Santa Clara, CA – 3.28.2015
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.
Rich Swann starts the show by singing “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie whilst dancing around the building. He gets the crowd to chant “we are awesome”, which effectively turns him heel in my book. He says he has not been cleared to compete tonight, because he hurt his ribs the night before. However, the match was ended when he got hurt, which he says is BS because he saw Caleb Konley tap out in the middle of the ring to Johnny Gargano’s Garga-No Escape. He challenges Konley and the Premier Athlete Brand to an Open The United Gate Championship match for April in Florida. This prompts the Premier Athlete Brand (Konley, Brian Cage, So Cal Val, and Andrea) to make their way out. Val tells Konley to “give Swann a title shot.” Konley attacks him, then hits Swann with the title belt as Cage holds onto him. Johnny Gargano and Ethan Page chase the PAB off. Page wants his and Konley’s match to start now, and Page gets his wish. Gargano helps Swann to the back.
Ethan Page vs. Caleb Konley
So Cal Val, Andrea, and Brian Cage are in the Konley’s corner. A distraction from Cage allows Konley to attack Page from behind. He bodyslams Page after some stomps. Page comes back with a fallaway slam. He slingshots Konley into a backbreaker and clotheslines Konley to the floor. Page wants to dive but Andrea stands in the way. However, he does get some shots in on the floor, until Konley gets on the apron out of a powerbomb position and double stomps Page’s chest. He delivers a running knee to the head and brings Page back in the ring. He sends Page head first into the middle turnbuckle for two. Konley sweeps out Page’s legs and lands a senton for two. After kicking out Page’s legs he scratches his back. Page slips off his shoulders and drops Konley with a DDT. He rocks Konley with a series of punches and a backdrop. He swings Konley into a chest first slam and folds him up with a powerbomb for two. Page gives Konley the lawn dart and BOOM! Head Shot for two. Konley comes back with a tornado DDT and quebrada for two. He looks for the O-Face. Page kicks Konley away. He traps Konley in the ropes, kicks him in the face, then goes for a spin-out slam. Konley counters with a chinbreaker. Page ducks a kick and lands one of his own. Konley spins him into an enzuigiri and drops him with a Cradle Shock for two. Cage grabs Page’s foot, so Page backdrops Konley onto him, then suicide dives onto both PAB members. Page lands a Black Tornado Slam, but Val distracts the referee. Cage comes in but accidentally hits Konley with a rolling clothesline! Page disposes of Cage and gets the referee’s attention. Konley gets in a kick, but Page trips him into a schoolboy and holds the tights for the pin at 11:23. I really liked the finish here, as it gave Page a win in his debut weekend, subtly showed his true colors, and the guy who is ostensibly Gargano’s surrogate defeated one half of the tag champions before Gargano challenges for those titles himself. The match itself was fine, though unremarkable, but it served multiple purposes so I’m happy. **¼
Due to his flub, Andrea low blows Cage and Konley hits him with his title belt, effectively ending Cage’s short lived stint in the PAB.
SHINE Six Women Tag Team Match
Mia Yim & The Kimber Bombs (Kimber Lee & Cherry Bomb) vs. Andrea & The Canadian Ninjas (Nicole Matthews & Portia Perez)
Yim is the SHINE champion, Nicole Matthews is the SHIMMER Champion, and the Kimber Bombs are the SHINE tag champions. Nikki Storm was originally the Canadian Ninjas partner, but Andrea put her down with 3 Seconds Around the World before the bell. So Cal Val is in the Ninjas and Andrea’s corner.
