Orlando, Florida 1/24/16
1.) Four-Way Freestyle – Anthony Nese (with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. “All Ego” Ethan Page vs. Fred Yehi vs. Jason Cade: ***1/4
So in a weird move, they decided not to do the Peter Kaasa/Fred Yehi match from the Style Battle Tournament. I was a little upset that they didn’t do that match, but maybe Kaasa had gotten hurt on that dive the previous night against Tracy Williams. Anyway, Fred Yehi is in this Four-Way Freestyle with Anthony Nese, Ethan Page (who is continuing his “Trial Series” to prove himself) and Jason Cade. I thought this was a fine opening match. All four guys got a chance to shine, and it was pretty entertaining from start to finish. The only gripe I had with this match concerned the finish. Ethan Page accidentally took out the referee, and when he went to check on the referee, Anthony Nese would take advantage and scored the win.
After the match, Caleb Konley came out and cut a promo where he congratulated Nese on his victory (in a half-hearted manner), before reminding everyone (again) that Timothy Thatcher was ducking his challenge. Konley asked for some real competition, and he got some, in the form of Tommaso Ciampa!
2.) Caleb Konley (with SoCal Val & Andrea) vs. “Sicilian Psychopath” Tommaso Ciampa: ***1/2
Ciampa had a really good match the night before at Evolve 54 against Ethan Page, and he would have another really good match here with Caleb Konley. While I think the match could have had one or two minutes shaved off (a similar complaint I had with some of the matches from Evolve 54), this was still a very enjoyable match. I’ve always enjoyed Tommaso Ciampa, while Caleb Konley, who has always been an underrated guy in Evolve, showed a lot here as well. It was a very solid match, and I really liked it. In the end, Konley would get a huge win over Ciampa here, further staking his claim to an Evolve Title shot.
3.) Sami Callihan vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: ***3/4
So these two were partners in the Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament (with Callihan filling in for the injured Evolve Champion Timothy Thatcher), but after two losses, the team broke down, and now we have this match. In an interesting note, these two actually have some history, as Callihan defeated Zack Sabre Jr. on an early Evolve event back in 2011 (Evolve 7, to be exact). I noticed that some were a little down on this match, but honestly, I really liked it. Again, it went a little too long for my liking (seemingly a running theme on this set of shows), but the match had a lot of very solid action in it. These two have shown throughout this weekend that they have some good chemistry, both as a tag team and in a singles match. Sami Callihan getting the win here was a surprise, but I guess they’re building towards an Evolve Title match involving Callihan, so in that regard, it makes sense.
4.) 2016 Style Battle Tournament – Finals – Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams: ****1/2
Both members of Catch Point come into this match with 2-0 records. We did get a quick pre-match promo from the leader of Catch Point, Drew Gulak, where he basically said, “may the best man win”. These two actually squared off at Evolve 52, in Orlando (right before Riddle joined Catch Point). That encounter was relatively solid, but this match completely blew that previous match out of the water. This was absolutely amazing!! It was easily the best match of Riddle’s career, and an outstanding performance from Tracy Williams. These two just beat the crap out of each other right from the opening bell, and we saw some awesome action throughout this match. This included Riddle hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver, and Williams hitting a nasty piledriver, which saw Riddle popping up in the air! That looked crazy. In the end, Riddle eventually got Williams to tap out to win the 2016 Style Battle Tournament. I know Riddle will get the attention here (deservedly so), but honestly, this was a star-making performance for both men.
After the match, Riddle cuts a promo saying that since he won the Style Battle Tournament, and since he is still undefeated, he wants a shot at Evolve Title against “Trashy Tim” on March 19th. This brings out Timothy Thatcher, and Riddle asks whether Thatcher will accept his challenge, or just be a “pussy”. Thatcher accepts, but then Caleb Konley comes out. He, once again, demands an Evolve Title shot, and slaps Thatcher in the face. Sami Callihan then appears out of nowhere and takes out Thatcher, Konley, and Andrea (who, I guess, came out with Konley). Callihan stares down with Riddle for a second before the rest of Catch Point attacks Callihan. Riddle continued to taunt Thatcher, which Gulak proclaimed that Catch Point owned all of them. A very interesting segment here. They set up a number of title matches for Timothy Thatcher, while also (once again) establishing Catch Point as this new, big threat.
5.) Second Chance Tag Team Tournament – Four-Way Elimination Match – The Bravado Brothers vs. Catch Point (Drew Gulak & TJ Perkins) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Team Tremendous: ***3/4
This is the last match in the #1 Contender’s Tournament, which is basically a loser’s bracket. Interestingly enough, despite their dominance in the aforementioned segment, Catch Point were actually the first team eliminated. The Bravado Brothers & Roppongi Vice worked together to beat up Team Tremendous, but they would eventually turn on each other, and this led to Roppongi Vice eliminating The Bravado Brothers. It came down to Roppongi Vice vs. Team Tremendous (a rematch from Evolve 53), and in the end, Team Tremendous actually managed to avenge their loss from that initial encounter to score the victory and become the #1 Contenders to the Evolve Tag Team Titles. That was actually a really nice story they told here, with Roppongi Vice cheating to win at Evolve 53, but Team Tremendous got the last laugh in the end. I thought this match was a ton of fun. Of course, it was a little crazy to start out, with four teams in the match, but as a whole, I thought it was pretty enjoyable from start to finish. All four teams had a chance to shine, and I really like the fact that we got to see a different team from the usual bunch get a big win.
6.) Evolve Tag Team Title Tournament – Finals – Drew Galloway & Johnny Gargano vs. Heroes Eventually Die: ****
The fact that this was the second tag team tournament in a few month span that had two “makeshift” teams in the Finals (The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in NXT did the same thing) irked me a little bit, but I think I’m more forgiving in this case. Chris Hero & Tommy End have proved that they’re awesome as a tag team (and they would go on to team several more times, in a number of different promotions, throughout 2016), and I think they’ve done a solid job with this Galloway/Gargano team. As far as this match goes, it wasn’t the best the match of the tournament, and it wasn’t even the best match on this show. However, this was still a great match. The crowd brawling in the beginning hurt the match a little bit, but honestly, I’m not as bothered by a little crowd brawling like other people are. Is it always necessary? No, but I’m not one to get angry if it does happen. The action in the ring was pretty great. Hero & End are a fantastic team, while Galloway & Gargano get better as a unit with each match. There was a weird spot where Hero & End got into a disagreement and got out their anger through hitting each other, before going back to beating up Galloway & Gargano, but other than that, the in-ring stuff was really, really good here. Eventually, Galloway & Gargano would score the victory to become the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions!
The two teams show respect towards each other after the match. Gargano cut a promo about how he made history this weekend, first by working NXT & Evolve on the same night, and then by becoming the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions. They put each other over, and say they’re proud to be the first champions. The two then celebrate with the fans to close the show.
When looking back on this entire weekend for Evolve, I would say that this ended up being the best show of the three. It had the second best match of the weekend in the form of Matt Riddle vs. Tracy Williams in the 2016 Style Battle Tournament Finals (which was a pretty awesome match!), and as a whole, it was a lot more consistent than Evolve 54, as for me, only one match was under ***1/2. This was a great show from start to finish. Not only did it have great matches, which included the first-ever Evolve Tag Team Champions being crowned, but we had a number of Evolve Title defenses for Timothy Thatcher set up. As a whole, the entire weekend for Evolve really climaxed with this great show. In general, it was just a fantastic weekend for Evolve, and all three shows are worth checking out.