SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
SEAN RADICAN’S “EVOLVE 67” REPORT
AUGUST 20, 2016
AIRED LIVE ON WWNLIVE.COM
Lenny Leonard opened the show and previewed the big matches on the card. He then introduced Joey Styles, who he said would join him to do commentary on the Thatcher-Gulak match for the EVOLVE Championship. Styles came out to a huge pop. Styles thanked Leonard for agreeing to do color so he could do play by play. Styles also put Leonard over as a great commentator.
(1) Ethan Page vs. Kobe Durst. Page won a short squash with a package piledriver.
WINNER: Ethan Page
Star rating: (*) – Another win for Page as he builds towards Gargano forgiving him for turning at him during WM weekend 2015 at Johnny Gargano’s last set of EVOLVE shows in September. Nice to see Durst, who is also from Canada, get some exposure on this stage.
Page cut a passionate promo after the match talking about how Gargano has to forgive him before he leaves WWN.
(2) Peter Kaasa vs. Anthony Nese. They had a rough exchange early where Kaasa went for an arm drag after a slick sequence, but he lost his grip on Nese and Nese bumped anyway. Kaasa still needs some seasoning, as his matches just have this flow to them that is hard to get into. The finishing stretch saw Nese miss a 450. Kaasa then went for a 630 and missed. Nese went back up and went for a 450 for a second time for the win. Nese is definitely way more popular now than he was a few months ago since they dropped the tired P.A.B. act.
WINNER: Anthony Nese.
Star rating: (**1/2)
(3) Tommy End vs. Matthew Riddle. They did some MMA-style exchanges during the early going. Riddle caught End with a short right and he went down to the mat. Riddle went right on the attack with several knees. They went back and forth and Riddle caught End with an open hand slap to the ear and End went down again. The ref checked on End and let him continue. Riddle put the boots to End in the corner. End fired back with a kick, but Riddle hit several knees to his ribs. Riddle hit a side Salto suplex and rolled through for another for a 2 count. Riddle grabbed both of End’s hands and stomped on his chest before grabbing a triangle. End managed to get his foot on the ropes to break the hold. WOW!
End fired back a short time later with 2 big slaps to the face and a sliding knee strike to the head to ground Riddle. They went back and forth and Riddle surprised End with a fisherman buster and both men were down on the mat. End hit a series of knees capped by a jumping knee strike a short time later and Riddle went down to the mat. End hit a double stomp on Riddle’s elbow and began working it over. End worked a sick armbar from a mounted positon on Riddle, but he managed to get to the ropes. The pace picked up as both men exchanged blows off the ropes. End finally hit a jumping knee strike. He went up top and hit a double stomp and a spinning kick to Riddle’s head, but he kicked out at the last second!
End hit several kicks to Riddle’s chest, but Riddle fired up and told him to bring it. He blocked a kick and they went back and forth. Riddle caught End running at him and hit a spinning tombstone for a near fall. They went back and forth on the mat and End countered Riddle and got a leg submission, but Riddle punched free. Riddle then grabbed the bro-mission and End had to tap. What a match!
End got a big ovation after Riddle left the ring. End symbolically left a piece of his wrist tape in the ring before leaving.
WINNER: Matt Riddle.
Star rating: (****1/4) – This was a fantastic display of MMA/submission hybrid wrestling. These two set the crowd on fire with this performance. Riddle dominated early and then End mounted a comeback with his signature strikes. They built up to a fantastic finishing stretch to conclude the match. This was great.
(4) Cedric Alexander vs. Zack Sabre Jr. in a WWE CWC Spotlight match. This is the final WWE CWC Spotlight match of the summer. The fans were pumped and chanted for both men. Neither man could get the upper hand during the early going until Alexander hit a flurry of offense capped by a dropkick. Alexander went for a springboard, but Sabre cut him off and he got tied up in the ropes before Sabre nailed him with a big kick. Sabre then began working over his leg. Sabre then used his feet to twist Alexander’s neck around. He then went right after Alexander’s neck on the mat. The fans booed after Sabre swatted away a dropkick and stomped on Alexander’s head. The fans then started a big chant for Alexander.
