good stuff. **½
Biff Busick tells the camera that Chris Hero just witnessed an example of what will happen to him in San Jose. His time in EVOLVE is now.
Team Tremendous (Dan Barry & Bill Carr) vs. Earl Cooter & Jody Kristofferson
Larry Dallas is in Cooter and Kristofferson’s corner. This is Team Tremendous’ debut, best known for their time in Beyond Wrestling, CZW, and shortly after this show, PWG. Kristofferson and Cooter bonded on WWN’s tour of China and have formed a team under Dallas’ tutelage. Despite Cooter’s escapes, Barry controls the opening with a side headlock. Cooter punches him to the corner. Barry flips over a backdrop attempt and leg lariats Cooter in the neck. Carr gives Cooter two big overhand chops. Barry comes in with an Arabian Press for two. He suplexes Cooter into a slingshot senton from Carr. Barry’s slingshot dropkick also gets a two count. Kristofferson blind tags in when Cooter hits the ropes. He bodyslams Barry into a seated double axe handle to the face. Dallas’ team isolates Barry in their corner. Barry almost escapes with an enzuigiri to Cooter and a flying DDT to Kristofferson, but Cooter cuts him off right before he makes a tag. Barry is able to roll under a clothesline from Cooter and get the tag. Carr takes out Cooter with a pair of clotheslines and a back drop. He catches Cooter coming off the middle rope with a Bossman Slam. Kristofferson breaks the pin and stomps on Carr. Carr sends Kristofferson out with a satellite headscissors. Barry lands a corkscrew tope to the floor on both Cooter and Kristofferson. Carr then dives onto them with a tope con hilo. Back in the ring, Carr pops Cooter into a Complete Shot from Barry. Kristofferson again stops the pin attempt and spears Carr. Cooter dropkicks Barry into the Shock Treatment from Kristofferson for two. Kristofferson accidentally lariats Cooter. Carr superkicks Kristofferson. Team Tremendous put away Cooter with “Book em’, Danno!” (a Doomday Shiranui) for the pin at 10:23. Tremendous won over the crowd and had a good showing. Kristofferson and Cooter felt too thrown together for Tremendous’ victory to feel like that big of a win, but they accomplished the goal of establishing themselves with a worthwhile performance. **¾
AR Fox vs. Matt Cage
Cage was brought in under the endorsement of Fox. This is Cage’s EVOLVE debut. I love his theme music. Fox bicycle kicks Cage in the face during ring introductions. Despite that, Cage is able to send Fox to the floor with a leg lariat and follows with a tope suicida! He sends Fox into the guardrail and drops him back first onto the ring apron. Cage goes to the otp, where Fox crotches him and dropkicks him to the floor. Fox clears the ring post as he dives out onto Cage with a tope con hilo! He hits a top rope legdrop onto Cage on the apron. Fox skins the cat into a corner dropkick. He pulls Cage out of the corner, causing Cage to crash into the canvas. Cage kicks Fox to the ropes and catches him in a cradle. Fox kicks out and spins Cage into a brainbuster. He comes off the top with a Swanton bomb for two. Cage comes back with a chinbreaker to escape a chinlock. He throws some uppercuts in the corner. Fox responds with a bicycle kick. He whips Cage to the corner, and Cage stops Fox by the back of his head face first into the canvas. Cage hits a flying burrito. Out the second rope he comes off with a diving uppercut. He drops Fox with a modified neckbreaker for two. Fox gets his foot up to stop a corner attack. He hits the Ace of Crushers for two. Cage kicks Fox’s leg out a strikes him in the face with his knee. He ripcords Fox into a haymaker and gives him a Tiger Driver for two. He puts on a Tazzmission. Fox backs Cage into the corner to escape. Fox enzuigiri’s Cage off the second rope and hits a springboard 450 splash. Cage kicks out, much to Fox’s surprise. Fox tries another springboard maneuver. Cage catches him coming down with a Code Breaker for two. A lot of rope running leads to Fox taking Cage to the corner with an enzuigiri. Fox tries going up and over. Cage punches him in the face. The Money Clip follows, but Fox grabs the bottom rope at the last second to prevent a three count. Fox pulls Cage into a stunner. Cage knee strikes him three times in the corner. Fox then hits a yakuza kick and two superkicks. Lo Mein Pain and a 450 splash get him the win at 12:13. I really like both of these guys and was hoping for this to succeed, but I felt more frustrated than anything. On far too many occasions did I feel like they were brushing off key offense, like dives, faces stomped into the mat, and kicks to the face, which took me out of the match. I get that this might be a personal problem, as the crowd really dug it, and could look past these things, but for me it was too distracting. It’s a shame, because Cage has been someone I’ve enjoyed watching since his stint in IWA: Unlimited and think he’s grown into a criminally underrated performer. I do feel he got the chance to show that he is capable and worthy of belonging on the roster, but effort aside, this match was just not for me. **
