Ybor City, FL – 8.8.20145
Open the Freedom Gate Champion: Ricochet
EVOLVE Champion: Chris Hero
Open The United Gate Champions: The Bravado Brothers (Harlem & Lancelot Bravado)
Commentary is provided by Lenny Leonard and Ron Niemi.
This weekend serves as the official relaunch for EVOLVE (what they are dubbing “Chapter 2”). Win-Loss records are no longer kept, but there will be a Top 10 coming out of each weekend which will help determine contenders for title matches, etc.
Style Battle 2014 Round Robin Tournament Match
Drew Gulak vs. Timothy Thatcher
Gulak won the 2013 Style Battle. He breaks a lock-up against the ropes. Thatcher brings Gulak to the corner and backs away. Thatcher brings him to the canvas in a top wristlock, then bends back his fingers. Gulak rolls up to his feet but Thatcher holds onto the arm. He flips Gulak back down out of a courting hold and twists the fingers once again. He digs his elbow into Gulak’s cheek. Gulak kips up and throws Thatcher over by his arm, grabbing his own top wristlock. Thatcher gets up and throws Gulak over, looking for a cross armbreaker. Gulak bridges his neck to avoid being pinned. He mounts Thatcher and looks for the Trailblazer. Thatcher quickly gets the ropes before it can be applied. He grabs a modified ankle lock, which Gulak reverses. Once again Thatcher gets the ropes. Gulak rolls Thatcher into a crossface, bending Thatcher’s arm between his legs. Thatcher maneuvers his way out and applies a bow and arrow submission. He turns it into a Fujiwara armbar. Gulak grabs the ropes, but Thatcher outstretches his arm and looks for a Kimura lock on the mat. He transitions into a cross armbreaker position but Gulak locks his hands to avoid it. Gulak flips out and gets a quick two count pin. He goes back to the crossface but Thatcher quickly gets the ropes. He mounts Thatcher from behind and slaps him in his ribs. Thatcher rolls forward into a Stretch Muffler, but before any damage is done Gulak grabs the ropes. Thatcher strings three vertical suplexes together. He goes for a chickenwing. When that doesn’t work, he drives his knee into Gulak’s elbow and snaps his fingers. Gulak uses his leg to evade a courting hold. He applies a figure four armbar. Thatcher tries a rollup and one-armed powerbomb to escape, but ends up having to use the ropes. He puts his bodyweight on Gulak’s head so he can put on a cross armbreaker. Gulak maneuvers his leg to the ropes. Thatcher throws Gulak out of a gutwrench and goes for the Fujiwara armbar. Gulak rolls through and picks up Thatcher into a desperation piledriver! Thatcher kicks out. He blocks Gulak’s capture throw with an uppercut. Thatcher twists up Gulak’s arm and elbow. Gulak chops his way free, but Thatcher throws Gulak out of the corner arm first. He then stomps Gulak’s arm into the canvas. Gulak fights out of another gutwrench throw and locks on the Trailblazer! Thatcher taps out at 15:28. I was surprised that Gulak won given how dominant Thatcher was for the majority of the bout. This started the tournament off with a strong, competitive match and established Gulak as the guy to beat right away. ***
Style Battle 2014 Round Robin Tournament Match
Biff Busick vs. James Raideen
This is Raideen’s EVOLVE debut. He is primarily a competitor for Zero-1. Raideen fakes out Busick with a potential punch after backing him to the ropes. He backs Busick to the corner, but Busick turns it around. Raideen blocks the chop with his hands. He twists on Busick’s hands in a double knuckle lock. Busick kicks his hand away and grabs a side headlock. Raideen shoves him off. They kick each other in the side of the head, with Raideen getting the better of the exchange. Busick grabs a rear-naked choke. Raideen immediately backs to the corner. Busick and Raideen get into a chop battle which fires up Busick so much that he slaps Raideen in the face repeatedly. Raideen cuts him off and gives him a bodyslam. He drops an elbow for two, then puts on a chinlock. Busick gets to the ropes, so Raideen chops and forearms his back. He lariats Busick in the corner for two. He whips Busick back first into the corner. Raideen lifts him up, but Busick slides off his shoulders into another rear-naked choke. Once again Raideen takes to the corner, but Busick reapplies the hold as soon as it is broken, adding a bodyscissors. Raideen stands up with Busick on his back, throws him over, then nails him with a lariat. Busick does his best to resist taking a powerbomb. He ducks another lariat and takes down Raideen in a rear-naked choke out of a Judo throw. Raideen’s eyes look glazed over, and the referee calls for the stoppage at 8:30. Busick’s rear-naked choke has been established as a finisher through EVOLVE, so him taking down a larger opponent in his first match with that move serves him well. Raideen’s style is a little different from what the others offer, which could be good, but I think he and Busick had the best chance of meshing and did at least an admiral job. It was a little slow in general but picked up at the end and didn’t overstay its welcome. **½