The fans then began chanting back and forth for both men, although the Alexander chants were a little louder. Sabre got a nasty double arm submission, but Alexander eventually managed to kick himself free. Sabre then trapped Alexander in the ropes and went to work on his arm, but the ref made him let it go. Alexander hit a huge running kick on the apron. He followed up with a big dive through the ropes. The fans fired up and chanted for both men as Alexander worked over Sabre. Sabre fired back with a DDT and floated through into a nasty dragon sleeper variation. Sabre decided to switch the hold into a rollup for a 2 count.
Sabre jawed with the fans and Alexander tagged him with a pair of big uppercuts. He hit a third and Sabre went down to the mat. Sabre ended up catching Alexander with a triangle as he came off the ropes. Sabre worked over Alexander’s hand, but he managed to lift Sabre up and hit a powerbomb! Sabre charged at Alexander and ran into a back slide for a 2 count. Alexander then hit a Michinoku driver for another 2 count and the fans fired up. Alexander went for a springboard, but Sabre hit a dropkick and then a soccer kick for a 2 count!
The fans fired up as both men were slow to get up. They began trading bombs in the middle of the ring. The fans fired up as they went back and forth. Sabre went for a choke from the back, but Alexander flipped him around and hit a brainbuster for a near fall! Sabre ducked a kick and grabbed a mounted double arm submission. He then began kicking Alexander in the head and the ref called for the bell!
After the match, the fans booed Sabre. Sabre went back to Alexander after the match and shook his hand. The fans started a big chant for Alexander. Sabre asked the fans to stay quiet for a minute. It was hard to hear what Sabre said after the match, but it appeared he said he wants the EVOLVE Championship no matter who is holding it.
WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr.
Star rating: (****) – This was so much fun to watch. Alexander is working at an extremely high level right now and he was great in this match. Sabre did some great technical stuff, but Alexander’s counters were tremendous, especially the brainbuster out of the rear-naked choke. What a match!
We are on to the triple main event next.
(5) Chris Hero vs. Cody Rhodes. Hero came out wearing a throwback Anthony Mason Knicks jersey. It was hard to tell what kind of reaction Rhodes got because his music was incredibly loud. His music then went low and Rhodes got a good reaction, but not as big as Hero’s pop. The fans chanted for both men before the match started. Rhodes wanted a handshake, but Hero slapped him across the fans. Rhodes hit a dropkick and put the boots to Hero. Rhodes offered to shake hands again, but then went to the floor and shook hands with the fans. Hero offered a handshake finally, but he ended up driving Rhodes into the corner. Rhodes fired back with some chops and held a big delayed vertical suplex before dropping Hero down to the mat. They went at it on the floor and a guardrail got involved, but Rhodes handed it to a fan only for Hero to nail him with a big elbow shot.They brawled over to the concession stand and the fans fired up. They continued to go back and forth all over the venue. They ended up back inside the ring finally and went back and forth. Hero went up and over the apron and sold his knee. He came into the weekend with a knee injury. Hero got back into the ring and continued to favor his leg. The ref went to call for the bell and Hero popped up and wiped out Rhodes with a big running kick to the head. Hero told Rhodes “We don’t want you here” before tossing him back to the outside. Hero hit a bicycle kick on the floor and turned his back to Rhodes, who wiped him out from behind. Hero hit a big elbow and then a rolling elbow for a 2 count.
They brawled over to the concession stand and the fans fired up. They continued to go back and forth all over the venue. They ended up back inside the ring finally and went back and forth. Hero went up and over the apron and sold his knee. He came into the weekend with a knee injury. Hero got back into the ring and continued to favor his leg. The ref went to call for the bell and Hero popped up and wiped out Rhodes with a big running kick to the head. Hero told Rhodes “We don’t want you here” before tossing him back to the outside. Hero hit a bicycle kick on the floor and turned his back to Rhodes, who wiped him out from behind. Hero hit a big elbow and then a rolling elbow for a 2 count.