Chris Hero vs. Drew Gulak
Before the match, Gulak expresses that he feels wrestling has lost it’s way, with wrestlers choosing style over substance, something he does not plan on embracing. This is Hero’s first match in EVOLVE since August, a weekend in which he lost the EVOLVE championship. After looking for control on the mat, they go into a wristlock exchange. Hero goes to the leg with a spinning toe hold. He locks up Gulak’s knee, causing Gulak to roll to the ropes for freedom. When Gulak goes for Hero’s leg, Hero does the same. Gulak uses a wristlock to keep Hero grounded. Hero trips him, looking for the Hangman’s Clutch. Gulak covers up to avoid it, so Hero turns into a crucifix pin. Gulak rides Hero and slaps him on the back a few times. He goes for an ankle lock. Hero rolls to the floor. Back in he comes and offers a handshake, baiting Gulak into to some open hand strikes to the head and a boot to the face. Gulak blocks an elbow and gets in some open handed slaps. Hero covers up. Gulak looks for a Gotch Style piledriver. Hero tumbles to the floor with Gulak still holding on. Hero tags Gulak with two rolling elbow and throws him on the floor out of a cravate. Hero goes back in the ring. Gulak gets back in a bit later, and Hero catches him with some knees and another elbow strike. He slams Gulak into a senton splash for only a one count. Hero grabs a crossface, and Gulak grabs the ropes to break it. He kicks Gulak in the face for another one count. On the floor they exchange overhand chops. Gulak takes Hero to the guardrail with some uppercuts and delivers a clothesline. Hero responds with a boot to the face. He digs Gulak’s head into the guardrail. In the ring Gulak looks for a Saito suplex. It takes multiple elbows and boots for Hero to free himself, but Gulak grabs him again and gets the Saito suplex! Gulak kicks out Hero’s knee, then gives the same leg a dragonscrew leg whip. He drives Hero’s knee over his shoulder and twists up his knee and ankle. Hero grabs the ropes. Gulak slaps Hero in the face and chest. Hero responds with two slaps to the face. Gulak suplexes him, then grabs an ankle lock. Hero rolls Gulak into a pin. Gulak turns it back into the ankle lock. Hero grabs the ropes. Gulak dragonscrew leg whips Hero in the ropes. Hero goes to the ropes. Gulak comes out, so Hero goes back in. He catches Gulak coming back in with a rolling elbow for two. Hero gives him a sit-out powerbomb for two. Gulak hits a rolling lariat for a two count. Hero comes back with a rolling elbow. He looks for the Death Blow. Gulak counters with a backslide, bringing up Hero into a barrage of strikes. Hero holds the ropes to stop an O’Connor Roll and delivers a basement boot to the face. Hero slaps Gulak in the face multiple times. Gulak dishes out his own with chops to the chest. He ducks a rolling elbow, so Hero grabs a front facelock, then hits a rolling elbow. He folds up Gulak for yet another two count. He slaps Gulak on the canvas. A tombstone piledriver from Hero gets him the win at 19:09. This was a heck of a contest, with a friendly competition evolving into either man doing what it took to get the win. Gulak looked really good hanging with Hero, and for Hero it was a way for him to regain some momentum after losing the title and evolve (no pun intended) his character into a somewhat cocky, disrespectful veteran. It worked very well and in the end both competitors looked very strong. ***¾
Chris Hero understands a lot of people are trying to capitalize off of his name to make a name for themselves. He says nobody says his name until they have earned that privilege. This brings out Biff Busick. Hero calls him the flavor of the week and challenges him to a match right now. Hero notices Gulak coming to his feet beside him, and Hero forcefully tells Gulak that he can leave. He then tosses Gulak into Busick, trying to catch Busick off guard. However, Busick is able to recover quickly and goes for the rear-naked choke! Hero fights him off and escapes through the crowd.