The match starts with a six women brawl. The SHINE champions splash all three of their opponents in the corner back-to-back before sending them outside. The Kimber Bombs hold onto the Canadian Ninjas for a dive from Yim. Andrew gets sent into the guardrail and ring post by Yim. Back in the ring, Bomb armdrags Matthews into a side headlock. Matthews escapes but Bomb gets it back on. After some rolls, Bomb gets another amrdrag and holds onto the arm. Lee tags in and bicycle kicks Matthews out of a chinbreaker from Bomb. Matthews goes to Lee’s eyes and tags in Perez. Lee and Perez fight for control on the mat. Perez gets a chinlock, which Lee fights out of with forearms to the chest. Val distracts the referee so Matthews can jump in and attack Lee. Andrea takes out Lee with a Jon Woo dropkick. The Ninjas and Andrea isolate and beat down Lee until her and Perez knock each other down with stereo clotheslines. Yim knocks down Matthews with a variety of kicks and a cannonball senton. Perez breaks the pin attempt. Yim ducks a double clothesline and dropkicks them both. The Bombs assault Andrea in their corner, then the opposite corner. They send Andrea to Yim for a missile dropkick. Bomb gives Andrea a lungblower into a German suplex from Lee. The Ninjas toss the Bomb’s outside. Yim fights off the Ninjas with chops. The Ninjas end up giving her a double suplex. The Bomb’s bring Matthews to the floor. Yim blocks a kick and schoolgirls Perez for the pin at 11:54. It was a neat idea to give the Mania six man match to the women, but this served as nothing more than a showcase with no real story or flow to the action. Most everything looked good but there were moments you could tell somebody was waiting for the next spot, which throws the flow of the bout way off. This was a nice idea in theory but trying to put this in the same lineage as the other incredible Mania weekend six man tags was a mistake. There was just no way this was going to live up to that expectation. Nikki Storm chases off Andrea at the end, and in hindsight, she should’ve stayed in the match. She would have injected some much needed personality into the contest. **½
EVOLVE Championship & Open The Freedom Gate Championship
Drew Galloway vs. Johnny Gargano
The winner of this match walks away with both the EVOLVE and Open The Freedom Gate Championship. Galloway is wearing the same gear he did when he competed in the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania XXVI. On commentary, Lenny Leonard points out that Galloway considers this the most important match of his life, while the Mania match was the most important match of his career. Ethan Page is in Gargano’s corner.
Both men are cautious in their opening strikes, which Gargano gets in more of due to his speed. Galloway knocks him down with a running shoulder block. He pummels Gargano down in the corner. Gargano avoids an attack in the opposite corner and rolls Galloway into a basement enzuigiri. Galloway tries tossing Gargano out. Gargano holds the ropes, and skins the cat, bringing Galloway to the floor with a headscissors. Galloway catches Gargano’s pescado attempt and slams him onto the ring apron. He slams Gargano onto the apron again. Gargano slips off of Galloway’s shoulders and clotheslines him into the front row. Gargano runs and dives onto Galloway, sending him into rows of chairs. They fight near a wall where they exchange chops. Galloway ends up throwing Gargano back first into the wall. They fight into another part of the building where Gargano uses a wall to land a tornado DDT on the floor. In the ring, Gargano hits the slingshot spear for two. Galloway catches Gargano in the corner with a reverse, sit-out waterwheel slam for two. He wears down Gargano with chops in multiple corners. Aftera running forearm in the corner, he ascends the ropes. Gargano crotches Galloway on the top turnbuckle and throws him across the ring with the lawn dart for two. Gargano throws a few left punches. He tries another lawn dart. Galloway catches him, almost getting the Future Shock DDT, but Gargano blocks by sending Galloway to the floor. Gargano suicide dives but is caught with a punch in mid-air. He boots Gargano in the face twice. He tries a third and Gargano cuts him off with a superkick. Gargano goes for a suicide dive, but referee Brandon Tolle takes the dive by accident! As he recovers, in the ring, Galloway counters a slingshot DDT from Gargano with a suplex into the corner. Gargano again blocks the Future Shock DDT, this time with an enzuigiri. He wants the Hurts Donut. Ethan Page offers Gargano the same shoelace he used to defeat Shingo during WrestleMania 2013 weekend and that backfired against him against Ricochet in 2014. Gargano throws the lace at Page, questioning him. Galloway kicks out Gargano’s leg and hits the Future Shock DDT. Another referee runs out but Galloway only