Hero went into the crowd and got a big Dusty Rhodes cardboard head. Rhodes pummeled Hero, but Hero fired back and nailed him with the Dusty head. The fans booed as Hero posed with the head on the turnbuckles. Rhodes took the Dusty head away from Hero and gave it a kiss. He then hit a superplex on Hero. Hero sold his knee again after taking the move. Hero asked for a TO, but Rhodes kicked at his knee and went on the attack. The fans chanted for both men with Rhodes in control. Rhodes went for a moonsault, but Hero caught him with a cutter. He then hit a big elbow for another 2 count.Rhodes ducked an elbow and hit a side slam for a 2 count. Rhodes fired up on Hero, but his offense just doesn’t look snug. Hey went back and forth and Rhodes hit a springboard kick. He was slow to make the cover and Hero kicked out at 2. Rhodes went for the cross Rhodes, but Hero got out of it and hit a short piledriver for a near fall. Hero then hit a ripcord elbow for a 2 count. Hero went for the cross Rhodes, but Cody countered it. They went back and forth and Rhodes hit the cross Rhodes for a near fall. Hero kicked Rhodes into the ropes. Galloway ran down to the ring and nailed Rhodes with a cow bell as Hero distracted the ref. Rhodes hit a big rolling elbow in the corner and then another. Hero hit a third rolling elbow and the fans booed. Hero set Rhodes up and hit the death blow for the win.
Rhodes ducked an elbow and hit a side slam for a 2 count. Rhodes fired up on Hero, but his offense just doesn’t look snug. Hey went back and forth and Rhodes hit a springboard kick. He was slow to make the cover and Hero kicked out at 2. Rhodes went for the cross Rhodes, but Hero got out of it and hit a short piledriver for a near fall. Hero then hit a ripcord elbow for a 2 count. Hero went for the cross Rhodes, but Cody countered it.
They went back and forth and Rhodes hit the cross Rhodes for a near fall. Hero kicked Rhodes into the ropes. Galloway ran down to the ring and nailed Rhodes with a cow bell as Hero distracted the ref. Rhodes hit a big rolling elbow in the corner and then another. Hero hit a third rolling elbow and the fans booed. Hero set Rhodes up and hit the death blow for the win.
WINNER: Chris Hero
Star rating: (***1/4) – The action was fine. Rhodes has a lot of work to do to improve his striking if he’s going to get over doing this style long-term. The fans booed the finish, but it works for long-term angles going forward.
Galloway got into the ring after the match. Hero got on the mic and said that was a lesson. Hero said that was a lesson from here on out. Unless it’s one of the greatest of all-time, don’t put my name on “no silly ass list.” Galloway got on the mic and said he thought Rhodes was smarter. He said he thought they were brothers in arms. He asked Rhodes if he thought he could be a success on his own on the Indies. He told Rhodes he’s either with them or against them. Drew Gulak then charged the ring and sent Galloway packing.
Gulak then called for Thatcher to come out. Thatcher came out to boos. He went head-to-head with Gulak once he got into the ring. Joey Styles joined Lenny Leonard on commentary for the Thatcher vs. Gulak match.
(6) EVOLVE champion Timothy Thatcher vs. Drew Gulak. Thatcher has never beat Gulak in WWN. He is 0-4 in singles matches against him. They went back and forth on the mat and came to a stalemate. They went back and forth on the mat again. Thatcher went after Gulak’s arm, but Gulak got on top of him for a 2 count and immediately put a crossface on Thatcher when he kicked out. Thatcher was close to the ropes and managed to get to them quickly. They went back and forth on the mat and came to yet another stalemate after a long exchange. They got a mild applause from the crowd before going at it again. Thatcher hit a hammerlock suplex. He then continued to go after Gulak’s arm, but he got to the ropes.
Gulak fired back with a couple of dropkicks. Thatcher went to the floor and Gulak hit a dive through the ropes. Thatcher got the upper hand on the floor and applied an arm bar around the ropes, but the ref forced him to let it go. Thatcher got in the ref’s face before going back after Gulak on the floor. Thatcher got another armbar around the ropes, but he let it go right before the ref reached a 5 count. Thatcher glared at the ref again as Gulak was down on the outside. They went at it on the floor. Gulak tried to hit some chops, but Thatcher wiped him out with a pair of big uppercuts. He then snapped Gulak’s arm on the ringpost. Thatcher hit some knees and elbows in the corner and the fans booed. Gulak fired back with several shots, but Thatcher forced him down shoulder first into the match.