PJ Black vs. Caleb Konley
Black is the former Justin Gabriel, and this is his EVOLVE debut. Anthony Nese is in Konley’s corner. Some mat wrestling and quick posturing off the ropes leads to a stalemate. Konley uses a handshake to pull Black into a forearm strike. He chops Black in the corner, telling him that he’s in Konley’s house. Black unloads with some forearm strikes of his own. Konley trips Black from the floor. Black kicks him into the guardrails. Konley uses the ring post to pull of a tornado DDT to Black on the floor. Back in the ring, Konley keeps control on offense. Black positions Konley in a headstand in the corner and superkicks Konley to the floor! Black follows with a suicide dive. Black comes through the ropes with a dropkick, the skins the cat back in for a corkscrew pescado. In the ring Black hits a springboard dropkick to the back of the head. Black tries another springboard maneuver and Konley catches him in mid-air with a Code Breaker. Black and Konley engage in a chop battle. Konley rocks Black with a spinning elbow and roundhouse kick for a two count. Black avoids a sliding clothesline. However, Konley takes his knee out with a dropkick. Konley misses a lionsault. Black lands a top rope moonsault for two. Konley catches Black on the top rope with a palm strike and enzuigiri. Black rolls through a Frankensteiner for a sunset flip. Konley gets Black up for a Cradle Shock for two. He ties up Black’s legs and arms before picking him up in a powerbomb for two. From the top rope Konley tries a sunset flip. Black fights that off but ends up crotched on the top rope. Konley tries for a superplex. Black counters by pulling Konley off the top and bringing him down throat first across the top rope. A springboard 450 splash gets Black the pinfall victory at 12:25. Both competitors had an impressive showing, with Black getting off on the right foot with his post-WWE run and Konley showcasing his ability to hang with a talent of his caliber. The back and forth was fun enough and Konley taking a loss here won’t hurt him as he’s now firmly back in the tag wrestling scene (no pun intended). AR Fox on commentary was excellent, and his input was well suited given that he and Black will meet in San Jose. ***
Anthony Nese tries attacking Black, but Black heads out before he can hurt him. Nese gets on the microphone and tells Black that he’s the master of the 450 splash. Fired up, Nese insists on having his match right now.
Davey Richards vs. Anthony Nese
Richards is replacing the originally scheduled Trent Barretta. They feel each other out to star. Nese retreats when Richards gets on a seated surfboard. It doesn’t go much better for Nese when he comes back in, as Richards sends him back out with a dropkick. Nese slips back in before Richards can dive. He cartwheels to the floor. Nese ducks Richards first punt from the apron, but he hits it the second time. After a couple shots against the guardrail, Richards suplexes Nese back in the ring. He twists up Nese’s legs in a cloverleaf. Nese gets the ropes, then stops Richards onslaught of offense with a dropkick. Nese applies a standing armbar. Richards negotiates his way into a grapevine clovereaf with Nese’s arm captured. He rolls Nese onto his shoulders for a two count. Nese takes out Richards’ knee from the mat. Richards rolls outside and Nese suicide dives onto him. He digs Richards’ head into a supporting beam. Nese works over his neck. When Richards escapes and hits the ropes, Nese tripes out his legs. However, Richards gets his feet up to block a slingshot lionsault. This brings us to a forearm strike exchange. Richards ends it with a clothesline. He hits the Damage Reflex, then strings a superkick and German suplex together for two. Nese looks to take control on the top turnbuckle. Richards headbutts him down, but Nese cracks him with a knee to the face. Nese brings down Richards with a TKO for two. Nese takes too long to capitalize, allowing Richards to go for the Stretch Muffler. Nese rolls Richards away to escape. He also avoids a German suplex and double stomps Richards on the stomach for two. Nese and Richards again exchange strikes. Richards throws a series of kicks to the chest in the process. He gives Nese the Alarm Clock. Nese responds with an enzuigiri and superkick, leaving both men laying. Richards picks up some steam. Nese rolls him into a one-armed buckle bomb. He drops Richards with a Jig N’ Tonic for two. Nese misses the 450 splash. Richards nails a Penalty kick. He lands a top rope double stomp for two. A swift kick to the head yields the same result. Richards locks on the Stretch Muffler. Nese taps out at 21:16. Despite it going too long, this was another solid performance. With Richards’ future being unknown and Nese being on the rise, I think Nese winning would have been the better choice. This probably would have a benefitted from being about 5 minutes shorter, but it didn’t feel as if it dragged either. It was good for what it was but a few minor changes would have made for a better overall package. ***
Steel Cage Match
Drew Galloway vs. Roderick Strong
You can win this match by pinfall, submission, or knockout. Strong almost bails, stating that the cage they created is an unsafe work environment. Galloway attacks him and drops him chest first on the guardrails. Galloway hits him in the back with the title belt. Strong runs backstage but Galloway brings him back out. They get into the ring and cage and the match officially begins.
