Ybor City, Florida 11/6/15
Before the action gets underway, we get an in-ring segment featuring commentators Lenny Leonard & Rob Naylor hyping up the show. They then introduce Trevin Adams (who I believe is the WWNLive Ambassador, or something like that). He announced that there will a three-night tournament on January 22nd, 23rd, & 24th to crown the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. He also announced that Roppongi Vice are the first entrants into the tournament.
1.) “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Peter Kaasa: ***1/2
We properly kicks things off with Ethan Page, who’s coming off a devastating loss to Johnny Gargano in an I Quit Match at Evolve 49, and an upset loss to Matt Cage at Evolve 50. Page had cut a promo after that weekend saying those losses, as well as what Sami Zayn said to him, helped him see the error of his ways, and he wants to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of everyone (from the fans, to the wrestlers, to Evolve officials) with a fresh start. He requested to be in the opening matches on both shows this weekend, and says he’s going to work his way to the top with no shortcuts. Tonight, he’s taking on Peter Kaasa, a muscular high-flyer who had impressive showing in his debut on the previous Evolve weekend.
This was a really solid opener. It started off a tad slow, but it really picked up by the end. Page was not as self-confident as he usually was, and Kaasa certainly took advantage of that, flying all over the place. Despite his own personal issues, Page fought back, and we had some entertaining action here. Eventually, Kaasa was able to hit a really impressive 630 Senton to score the victory over “All Ego”.
After the match, Page shook hands with Kaasa.
2.) Drew Gulak (with Tracy Williams) vs. Matt Riddle: ***1/2
Matt Riddle went undefeated in his debut with Evolve during the recent shows in New York. This time, however, he’s got a tough task ahead of him as he faces off against Catch Point. While he’s facing Tracy Williams at Evolve 52, he’s facing off with Drew Gulak here on Evolve 51. This was much longer than Riddle’s two debut matches (it went around 12 Minutes), and it ended up being better than expected. Gulak was very good in this match, as he showed a lot of fire & intensity going against the former UFC fighter (even busting out some dives to the outside, which is a rare thing to see from Gulak in Evolve). While I’m sure Gulak played a big factor in this match being good, Riddle played his part well. His heel character is so good, as he’s just an arrogant prick (and his entrance music reflects that), and he showed that he could go the distance in a longer match with someone like Gulak. A really good match that sees Riddle get the submission with an armbar of Gulak.
After the match, Gulak cut a promo, complementing Riddle on the win, and thanked him for the match. Riddle then basically blew Gulak off, saying that he was just a stepping stone to better things. Tracy Williams then takes out Riddle with a cheap shot (setting up their match at Evolve 52 the next night), and Gulak reminds Riddle that anything can happen in wrestling.
3.) Lio Rush vs. Fred Yehi: ***1/4
The next match features two standouts who are set to make a splash heading into 2016. I’ve heard more & more about Lio Rush as someone who can breakout in 2016, and while I haven’t heard as much about Yehi, I’ve definitely seen buzz surrounding him as well. These two had a pretty good match. A fine showcase for both competitors. Lio Rush would get the win with a big Frosh Splash, but Yehi looked impressive in defeat. I went into this really having no idea who either guy was, and after the match, I was left wanting to see more of their work.
4.) Tracy Williams vs. Martin Stone: ***
Stone made a few appearances for Evolve earlier in the year, and has also appeared in NXT this year as well. Unfortunately for Stone, he’s been used as an enhancement talent by both promotions. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he’s way more competitive in a place like Evolve, as he had a solid match here with Tracy Williams. Stone got the chance to shine, but it was Tracy Williams would pick up the victory, building some momentum before his match with Matt Riddle at Evolve 52.