scores a two count. Gargano goes for the Claymore, and the second referee takes that by accident! Gargano takes down Galloway and locks on the Garga-No Escape. Brandon Tolle comes to and gets in the ring. Galloway rolls Gargano onto his shoulders for two. Gargano swiftly kicks Galloway in the head. Gargano wants to skin the cat into a headscissors again. This time it looks as if Galloway is going to counter with a tombstone, so Gargano quickly escapes and locks on the Garga-No Escape. Galloway muscles up Gargano into a Gotch Tombstone piledriver, but gets a nearfall once more! He brings Gargano to the top turnbuckle on his shoulders. Gargano counters, bringing Galloway down in a slam. After a failed pin, Page yells at Gargano to finish Galloway off. Gargano superkicks Galloway. Galloway gets up and asks for more. Gargano gives him a few more, but Galloway wills his way up to his feet and flips off Gargano. Galloway side steps a superkick. He gives Gargano the Future Shock DDT, floats over, and hits a second! Gargano kicks out! Gargano spits in Galloway’s face. Galloway gives him a jumping tombstone piledriver for the pin at 21:13, retaining the EVOLVE Championship and winning the Open The Freedom Gate Championship. When Page threw in the shoelace and two referees got knocked down, I was really worried the overbooking was going to take away the big fight atmosphere this match had, but it didn’t. Unlike Galloway and Black who tried willing their match into a classic, this felt like a huge match with major implications. It wasn’t the best match in WWN history as Lenny Leonard stated, but a very good one. The crowd was hot for the false finishes and bought into all of them. If you take away the superfluous stuff in the middle, this would have been even better, but this was still really great in spite of those moments. ***¾
Galloway states that tonight was his WrestleMania moment. He says there is life after “there”, and he’s proved it by rising to the top of the WWN. He thanks everybody who gave him a shot and believing in him. He calls Gargano “the f*cking man” and that WWN is the house he built. He was proud to have this match with him and asks for a handshake as his way to say thank you to Gargano for the match. Gargano obliges. Galloway passes over the microphone and leaves with his titles.
As Gargano begins to speak, Page elbows him in the side of the head! He blows Gargano a kiss before stomping on him. Page says he mentions all weekend long that he learned from watching Gargano’s DGUSA and EVOLVE career. He learned from Ronin who took the top spots in both of those companies. He says this is just the beginning, and when he’s done with Gargano, he will have ended his WWN career.
Biff Busick vs. Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins vs. Tommy End
Perkins and Gulak chain wrestle while Busick and End fight each other for control. Busick lays out End and Perkins with uppercuts after Gulak is knocked down elsewhere. Perkins baits Busick to the floor. End cuts off Perkins dive with a boot. Perkins kicks Gulak from the mat and takes him down with a headscissors. He takes down End and Gulak with a wristlock/headscissors combo. Busick knocks Perkins to the floor. End knees Bucick’s arm, then sends Perkins’ foot into Gulak’s head. He knocks down Busick with a hard knee. Gulak breaks the cover and sends End out into the guardrails. He tosses Perkins out of a torture rack into an uppercut from Busick. Gulak and Busick each slam Perkins. Gulak and Busick knock him down with double back elbows before hitting a double suplex. They bring End in who fights off Gulak and Busick with kicks and forearms. End flubs a springboard. Busick recovers with running uppercuts to End and Perkins in opposite corners. He drops Perkins with a running neckbreaker and End with a half-nelson suplex. Gulak picks Busick up from the pin. They go face to face, but Perkins dropkicks Busick before they come to blows. Gulak overhand chops End a few times. End knees Gulak in the jaw before landing a Bermuda Triangle onto Perkins and Busick outside. End comes back in with a top rope double stomp to Gulak. He nails Busick with a roundhouse kick. Perkins breaks the pin. He locks End in a standing Octopus Stretch, then puts on a key lock. He grabs Busick in an Octopus Stretch. Gulak kicks Perkins to the mat multiple times, causing more pressure to End’s legs. It happens too when Perkins suplexes Gulak. Perkins responds with some suplexes of his own. Perkins gives Gulak a double underhook lungblower. End double stomps Perkins. Busick lariats End. Gulak comes off the top with a dropkick to Busick, leaving all four men laying. Busick and Gulak throw End and Perkins into each other mid-air out of powerbomb positions. Busick and Gulak finally come to blows, ending with a half-nelson suplex from Busicl. Perkins spinwheel kicks Busick. End roundhouse kicks Gulak. Busick uppercuts End outside. He wants the Choke Sleeper on Perkins, but Perkins escapes. Gulak forearms Busick by accident. Perkins locks Gulak in a cross armbreaker. Gulak taps out at 11:35. This was a chaotic mess at times, but fun at others. Perkins winning was a nice way to ingratiate him back into the WWN Universe with some momentum. ***