Thatcher went after Gulak’s arm on the mat. The fans chanted for Gulak. Gulak suddenly surprised Thatcher with a suplex a short time later and both men were down. They went for clotheslines at the same time. Gulak hit a snap Saito suplex, but he could only get a near fall. The fans tried to come to life with Gulak in control. Gulak countered an armbar attempt and Gulak went for a piledriver, but appeared to throw Thatcher to the side as they went down. The announcers mentioned how hot it was in the building.
They went at it near the apron and Thatcher went after Gulak’s arm again. He then hit a super gut-wrench superplex. He made the cover, but only got 2. They were trading blows and Gulak dropped Thatcher. Gulak hit several strikes from the mount and applied the Gu-Lock, but Thatcher managed to get to the ropes and the fans booed. Gulak and Thatcher went face-to-face and began trading slaps to the face. Gulak hit a sick backfist. Thatcher fired back with a headbutt. Gulak went after him and Thatcher hit another headbutt, but Gulak kicked out at 1! Thatcher hit another big headbutt, but Gulak stayed on his feet. Gulak hit a spinning backfist, but Thatcher hit another headbutt for the win. The fans booed after the match was over.
Thatcher got up and the fans booed him. Gulak got on the mic and said he promised if he made it to the end of this, he would hand him the title. Gulak then offered him the title, but Thatcher went for the mic instead. The fans booed. Thatcher said he said he would hurt whoever touched the title. Thatcher said he’s also a man of his word. Thatcher then glared at the hard camera as he choked out Gulak.
WINNER: Timothy Thatcher to retain the EVOLVE Championship
Star rating: (**3/4) – I was really looking forward to this, but the crowd seemed to turn on the match as it went on. It seems like for whatever reason, Thatcher’s work isn’t connecting at the level it was on a consistent basis last year, as the fans haven’t been invested in his title reign for the most part for several months now. Thatcher’s post-match antics seemed to bring about a needed heel turn to take his character in a new direction.
Tracy Williams came down to the ring and Thatcher let go of the choke. DUSTIN then chop blocked Williams from behind. Thatcher didn’t do anything to help Williams out as EC3 and DUSTIN put a beating on him. Galloway called out Joey Styles once he got into the ring. Galloway said they needed a centerpiece. He said they needed an inspiration. EC3 said they need a mouthpiece. TJP and Yehi then ran down to the ring. Galloway and company cleared the ring. Galloway got back on the mic and asked Styles to join them. Styles looked on with a confused look. Styles said he wants to think about. They showed Williams being taken to the back.
Fred Yehi got on the mic and said DUSTIN, Galloway, and EC3 were in big trouble. He said it would be the two against their three in a No DQ match.
(7) EVOLVE Tag Team champions (DUSTIN & Drew Galloway) & ECIII vs. Catch Point (Fred Yehi & T.J. Perkins w/Stokely Hathaway) & Ethan Page in a No DQ Tag Team Title match. The match was supposed to also include Tracy Williams. The EVOLVE Tag Team Championship is still on the line. If Yehi or Perkins win, they can form pairings as they please to defend the titles.
Both teams brawled on the outside. Galloway eventually hit a big powerbomb on Perkins inside the ring, but he only got a 2 count. Ethan Page ran down to the ring to even the odds. He nailed DUSTIN with a big running kick to knock him off the apron to the floor. Page then wiped out Galloway and EC3 with a dive through the ropes. Both teams went back and forth on the floor with Page helping out Catch Point. Page hit the RKEgo on Galloway, but EC3 made the save. I guess Page is legally in the match now. Carter hit an angle slam on Yehi. He then caught TJP coming off the top and Galloway wiped him out with a running boot. The crowd seemed flat here compared to earlier in the show. They did a big sequence where everyone hit moves and the crowd finally fired up as everyone recovered.
Yehi got the Koji clutch on EC3, but Galloway made the save with a chair. Page went for the RKEgo on Galloway, but Galloway tossed him through a chair. Galloway hit a future shock DDT on Page, but Perkins made the save. The exchanges weren’t crisp at times, as it was clear the guys in the ring were extremely sweaty due to the heat in the venue. DUSTIN ended up wiping out a pile of men with a big flip dive to the floor.
Perkins countered the awful waffle and hit an inside out dropkick on DUSTIN. Galloway nailed Perkins with the EVOLVE Championship. DUSTIN then hit the awful waffle and it looked like TJP didn’t kick out, but the ref said he did. DUSTIN then hit a piledriver on the belt for the win.
