Reviews from Across the Pond: Evolve 18
So, Evolve! I quite like it. It isn’t the best indy promotion in the world or anything but it is probably the superior Sapolsky promotion and has bested ROH this year for my money quite considerably. I am bringing you slightly delayed coverage of their latest iPPV effort because as I am writing this tis the season to be jolly and for me that means watching wrestling and drinking heavily and desperately pursuing girl I have a crush on. Doing this fulfils one third of that criteria. Anyway, having done my little rant and given thanks to indy wrestling guru and all around super guy TJ Hawke for his assistance for this, I think it is time to get to the show!
We are live from Voorhees, NJ. Crowd looks sparse but I’m not a great judge of these things. Arda Ocal and Colt Cabana are your hosts.
MATCH 1- FOUR WAY FREESTYLE QUALIFIER- TONY NESE VS AR FOX
As the title suggests, our winner goes forward into the Four Way Fray later tonight, giving them the opportunity at two victories and a big argument for inclusion in the Evolve title tournament.
We start with some crisp chain wrestling, before Nese takes things up a notch with a massive Suicide Dive onto Fox that smashes the guardrail in half! Back in the ring, Fox does little to endear himself to me by executing the most convoluted arm drag of all time. He prances about on the top rope for a bit and does a wheelbarrow before landing it and oh dear it is unnecessary. Thankfully he redeems himself somewhat with a pretty slick Suicide Dive out onto the floor. Then, he pulls off a nasty looking leg drop off the top turnbuckle onto Nese who lies prone on the apron! The former TNA blue-chipper is able to turn the tide though, shoving Fox off the top rope as he tries for another top rope manoeuvre. Nese lands a Lionsault for two. AR flips onto his feet as his foe attempts to throw him over the top rope, and here comes the comeback! Missile dropkick! Springboard Ace Crusher! Two count! Death Valley Driver! Swanton Bomb! Still just a two count! Nese battles back with a Gutwrench Powerbomb for two. These guys sure can execute moves! Buckle Bomb from Tony, and he follows up with a running knee in the corner for two. Nese hops up to but Fox desperately throws a leg at the ropes to destabilise him. Lo Mein Pain! And that will do it. ** ¼ I don’t know who coined the term ‘blowjob wrestling sequence’ (I heard it first from JD Dunn) but it seems to sum up this whole match perfectly; it was entertaining, enjoyable while it lasted, but has none of the meaning and passion of fully fledged intercourse. There were lots of cool moves and stuff but at times it became clear both these two were just looking to show off their athletic abilities. Plus, Lo Mein Pain is a silly move. The analogy does kind of fall apart eventually because I don’t think anyone would turn down oral sex to watch an A.R. Fox match, but still. Anyway, fine opener, but it didn’t engross me enough to stop me from thinking of odd sexual metaphors to use in the analysis.
MATCH 2- PAPADON VS MASADA
Masada is making quite the name for himself on the indy scene, but its Papadon that impresses early on with a flying back elbow from the second rope. A bridging German suplex gets two for the ‘Greek God.’ A spinning back suplex followed by a basement dropkick gets the same. I can’t say I see the hype regarding Masada. Big boot to the face gets another two. Papadon tries for another one, but Masada dodges and lands a Capture Suplex. He follows up with a Brainbuster, and that will do it. * Boring, boring match. Neither Papadon nor Masada showed anything at all special in that one, opting to instead exchange moves listlessly back and forth. NEXT!
Oh, OK, apparently not next, because Larry Dallas offers Papadon a place in the Scene. Then he calls out female wrestler Marti Belle and for some reason they’re going to have a Handicap match.
MATCH 2.5- MARTI BELLE VS LARRY DALLAS & PAPADON
So Marti launches into an attack on Larry, but Papadon drags her off and drops her with a powerbomb, then allows Dallas to finish her off with a sexually suggestive pin for the three. Papadon is a member of the Scene now I guess.
MATCH 3- FOUR WAY FREESTYLE QUALIFIER- JIGSAW VS RICH SWANN
Swann raps his way down to the ring. He is no R-Truth, that’s for sure. This match should be good though.