FIP Showcase Match
Lince Dorado & Los Ben Dejos (Eddie Rios & Jay Cruz) vs. Jesus De Leon & The Juicy Product (JT Dunn & David Starr)
Starr knees Rios and forearms his back. Rios flips out of a backdrop and springboards off the second rope into a crossbody. He walks the ropes onto Starr’s shoulders. Starr flips him off, but Rios gives him a single foot dropkick. Dunn drops him with a rolling forearm strike. He and Dorado engage in a Lucha exchange, ending with a snap Frankensteiner from Dorado. He headscissors Dunn across the ring and hits him with a spinwheel kick. Leon drops down the top rope to send Dorado out and shoulder blocks Cruz. They each snap off an armdrag and Cruz earns a two count with a Magistral cradle. He runs the ropes for a wristdrag and lands an enzuigiri for two. Dorado poses on Leon as Cruz and Rios outstretch his arms and back. The Juicy Product clean house. Dunn suicide dives onto Dorado, then comes in with a top rope dropkick on Cruz. He kicks Rios from the apron and gives him a Frankensteiner on the floor. Cruz blocks the Suck It Bomb with an inverted atomic drop. He gets two with a leg lariat. Dunn blocks a wheelbarrow from Cruz, passing him off to Leon who powerbombs him into Starr’s knees. This allows the Juicy Product and Leon to isolate and wear down Cruz in their half of the ring. Cruz manages to spike Dunn out of a tornado DDT and tag in Dorado. He and Leon engge in a chop battle. Dorado gets the better of it and delivers a back handspring elbow strike. He gamengiri’s Leon from the apron and lands a high crossbody. Rios comes in with a flying seated Thesz Press. He knocks the Product off the apron, which turns out to be a mistake, as they drag Rios to the floor. Leon’s tope con hilo however is mistimed and he lands on Starr. Dunn looks to dive, but Dorado catches him with a Frankensteiner, sending him to the floor onto his own partners. Cruz suicide dives onto all of them through Rios’ legs. Rios then follows with an Asai moonsault. In the ring, Rios drops Leon with a springback Ace Crusher. Dorado dropkicks him in the side of the head while Cruz punts him. The Juicy Product re-enter the ring. Starr takes out Cruz with a dropkick. Dunn superkicks Rios into a German suplex from Starr. A rolling elbow from Dunn and frog splash from Leon only get a two count as Dorado breaks the cover. He sends Starr out after a rand spins Dunn into a Dragon suplex. Cruz lands a Swanton. Both Leon and Starr break the pin. Starr pitches Cruz out. Dorado spikes him in a reverse Frankensteiner. Dunn accidentally superkicks Starr. Leon accidentally lariats Dunn. Dorado superkicks and hits the Rising Sun on Leon in 10:50. That was an awesome, exciting trios match. Naturally some stuff could have been more smooth, but given the point of this match was to showcase all six men, it more than served its purpose. Dunn in particular is somebody I’d like to see get more opportunities in EVOLVE. ***¼
Johnny Gargano vs. Matt Sydal
Some posturing leads to Sydal driving his knee onto Gargano’s left arm. A double knuckle lock leads to Sydal Jon Woo dropkicking Gargano to the corner after a monkey flip. Gargano water pumps Sydal’s arm over his shoulder, then stretches out the arm while holding onto his neck. He drives his body weight onto Sydal’s shoulder, then drives the arm into the canvas. Sydal flips away and dropkicks Gargano to the apron. Gargano takes a new approach, going after Sydal’s legs in an attempt to keep him grounded. When Sydal escapes his leg lock, Gargano delivers a punch. Sydal responds with chops. Sydal snaps off a pair of armdrags and another dropkick to send Gargano to the ropes. Sydal digs his foot into Gargano’s left leg and twists his ankle. Gargano rolls to the ropes. Sydal kicks out Gargano’s leg a few times a she gets to his feet. He