Deer Park, New York 3/8/15
Now this was a very interesting show. It was only announced three weeks in advance, as was wedged between the January shows in Florida and the big weekend in San Jose during WrestleMania Weekend. I was critical of the fact that it was announced so late, but when the card was announced, it looked pretty good on paper. There were some changes going in, which included Trent Baretta being pulled following his move to New Japan & ROH (as part of Roppongi Vice with Rocky Romero), PJ Black (formerly Justin Gabriel in WWE, recently released) moving his debut up to this show (he was originally scheduled to debut for Evolve in San Jose), and the return of Davey Richards, who’s had an fascinating history with the promotion over the years. Let’s see how things turned out…
1.) Biff Busick vs. Martin Stone: ***
For those of you who aren’t aware, Martin Stone was a former WWE developmental talent in NXT (though he’s recently been brought back to NXT in the last few months as a jobber). He’s from the UK, and he’s wrestled for promotions such as Revolution Pro Wrestling. Here, Stone is wrestling Biff Busick. This was a pretty solid opener. It didn’t go very long (it went just over five minutes), but it was entertaining while it lasted. Busick would end up getting the submission win with the Saka Otoshi.
Afterwords, Busick promised that he would defeat Chris Hero in San Jose.
2.) Team Tremendous vs. Earl Cooter & Jody Kristofferson (with Larry Dallas): **3/4
It’s nice to see Team Tremendous getting a shot in a promotion like involved. They were advertised to take on a “Larry Dallas Mystery Team” (by the way, wasn’t Larry Dallas “fired” in 2014?), who ended up being Earl Cooter & Jody Kristofferson. These guys were actually together during the WWNLive shows in China towards the end of 2014, so the pairing makes sense. The match itself was fine. It was mostly a Team Tremendous showcase, and they definitely looked good in this match. Dan Barry & Bill Carr would pick up the victory, to the surprise of nobody.
3.) AR Fox vs. Matt Cage: ***3/4
This show continued the new concept of members of the Evolve roster endorsing non-roster members. On this show, Matt Cage (who’s made a name for himself in the Mid-West, primarily AAW) would be the recipient of this opportunity, as he was endorsed by Uhaa Nation. Cage is taking on AR Fox, and these two ended up having a really good match! There were a number of exciting moments in this one. Matt Cage looked really impressive here, showing why he deserves a spot on the Evolve roster. Even though AR Fox scored the victory, Cage definitely won a lot of people over. I hope he gets more shots in Evolve.
4.) Drew Gulak vs. Chris Hero: ****
So back in August, Hero made an emphatic statement at the end of the 2014 Style Battle Tournament, going after the participants in the tournament, specifically Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, & Timothy Thatcher. While Busick & Thatcher would have to wait until San Jose to face Hero, Drew Gulak has his shot at this show. I thought this was a great match! Both guys definitely brought it, and we saw a lot of hard-hitting action. These two actually had a match the month before at PWG From Out Of Nowhere, and I would put this encounter slightly above their match in PWG (I think it fits better in the environment of Evolve). In the end, Hero would get the win after a series of hard elbow strikes and a Tombstone Piledriver.
Following the match, Hero taunted Biff Busick, saying he had no right to say his name. Busick came out, and the two started fighting before Hero escaped to the back.
5.) Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley (with Anthony Nese) vs. "Darewolf" PJ Black: ***1/4
This is the Evolve debut for PJ Black, formerly Justin Gabriel in the WWE (who had left the company in January). He’s making his debut against Caleb Konley. I thought this was a pretty solid match. At the time, PJ Black was new to the independent scene, so I think the general consensus was that he needed more time to settle in. Still, he had a pretty entertaining match with Konley. The “Darewolf” would pick up the win with his trademark 450 Splash. As a side note, AR Fox joined the commentary team for this match, and he was hilarious! His commentary just needs to be heard. It was something else.
6.) Open The United Gate Champion Anthony Nese (with Caleb Konley) vs. Davey Richards: ***1/2
To say that Davey Richards has had a tumultuous history with Evolve would be an understatement. The last time he was in Evolve, he lost to AR Fox in an Evolve Title, and spit on the title after the match. Now, he’s back, seemingly on better terms, going against Anthony Nese. This was a pretty good match. At this point, you know what you’re going to get with Davey Richards, and he definitely brought in this match. Nese had a good showing as well, definitely holding his own against Richards. In the end, however, “The American Wolf” was too match, as Nese would fall to Richards.
Unfortunately, when this show happened live, there was an HOUR LONG intermission while they set up the Steel Cage. That sucked. To top it all off, the Steel Cage looked….pretty crappy, to say the least. Alas, it’s time for the Main Event.
7.) Non-Title Steel Cage Match - Evolve Champion Drew Galloway vs. Roderick Strong: ***1/2
This is the first Steel Cage Match in the history of Evolve. Once again, Strong is facing Galloway in a non-title match, as he was either not ranked in the Evolve Rankings, and if he was, he wasn’t high enough. These two have really good chemistry, which at this point, is a surprise to nobody. I don’t know what it was, but they just work together really well. The match was pretty good. Both played their roles skillfully, and the action was fun to watch. The only gripe I would have with this was the ending (similar to their match at Evolve 36). At one point, Galloway (who I believe was busted open) got caught between the ropes and the Steel Cage, and Strong took advantage with several running kicks & elbows to a defenseless Galloway. The referee soon stopped the match, and awarded the victory to Strong via KO. I get what they were going for, and it wasn’t a bad idea by any means, though I wasn’t expecting that to be the actual finish. Still this was a pretty good Main Event. Strong getting the win here definitely guarantees him a future Evolve Title Match.
After the match, as Drew Galloway as recovering, PJ Black came out. He challenged Galloway to an Evolve Title Match in San Jose, and Galloway accepted. Then, Galloway made it known that, during the big shows in San Jose, he wants a title unification match against Johnny Gargano.
Like I said in the beginning of this review, I was critical of this show being announced as hastily as it was, only a few weeks beforehand. Despite that, Evolve was able to put on a really solid show. You had a lot of different things going on that made this show fun to watch. Chris Hero vs. Drew Gulak was definitely the Match of the Night, while Matt Cage had a breakout performance against AR Fox. Meanwhile, PJ Black made his debut, while Davey Richards made his return, and both made statements by defeating members of The Premiere Athlete Brand. Then there was the Main Event, which was another hard-hitting chapter in the Galloway/Strong feud. This event continues the trend of really solid shows from Evolve.