The two trade some athletic counters and counter counters to start, before Swann brings the aggression with a rough kick to the back. He tries for a Rolling Thunder, but Jigsaw catches him and pancakes him into the mat, before dropkicking him out to the floor and finishing the combo with a Suicide Dive! The match goes into a bit of a lull, so Ocal and Cabana discuss which gameshow the wrestlers would be most suited to. Swann again steps things up by huracanrana-ing Jiggy off the top rope. TAFKA Rubix bails to the floor, but obviously he isn’t safe there, and Swann flies onto him with a neat tope con hilo! He follows it up back in the ring with a vicious Tornado DDT for two. The Chikara star fights back with a Bridging German Suplex for two. Swann continues the back and forth nature of the match by leaping off the back of his foe and catching him on the way down with a leg drop to the back of the head for two! Impressive stuff. Rich tries for a handspring, but Jigsaw catches him on his shoulders and drops him with a powerbomb for two. Again Swann retaliates, backflipping into a Diamond Cutter and then dropping onto Jigsaw with a Standing Shooting Star Press for two. Predictably, the next major offensive move comes from ‘Saw, as he lands a Fisherman’s Buster for two. He heads to the top rope but Swann rolls out the way of his dive, and catches him on the rebound with Trouble in Paradise for three. ** ¾ This was a little underwhelming, with a slow start leading into a perfunctory trading of high-impact moves until the finish. There were some smooth sequences in there though, and some of the athleticism was genuinely impressive, so this remained a worthwhile watch. This undercard isn’t exactly setting the world alight though, and it is looking increasingly more likely that the final three matches are going to have to carry this show.
MATCH 4- FOUR WAY FREE STYLE QUALIFIER- JON DAVIS VS CHUCK TAYLOR
Jon Davis’ stops twice during his entrance to stare out fans for painfully long periods. There better not be any further stalling in the match. Chuck Taylor gets comfortably the largest reaction of the show and deservedly so. He shadow boxes with the Swamp Monster in case his excellence needed to be further proved. Johnny Gargano replaces Colt Cabana on commentary for some scouting.
Davis immediately ignores my instruction to stop stalling by sitting in the corner for an eternity. Eventually, he actually decides to start wrestling, and shoulder blocks Taylor so hard he goes completely limp. The referee decides to drop the arm, and predictably the Kentucky Gentlemen fires back up before his arm falls for the third time. Taylor takes Davis off his feet with a flying shoulder block, then knocks him to the floor. He tries to fly after him with a slingshot crossbody, but Davis catches him and drives him against the ring apron with a spinebuster. Back in, a back suplex gets two for the former DCFC member. Taylor tries to utilise the Invisible Grenade, but it only explodes in the face of the Swamp Monster. It does provide a decent distraction to Davis though, and Chucky capitalises with a Tornado DDT for two. Uranage gets the same. Sole Food connects, but that just seems to anger Davis, and he decapitates Taylor with a Lariat for the victory. * ½ This was really awkward in places, with Davis being disappointingly dull and the Gentlemen’s Club’s comedy not really hitting the mark. The actual wrestling was fine but nothing we haven’t seen earlier on this show. Underwhelming.
Johnny Gargano, looking a little bit like a hedgehog, decides to stop Jon Davis’ victory celebrations and tell him he’s fake and nobody cares about him. Despite all of Davis’ attacks, he still has the title, and that is because Jon is just mediocre. Gargano storms off, point made, but Davis seems nonplussed.
So, we’ve got A.R. Fox vs. Rich Swann vs. Masada vs. Jon Davis in the four way freestyle later tonight. We stop the show to confirm the Young Bucks and John Morrison are coming to the Sapolskies. Hooray! I like all of those three. Morrison apparently wants one of Japan’s finest opponents in the ring, which sounds intriguing. A mystery woman is excited by this announcement, and intends to become John Morrison’s manager. Christina Von Eerie comes out to beat her up because she doesn’t like Morrison or the Bucks, and DGUSA/EVOLVE belongs to Mad Blankey. Another flat angle.
MATCH 5- EL GENERICO & SAMURAY DEL SOL VS THE SUPER SMASH BROTHERS
This shows needs rescuing, and this may well be the match to do it.
The match starts out predictably cleanly and evenly. Generico and Player Uno have a nice, lucha infused sequence, Uno coming out on top with a huracanrana. Samuray Del Sol and Player Dos trade headscissors like there is no tomorrow! The SSB isolate Generico with some fluid double teaming to kick off our first technico in trouble segment of the match. They land a simultaneous elbow drop/standing moonsault combination for a two count. Generico comes back with a Blue Thunder Powerbomb, and it’s hot tag to Samuray Del Sol! He throws out a couple of crazy high flying moves, further convincing me that Jack Evans is going to be replaced as my favourite elastic man. GeneriSol turn the tables on the SSB, working over Player Uno and preventing him from making the tag. Uno lands a Flatliner to neutralise The Generic Luchador though, and it’s tag to Sol, tag to Dos. They battle it out in the ring as Uno soars through Dos’ legs and out onto Generico on the floor with a Suicide Dive! Dos gets a two count on Sol with a Full Nelson suplex. Generico drops him in turn with a Michinoku Driver for a near fall of his own. Running Boot! Brainbuster- countered into a huracanrana for two before Samuray breaks the cover up! Yeah, this match is delivering. Dos dumps Sol into Generico with a Belly to Belly Suplex, and then crashes down onto him with a 450 Splash as Uno takes care of his partner with a running knee in the corner! Only two though. Generico fights back with a Dragon Suplex, and Samuray Del Sol follows it up with the Rising Sun! But Uno breaks up the cover! Generic Luchador sets up Dos for the BRAAAAIIIIIIIIBUSSSSSTTTTAAAAHHHH from the top rope. Dos fends him off, but falls victim to a whatamanouevre (sort of like a Victory Roll slam off the top rope maybe?) from Del Sol for the three count! *** ¾ A shot of pure adrenaline to a show that desperately needed it. The finish was a little anti-climactic, being as Del Sol’s weird top rope manoeuvre looked nowhere near as impressive as the Brainbuster would have done, but the match as a whole was a veritable frenzy of beautifully executed aerials and crisp double teams, and I will give a high rating to any match that can achieve that. Samuray Del Sol continues his conquest of my heart. Great match.