PJ Black vs. AR Fox
Despite Fox taking him down, Black is able to tire up Fox’s legs, but let’s him go. Black thinks he’s clever rolling out to avoid a leapfrog/hip toss sequence, but Fox follows him with two suicide dives. He bicycle kicks Black to block his springboard attempt and comes out with a kickflip moonsault from the apron. Fox gets sent into the crowd. He tries a springboard off the guardrail but is caught mid-air with a superkick. In the ring, Fox blocks Black’s springboard with a dropkick. Fox tries a springboard and is caught with a Code Breaker for two. They trade forearm strikes. Fox ends it with an enzuigiri. Fox cascades up Black’s chest, only for Black to give him a sit-out powerbomb for two. Fox nearly lands a springboard clothesline, but Black gets him in a Koji Clutch upon landing. Fox gets his foot on the ropes to escape. Black pulls up Fox from the mat. Fox headscissors Black to the floor. Black gets on the apron. They fight for a suplex. Black ends up dropping Fox chest first on the top rope and kicking him on the top of his head. Fox avoids the 450 splash and shotgun dropkicks Black to the corner. He misses a cannonball splash. Black lands a top rope quebrada for two. Black gives Fox an Air Raid Crash across his thigh for the same result. Fox crotches Black as Black goes up top and brings him down with a back cracker. Fox crashes down with a Swanton Bomb for two. He hits Lo Mein Pain. Black gets his knees up to block a 450 splash and small packages Fox for two. Fox palm strikes Black on the top turnbuckle. He goes for Lo Mein Pain again. This time, Black holds on and muscles Fox up for a Death Valley Driver off the top and onto the apron! Back inside the ring he hits a springboard 450 splash for the pin at 10:06. This was a fun high-fliers battle, just a tad shy of yesterday’s Ricochet vs. Black encounter. I loved how all the springboard countering done throughout the match meant something, and how the match ended at the peak. Can’t argue with a good story and hard work. ***¼
Timothy Thatcher vs. Chris Hero
The fans are split, chanting loudly and passionately for either competitor before the bell. On the mat, Thatcher goes for the arm while Hero goes for the leg. Hero backs Thatcher to the ropes and backs away. They each grab a cravate. Thatcher almost takes Hero down in an armbar, but we get a stand-off instead. Thatcher blocks Hero’s rolling elbow attempt. Hero takes him down in a Gedo Clutch, but Thatcher converts it into a surfboard. Hero quickly grabs the ropes to escape. With Hero watching the armbar, Thatcher grabs a single leg hook. Hero uses the ropes to escape again. Hero gets in some chops, so Thatcher rocks him with uppercuts and suplexes Hero into a one count. They trade waistlocks on the mat, with Thatcher going for the armbar. Hero applies a headscissors, forcing Thatcher to use his neck to escape. Thatcher does so and puts on a bow and arrow stretch. Hero escapes and takes a breather outside. In a strike exchange, Thatcher again blocks the rolling elbow. He gets in some uppercuts, but Hero nails the Cyclone Kick for two. Hero gets in a few more nearfalls, striking Thatcher as he’s grounded. When Thatcher gets to his feet, Hero puts him back down with a single leg dropkick. Hero outstretches Thatcher’s shoulder and arm before dropping his knee across Thatcher’s shoulder blades. Thatcher grounds Hero, throwing some forearms to the face. He tries grabbing a Kimura, but Hero uses the ropes to slide outside the ring. Hero baits Thatcher into a running kick through the ropes. Hero nails him with an elbow. He tries a second, but Thatcher catches his arm and tries the Fujiwara. The referee breaks it up when Hero gets on the apron. Hero kicks Thatcher in the head back in the ring. He gets two with a senton splash. Hero spikes Thatcher with a Gotch Piledriver for two. He goes for a second, but Thatcher counters with a German suplex. Hero bicycle kicks Thatcher. Thatcher gets another German suplex. Hero tries a rolling elbow. Thatcher headbutts Hero to stop him and both men fall to the mat. Thatcher tries charging Hero in the corner, but Hero kicks him in the face with each charge. Thatcher catches the last boot and unloads with punches and chops. Hero follows Thatcher into the ropes with a bicycle kick. He tags him with four rolling elbows. Hero kicks out right before three and grabs the Fujiwara armbar! Hero taps out at 21:32! The fans who started a match with a dueling chant for both participants are now