follows Gargano to the corner with a through the ropes clothesline for two. Gargano ducks an attack and sends Sydal to the floor. Sydal gets back in the ring, only to be stopped by a slingshot spear from Gargano. Gargano gets two with a dropkick to the neck. Sydal kicks out Gargano’s legs. He goes for a standing moonsault but Gargano kicks him away in mid-air. He puts on a modified cloverleaf while locking Sydal’s left arm around his leg. Sydal frees himself, so Gargano gives him a backbreaker for two. He goes for a back suplex, but Sydal flips mid-air into a vertical press. Gargano kicks out and mows down Sydal with a clothesline. He does some damage to Sydal’s lower back and fingers. Sydal rolls him up for two. Gargano takes him down in the corner, going for his leg. Sydal kicks Gargano in the head with his other leg three times. Sydal throws kicks to the chest before finally hitting the standing moonsault after an enzuigiri and bulldog. Gargano kicks out. Some traded strikes leads to Gargano delivering a slingshot DDT for two. He looks for a piledriver on the ring apron. Sydal deposits Gargano back in the ring to avoid it. Gargano enzuigiri’s Sydal to the floor and suicide dives after him. Back in the ring he goes for the slingshot spear, only to be cut off with a knee strike to the face from Sydal. Sydal gets in some elbow strikes. Gargano cuts him off with a superkick. Sydal takes him down with double knees for two. Gargano counters a jump-up Frankensteiner with a powerbomb. He kicks Sydal in the head before giving him the Lawn Dart for two. He tries the Hurts Donut but Sydal elbows his way free. Gargano blocks the corner clothesline and brings him out with a swinging Complete Shot for two. Gargano misses a corner attack. Sydal places him up top and brings him down with a Frankensteiner. The shooting star press gets Sydal the pin at 19:57. Sydal looked very strong in his return outing, with both he and Gargano looking even for the entire contest until the end. It was a fun battle to watch and having the crowd solidly in Sydal’s corner added to the atmosphere. ***¾
On the microphone, Johnny Gargano tells Rich Swann that he has made Gargano’s life a living hell for the past year and that this weekend he will end him.
Ricochet & Rich Swann vs. The Premier Athlete Brand (Anthony Nese & Caleb Konley)
Su Yung is in the PAB’s corner while Ivelisse is in Ricochet and Swann’s corner to neutralize her. Gargano tries attacking Swann before the bell, but Swann catches him with a right hand and a number of officials pull Gargano to the back. The PAB however take advantage by attacking Swann and Ricochet while they’re distracted. Ricochet is tossed outside. Nese and Konley each get in their shots on Ricochet in their corner. Ricochet throws them together so that when he drops Konley with a neckbreaker, he DDT’s Nese as well. Swann gives Konley ten punches in the corner. He snapmares Konley into a back kick for two. Ricochet comes in with a senton bomb. Swann hits a rolling frog splash. Some double team offense keeps Konley on the mat. Ricochet hits the People’s Moonsault for two. He and Swann double hip toss Konley into double dropkicks. Swann takes him to the floor near the bar area. Su Yung distracts him long enough for Nese to kick him in the back of the head. Ricochet looks to even the odds, but Konley neutralizes him with an atomic drop on a chair. The PAB take back over in the ring, bullying Swann in their corner while taunting the crowd. They specifically target Swann’s left knee during their onslaught. Swann finally escapes by catching Konley with a neckbreaker. He kicks him in the shoulder and neck as he hops over Konley to tag in Ricochet. Ricochet drops Nese with the Rick-Rack and gives Konley a powerslam. He delivers a running Ace Crusher to Nese, then tope con hilo’s onto both him and Konley on the outside. Back in the ring, Konley kicks out of Ricochet’s pin attempt. Konley is able to land a basement lariat and a German suplex for two. Some positioning leads to Ricochet stringing together two vertical suplexes. Nese stops the pin. Swann gets in some shots on Nese. He goes for a back handspring, but Nese catches him with one arm and drops him back first in the corner. A running knee strike gets a two count. Swann gives him a reverse suplex into a Dragon sleeper. Konley breaks the hold with a bicycle kick. Ricochet enzuigiri’s Konley. Nese takes him out with a trifecta of