Galloway sends Strong up and into the corner. Strong catches the cage. He jumps off but Galloway catches him with a backbreaker and stomps him down in the corner. Strong ducks a bot. Galloway gets his foot stuck in the ropes and cage, allowing Strong to give him a backbreaker. He twists Galloway’s neck. Galloway throws three rapid fire chops. Strong cuts him off with a knee to the face and gives the seated Galloway a dropkick. Strong whips him chest first into the turnbuckles for two. They climb to the top rope where they slap one another in the face. They both drop down crotch first across the top rope simultaneously. Strong ducks a shoulder tackle, sending Galloway crashing into the cage. Strong dropkicks Galloway’s shoulder into the cage. He then release suplexes Galloway into the cage for a two count. Strong ascends the ropes. Galloway fallows and brings him down with a side Russian leg sweep off of the second rope. Galloway unloads with punches, taking Strong to the corner. Strong avoids a press slam. Galloway however grabs his leg to stop a boot and flings him face first into the canvas from a reverse waterwheel slam. Galloway lawn darts Strong into the cage wall twice. He throws Strong into the cage and gives him the Sick Kick for two. Once again the two men climb up the ropes and fight. Strong brings down Galloway with a superplex. Strong pulls Galloway into an Angle Slam. He then gives Galloway a backbreaker for two. Strong goes for a Gutbuster. Galloway slides off of his shoulders and looks for the Future Shock DDT. Strong rolls free and tags Galloway with a rolling elbow. He charges, only for Galloway to backdrop him into the cage. Strong comes back with a knee strike to the face. A gutbuster and Gibson Driver follow but Galloway is able to kick out. Strong pulls Galloway up to the top rope. Galloway tries to fight back and ends up being crotched on the top rope. Strong kicks him down into a tree of woe. Galloway sits up and belly-to-belly suplexes Strong to the canvas from that position! Galloway powerbombs Strong into the cage wall. He gives Strong a piledriver but Strong musters the strength to get his shoulder up. Strong gets the referee in the way so he can sneak in a cheap low blow without penalty (wait, it’s a cage match though…). He strikes Galloway twice in the face with a jumping knee strike. A rolling forearm and Death by Roderick somehow only result in two. Galloway gets busted open when Strong drives his face into the cage repeatedly. He hits four Sick Kick’s to Galloway into the cage wall. He hits a fifth which knocks Galloway down between the cage and ring. Strong keeps hitting him with Sick Kicks until the referee calls for a stoppage, giving Strong the win in 19:12. This served as a great character study for both men, with Strong being the chickenshit heel and Galloway being a frustrated, but valiant fighter. It was a fun brawl suited for what they had been building since September. Some fans didn’t like the finish, but I really liked it, as it gives Galloway an out (he didn’t really get knocked out) and gives Strong leverage for a future title match. It felt like an authentic fight in which both competitors wanted to win and there was no nonsense involved. I can’t ask for much more out of a main event/feud ending match. ***¾
Strong pulls up Galloway and puts him in the Strong Hold. PJ Black enters, and Strong releases the submission before any altercation can occur. Black knows Galloway is down and out, but he wants a title shot, despite knowing there is a rankings system. Galloway accepts. He thanks the fans for giving him a chance. He puts Strong over as being tough and feels like this feud isn’t over. Galloway feels strongly about their being only one champion in EVOLVE, and with that he makes the challenge for his match with Gargano in San Jose to be an EVOLVE Championship/Open the Freedom Gate Championship unification match.