A few notes on this show going in. Firstly, this would be the first WWNLive Show to be show in HD Widescreen, and all WWNLive Shows shown on iPPV going forward would be presented as such. Secondly, you might be wondering why this show only has five matches. It originally had a more filling card, but Roderick Strong, who was supposed to face Uhaa Nation, got injured in a match at the ROH TV Tapings in Nashville, TN the week prior against the returning AJ Styles during a botched Styles Clash. Thus, Strong could not compete and the card to be reshuffled a bit. Weirdly enough, it might actually have made it better...
Ybor City, Florida 1/10/14
1.) FIP World Heavyweight Title – Trent Baretta vs. Anthony Nese (with Su Yung): ****
Baretta is the FIP World Champion. This was a really awesome opener. Everything in this match just clicked so well, it was insane. Perhaps the fact that they're both Long Island natives has something to do with it. Whatever it was, these two put out an great performance. Baretta picks up the win and retains his title. A perfect way to kick off the show.
After the match Baretta cuts a promo saying some positive things about Nese, before adding that he thought the Premiere Athlete Brand was "missing something" before leaving.
2.) Five Way FRAY! – Chuck Taylor vs. Lince Dorado vs. Jon Davis vs. Caleb Konley vs. Uhaa Nation: ***1/4
Roderick Strong's injury forced some of the undercard to be reshuffled. We ended up getting this match, where the winner will challenge Johnny Gargano for the Open The Freedom Gate Title at Evolve 27 in Jacksonville, Florida. The rules here is that two men start, and that a new person entered at a fixed interval until everyone has entering. Eliminations can occur at any time. Taylor & Dorado start, then followed by Davis, Konley, and Uhaa. Davis is eliminated first about everyone else gangs up on him. Taylor then eliminates Dorado, Uhaa Nation eliminates Konley, and then finally Taylor to win the match and a future title shot. A pretty entertaining match. Nothing really flashy here, but it was a perfect undercard match. Uhaa Nation looks really good in the victory.
3.) Chris Hero vs. Ricochet: ****
This is the first of a three big match series for Hero on this trio of Evolve Shows in Florida. Ricochet is his first opponent. Things started of slow with Ricochet taunting Hero a bit, but it slowly picked up and eventually got to be pretty good. Their was a spot where Ricochet got pushed off the top rope and into one of the columns of the venue, which looked crazy. It ends up taking a 450 Splash, Shooting Star Press, and a 630 for Ricochet to pick up the win. Really, really good match here. I've seen some people rate this a bit lower, but I enjoyed this very much.
After the match, Hero takes the mic and puts over Ricochet in a big way and talks about a number of guys in the locker room who have bright futures. Trent Baretta then interrupts Hero by mentioned how he tore it up in opener and actually won, while Hero lost. He sarcastically tells Hero that it's ok that he didn't mention him in that list of rising stars.
4.) Rich Swann & The Young Bucks vs. Johnny Gargano & The Bravado Brothers: ***1/2
Kind of weird that The Young Bucks are teaming up with the main they'll be fighting at Evolve 26, but I guess "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" in this case. Gargano & The Bravados hold all the Dragon Gate USA gold (Open The Freedom Gate Title & Open The United Gate Tag Team Titles, respectively) and are a team of champions. Then again, so are Swann & The Young Bucks (FIP Tag Team Champion and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, respectively). This was a really fun match. Their was a lot of craziness with people flying all over the place when the action broke down. The crowd was seemingly into it as well. The Young Bucks hit More Bang For Your Buck on one of The Bravados to pick up the win for their team.
Following the match, Gargano attacks Rich Swann, but Roderick Strong (Swann's FIP Tag Team Championship partner) and Uhaa Nation make the save. Strong says that at the upcoming Dragon Gate USA show in Brooklyn, NY on February 23rd, he's going to win the Open The Freedom Gate Title from Gargano.
5.) Evolve Title – AR Fox vs. Davey Richards: ****1/4
For those of you who don't know, Richards was in the Main Event of the first Evolve Show against Kota Ibushi, and the promotion was initially going to be built around him. However, things broke down at Richards left Evolve. The true story isn't really clear (Richards & Gabe have their own sides of the story) but I've heard that Richards' ROH Contract had something to do with it. Thus, Richards has returned for one night only to face AR Fox for the Evolve Title. I believe this might be the first time that Richards & Fox have faced each other in a singles match. Whatever the case, this match was awesome! I really enjoyed it. Richards was hit usual self but Fox was definitely keeping up with him. A really hard hitting match that saw a pretty wild finishing sequence, but it was AR Fox who emerged with the victory and retained his title.
After the match, Richards looks like he's going to cut one of his typical end of the show Davey Richards promos he did while he was ROH World Champion, but then he spits on the Evolve Title and says he's better than everyone and that the whole locker room can kiss his ass before storming off.
From top to bottom, this show definitely delivered. The HD Widescreen worked very well, and the show on the whole was great as well. You're only getting five matches, but when they'll all at the very least good, with some of them being pretty great, you really don't have a lot to complain about. The two title matches were exciting to watch, Richochet/Hero was great, and the two other undercard matches were pretty entertaining. Evolve 25 will no doubt be one of the best shows that WWNLive Universe puts out in 2014.