Orlando, Florida 11/7/15
1.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Lio Rush: ***1/2
As I mentioned in my review of Evolve 51, Ethan Page is looking to redeem himself after all the horrible things he did throughout 2015. Once again, he’s in the opening match (per his request), and here, he’s taking on Lio Rush. I thought this was a really good opener. Of course, the wrestling was very solid from bell-to-bell, but we also saw interesting character work with Ethan Page. While he started the match in a calm mood, Rush frustrated him to the point where his heel tendencies began to show themselves once again. Very good stuff here. In the end, Page scored the victory with the Spinning Dwayne.
After the match, Page shakes hands with Rush and puts over his effort in defeat. He asks Johnny Gargano to come out. When he does, Page apologizes for what he did to Gargano throughout 2015, and wants to make amends. He offers to be Gargano’s partner in the upcoming Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament, but Gargano turns him down almost immediately, calling him a snake. A sad Ethan Page made his was to the back as Gargano calls out Drew Galloway, saying that they should team in the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament. Galloway was intrigued, and accepts his offer, since he has respect for Gargano (especially after their match at Mercury Rising 2015).
2.) Anthony Nese (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2
Peter Kaasa has really made a name for himself in short order since his debut with Evolve. After coming off a win over Ethan Page the night before at Evolve 51, he’s taking on Anthony Nese here at Evolve 52. I was actually pretty excited for this one, since both fit the bill of “muscular high-flyers”. This was another really good match. Kaasa continues to impress with his size and freakish high-flying ability. Nese looked really good here as well. Eventually, a distraction from SoCal Val led to Nese taking advantage and picking up the win. I could have done without the interference that led to the finish, but this was still very good.
3.) Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams (with Drew Gulak): ***1/4
At Evolve 51, Riddle defeated the teacher, but tonight, he takes on the protégé. While this match wasn’t quite as good as the Riddle vs. Gulak match, it was still pretty good. It was also a shorter match (around six or seven minutes), but they were able to pack in a fair amount of stuff in that time frame. Riddle continues to look impressive, while Williams took the fight to Riddle and held his own. In the end, however, it wouldn’t be enough, as Williams would tap out to an armbar from Riddle.
4.) Caleb Konley (with The Premiere Athlete Brand) vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4
Konley comes into this match looking to rebound after a big loss to Drew Galloway the night before at Evolve 51. Meanwhile, Perkins actually defeated Nese on that same show, and he’s looking to sweep the P.A.B. here. I thought this was a really good match. While this technically was a matchup of heels (since Perkins recently joined Catch Point), these two put on a really entertaining contest. Perkins is so much fun to watch in the ring, and Konley continues to impress as a singles competitor. After some really good back & forth action, Konley is able to pick up the win over Perkins. The best match on the show up to this point.
I believe it was announced after this match that The Premiere Athlete Brand would be entering the Evolve Tag Team Tournament, meaning that we now have three confirmed teams for the tournament in January.
5.) Drew Gulak (with Tracy Williams) vs. Johnny Gargano: ****1/2
These two had a really good opening match back at Evolve 35 in the Fall of 2014. They are both coming off of losses at Evolve 51 (Gulak lost to Matt Riddle, while Gargano came up short against Timothy Thatcher in an Evolve World Title Match) and are looking to rebound. I certainly thought they would at least match their previous encounter, but they exceeded my expectations! This match was incredible! Gargano proved once again that is more than capable of hanging with the grapples in this new era of Evolve. Gulak looked great here as well, and this was easily his best outing of 2015. Just great back & forth action from start to finish. Gargano was, once again, so close to victory, but it slipped through his fingers, as Gulak locked in a chokehold, causing Gargano to pass out. Fantastic Match!
6.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Galloway: ****1/4
Originally, this was going to be a non-title match, but both men agreed to the title being on the line here. This is technically Galloway’s rematch for the Evolve World Title that he held for nearly a year. While this wasn’t quite as good as the match that preceded it, this was still an awesome match! These two took the fight to each other right at the opening bell, and they never once let up. Galloway just beat the crap out of Thatcher, but the Evolve World Champion never gave up. In the end, Galloway went for a move off the top rope (a rare thing to see from Galloway), but Thatcher caught Galloway with a headbutt right under the chin, and that was enough to keep Galloway down for the three count. I really how we Thatcher once again won a title match out of nowhere, but instead, he won with a nasty headbutt instead of his usual armbar. These two put on a great Main Event, and it’s crazy to think that this was only the third best match of the weekend.
After the match, Thatcher extended his hand to Galloway, but Galloway, who had his back turned to Galloway, rolled out of the ring and went to the back. They played it up (both here & later on) that Galloway may not have seen Thatcher extending his hand, since he was facing the other way, but it does seem like a slight hint at a Galloway heel turn down the road, but we’ll see.
Then, Catch Point comes out, and surrounds the ring. It looks like all three of them are going to attack Thatcher, but Matt Riddle comes out for the save! Drew Gulak challenges them to a tag team match, and it looks like we’re getting Thatcher & Riddle taking on Gulak & Perkins. The match goes for about a minute or two, but then Riddle shows his true colors, and turns on Thatcher. Riddle locked in an armbar and Gulak yelled at Thatcher to give up. Thatcher is eventually forced to tap, and Gulak says that Evolve belongs to Catch Point. He adds that his days as Evolve World Champion are numbered (reminding Thatcher once again that he’s never beaten him), while Riddle also promises to take the title from him. While I could have done without the quasi-match, it was good in the sense that it set up FOUR future matches for Thatcher, which is definitely a positive heading into 2016.
Evolve closes out 2015 on a real high note with another amazing show! It was going to be a challenge matching the incredible show that was Evolve 51, but the fact that they produced a show that was just a great the very next night is simply astounding. From top-to-bottom, this show was just excellent from start to finish. While it didn’t have a Match of the Year Contender like Evolve 51, you still had two incredible Main Events, and a very solid undercard. They finished 2015 in the best way possible, putting a cap on arguably the best year in the history of Evolve.