5.) Anthony Nese (with Andrea) vs. TJ Perkins: ***3/4
SoCal Val won’t be on this show, as she cut a video promo saying she didn’t want to be in the same building as Drew Galloway, who was making his return on this show from suspension, following the events that took place at Evolve 46 (where SoCal Val was nearly mauled by an irate Galloway). She would be back for Evolve 52, but for now, it’s just Andrea in the corner of Anthony Nese. He’s taking on TJ Perkins, who recently joined up with Catch Point at Evolve 50. I thought this was a really good match, bordering on great. Perkins continues to showcase his amazing wrestling ability, and I thought he worked very well with Nese here. It was pretty even for the most part, but eventually, Perkins gets Nese to tap out for the win.
After the match, Evolve World Champion Timothy Thatcher came out and attacked Perkins, getting a measure of revenge after what happened at Evolve 50. Drew Gulak & Tracy Williams come out to help Perkins to the back.
6.) Drew Galloway vs. Caleb Konley: ****1/4
So this is the first time we’ve seen Drew Galloway in Evolve for a few months. His last appearance was Evolve 46 in July, where he had an incident where he took out the entire Premiere Athlete Brand (including Andrea), took out a referee, and scared the crap out of SoCal Val. He’s taking on Caleb Konley, who been on a bit of a winning streak in singles competition over the last few months. As far as this match is concerned, it was great! While the previous match was more focused on wrestling, this one was an all-out brawl, as they fought all over the building. Galloway excels in this environment, but Konley more than kept up with him, playing a very good heel in the process. Just great back & forth action from both guys here. Eventually, Galloway puts away Konley with his Future Shock DDT to score the win in this fantastic match!
7.) Evolve World Title – Timothy Thatcher vs. Johnny Gargano: ****3/4
Gargano is coming off his feud-ending victory over Ethan Page in an I Quit Match at Evolve 49. The next night, at Evolve 50, Sami Zayn said that Gargano was the face of WWNLive. He was then confronted by Timothy Thatcher, the current Evolve World Champion, who took offense to what Zayn had said, which helped set up this match.
Before this match could begin, Gargano is interrupted by Ethan Page, who asks for forgiveness, after all the horrible things he’s done. Gargano responds by telling him to get out of his ring, which Page does.
As far as this Main Event goes, there’s a lot that can be said. The story is very important. On one side, you have Johnny Gargano, the guy who became the face of Dragon Gate USA and was “the guy” for a number of years, during the time when high-flyers like Ricochet, AR Fox, & Rich Swann were the “it” thing. He’s facing off with Timothy Thatcher, who’s become the face off this new grappling based style that Evolve has now based itself around, and has subsequently, put focus on other guys of that style, like Biff Busick, Drew Gulak, Tracy Williams, TJ Perkins, and Zack Sabre Jr. In that sense, this was a big match for the WWNLive brand as a whole, as the guy who had been “the face” of the promotion took on the guy who was arguably the “new face”.
With regards to the actual wrestling, it was incredible from start to finish. Gargano, who’s arguably been the “ace” of WWNLive since the rise of Ronin, went right after Thatcher and tried his best to wrestle the Evolve World Champion at his own game. He showed that he could hang with Thatcher, and it produced and fantastic bout that was full of drama and emotion. Gargano came close to beating Thatcher on a number of occasions, but in the end, Thatcher got the victory and retained his Evolve Title. This was easily one of the best matches, if not the best match, from Evolve in 2015. Not only was the action great, but it was a big “passing of the torch” moment, as Thatcher officially became the new face of WWNLive.
After the match, Drew Galloway comes out, and talks about Timothy Thatcher as well as all of the positive things going on with Evolve (including being mentioned by Triple H). He then asks Thatcher to make their match at Evolve 52 the next night for the Evolve World Title. Trevin Adams comes in and says the match is a go if Thatcher agrees to it, which he does!
This was easily one of the best outings from Evolve in 2015. From start to finish, this was an amazing. The Main Event was such a great experience when it came to both the in-ring action, and all of the backstory that surrounded it. Thatcher vs. Gargano is a match well worth seeking out. Don’t forget about the undercard, because there was a lot of great stuff throughout this show, and some solid variety as well, which is always good in wrestling. When not a single matches goes below ***, you know you have a really good show on your hands, and Evolve truly delivered on this night.