kicks. Swann’s 360 enzuigiri on Nese leaves all four men laying. Swann kicks Konley in the head upon recovering. Ricochet flies over him with a corner dropkick. Nese succumbs to some kicks, ending with an axe kick from Swann and a standing shooting star press from Ricochet. Konley makes the save just in time.Ricochet Superman punches Konley. Konley ducks the Benadryller. Konley gives him a Death Valley Driver for two. Nese pump-handle slams Swann into a neckbreaker from Konley for two. Konley disposes of Ricochet on the floor. In the ring he powerbombs Swann into an enzuigiri from Nese. A Death Valley Bomb from Konley and a 450 splash from Nese on Swann get the PAB the win at 21:45. Like the previous match, this was very hotly contested and all participants looked strong. The PAB were just a little more cohesive, and it gives them momentum towards a United Gate championship match. The Su Yung stuff also didn’t take away from any of the action in this match, which is hard to accomplish when it comes to outside interference. This was very fun. ***¾
Rich Swann tells Su Yung that she doesn’t need to be hanging around a couple of dicks like Nese and Konley. He invites her to come party all night long. While Su smiles at that response, Nese and Konley immediately dismiss that idea and push her backstage. They tell Swann that she only parties with winners.
Chris Hero vs. Drew Galloway
Chris Hero has been champion since 2.23.2014 and this is his third defense. This was scheduled as a non-title bout, but Hero decides to be a fighting champion and put it on the line. They hesitantly approach one another, with each guy taking to a corner before the other can make a definitive move. Galloway sneaks in a rollup for two. Hero controls him by the wrist, but Galloway trips him and goes for Hero’s wrist himself. They switch control of one another’s arm. Hero goes to the corner when Galloway kicks his arm away. Hero grabs Galloway’s leg and twists on his left ankle. Galloway maneuvers Hero into a side headlock. Hero rolls free. He key locks Galloway’s legs and applies a facelock. Galloway breaks the key lock and shoots Hero off. Galloway remains steadfast from Hero’s running shoulder block attempts. When Galloway tries, Hero leapfrogs and drops down before catching him with a dropkick. Hero avoids an O’Conner Roll. He kicks Galloway in the face before landing a senton splash for two. Galloway avoids an attack, slides through Hero’s legs, and knocks him down with a short-arm clothesline. After stomping Hero in the corner, Galloway gets a one count with a suplex. He grabs Hero’s left arm and applies pressure to his neck. Hero escapes and sends Galloway to the corner. Galloway ascends the ropes but Hero crotches him on the top turnbuckle and kicks him to the outside. Hero lays in some shots on the floor. Galloway strikes too, but Hero kicks him in the side of the head. Back in the ring he clobbers Galloway with a straight punch for two. He tags Galloway with a forearm strike for two. Hero grabs a cravate. Galloway escapes. He knee strikes Hero in the face to avoid a backdrop. Hero holds onto the ropes to avoid a dropkick and gets a two count with a folding press. Hero mocks Galloway as he stomps him on the mat. Galloway shows signs of fighting back but Hero keeps control with a bicycle kick. Out of nowhere Galloway finds the energy for a flying boot to the face. He gets two with a Northern Lights suplex. Galloway goes for Future Shock, but Hero slides out. He gives Galloway a cravate neckbreaker for two. They boot on another in the face. Galloway swings Hero into a uranage for two. On the floor, Galloway goes to whip Hero, but Hero retaliates with a rolling elbow. He goes for another but ends up colliding with a steel beam. Galloway targets the now injured arm of Hero back in the ring. Hero kicks him in the head and foolishly uses his hurt arm for a rolling elbow. Galloway kicks out. Hero goes for the Death Blow. Galloway stops it and hits the Future Shock for the pin at 17:22! Galloway is the new EVOLVE champion! This was a genuine surprise when it happened, and you couldn’t ask for a better way for Galloway to enter the company and establish himself as a major player. He and Hero had an excellent battle, one in which Hero’s hubris cost him the match and his championship. The two matches that preceded it were stronger, but this was still a good main event and a symbolic of a new start for the company. ***¼