WINNERS: Drew Galloway & DUSTIN & EC3 to retain the EVOLVE Tag Team Championship
Star rating: (**) – This main event was flat. The fans didn’t seem to care when Page ran out to even the odds. It also seems like Catch Point working tweeners a lot of the time didn’t help either. There were some exchanges that weren’t crisp, but this match seemed like a collection of spots and weapons with very little heat.
After the match, Rhodes ran down to the ring and wiped out Galloway, EC3, and DUSTIN. He wanted to hit a chair shot on Galloway, but he ran to the back. Galloway yelled from the entranceway and called Rhodes a no good Judas. Rhodes invited him to come down to the ring. Galloway teased going to the ring and the fans chanted for Rhodes, but he backed off.
Galloway told Rhodes he’s going to fail. Styles got into the ring and said he was trying to figure out why they were all so angry. He said Galloway should be happy to be in EVOLVE where fans actually have to pay for ticket. That got a “F TNA” chant started. Styles told Carter his aunt is a genius. He said Billy would have made a better investment buying an actual smashed pumpkin. Styles said they were right that he has a good mind for the business. Styles said now he wants to be a matchmaker. He said on Sept. 11, they’re supposed to do Rhodes vs. Gargano. Styles proposed Drew Galloway & Chris Hero vs. Cody Rhodes & Johnny Gargano. The fans chanted for Gargano. Galloway thanked Styles for the match and said they’d kill them.
Rhodes asked Styles to get back into the ring after he left. He asked the fans to give Styles a round of applause. The fans applauded. Rhodes said this was night 2 of his tour. He said no matter what he does after this, he was born a wrestler and he will die a wrestler. Rhodes said he was born a wrestling fan just like the fans in attendance. He thanked the fans for being there.
Overall Thoughts: (7.5) – This was a step down from the previous night of action. There were two fantastic matches on this card. Riddle vs. End was an amazing MMA hybrid style match. Sabre vs. Alexander was a really nice clash of technical wrestling vs. high-flying that built into an excellent match.
It was interesting to see the big Thatcher vs. Gulak match get placed in the semi-main event. Thatcher has been moved down the card in recent months and his storyline against Catch Point and his work in the ring just hasn’t gotten over with fans for the last several months. He had some good matches on his road to redemption against Catch Point, but the real peak came the night before against the massively popular Matthew Riddle, which was the first Thatcher match in quite some time that felt like a big-time title defense.
Rhodes had a good back and forth match against Hero, who appeared to tweak his knee during the match. The action was solid, but Rhodes is going to need to make his offense look more sung if he’s going to survive going against the best on the Indies. This match was on the lower end of Hero matches I’ve seen this year, although the finish was designed to forward the ongoing storyline with Galloway, EC3, and DUSTIN.
The Gulak-Thatcher blow off to Thatcher paying off his debt to Catch Point didn’t really get over with the crowd. The action was fine, but it seems like Thatcher needs to a change to his character going forward. On the other hand, Perkins, Williams, and Gulak of Catch Point all come off like heels, so when Thatcher wrestled Riddle, who is popular despite his Catch Point affiliation, there was a lot of heat from the fans.
The main event fell flat with the crowd. This felt too much like the old EVOLVE with a multi-man match and a strange stipulation. I’m just never a fan of tag titles being on the line in a six-man. Page coming down to the aid of Catch Point to even the odds after Williams had to be helped to the back didn’t get much of a reaction and this fell flat.
After the match, the aspects of the Galloway stable that I don’t like with the shoot promos and insider comments were on display, as Styles incited F TNA chants while running Galloway down on Styles. The good news is that Styles got around to announcing a match fans are going to want to see on Sept. 11 with Gargano & Rhodes teaming together to take on Galloway & Hero.
Overall, the last two matches on this show were a letdown, but EVOLVE managed to spin the negatives of the main event into a positive by announcing Rhodes & Gargano vs. Galloway & Hero, which is a big match that fans will want to see on Sept. 11. EVOLVE has been one of my favorite promotions to follow the last couple of years. Some work needs to be done with Thatcher and Catch Point going forward, but this card had a big upside with the Riddle-End and Alexander-Sabre matches, which are worth checking out.