San Jose, California 3/27/15
1.) Non-Title Match – Evolve World Champion Drew Galloway vs. Uhaa Nation: ***1/4
It’s a little weird seeing Drew Galloway, the current Evolve World Champion, going from the Main Event the night before, to the opening match on this show. Even though this was a non-title match, Galloway still had a tough task ahead of him in the form of Uhaa Nation. This was a pretty fun opener. Seeing two of the bigger men in Evolve going at it was certainly a unique sight. Solid work from both guys here. Galloway would eventually pick up the win.
After the match, Galloway cuts a promo putting over Uhaa Nation and hyping up his Title Unification Match with Johnny Gargano at Mercury Rising 2015.
2.) Tommy End (with Chris Hero) vs. Timothy Thatcher: ****1/4
End had a solid debut performance against Biff Busick at Evolve 39. On this show, he’s taking on Timothy Thatcher. Chris Hero, who “endorsed” End, is in his corner at ringside, probably scouting Thatcher ahead of their match at Mercury Rising 2015. It was going to be interesting to see how this match played out, as you had the grappler (Thatcher) vs. the striker (End). The first part of the match had a lot of that grappling style, but then the heavy strikes were turned up in the second half, which really helped this match. Great stuff from these two. I think it’s been proven at this point that while the grappler vs. grappler matches (Thatcher vs. Gulak, for example) get most of the negative buzz, when it’s a grappler vs. a striker (guys like Thatcher & Gulak vs. guys like Busick, Hero, & Tommy End), the matches are significantly better and more exciting. Thatcher would get the victory over End via submission.
Afterwords, while End shows respect to Thatcher, Hero gets into a confrontation with Thatcher, who purposefully bumps into Hero as he exits.
3.) Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4
I made have mentioned this before, but it’s nice to see TJ Perkins back on the independents, especially in a place like Evolve, which I think is a perfect fit for him. Here, he’s taking on Drew Gulak. Perkins is a great example of a guy who makes this grappling style entertaining. He & Zack Sabre Jr. are similar in that they’re just so fluent & smooth in their holds, submissions, counters, and so on, that it just makes their matches way more interesting. Both guys got to show a lot here, as we saw plenty of counters and reversals. After some cool exchanges, Gulak would pick up the win over Perkins, who suffers his 2nd loss of the weekend.
4.) AR Fox vs. Ethan Page: ***1/2
As I mentioned in my review of Evolve 39, Ethan Page was “endorsed” by Johnny Gargano, and here he’s taking on the man who Gargano defeated at Evolve 39 in AR Fox. This match was a nice change of pace after two matches that were showcases of the grappling style. A really good match here. Page is so charismatic, and AR Fox was his usual crazy self. Not much else to say other than this was a fun match to watch. AR Fox eventually picked up the win, giving Ethan Page his 2nd loss of the weekend.
After the match, Page cut a promo regarding his losses, seemingly upset at letting Gargano down. This leads to Gargano coming out, and he says that he believes in Page, and that what matters most is giving it your all. He then talks about his Title Unification Match with Drew Galloway. If you think this is all a swerve, and that Page is going to turn on Gargano, stay tuned…
5.) Chris Hero vs. Biff Busick: ****1/2
This is one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend. This rivalry kicked off when Hero went after Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, & Timothy Thatcher at the end of the 2014 Style Battle Tournament at Evolve 33. Hero defeated Gulak at Evolve 38, and now, he’s taking on Busick. This match was as awesome as you would have expected it to be. You really got the sense that these two just didn’t like each other, and it translated into a really intense encounter. Amazing stuff from both guys in this match. After a really hard-fought contest, Hero was able to score the victory over Busick. One of the best matches of the weekend by far!
6.) The Premiere Athlete Brand (Open The United Gate Champion Caleb Konley & Brian Cage with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. Ronin (Johnny Gargano & Rich Swann): **1/4
Brian Cage is stepping in for Anthony Nese for these shows. This is a non-title match, but Gargano & Swann could potentially earn a future title shot with a victory here. The match was going along fine until Rich Swann appeared to get hurt (I believe it was some kind of rib injury). Gargano then locked in the GargaNo Escape on Konley, who tapped out very quickly. It appeared as though Ronin had won the match, but the referee announced that the match was stopped due to injury, and that The Premiere Athlete Brand had won the match! This was a very odd ending. It would later be confirmed that Swann was ok, which was good news.
7.) "The Darewolf" PJ Black vs. Ricochet: ***3/4
This is a dream match of sorts, as one of the best high flyers to come out of the WWE in recent years, taking on “The Future of Flight”. I like the fact that these two are wearing really colorful tights here. This was a really solid Main Event. A much better effort from Black here, compared to the Main Event from the night before at Evolve 39 against Drew Galloway. This was also by far the best match for Black thus far in Evolve, and it should be no surprise that it was against another high-flyer like Ricochet. Entertaining stuff from these two. Also, AR Fox was on commentary for this match (he faces Black at Mercury Rising 2015), and it was interesting, to say the least. In the end, Ricochet would get the win with his 630 Senton.
After the match, both guys cuts promos, complementing each other as the show comes to a close.
Aside from the issues with the semi-main event (mainly having to do with Rich Swann's injury and how they did the finish), this was significantly better than Evolve 39. Chris Hero vs. Biff Busick was easily the best match on the show. You also had a great match in Timothy Thatcher vs. Tommy End, and a couple of other really good matches PJ Black vs. Ricochet and Drew Gulak vs. TJ Perkins. The only thing that really takes this show down a bit was the unfortunate injury to Rich Swann and the wonky finish of the Ronin/Premiere Athlete Brand tag team match. Other than that, this is a can't miss show.