solely chanting for Thatcher alone, which sums up how successful of a story these two told. For the entire match, Hero bested Thatcher. He kept him grounded, hit him with elbows, even indicated with his facial expressions and body language that he felt he had the match won the entire time. Lo and behold, Thatcher was relentless, kicking out of whatever Hero threw his way, knowing that if he could just get that armbar applied properly, it would be over. He did, and it was. Thatcher wasn’t just fighting for the armbar, but was actively doing what he could to avoid elbows and prevent Hero from wearing down his neck, with varying success. It came off a huge win for Thatcher, and the crowd played a big role in creating an atmosphere for these two to flourish. ****
Ricochet & Uhaa Nation vs. Generation Next (Roderick Strong & Austin Aries)
Generation Next come out in their old faction t-shirts to “Interstellar Overdrive” by the Melvins. Aries says he had forgotten how bad their old music was. Strong and Nation get in a shoving match after reaching a stalemate. Nations cuts off Strong with a dropkick. Ricochet tags in but is immediately pulled into a double axe handle from Aries to his arm. After trading headlocks, Aries shoulder blocks Ricochet. Ricochet pops back up. After the second time, Aries brings down Ricochet in a side headlock. Ricochet reverses into a headscissors, and of course Aries pops out into a dropkick. Ricochet headscissors Aries and follows up with a dropkick. Aries strings a kneebreaker and suplex together. He drops his knee across Ricochet’s shoulder before allowing Strong to stomp Ricochet in their corner. Aries attacks Ricochet on the floor with a double axe handle off the top. In the ring, Ricochet desperately backs Strong to the corner so Nation can tag in. He gives Strong a delayed vertical suplex, followed by a standing moonsault from Ricochet for two. Ricochet stretches out Strong behind his back. Strong gets him to the ropes and delivers an enzuigiri. Aries gives Ricochet a neckbreaker in the ropes and follows up with a missile dropkick for two. Strong and Aries utilize some of their classic double team offense on Ricochet, while also keeping Nation at bay. Ricochet maneuvers them around so that a neckbreaker to Aries results in a DDT to Strong. Nation tags in and immediately hits a double clothesline. He splashes Strong and Aries in opposite corners. He takes down Aries with a leaping lariat and Strong with a spinebuster for a nearfall. Nation pops Strong up into a Death Valley Driver for another nearfall. Aries stops his military press on Strong. Ricochet stops Aries’ rolling elbow with a springboard dropkick. Nation tosses Strong into an Ace Crusher from Ricochet. Aries breaks the pin. Nation pitches Aries outside. Strong catches Nation in a backbreaker. Ricochet misses a corner attack. Aries hits him with the IED. Strong chops Ricochet into a brainbuster from Aries. Aries lands the IED on Nation, sending him to Strong for the Sick Kick. Nation kicks out of Strong’s pin. Nation escapes a double team, sending Aries to the floor. Strong however brings Ricochet down off the top with a superplex. Ricochet counters the End of Heartache with a huracanrana for two. He tries another but Strong stops him. Ricochet kicks Strong away, but Aries hits a 450 splash on him. Aries sends Nation out with a rolling elbow and hits the Heat-Seeking Missile. Strong turns Ricochet into the Strong Hold. Ricochet escapes with a jackknife cradle for two. He hits the Benadryller. Ricochet ascends the ropes. Aries tries stopping him but gets kicked away. Ricochet misses a shooting star press. Strong blasts him with a knee strike. The End of Heartache gets Strong the pin at 18:06. I liked the novelty of this match as the former Generation Next taking on the next generation of wrestlers. It was more or less a showcase match with a nostalgia trip for Aries and Strong, but as a big fan of that team and reverence for that ROH period, it worked for me. It would seem odd that Generation Next would win over the “new guys”, but Strong is a regular in EVOLVE and is tied into the upper echelon of the company, so I was more than okay with him scoring the pinfall. At the time this was a once in a lifetime tag match, but given the direction of their careers, maybe not. ***½
Strong starts to reminisce about the Generation Next days, but then attacks Aries with a knee strike and puts the boots to Nation! He tells Drew Galloway that he is coming for his title and there is nobody who can stop him. Enter Timothy Thatcher, who sends Strong packing with an uppercut! Strong leaves the building through the front door. Thatcher says the road to the EVOLVE title goes through him. He isn’t a man of many words, but he is sincere when he gives thanks to all the fans on behalf of the locker room for supporting them the past three days.