MATCH 6- FOUR WAY FREESTYLE- A.R. FOX VS RICH SWANN VS MASADA VS JON DAVIS
It’s all-action from the bell here, as Jon Davis wipes out the high flyers with his power before falling victim to some dives to the floor from Fox and Masada. Davis retakes control in the ring though, looking legitimately impressive with a succession of slams, suplexes and spinebusters. Everyone heads to the top rope for a super duper stacker powerbomb, with Fox of all people dropping everyone to the mat. Masada in turns nails him with a backdrop driver. Davis hits him with Three Seconds Around the World. Fox crashes down onto him with a Swanton Bomb, and Swann cracks him with Trouble in Paradise to pick up the victory! ** Too short to go any higher, but this was non-stop action from bell to bell and didn’t outstay its welcome. It seems kind of a waste to have taken up the whole undercard with qualifying matches for this and then have the final go about five minutes though.
MAIN EVENT- OPEN THE FREEDOM GATE CHAMPIONSHIP- JOHNNY GARGANO VS SAMI CALLIHAN
Jon Davis returns during the introductions to try and attack Gargano, but Callihan forces him away, uninterested in his help.
Things get off to an intense start, Callihan headbutting Gargano down in the corner before washing his face with his boot. Gargano blocks his third attempt at that and counters into a Gargano Escape, then flies out onto the floor when Callihan tries to escape with a Suicide Dive, breaking the guardrail in the process! And then he does it again for good measure! Callihan lariats the champion off the ring apron as he tries to re-enter though, and lands a Suicide Dive of his own! He tries to continue the momentum with a vicious chop, but misses wildly and smacks the ring post with his hand. Back in, Gargano suplexes Sami into the turnbuckles! This is just nasty spot after nasty spot. Johnny goes to work on his foe’s right arm. They head to the top rope, where Callihan bites Gargano’s hand to block a superplex, then flips off the turnbuckles and kicks the champion to the mat. Death Valley Driver gets two! A meaty strike exchange starts, which Gargano finishes with a kick to the face. Only enough for two though. He springs from the apron to the ring into a Tornado DDT for another two. Callihan retaliates with a Dragon Screw Leg Whip into a figure four! Gargano makes the ropes to trigger a furious exchange of attempted strikes, dodging them by mere inches each time. Johnny eventually connects with a lariat. He lawn darts the challenger into the turnbuckles, then gets the Hurts Donut for two. Gargano Escape is locked in again, but again Callihan resists submission and gets his hand on the bottom rope. The two struggle on the ring apron, Gargano dazing Callihan with a superkick before hurling him face fucking first the guardrail! My word. Johnny tries to drag Sami back into the ring, but only receives a Backdrop Driver onto the apron for his troubles! Sit-out powerbomb in the ring gets two, but Callihan won’t let up, hooking the stretch muffler! Countered into the Gargano Escape! Back into the Stretch Muffler! Back into Gargano Escape! Knees to the face add to the pain! And Callihan is knocked unconscious to end the brutality! **** ¼ The wrestling equivalent of injecting hot, strong whisky directly into your veins. This was a vicious, draining, bone shatteringly great war of a fight, with Callihan dragging some convincing intensity kicking and screaming out of Gargano. Every single part of the ring seemed to be used to grind down the wrestlers, and there wasn’t a time-filling spot to be found, making for a match that felt gritty and lean and very, very mean. There were occasional lapses in selling and the crowd didn’t see as into it as the wrestlers deserved, but that doesn’t detract too much from a terrific main event, an absolutely show-saver.
The 411: Hmmm. Everything relating to the Four Way Freestyle was disappointing to various degrees, and considering that takes up much of the show it's tough to give this one a recommendation. However, Generico/Del Sol vs. The Super Smash Brothers and Gargano vs. Callihan were both excellent, excellent examples of their respective styles and deserve to be appreciated. Don't make Evolve 18 priority viewing then, but check it out if you find yourself with a little spare time and money.
|Final Score: 6.5 [ Average ] legend|